Variations: Amphisbaina, Alchismus, Amphisilene, Ankesime, Auksimem, Double-head, Double-marcheur (French); Doble Andadora (possibly)


The Amphisbaena, “goes both ways”, is one of the many snakes encountered by Lucan and his army in the deserts of Libya. It has also been reported from Lemnus, but it is unknown to the Germans. Unlike its biological namesake, the harmless burrowing lizards known as amphisbaenas, the Libyan amphisbaena is venomous and deadly, producing double the amount of venom a regular snake would.

Two heads are an amphisbaena’s distinguishing feature, with one head in the normal place and one at the end of the tail. How these heads affect locomotion is unclear. An amphisbaena may move like a regular snake, one head trailing behind, but changing directions instantly and going forward or backwards with equal ease. Alternatively, both heads could lead, leaving the body following behind in a loop. An amphisbaena’s sight is poor, but its eyes glow. Physically it resembles an earthworm, with an indistinguishable head and tail. It is blackish earth-colored, with a rough, spotted skin.

In addition to the amphisbaena described above, Pammenes tells of two-headed snakes with two feet near the tail in Egypt. Borges reports a creature from the Antilles called the doble andadora (“goes both ways”), also known as the two-headed snake and the mother of ants. It feeds on ants and can reattach itself if chopped in half. However, there is little outside of Borges’ account to corroborate it. The medieval amphisbaena became a two-headed dragon, in a wide variety of forms. Any creature in medieval art with an extra head on the end of its tail can be safely labeled an amphisbaena, although at this point the Greek two-headed snake is long forgotten.

Amphisbaenas are very cold-resistant, and are the first snakes to come out after winter, ahead of the first cuckoo song. Their temperament is correspondingly hotter than that of other snakes. Solinus believed amphisbaenas gave birth through the tail-end mouth. They take good care of their eggs, guarding them until they hatch and showing love to their offspring.

Amphisbaena venom is unremarkable and causes the same symptoms as viper bites – inflammation and slow, painful death. Besides drinking coriander, the antidotes for amphisbaena bite are the same as those used for vipers. Amphisbaenas themselves are hard to kill, except with a vine-branch. One amphisbaena woke Dionysus from his rest, and in retaliation he crushed it with a vine-branch.

Several remedies have been derived from amphisbaenas. A walking-stick covered with amphisbaena skin keeps away venomous animals, and an olive branch wrapped in amphisbaena skin cures cold shiverings. An amphisbaena attached to a tree will ensure that the logger will not get cold and the tree will fall easily. If a pregnant woman steps over a dead amphisbaena, she will abort instantly, as the vapor arising from the dead snake is so toxic as to suffocate the fetus. However, if a pregnant woman carries a live amphisbaena in a box with her, the effect is nullified.

The two heads of the amphisbaena understandably led to a healthy amount of criticism. Thomas Browne denied that amphisbaenas could exist, stating that an animal with two anteriors was impossible. Al-Jahiz recounts an interview with a man who swore that he saw an amphisbaena, and, unconvinced, chalked it up to fear-induced exaggeration. “From which end does it move?” he asked the man. “Where does it eat from, and where does it bite from?” The man replied “It doesn’t move forward, but it gets around by rolling, like boys roll on sand. As for eating, it eats lunch with one head and dinner with the other. And as for biting, it bites with both heads at the same time!”


Aelian, trans. Scholfield, A. F. (1959) On the Characteristics of Animals, vol. II. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Aelian, trans. Scholfield, A. F. (1959) On the Characteristics of Animals, vol. III. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Aldrovandi, U. (1640) Serpentum, et Draconum Historiae. Antonij Bernie, Bologna.

Borges, J. L.; trans. Hurley, A. (2005) The Book of Imaginary Beings. Viking.

Cuba, J. (1539) Le iardin de santé. Philippe le Noir, Paris.

