The Skvader is a taxidermist’s chimera found in Sundsvall, in the Swedish province of Medelpad. It is a winged hare, combining the skins of a European hare and a capercaillie.
The original skvader was made by Rudolf Granberg in 1918, based on an illustration of a hunter’s tall tale from 1874. It was preserved in a museum in Sundsvall and has since then become an unofficial symbol of Medelpad.
Fraser, M. (1947) In Praise of Sweden. Methuen and Co. Ltd., London.
Panafieu, J. and Renversade, C. (2014) Créatures fantastiques Deyrolle. Plume De Carotte, Toulouse.
The Karnabo is found on the Rocroi plateau, near Regniowez in France. It is an Ardennes bogey, comparable to the Mahwot but with a more restricted distribution. Belief in it may trace back to some forgotten historical event. It lives in an abandoned, sealed-off slate quarry.
In appearance the Karnabo is hideous to behold. It is almost human in shape, but it has basilisk eyes and a long, trunk-like nose. It is believed to have come from Rièzes, and to be the offspring of an itinerant sorcerer and a 67-year-old female ghoul. Its evil deeds are numberless.
The horrible nasal whistling of the Karnabo is enough to paralyze or asphyxiate anyone foolish enough to wander within range of the quarry. Livestock are killed outright. While the Karnabo may have inherited its father’s diabolical powers, it also learned from him how to cure paronychia by chanting magical phrases. It works its curative powers on Good Fridays.
Once a young girl dared to play in the vicinity of the slate quarry. As soon as she came near the entrance of the tunnel, the Karnabo pounced on her and dragged her underground. Since then neither her nor the Karnabo have been seen, and the entrance has been sealed off. On stormy nights the sobbing of the girl and the nasal roars of the Karnabo can still be heard.
Lambot, J. (1987) L’Ardenne. Pierre Mardaga, Brussels.
Meyrac, A. (1890) Traditions, coutumes, légendes et contes des Ardennes. Petit Ardennais, Charleville.
There was once a widow working in the fields of the Khasi Hills in Meghalaya, India. She gave her two sons bananas to eat and let them run off and play by themselves while she plowed the fields. The two boys were climbing over some rocks when the younger son found that his foot was stuck. His older brother tried to pull him out, but instead found that his brother was sinking deeper and deeper into the rock.
He called to his mother for help. “Come quickly, my brother’s feet have been swallowed by a boulder!” But his mother didn’t believe him. Thinking that he and his brother were playing a game, she ignored his cries and continued plowing. By the time she checked on her children, the younger brother had been completely swallowed up by the man-eating boulder, and only the outstretched hand of the older brother – still clutching a banana – was visible sticking out of the rock.
All the men of the village brought their hammers and tried to free the children, but every time they struck the boulder, it grew bigger. Finally, fearing that they too would be swallowed up, they abandoned the children to their fate.
Bhairav, J. F. and Khanna, R. (2020) Ghosts, Monsters, and Demons of India. Blaft Publications, Chennai.
The Ajaju was the terror of the Garo people of Achik Asong and Dura Hill in the Garo Hills of India. Nowadays members of this carnivorous species are a lot harder to find.
An ajaju looks like a chameleon with long kneeless legs. Its head may be like a human head or a chameleon’s head in appearance. It has twelve long, sharp, forked tongues that are very flexible and which it uses to lick up its prey’s flesh and blood.
The kneeless legs of an ajaju are like bamboo stalks without nodes. In the trees an ajaju can swing from branch to branch with ease, but movement on land is a lot harder. Chasing someone downhill is virtually impossible for an ajaju, but anyone running uphill would be immediately caught by the creature’s long sickle-like tongues, swallowed, and stripped of flesh and blood by the tongues. Then there would be nothing left save a few bones for the ajaju to spit out with distaste.
To attract prey an ajaju will call out in a shrill voice, “wa-o, wa-o, wa-o”. If someone responds, the ajaju will continue calling, coming nearer and nearer each time. That is why, if venturing into ajaju territory, one must call out in a high-pitched voice. If the ajaju responds, then one must remain silent and focus on putting as much distance as possible between them and the creature.
