Exquisite Maps Reveal a Worldwide Mythical Creatures List
Every country in the world has their own special connection with cryptids. Legendary beasts have been linked to unexplained phenomena for centuries. Now all of the most famous mythical creatures have been put into one list and a marvelous map. While some places share a favored legendary beast on the global mythical creatures list, there are notable differences in how they describe that being which holds cultural significance.
Making a Worldwide Mythical Creatures List
The worldwide mythical creatures list is the brainchild of the financial planning website SavingSpot of CashNetUSA. In the past they illustrated a map showing the most famous cryptid in every US state, but they decided to expand on the project.
The first step in the research was to make a long list of mythical creatures by combining mythical beasts written about in Heather Frigiola’s Monsters and Mythical Creatures From Around the World, Wikipedia, and what they describe as “numerous independent sites.” With the extensive cryptid list in hand, Nerdist writes that the researchers “ranked them by total search results on Google, using the search terms “[Country] + [Mythical Creature].” Nest they had illustrator Laimute Varkalaite create a series of maps highlighting the most famous of the world’s mythical beasts.
World of Cryptids: North America Map. (Laimute Varkalaite/SavingSpot)
Strange Cryptid Study Results in a Majestic Illustrated Map
The results show that there are several examples of countries sharing a favorite cryptid. This means that the researchers had to look for the fine details of what made the beast distinct. Sometimes the differences are only apparent with changes in color or other slight modifications in Varkalaite’s design. At other times, the differences are more notable, such as the winged beings that are called dragons in England and the serpent like form of the Chinese dragons.
Many of the beings on the mythical creatures list will probably be familiar to you – such as unicorns, sasquatch, leprechauns and dwarves, but an exploration of the map may inspire you to find out more about other legendary beings, which could be less familiar, such as the sleek and scary Namibian Flying Snake or Colombia’s weird yet frightening hag known as La Tunda.
Let’s explore their highlighted cryptids for each region.
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The most famous cryptid in the USA is the Sasquatch, aka Bigfoot, a creature that cryptozoologists have been trying to find for more than two centuries. Amateur enthusiasts and some scientists have been enthralled by the possibility of finding the legendary apelike creature. There have been numerous sightings, footprints, videos, and photos all allegedly related to Bigfoot, but concrete proof remains elusive.
Canada’s more aggressive cryptid called the Wendigo topped that country’s list. Algonquian legends claim that the Wendigo, which translates to ‘the evil spirit that devours mankind,’ eats human flesh so it can survive the winter.
Another creepy cryptid on the North America map is the death bat called Camazotz which prevailed in Guatemaula, and may have been inspired by a giant, now-extinct, vampire bat. Nicaragua’s top cryptid is also linked to death. It is a strange being called La Carretanagua - described as an ox-cart which is driven by a skeleton and pulled by phantom bulls. SavingSpot suggests that this mythical creature “probably emerged from the plundering of native villages by Spanish colonists in the 16th century.”
Camazotz topped the Guatemala cryptid list. (Laimute Varkalaite/SavingSpot)
In South America’s most famous mythical creature’s list we find the aforementioned La Tunda. Colombian stories say this cryptid preys on men guilty of infidelity and children who misbehave. According to SavingSpot, “this one-legged hag’s special move is to fart on seafood and offer it to her prey.” Although La Tunda is able to shapeshift and take on the appearance of a man’s lover or a child’s mother, victims could identify her by looking at her legs – one of them is replaced by a wooden spoon.
In Peru, Muki reigns as the most famous mythical creature. This is a small being with glowing eyes that is also known as the ‘lord of the mines.’ He is said to make pacts with miners to make them rich, but the cost for the riches is usually the person’s life.
Paraguay’s most famous mythical creature is more frightening to look at, but may be less lethal. It is the Teju Jagua – a lizard that has seven dog heads and the ability to shoot fire from its eyes. Even with that terrifying ability, SavingSpot says that Teju Jagua is “mostly harmless” because the creature is said to eat “fruit and honey rather than roasted human flesh.”
Teju Jagua is a “mostly harmless” mythical creature in Paraguay. (Laimute Varkalaite/SavingSpot)
Anansi is a popular spider creature and possible deity which has topped the list in several of the African countries. He is a trickster who makes mischief in many popular legends. Often depicted as a half man, half spider, Anansi is clever, sometimes lovable, but also mischievous, and many stories say he tricks animals into doing things that are beneficial to him.
