The Sazae-oni was first formally described by Toriyama Sekien in his first volume on “The Illustrated Horde of Haunted Housewares”. He gives it a philosophical origin, stating that if sparrows become shells and moles become quails, surely it was possible for a sazae – a horned turban shell – to become an oni. So he dreamed.
Reference is made to the 72 Seasons, namely a mid-October season where “sparrows become clams” and a mid-April season where “moles emerge as quails”. The former is based on an old wives’ tale that sparrows become clams to hibernate in winter, while the latter is a poetic description of animals coming out of hibernation.
Sekien’s illustration shows a sinuous sluglike creature with humanoid arms emerging from a large horned turban shell. The head is a spiky shell with protruding eyeballs, and seaweed is draped around the neck.
Sekien, T.; Alt, M. and Yoda, H. eds. (2017) Japandemonium Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopedias of Toriyama Sekien. Dover Publications, New York.
The Quauhxouilin, “eagle-fish” (from quauhtli, “eagle”, and xouilin, a type of fish) is an edible Mexican fish. Its head resembles that of an eagle, with a curved, golden-yellow snout. Its body is long and large and smooth like an eagle. This fish has neither scales nor bones; its meat is soft throughout and makes good eating.
Sahagun, B. (1830) Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España, v. III. Alejandro Valdés, Calle de Santo Domingo, Esquina de Tacuba, Mexico.
Sahagun, B.; Jourdanet, D. and Siméon, R. trans. (1880) Histoire Générale des Choses de la Nouvelle-Espagne. G. Masson, Paris.
of the Circhos is one fraught with misunderstandings, mistranslations, and
general confusion. It should serve as a morality tale on the importance of
accurate information transmission.
describes the habits of hermit crabs in detail. The carcinium (“small crab”) is soft-bodied after the thorax,
resembling a spider, with two red horns and forward-pointing eyes. The mouth
has hair-like appendages and two divided feet that it uses to catch prey. There
are two additional smaller pairs of feet beside them.
hermit crabs, the kind that lives in the nerita
or brita shell is unusual because its
right divided foot is small while the left one is large. It walks more on the
left foot than the right. The nerita
itself, Aristotle adds, has a large, smooth, rounded shell, and a red
hepatopancreas, as opposed to the ceryx
and its black hepatopancreas. During a storm the crabs hide under a rock, and
the gastropods attach themselves to the rock and close their opercula.
All of the
preceding information is stated consecutively. Michael Scot’s translation of
Aristotle gives the name of kiroket
to the nerita shell. Thomas de Cantimpré takes Scot’s kiroket
and his descriptions of the hermit crab and gastropod, but omits connecting
names and details to combine them into a single confused account. It is likely
that Scot’s jargon and neologisms threw Thomas off.
Thomas de Cantimpré’s
cricos (corrupted from kiroket) now has two fissures at the end of its
feet, giving it three fingers and three nails on each foot (Thomas’
“common-sense” addition). Its left foot is big and its right foot is small, and
it carries its weight on its left foot. The comparison of hepatopancreas colors
becomes the shell of the cricos, colored black and red. In good weather, the
cricos moves around; in bad weather, it attaches itself to rocks and doesn’t
Albertus Magnus takes
up Thomas’ account, but drops the confusing details of the feet. The Ortus Sanitatis,
on the other hand, creates some additional features out of whole cloth. The
circhos or crichos has the head of a man and the body of a sea-dog (i.e. a
dogfish or shark); it is healthy in good weather, but weakens and turns ill in
Olaus Magnus borrows
the circhos of the Ortus Sanitatis to populate his Scandinavian sea. The
physical description of a human-headed fish is wisely redacted. Whether it was
meant to represent an actual Scandinavian animal, or is merely plagiarism,
It is Olaus Magnus’
account that is best known today. Concept drift in modern retellings have led
to fabrications such as a limping gait that forces the circhos to move only in
fine weather and cling to rocks during storms, and even a “humanoid” appearance.
