6 Movie Monsters (You Didn't Realize Are Centuries Old)
You wouldn't think that our ancestors had to be too creative to come up with things that could terrify them, what with famines, plagues, body lice, and getting crushed by runaway donkey carts being part of their everyday lives. But it turns out that their idea of monsters was spookily similar to ours.
Pokemon Was Inspired By A Ton Of Ancient Monsters
For some of us, Pokemon brings back fond memories of childhood, Cartoon Network, and after-school card-trading sessions. For the rest of us, Pokemon conjures that one weekend in the summer of 2016 when we clocked more than 10 miles on our Fitbits for once. For anyone remotely familiar with Japanese mythology, Pokemon is a watered-down, cutesy version of the worst creatures humanity has ever conjured outside of fanfiction.
For example, foxy-looking Ninetales uses its glowing red eyes to look into your soul and read your mind. While that is obviously terrifying in a fluffy-tailed, vaguely sexual way, Japanese women would probably happily take it over the horrors that await them if they meet its inspiration, the kitsune. In some stories, this multi-tailed fox literally bores into you with its claws, usually in sensitive places like under your fingernails or through your boobs.
"How about I trap you in a ball, asshole?!"
Another seemingly innocent-looking Pokemon called Absol uses its horn to warn people about natural disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes. What? You didn't know there was a Weather Channel Pokemon? Where have you been?
Absol was probably inspired by the Chinese story of Bai Ze. This creature told the first Chinese emperor all about all 11,520 types of evil monsters in the world and how to fight them. And he looked like this:
Maybe this isn't the ideal source for monster-killing advice.
Japanese people said "We'll see your human-faced ox, and raise you about nine eyes and six horns for good measure." Thus the kutabe was born:
Seems like the village storyteller may have been hitting the sake a little harder than usual for this one.
We can't figure out which is scarier -- that ancient mythology decided there are exactly 11,520 demonic spirits in the world, or that a man-faced ox with eyeballs on his ribs was the creature to give us the plan for defeating them.
Remember the Pokemon Whiscash? It's a goofy-looking catfish thingy:
Cute, right? It looks like it belongs on an episode of Rugrats or Doug, or your very first attempt at drawing a fish in kindergarten. Whiscash isn't so adorable once you find out it was probably based on the Namazu, a giant crazy-eyed catfish that caused earthquakes.
Gotta respect the guy elbow-dropping its face. Everyone else brought knives and spears; he simply brought balls.
Imagine that you lived in ancient Japan and noticed that catfish get extra wiggly right before the Earth itself shook the life out of your loved ones and destroyed your community. It wouldn't take long to think that a giant catfish might have something to do with your world falling apart. Why they decided the Namazu needed googly eyes is a mystery, though.
Presumably, the guy farting donuts is a cultural thing.
Tornadus is a genie-looking dude who can can travel up to 200 mph and cause storms strong enough to knock over houses. (The creative team was clearly out of town on the day it got its name.) The original Japanese version, the Fujin, also looked like a genie, albeit with green skin, red hair, and a sack of wind on his shoulders. This version of the Fujin looks like he's jumping rope with a bag of air.
We're curious how you get wind in a bag, but it's best not to ask someone with that facial expression too many questions.
Native Americans Had White Walkers
Parents of bratty kids in Algonquin-speaking tribes used to tell them stories of the Wendigo, a monster that would come and eat them if they ever wandered too far from home or disobeyed their elders. Sure, the Wendigo might have been a legend, but that's what people in Westeros thought about the shockingly similar White Walkers, and look how that turned out.
Like the White Walkers, the Wendigo was all about the cold. They only showed up in the winter, when the forests were silent and creepy, and they would toy with their prey before attacking. Also like the White Walkers, they had extreme physical strength, a terrifying wail, and looked mummified, with grey skin stretched tight over a skeletal body. Unlike the White Walkers, they had the addition of speed, razor-sharp claws, and enviable abs, in case you thought you had any chance against one at all.
And like the humans whose bodies weren't destroyed by fire after they died in Game Of Thrones, Native American corpses could come back as Wendigo ... but only if they had chowed down on other people while they were alive. That's why the winter was peak Wendigo time. Since the tribes only had so much food to make it through until spring, sometimes starving people got desperate, or were told in a dream they should throw their neighbor on the barbecue. If they gave in to cannibalism, they would be invaded by a Wendigo spirit. So avoiding Wendigo was a matter of staying close to Mom and Dad and also never eating fellow humans.
You'd think that second rule wouldn't be necessary.
Japan Has Been Running From The Pale Man Since The 1700s
If you saw Pan's Labyrinth, you probably still have nightmares about the Pale Man, the creature with a lair full of an opulent feast and, oh right, eyes on the palms on his hands. Since the director was Guillermo del Toro, you might assume this creature came out of his twisted imagination. But this child-eater has been around in Japan since at least the year America became a country.
Thankfully, the Japanese version saw fit to put on some damn clothes.
