Mythology has always found a way to portray the fear of the unknown, a thing that we are going to prove through our mythical creatures list. When humanity emerged from the deep, from the dark, everything was a source of fear: the sound of thunder, the gossamer stream of lightning, blazing the sky, and all the creatures stirring in the heart of dark woods.
This unconscious fear of what’s out there made humanity conjure fantastical beasts, imbued with magic power and as old as Time itself. In our mythical creatures list, we’re going to show you the most notorious, deadly, benevolent, and beautiful creatures to have even been depicting in mythology.
20 Mythical Creatures List
Charon, also known The Ferryman or the Boatman, is a central figure in the Greek mythology, being the one responsible for carrying the souls of the recently deceased across the Styx (the great marsh) and Acheron (the river of woe). He is the first candidate appearing on the mythical creatures list.
For the souls to be safely carried across the two rivers and into the Netherworld, Charon would have requested payment in the form of a coin, either a danake or an obolus. The Ferryman mythos is widely considered the root of many funeral traditions, including the one in which the relatives of the deceased place a coin in his mouth.
Legends argue that if the Ferryman does not receive its obolus, the soul of the deceased is left to wander on the shores of Hades for one hundred years before Charon makes another pass.
Over the centuries, many painters, playwrights, and writers have tried to portray the nefarious boatman that hauls souls of the river of woe and over the great marsh. Probably one the of most famous portrayals of Charon is Virgil’s Aeneid.
The Boatman appears in Book VI, after Aeneas, descends into the Underworld to obtain the golden bought, an item of great power that will allow him to return to the land of the living. Here is how Virgil portrays the Boatman:
There Charon stands, who rules the dreary coast-
A sordid god: down from his hoary chin
A length of beard descends, uncomb’d, unclean;
His eyes, like hollow furnaces on fire;
A girdle, foul with grease, binds his obscene attire.
He spreads his canvas; with his pole he steers;
The freights of flitting ghosts in his thin bottom bears.
He look’d in years; yet in his years were seen
A youthful vigor and autumnal green.
An airy crowd came rushing where he stood,
Which fill’d the margin of the fatal flood.
Next on our mythical creatures list are the Arae or the Arai. Also known as the daughters of the curse, the Arai, are female spirits placed by the souls of the deceased to curse them in the afterlife.
The Arai are known to belong to Nyx, and, sometimes, they are confused with Erinyes or the spirits of vengeance. This misidentification can easily be clarified, as the Erinyes used their powers to punish the wicked, or those who have committed terrible crimes.
On the other hand, are the freelancers of Greek mythology, meaning that they do what they please since no one has control over them. According to the legend, if a living person is cursed by these wretched spirits, the only way to reverse the curse is to kill the one responsible for it.
Technically speaking, Arion is not a mythical creature. However, the myths surrounding the ancient poet are so entwined, that it is hard to churn reality from fiction. Arion was a so-called kitharode or a professional artist that sang odes to heroes and Gods accompanied by the cithara, or lyre.
According to the legend that surrounds this character, Arion belonged to the Dionysian poets circle, being considered the father of the dithyramb, a hymn which praised Dionysus. After winning a musical festival in the island of Sicily, the artists boarded a ship to return home.
However, as faith has it, a band of merciless brigands, coveting Arion’s possessions, kidnapped Arion and took him on their ship. After plundering his riches earned in the competition, the Pirates offered Arion the choice of either committing suicide on the ship or being thrown overboard.
The myth states that Arion’s last wish was to play a hymn in honor of Apollo, the god of poetry. As he prepared for certain death, his tune attracted the attention of some dolphins. Arion plunged into the sea, to avoid being killed by the pirates, and one of the dolphins carried him to Poseidon’s Sanctuary.
From there on, Arion reached Periader, a Tyrant from Corinth, which offered the artist his patronage. Shortly after, the tyrant learned about Arion’s miraculous escape, order a statue to be raised in the memory of the dolphin that rescued Arion, which had unfortunately perished after bringing him to safety.
Furthermore, according to the legend, Periader managed to capture and crucify the pirates for their sins. As for the great kitharode, Apollo, in his infinite love for artists, placed Arion and the dolphin among the stars.
Orthrus, or simply Orthus, is a two-headed dog-like monster from Greek mythology, also making number 4 in our mythic creatures list. As legends place it, Orthus is the blood relative of Cerberus, the infamous guardian of the gate to the Netherworld.
Like all the monsters in Greek mythology, Orthus is the offspring of Echidna and Typhoeus. Furthermore, like his ferocious brother, Orthus belonged to the humanoid creature, a giant that went by the name of Geryon.