Aristotle, Cresswell, R.
trans. (1862) Aristotle’s History of
Animals. Henry G. Bohn, London.
and Riches, A. (1971) A Dictionary of Fabulous Beasts. The Boydell
de Cantimpré, T. (1280)
Liber de natura rerum. Bibliothèque municipale de Valenciennes.
Cuba, J. (1539) Le iardin de santé. Philippe le Noir,
Jacquemard, C.; and Lucas-Avenel, M. (2013) L’auctoritas
de Thomas de Cantimpré en matière
ichtyologique (Vincent de Beauvais, Albert le Grand, l’Hortus sanitatis).
Kentron, 29, pp. 69-108.
(1920) De Animalibus Libri XXVI.
Aschendorffschen Verlagbuchhandlung, Münster.
(1555) Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus. Giovanni M. Viotto, Rome.
(1561) Histoire des pays septentrionaus. Christophle Plantin, Antwerp.
(1658) A compendious history of the
Goths, Swedes, and Vandals, and other Northern nations. J. Streater,
Rose, C. (2000) Giants, Monsters, and Dragons. W. W. Norton and Co., New York. Unknown. (1538) Ortus Sanitatis. Joannes de Cereto de Tridino.
The French town of Hastingues, it is said, is built over an enormous cave honeycombed with entrance tunnels. Deep within that cave dwells the Carcolh (“snail”), also inaccurately known as “lou Carcolh” (“the snail”). The word is itself derived from the Spanish caracol, and does not have any special meaning, as evidenced by the béarnese riddle u houmiot qui s’emporte sa maysou darrè deu cot? Lou carcolh (“A little man who carries his house behind his back? The snail”).
Nobody knows how long the carcolh has lived there, or how old it is. It is a gigantic, slimy, shaggy serpent, with a shell as big as a house, and long prehensile tentacles.
The inhabitants of Hastingues hid their treasures underground before the Spanish invasion. Many have ventured into the cave in search of those treasures, and vanished without a trace. The carcolh does not move much, but its tentacles seize anyone who approaches it, dragging them into its shell to be consumed at leisure. At least one witness saw the carcolh drinking, and managed to escape before it saw him. He then blocked up the tunnel he had entered by, and swore never to return there again.
de Charencey, C. (1903) Etymologies Francaises et Provencales. Bulletin de la Société de Linguistique de Paris, v. 12, pp. lix-lxiv.
Foix, V. (1903) Glossaire de la Sorcellerie Landaise. Revue de Gascogne, v. 3, pp. 362-373.
Peyresblanques, J. (1977) Contes et Légendes des Landes. J. Pémartin, Dax.
Rolland, E. (1877) Devinettes ou Enigmes populaires de la France. F. Vieweg, Paris.
Kayakers in the cold seas of the Arctic Circle are the A-mi’-kuk’s favorite prey. The last thing they see are the a-mi’-kuk’s prehensile tentacles exploding from under the surface and wrapping around them, dragging both kayaker and boat under.
The a-mi’-kuk is large, leathery-skinned, and slimy. Its four long tentacular arms are used for seizing prey and swimming rapidly through the water. There is no escaping it – it will follow prey taking refuge on ice by swimming below it and bursting out onto the surface. Making for land is equally futile, as the a-mi’-kuk can swim through the earth with as much ease as it does through water.
A-mi’-kuks around St. Michael, Alaska, are known to migrate underground to inland lakes. The presence of one is a good sign for the lake. When an a-mi’-kuk leaves its lake, the channel it digs drains it dry, but when it returns the sea returns with it.
Nelson proposed the octopus as the origin of the a-mi’-kuk. He also gives ä-mi’-kuk as the name of the sea otter; what bearing this has on the legendary creature is unknown.
Nelson, E. W. (1887) Report upon Natural History Collections Made in Alaska Between the Years 1877 and 1881. Arctic Series of Publications Issued in Connection with the Signal Service, Government Printing Office, Washington.
Nelson, E. W. (1900) The Eskimo about Bering Strait. Extract from the Eighteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office, Washington.