17 March 2010

Mythical Creatures

told by James Harpur, illustrated by Stuart Martin

Allen and Unwin. Young Adult. Paperback rrp $14.95

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This captivating book contains ‘spellbinding tales of fearsome beasts, terrifying creatures and magical monsters’. Its outstanding illustrations in vibrant colours and vivid images support the text that informs on Greek, Egyptian and Norse myths, German folklore and Chinese tales. There are thirteen different sections, some with sub-sections. Each page is coloured to imitate aged papyrus, and would suit age 12+ due to the graphic pictures of the mythical creatures.

Giant Trolls introduce Cyclops and Balor, the one-eyed giants. Half Human, Half Beast, presents the Centaur, Minotaur and Satyr. Dragons of the Orient shows the dual image of dragons. Commonly viewed as killers, they are honoured in China where the Chinese calendar depicts Dragon types as having a ‘dragon-like ability to soar to the skies with their ambitious ideas …are confident and brave… providing leadership to others’. The Dragons of the West alternately tells the tales of St George and the Dragon, and the Dragon of the Golden Fleece.

Horrifying Hybrids show us the Fire-Breathing Chimera, also described in Homer writings, which has the head and main body of a lion, a writhing snake for a tail, and a goat’s head poking up from its back. There is also Ammut, the Devourer of Hearts; an underworld demon with the head of a crocodile, the body of a lion in front, and that of a hippo behind. Last of the hybrids is the Theban Sphinx. There is a riddle here for the reader to solve.

Deadly Serpents presents the Midgard Serpent, The Hydra with its nine heads, and the lethal Basilisk. Dark Destroyers focuses on the female creatures and their incredible abilities with the Harpies, The Furies, and the snake-headed Medusa. Monsters of the Deep claims Scylla and Charybdis, while Water Maidens, speak of Sirens and the Rhine Maiden. Magical Horses picture the magnificent Unicorns, and Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horse. Hellish Hounds uncovers the Hounds of Hades, the four-eyed Dogs of Yama and Garm from the sacred Hindu book Rig Veda, and Fenrir the Giant Wolf. The book winds up with Winged Wonders and Shape-shifters – Werewolves, Selkies and Proteus.


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