Geryon, who also had a monster-like demeanor, has the shepherd of Eurystheus. Both Geryon and Orthus perished at the hands of the legendary Hercules when he was tasked to retrieve Geryon’s cattle, as part of his labors.
Furthermore, according to another interpretation of the Orthus mythos, the two-headed dog mated with Echidna, which, in turn, gave birth to another generation of monsters, including the Hydra, the Sphinx, and the Chimera.
Leaving the shores of Ancient Greece, we’re now heading to another land abundant in mystical creatures, the Middle East. Ancient Persian legends, from days, departed, speak of an abominable creature called the Manticore.
According to the legends, the Manticore has the head of a man, three pairs of teeth and the supple body of a red lion. In other interpretation of the Manticore mythos, this devilish creature has wings and a soothing voice that sounds like a trumpet.
Other legends say that this creature is capable of shooting spikes filled with venom from its body, to paralyze its victim before devouring it. The Manticore depicted in Persian mythology bears a striking resemblance to the Sphinx from Greek mythology.
All of the legends centered on this creature say that once this tiger-like being hunts, it devours everything, from bones and meat to clothes.
Furthermore, it would seem that during the Middle Ages, the Manticore mythos has been absorbed in the Christian mythology, becoming the symbol of evil, the herald of Satan.
The Hippocampus is a mythical seahorse from Greek Mythology. Also known as the war horses of Poseidon, these creatures possessed the head of a horse and the body of a fish.
These creatures are not entirely limited to Greek mythology, being depicted in the Etruscan mythology, as well. Some of the earliest depictions of this creatures were found on coins minted around the 4th century between Christ, showing the Melqart, the God that protects the city of Tyre, riding on a Hippocampus and being accompanied by dolphins.
7. Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr
Moving on with our mythical creatures list, we now arrive at the poetical Edda and the Norse mythology. One of the most famous representations of the relation between man and beast was the legend of Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr, the two goats which pulled Odin’s cart.
In the old dialect, the name of the two goats means Snarler and Teeth Grinder. According to the legends, Thor, the father, used to feast on goat’s meat on a regular basis. After slaying the goats and devouring their entrails, the father of Gods would swing the legendary Mjolnir to bring them back to life.
Another legend surrounding the two goats pulling Odin’s cart talks about Odin seeking refuge from a family of farmers. To honor his hosts, the Father of Gods share goat meat with them. However, one the children belonging to that family got greedy and sucked the marrow from the goat’s bones.
After resurrecting them, the goats were lame, because they had no more marrow in their bones. As punishment for their greediness, the Father of Gods made the children his servants and offered the goats the honor of pulling his heavenly.
Reference to Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr appear in the poetic version of the Edda, in the chapter entitled Thrymskvitha, considered one of the most beautifully written ballads. We have included the verses in our mythical creatures list for you to enjoy.
Then home the goats to hall were driven,
They wrenched at the halters, swift were they to run;
The mountains burst, earth burned with fire,
And Othin’s son sought Jotunheim.
The Draugr, which also goes by the name of aptrganga, in an undead creature common to Norse, Icelandic, and German mythologies. This creature also goes by other names as well, such as Revenant, after-walker, or phantom, being one of the most evil spirits on our mythical creatures list.
Draugr are usually summon by the use of black magic to protect treasures. Such a creature living inside its grave, clinging to its possessions, and slaying any unfortunate fellow who ventures too far.
According to the legends surrounding this foul creature, draugrs usually possess unholy strength, are hideous, and they leave behind a putrid odor. They use various techniques in order to do quick work of those who disturb their graves, and some legends even speak of draugrs who can wield weapons.
In recent pop culture, the draugrs have a strong presence in the video game The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, being portrayed as mindless undead creatures which rise from their grave to protect their treasures.
Furthermore, other legends speak of draugrs as creatures imbued with magical power, being capable of inflicting pain and death on travelers, without even touching them.
9. Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr, and Dyrathror
As part of our mythical creatures list, we are proud to present on of the quaintest myths to ever appear in Norse mythology. Dyrathror, Duneyrr, Dáinn, and Dvalinn are four majestic stags that feast upon the upper branches of Yggdrasil, or the tree of the world.
Over the ages, many historians have tried to decipher the symbolic value of the four stags, and most of them agree that the four stags nibbling away at the Tree of World’s upper branches are symbols of the Moon’s phases, the four elements, or even the seasons.
In the Poetic Edda, they appear in the ballad of Grimnismol, with their heads extended as to reach the highest branches of Yggdrasil.
Four harts there are, that the highest twigs
Nibble with necks bent back;
Dain and Dvalinn
Duneyrr and Dyrathror.
The next candidates on our mythical creatures list it the warg, also known as the vargr or the varg. According to the original myth, vargar (the plural form of warg) are none other than Fenrir, Hati, and Skoll.
