A Centaur is half-horse and half-man, with the head and arms of a man and the body of a horse. It is one of the best known of all Greek mythological creatures and is said to have come from Thessaly in Northern Greece. The myth may have arisen because of the skillful horsemanship of the people there.
Dragons appears in the myths of many cultures, especially China, where the Dragon was a symbol of the emperor. A typical Dragon has a serpent-like body covered with scales, large wings and can breathe fire. In legends, dragons often guard a cave of treasures.
Fairies also feature in many tales. They are usually sweet, kindly creatures. In the middle ages, however, people believed that Fairies stole children and replaced them with fairy beings known as changeling.
Giants are ogres are enormous human – shaped creatures. They are usually seen as fearsome but stupid monster that feed on human flesh. Famous giants include Goliath in the Bible, and Cyclops, Atlas and the Titan in Greek mythology.
Leprechauns are small Irish fairies who bring good luck. They are helpful creatures, usually shown wearing green clothes, with an apron, buckled shoes and a red cap. Their fun – loving nature means that Leprechauns are fond of alcohol, music and sport but they are also mischievous and love practical jokes. Other little people, including dwarfs, elves, gnomes and pixies, appear in many European fairy stories.
Mermaids are beautiful creatures with the head and body of a woman and the tail of a fish. The first mermaid legend is thought to have been the story of Atargatis, a Syrian moon goddess of about 1000 BC. Atargatis had a child with a human. She then killed her lover, abondened the child and jumped into a lake, where she took the form of a Mermaid.
Trolls are grotesque, malicious and rather dim – witted creatures in Scandinavian folklore. They are said to steal sleeping children, sometimes replacing them with one of their own. Trolls have poor eyesight and are active only at night because sunlight turns them to stone.
A Unicorn has the body of a horse, a lion’s tail, a goat’s beard, an antelope’s legs and a single, often twisted, horn growing from its forehead. The Unicorn is a popular subject in medieval stories; it is ferocious but good, and can purify water – or neutralize poison – by dipping its horn into it. The wait to catch a Unicorn is to use a young girl as bait, as a Unicorn will lie down peacefully next to a maiden.
Werewolves, or Lycanthropes are mythical creatures in the folk tales of many cultures. They usually appear as men by day, but may turn into wolves on the night of a full moon. The werewolf is bloodthirsty and ruthless. It devours its prey and shows none of the remorse that it might have felt in human form.
Vampires are the undead who drink the blood of the living to survive. Ideas about vampires include the belief that plunging a wooden stake through a vampire’s heart can destroy it. Some people also think that you can protect yourself against vampires with garlic, holy water, crosses and bibles, and that a vampire can’t enter a home unless invited.