Lebraude

Variations: Enfleboeuf, Souffle, Soufflet

Lebraude

Sometimes the toxicity of reptiles and amphibians was so powerful that their breath became a deadly weapon. The rarely-seen toads and salamanders in particular were blamed for all sorts of evil deeds.

The Lebraude is a sort of large lizard or salamander with black and yellow skin. It breathes once per day, and anything that contacts its noxious exhalation dies instantly. Humans perish, livestock expires, and even trees and grass wither up. In Puy de Dôme the Souffle (“Breath”) is a small snake or salamander whose breath kills anyone it sees first. Toads in Provence kill birds with their breath. In Vaucluse a salamander’s breath will cause humans to swell up until they die in their skin. The Souffle, Soufflet (“Bellows”), or Enfleboeuf (“Ox-sweller”) of Auvergne inflates and kills cattle.

Sometimes it is not the exhalation, but the inhalation that is feared. In the Cher, it was said that toads sucked bees out of hives, opening their mouths wide for the insects to come in. Reptiles born from a rooster’s egg in the Hautes-Pyrénées can inhale and swallow anything nearby, including birds and children.

References

Sébillot, P. (1906) Le Folk-lore de France, Tome Troisième: La Faune et la Flore. Librairie Orientale et Américaine, Paris.

Whowie

Variations: Whowhie

Whowie

The Whowie was the terror of the Murray River in the Riverina district of Australia. He was like an enormous goanna, about twenty feet long, with six goanna legs and a huge frog-like head; he was perhaps somewhat like the huge monitor lizards that once roamed southern Australia. While very slow in his movement, he had no reason to be fast, as everyone fleed in terror from him. At night, the whowie would crawl into grounds where people were sleeping, and proceed to devour anyone who couldn’t get away. Thirty to sixty people could disappear down his cavernous mouth during one of those raids. During the day he would sleep in his cave on the Murray River, or bask along the riverbank; his movements created the sandhills of Riverina.

With the passage of time, the depredations of the whowie were starting to take their toll on the inhabitants. The water-rat tribe was first to convene, as they had suffered most from the whowie’s attention. The chief solemnly announced that they had no choice but to flee to a safer land or face certain annihilation. “I shall let you decide what we shall do”, he told his people. It was an elder who stood up and implored his people to stay. “We have lived here all our lives; we have always had plenty to eat, and much to do along the river. Now we dare not go there because of the whowie. Let us think of some other way by which we may be rid of this menace”.

A strict night guard was instated, and the aid of several other tribes was called for. The water-rats searched for the whowie, and found footprints leading into the cave’s one opening. As the whowie’s cave was many miles long, they knew it would take a week for him to return to the outside, and so they had all the time they needed.

Soon help had arrived from all over, from the kangaroo, platypus, eagle, magpie, cockatoo, lizard, snake, opossum and crow tribes, and many more besides. After holding a corroboree and spending a night in celebration, dancing, and storytelling, all of them busied themselves gathering sticks. The sticks were gathered into bundles and piled up halfway in the cave and at the entrance. Then, when they believed the whowie was soon to appear, they set the wood on fire.

Smoke and flames filled the cave, and the whowie roared and coughed angrily – but what good were his teeth and claws against smoke and fire? He struggled upwards through the cave for six days and appeared on the seventh burned, blinded, and gasping for breath. That was when the tribes descended upon him with spears, axes, and nulla-nullas, inflicting mortal wounds on their enemy. The giant lizard could only drag himself back into his cave, and was never seen again.

Now the whowie can still be heard sighing from deep inside the cave on the Murray River. He is dying, or perhaps his spirit has survived underground in some form. But either way he is harmless, and has become nothing more than a bogey with whom parents can threaten their children into good behavior.

References

Molnar, R. E. (2004) Dragons in the Dust. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Reed, A. W. (1965) Myths and Legends of Australia. A. H. and A. W. Reed, Sydney.

Smith, W. R. (2003) Myths and Legends of the Australian Aborigines. Dover Publications, Mineola.

Aíǰe

Variations: Aíge, Spirit-Tadpole

Aige

The Aíǰe is associated with the Bororo of Brazil and Bolivia, and in particular the Páiwoe and Aróroe clans. It is a gigantic tadpole, somewhat like a hippopotamus.

Rubúgu of the Páiwoe first found the aíǰe while walking through a swamp. He liked the little animal and decided to keep it, taking it home in a vessel of water. Rubúgu had great plans for his little pet, and wanted it to become something great and amazing, so before covering its container with a fan he told it “Grow for me; thrive and become an extraordinary creature”.