Called the Tenome, this man with eyes on his hands first shows up in a book published in 1776 called The Illustrated Night Parade Of A Hundred Demons. It probably immediately became the go-to book to read your children before they went to sleep. Like the Pale Man, the Tenome had a taste for human flesh, but could run a lot faster to get it. It also wouldn't wait for little girls to come to it. Instead, it would wander around open fields and graveyards at night, waiting for an unsuspecting person to get too close. Apparently, having eyes on your palms doesn't improve your sight, since theirs is supposed to be bad, but they make up for it by being able to smell your tasty human flesh in the dark.
The Tenome were considered especially scary since all they had to do was close their palms and they would look like a regular blind person. And since it was hard for people with disabilities to find work in 1700s Japan, many of them traveled around the country trying to get jobs.
As if it didn't already suck to try to get by without sight -- imagine constantly getting profiled as a cannibal with secret eye-hands.
Greek Werewolves Started With A Baby-Eating Daddy
While not as sexy as vampires, the Western world still has a total boner for werewolf stories, what with American ones running around London and Paris and trying to steal Robert Pattinson's girlfriend. The Greek version of the werewolf story started when a guy named Lycaon founded the city of Lycosura. Then he threw a big party for Zeus that he called the Lykaia festival. (He might have been a little bit full of himself.) To show Zeus how much he loved him, Lycaon sacrificed not only animals, but also a human baby. One chronicler even said that he ate part of the kid's intestines. Oh! And the kid was his son.
In typical Greek fashion, it took a kid getting their intestines consumed before Zeus said things had gone too far. Since he was a god with awesome god powers, he decided to punish Lycaon by turning him into a wolf on the spot. Zeus probably could have resurrected that baby, but whatever -- Zeus knows best.
We're beginning to get a clearer picture of why monotheism got so popular.
From that time on, one person per year was turned into a wolf at the festival, which they didn't cancel or memorialize as that one terrible time a dude ate his own baby before getting zapped into werewolf mode. In fact, they recreated the event every year instead, complete with mixing up a little bit of baby human in a shared meal. Whoever ate the baby got turned into a wolf for the next nine years.
We're starting to think our ancestors had a secret hard-on for cannibalism.
Before There Were Vampires, There Were Blood-Eating Lady Birds
For anyone still mad about how Stephenie Meyer turned vampires glittery pretty boys, thank your stars that Meyer wasn't inspired the Greek version of the vampire. Or maybe she was -- you'll see what we mean in a minute. Hint: It involves bestiality!
Before there were cape-wearing, pointy-toothed European vampires, there were women whom the Greeks called "strix." The first strix was a lady named Polyphonte who ran off to the woods to avoid getting married. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, got angry about this, and punished her by making her go into heat and have sex with a bear. So it's not a Bella/Jacob storyline, but close enough if you're still reading that hot Team Jacob fanfiction.
Personally, we're on Team Yogi and staying there.
After doing it with a bear, Polyphonte ends up giving birth to two bear-boys, who immediately start eating people.
Before sprinting off like they were on the Greek version of COPS.
At this point, you'd think things couldn't get worse. That's when the gods punished Polyphonte for her boys by turning her into an owl. By the time the Romans get ahold of the story, the strix was a shapeshifting, blood-drinking lady owl who had a taste for baby blood.
Long story short: Don't run off to the woods when Aphrodite hooks you up with a husband.
Greek Zombies Got Extra-Buried
While the worst thing you could think of ransacking your city if you were an ancient Greek would probably be Spartans, actual ancient Greeks seem to have been worried more about zombie Spartans. Or zombies in general. Because archaeological digs have turned up evidence that they took serious precautions to keep people from rising from the dead.
You'd think that, in a culture wherein god-induced human/bear sex was real possibility in your daily life, there'd be bigger things to worry about than the dead coming back to life. You'd be wrong. Ancient Greeks never ran out of things to worry about. According to one archaeologist, when Greek folks needed to make extra-sure their worst humans never walked the Earth again, they stacked rocks on their corpses for good measure.
"Do we really need to do this? I've never seen a single zombie."
"That means it's working. Get another rock."
You'd also think that the best candidate for zombiedom were bad guys like criminals, or victims of violent crimes who wanted to seek revenge on the living. But the Greeks didn't take any chances. ANYONE who had a grievance in the living world might try to break the bonds of death. Illegitimate children, suicide victims, people who died of illnesses (so, everyone?) were all eligible for extra protection over their bodies in death.
In some cases, the remedy was as easy as burying them with a "curse tablet" that asked the spirits to fix any injustice done to the corpse, so they didn't have to reanimate and do it themselves. Other times, Greeks took the extremely straightforward approach of dumping a bunch of heavy stones on the body so it couldn't get up. And one woman was actually cut in half, the pieces were laid next to each other, and then she was sealed in her tomb. We're guessing she probably she probably ate some baby humans in life.
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