Hujiao

Variations: Tiger-dragon, Crocodile-tiger, Cuo-fish, Tiger-cuo

The Yin River and the Yangtze are home to large numbers of Hujiao, or tiger-dragons. A hujiao has the body of a fish with the tail of a snake, and makes a sound like a mandarin duck. It is probably the same as the cuo-fish, whose young hide in their mother’s womb, and the tiger-cuo, which has black and yellow patterns, the ears, eyes, and teeth of a tiger, and is capable of turning into a tiger. All of those are probably sharks.

Eating hujiao flesh prevents hemorrhoids.

References

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.

Sasnalkáhi

Variations: Cac na’alka hi, Bear that Pursues, Tracking Bear

The fearsome Sasnalkáhi, the Bear that Pursues, was a monstrous bear that terrorized the Navajo people. As one of the Anaye, Sasnalkáhi was born from unnatural sexual practices; in this case, his “fathers” were a smooth stone and a leg sinew. He lived in a cross-shaped mountain cave at Tse’bahástsit, the “Rock that Frightens”. Once Sasnalkáhi set on a hunt, his prey had no hope of escape.

When Nayenezgani set out to slay Sasnalkáhi, he carried yucca fruit in his left hand and hard oak twigs in his right hand. Those medicinal plants warded off Sasnalkáhi’s attentions.

Eventually Nayenezgani found the bear’s head emerging from a hole. He inspected the east, south, and west entrances; when he got to the north, Sasnalkáhi’s head immediately withdrew, and the bear headed for the south entrance. This time Nayenezgani was waiting for him, and when Sasnalkáhi stuck his head out, Nayenezgani decapitated him.

“You were a bad thing in life”, proclaimed Nayenezgani to the head. “You caused nothing but mischief. But now I will make you useful to the people; you will feed them, clean them, and clothe them in the future”. Sasnalkáhi’s head was chopped into three pieces. One piece was thrown east, where it became tsási (Yucca baccata). One piece was thrown west, becoming tsásitsoz (Yucca angustifolia). The last piece was thrown south, to become nóta (mescal). The nipples became pinyon nuts, while two pieces of fat cut from around the tail became a bear and a porcupine. The left forepaw, gall, and windpipe were taken as trophies.

References

Locke, R. F. (1990) Sweet Salt: Navajo folktales and mythology. Roundtable Publishing Company, Santa Monica.

Matthews, W. (1897) Navaho legends. Houghton Mifflin and Company, New York.

Reichard, G. A. (1950) Navaho Religion: A Study of Symbolism. Bollingen Foundation Inc., New York.

Chipekwe

Variations: Chimpekwe

Melland gives chipekwe as referring to a one-tusked elephant in the Kaonde language of Zambia. This is probably irrelevant.

The Chipekwe is a massive, allegedly reptilian, pachyderm-slaying creature found around and in Lake Bangweulu in Zambia. Most encounters consist of unrecognizable spoors, or the noise of some large animal splashing through the water.

A chipekwe has a hairless, smooth, dark body and a single smooth horn, white as polished ivory. Chipekwes do not take well to humans invading their territory. Canoes are destroyed and their occupants are killed. Hippos fare no better – the chipekwe kills them by tearing their throats out. At least one chipekwe is known to have been slain in the Luapula, brought down by the same large harpoons used for hippo hunting.

All of the above could very well be exaggerated references to one-tusked elephants. This is probably relevant.

References

Mackal, R. (1987) A living dinosaur? E. J. Brill, New York.

Melland, F. H. (1923) In Witch-bound Africa. J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.

Lagopus

Variations: Lagepus, Lagephus

According to Pliny, the Lagopus (“hare foot”) or ptarmigan is so named because its feet are covered with hair like those of a hare’s foot. It is the size of a pigeon and white all over. While delicious to eat, the lagopus cannot be tamed or kept outside of its native land, and it putrefies rapidly when killed.

Thomas de Cantimpré misreads the allusion to the native ground of the lagopus, and instead deduces that the lagopus does not eat in the open air. Having made that conclusion, it is only logical that it must carry its food into a cave to eat it. Albertus Magnus makes the further logical deduction that the lagopus cannot fly well.

Although only the feet are described as hare-like, depictions show it with a hare’s head as well. It is often shown standing in front of a cave.

References

Aiken, P. (1947) The Animal History of Albertus Magnus and Thomas of Cantimpré. Speculum, 22(2), pp. 205-225.

de Cantimpré, T. (1280) Liber de natura rerum. Bibliothèque municipale de Valenciennes.

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

Magnus, A. (1545) Thierbuch. Jacob, Frankfurt.

