Mythical Creatures

Contributor: Morgan Haney. Lesson ID: 13337

Some mythical creatures have talons and set fire to villages, but others are kind, wise, and even silly. Learn more about creatures you've heard of, plus some lesser-known ones that may surprise you!

categories

Mythology, Mythology

subject
English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

Bizarre Mythical Creatures From Around The World from BuzzFeedVideo:

This video highlights some of the more bizarre mythical creatures from around the world. Some are meant to be scary, and some are just silly, but each one is a departure from the normal creatures we see every day.

Explore mythical creatures in this lesson that range from fearsome to ridiculous, and dive into some of the stories attached to each creature!

Mythical creatures are present in the folklore of every culture, and while each is unique, there are some common elements that connect many mythical beasts.

Some are a mixture of different animals, like the Wolpertinger in the first video or the sphinx of Egypt. Many are guardians of treasure, and others are said to live in isolation.

Though they have commonalities, mythical beasts in different cultures are also unique and specific. Let's explore some of them below:

Hybrid Creatures

The term hybrid describes any creature that contains parts of multiple animals. This is a popular feature in mythical creatures because it takes the animals we already know and combines them into something that is mythical, but imaginable.

Some hybrid creatures include:

The Sphinx

Originally based in Egypt, the sphinx has the body of a lion and the head of a man. It is also seen as a powerful guardian. Often sphinx statues are placed outside of pyramids to protect pharaohs in the afterlife.

The legends of the sphinx eventually migrated to parts of Asia and to Greece. In Greece, the sphinx has the body of a lion, head of a woman, wings of an eagle, and tail of a serpent.

The Grecian version of the sphinx is also much more dangerous. If you cannot answer the riddle she gives you, she devours you.

The Grecian sphinx is pictured below:

sphinx statue guarding Naxos Island, Greece

Nawarupa

From Burmese mythology, the Nawarupa may take the prize for most animals combined into a single creature. (Burma is now the country of Myanmar.)

It has the trunk of an elephant, the horns of a rhino, the eyes of a deer, the ears of a horse, the wings (or possibly tongue) of a parrot, the body of a lion, the tail of a peacock, and the feet of a griffin.

Nawarupa literally translates into nine forms.

Tarasque

From French mythology, the Tarasque is a dragon-like creature with the head of a lion, the body of an ox covered with a turtle shell, legs (six of them) of a bear, and the tail of a scorpion.

It was said to dwell in a marsh on the river and pounce on unsuspecting travelers.

Tarasque sculpture

Image by Gérard Marin, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Guardians

Whether it's a castle or a hoard of treasure, mythical creatures are often said to be the guardians of something, and terrible fates meet those who try to trespass or steal from them.

Some mythical creatures who act as guardians, in addition to the sphinx above, include:

Cerberus

In Greek mythology, Cerberus is a giant three-headed dog that guards the gates of the underworld and is controlled by Hades, the god of the underworld.

He was only beaten three times: once by Heracles' brute strength, once by Orpheus' music, and once by Sybil of Cumae's drugged honey-cake.

In the Harry Potter series, the three-headed guard dog Fluffy is based on Cerberus.

Cerberus

Griffin

This famous creature also fits into the hybrid category. The griffin has Middle Eastern origins and is a legendary guardian of treasure.

It has the body of a lion and the head, wings, and talons of an eagle or falcon. In many cultures, it is a symbol of strength and valor.

griffin

Dragon

Perhaps the most famous of all mythical creatures, dragons are often seen in mythology guarding treasure, a castle, or a kingdom.

With a serpentine body, large wings, and, in many cases, the ability to breathe fire, they are fearsome creatures who have bested many a knight and army.

One of the most famous dragons is found in the epic tale of Beowulf. This dragon guards a hoard of treasure in a cave and is awakened when a thief steals a gold cup from the trove. Angered, the dragon burns villages and wreaks havoc on the kingdom until Beowulf finally defeats it.

knight fighting dragon

Tricksters

While many creatures like the dragon are fearsome and enormous, some others are less menacing and more mischievous. The idea of a trickster creature appears in many mythological traditions, often causing small annoyances or steering humans off course.

Some trickster creatures include:

Anansi

From West African folklore, Anansi is a shape-shifting spider who is famous for defeating other animals with his wit and mastery of language.

Anansi is honored as the father of all stories in West African mythology for his ability to spin a tale and trick his opponent into giving him what he wants.

Fairies

Fairies are often depicted as tricksters in many cultures. The Irish leprechaun is a perfect example of a trickster fairy, rarely causing true harm but always playing pranks.

One story tells of a leprechaun who led a mortal to the tree where his treasure was hidden. The mortal, not having a shovel with him, marked the tree with his red garter. When he came back later with a shovel, the leprechaun had marked every tree with a red garter!

Saci

In Brazilian folklore, there is a one-legged dwarf named Saci who perfectly exemplifies the trickster. He has a red pointed hat that allows him to appear and disappear at will.

Saci doesn't seek to truly harm anyone but mostly plays household pranks like distracting people while they're cooking so they burn their food.

Here is an artist's representation of Saci:

Saci

Image [cropped] by ars351, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the CC BY 2.0 license.

Now that you've learned about some different types of mythological creatures, move on to the Got It? section to test your knowledge of these creatures and their countries of origin!

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