1. Malo Beto
    Offline

    Malo Beto Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2011
    Messages:
    51
    Likes Received:
    2

    Underused Mythical Creatures

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Malo Beto, Oct 17, 2013.

    I've noticed a lot of urban fantasy uses the same types of mythical creatures just putting a slightly different spin on them. There are plenty of books that feature vampires, werewolves, wizards, zombies, etc. I feel there are quite a few really cool mythical creatures that deserve to be featured more often but don't. So my main question is what do you think some of these underused mythical creatures are? Personally I think Sphinxes (greek version), Windigos, and Nucklavee should get more attention.
     
  2. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,837
    Likes Received:
    10,013
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Certain mythical creatures are more than just their name. This is actually a discussion I had at another forum where a member was trying to ask why there are always things like dragons (that was the example) in fantasy stories instead of other things and then the member proceeded to describe an alternate creature that one could use instead of a dragon that was pretty much a dragon, just not called a dragon. The conversation devolved pedantically from there. Dragons are not just creatures that answer to a description, they are archetypal constructs that express a certain part of the human psyche. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc. answer to the same paradigm. As freakishly badass as a Nucklavee might be, the question you have to ask yourself is, does the use of such a creature flick the right limbic switches in the human psyche to deliver what you want in your story? I'm not saying the answer is no, but I think writers reach for those constructs they know will deliver.
     
  3. Holo
    Offline

    Holo Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2011
    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    0
    Honestly, I find that just branching outside of European folklore offers a TON of unexplored mythical creatures. For example, the kitsune would be fun to explore if you like shapeshifters. But that doesn't mean that the more commonly used creatures don't have some mileage left in them. Interestingly, if you do enough research you can stumble across some underused legends concerning overused creatures. It all depends on the cultures portraying them. With vampires, werewolves, witches, etc., we've been rehashing the same takes on them.
     
  4. sknox
    Offline

    sknox New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2013
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Boise, Idaho
    It's not the creature, it's the writing. For proof I offer a single word: Lovecraft.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,602
    Likes Received:
    5,875
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    I think the world is ripe for some new and unique mythical creatures. I say go for it, Malo Beto.
     
  6. Malo Beto
    Offline

    Malo Beto Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2011
    Messages:
    51
    Likes Received:
    2
    I think you both make good points, and I'm not really criticizing anyone for using the more "generic" monsters. It is more easy for a reader to identify a vampire or a zombie, and I can see where it could break immersion if they had to go look up what a Nucklavee was. I think giving a new spin to some of these "overused" creatures is just as important as using a creature that hasn't been used as much. So perhaps I should extend this a bit to include "interesting takes on frequently used creatures."
     
  7. Malo Beto
    Offline

    Malo Beto Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2011
    Messages:
    51
    Likes Received:
    2
    But Lovecraft had some very unique creatures. The Mi-Go for instance. I've never heard of anything quite like them before or since.
     
  8. ManOrAstroMan
    Offline

    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2012
    Messages:
    817
    Likes Received:
    342
    Location:
    Missouri
    I think the reason some many of those creatures have been used so much is that they've become archetypes, representing core concepts of humanity: lust, personal empowerment, inner conflict, rebellion, exclusion from society, etc.
    Also, there are versions of these creatures which appear in the lore of nearly every single culture on the planet. Mainstream vampires may be primarily drawn from eastern European tradition, but just about every culture has a version of the vampire. Or the werewolf. Or the fairy, the witch, the dragon, etc.
    Things like the Nuckelavee, the Ahooni, the Simurgh, etc, are much more culture-specific. They may fall into certain categories which are more universal, but the specific creature is has a more direct link to a specific culture or region.
     
  9. Keitsumah
    Offline

    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2012
    Messages:
    3,279
    Likes Received:
    285
    Location:
    Nebraska
    I have yet to see more than one book mention nagas
     
  10. Lewdog
    Offline

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    7,530
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    Williamsburg, KY

    Are you a WoW player by chance? :D

    What about sirens, banshees, minotaurs, trolls, chimera, and the Jersey Devil? There is a few for you.
     
