The Dingonek is a creature that lives in the Maggori River in Kenya, as well as in Lake Nyanza. Our primary source for the dingonek comes from big-game hunter John Alfred Jordan, as recorded by Edgar Beecher Bronson. As a tale told by one big-game hunter to another, there is no reason to believe there was any embellishment or exaggeration involved.
aquatic monsters predate Jordan’s account, but they describe a generic large water
python. Clement Hill claimed to have seen one in Lake Nyanza that attempted to
seize a man on the prow of his boat. It had a dark, roundish head.
dingonek as described by Jordan is a cross between a sea serpent, a leopard,
and a whale. It is fourteen or fifteen feet long. Its head is similar in shape
and markings to that of a leopard, but is the size of a lioness’ head. There
are two long white fangs protruding downwards from the upper jaw. The back is
broad like that of a hippo, patterned and colored like a leopard, and “scaled
like an armadillo”. The tail, used for aquatic propulsion, is broad and finned.
When ashore, the dingonek leaves behind prints as wide as a hippo’s but with
A .303 shot
behind the ear had no effect on the dingonek. It reared straight up out of the
water, and Jordan ran for his life. The dingonek was not seen again.
tells of another man who swears he saw a dingonek. When the Mara River was in
flood, the eyewitness said he saw a creature floating down the river on a big
log. It had its tail in the water, but its length was estimated to be sixteen
feet. It had scales, spots like a leopard, and a head like an otter, but no
long fangs. When shot at, it slipped into the water and disappeared. Apart from
the (surely inaccurate) length given, this is a good account of a Nile monitor
rock art from a cave in Brakfontein Ridge, South Africa, has been claimed to
depict a walrus-like dingonek, but the location is far from the dingonek’s
habitat, and the association is arbitrary.
initially believed the dingonek to be an odd species of prehistoric crocodile.
Later he revised this to create an aquatic saber-toothed cat whose wet fur
clumped and gave the appearance of scales.
armadillos are New World animals, modern reconstructions have assumed the armadillo
“scales” to be those of a pangolin instead. Other recent additions include a
single horn and a stinger tail, neither of which have any basis.
B. (1910) In Closed Territory. A. C.
McClurg & Co., Chicago.
T. (1948) The Zulu People. Shuter and
Kosemen, C. M.; and Naish, D. (2013) Cryptozoologicon
Vol. I. Irregular Books.
B.; Garnett, R. trans. (1958) On the Track of Unknown Animals. Rupert
W. (1913) On Some Unidentified Beasts.
The Journal of the East Africa and Uganda Natural History Society, III(6), pp.
(1915) Alone in the Sleeping-Sickness
Country. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., London.
Stow, G. W.
and Bleek, D. F. (1930) Rock-paintings in
South Africa. Methuen & Co. Ltd., London.
name is attributed to his call of “Roes, roes, roes!” Etymologically it may be
derived from the Scandinavian ruske,
“to rush at”; the Anglo-Saxon breosan,
“terrify”, or the Dutch roezen,
“making a din”. It may also simply be another variant of Osschaard, derived
from ors, “horse” or “mount”, and hard, “strong”. Sometimes the name is used
to simply mean the devil.
almanac of Blankenberge tells of the dreadful storm of 1791. It destroyed the hut
of a suspected witch on the beach, and the inhabitants were overjoyed, smashing
what little was left of the ruins. Then a spinechilling sound rang out over the
dunes – “Roes, roes, roes!” A huge black dog with bells around its neck came
running down the dunes, and the villagers scattered. That dog was Roeschaard.
puts his shapeshifting powers to use in performing cruel pranks. There is no
limit to the forms he can take. He turns into a fish and allows himself to be
caught before destroying the net. He gets into boats and tips them over. He
pounces on people’s backs and rides them to exhaustion. In the form of a baby, he
allows people to take him home before laughing wickedly and escaping, calling
out “Roes, roes, roes!” behind him.
