A-Z of Monsters

I’ve been mulling about monsters recently.  There are lots of them – of the alien variety – featured in my upcoming novel Hell Ship.  I’ve also been on a bit of an urban fantasy blitz, reading Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, Jonathan L. Howard’s necromancer novel Joahannes Cabal: the Detective, and rather a few Nicole Peelers (more of that anon.)  And I’ve also of course been reading lots of vampire stories over the last few years – from Sookie Stackhouse to Bella to  Joe Pitt  to -well there are lots of them out there. 

And it occurs to me – what IS it with vampires? I mean – what IS the big deal? So they’re scary, they suck blood, they can shape-shift, and they are a sexual metaphor so blatant it’s hardly a metaphor at all.  But who made Vampires the boss monsters of the mythological bestiary? 

There are in fact SO very many amazing supernatural creatures out there, all of them crying to be turned into heroes or villains, or both.  I mentioned Nicole Peeler above – she very cannily annexed the selkie legend for her own book Tempest Rising, as well as  smuggling in a number of other strange mythological beasties, such as kelpies, gnomes, nahuals, ifrits, satyrs and spriggans.   And Jesse Bullington has also had fun exploring a medieval world awash with witches, demons and homunculi in his debut novel The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart. 

But why stop there? There are hundreds – if not thousands – of weird creatures out there, itching to appal and pursue us.  So, on  a whim, I thought it would be cool to start compiling  an A-Z of Monsters.

Read these…and never sleep again!

So let’s start with A. Rich pickings. There’s this little creature for instance:

This is an Alkonost, a Slavic creature with the body of a bird and the head and chest (and, ahem, boobies) of a woman.  Set a dozen of these against Vlad Dracula, and let’s see who’d come up smiling!

Or there’s the Almas, a savage humanoid supposed to inhabit the Altai Mountains of Mongolia.

Or the Alicanto, a Chilean bird that eats silver and gold.

There’s the Amazake-babaa, a disease ridden hag from Japanese folklore, who looks like this:

And, a favourite of mine, the Alû,  an Assyrian  leprous demon.  No image available; but just imagine something really really horrible…

Hey! Stop imagining NOW.

Or there are native American monsters like the Alom-bag-winno-sis, dwarfish men who can increase or decrease in size, and like nothing better than overturning your canoe. Or the Awo-hon-do, insect spirits that bite humans.

Also high on my list of A’s are the Adar Llywch Gwin  – yup, that’s right, WELSH monsters – winged beasts who looked a bit like griffins.  These stupid creatures were under the control of Welsh warlord Drudwas, who was about to fight the great Arthur in battle. Drudwas instructed the birds to kill the first person to end the field of battle; Arthur was delayed however, so the Adar Lywch Gwins ate Drudwas instead.

Can’t you just visualise all these vile creatures in a single, crazy story?

Maybe the heroine is a cool American girl who goes on holiday to Eastern Europe and is pecked by a bird; and transforms into an Alkonost!  Her boyfriend watches with awe as she flies through the sky. Later, she battles two dumb Welsh monster birds (why do I assume these are comedy monsters?), before falling in love with a demon who is, er, leprous. 

Okay, maybe that particular urban fantasy needs JUST a bit more work…

But my favourite ‘A’ monster of all  is one I recently discovered at a British Museum Exhibition into the Egyptian Book of the Dead.  It’s a brilliant and eerie exhibition – you travel through corridors built INSIDE the legendary Round Reading Room, and peer at hieroglyphs which contain the secret to eternal life – all you have to do is read them out aloud in an Ancient Egyptian accent !  And it was here that I learned about the monster called the Devourer – which, so far as I know,  has never featured in any of the Mummy movies, ancient of modern.    The Devourer has the body of a crocodile, the head of a dog, and the hind quarters ofa a hippopotamus…and it acts as the Enforcer in Egyptian limbo. For when you die, your heart is weighed, and Anubis decides if your voice is true. If the answer is yes, you live forever…if no, then you are destroyed by the Devourer.

Here’s the Devourer, also known as AMMIT:

We’re all familiar with this figure from the horror films:

Yes, it’s the one on the left that’s meant to be scary.  But why be afraid of a centuries old corpse wrapped in bandages? Spooky – yes. Scary – no.  That’s why the Stephen Sommers’  Mummy reboot movies had to keep coming up with new types of mummy – reincarnate mummies with their own flesh, and big muscles,  and wind-monster mummies.  (And those scary scarabs of course.) 

But Ammit was the monster that the Mummies themselves used to fear!

And remember, it’s a Soul Devourer.  So this particular monster doesn’t just kill you.

It kills you for all eternity…

Hopefully in future blogs,  monsters beginning with B, C, D and other letters of the alphabet will be randomly explored.  Readers will be invited to vote of the scariest monster ever – and SURELY Orbit Books will commission a series of novels  featuring the best-ever non-vampire monster….?

Sharing and Bookmarking:

If you enjoyed this article, please consider bookmarking it or spreading the word via your favourite social media channel:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • Tumblr
  • Posterous
  • Google Bookmarks
  • RSS

Keyword-Matched Posts:

If you enjoyed this post, you might find these others interesting:

  1. Monsters