Variations: Inifwira


The Nyuvwira is an enormous snake restricted to the Chitipa District of Malawi. It is found in association with minerals, especially precious minerals of monetary value. It can also be found in the mines of South Africa. It is known as Inifwira in Sukwa.

A nyuvwira has eight heads and is the largest snake in the world. It generates electricity and lights at night. It lives underground, which is fortunate as it is extremely toxic. When it moves (about every 200 years) it causes death and disaster. Airplanes flying over a nyuvwira crash.

The skin of a nyuvwira, held in one’s pocket, prevents planes from moving and is a powerful charm for wealth. To kill a nyuvwira one must construct a spiral hut and line it with razors, then entice the snake in by ringing bells. It will crawl over the razors and cut itself to death.


Hargreaves, B. J. (1984) Mythical and Real Snakes of Chitipa District. The Society of Malawi Journal, Vol. 37, No. 1, pp. 40-52.


Variations: Númhyělekum


Númhyalikyu, “one chief one”, is an enormous, monstrous halibut of Pacific Northwest Kwakwaka’wakw folklore. Its back looks like a beach, complete with ripples left behind by the waves. It has the head of a seal, with a shining spot that gleams like fire.

If a númhyalikyu is killed, its head can be stabbed and its gleaming ornament extracted, revealing it to be a hard and shiny crystalline object. This is known as tlúgwi, and it is highly valuable. It is hard to pinpoint the location of a númhyalikyu, however, as it makes a deep humming sound that reverberates through water and air and rumbles through the trees, seeming to come from everywhere at once.

Númhyalikyu brings bad weather and storms. When it comes to the surface, it creates treacherous shallows that wreck canoes. Its rippled back, often just below the surface of the water, can be easily mistaken for a small island.

Númhyalikyu’s dance is númkahl, “personification of númhyalikyu”. The initiate playing the part of númhyalikyu wears a face mask, and is caught on the beach after metaphorically leaving the sea.


Curtis, E. S. (1915) The North American Indian, v. X. The Plimpton Press, Norwood.


Variations: Nauthvalur, Nautshval (Ox-whale); Nautfiskur (Ox-fish); Kýrhvalur (Cow-whale); Fjósi (Byre-whale); Baulhveli (Bellow-whale); Búrhvalur, Sperm Whale


The Nauthveli or Nauthvalur (“Ox-whale”) is one of the many illhveli or “evil whales” of Iceland. It is the second biggest of the evil whales, and like the others, it is inedible and will show up if its name is said out loud.

A nauthveli is a toothed whale, bicolored much like a cow. The large head is similar to that of a bull and has two nodules on top. The trunk tapers off, wormlike, and lacks fins.

However, the nauthveli is named not for its appearance, but rather for the terrifying bull-like bellow it makes when hungry, a sound like that of roaring, maddened bulls. The call of a nauthveli is made in the open sea or near the shore, and can be heard reverberating over long distances. The vibrations cause the ground to shake and knock oars out of sailors’ hands. Going out to sea is forbidden if nauthveli bellowing can be heard.

As will all evil whales, the nauthveli delights in killing men and scuttling smaller boats, but it has a particular fondness for beef. The bellow of a nauthveli is hypnotic to cattle, compelling them to run off cliffs and headlong into the sea. There the nauthveli plays with them like a cat does with a mouse before biting them in half and eating them. The whales are attracted to cattle on board ship; one nauthveli off Grimsey harassed a vessel until they released the one cow on board, who promptly dove into the sea. Cattle have to be locked up for days until the nauthveli’s spell wears off, and indeed cow-herding was strongly discouraged in areas where nauthvelis had been heard. Sacrificing one bull or cow usually satisfies the nauthveli, making it safe to go out to sea again.

Gudmundsson listed the nauthveli as synonymous with the búrhvalur or sperm whale.


Davidsson, O. (1900) The Folk-lore of Icelandic Fishes. The Scottish Review, October, pp. 312-332.

Hermansson, H. (1924) Jon Gudmundsson and his Natural History of Iceland. Islandica, Cornell University Library, Ithaca.

