I hope you are all enjoying February is Fantasy Month as much as I am so far! I have so many fun things planned and going on… I feel a bit like a juggler! Which is especially fun, because I’ve never been able to juggle for real.
As I mentioned earlier, this first week is supposed to be all about Fantastic Creatures. So it’s high time I wrote a blog post about them, don’t you think? Today is a quick run-down of six of what I believe to be the most common fantasy creatures I tend to see in the genre, and tomorrow I’ll post about some less common ones that I’d like to see more of!
Dragons (sub-class draken, wyverns, fire-drakes, etc)
Dragons are probably the most common fantasy creatures of all, and why not? The possibilities are limitless. With their size, strength, fire-breath, and potential for magical abilities, dragons can be an extremely versatile addition to any fantasy novel or fairy tale. They can be mentors, protagonists, heroes, or villains. They can be beasts or highly intelligent. Dragons add that spine-tingling shiver of anticipation… that sensation of “pull the book closer and snuggle down into the covers, because this is about to get good!”
Dragon of the Lost Sea by Lawrence Yep, Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Dragon Friend by Marc Secchia, Lord of Snow and Shadows by Sarah Ash, The Oath by Frank Peretti, The Magic Kingdom series by Terry Brooks, Dragon and Scholar by H.L. Burke, and The Dragon of Trelian by Michelle Knudsen. There are also many dragons in all the books of the Minstrel’s Song series.
Reign of Fire, The Hobbit movies, Merlin (the BBC TV series), The Neverending Story, Dragonheart, and the new Pete’s Dragon
A legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion, and the front legs, wings, and head of an eagle, gryphons (or griffins, depending on how you want to spell it) inspire images of nobility, ferocity, and majesty. They do not feature in nearly as many modern-day tales as dragons, but they are instantly recognizable.
Orphan’s Song by Gillian Bronte Adams, they show up in a few books by Diana Wynne Jones, and they feature in my own Minstrel’s Song series at various times.
Quest for Camelot, Spiderwick Chronicles, the newer Chronicles of Narnia movies
Unicorns are another staple of fantasy fiction, and they tend to bring a fairy-tale feel along with them. Enigmatic, usually shy creatures of great power, unicorns are more than just horses with horns.
Birth of the Firebringer by Meredith Ann Pierce (this one also has gryphons), Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl has some of the most unique unicorns I’ve ever read, The Black Unicorn by Terry Brooks. In my series, unicorns are healers and shape-shifters. They feature in Second Son and Yorien’s Hand.
I have to admit, I really enjoy the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series with my kids!
The winged horse. Who wouldn’t want one, really? Though I haven’t seen these in tons of modern-day stories, Pegasus is another creature from mythology that most people have heard of. While other fantasy creatures tend to be wary of humans or a bit offended at the thought of having a human ride them, Pegasus are usually depicted like horses. Though they sometimes have the capacity for speech, Pegasus tend to be on friendly terms with humans and willing to ferry them places in fiction.
The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis, The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, Minstrel’s Song series
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic cartoon, and I remember a sort of Pegasus creature in the 2003 A Wrinkle in Time movie.
Another horse variation, the centaur has the body and legs of a horse and a torso/head/arms of a man. I’ve seen quite a few centaurs in literature lately. They are usually depicted as either extremely wise, or extremely violent (sometimes both in the same story). They tend to regard humans as young or foolish.
The Darksword Trilogy by Margaret Weis/Tracy Hickman, Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, Centaur Rising by Jane Yolen
Other than in the film adaptations of some of the above books, and a cartoon episode of Phineas and Ferb, I don’t think I’ve seen centaurs in very many screen-stories.
(I couldn’t find an appropriate mermaid picture on pixabay – which is where I got all the other images… but this one was too adorable to pass up – I feel the need to write a story about this image now….)
Enigmatic creatures with the upper body of a human and the tail of a fish… stories about mermaids appear in the folklore and myths of cultures around the world. A fascination with the ocean and its mysteries and the idea of human-like creatures inhabiting its depths seems to be part of the human condition. Mermaids are often depicted as shy, reclusive creatures who avoid contact with humans. They have also been depicted as treacherous or dangerous, and it is said they often use their beautiful voices to lure sailors to their deaths, or use their powers over the seas to cause storms and floods.
The Odyssey by Homer, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, Talori and the Shark by Jessica L. Elliot was one of my favorites in the Fantastic Creatures anthology - which I am linking to because 1) the stories are really good, and full of fantastic creatures (as the name implies) and 2) because it’s always free, so you should grab a copy! Mermaids are referenced in King’s Warrior, and make an actual appearance in Minstrel’s Call… but in my world they are flighty creatures
There are quite a few books featuring mermaids in the Fellowship of Fantasy group that I am interested in reading. The ones on my immediate TBR list are: Tomb of the Sea Witch by Kyle Robert Shultz and the Lord of Dreams by C.J. Brightley (which was the January book-club read, and I have it, I just haven’t had time to read it!)
The Little Mermaid, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, Hook, H2O Mermaid Adventures cartoon
Of these slightly more common fantasy creatures, which one is your favorite? Are there any you feel are overdone, or that you’re picky about the way they are portrayed? I’d love to chat with you about it!