Ajaju parts are of great medicinal value, including as a substitute for missing bones when resurrecting someone. One narrator claimed to be in possession of ajaju parts from Rongkugiri, taken when a couple of ajajus were killed decades ago.
Rongmuthu, D. S. (1960) The Folk-tales of the Garos. University of Gauhati Department of Publication, Guwahati.
Mount Gouwu in China has much jade at its peak and much copper at its base. It is the dwelling-place of a beast called the Paoxiao. A Paoxiao looks like a goat with a human face armed with tiger’s teeth. Its eyes are behind its armpits (Wenxuan instead states that its mouth is under one armpit), and it has human hands. It is a man-eater that makes sounds like a baby.
Guo Pu described the paoxiao as exceedingly savage and gluttonous, liable to start biting itself before finishing its human prey. He also equated it with the ornamental taotie, a symbol of gluttony, but this connection is dubious at best.
Mathieu compares the unusual appearance of the Paoxiao with that of an animal delousing itself.
Mathieu, R. (1983) Étude sur la mythologie et l’ethnologie de la Chine ancienne. Collège de France, Paris.
Strassberg, R. E. (2002) A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas. University of California Press.
Variations: The Beast, Dhu Guisch (“Of the Black Firs”)
Tradition holds that the dense, impenetrable forests of Scotland once covered most of the Highlands and Outer Hebrides, but fell to the Norsemen. The Scandinavians burned down the forests to dominate the trade in timber, and to prevent potential ambushes from forested areas.
In Sutherland the destruction of the forests is attributed to a dragon, the Beast of the Charred Forests. This terrifying, powerful monster was born from a fire that burned for seven years and lived in fire. It once stalked over northern Scotland, breathing fire and incinerating trees. There was no escaping its wrath, and people would abandon their villages to the dragon whenever they heard it was near. Only a man who saw it before it saw him could slay it.
But the Beast itself met its match in Saint Gilbert. When it came upon St. Gilbert’s Church in Dornoch, it roared “Pity on you, Dornoch!” Saint Gilbert, who had previously dug a hole and hid in it to see the dragon before it appeared, emerged from his church armed with a bow and arrows, and repeated the Beast’s boastful statement to its face. “Pity on you, Dornoch!” The beast prepared to breathe fire on Dornoch, but the Saint’s first arrow pierced and killed it immediately. It was buried on the moor between Dornoch and Skibo, and a stone – the Beast’s Stone – was placed over it.
The presence of charred pine stumps in the peat moss of Ross, Sutherland, and the Reay is evidence of the Beast’s ravages.
Dempster, M. (1888) The Folk-lore of Sutherlandshire. Folk-Lore Journal v. VI p. 3, pp. 149-189.
MacGregor, A. A. (1937) The Peat-Fire Flame: Folk-tales and Traditions of the Highlands and Islands. The Moray Press, Edinburgh.
Ayotochtli, “tortoise-rabbit”, is Nahuatl for armadillo. Two somewhat mangled forms of the word appears in Topsell’s work.
Topsell attributes the description of the Aiochtochth or Aiotochth (also known in Spanish as Armato and Contexto) to Cardanus. It is found in Mexico, near the Alvaradus River. An aiotochth is no bigger than a cat and has the snout of a mallard, the feet of a hedgehog, and a very long neck. It is covered by a segmented, lobster-like shell resembling the trappings of a horse. It protects itself with that shell such that neither its head nor neck are clearly visible, with only the ears sticking out. Some of these creatures were brought back to London gardens where they were put to use destroying worms.
The entry for the aiochtochth immediately follows that of the Tatus or Armadillo, and Topsell claims they are comparable.
Topsell, E. (1658) The History of Four-footed Beasts. E. Cotes, London.
Tylor, E. B. (1861) Anahuac, or Mexico and the Mexicans, Ancient and Modern. Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, London.