In modern interpretations of Norse mythology, more specifically Tolkien’s work, vargar are wolf-like creatures that serve their handlers with utter submission. In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, vargar are depicted as being the goblin army’s cavalry.
Fenrir, also known as the Fen-dweller was a monstrous wolf-like creature from the Norse mythology. He is the father of Hati and Skoll, not to mention the offspring of Loki, the Trickster. According to the Norse prophecies, the Fen-Dweller is destined to kill Odin, the Father of Humanity, during Ragnarok, the end of time.
However, according to the legends, Fenrir will die at the hand of Vioarr, one of Odin’s son.
12. Geri and Freki
Geri and Freki, which means The Ravenous and The Greedy One, are a wolf pair that stands before the seat of Odin. In the prose version of the Edda, Geri and Freki were depicted as being Odin’s prized animals, often receiving food from Odin’s opulent table.
The next contestant on our mythical creatures list is none other than the Kraken, famed in song and stories. Probably every movie out there features pirate-like characters, has a Kraken reference in it.
Traditionally, the Kraken is a giant squid-like monster; that can sink large ships in the blink of an eye. The legend of the Kraken seems to have originated from the tales of sailors who, during their journeys, have caught sight of giant squid, which often reached 15 meters in length.
However, the story is much older than previously anticipated being traced back to an ancient Icelandic saga, where the protagonist encounters a squid-like sea monster whom he called Hafgufa or sea mist.
Grendel is a monster from the epic poem Beowulf. Often described as a giant or a werewolf-like creature, Grendel’s origin seems to go back to Cain himself. According to the original text, Grendel will die at the hand of Beowulf, an elite warrior from Geatland, who heard about the massacre which took place in the mead hall of Heorot.
After facing Grendel, Beowulf manages to cut off one of his arms, not before the monster eats one of his men. Grendel will die later after losing a high amount of blood from its wound.
Cthulhu is demonical creature appearing in the writings of H.P Lovecraft, an American Horror writer, and Fantasy author. Described as having the head of an anthropomorphized octopus, a dragon-like body, and wings, Cthulhu is one of the Outer Gods or Older Gods, who sleeps beyond the veil.
The creature appeared in a short-story published in 1923 called “The Call of Cthulhu,” where the protagonists struggle to understand the origin of the fetish-like statue, as he investigates a strange cult that dwells in the marshes of Louisiana.
Following the same Lovecraftian mythology, Nyarlathotep, also known as the Crawling Chaos or the Stalker among the Stars, is the epitome of malignancy. Often portrayed as a tall man, who has the demeanor of a pharaoh, Nyarlathotep enslaves the mind of his followers and uses them to commit various atrocities in his name. Nyarlathotep is one of the scariest monster on our mythical creatures list.
According to the Lovecraftian deity’s genealogy, like Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep is an Outer God, and he is the son of Azathoth and the brother of the Nameless Mist and the Darkness.
In the Greek mythology, Python is often depicted as a snake-like creature that guards the Oracle of Delphi, considered by Ancient Greek to be the omphalos or the center of the known world. Python is, in fact, an earth dragon, and is the offspring of Gaia or Mother Earth.
Legend has it that Python became mortal enemies to Apollo, the Sun God in the Greek mythology. In response to its provocation, Apollo slew the giant serpent and claimed the temple of Delphi in his name.
In the Judaic mythology, the golem is a humanoid creature, brought to life through magical means. Golems are often created from stone or clay and are bound to the will of their masters. Golems are often portrayed as a mindless creature, who can’t speak nor think for themselves, and they are created solely for the purpose of obeying the commands of its master.
According to the later versions of the legend, Adam was himself a golem, being created and kneaded by God from clay.
Ogres are hideous monsters, with a tall stature, which are often portrayed as having an insatiable appetite for human flesh. According to the legends, ogres have an acquired taste for children and infants. Probably the most popular depictions of ogres are found inside fictional works such as Jack and the Beanstalk or Sinbad the Sailor. Ogres could not miss from our mythical creatures list!
The last contestant on our mythical creatures list is the orc, a fantastical creature, described as having jade green skin, sharp teeth, and superhuman powers. Orcs are generally portrayed as being savage creatures, who often pillage and set fire to an entire village to quench their thirst for war.
As far as appearance is concerned, the orcs are a crossover between apes and pigs. However, according to Tolkien’s orc version, these creatures are actually the tortured remains of elven soldiers, captured and maimed by the dark lord Sauron.
This was our mythical creatures list. All of the creatures mentioned throughout our article were no doubt the fruit of human imagination, which wanted to give a name and a face to things that were beyond his comprehension.