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A fantastic creature is a creature that is imaginary or groundless. It may be odd, remarkable, bizarre, grotesque, or a conception that is foolish, irrational, or extravagantly fanciful. It may be marvelous. The inspiration for it may have been triggered by the existence of a real creature. But because it is straight out of man's head, whatever it is, no matter how you explain it, it is not real.

Some of the fantastic creatures in The Muse's list have dropped out of sight; their images appear only in archives, scholarly journals, on carved figurines, scratched into rocks, or painted on Cro-Magnon cave walls, where they no doubt were discovered by Indiana Jones. Others are obscure but are actively worshipped today in remote parts of the world, dreamed about, or vaguely remembered. Some are 21st century pop culture icons whose fame continues to spread far and wide, spread through the medium of movies, over the air waves, or in books.

A few of these fantastic creatures shown here are actively at work today in mankind's psyche everywhere, where they loom large and murky, shouting silent, subterranean messages pregnant with semi-disclosed, as yet undiscovered meanings. Still others may be more corporeal than you might like to think—they might actually have lived in the past or are alive today! But don't be frightened; in their present form—sequestered in the phantasmagoric land of fantastic creatures—they can exert no influence on you and can do you no harm...or can they?

 Fantastic creatures and Deities

As noted above, a fantastic creature is an animal, especially a nonhuman, conceived or appearing as if conceived by an unrestrained imagination. From a mythological perspective, a mythological deity (god) is a divine mythological character; it's a person or thing possessing the estate or rank of a god or who is revered as a god or goddess. Many mythologies have blurred the distinctions between these two concepts and many cultures have crossed the boundaries between them. As a result, some gods are fantastic and some fantastic creatures are gods.

to be or not to be?—the fantastic creatures jury is still out

Although once upon a time they were real to those who believed in them, most observers today will agree that the majority of the fantastic creatures in the Gallery are actually only ethereal wisps; they dwell eternally, but only in the realm of man's limbic imagination. (Even at that, however, they are ideal sources for study because of what they reveal about culture, history, and the nature of man.)


But hold on to your hat; for some of these bad actors the fantastic jury is still out. There is a real possibility that a few actually did exist, once upon a time. Even more bone-chilling, in a few cases, The Muse's fantastic creatures may actually be alive today.


The imaginary-status jury is still out:

  1. A few vocal people around the world think that certain creatures on The Muse's list of fantastic creatures are alive today. Calling themselves cryptio-zoologists, they sincerely believe in the present-day existence of such fantastic creatures as Yeti, Sasquash, Big Foot, and the Lock Ness Monster. They are convinced that these animals, which the rest of the world regards as fanciful, are literally walking or swimming the earth even as we speak.

Crypto-zoologists believe that in time the existence of any one of these animals will be scientifically proven. All it takes is to catch up with one, alive or dead. These people are not all crackpots, as it may seem at first sight; they are hopefuls.

  1. A few creatures on The Muse's list may actually have lived once upon a time but are now believed to be extinct. Vestigial evidence of their former reality persists today, but only in social traditions or racial memory, or only in a few scattered, problematic bones or other physical artifacts. In a few such cases, qualified scientists are sifting through the archeological record, looking for evidence.

Can an ancient breed of animal alive today have successfully escaped detection for eons? Can a creature once thought to be a myth ever actually have existed? Are these possibilities beyond reason?

  • A live cretaceous-period fish called a coelacanth, once thought to be extinct for hundreds of millions of years, was found in 1938 off the coast of southern Africa. Since then, other coelacanths have been caught because, once discovered, people knew where to look for them.

  • The Bunyip is an ancient lake monster that arises in oral Australian aboriginal tradition. The Aborigines believe that the Bunyip was real, and they may be right. Paleontologists who share their conviction search for proof that the Bunyip once existed, long, long ago. It could turn out that this so-called myth is founded on a real, now extinct, true-to-life fantastic creature whose remains may eventually be found

Truth is stranger than fiction. The Muse realizes that one day the status of a few fantastic creatures in the Gallery could change to real. Nevertheless, The Muse includes these types of fantastic creatures in Fantastic Creatures Of The World and in the Gallery Of Fantastic Creatures because of what their potential existence portends for the connection between archeology, history, mythology, and psychology.



imaginary status

  • The Muse has tried hard to specify the correct imaginary status of each listed creature but recognizes that some visitors may disagree. To each his own.

  • If you wish to voice a contrary opinion or offer an additional comment, The Muse invites you to submit your remarks at the Electricka's Forums discussion group on Mythology: click here.

A very concise Bestiary of fantastic creatures

The culture or society that originates a fantastic creature has a lot to say about its behavior, appearance, powers, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and other characteristics. Tradition and cultural bias plays a large part in deciding what a fantastic creature is like and what it does.

Most fantastic creatures exhibit various kinds of relationships with real humans or beasts (A beast is a non-human animal.)

A fantastic creature may:

  • Interact with real humans or real beasts. The creature's behavior or physical condition may be influenced by real people, animals, events, behaviors, conditions, or other factors, or vice versa.
  • Be patterned after a human's or beast's personality, behavior, appearance, or may take up other human or beastly traits.
  • Be a spirit creature modeled after a type of human who really exists or really existed. For example:
    • The ancient Egyptian pantheon contains a dwarf creature which was patterned after real human dwarves. The dwarf creature was not real; it is a fantastic creature.
    • Gnomes are Norse gods who resemble trolls who in turn resemble dwarves.

Some fantastic creatures may appear to be human but are not. What makes them fantastic is their magical or unworldly powers. For example:

  • A witch looks and acts like a person but can ride a broomstick.

  • The Three Fates of Greek mythology look like ordinary women but control one's destiny.

Some fantastic creatures are partly human, partly beast. Others are hybrids of multiple beasts. For example:

  • A creature like a werewolf is human part time, nonhuman part time.

  • A creature like a centaur is half human and half man all the time.
  • A griffin is part eagle, lion, and scorpion in some renderings and part eagle and lion in others.
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