Magnus, A. (1920) De Animalibus Libri XXVI. Aschendorffschen Verlagbuchhandlung, Münster.

Pliny; Holland, P. trans. (1847) Pliny’s Natural History. George Barclay, Castle Street, Leicester Square.

Unknown. (1538) Ortus Sanitatis. Joannes de Cereto de Tridino.

Kuyūtha

Variations: Behemoth; Leviathan; Kuyūban, Kuyoota, Kuyūta, Kuyootan, Kuyūtan, Kuyoothan, Kuyūthan, Quyuta; Kujata (erroneously based on mistranslation from Spanish), Rakaboûnâ (erroneously based on mistranslation from Arabic)

Kuyutha

Early Islamic cosmology tells that when God created the Earth, he saw it to be wobbly as a ship in a stormy sea. To support it he created an angel who held it by the east and west. But there was nothing below the angel, so he created a red ruby rock (or a green gemstone rock, according to al-Wardi) a with 7,000 perforations in it, from each of which issues a sea whose breadth God only knows, and the angel stood on the rock.

Then God created (or brought down from Heaven) a great bull to support the rock. This bull is enormous beyond comprehension. Al-Qazwini describes the bull as having 40,000 eyes, 40,000 noses, 40,000 ears, 40,000 mouths, 40,000 tongues, and 40,000 legs. Al-Damiri’s list gives the bull 4,000 of each of these features instead. Al-Wardi refers only to 40,000 horns and 40,000 legs. The distance between each of the bull’s pairs of legs would take 500 years to cover. The spread of his horns goes beyond the boundaries of the Earth. He breathes twice a day; as his nose is in the water, this causes the tides to ebb and flow. When he shifts he causes earthquakes.

The bull held the rock on his back and horns, and he stands on the back of a great fish (with or without a layer of sand between the bull and the fish). The fish is so large that all the seas would be like a grain of mustard in his nostril. Below the fish are varying combinations of water, earth, suffocating wind, sand, darkness, and mist, and that is as far as human knowledge goes.

Spectacular as it may be, this cosmology was apparently never taken too seriously. Al-Qazwini relegates it to his section on “Differing Opinions of the Ancients on the Shape and Location of Earth”; the cosmological sections of the Wonders of Creation are much less poetic. It inspired the Persian expression az mah ta mahi, “from the moon to the fish”, i.e. the whole of creation.

What are the names of the bull and the fish? Logically, a giant land creature and a giant sea creature in an Abrahamic religion would be Behemoth and Leviathan, respectively. Indeed, Guest and Ettinghausen attribute the oldest rendition of this cosmology to Ahmad-e Tūsi’s Wonders of Creation, where the bull is Behemoth and the fish Leviathan. But textual corruption sets in around the time al-Qazwini cites Wahb bin Munabbih in his own Wonders of Creation, and by then the two godbeasts had swapped names. The fish became Behemoth (Bahamut or Bahemut in Arabic) while the bull was saddled with increasingly garbled misreadings of Leviathan – Kuyūban or Kuyūthan in al-Qazwini, Kuyūtha or Kuyūthan in al-Damiri, Kuyūthan in al-Abshihi, and so on.

Older English translations of Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings incorrectly translate the bull’s name to “Kujata”. Borges apparently would have pronounced “j” as “y”, so newer editions of the Book use the more accurate “Quyuta”.

Perron gives the name of the bull as Rakaboûnâ, a hilarious but entirely understandable translation error.

References

al-Abshihi, C. (2008) Al-Mustatraf fi kul Fann Mustadhraf. Dar Al-Marefah, Beirut.

Borges, J. L.; trans. di Giovanni, N. T. (1969) The Book of Imaginary Beings. Clarke, Irwin, & Co., Toronto.

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

Al-Damiri, K. (1891) Hayat al-hayawan al-kubra. Al-Matba’ah al-Khayriyah, Cairo.

Guest, G. D. and Ettinghausen, R. (1961) The Iconography of a Kashan Luster Plate. Ars Orientalis, v. 4, pp. 25-64.

Lane, E. L. (1883) Arabian Society in the Middle Ages. Chatto and Windus, London.

Al-Mundir; Perron, N. trans. (1860) Le Nâċérî: La Perfection des Deux Arts. Bouchard-Huzard, Paris.

Al-Qazwini, Z. (1849) Zakariya ben Muhammed ben Mahmud el-Cazwini’s Kosmographie. Erster Theil: Die Wunder der Schöpfung. Ed. F. Wüstenfeld. Dieterichsche Buchhandlung, Göttingen.

