Home BiologyThe Most Notable Mythological Creatures in History and the Science Behind the Stories
BiologyBy Joe Burgett -

The Most Notable Mythological Creatures in History and the Science Behind the Stories
[Image via Melkor3D/Shutterstock.com]

Dragons: The Creature Dinosaur Fossils Likely Created

  • Numerous Mythologies

Probably the most famous of all mythological creatures we’ll list here is the Dragon. You’ve seen them used in notable fantasy epics like Game of Thrones. While at the same time, they are referenced in a lot of literature. These creatures are known for essentially being large reptiles with the look of a lizard. At the same time, they were said to have scales and could usually breathe & blow fire. Most could even fly. The size the creatures would get to differs depending on the story.

Did these mythological creatures ever exist in any form? No, the answer is clearly no. However, we can see why some made the mistake of assuming they did. First, we should keep in mind that Dinosaur Fossils have been discovered by ancient people too, dating back to the mid-B.C. periods. If you’re from an ancient era and discover a fossilized Stegosaurus for example….it’s easy to assume this was something more than it truly was. Even fossils of whales could make people assume a lot.

Crocodiles & Monitor Lizards were known to be scary, but some fossils pinpoint a few notable similarities with dinos. Today, we know dinosaurs are closer to birds than reptiles. Yet we cannot deny the reptile-like similarities they have. You combine this with the human brain and we create our own worst fears. We create something out of nothing, but when we have things to work with..look out! A large fire-breathing dinosaur-like reptile? Sounds about right!

The Most Notable Mythological Creatures in History and the Science Behind the Stories
[Image via BreakerMaximus/Shutterstock.com]

Werewolves: As Close To Real As You’ll Ever Get

  • Greek Mythology

Before they were ever used in teen drama series or random YA books, Werewolves were notable in Greek Mythology. Likely the biggest story comes from the Legend of Lycaon. According to the story, Lycaon is the son of the mythological Argos King Pelasgus. Sadly, Lycaon angered Zeus, the King of the Gods, after serving him a meal made from the remains of a sacrificed boy. To punish Lycaon for this, he turned him and all his sons into wolves.

We’d see Werewolves then pop up as half-man/half-wolf later on. In more literature-based stories, we see Werewolves being affected by something that triggers their inner-wolf to come out. This might be from a full moon or something similar. Our focus is on the mythological creatures here. We can tell you that they kind of do exist, but not as one might assume. There is a medical condition referred to as “The Werewolf Syndrome.” The condition is actually called Hypertrichosis, however.

It gives people hair pretty much everywhere. Not like how we see it, but every single place. On top of this, it comes in quite thick for many. Those with a lighter form of the condition look pretty normal, yet those with a terminal version will be covered in dark, thick hair. Some even have different facial structures that can be seen by some as animalistic. Many of these people live among each other and have families…with most children also having the disease.

The Most Notable Mythological Creatures in History and the Science Behind the Stories
[Image via Digital Storm/Shutterstock.com]

Unicorns: Some Small Basis In Reality

  • Various Mythologies

Unicorns have been referenced in the world of fantasy pretty much since we all can remember. There are several versions that have been referenced. Yet the earliest account of unicorns actually comes from Natural History, believe it or not. While the Greeks never really discussed them in their mythology…unicorns became a staple in other mythologies. Many believe they existed at some point, with several historians referencing them.

Greeks claimed that Unicorns simply lived in India…considered to be a far-off and strange magical land to the Greeks and early societies. Yet highly-respected historian Pliny the Elder cited seeing one, claiming it to have “the body of a horse, feet of an elephant, tail of a boar, and a three-foot horn in the middle of its forehead.” Yet many feel this description gives us a clue that the Unicorn referenced by Pliny was nothing more than a Rhino.

We know Rhinos lived in Asia for a long time with many sadly dying out. Although anthropologists once discovered a rhino-like pre-historic animal that was about 8,000lbs but was shaped a lot like a cross between a rhino and horse. They named it Elasmotherium sibiricum or “the Siberian Unicorn.” Back in 2016, anthropologists from the area studied the skull of the species and found that it traced back to just 29,000 years ago. Meaning, it would have likely had contact with humans.

The Most Notable Mythological Creatures in History and the Science Behind the Stories
[Image via Tithi Luadthong/Shutterstock.com]

Zombies: Real Mythological Beings That Were Heavily Enhanced Later On

  • Mostly Western Mythology

We should preface this by saying that zombies may not sound like creatures to people. However, they were made into mythological creatures by mostly western sources. This includes not just mankind but animals being made into zombies too. It is actually true that a version of zombies did actually exist dating back to roughly between the 16th to 18th Centuries on the island of Haiti. At the time, many of the people populating the island were actually slaves.

