Expand Your World Building with Mythological Creatures

At some point, your characters may look to the sky and question God or encounter monsters unique to their world. That’s when your story will require world-building. Creating a pantheon of mythological creatures is a fun way to add color, texture, and allure to your writing. But what makes a good mythological creature? Here are 3 popular jumping-off points. 

Combination Animals

Animals are symbolic, and when combined, they can represent anything your fictional society needs: love, grief, courage, and fear. 

Take, for example, the Griffin: Originating in Ancient Iran and Eygpt, a griffin has a lion’s body with the head and wings of an eagle. A combination of these two powerful animals, the Griffin represents divinity, and legend tells that it is assigned to guard treasures.

Then there is the Manticore

A manticore has a body of a lion, the head of a man (sometimes with horns), and the tail of a dragon, or a scorpion, or even a porcupine. While a Manticore also originated in Ancient Persia, it’s not as pure as the Griffin. It’s considered an evil creature, making the world worse with its scary tail. 

Think bodies of lions are overdone but still want a feline element? Well, consider the Tatzelwurm, an unsettling-looking lizard with a face of a cat. This creature allegedly sucks cows’ udders in Switzerland and represents the fear of those living near the dark valleys and caves of the Alps. 

Good, bad, or just weird; combination animals are a great place to start when creating mythological creatures. 

Next! 

Bogeymen (or Bogeypeople)

It is said that raising children is one of the hardest yet most rewarding things one can do. In your world, what fears do your parental characters have? What dangers does their environment pose? What pressure does society put on them? Bogeypeople are the personification of those anxieties. 

Take, for example, Ogres. These classic monsters are said to eat careless children who wander into the woods. 

And

Qalupalik: black-haired Inuit monsters that kidnap misbehaving children who veer too close to thin ice or bodies of water.

Bogeypeople-type creatures are often designed to discipline or warn children of looming danger, but sometimes they have more sinister purposes. 

Consider…

Changelings: These creatures told in European folklore are believed to be hungry fairies taking the form of human children. Because of food scarcity, the parents would claim their child had been swapped with a changeling, and they would kill them without facing any criticism, a justified cause for infanticide. 

Children are our future, and nothing triggers us more viscerally than seeing them at risk. What stories do your desperate societies tell themselves when the external world is so cruel? 

Photo by Fleur on Unsplash

Bickering Deities 

Not enough chaos in your world? Want to create more? Add some vengeful deities to your stories. 

Take, for example, Argus Panoptes. When Zeus’s wife, Hera, discovered that her husband, the God of the sky, had cheated on her with a princess and nymph, Io, she transformed Io into a cow and appointed a giant with a hundred eyes, Argus, to watch over her. Hilarity ensued when Zeus found out. Let’s just say that Argus becomes a peacock.  

Then consider… 

Narasimha: Part-man, part-lion (yes, lion again), Narasimha is the fourth avatar of the Hindu God, Vishnu. This incarnation returns to Earth to slay a demon and power-hungry king, thus restoring dharma, a pretty epic story. 

Finally, there is Sun Wukong: Also known as the Monkey King, this Hindu-influenced God was born from a stone and acquired powers through Taoist practice. That is before he rebelled against the heavens and got himself pinned under a mountain. After five hundred years of imprisonment, he was finally set free to accompany a monk on a pilgrimage, and thus begins the tale of the Chinese folklore, Journey to the West. 

Gods are all mighty, but when they have human traits — vices, temptations, and emotions — their conflict can extend past space, time, and dimensions. You’d know what I mean if you’re following Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Give your Gods some powers and turbulent relationships, and see what happens next. 

World-building with mythological creatures can take your imagination and storytelling in infinite directions. It can sometimes feel like nonsense, but hey, what’s the point of making up a world if you’re going to stay within the realms of reality, right? 

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