  11. ManOrAstroMan
    Offline

    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2012
    Messages:
    817
    Likes Received:
    342
    Location:
    Missouri
    the Xanth books by Piers Anthony frequently feature nagas.
     
  12. Lewdog
    Offline

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    7,530
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    Williamsburg, KY
    Would the Creature from the Black Lagoon be considered a naga? Or no because it has legs and not a tail?
     
  13. Simpson17866
    Offline

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,700
    Likes Received:
    1,248
    1) @Wreybies @ManOrAstroMan I've got to admit that when I saw the picture of a Nuckelavee that was linked, my first thought was that it was a symbol of disease. Since I found that that's also what it says on Wikipedia (and I PROMISE I didn't just change the whole article 2 minutes ago :D ), I can guess that even something as obscure as that can be more universally resonant than it looks. Or, more importantly, can be made to be more universal in the hands of a sufficiently creative writer: maybe Nuckelavee is one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse ;)

    2)
    I've actually seen a lot of "new" monsters that I hadn't known about before - especially on Doctor Who - and some of the things that required exposition may have stretched my willing suspension of disbelief, but I've never found the requirement of exposition itself to be a problem. "Cthulhu is an ancient alien that looks like an enormous squid-person." "The Weeping Angels are creatures that feed on temporal energy and turn into statues when anybody looks at them."

    2.5) The most terrifying episode of Doctor Who that I have ever seen in my life, "Midnight" (Revival Series 4), was about a monster I have never seen before or since, a monster that was so terrifying because I knew nothing about it, and the other humans' reaction turning into a witch hunt so quickly was familiar on a level that the monster itself did not need to be.

    Not knowing what the monster was capable of AND being reminded of what ordinary humans are capable of scared me more than any horror story that only used one or the other, and the cast is always more important to the story than any combination of gimmicks.

    3) If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. - Toni Morrison. I already have an idea for a potential Sci-Fi contest entry about the Nuckelavee now that I've heard of it :)
     
  14. TessaT
    Offline

    TessaT Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2013
    Messages:
    357
    Likes Received:
    127
    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    I'm pretty sure Laurell K. Hamiliton does in one of her Anita Blake books, but I forget which one.
     
  15. Lewdog
    Offline

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    7,530
    Likes Received:
    2,825
    Location:
    Williamsburg, KY
    @Simpson17866 Several sources had said that the monster in the movie Cloverfield was inspired by Cthulhu when JJ Abrams was with his son in Japan and his son picked up a Cthulhu toy, but Abrams denies it and says that the monster was his own idea that he hoped would become the national monster for America like Godzilla is for Japan. Personally I think it is based off Cthulhu and Abrams statement is just a way to cover his ass from copyright infringement.
     
  16. Malo Beto
    Offline

    Malo Beto Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2011
    Messages:
    51
    Likes Received:
    2
    Actually I think Cthulhu is no longer under copyright, but I really don't think the monster in Cloverfield is close enough to Cthulhu to really count as copyright infringement anyway.
     
  17. Jared Carter
    Offline

    Jared Carter Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2013
    Messages:
    53
    Likes Received:
    8
    What about draconic humanoids (otherwise known as dragonmen or draconians)?
     
  18. Dresden260
    Offline

    Dresden260 Corrupt Diplomat

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2011
    Messages:
    154
    Likes Received:
    19
    Location:
    Sitting by a Fountain, Watching the world go by.
    Unicorns
     
  19. Jared Carter
    Offline

    Jared Carter Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2013
    Messages:
    53
    Likes Received:
    8
    I'm sure unicorns would be more popular now, considering the success of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
     
  20. Dresden260
    Offline

    Dresden260 Corrupt Diplomat

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2011
    Messages:
    154
    Likes Received:
    19
    Location:
    Sitting by a Fountain, Watching the world go by.
    I'm pretty sure that means they are hated much more by the people who aren't in the Fandom or people who just love unicorns.
     