The greatest hazard of the Colorado mountains is not avalanches or bears, but rather the Slide-rock Bolter. This is a colossal creature the size of a whale. Its enormous mouth, something like that of a sculpin, goes behind its small eyes and ears, and drools copious amounts of thin grease from the corners. The flipper-tail is separated into grappling hooks, which allow the slide-rock bolter to cling to the top of a ridge or mountain.
Slide-rock bolters live where the slopes are steeper than 45°. They can wait for days until prey comes within reach – typically a clueless animal such as a tourist. When a slide-rock bolter spots a tourist, it releases its hook-tail and slides down the slope, lubricated by its grease secretion. It slides like a nightmarish toboggan, bulldozing trees and obstacles, snapping up the tourist, and, carried by momentum, traveling back up to the top of another slope. There it sinks its hooks in and goes back to waiting.
Guides have become increasingly reticent about leading treks through bolter country, as entire groups of tourists can be lost to the behemoths. Slide-rock bolters can be lured away with appropriate tourist decoys – scarecrows with Norfolk jackets, knee breeches, and Colorado guidebooks. One ranger near Ophir Peaks rigged such a tourist decoy with powder and blasting caps, luring in the bolter at Lizzard Head. The detonation scattered enough bolter flesh to feed local vultures for the rest of the season.
Cox, W. T. (1910) Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods with a Few Desert and Mountain Beasts. Judd and Detweiler, Washington D. C.
An Ebigane, in the folklore of the Fang of Cameroon, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea, is an ambiguous monster that can be animal or human in form, or a mix of both. It commonly appears in legends and sagas sung by mvett players.
One such heroic tale, told by Tsira Ndong Ndoutoume, tells of the hero Mefoumou Mba Foumou. When faced with a bridge made of twisted, knotted pythons, he pulled a mouse out of his satchel and spat on its head. The mouse grew in size, its ears spread out like the petals of an enormous flower, its head sprouted horns, its legs lengthened and its claws sharpened, while its great tail stretched out behind it. Now armed with sharp fangs and claws and great bat-like wings, it had become an ebigane, something like a cross between a bat, a buffalo, and a vampire.
Mefoumou Mba took a red paste crayon and drew a red mark on the ebigane’s head from the base of its skull to the tip of its nose. Then he directed its attention to the pythons. “There is enough meat there to feed you for at least two years. To work!”
The ebigane flapped its ears loudly, whinnied, and took heavily to the air, circling around like a bird of prey before diving on the bridge. It seized one python in its claws and teeth and, after overcoming its prey’s resistance, carried it off to Mount Bèghlé to devour at its leisure.
Ndong Ndoutoume, T. (1993) Le Mvett: L’homme, la mort et l’immortalité. L’Harmattan, Paris.
The Lomie is a beast found within the forests of Bohemia. It has a sac-like bladder under its neck. If pursued by hunters, it pauses at a nearby body of water to drink and fill up its neck-bladder. Then it runs, heating the water to boiling. When cornered by hunters and their dogs, it vomits the boiling water onto them, scalding them and making good its escape.
Heylyn merely refers to the water as boiling-hot. The Book of Marvels adds that the boiling water is incredibly toxic, causing incurable wounds and making skin and flesh slough off.
The name is derived from the Polish Lossie, the plural form of moose, while Los is singular. It is probably a typographical error on Heylyn’s part. Topsell lists Los and Lossie as synonyms for the elk or moose, and also ascribes the regurgitation of scalding water to the moose.
Heylyn, P. (1621) Microcosmus: A Little Description of the Great World. John Lichfield and James Short, Oxford.
Heylyn, P. (1636) Microcosmus: A Little Description of the Great World. William Turner, Oxford.
Heylyn, P. (1657) Cosmographie in Four Books. Henry Seile, London.
Topsell, E. (1658) The History of Four-footed Beasts. E. Cotes, London.
Various. (1996) Les Merveilles du Monde. Editions Anthese, Arcueil.