Mythical creatures have played a tremendous role in many of our favorite stories. Whether it’s the fairies you loved as a child or the gnomes that made you laugh in Disney’s Frozen, mythical creatures add nuance and layers to story that we would otherwise miss.
In some sense, these creatures have a way of bringing out the inner child in all of us. Our imaginations come alive as we read about unicorns or werewolves. Maybe this is why so many of us love fantasy—it’s an excuse to enjoy the thrills of childhood between the safety of the pages in a book.
But what exactly are mythical creatures? What sets them apart from the creatures we see in the wild?
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What Are Mythical Creatures?
Mythical creatures are beings that only exist in fairytales, fantasy, or any genre that can include them. Next time you go to the zoo don’t expect to see a banshee or dragon. These are the mythical creatures that make stories, and our imaginations, come alive.
While mythical creatures are derived from creatures in the world today (or that lived in the past), they are mythical. Consider dinosaurs and dragons or horses and unicorns. Both mythical creatures have similarities to real-life animals, but they have been modified for the genre they inhabit.
List Of Mythical Creatures
With so many supernatural creatures in literature, what is the best plan of action for incorporating one into your work in progress?
Below is a list with a few attributes attributed to each mythical creature. This can help you start in your planning process.
#1 – Phoenix
Whether you first learned about phoenixes reading about Fawkes (if you know, you know), or are more recently acquainted with this bird, you’re in for a treat. This gorgeous, mythical bird lives an extended lifespan, then burns and turns to ashes, only to have another phoenix rise from its ashes.
#2 – Banshee
Credited as a mythical creature in Irish myths, the banshee is known for its screaming. Banshee’s are female and often equated with fear or death. Via their screams, banshees actually warn people if they’re about to enter a dangerous situation.
#3 – Dragon
Love them or hate them, dragons have been around the block when it comes to literature. Whether they star in classics like The Hobbit or provide an adventurous chapter for heroes on a quest, dragons are familiar, mythical creatures.
#4 – Mermaid
Mermaids cross genres when it comes to storytelling. You may have grown up watching The Little Mermaid or spent your teenage years watching the mermaids in The Pirates of the Caribbean. Whatever your first encounter with mermaids was, they are known for having the torso and up as a female body and the torso and down as a strong fish tale.
#5 – Centaur
Similar to a mermaid, a centaur has the upper body of a human (often depicted as male) and the lower body of a horse. Centaurs come from Greek mythology and are frequently associated with honor and nobility.
#6 – Sirens
Are you writing a high sea adventure and need an evil mermaid? Try incorporating a Siren. Often associated with mermaids in look, these devious mythical creatures use their voices to lure sailors to their deaths.
#7 – Zombie
Zombies have experienced quite the evolution from their Haitian origin to binge-able television series today. One thing is sure—if you write a zombie into your story, you’ll turn the adventure into a thriller in no time!
#8 – Pegasus
A Pegasus is a stallion with wings, associated with Greek mythology, and pure white. If you love the beauty and power of horses and want to take it to the next level, incorporate a Pegasus into your next story.
How To Write Mythical Creatures Into Your Story
It can be fun to use mythical creatures simply because of their mythology. However, it’s vital to consider a few reasons for doing so. Like every character you include, ask yourself what this creature brings to your story: Are you using it to create a plot twist? Add a new dynamic? Better portray your genre?
#1 – Create A Twist
Have you ever read the children’s book, The Boy The Mole The Fox And The Horse? This story is a great example of using a mythological creature to create a twist in the story. I won’t ruin it for you, but if you have a spare thirty minutes, try watching the short film.
#2 – Consider Genre
Additionally, when choosing to include these types of creatures, it’s important to consider your genre and story structure. Imagine writing a fantasy with centaurs and dragons and then out of nowhere you bring a banshee into the mix.
When using mythical creatures, make sure you adhere to genre conventions enough to honor your readers, while also pushing boundaries enough to keep them on their toes.
#3 – Incorporate Modern Uses
J.K. Rowling’s boggart in The Prisoner of Azkaban is considered a modern take on what was once referred to as a banshee. If you find a mythical creature you love but want to create your own take on it, by all means, do so.
Famous Stories That Use Them
If you need some inspiration before incorporating mythical creatures into your own work, look no further.
The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe is a classic example of using mythical creatures to tell a story. Fauns and centaurs fill the pages, right alongside talking beavers and a wild lion.
The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy that pushes the boundaries of mythical creatures by creating its own. Orcs, in many ways similar to goblins, play the role of the enemy.
Look no further than its prequel, The Hobbit, for an adventure story starring a dragon. The classic Beowulf does so as well.
Fairies have filled the pages of Shakespeare’s work, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and J.M. Barrie’s children’s story, Peter Pan.
Writing Realistic Creatures
When it comes time to write your mythical creatures into your story, it’s important to add layers of realism to them, just as you would any other creature. For instance, horses flick their skin to ward off flies. This detail adds realism.
In the same way, how can you write your creatures in ways readers can relate to? Mythical creatures are by name, mythical, and therefore not relatable. Make them relatable by pulling out these small details.
As a parting tip of advice, let’s briefly discuss J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. In the movie of the same name, Eddie Redmayne’s character has a special relationship with his creatures. He sees their personality and treats them with respect. This makes these mythical creatures come alive.
Now you have a list of creatures to draw from, examples of stories and film that incorporated them, and tips on how to use them to add realism to your writing.
The most difficult part remains—choosing your creature! Don’t hesitate to choose your creature and write your first sentence of description. Starting is difficult but once you do, you’re well on your way. Plus, you can always add another creature later. You’ve got this!