Top 15 Mythological Creatures: The Most Frightening Monsters

Updated on November 22, 2017
Sudhir Devapalan profile image

I am a front-end developer by profession, but I enjoy writing articles about anything mysterious, interesting, and fascinating.

Each culture around the world has its own set of legends and mythological creatures. Each one turns out to be more amazing the more you read about it. I have compiled a list of the most interesting mythological creatures and their folklore.

1. Centaurs:

The Centaur or Hippocentaur is a legendary creature from Greek mythology. It is said to have the upper body of a human and the lower body of a horse. They were the offspring of the cloud-nymph Nephele and the Lapith king Ixion. It is said that Ixon was in love with Hera, the wife of Zeus and apparently tried to rape her. Hera informed Zeus about his actions who decided to test her story. He made a cloud which resembled Hera and laid it near Ixon who went about boasting how he had enjoyed Hera. On finding this out, Zeus bound Ixon to a wheel which was whirled by winds through the air. The result of the union between Ixon and Nephele was the Centaurs. Chiron was considered to be the wisest and justest of the centaurs. Chiron was also a teacher who taught many Greek heroes including Achilles.

2. Basilisk:

The Basilisk is a creature from European legends. Its name means "little king" and the Basilisk is said to be the king of serpents. It is said to have the power to kill a person with a single glare. A Basilisk is born from a serpent's egg incubated by a cockerel. So the resulting creature would be half-bird and half-snake. They are one of the most feared and deadly creatures of the mythological world and are extremely hostile towards humans. Its venom is so toxic that it can kill a man from a meter's distance. In one story, the venom of the Basilisk traveled up the spear of the warrior who stabbed the Basilisk and killed not only the rider but his horse as well!

3. Chimera:

According to Greek mythology, the Chimera is a fire-breathing monster from Asia Minor. The Chimera looks like a Lion with the head of a Goat protruding from its back and a snake as its tail. The term Chimera has now been used to describe any mythical creature which has parts from various animals. The sight of a Chimera was considered to be a bad omen. The hero Bellerophon was commanded to slay this beast by King Iobates. Bellerophon rode into battle on his winged horse Pegasus and drove a lead-tipped sword into the Chimera's flame covered mouth choking it on the molten metal.

4. Medusa:

Medusa was the only mortal of the three Gorgon sisters - Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale. She used to be a beautiful maiden but then one day Poseidon raped her in the temple of Athena. The enraged Athena turned Medusa into a hideous creature with the face of an ugly woman, snakes for hair and anyone who would dare look at her face would be turned to stone. In her despair, she became as gruesome as her outward appearance. She fled to Africa where young snakes dropped from her hair and according to Greeks, this was how the continent became inhabited by many poisonous snakes. Medusa was finally slain by Perseus. It is said that when Perseus cut off her head from the blood were born two creatures - Chrysaor and Pegasus.

5. Banshee:

Banshee is a female spirit from Irish folklore. The word banshee means "woman of the fairy mound" or "fairy woman".The scream of a banshee is believed to be an omen of death. The wail or scream is also called as a "caoine" which means "keening". The wail is supposed to be a warning about an imminent death in the family. The banshees are not always portrayed as evil. Some are considered to have strong ties with families and it is said that each family has a banshee. They sing sorrowful haunting songs filled with love and concern for the families.

6. Cyclops:

The cyclopes were giant one-eyed monsters in Greek mythology which were a wild race of lawless creatures. The word cyclopes mean "round eye". The most famous cyclops, Polyphemus was a man-eating monster. The cyclops are said to be the sons of Uranus and Gaia. It was the Cyclopes who provided Zeus's thunderbolt, Hades' helmet of invisibility and Poseidon's trident. These were the weapons used to destroy the Titans.

7. Minotaur:

The Minotaur was a monster in Greek mythology which was half-bull and half-man. He lived in a Labyrinth which was present underneath the court of King Minos in Crete. Poseidon had gifted Minos with a Cretan bull which was supposed to be sacrificed. But he kept the bull instead of sacrificing it which enraged Poseidon. He made Minos' wife Pasiphae fall in love with the bull and Minotaur was their offspring. The newly born Minotaur would eat only humans and so Minos created a Labyrinth to keep the Minotaur as advised by the Oracle and sent human sacrifices as food for the creature. Theseus, the son of the king of Athens then slew the Minotaur with the help of the daughter of Minos who fell in love with him and aided him with a sword and length of rope. The rope was tied outside the maze so that it can be followed all the way out after slaying the beast.