The French mostly dominated the territory until Haitians fought for and won their freedom. However, ancient medical practices from West Africa (namely voodoo) came with the slaves. Witch Doctors who practiced voodoo claimed that they could bring the dead back to life and force them to do manual labor for their master and carry out the deeds they wished. This actually did happen, but not like fantasy tells you. Witch Doctors brought people back from the brink of death using Tetrodotoxin.

This lowered the heart rate and made people fall into a deep sleep. They would even be buried and dug up later. Some died when this was done but those that lived came out assuming they were dead. Of course, Tetrodotoxin is a neurotoxin and can heavily damage the brain. Thereby making people less combative, taking away speech, memory, and some motor skills. Yet not enough to hurt their slave benefit. Witch Doctors used some but would sell others. It was a perfect scheme for years!

The Most Notable Mythological Creatures in History and the Science Behind the Stories
[Image via Juan Manuel Kreiter/Shutterstock.com]

Bigfoot (Sasquatch): How Misidentification Led To The Legend Being Created

  • Western Mythology

It is uncertain truly when the Bigfoot mythology began, but we know it is well over 100 years old. It has mostly been a big deal for both American and Canadian legend. To this very day, people still reference seeing Bigfoot all over North America. Of course, most results turn up pretty empty. This is because the creature people are looking for simply does not exist and never really did. The mythology behind Bigfoot has grown over the years, to a point where it has become highly unbelievable.

The actual name of “Big Foot” was first used for a Wyandot Chief back in the 1830s. He actually did have a large foot and was quite an imposing figure with incredible strength. Later on, a man named Spotted Elk was given the nickname of Chief Big Foot. Of course, he died during the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. The only others with this name were usually just bears and were given the name simply due to how large they were. The press at the time referenced them as “Bigfoot.”

The first bear was killed in 1895 while the other was said to have been active into the 1900s with apparently some form of supernatural powers connected to it. The reason was that people had trouble capturing or killing the creature for decades. Yet this all inspired the mythology of the creature. While mythological creatures like Bigfoot normally connect to the believed appearance…it’s likely that the legend began with a mix-up between the Native American Chiefs & notable large Bears.

The Most Notable Mythological Creatures in History and the Science Behind the Stories
[Image via DomCritelli/Shutterstock.com]

Cyclops: The One-Eyed Super Beings That Were An Aid To The Gods

  • Greek & Roman Mythology

It seems that every major mythology has some version of the Cyclops. Yet this all began back in Greek Mythology and later played a big role in Roman Mythology. The biggest stories they are connected to is Theogony by Hesiod as well as The Odyssey by Homer. In the former, there is a group of Cyclops creatures known as Brontes, Steropes, and Arges. They actually made Zeus’ thunderbolt. Meanwhile, in Homer’s story, the creatures are uncivilized shepherds.

They are encountered by Odysseus on his travels. Of course, the other most notable use has to be the Cyclopean Walls of Mycenae & Tiryns. Cyclops are usually referenced as One-Eyed beings that are generally large. Most are unable to have a proper conversation with several grunts in their language. They count as mythological creatures due to being only slightly humanoid, being no better than Great Apes in many cases.

Are stories behind Cyclops creatures true? Not really. While a person can clearly be born with only one functioning eye or lose it due to some accident, that is about it. Therefore, someone might have been in a war and lost an eye…causing him to only have one. Of course, it is not crazy for a person to be large or unintelligent. Therefore, if you add all of that up…then perhaps they could have existed. Yet they would not have been like their mythological counterparts.

The Most Notable Mythological Creatures in History and the Science Behind the Stories
[Image via World Wrestling Entertainment]

Giants: Mythological Creatures That Hold Some Relation To Reality

  • Literally Every Mythology Ever

It does not matter what mythology you follow or even what religion, giants likely have a role somewhere in them. They count as mythological creatures mostly due to the stories surrounding them. Most are not really possible while some stories hold some level of truth. Yet most giants were usually centered on war and terror, with many in mythological stories acting as cold-blooded killers. Some even ate the human beings they killed. Stories are quite insane, but there is still some truth.

Do Giants actually exist? Yes and No. Back in the B.C period, people were actually smaller than they are today on average. Yet roughly somewhere between 2,000 to 3,000 B.C. when a lot of mythology began, the height would have been closer to 5 feet flat. Therefore, a person at just 6 feet could be considered gigantic. In the Biblical story involving David & Goliath, it is said that Goliath was a giant. Yet he was roughly between 6’9 and 7 feet tall, which while obviously tall is not gigantic.

Gigantism is behind a lot of this. It’s an issue with the human pituitary gland that causes a person to never really stop growing. Big Show of the WWE had this but a surgery invented when he was young helped him, yet he’s still over 7 feet tall. Andre the Giant, also of wrestling fame, had the disorder but the surgery was not present when he was younger. He died mostly from the disease. Many people could have existed with this disorder, which made some stand out as mythological giants

Advertisement