Mythology lovers, I'm looking at you
June 5, 2012 12:55 AM   Subscribe

Please tell me about mythical creatures, particularly humanoid ones, besides vampires, and werewolves. My protagonist needs some origins.

I'm in the really preliminary stages of figuring out the mythology for a (barebones, more idea than actual story) story I've had rolling around in my head for ages. I'm pretty put out with the usual suspects, though I haven't ruled out making my heroine a fairly traditional witchy-type. I'm also kinda digging on valkyries, but neither of these has stuck. I've already ruled out the succubus and siren options. Google and his girlfriend Wikipedia are treating me right in the search, but the triumvirate is incomplete without AskMe's input. What mythical creature could you see leading in an urban fantasy story?
posted by goosechasing to Writing & Language (24 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe a dryad linked to an urban tree, or a bogart (a location or household spirit) tied to an urban location or large building? What happens to a house-spirit when a house is destroyed or converted into offices?

A banshee?

Have you looked at Japanese mythology? Something like a kitsune fox woman might work.
posted by BinaryApe at 1:27 AM on June 5, 2012

could be fun. Wendigo too, if only for improbability.
posted by 23 at 1:29 AM on June 5, 2012

markup fail: "Boo Hag could be fun".
posted by 23 at 1:30 AM on June 5, 2012

There are so many, and without knowing your tastes and goals I doubt we can tell you what to write...

... but I thought of the Iara right away, given that you are looked at sirens, but that might not work if they can be ruled out under the same reasoning that led you to rule out sirens.

If I were to sit down right now and write something for myself based on a mythological creature right now, I would probably go for the Gamayun or the Narechnitsi.

My second choice would be the Gumiho/Kumiho because they're so well-suited to new stories, but the downside to that one is that there are already so many stories about them.

Since you've been on Wikipedia, I'm assuming you found this list page, but I thought I'd link it directly just in case you hadn't.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:35 AM on June 5, 2012

*Offer only valid on land
posted by Abiezer at 1:37 AM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

How about a peri, deer woman, or aos sí?
posted by RichardP at 1:57 AM on June 5, 2012

How about a cyclops who has somehow been reduced to the height of a human?
posted by XMLicious at 1:57 AM on June 5, 2012

Rusalki, from slavic folklore, are the spirits of maidens that drowned. They haunt lakes and rivers, and possibly other water sources in a urban setting. They are friendly as long as the weather is warm, but turn batshit insane when it gets colder.
posted by MinusCelsius at 2:24 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Previously on Ask MetaFilter: The Obakemono Project will tell you more than you probably wanted to know about monsters of Japanese folklore, with illustrations.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:59 AM on June 5, 2012

Tulpa! - Although that might work better for a potential love interest.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:24 AM on June 5, 2012

Angels and demons, local gods of rivers, mountains or whatever, nymphs (there are many different types - naiads and dryads are only the beginning), fauns, satyrs, golems, revenants, liches ... seriously, find someone with a Dungeon and Dragons Monster Manual and you'll probably get heaps more ideas.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:30 AM on June 5, 2012

Try the Thompson. Motif-index of folk-literature
posted by sammyo at 4:31 AM on June 5, 2012

Púca deserve another popular airing. Its been a while since Harvey.
posted by rongorongo at 4:34 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nephilim are, by some interpretations, the offspring of angels who have taken human wives.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 6:27 AM on June 5, 2012

The Leanan Sidhe are a neat cross between muses and vampires, though I don't know how they'll be for protagonists. Irish mythology in general is great for this sort of thing.
posted by nickhb at 6:51 AM on June 5, 2012

She's got to be a penanggalan.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:10 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yuki Onna. Kappa.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:16 AM on June 5, 2012

Grendel's mother. A Gorgon. A psychopomp. A genius loci. A faerie-like being such as La Belle Dame sans Merci.

Other mythic humanoids.

Seconding Joe in Australia that fantasy game supplements like D&D's Monster Manual or Pathfinder's Bestiary would be great sources of inspiration.
posted by Boxenmacher at 7:28 AM on June 5, 2012

Perchta Belly-Slitter is my favorite Christmas Witch
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:29 AM on June 5, 2012

I recommend reading Hellboy for some additional inspiration. Hellboy regularly encounters creatures from all sorts of myths and legends from around the world.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:43 AM on June 5, 2012 has useful roundups of the more obscure spirits of Greek mythology, including the daimones, the gigantes, the Plinian tribes*, the dracaenae, and the two dozen distinct classes of nymphai.

*already raided by Cat Valente for her Dirge for Prester John series.
posted by Iridic at 9:52 AM on June 5, 2012

There are some interesting creatures up here in Scandinavia that I have never seen in any urban fantasy. My choice for your heroin would probably be a Huldra.

In Swedish she is known as skogsrået. She will appear as a beautiful woman. Some say that when she favors you, your hunting and fishing will be rich and bountiful. Most agree that it is dangerous to cross her, and that she is never to be trusted, since men have been known to follow her deep in the woods and disappear. Everyone knows that she is not what she appears at first glance. Sometimes she doesn't even try to hide her lush fox tail (though if you see it, it is polite not to mention it) but she won't ever show you her back, which is like a hollow old tree trunk.

We also have Näcken, the Neck, who is always male in Sweden, but apparently there's a female counterpart down in Germany. (And who says the myths are absolutely correct? Maybe Näcken isn't always male.) Like the Selkie above, Näcken is a water spirit. He takes the shape of a beautiful young man who plays such haunting melodies on his violin that it bewitches those who listen, making them walk into the water to be with him - forever.
posted by harujion at 11:16 AM on June 5, 2012

I think my favorite underused monster is the manananggal.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:48 AM on June 5, 2012

I'll second manananggal - I just encountered them in a short comic and it was a surprising and interesting addition to my knowledge. They resemble the penanggalan, which I hadn't heard of.

In Brazil there's the Encantado, which are basically shapechanging dolphins from a magical undersea kingdom.

This is a big list of medieval monsters. Gryllus would be hard to work, but fun.

The best source for this would probably be Everyman's Dictionary of Non-Classical Mythology, though it's long out of print and I gave my copy away.
posted by 23 at 11:46 PM on June 5, 2012

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