Druce, G. C. (1910) The Amphisbaena and its Connexions in Ecclesiastical Art and Architecture. Archaeological Journal, v. 67, pp. 285-317.

Isidore of Seville, trans. Barney, S. A.; Lewis, W. J.; Beach, J. A.; and Berghof, O. (2006) The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Al-Jahiz, A. (1966) Kitab al-Hayawan. Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi wa Awladihi, Egypt.

Lucan, trans. Rowe, N. (1720) Pharsalia. T. Johnson, London.

Pliny; Bostock, J. and Riley, H. T. trans. (1857) The Natural History of Pliny, v. III. Henry G. Bohn, London.

Topsell, E. (1658) The History of Serpents. E. Cotes, London.


Variations: Gasogonaga, Kasogonagá, Kasogongá, QasoGonaGa; Lightning; Owner of Storms/Lightning


For the Toba of Argentina, lighning takes the form of a small, hairy creature called Qasoǵonaǵa, the Owner of Storms. It is an anteater, or perhaps an elephant, with a long snout, long rainbow-colored hair, and four tiny feet. Qasoǵonaǵa can also appear in human form, retaining a small head and shaggy body. As Qasoǵonaǵa has been referred to by both male and female pronouns, there are probably more than one of these beings.

Qasoǵonaǵa, as the Owner of Storms, lives in the skies and is responsible for storms and other meteorological conditions. Lightning comes out of its mouth, while its angry roars become thunder. It is responsible for rain, or lack thereof.

While Qasoǵonaǵa may be a mighty force of nature, it can be quite friendly and grateful for help granted it by the Toba. Often a Qasoǵonaǵa falls to the earth, and has to be returned there by human intervention, as it is too small to return there on its own. In such cases a bonfire must be built, and Qasoǵonaǵa placed on top before it is ignited. The rising smoke will carry Qasoǵonaǵa back into the sky, and the happy anteater will reward its benefactor with powerful shamanic powers. Qasoǵonaǵa will also cause or stop torrential rain if its helper requests it.


Cordeux, E. J.; Karsten, R.; Lehmann-Nitsche, R.; Mětraux, A.; Newbery, S. J.; Palavecino, E.; and Terán, B. R. D.; Wilbert, J. and Simoneau, K. eds. (1982) Folk Literature of the Toba Indians. UCLA Latin American Center Publications, University of California, Los Angeles.

Wright, P. G. A semantic analysis of the symbolism of Toba mythical animals. In Willis, R. (Ed.) (1990) Signifying Animals: Human Meaning in the Natural World. Unwin Hyman, London.

Wright, P. G. Dream, Shamanism, and Power among the Toba of Formosa Province. In Langdon, E. J. M. and Baer, G. (Eds.) (1992) Portals of Power. University of New Mexico Press.

Wright, P. G. (2008) Ser-en-el-sueño. Editorial Biblos, Buenos Aires.


The last time we discussed a short-lived car toyline with a biotechnological post-apocalyptic plotline, it was in the mid-90s. This time our story takes us to the late 80s, when French toy car manufacturer was in a bit of bind.

As mentioned in the Carnivores entry, superhero toys – I mean, action figures were all the rage, and more traditional toy companies such as die-cast car makers were losing the battle. Majorette, founded in 1961, was in decline, shutting down branches and cutting corners by replacing die-cast chassis with plastic and hinged doors with fixed ones. The company went out of business in 2000 and was bought by Smoby, but not before it tried to reinvent its brand and appeal to the modern demographic.

The Extranimals were one of those ephemeral experimental lines, designed to alleviate Majorette’s problems in every way. These car/animal hybrids were both cheaply made and had a (flimsy) plot set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, meant to attract action-oriented children while being easy to manufacture. They even got two commercials on TV, and an audio cassette (little more than a dramatic retelling of the first commercial). The American release was called Wild Wheels, but I’ve never seen those. Unfortunately the Extranimals suffered from low advertising, lack of backstory, and no cartoon, which is why they lasted for two years before vanishing into obscurity. Today they can be found in the dystopian hellscape of Ebay, where they command monstrous prices.