8. Kraken:

According to Scandinavian mythology, the Kraken is a legendary sea monster of giant size. It is said to dwell off the coasts of Norway and Greenland. The Kraken is usually described as a giant squid or octopus-like creature but it has also been described as crab-like. There are various tales of the Kraken attacking and destroying ships. It is also capable of making giant whirlpools which could bring down ships. It is believed that the myth of the Kraken could have originated from giant squids which could grow up to 18 meters long and would be rarely seen by humans.

9. Cerberus:

According to Greek mythology, Cerberus is a three-headed dog which guards the entrance to the underworld where the dead are allowed to enter but no one is allowed to leave. Apart from its three heads, the Cerberus has the tail of a serpent, a mane of snakes and the claws of a lion. The name Cerberus is derived from the Greek word "Kerberos" meaning "spotted". His three heads were supposed to denote the past, present and the future. They were also said to denote birth, youth and old age. The most powerful weapon for Cerberus was his stare which could turn anyone into stone. He had razor sharp teeth and his bite was also poisonous.

10. Phoenix:

The Phoenix is a mythical bird which does not die but is cyclically regenerated. The Phoenix is referenced in Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Egyptian, and Native American cultures. In all cultures, the bird is identified with the Sun. It is said to be colorful and vibrant and is said to have peacock like coloring. When the Phoenix senses that its end is near, it builds a nest of aromatic woods and sets it on fire. From the pile of ashes is formed a new young Phoenix. The Phoenix is a symbol or renewal and resurrection.

11. Sphinx:

The Sphinx was a mythical monster present in both Greek and Egyptian mythologies portrayed as having the head of a human and the body of a lion. In Greek mythology, the Sphinx was considered to be a woman. She also had the wings of an eagle and the tail of a serpent. According to myth, she stayed outside the city of Thebes and asked travelers a famous riddle- "Which creature has one voice but 4 feet in the morning, 2 at noon and three feet at night?" Anyone who answered incorrectly was eaten. After Oedipus had answered her riddles correctly the Sphinx killed herself. The Egyptian Sphinx is an unwinged creature with the figure of a lion and the upper body of a human.

12. Mermaid:

A mermaid is a legendary aquatic creature with the head and upper body of a female human and the lower body of a fish. Mermaids appear in folklore from around the world. The mermaids are associated with misfortunes such as drownings and shipwrecks. They are known for being stunningly beautiful and lead sailors astray onto rocky shoals. Their male counterpart is called as Mermen. They also have a fierce reputation of summoning storms, sinking ships and drowning men. There have even been modern sightings of Mermaids around the world but there is no definitive proof.

13. Hydra:

The Lernaean Hydra is a water monster from Greek mythology. It is said that the Hydra had many heads and whenever a head was chopped off, two heads will grow back in its place. The hydra had a poisonous breath and its blood was also deadly poisonous. It is said that the hero Hercules killed the Hydra with sword and fire. He protected his nose from the poisonous gas using a cloth and after cutting off a head he cauterized the open wound with fire to stop it from regenerating. Hera, who raised the Hydra then turned the dead monster into a constellation of the same name.

14. Kappa:

The Kappa is an imp or demon in Japanese folklore. Its name means "river child". The Kappa has a small pool of water suspended above their head signifying their life force and habitat. The Japanese children are warned not to go near rivers or lakes as the Kappa are often said to lure people near the water and pull them in. The Kappa resembles a frog or a monkey the size of a human child. They are supposed to have a humanoid face, tortoise beak, shell and scaly skin. There are references to their capability to keep promises which can be extracted from them by tricking them into bowing their head which causes the water above their head (their life force) to spill. Once the water is spilled they lose their supernatural powers.

15. Lamia:

According to Greek mythology, Lamia was the mistress of the God Zeus. This caused Zeus' jealous wife Hera to kill Lamia's children and transform her into a monster that hunts and devours the children of others. It is said that she had the lower body of a serpent. She was also cursed to not be able to close her eyes so that she can forever obsess over her lost children. Zeus, however, took pity on her and enabled her to take her eyes off of her eye sockets. He did this so that she could rest as she could not close her eyes. It is also said that Lamia had a voracious sexual appetite which matched her hunger for hunting children. She is said to enjoy sucking men's blood. Scylla was the only child of Lamia who escaped but she was also turned into a monster.

Which mythological creature did you find most interesting?

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© 2017 Sudhir

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    • profile image

      hayden 4 weeks ago

      Great stuff

    • Sudhir Devapalan profile image
      Author

      Sudhir 6 weeks ago from Chennai, India

      I'm glad that you enjoyed reading it. :)

    • profile image

      brianna 7 weeks ago

      these facts are very helpful

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