Another being which tops the mythical creatures list of a couple of African countries is the Nandi bear. It is said to be nocturnal and aggressive when startled. The red haired bear is said to be responsible for crushing the skulls or scalping people who have caught it off-guard in Kenya and Rwanda.
The Namibian Flying Snake is possibly the favorite of the SavingSpot researchers, who have described it as “everything you want from a cryptid: slitheriness, up to 25 feet long, 30-foot wingspan, bioluminescent crest, horns, an inflatable neck, and a ferocious roar.” It is believed to roam the Karas Region, feeding on livestock and scaring farmers out of their wits since the 1940s.
The Namibian Flying Snake. (Laimute Varkalaite/SavingSpot)
Baba Yaga is the fan favorite for mythical beings in Slovakia, Russia, Poland and a few other European countries. Ambiguous and ugly, Baba Yaga is a dual character in Slavic folklore. Sometimes she’s maternal and other times she’s an evil villain who eats people.
Dragons are another preferred cryptid in Europe and England, Wales, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, San Marino, and Italy all have this creature at the top of their mythical creatures search list. Wales has even chosen this beast to feature on their national flag.
One of the mythical beings on the Europe list which may be less familiar to you is the huldufólk of Iceland. Huldufólk are also known as álfar and these terms translate to “hidden folk” and “elves.” They are said to look similar to Tolkien’s elves of Middle Earth, but without the pointed ears. Several legends tell of their power to bestow luck or ruin on people, depending on if the human who meets them helps them to achieve a task or refuses to be of aid.
Illustration of Iceland’s Huldufólk. (Laimute Varkalaite/SavingSpot)
Middle East & Central Asia
The most famous mythical beings in the Middle East and Central Asia are Jinn. For example, Iran, Jordan, and Iraq all have stories of the magic and mischief created by the beings often called genies in the west. Jinn can be male or female in appearance and although they are believed to reside in a different realm they can attach themselves to inanimate objects to travel around our world. They can be good, evil, or neutral in stories.
Egyptians have a rich history of mythical beings, but the most searched for is the griffin. This powerful and majestic creature has the head and wings of an eagle, and the body, tail, and hind legs of a lion – it is a combination of the king of the birds and king of the beasts. Some scholars think that the griffin arose from an imaginative interpretation of the fossils of a dinosaur called the Protoceratops.
Iran has another birdlike hybrid creature topping their mythological being list – the Simurgh. The Simurgh is described as having a peacock’s body, the head of a dog, and the claws of a lion. This is a very old and wise creature which is said to have witnessed the destruction of the world three times.
The wise and ancient Simurgh. (Laimute Varkalaite/SavingSpot)
The Rest of Asia and Oceania
Finally, SavingSpot covered the top cryptids of a region they refer to as the “rest of Asia and Oceania.” Dragons, in their serpent like form, make another prominent appearance here – in China, Hong Kong, and North and South Korea, for example.
Mermaids and other sea-dwellers are understandably popular in this part of the world. The Solomon Islands, for example, have mermen called the Adaro terrifying people who venture into the waters with the spears that grow from their heads and by throwing poisonous fish at their victims’ necks.
The Australian bunyip also makes the mythical creatures list in this region. There are all sorts of descriptions for this evil spirit – some accounts say it’s part human, part animal, others say it’s dog-like, walrus-like, or has flippers and a tail. But almost every legend of the Bunyip places it in a waterway and many stories also say it feeds on children who venture too close to the water. Some scholars think that this cryptid was inspired by megafauna that have gone extinct.
The terrifying Australian cryptid called bunyip. (Laimute Varkalaite/SavingSpot)
The Power of Legendary Creatures
Maybe the strange creatures listed above are nothing more than fearful creations of our imaginations trying to explain scary events, or warnings, or hoaxes, but it’s also possible that some of these cryptids may be elaborations of descriptions of real creatures living among us today or in the past. There is even the possibility that one day people will identify the beasts behind the terrifying legends or find the elusive cryptids which are said to live all around the world.
Regardless of whether the cryptids have really existed or not, this mythical creatures list and map reminds us of the continued power of legends and myth in a culture.
The research behind the new mythical creatures list and map project is outlined here.
Top Image: The top mythical creatures list has been turned into a map. Source: Laimute Varkalaite/SavingSpot