Image below taken from this excellent French site.


The brilliant idea behind the Extranimals was that they required very little work on Majorette’s part. The car bits were taken directly from models already in production, allowing them to repurpose surplus die-cast stock. The chassis, monster truck wheels, and animal parts were plastic, with the animal parts vacuum-metallized in chrome or gold.

The main gimmick of the line was that the wheels could be adjusted into different positions, allowing the vehicle to tackle different forms of terrain. As far as toy gimmicks go, this was a very lukewarm one, especially considering the competition in the form of, say, car that transform into robots. Do note also that the cardback below, for the Mustang, also makes sure to advertise the Elephant, the biggest and most expensive toy in the line. The makers took no chances.


The plot cast our vehicular animals in a not-so-distant future where humanity has gone extinct and the world has become a jungle of concrete, twisted rebar, and encroaching vines. In this world animals have melded with vehicles – or is it vehicles that have evolved animal features? – and wage endless battles for survival in the wasteland. There is no characterization besides the commercials suggesting that the Mustang and Elephant are the good guys.


The original line (1988) consisted of 4 “basic” Extranimals and the “jumbo” Elephant. The basics were 4 variations on a theme, coming in several colors at the same size and with the same adjustable-wheels gimmick. The Mustang was made out of a Ferrari and Taurus was a Lamborghini (and if you have no idea why, look up the Ferrari and Lamborghini logos. Go on, I’ll wait). The Rhino was evidently an armored truck, and the Panther for some reason was an Excalibur (maybe it was meant to be a Panther de Ville?).


The Elephant, on a truck chassis (only the red cab is die-cast), was the largest and doubled as a car carrier for the smaller vehicles. In addition to the wheels, it also had a spring-loaded head that could knock over anything in its path, allowing for plenty of play value and hours of fun smashing things. With the second color variation in blue and red, the Optimus Prime parallels are even more striking.


By the second wave of Extranimals of 1989, Majorette had apparently figured that they couldn’t sell the same sort of toy four times even with different animal heads attached, so the “medium” newcomers were a diverse lot with unique gimmicks. The Naja (cobra) above, for instance, was chromed in green and had a movable tongue and doors in addition to 6 configurable wheels. Its base was Majorette’s stretch limousine.


For the Shark, Majorette used their submarine truck as a base, kept the submarine, and added deployable floats. I always wondered why the submarine itself wasn’t shark-themed, and that was because it was unchanged from its original release. No idea why – I always thought it was some sort of symbiotic sentient organism dependent on its larger host for survival. Or something. I used to make stuff up as a kid.


The Scorpion had plenty of play features, with a ball-jointed stinger tail, a scoop that can be raised or lowered, and swiveling pincers. This one evolved from a loader.


Finally, the Eagle is the odd one out of the group, swapping its trademarked wheels for spinning feathered helicopter blades and grasping talons. Its ancestor was a Gazelle helicopter.

I still have memories of seeing those in toy stores, and I always wondered if I hadn’t fabricated the memories out of a deep-seated desire for post-apocalyptic vehicular beasts. It took a while to find them. I still think they could have been an interesting series had Majorette invested more into plot, characters, and production quality, but the series is long gone now.

Extranimals are © Majorette.



The Cuiva of Colombia and Venezuela tell of the Kori, a destructive aquatic monster. It has the appearance of a giant anteater, except far larger, and it lives underwater in the rivers. It uses its large claws to dig under riverbanks, causing their collapse, and that is why this is such a common occurrence in the rainforest. A kori can also cause strong gales to destroy constructions, and can turn soil into water to drown people.