And grow the aíǰe did. It became larger, and stronger, and it could sing a loud, buzzing song. Rubúgu had to keep switching it to increasingly large containers to support its bulk, and eventually he had nowhere left to put it. He tried doing a dance for the aíǰe, but the tadpole rejected Rubúgu’s mediocre talents. Instead, Chief Baitogógo of the Aróroe took the aíǰe, and honored it with a macaw-feather headdress and a marvelous dance, both of which pleased the tadpole greatly. Baitogógo told the aíǰe that it had to live in ponds, swamps, and lakes away from the Bororo, for it was so big and the magic of its song so powerful, it could pose a serious threat.

The aíǰe accepted, and before leaving it told Baitogógo that if the Bororo missed it, then they should fashion little tadpole sculptures in remembrance. Those figurines could be tied to a stick and swung in the air, making an amphibian buzzing much like aíǰe did. Thus the aíǰe went on to become one of the totems of the Bororo.

References

Albisetti, C.,; Colbacchini, A.; and Venturelli, A. J.; Wilbert, J. and Simoneau, K. eds. (1983) Folk Literature of the Bororo Indians. UCLA Latin American Center Publications, University of California, Los Angeles.

Tiddalik

Variations: Tiddalick, Karaknitt

Tiddalik

Tiddalik the frog was thirsty. He got up one day in the Australian bush and decided he needed more water. He began by drinking down all the water in his pond. After that, he crawled out of the hole left behind and drained the nearby waterholes. Then he swilled down the closest river, and followed its tributaries, drinking them down one by one. Billabongs and lakes were gobbled up, and Tiddalik grew bigger and bigger. Finally, once there was no water left in sight, Tiddalik stopped. He was now a bloated, mountainous creature filled with water and incapable of moving. He could only sit there and stare, content at last.

Soon, as the lack of water became painfully evident, the animals started to gather around Tiddalik. His size and thick skin made him impervious to anything they could do, and rain was nowhere in sight. It was Goorgourgahgah, the Kookaburra, who hit upon the solution. “We must make him laugh”, he said. “That way he’ll open his mouth and all the water will come out”.

As the champion laugher, Goorgourgahgah went first. He flew in front of Tiddalik’s face, laughing at the top of his lungs. He tumbled in the air, told jokes, and guffawed till he was hoarse. Tiddalik blinked impassively.

All the other animals tried their luck. Kangaroo turned somersaults. Koala made weird noises. Frilled Lizard ran around with his frill open. Wombat rolled around in the dirt. Brolga danced and squawked. But nothing they did seemed to get to Tiddalik, and the more they tried the thirstier they got. The monstrous frog merely continued to observe them with his globular eyes.

Then, as the other animals began to despair, Noyang the Eel stepped solemnly up. Everyone held their breath as Noyang straightened and balanced precariously on his tail. A ripple went through Tiddalik’s bloated body. Noyang began to twist and contort himself, forming hoops, spirals, springs, whirling around like a top… Tiddalik’s smile broadened, and he started to shake. Finally, Noyang tied himself in knots, and Tiddalik started to laugh hysterically – and all the water he held inside poured out, flooding the land before returning to its rightful place. Many died in the flood; Pelican took it upon himself to save as many as he could, but got aggressive when the human woman he wanted for a wife refused him. He painted his black feathers white to go to war, but was accidentally killed by another pelican who didn’t recognize him – pelicans today are both black and white in his honor.

When all had cleared, Tiddalik had shrunken back into a tiny frog once more. He had laughed so hard that he lost his voice, and could only croak hoarsely. Today, his descendants the water-holding frogs (Cyclorana platycephala) still practice every night in the hopes of regaining that voice, and still try to drink large quantities of water on a much smaller scale.

After losing all the water of the world, Tiddalik also came to resent anyone who tried to hoard water for themselves. When Echidna tried to keep a secret cache of water, it was Tiddalik who followed him and dove into the subterranean pond. “This water belongs to everyone!” he snapped. “You have no right to keep it to yourself!” The other animals punished Echidna by tossing him into a thornbush, and to this day he still has the thorns embedded in his back as a painful reminder of his greed.

References

Morton, J. (2006) Tiddalik’s Travels: The Making and Remaking of an Aboriginal Flood Myth. Advances in Ecological Research, vol. 39.

Ragache, C. C. and Laverdet, M. (1991) Les animaux fantastiques. Hachette.

Reed, A. W. (1965) Myths and Legends of Australia. A. H. and A. W. Reed, Sydney.

Reed, A. W. (1978) Aboriginal Legends: Animal Tales. A. H. and A. W. Reed, Sydney.

