Taumafiskur

Variations: Taumhveli (Bridle-whale); Taumur, Taumi (Bridle, Striped One); Stóri-hnýfill (Big Shorthorn)

Taumafiskur

The Taumafiskur, or “bridle fish”, is one of the many illhveli – the “evil whales” of Iceland. It is the most dangerous and feared of the evil whales, as are the others. Its flesh is inedible, and speaking its name at sea will attract its unwelcome attention.

Its name is derived from the white or pink stripes extending from its eyes to its mouth, and from its mouth outwards. These contrast sharply with its raven-black color, and give the appearance of a bridle. In the East Fjords it is known as the “big shorthorn”, distinguishing it from the “little shorthorn” or minke whale which is smaller and shorter-finned. The taumafiskur is slightly larger than the stökkull in size.

Taumafiskurs are cruel, destructive, and spiteful; worse than that, they have an excellent memory and will hold grudges for as long as they live, tracking down anyone who has escaped them. They flip boats over, tear them up with their teeth, pummel them with their tails, and even get under them crosswise and fold them in half.

One minister from Fáskrúðsfjörður survived a taumafiskur’s attack by clinging to the wreckage of his boat. Since then, he was unable to go to sea without the whale zeroing in on him again, seeking to kill him once and for all.

Another time the crew of a Danish fishing boat sighted a taumafiskur around the Snæfellsnes glacier. They were saved by the quick thinking and skill in the dark arts of the captain, who dove overboard with a small bag in hand, and when he returned he assured them the taumafiskur would not bother them anymore. And sure enough, it was not seen again that day.

Exactly what the captain used to repel the taumafiskur is unknown. The substances known to be abhorrent to taumafiskurs (and most likely other illhveli) include chewed angelica, rotting baitfish, bilge-water, cod-liver oil, live fire in a bucket, juniper, cow or sheep manure, sulfur, chopped fox testicles, and yarrow. Setting fire to these substances before throwing them overboard was believed to make them more potent. Taumafiskurs can also be distracted by loud noises and barrels thrown into the water, and sailing into the sun can dazzle them into giving up the chase.

References

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

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

Tsemaus

Variations: Tsemaus, Chemouse, Narhnarem-tsemaus, Snag, Supernatural Snag, Tsem’aus, Tcamaos, Tca’maos, Tidewalker, Ts’um’os, Tsamaos, Kanem Ktsem’aus; Weegyet, Wi’git

Tsemaus

The Tsemaus (“Snag”) or Narhnarem-Tsemaus (“Supernatural Snag”) is the personification of river snags., floating logs, and other hazards of the water. It is found in the folklore and art of the Pacific Northwest, notably in Tsimshian and Haida culture around the mouth of the Skeena River.

One of its names, Wi’git or Weegyet, connects it to Raven the trickster, and it is one of his many forms. The creator and trickster Nanki’islas also assumed the form of a tsemaus after he was done.

A tsemaus can vary a lot in appearance, much like the driftwood it imitates, but it almost always has a snag for a dorsal fin – or is itself a snag. It can be as simple as a dead log with a tail that can swim against the current. It can be a huge sea lion with dorsal fins and blowholes, or an enormous grizzly bear with a downturned mouth like a dogfish and two sharp snags protruding from its back, with or without one or more sharp fins of a killer whale. It can be a hybrid of bear and killer whale, or raven and killer whale, with multiple bodies. It can be a large frog covered in seaweed with a snag sticking out of its back, and can even be a canoe or a schooner. Meurger states that it can cleave swimmers with its fin.

The tsemaus uses its fin to destroy boats. It has no problem swimming upstream and plowing through log jams. If angered it breaches and lands on canoes, smashing them to bits, or makes huge waves to capsize boats. It drowns people, who then become killer whales.

It is found as a crest on the totem poles of the coastal clans.

References

Barbeau, M. (1950) Totem poles. Bulletin No. 119, Anthropological Series No. 30, National Museum of Canada, Ottawa.

Barbeau, M. (1953) Haida Myths Illustrated in Argillite Carvings. Bulletin No. 127, Anthropological Series No. 32, National Museum of Canada, Ottawa.