of Blankenberge eventually found a way to escape Roeschaard’s attentions. By
giving themselves a second baptism and a new name, they would break
Roeschaard’s power over them. The ceremony undertaken by new sailors involved
being splashed with salt water while the following formula was intoned:
I baptize you,
and may Roeschaard, the thrice-ugly one, turn away. Turn, turn, turn, your name
is [here the requisite sea-name was given]
Roeschaard came to claim someone, they could simply tell him they were not the
person he was looking for. Since then Roeschaard’s power has been in decline.
van Hageland, A. (1973) La Mer Magique. Marabout, Paris.
A. (2007) Flanders: a cultural history.
Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Visit sunny Ethiopia! See the elephants, rhinos, pythons, and depressed snake-charmers!
Found in maritime
Flanders, land of Waas, and especially Hamme, near Dendermonde, Osschaert is
one of several mischievous shapeshifters that plague Belgium. He was
particularly around the chapel of Twee Bruggen.
According to van Hageland, his name may be a combination of ors, an archaic word denoting a horse or more generally a mount, or os, an ox, with hard, meaning “strong” or “valiant”. In this sense, Osschaard or Osschaert is a headstrong and dangerous steed.
As with others of his kind, Osschaert appears in countless forms, most notably a human-headed bull with heavy chains on its legs and feet. He has also appeared as a dog, a rabbit, a horse, a giant, a dwarf… At Knoche-sur-mer, where he serves as a bogey to frighten children, he is a ghost with a bull’s head. Commonly he drags a long length of chain behind him.
mischievous rather than actively evil. He delights in jumping on the backs of
people and forcing them to carry him until they collapse. He is just as likely
to jump off his mount’s shoulders to dive into a woman’s basket, causing her to
stagger under the sudden load. Osschaert particularly enjoys tormenting sinners
and wicked people, and will target them above all others.
over all the water in the area, so the first fish caught is returned as an
appeasing gift to Osschaert. Not that he’s guaranteed to ensure a good catch.
And beware of catching fish without thanking Osschaert! One fisherman dragged
his catch onto the beach only to find himself pinned down for an hour by Osschaert;
when he was finally released his catch had disappeared. Another fisherman
pulled an incredibly heavy net onto his boat, only to find it full of horse
church of Twee Bruggen, daring Osschaert out loud to scratch you will result in
a mauling. Specifically, one only has to utter the formula Grypke, Grypke grauw, wilt gy my grypen, grypt my nou (“Grypke,
Grypke grey, if you will gripe me, gripe me now”) and Osschaert will appear on
your back and ride you to the nearest crossroads or image of the Virgin Mary.
In fact, in areas where people dared Osschaert to appear resulted in the spirit
becoming more cruel and aggressive due to being repeatedly called upon.
A young man
of Doel, crossing a field by night, found himself face to face with an
enormous, monstrous horse. “This is Osschaert”, he thought to himself. “I must
get out of his way”. He decided to pass through the churchyard, but then met a
dog the size of a horse on the main road. He crossed himself and took another
path to the churchyard, but there was Osschaert in the form of a rabbit,
jumping back and forth towards him. He tried to turn around the churchyard,
only to find Osschaert waiting for him in the shape of a donkey with enormous
fiery eyes the size of plates! That was the point when the man gave up, jumped
the wall, and ran home in a cold sweat.
man, a fisherman of Kieldrecht named Blommaert, thought he could outsmart
Osschaert. He usually placed his catch of fish in a water-tub near the window.
One night he found that some fish were missing; not only that, but there were
ashes on the hearth, as though someone had broiled the fish on the embers.