Al-Wardi, S. (2007) Kharidat al-‘ajaib wa faridat al-gharaib. Maktabat al-Thaqafa al-Diniyya, Cairo.

Cu Sith

Variations: Fairy Dog

Cu Sith

The Cu Sith (pronounced coo-shee), “fairy dog”, is a great beast associated with the fairies of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Fairy dogs are almost always malevolent and implacable with no love for humans. There are some stories of fairy dogs treating humans with kindness, but these are best regarded with suspicion.

A fairy dog is hideous in appearance. It appears as an enormous dog the size of a two-year-old stirk, with paw-prints as broad as a man’s outspread hand. The fur is dark green, lightening downwards to the paws. The ears are a deeper green in color. The tail may be flat and plaited, or long and coiled over the dog’s back.

During the day the fairies keep their dogs tied up to keep watch, and even untethered fairy dogs will hide in caves by day. Night-time is when they roam free and are at their most dangerous. They run in straight lines, silently; sometimes they make a sound like a galloping horse. They are deadly to humans and beasts, although at least one tale has them driven off by ordinary, mortal dogs.

Most dreaded of all is the cu sith’s bark. A fairy dog will bark three times, with an interval between each bark. The first and second barks are warnings; after the third bark the dogs appear and tear their victims to pieces. On the island of Tiree, those who hear the first baying of a cu sith know to immediately go indoors to safety.

Finding a cu sith tooth, on the other hand, is a sign of very good luck. The tooth itself can be placed in drinking water to cure the illnesses of cows, or in milk to cleanse it of a witch’s influence. The teeth tend to be found in odd places and are abandoned after the animal feeds. MacGregor tells of a farmer in Lewis whose potatoes were being stolen on a nightly basis. Yet stakeouts accomplished nothing – he could never catch the thief in the act. Then one day he found a fairy dog’s tooth sticking out of one of the potatoes. The tooth was passed down in the family for generations.

Cu sith can be avoided. A man traveling near Kennavara Hill, Tiree, saw a large dog (Campbell describes it as black in color) resting on a sand-dune. He gave it a wide berth and made for home. The next day he revisited the dune and found prints as large as his spread palm. These prints made a trackway leading to and disappearing on the plain. The dog had ignored him.

A shepherd from Lorn, Argyll, came upon two cu sith puppies curled up in their lair behind some rocks. They had green backs and sides and – most worryingly – were larger than his own hulking sheepdogs. The shepherd and his dogs wisely left before the parents showed up.

References

Briggs, K. M. (1976) An Encyclopedia of Fairies. Pantheon Books, New York.

Campbell, J. G. (1900) Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. James MacLehose and Sons, Glasgow.

Fleming, M. (2002) Not of this World: Creatures of the Supernatural in Scotland. Mercat Press, Edinburgh.

MacGregor, A. A. (1937) The Peat-Fire Flame: Folk-tales and Traditions of the Highlands and Islands. The Moray Press, Edinburgh.

Muscaliet

Variations: Muscardin; Dormouse; Musquelibet, Musquelibus, Musquilibet (possibly)

Muscaliet

Nobody is quite sure what a Muscaliet is. Our only source for this unusual rodent is found in the bestiary of Pierre de Beauvais, and it appears to have been cobbled together from multiple unrelated accounts.

The muscaliet is found in India, in the land of the three talking trees that predicted the death of Alexander the Great. This by itself is suspect, as the accounts of Alexander in India only mention two trees, consecrated to the sun and moon. Then again, the sun-tree was said to have spoken twice and the moon-tree once, making for three tree speeches. The life of a copyist was a thankless one.

Beauvais gives the muscaliet a body like a hare, but smaller. Its legs, feet, and tail are like those of a squirrel, but the tail, while held in a squirrel-like manner, is larger. It uses the strength in its tail to jump from tree to tree. Its head is rounded, its ears small and weasel-like, and its nose long and pointed like a mole. There is a tooth sticking out of its mouth on either side, like a boar’s tusks, and it has bristles around its snout like the bristles on a boar’s back.

A muscaliet is a highly adept climber. No animal can catch it in the trees, and its claws are so sharp that it can cling to any surface. It eats fruits, leaves, and flowers and digs out its dens in the roots of trees. It is so “hot by nature” (calde de nature) that the tree it lives in eventually rots, withers, and dies as the muscaliet gnaws away at the roots.

This is a moral lesson. The tree represents a human; its leaves and flowers are good deeds, and its fruits are the soul. But the muscaliet is Pride, its sharp teeth are cutting words that Cruelty brings, and its feet show that cruelty is tenacious. Once Pride takes up residence within us, Beauvais warns, it rots us from the inside out.