Boas, F. (1951) Primitive Art. Capitol Publishing Company, New York.

Deans, J. (1893) Totem Posts at the World’s Fair. The American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal, Vol. XV, No. 4, pp. 281-286.

Meurger, M. (1988) Lake Monster Traditions: A Cross-Cultural Analysis. Fortean Tomes, London.

Swanton, J. R. (1909) Contributions of the Ethnology of the Haida. Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History, Vol. VIII.

Tabib al-Bahr

Variations: Doctor of the Sea, Sea Doctor

Tabib-al-bahr

The mysterious Tabib al-Bahr, the “Doctor of the Sea”, is found in the writings of the alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan. Its appearance is not very clear; we know that it is a fish with a yellow gemstone in its forehead, and that it is also human in shape. This marine animal, despite its considerable magical powers, is very caring and altruistic. It derives its name from the gemstone in its head, which can heal any ailment; it attends to other sea creatures by rubbing its head twice or thrice on their injuries, healing them instantly. Perhaps because of this self-sacrificing nature, the tabibs also do not resist capture by humans, instead waiting patiently for the right time to escape.

The gemstone of a tabib al-bahr is of great value to alchemy. If the creature is slaughtered and its stone taken out of its head, it can be used to create gold out of silver. It was that gemstone that drew Jabir ibn Hayyan into seeking out the tabib al-bahr.

After enlisting the aid of a number of skilled sailors, Jabir set sail into the Indian Ocean. He eventually found a group of tabib al-bahrs near the unknown island of Sindiyyāt. The net was cast, and one of the creatures was caught. It started striking its cheeks in a feminine act of desperation, and Jabir realized that the tabib they had caught was a young woman of great beauty. She was taken on board and imprisoned in a small cabin; she seemed incapable of speech beyond mumbling in an unknown language. Jabir was given the chance to test her powers by bringing in a sailor with torticollis. After the tabib rubbed her gemstone on his arms and legs, he was immediately cured.

This situation was not to last long. One of the sailors, a young man, fell in love with the strange creature, and Jabir allowed them to live together in the cabin. Eventually she became pregnant and gave birth to a boy, human in all aspects except for a marvelous, shining forehead. As the boy grew, the mother was eventually given free reign of the boat, as she seemed attached to the crew, keeping them company, tending to their injuries, and caring for her son. Unfortunately that was not the case, and after a long inspection of all possible escape routes, she finally climbed over the railing and dove into the water. Her husband was brokenhearted, but he swore to care for the son she left behind.

Eventually the ship sailed into a storm from which there seemed to be no escape. Throwing anchors into the water did nothing to hold the ship, and it was on the verge of capsizing. That was when they saw their tabib al-bahr sitting calmly on the surface and waving to them. All the sailors begged her to save them, and in response she transformed into a colossal fish, big enough to stretch from one end of the sea to the other. By swallowing huge quantities of seawater, she lowered the sea level enough for the storm to be quelled. While the sailors worried over whether or not she’d swallow them next, her son dove into the sea after her. The next day he returned to the ship, and his forehead now had a yellow gemstone in it.

Later on Jabir had the opportunity to catch two more tabib al-bahrs, one of which was sacrificed for its gemstone. Jabir marveled at it, a wondrous artifact the likes of which humans would never make.

This tale may not be meant literally, and it has generally been taken as some kind of alchemical allegory. His scribes agreed, noting that it is “very symbolic”, with elements representative of fire and water.

The alchemist-poet Ibn Arfa’ra’sahu dedicated several verses to the tabib al-bahr, saying that “the truest of scientists have vouched for it, Plato and his student Aristotle”.

References

Mahmud, Z. N. (1961) Jabir ibn Hayyan. Maktabat Misr.

Kraus, P. (1986) Jabir Ibn Hayyan : Contribution à l’historie des idées scientifiques dans l’Islam. Société d’Édition Les Belles Lettres, Paris.

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.