A kori once collapsed a riverbank near a Cuiva village, killing most of the inhabitants. Only one man managed to escape by transforming himself into a howler monkey and climbing to the top of a tree, where he sat trembling and watching the kori. Even that wasn’t enough, as the kori eventually knocked down the tree and killed the monkey hiding there.

Word of the massacre reached the Cuiva, and after mourning the dead they set out to avenge them. The father of the howler-monkey man led the hunt, armed with a harpoon, while the others followed with poisoned arrows. Once found, the kori was riddled with harpoons and arrows while it was too weakened to fight back. It tried transmuting the ground to water, but it was only shallow water, and the warriors continued firing poisoned arrows until the enormous anteater died. The leader of the hunt chopped off the kori’s claws and made them into a necklace as payment for his son. The rest of the anteater’s body was left for the vultures.


Arcand, B.; Coppens, W.; Kerr, I.; and Gómez, F. O.; Wilbert, J. and Simoneau, K. eds. (1991) Folk Literature of the Cuiva Indians. UCLA Latin American Center Publications, University of California, Los Angeles.


Variations: Tcaridyi, Tharidi


Tçaridyi, “Hot” or “Burning” is one of the children of Ana, sired unnaturally by the King of the Loçolico as a spouse for Tçulo. As one of the Roma demons of disease, she torments humanity to this day.

Tçulo proved to be more troublesome than expected, persecuting even his own sister Lilyi. To distract him, Melalo told his father to conceive a wife for the little urchin. What the King used to induce Tçaridyi’s conception is unknown, but it probably involved worms of some kind.

Tçaridyi herself takes the form of a little hairy worm or caterpillar. She only infests women, slithering through their arteries and veins. The long hairs on her body detach as she moves, causing fever and inflammation, especially puerperal fever. Her union with Tçulo produced women’s diseases; otherwise, Tçulo and Tçaridyi torture humans but rarely kill them.


Clébert, J. P. (1976) Les Tziganes. Tchou, Paris.

Clébert, J. P.; Duff, C. trans. (1963) The Gypsies. Vista Books, London.

Meyers Brothers Druggist (1910) Demons of Disease. Meyers Brothers Druggist, v. 31, p. 141.

Pavelčík, N. and Pavelčík, J. (2001) Myths of the Czech Gypsies. Asian Folklore Studies, v. 60, pp. 21-30.

Once more, the stuff I have going on right now in my life have precluded me from making a bonus Wednesday post. So I ask… are you enjoying them? Are they any good? Should I try to keep doing them or give up? Your feedback helps.


Variations: Arine Hayant Le Tirant, Arine Qui Het Le Tirant, Armez Hayant Le Tirant, Dentem Tyrannum, Dentirant, Dentityrannus, Dent Tyrans, Odentetiranno,  Odontatyrannum,  Odontatyrannus, Odontetiranno


The Odontotyrannus is a massive beast found in the rivers of India, whose account has been told as one of Alexander the Great’s many exploits. Its name apparently means “tooth tyrant”, but medieval reading errors led to a variety of increasingly awkward alternate names and direct translations.

When Alexander and his men made camp by a river, they were found by an odontotyrannus coming to the water to drink. It was enormous, large enough to swallow an elephant whole, and black in color, or otherwise with a head black as pitch. It had three horns on its head. When it saw the Macedonians, it went on a rampage, killing 26 and injuring 52 of the soldiers before it was brought down by Emendus, Duke of Arcadia.

The rhinoceros is a certain candidate as the progenitor of the odontotyrannus, as is the crocodile. Confusion with Indus worms – Indian, armed with two terrible teeth, and capable of swallowing prey whole – may have led to the name, as nowhere in its description are teeth ever mentioned.


Wauquelin, J., Hériché, S. ed. (2000) Les Faicts et les Conquestes d’Alexandre le Grand. Librairie Droz, Geneva.

de Xivrey, J. B. (1836) Traditions Tératologiques. L’Imprimerie Royale, Paris.