Archive | September 2012

Wolpertinger

The wolpertinger is a small Bavarian creature similar to the jackalope.

Although different areas describe the creature differently, the wolpertinger most commonly resembles a rabbit or squirrel with wings, antlers, and fangs. Most variations still use a mammal as the base of the monster, such as a pine martin. Others give it the body of an owl. In some descriptions, the wolpertinger also features the webbed feet of a duck. The creature is known in woodcarvings dating back to the 17th century. It is probable that it originated with sightings of rabbits afflicted with cottontail rabbit papilloma virus (CRPV), which causes a form of cancerous growths, usually near the head, that can resemble either horns or fangs.

Although it has a formidable appearance for such a small creature, the wolpertinger is usually a shy beast. It is supposedly attracted to beautiful young women. To capture it, a young woman should accompany a hunter at night, when the creature is active, looking for a secluded area where the creature is likely to nest. Once it reveals itself, the woman should expose her breasts, which for some reason will transfix the creature, making it easy to catch. Many examples of stuffed wolpertingers, composed of several different animal parts, are on display in Bavarian towns, many of which were supposedly caught through this method.

Loup Garou

The loup garou is a type of werewolf native to France and Francophone regions of North America.

The name “loup garou” translates oddly, as “loup” is the French term for “wolf,” while “garou” is probably based on an old Frankish word meaning “man-wolf,” giving it the name “wolf werewolf.” Odder still, the creature does not seem to live up to its name, looking very little like the canine that such a name suggests. Most often described as having a wolf’s head and tail but remaining upright and seeming to be a man otherwise, this creature  resembles the Hollywood portrayal of the Wolf Man. In further contrast to the more mainstream werewolf, a loup garou will retain human intelligence when it transforms, and sometimes attempt to dress as a human.

The original story is tied heavily to Catholicism, as a person typically becomes a loup garou after missing too many masses or confessions or repeatedly skipping the Lenten traditions. This transitioned into a belief that the creature targets Catholics who are similarly lax in their religious duties. A loup garou can also be created by the curse of a witch or sorcerer, although the belief that biting can transfer the curse is a more recent addition to the creature’s lore. In at least one version of the story, the curse will be lifted after 101 days if the victim does not speak of his condition, at which point he or she will pass the curse on to someone else.

The loup garou came to the Americas with French immigrants and settlers, and it mixed with native folklore. Today, very little of the original myth remains. Different regions have different specifics about the creature. In Louisiana, the loup garou is often said to travel via large bats, and in some cases share aspects with vampires, in particular the drinking of blood. Some are obsessed with counting, and can be deterred from attacking if they see something with many small items to count, such as the holes in a sieve, and some fear the sound of croaking frogs. In many cases it is a replacement for the boogey-man to scare children into obedience. Very often the loup garou has lost the ability to transform in the Americanized stories, usually as other myths became tied to it, such as the sasquatch and the wendigo. For example, the Ojibwa people tell stories of the “rugaru,” a creature created by a man indulging in cannibalism, which is the same process for becoming a wendigo. Both creatures are described as large bipedal creatures with fierce animal aspects.

Keythong

The keythong is a heraldic beast resembling a gryphon with no wings.

Like the more familiar gryphon, a keythong has the body of a lion and the head and forelegs of an eagle. Instead of wings, it sports spines or from its back and shoulders, often resembling an abstraction of the missing wings. These are often gold, thought to symbolize the sun, although this may also be because of the common use of the color gold to depict gryphons in heraldry. It is also possible for the keythong to have horns on its head. Keythongs are sometimes considered to be  male gryphons, although there is debate within the heraldic community as to whether the term “male gryphon” is a misnomer for the keythong, making it an entirely separate beast.

The keythong originated in the 15th century, sometimes called an alce. When it first appeared, there was no distinction made between the keythong and the proper gryphon, so they share many attributes from medieval lore. Gryphons are known as protective beasts, once considered Zeus’s watch dogs. They are loyal, mating for life and not taking another mate if their partner should die. Also, as a coupling of the eagle, the king of birds, and the lion, the king of beasts, it is thought of as a regal creature. It is fierce in battle, and would rather die than surrender to a foe. It is not clear if the keythong shares the gryphon’s dislike of horses.

Ndzoodzoo

The ndzoodzoo is a type of unicorn from South Africa.

Unlike its smaller cousin, the abada, the ndzoodoo is large and can be aggressive, a trait shared with many members of the unicorn family. It is said to be larger than a zebra, fleet of foot, and fierce, ready to attack if a threat appears. While it is always differentiated from the rhinoceros when a description is given, sometimes explicitly differentiated, exact specifications on the color of the  hide and  and length horn vary greatly. It is sometimes said to be a dark brown color, while other reports describe it with similar markings to the quagga, an extinct subspecies of zebra with few stripes on the body and a brownish coloration. The horn varies from two-and-a-half feet long to a ten inch protrusion covered in hair. The horn is also sometimes said to be flexible when needed, and can be curled up to keep it out of the way when the beast isn’t fighting, giving it some similarity to the yale and its swiveling pair of horns. Unlike several of its cousins, the horn does not have the ability to detect poison or purify and heal.

The earliest records of this creature are seen in cave paintings done by bushmen in Natal, in which striped creatures with a single horn are shown. Several explanations have been put forth to explain its inclusion in both the paintings and later stories told to and by colonists and explorers in the area. It is possible that an antelope seen in profile would appear to have a single horn; it could also be a depiction of an injured creature or a sport, accidentally born with a single horn instead of two. Just as the Arabian oryx is thought to be a possible inspiration for the more common northern unicorn, it is possible that the gemsbok, also known as the southern oryx, inspired this Kalahari-version of the creature.