Tapirê-iauara

Variations: Tapir Nymph, Onça d’Água (Water Jaguar), Onça Pé de Boi (Cow-legged Jaguar), Paraná Pura Iuraretê (Turtle/Jaguar that Dwells in River Side Channels), Tai-açu-iara (potentially)

Tapire-iauara

The Tapirê-iauara, or Tapir Nymph, enjoys a wide distribution in the Amazon, from the Orinoco in Venezuela to the Rio Negro, the Madeira, the Tapajós, and the Amazon down to Pará. Sightings have been reported from around Codajás, Fonte Boa, Itacoatiara, Nova Olinda, Oriximiná, Santarém, and Urucurituba. It lives in slower-moving waters, near groves of aninga or palm trees, and avoids human settlements.

The name tapirê-iauara is etymologically complex. Tapiré is Tupi for “tapir”, while y is “water” and ara is “lady” in língua geral; it also draws from the Tupi uara (“dweller”) or yguara (“dweller in water”). Hence, “tapir water-lady” or “tapir nymph” is a rough translation. This same derivation gives us the Amazonian nymphs Yara and Oyoára, the sea monster Hipupiara, and Paraná Pura Iuraretê, which was apparently a giant turtle creature that later was subsumed into the tapirê-iauara (iuraretê meaning either “turtle” or “jaguar”).

Reports of the tapirê-iauara appearance have varied somewhat. Most accounts agree that it resembles a cow-sized jaguar with a reddish waterproof coat, a thick mane, long droopy ears half a meter in length, and an overpowering stench (catinga). It may have jaguar legs, or the forelegs of a jaguar and hooved, donkey-like hindlegs. It may have horse legs with or without catlike paws, duck feet, or large otter paws. Variations in fur color include red, gold, and black with a cream patch in the chest. It notably does not look much like a tapir.

A tapirê-iauara is heard and smelled before it is seen. The large, finlike ears flap noisily against the water as it swims, while its putrid odor precedes it. From a safe distance, it’s merely nauseating; at close quarters the stench of a tapirê-iauara is enough to cause fainting and outright death. Tapirê-iauaras can also mesmerize prey into standing still before pouncing on them.

Tapirê-iauaras have a broad diet that includes large fish, capybaras, caimans, and humans. They are attracted to hauls of fish and the halitosis resulting from eating poorly-cooked fish. They often show up to inspect fishermens’ catches – or the fishermen themselves. When they do, they are fast, persistent, and resilient, relying on their odor to weaken prey before killing it with their sharp teeth and claws. One fisherman had to empty 12 slugs from a .22 rifle into a pursuing tapirê-iauara before the beast expired. Other fishermen have not been so lucky, having their catches stolen at best or being dragged into the river and devoured at worst.

Sometimes the stink of a tapirê-iauara is enough to cause a human’s shadow (and therefore soul) to depart. A person who has lost their shadow in this way is said to be assombrado. They can recover their soul by inhaling the fumes of a fire made with leaves, sticks, and the bones of undercooked piranhas.

Caraña resin (Protium heptaphyllum) is repulsive to tapirê-iauaras, and anyone concerned about tapirê-iauara attack should equip themselves with some before heading into the Amazon. Tapirê-iauaras also cannot climb, and so shelter should be sought in trees. As the tapirê-iauara’s odor will cause fainting and potentially falling out of the tree, secure branches must be found.

The Tai-açu-iara from around Parintins is similar and may be the same animal. It appears as a black piglike creature with jaguar paws.

References

Smith, N. J. H. (1981) Man, Fishes, and the Amazon. Columbia University Press, New York.

Smith, N. J. H. (1996) The Enchanted Amazon Rain Forest. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

Tsenahale

Variations: Tse’nahale, Tse’na’hale, Tsanahale

Tsenahale

The Tsenahale were two of the Anaye, or “Alien Gods”, who plagued the land of the Navajo. They were born after men and women were separated, and the women resorted to unnatural practices as an outlet. In the case of the Tsenahale, the “father” was a pile of feathers; their mother must have been particularly desperate.

When the first Tsenahale was born, it was a misshapen creature with feathers on its back and shoulders. Its mother abandoned it in horror, but it survived and grew into a monstrous, bird-like creature likened to a huge eagle or a harpy. By the time Nayenezgani, the “Slayer of Alien Gods”, set out to rid the land of the Tsenahale, the Tsenahale were two in number, male and female. The male preyed solely on men, while the female hunted women. Raven was their spy.