Codrille

Variations: Cocadrille, Cocodrille, Coquadrille, Cocatris

Codrille

The Codrille, Cocadrille, or Codrille is a variety of basilisk or dragon native to central France, notably Berry, Maine, Poitou, Sologne, and Vendée. It combines features of basilisks and vouivres but without the redeeming aspects of either.

The name of the codrille was derived from the same etymological confusion that spawned the “cockatrice”. Starting with Crocodylus, the crocodile, practically a mythical creature in its own right, the name became progressively more garbled, becoming Cocodrillus, Cocodrille, Cocadrille, and Codrille. However, de la Salle derives it from coco and drille, meaning “rooster’s child”.

Unlike true basilisks, codrilles can grow to impressive size, becoming leathery-winged dragons at the last stage of their life cycle. The “crown” characteristic of basilisks manifests in the form of a brilliant gem on top of the codrille’s head. Codrilles can kill merely by looking at their victims, and emit an aura of disease and plague.

A codrille’s life is a complicated succession of metamorphoses. It hatches from a yolkless egg laid by a rooster, and incubated by the heat of the sun or of manure. To prevent those eggs from hatching, one must plant sprigs of ash in potential codrille breeding grounds. This should be done on the first day of May. Having other roosters around also helps, as they will devour the offspring of a codrille.

The codrille starts out its life as a very long, string-like snake. It is capable of killing right out of the egg – anyone who cracks a codrille egg and is seen by the newborn codrille dies instantly, but if they see the snake first, it dies instead. After a while, the juvenile codrille sprouts legs and becomes a salamander. During this stage of its life it will still die if seen first by humans, so it hides in deep wells, ruined tombs, and the masonry of houses, bringing bad luck to everyone living there and whistling ominously at night. It can debilitate a bull merely by crawling under it.

At the end of seven years the codrille reaches the adult stages. It grows spectacularly, sprouts wings, and metamorphoses into an enormous dragon. It spreads its wings and migrates towards the Tower of Babylon, breathing death and pestilence along its way. Its passage in the air dims the sun, and epidemics and plagues follow in its wake.

References

Sainéan, L. (1921) L’histoire naturelle et les branches connexes dans l’oeuvre de Rabelais. E. Champion, Paris.

de la Salle, L. (1875) Croyances et légendes du centre de la France, Tome Premier. Chaix et Cie., Paris.

Sébillot, P. (1906) Le Folk-lore de France, Tome Troisième: La Faune et la Flore. Librairie Orientale et Américaine, Paris.

Llamhigyn y Dwr

Variations: Water Leaper, Water Spirit

Llamhigyn y Dwr

Welsh fishermen, especially around Llyn Gwynan and Llyn Glas, have to contend with the attention of the troublesome Water Spirit, the Llamhigyn y Dwr or “Water Leaper”.

A llamhigyn y dwr looks like a large and monstrous toad, except with a long tail and wings instead of legs. It hides in lakes and other bodies of water, and is carnivorous by nature. Shepherds know not to let their sheep or dogs near the water’s edge, lest the llamhigyn y dwr pounce on them and drag them below.

Fish lost to anglers in those lakes are always the work of a llamhigyn y dwr. It will take the bait cleanly off hooks, or even pull fishermen into the lake. They are fast and powerful swimmers, and will run away with hook, line, rod, and angler. One fisherman’s grandfather told of hooking a llamhigyn y dwr, only for it to emit an ear-splitting shriek, and it would have pulled him off the boat had his friend not been with him.

These tales of the llamhigyn y dwr were told – with significantly more colorful language – by one Ifan Owen, a trustworthy angler by trade with no reason to exaggerate.

References

Jones, T. G. (1930) Welsh Folklore and Folk-custom. Methuen and Co., London.

Rhys, J. (1901) Celtic Folklore: Welsh and Manx, vol. I. Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Sapo Fuerzo

Variations: Strong Toad

Strong toad

The sapo fuerzo, or “strong toad”, is a remarkable amphibian from the Andes of Chile. It can be easily distinguished from regular toads by its hard, turtle-like shell. It is phosphorescent, and glows in the dark like a firefly.

It earns its name from its supernatural powers and its incredible resilience. A sapo fuerzo is capable of attracting or repelling anything within its reach by the sheer power of its gaze. It can also regenerate and recover from virtually any injury, and the only way to kill one is burn it and reduce it completely to ashes.

References

Aguirre, S. M. (2003) Mitos de Chile. Random House, Editorial Sudamericana Chilena.

Cifuentes, J. V. (1947) Mitos y supersticiones (3rd Ed.). Editorial Nascimento, Santiago, Chile.