16 Mythical creatures and which books to find them in
If you’re a fantasy lover, you’ll know how great mythical creatures can be. They can be menace or hero, evil or saintly. And they are so cool. They have fascinating histories and many variations, and it’s always interesting to see how authors bring them to life in their stories.
With this in mind, here are some favourite mythical creatures and where you can find them:
A basilisk is usually described as a crested snake, and sometimes as a cock with a snake’s tail. It is called the king of the serpents because its Greek name basiliscus means “little king”.
Where to find it: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling. Available to for Listening Books members to download.
In Greek mythology, a phoenix is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. Associated with the Sun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. According to some texts, the phoenix could live over 1,400 years before rebirth.
Where to find it: The Phoenix and the Carpet by E. Nesbit. Available for Listening Books members on CD.
3. Black Shuck
Black Shuck is the name given to a ghostly black dog which is said to roam the coastline and countryside of East Anglia. Accounts of the animal form part of the folklore of Norfolk, Suffolk, the Cambridgeshire fens and Essex. The name ‘Shuck’ may derive from the Old English word scucca meaning “demon”, or possibly from the local dialect word shucky meaning “shaggy” or “hairy”.
Where to find it: Black Shuck: The Devils Dog by Piers Warren
The unicorn has been described since antiquity as a beast with a large, pointed, spiralling horn projecting from its forehead. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, it was commonly described as an extremely wild woodland creature, a symbol of purity and grace, which could only be captured by a virgin.
Where to find it: A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle. Available for Listening Books members to download.
A banshee is a female spirit in Irish mythology who heralds the death of a family member, usually by shrieking or keening. She can appear in a variety of forms. Perhaps most often she is seen as an ugly, frightful hag, but she can also appear as young and beautiful if she chooses.
Where to find it: Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent
Pegasus is one of the best known creatures in Greek mythology. He is a winged divine stallion also known as a horse usually depicted as pure white in colour. Pegasus is the subject of a very rich iconography, especially through the ancient Greek pottery and paintings and sculptures of the Renaissance.
Where to find it: Pegasus series by Kate O’hearn
A mermaid is a legendary aquatic creature with the head and upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish. Mermaids appear in the folklore of many cultures worldwide, including the Near East, Europe, Africa and Asia.
Where to find it: The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. Available for Listening Books members to download.
A dragon is typically scaled or fire-spewing and with serpentine, reptilian or avian traits, that features in the myths of many cultures around world. The English word dragon and Latin word draco derives from Greek δράκων (drákōn) – “dragon, serpent of huge size, water-snake”.
Where to find it: How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell. Available for Listening Books members on CD.
A werewolf is a human with the ability to shape shift into a wolf or a hybrid wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or affliction.
Where to find it: Living with the Dead by Kelley Armstrong. Available for Listening Books members on CD.
A troll is a class of being in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore. In Old Norse sources, beings described as trolls dwell in isolated rocks, mountains, or caves, live together in small family units, and are rarely helpful to human beings.
Where to find it: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer. Available for Listening Books members to download.
A centaur has the upper body of a human and the lower body of a horse. There are said to have been many different tribes of centaur with their own characteristics in Greek mythology. Centaurs subsequently featured in Roman mythology, and were familiar figures in the medieval bestiary.
Where to find it: Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Available for Listening Books members to download.
In the folklore of Nepal, the Yeti or Abominable Snowman is an ape-like entity taller than an average human that is said to inhabit the Himalayan region of Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. Stories of the Yeti first emerged as a facet of Western popular culture in the 19th century.
Where to find it: Horrible Geography: Freaky Peaks by Anita Ganeri. Available for Listening Books members on CD.
A sphinx has the head of a human and the body of a lion, and sometimes the wings of a bird. It is mythicised as treacherous and merciless. Those who cannot answer its riddle suffer a fate typical in such mythological stories, as they are killed and eaten by this ravenous monster.
Where to find it: Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher. Available for Listening Books members on CD
14. Fairy (& a Pixie)
Fairies are generally described as human in appearance and having magical powers. Diminutive fairies of one kind or another have been recorded for centuries, but occur alongside human-sized beings; these have been depicted as ranging in size from very tiny up to the size of a human child. Sometimes the term fairy is used to describe any magical creature, including goblins or gnomes: at other times, the term describes only a specific type of more ethereal creature or sprite.
Where to find it: Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. Available for Listening Books members on CD.
15. Sea Serpent
A sea serpent or sea dragon is a type of unclassified marine animal either wholly or partly serpentine. Sightings of sea serpents have been reported for hundreds of years, and continue to be claimed today. Cryptozoologist Bruce Champagne identified more than 1,200 purported sea serpent sightings.
Where to find it: The Rain Wild Chronicles by Robin Hobb. Available for Listening Books members on CD.
A vampire is a being from folklore who subsists by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of the living. The charismatic and sophisticated vampire of modern fiction was born in 1819 with the publication of The Vampyre by John Polidori; the story was highly successful and arguably the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century.
Where (else) to find it: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. Available for Listening Books members on CD.
If you want to go straight to the source and discover some of the stories that these creatures were first in, check out Tales from the Greek Legends and More Tales from the Greek Legends by Edward Ferries. Available for Listening Books members on CD.
What’s your favourite mythical creature? Is there an author you think uses mythical creatures really well? Let us know your thoughts!
This post was written and illustrated by Holly Newson