Nayenezgani found the nest of the Tsenahale on Tse’bit’ai, the “Winged Rock”, or Shiprock as it is also known. As he approached, the male Tsenahale dive-bombed him, his huge wings whipping up a whirlwind as he swooped at him from four different directions. He seized him in his talons on the fourth attempt. The bird flew off with him and dropped him into the nest from a great height, but Nayenezgani was protected by his life-feather, and was unharmed. He cut open a bag of Teelget’s blood and let it spill, convincing the Tsenahale that he was safely dead.

As the two Tsenahale chicks approached him, Nayenezgani tried to silence them. “It’s not dead! It said ‘Sh!’ to us!” they screeched. “That’s air leaving the body. Just eat it”, snapped the father, before winging off.

Of course, Nayenezgani miraculously came back to life as soon as the Tsenahale was gone, and confronted the chicks. They were blue as a heron, with big eyes and sharp eagle beaks. “When will your father return?” asked Nayenezgani. “When we have a thunderstorm, he will be on that rock”, answered the chicks. “And your mother?” “When we have a rain shower, she will be on that crag”.

Soon a great storm formed, with thunder and lightning, and the male Tsenahale flew out of the clouds and perched on the rock as expected. Nayenezgani slew him with a single lightning arrow. Then the mother arrived in pouring rain, carrying with her a dead Pueblo woman in beautiful turquoise finery. Nayenezgani shot her in turn.

“What about us?” cried the chicks. “Are you going to kill us?” But Nayenezgani spared them. “You are not grown, and would grow into killers; but I will make something useful of you”. He picked the older chick up and told it “You will provide feathers for rites, and bones for whistles”. He swung it around four times and threw it into the air, turning it into a majestic eagle. Then he picked up the younger chick, telling it “Your voice will tell the future; sometimes you will lie, sometimes you will tell the truth”. He swung it as well, and it turned into an owl, which he threw into a crevice in the cliff.

As for the feathers of the Tsenahale, Nayenezgani took the largest from each wing as trophies. The others were plucked, and were metamorphosed into sparrows, warblers, chickadees, wrens, and all the little birds of the world.

References

Alexander, H. B. (1916) The Mythology of All Races v. X: North American. Marshall Jones Company, Boston.

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.

O’Bryan, A. (1956) The Diné: Origin Myths of the Navaho Indians. Bulletin 163 of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.

Trolual

Variations: Trolwal, Trolval, Teufelwal, Teuffelwal, Devil Whale

Trolual

The Trolual or “devil whale” is one of the more familiar sights on ancient ocean maps. These malevolent cetaceans are mostly found in the northern Atlantic around Scandinavia.

Troluals are depicted as enormous whales with prominent tusks, frills, paws, and large scales on their body. They are as big as mountains, and may have vegetation growing on their backs.

A sleeping trolual on the surface of the ocean looks deceptively like a small island. Sailors will land on it, walk around, even start a fire – and then the whale awakens and sinks below the waves, drowning anyone unfortunate enough to remain on it. Unlike most other island monsters, troluals will also take a more proactive approach by crushing and overturning ships, making them a significant navigational hazard.

Fortunately, troluals can be distracted from their murderous intentions. One strategy is the sounding of trumpets, which are loud enough to momentarily startle and confuse the trolual. Barrels thrown overboard will also divert the whale’s attention. As the trolual plays with its new toys, the ship can sail to safety.

Even the great troluals are not immune to exploitation by humans. Munster states that the inhabitants of Iceland build their houses out of the bones of these whales.

The only major literary appearance of a trolual is in the fabulous tale of Alector, where one surfaces off the coast of the Asian Tangut Empire and ravages harbors every full moon. It is defeated and slain with the help of a magical flying hippopotamus.

References

Aneau, B. (1560) Alector, Histoire Fabuleuse. Pierre Fradin, Lyon.

van Duzer, C. (2013) Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps. The British Library, London.

Gessner, C. (1560) Nomenclator aquatilium animantium. Christoph Froschoverus.

Munster, S. (1552) La Cosmographie Universelle. Henry Pierre.

Nigg, J. (2013) Sea Monsters: A Voyage around the World’s Most Beguiling Map. University of Chicago Press.