Hlidberg, J. B. and Aegisson, S.; McQueen, F. J. M. and Kjartansson, R., trans. (2011) Meeting with Monsters. JPV utgafa, Reykjavik.


Variations: Nundá, Eater of People


The cat of Sultan Majnún was unusually fierce. One day it killed a calf, but the Sultan dismissed the event, stating that “the cat is mine, and the calf is also mine”. Then the cat proceeded to kill and eat a goat, then a cow, a donkey, a horse, and a camel, with the good Sultan shrugging each time. “I will not kill it, let it even eat a man”. Sure enough, the cat killed a human child next, and followed up with a man.

By this time the creature had grown large and monstrous on its diet of flesh, and it left the town on its own. It hid in the undergrowth outside city, and feasted on anyone who passed by, human or animal. At night, it would sneak into the dark roads and abduct hapless wanderers. Sultan Majnún still refused to see the danger. “You all want me to kill this cat. It’s my cat and everything it eats is mine”. He refused to address any more complaints, and the population of the town slowly dwindled. Anyone and anything not locked up indoors was at risk.

Eventually, it would come to pass that Sultan Majnún went out to look at the countryside with six of his sons, whereupon the cat pounced on them and killed three of the sons. It was then that Sultan Majnún finally came to his senses. “That is no longer my cat”, he said firmly. “That is a Nunda, and it will eat even me if I give it the chance”. He sent his soldiers to kill the nunda, but it killed some of them and scattered the rest.

Sultan Majnún’s seventh son, having heard of the carnage, swore a solemn oath that he would slay the nunda. “I shall find the nunda who killed my brothers”, he told his mother as he set out alone with a spear and a knife.

The young prince was nothing if not zealous. The first vaguely intimidating creature he ran into was a large dog, which he promptly killed and dragged home. “Mamá, wee, niulága nundá mla wátu“, he sang triumphantly. “O mother, I have killed the nunda, eater of people”. But his mother shook her head sadly and said “My son, this is not he, the nunda, eater of people. The nunda is much larger”.

So the son set out again, and successively killed a civet, a larger civet, a zebra, a giraffe, a rhinoceros, and an elephant, bringing each one back in turn only to be corrected by his mother. In time, he gathered a small group of followers, and managed to piece together a description of the nunda: it was elephant-sized or larger, had small ears, was broad and not long, had two blotches like a civet, and had a thick tail.

Finally, the youth’s efforts paid off, and the nunda was found asleep in the shade of a grove of trees. That was clearly the nunda, as it fit his mother’s description of it perfectly, and did not resemble anything else he had killed so far. He and his slaves fired their guns into the nunda at close range, but did not hang around for fear that it was still alive. Instead they slept through the night, and checked on it in the morning. The huge cat was undeniably dead.

The beast was dragged back to the city in triumph, and the prince sang of his victory, to which his mother chanted back “Mwanangu, ndiyeye nundá mla watu. My son, this is he, the nunda, eater of people”. The nunda’s carcass was buried, a house was built on top of it, and a guard was placed at the house.

This is but one tale of the insatiable nunda. It is another “swallowing monster”, and sometimes it swallows up the entire populace except for one hero. The hero kills the nunda and cuts it open, releasing the victims unharmed.


Steere, E. (1870) Swahili Tales. Bell & Daldy, London.



The Nurikabe (“plaster wall”) is a type of yokai that resembles a large wall with varying amounts of anthropomorphic elements. It may have legs, hands, and facial features; sometimes it looks somewhat like a flattened elephant with three eyes. Nurikabe were first reported from Kyushu, specifically Fukuoka and Oita Prefectures, but have since then moved to the rest of Japan.

Nighttime travelers are the primary targets of the nurikabe. It appears without warning, blocking further movement, and any attempts to bypass it are futile. Sometimes it impedes without materializing, slowing travelers down as though they were slogging through tar.

Nurikabe will disappear if struck at the base with a stick, but doing so to the upper part of the wall has no effect.

The tanuki no nurikabi, or nurikabe caused by tanuki, is a variant from Oita Prefecture. It prevents its victims from seeing ahead of them.


Foster, M. D. (2015) The Book of Yokai. University of California Press, Berkeley.