The term “muscaliet” itself is an archaic French term for the common dormouse or muscardin (Muscardinus), that which Buffon described as “the least ugly of all the rats”. Its name is derived from its presumed musky odor; whether this attribution came before or after Beauvais’ usage is unclear. The –caliet part of the name superficially suggests heat, which would have inspired our bestiarist to describe it as “hot by nature”. Alternative, “muscaliet” may have been derived from the musquelibet, a creature like a roe deer in size, with an abscess-like growth that produces musk. This is the musk deer Moschus moschiferus, which does have tusks like a boar but little connection to the muscaliet otherwise – not even musk is mentioned.

Is this the fox-sized mouse described by Aristotle? It was a wonder of India found by Alexander, a mouse the size of a fox and with a noxious bite that harmed animals and humans. This sounds like a rat, and perhaps an early allusion to the diseases carried by those animals – rats were unknown to the ancient Greeks and Romans, with black rats appearing in late antiquity and brown rats showing up in the 16th century. Tales of rats with toxic bites combined with dormouse and musk-deer anecdotes are likely the basis for the tree-poisoning muscaliet, which exists as a moral warning and not a zoological account.

References

de Beauvais, P.; Baker, C. ed. (2010) Le Bestiaire. Honoré Champion, Paris.

Buffon, G. L. L. (1775) Oeuvres completes de M. le Cte. De Buffon, t. II. Imprimerie Royal, Paris.

Cahier, C. (1856) Bestiaires. Melanges d’Archeologie, 1856(IV), pp. 55-87.

de Cantimpré, T. (1280) Liber de natura rerum. Bibliothèque municipale de Valenciennes.

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

Godefroy, F. (1901) Lexique de l’Ancien Francais. H. Welter, Paris.

Kitchell, K. F. (2014) Animals in the Ancient World from A to Z. Routledge, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon.

Magnus, A. (1920) De Animalibus Libri XXVI. Aschendorffschen Verlagbuchhandlung, Münster.

Unknown. (1538) Ortus Sanitatis. Joannes de Cereto de Tridino.

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

Origorúso

Variations: Oriogorúho, Orio-goruhu; Suguma; Poópoó

Origoruso

The Origorúso (Kiwai) or Oriogorúho (Mawata) is a man-beast, an ogre from the folklore of the Kiwai islanders of Papua New Guinea. Its name is derived from the fact that it eats (orúso) its food raw (orío).

An origorúso has very short legs, and supports itself on its hands while walking. It has huge eyes and enormous ears; its cavernous mouth has protruding tusks like those of a pig. The tusks are superfluous, as an origorúso swallows its prey whole and raw.Its fingers are armed with long claws. Male origorúso have two penises. An origorúso can make a sound like a loud grunt or roar, but it can also speak normally with people.

At night an origorúso lies on one of its oversized ears, and uses the other as a blanket. By day the ears are usually rolled up.

Origorúsos live underground or inside large trees. They raid villages to carry off and eat people. Sometimes an origorúso will enter a village and devour everyone in one house before leaving. An origorúso used to carry off a child in a village every day, until a cripple guarding a little boy tied a string around the child’s leg. When the cripple went to sleep, the origorúso pulled on the child, and by doing so pulled the string and alerted the man. Everyone in the village wisely fled, with the exception of a man, a woman and their child. They managed to appease the origorúso by throwing pigs at it until it fed and went to sleep. Then they left behind a coconut shell full of lice collected from their child; the lice answered the origorúso’s calls and detained it while they made good their escape.

Sometimes humans can become origorúsos under the right condition. A Kiwai woman in childbirth, upon being insulted by her husband, transformed into an origorúso who pursued the husband relentlessly. A man who lived a while with a friendly origorúso slept in the creature’s ears and ate raw meat; it was all fine until the man’s ears started to grow as big as the origorúso’s. “You got bed, I got bed; you got mat, I got mat”, the origorúso said cheerfully. But the man, terrified, ran back home and hid among his people. It was all in vain. The origorúso, angered, lay siege to the village, and with him came other origorúsos, the horrific útumos that are the ghosts of decapitated men, and other vile spirits. They did not leave until the escapee was given to them, torn apart, and consumed.

Fragments of origorúso bone make potent fighting medicine and are given to dogs.

The origorúso is only one of a number of creatures with enormous ears used to sleep in. The Bina people refer to their oriogorúho as female and nocturnal. The Suguma seems to be synonymous with the origorúso. The Poópoó also has huge ears, and has skin covered with po (knobs); it either has huge tusks or normal-sized teeth, and it otherwise looks like a normal man.

