Magical creatures and mythical beasts come in all shapes and sizes, from the majestic unicorn to the mysterious indrik. Many, like the dragon, are famous across multiple cultures - but which are the rarer mythical beasts that remain on the fringes of folklore? Let’s take a look.
Featuring in Celtic and Norse folklore, the selkie is a shapeshifter that takes the form of a seal in water but a human on land. They are said to have a dual nature and can be friendly and helpful or dangerous and vengeful. In some stories human lovers would hide the selkie’s seal skin to prevent it returning to the sea.
One of the most fascinating and rare creatures, the baku is a magical beast of Japanese folklore, which was created from the leftover parts of all the other animals made by the gods. With the trunk of an elephant, the tail of a cow, the body of a bear and the paws of a tiger, it devours nightmares, enabling children to go back to sleep after a bad dream.
A giant wolf that roams the Arctic tundra, the amarok comes from Inuit folklore. It’s said to hunt alone rather than in a pack, and feasts on those foolish enough to hunt alone at night. In one legend an amarok helps a young boy who has been cast out by his tribe by wrestling him daily, enabling him to become stronger and return home.
A mysterious hybrid creature from Russian folklore, the indrik is said to have the body of a bull, the legs of a deer and the head of a horse. It has a horn like a unicorn, which it sheds periodically and buries. It’s a gentle and shy creature, avoiding contact with humans and living in mountainous regions.
Another creature from Japanese mythology, bake-kujira is a ghostly skeleton whale that’s said to cruise near the surface of the sea and be accompanied by strange fish and birds. According to folklore, it brings misfortune and misery wherever it is spotted.
An amphibious creature from the aboriginal mythology of southeastern Australia, the bunyip is said to lurk in swamps, billabongs and lagoons. It has the ability to alter the water level, and makes booming or roaring noises. Some sources say it can hypnotise humans, while others suggest it preys on women and children.
Depicted as the reptilian king of serpents, the basilisk is one of the most feared mythical creatures. It is described variously as a huge lizard, a giant snake, or a snake with the head and plumage of a rooster, and is said to have the power to cause death with a single glance.
You can discover some of the creatures from this list in the show Dragons and Mythical Beasts Live, which is touring the UK until September 2023. With stunning puppetry, it’s a great day out for the whole family. Book tickets today for a performance near you.