  21. Wyr
    Offline

    Wyr Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2013
    Messages:
    174
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    São Paulo
    While I get the appeal of using and archetypal creature in stories (I’m even using one in a story I’m working on right) I think that rarer mythological creatures can leave a strong, lasting impression if presented in a compelling manner.

    There was a movie I saw once as a kid, I can’t remember the plot or even the title of it, but I still remember the pooka it featured. At first it was vilified as an evil spirit but in the end it saved at least one of the main characters. All I remember about the movie itself is that it wasn’t very good (I’m pretty sure it was low budget,) but twenty years later I can still conjure up in my mind the image of how it appeared as a wild horse.
     
  22. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,778
    Likes Received:
    7,288
    Location:
    Scotland
    For those of you who favour Celtic-based fantasy, you could do worse than explore The Silkie. A creature who lives in the water as a seal, but can assume human form and live on land, produce half-human children, fall in love with humans, etc. Of course, under certain conditions, they must return to the sea.

    The most stunning 'story' featuring a silkie in recent writing is the poem At Roane Head, by Scottish poet Robin Robertson. That is the kind of story that sends every hair on end, and you won't forget. I don't even like poetry much, but that one is a corker ...as are most of his other pieces as well.

    Here's a link to it. I prefer the written version to the spoken one, which is on YouTube...

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=sQvoX0Pc6WAC&pg=PA87&lpg=PA87&dq=At+Roane+Head&source=bl&ots=uOhpO30NBZ&sig=Mof4GslRdcxnB47x8p4BV8phRfc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=YwuCUo74BY-qhAeu-YD4BQ&ved=0CDAQ6AEwATgU#v=onepage&q=At%20Roane%20Head&f=false
     
    Man in the Box likes this.
  23. Nilfiry
    Offline

    Nilfiry Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Messages:
    670
    Likes Received:
    81
    Location:
    Eternal Stream
    I write a phoenix in Every. Single. Story. At least in one form or another. In a story based on real life, however, it would take a more symbolic form. I also purposely avoid using things like elves, dwarves, and vampires. I do like to use winged-horses and dragons occasionally. They just happen to be among my favorites, but they only have minor roles at best. I prefer to make up my own. Mermaids, however, are a different story. I gave them a whole arc in one story. They are awesome, but I suppose that is obvious....

    I suppose I am just going against the popular creatures. I think creatures like dragons get way overused. Personally, I would also like to see more Celtic based creatures myself. I never see much when it comes to Asian mythical creatures outside of the dragon and phoenix. Why not a seven-colored bull that can breathe fire?
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2013
  24. ManOrAstroMan
    Offline

    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2012
    Messages:
    817
    Likes Received:
    342
    Location:
    Missouri
    a big chunk of the magic system of my urban fantasy book involves communing with mythical creatures and spirits, which are all tied to one of the elements. ive done a LOT of research on faerie lore and mythical creatures from around the world, building up my stable of elementals. what's really interesting is how many similarities there are in the myths of cultures from opposite corners of the globe.
    something ive noticed, too, with the more commonly used beasties are that they are very human, at least outwardly, and most are sexy. almost every schoolgirl had a crush on one of the boys from hogwarts, orlando bloom made elves hot, and there's no shortage of sexy werewolves or vampires. zombies may not be sexy, but their nature makes them equally terrifying and pitiable.
     
  25. TheSerpantofNar
    Offline

    TheSerpantofNar Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2012
    Messages:
    266
    Likes Received:
    12
    I actually read a lot of lore there are several species of vampire or more in European folklore. Same with werewolves it's not as generic as it's made out to be with mythical creatures.
     

Share This Page