15 Lesser-Known Mythological Creatures That Make Unicorns Look Like They’re Barely Trying
Plenty of mythical creatures are just — and stick with us here, this is scientific — a thing and another thing. Like, a horse and some wings. A woman and some snakes. A guy and a bull’s head. A dude but really big.
Most of mythology’s A-listers are like that, because they’re easy ideas to wrap your head around. Where stuff gets really interesting is where they lose that one-line simplicity and become, well, weird as all hell.
Like, once you’re at the point where it takes multiple sentences to describe something, that’s when you start thinking, hang on, there might be something going on here — it all seems like too much of a pain in the ass to make up something that requires 10 minutes of description when, if you’re trying to put the fear in someone, you could just go for “big cow but on fire.”
There are thousands upon thousands of fascinating creatures lurking in mythology and folklore that get nowhere near the press of unicorns. Where are the cartoons about mountain-sized, seven-headed pigs?
Found in Japanese folklore, the kappa is a green, vaguely humanlike being with a shell, webbed hands, three anuses and an indentation full of water on its head. They like cucumbers, sumo wrestling and pulling children’s souls through their buttholes.
The vodyanoi of Slavic folklore looks like an old man with a frog-like face, red-hot eyes and a green beard, covered in muck and algae. He rides around rivers on a log, like a kind of aquatic biker, drowning people.
Proof that more is more, the Wolpertinger is a hybrid of a rabbit, squirrel, deer and — why not — pheasant, said to roam Bavaria’s alpine forests. They may or may not have originated with mischievous taxidermists trying to rip off tourists.
Originating with the Mansi people of Russia, witkas were thought to have two giant antlers (likely mammoth tusks with no obvious origin) and a fondness for tea. They required frequent sacrifices and could only be killed by explosions.
Garo folklore, from India, brings us the Wakmangganchi Aragondi, a mountain-sized, seven-headed pig. Every head had one glowing eye and seven sword-like tusks, while plants grew on its back and rivers flowed down its sides. Terrifyingly awesome.
Found in Ardennes myth, the karnabo is the offspring of a demon and a traveler, appearing humanlike with a long elephantine trunk. It can cure finger infections, but only on Good Friday — infect a finger after Easter and you’re SOL.
Originating in stories from the Garo hills of India, the ajaju had the body of a giant chameleon standing on bamboolike legs the height of a man. It had 12 tongues, a thirst for blood and a terrifying shrill cry.
A man-eating goat with tiger teeth and a human baby’s cry, the paoxiao stems from stories in China’s Mount Gouwu. Its eyes are in its armpits, and when it eats people it gets so excited it starts to eat itself, too.
Originating in Alaskan Yupik folklore, the Itqiirpak is reminiscent of the Santa Cruz logo — a giant hand with mouth on its palm and a smaller mouth on every finger. It appears from the ocean to herald disaster or eat children.
If you’re visiting China’s Yangtse river with hemmorhoids, don’t worry — according to local folklore, eating a Hujiao, a fish-snake-duck hybrid, will help. The creature inspired the name of a bizarre bacterium missing cell walls, which also presumably doesn’t have hemmorhoids.
Sporting two penises and ears big enough to roll up in to sleep, the Oriogorúho — found in Kiwai folklore from Papua New Guinea — eats humans whole and raw. Its bones, ground up, make a strength-enhancing fighting medicine.
While “big-ass skeleton” isn’t necessarily that imaginative, Japan’s gashadokuro — a 30-foot angry skeleton made of the skulls of dead people, complaining about the bamboo growing painfully from its eye and eating people — completely rules.
The amphisbaena of Greek mythology grew out of blood dropped from the severed head of Medusa. It has a big-shinned, poison-dripping head at each end, wings, chicken feet and a dull gaze. Their flesh is an aphrodisiac, obviously.
Described in folklore of Scotland’s Orkney islands, the nuckelavee is a giant sea monster with breath that kills crops and makes animals sick. On land, it looks vaguely like a horse with a bulbous, skinless rider with visible veins. Horrible!
The boroboroton is a mythological Japanese futon that comes to life and strangles the person who was trying to sleep in it. That’s fucking amazing.