Blommaert could find no signs of break-in, and concluded Osschaert was behind
this mischief. When the same thing happened a second time, he decided to cure
Osschaert of his thieving behavior. He covered the entire hearth with
horse-dung, and scattered some ashes over it to disguise it. Osschaert showed
up as usual, pronouncing “Blommeken, vischkens braeyen”, but when he tried to
cook the fish it ended up spoiled with the dung. He ran away screaming and
cursing in frustration. Blommaert celebrated his cunning revenge – but alas, it
does not pay to outwit Osschaert. The next day, when Blommaert drew in his net,
he found it extraordinarily heavy. After much effort, he hauled it on deck, and
found it to be full to cracking with horse-dung. Osschaert laughed loud and
long, and Blommaert returned home angry and defeated.
is retired, if not dead. A priest at Hamme was said to have banished Osschaert
to wander at the sea-shore for ninety-nine years. And at Spije, Malines, one
can see Osschaert’s coffin. It is a small coffin-shaped bridge over a stream.
van Hageland, A. (1973) La Mer Magique. Marabout, Paris.
Harou, A. (1905) Mythologie et folk-lore de l’enfance. Revue des Traditions Populaires, v. XX, p. 96.
Thorpe, B. (1852) Northern Mythology, v. III. Edward Lumley, London.
I want to thank you all for your support and feedback (those of you who emailed me, I’m going to get back to you eventually, don’t worry!)
Regarding the tumblr, I have made my peace with a) the fact that it’s not really my style, and b) the fact that I must live with the consequences of my rash decisions, pick up the pieces, and start over.
I’ve decided that, while not the best platform for longform posts, it would still benefit those who are on it (and prefer it to, say, Facebook) to have updates go there. I won’t have any pretensions about my place there and I will put creatures and nothing else.
Therefore! For those of you with tumblr, I will be rebuilding the archive at a-book-of-creatures.tumblr.com. Since this is a new endeavor I’m trying something slightly different and I’m minimizing information there – ya want more, yer gonna have to go to the main site.
The first notable record of Kludde’s appearance was penned in 1840 in Ternat, by the Baron of Saint-Genois. This back-riding shapeshifter appears in Brabant and Flanders, notably in Merchtem and in Dendermonde, where he lives in the Dendre. In Ostend he is considered a necker or nix, and the flat country knows him as a werewolf. He causes fear and confusion and drinks green pond-water, but avoids crosses and consecrated areas.
comes out at night in the Flemish mists. He has earned his name from the call
he cries while fleeing – “Kludde, Kludde”! As a shapeshifter, he has no fixed
appearance, and Kludde has been encountered in the forms of a great black dog
with a rattling chain around its neck, a half-starved horse, a sheep, a cat, a bat,
a frog, or even a tree. The only constant in Kludde’s transformations is the
presence of two dancing blue flames that flit ahead of him. These are Kludde’s
Kludde plays are mischievous but not deadly. In the guise of a black dog or werewolf
he will jump onto a person’s neck, and vanish after wrestling his victim to the
ground. As a horse, he tricks people into riding him, only to gallop full-tilt
and fling his rider into a body of water. As his erstwhile jockey flounders in
the water, Kludde lies on his belly and laughs loud and long, vanishing only
when the victim emerges from the water. As a tree, Kludde appears as a small
and delicate sapling, before growing to such a height that his branches are
lost in the clouds. This unexpected event shocks and unnerves all who see it,
and amuses Kludde.
foolish to evade Kludde, as he can wind like a snake in any direction, foiling
attempts to outmaneuver him. Trying to seize him is like grabbing air, and it
leaves burns behind. He can also make himself invisible to some people and not
to others, driving travelers out of their minds as they try to describe the
protean creature tailing them – yet when their companions look behind, they see
nothing but an empty road.
de Blécourt, W. (2007) “I
Would Have Eaten You Too”: Werewolf
Legends in the Flemish, Dutch, and German Area. Folklore 118, pp. 23-43.
van Hageland, A. (1973) La Mer Magique. Marabout, Paris.
J. C. (1863) Dictionnaire Infernal.
Henri Plon, Paris.
Thorpe, B. (1852) Northern Mythology, v. III. Edward