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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.

Baku

The Baku is a creature from Japanese lore that devours nightmares.

The baku is a benevolent creature, working with humans and depending upon them for its food. The creature was described as early as the 14th century. It is sometimes described as being from China, and the myths do seem to originate from this country. The baku’s features are not consistent throughout time, sometimes giving the creature horns, the body of a horse, or the eyes of a rhinoceros. It does consistently feature the feet, and sometimes specifically the claws, of a tiger; the trunk of an elephant; and tusks. This composite creature resembles the tapir, so much so that the name is given to both the supernatural and the zoological creature. Modern representations of the baku make it indistinguishable from its mundane namesake.

The baku can be called upon by a person to help deal with nightmares. A baku can be called upon before one goes to sleep, either verbally or through the use of talismans or images of the creature. A person can also invite a baku to eat a nightmare after they wake up. The baku is thought to devour not only the offending dream, but the spirit that brought it, preventing further nightmares. In some stories, the baku may eat someone’s dreams without invitation. This can be troublesome, as an uninvited baku may eat all of the person’s dreams, depriving them of sleep.

Similar to Native American dreamcatchers, the image of the baku can be used to ward off evil dreams as well, be it through drawings, kanji, architectural incorporation, or even toys or dolls of the creature, and can be placed either in the bedroom, in particular under the pillow, or even hung outside the house. This practice became prominent in the Edo period, between 1603 and 1868, and continues today. The baku has also become tied to the Treasure Boats of the Seven Lucky Gods, which has the kanji for “baku” written on the sail. An image of this boat or of the baku is placed under the pillow on the night before the new year begins. It is believed that a good dream that night will ensure good fortune for the year. This is an extension of the belief that if a baku eats bad dreams, they will be transformed into good luck.

The modern tapir-like baku appears in several guises. One of the most popular instances in Western civilization is the Pokémon Drowzee, a yellow and black creature that looks like a bipedal tapir, with the power to eat dreams. They are becoming increasingly common in manga, animation, and video games.

Balena

This is the Balena.

She–because this is a strictly female monster–is an enormous fish. She is, in fact, one of the animals seen on maps accompanied by the words “Here be monsters.” If the name sounds familiar, that’s because science used it to designate baleen whales, among which are the largest creatures to ever exist on earth. It’s also the Latin name for “whale.” The balena, like her mundane cousins, is enormous. European sailors were in danger from this creature both because the mouth is large enough to tear apart ships and because of its habit of spewing huge amounts of water from itself, both from the mouth and the jets in the creature’s head. The mouth is so large, in fact, that in bad weather or in the face of danger she is able to hide her young inside it until she judges it safe, behavior seen in some real fishes. Balena give live birth and are known to sleep, although her male counterpart, the musculus, is said to come from eggs.

The balena is very buoyant, and as a result not terribly nimble. According to some sources, she floats at the surface of the ocean when in distress. She is also highly vulnerable to attacks from creatures like the orchun, which is said to first tear open the balena‘s belly, from which she cannot defend herself, and then throw rocks at her as she sinks to the ocean floor. The name of this beast is similar to the orca or killer whale, which is known to prey upon large whales, although there is very little known about the creature and no visual information to make this certain. For a large creature, the balena is also remarkably short-lived. According to one source, she only lives for ten years.