References

Beaver, W. N. (1920) Unexplored New Guinea. Seeley, Service & Co. Limited, London.

Kirtley, B. F. (1963) The Ear-Sleepers: Some Permutatios of a Traveler’s Tale. The Journal of American Folklore, 76(300), pp. 119-130.

Landtman, G. (1917) The Folk-tales of the Kiwai Papuans. Acta Societatis Scientiarium Fennicae, t. XLVII, Helsingfors.

Landtman, G. (1927) The Kiwai Papuans of British New Guinea. MacMillan and Co. Limited, London.

Cuero

Variations: Hide, Skin; Manta; Huecú, Chueiquehuecu, Chueiquehuecuvu, Trelque, Trelquehuecufe, Trelquehuecuvu, Trilkehuecufe; Ghyryvilu (erroneously?); El Cuero (erroneously)

Cuero

The tale of the living cow-hide is widespread throughout the lakes of Chile. Originally a type of huecuve, a Mapuche evil spirit responsible for all sorts of ills, it has since assimilated into local folklore and been attributed to animals such as the octopus and ray. Sometimes the creature is merely a physical manifestation of the huecuve, which can then go on to possess people or animals and inflict them with consumption.

The Mapuche term for this creature is Trelquehuecuve, “skin huecuve”. In Spanish-speaking contexts it is known as Cuero, “Hide” or “Skin”, or Manta, “Mantle” or “Cloak”. Molina describes it as a variant of the ghyryvilu or fox-snake, another aquatic terror.

A cuero is a creature that looks like a cowhide, sheepskin, or goatskin, stretched out flat and laid on the surface of the water. It is usually white with black or brown spots, or brilliant yellow and white. The edges of the cuero are armed with hooked claws. The cueros of Butaro laguna, Atacama, resemble living fabric with suckers; they are also the souls of the damned. In central Chile the cuero is an octopus that resembles a cowhide with numberless eyes and with four enormous eyes in its head. Laguna Copín, Aconcagua, is home to a furry, flat creature fond of human flesh.

Anything that enters the water is engulfed and squeezed in the cuero’s folds, and dragged under to have its blood sucked out. After feeding the cuero will release its drained prey and find itself a solitary beach on which to stretch out, bask, and digest peacefully. Unexplained drownings are the work of a cuero. In Ovalle and Coquimbo the goatskin cueros couple with cows and sire deformed offspring.

Cueros can be killed by tossing branches of quisco cactus (Cereus or Echinocactus) into the water. The creature will attempt to seize the cactus, injure itself, and bleed to death. The heroic youth Ñanco successfully confronted a cuero by holding quisco in his hands and tying quisco branches to his legs

The motif of the living hide extends to other beings and motifs. Another Chilean folktale tells of a magical cow that told its master Joaquin to kill and skin it. The resultant cowhide was alive in its own fashion and served Joaquin as a boat, and the cow’s eyes in his pocket granted him the power to see through anything. At the end of his adventures, the skin, bones, eyes, and other remains of the cow were collected for burning, but the moment the last hair of the cow touched the pile, the cow was brought back to life, plump and healthy, and walked off to the farm as though nothing had happened.

References

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

Borges, J. L.; trans. di Giovanni, N. T. (2002) The Book of Imaginary Beings. Vintage Classics, Random House, London.

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

Guevara, T. (1908) Psicolojia del pueblo araucano. Imprenta Cervantes, Santiago de Chile.

Latcham, R. E. (1924) La organización social y la creencias religiosas de los antiguos araucanos. Imprenta Cervantes, Santiago de Chile.

Molina, M.; Jaramillo, R. trans. (1987) Ensayo sobre la Historia Natural de Chile. Ediciones Maule, Santiago de Chile.

Soustelle, G. and Soustelle, J. (1938) Folklore Chilien. Institut International de Coopération Intellectuelle, Paris.

Dard

Dard

The Dard is peculiar to the department of Vienne in France, but its physiognomy recalls that of the alpine dragons – and, like them, it probably evolved from mustelid accounts. It is a serpent with four legs and a short viper’s tail. It has the head of a cat and a mane running down its dorsal spine.

Dards drink milk from cows and can produce a terrifying whistle. They are nonvenomous, but bite viciously when provoked.

Peasants in Vienne claimed to recognize the dard’s likeness in the carvings of certain churches.

References

Ellenberger, H. (1949) Le Monde Fantastique dans le Folklore de la Vienne. Nouvelle Revue des Traditions Populaires, 1(5), pp. 407-435.