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Monsters and other Creatures

by John Finch

My curiosity was aroused by seeing certain creatures appearing in different computer games over and over, e.g. Orcs. So I started looking up the origins of these creatures – and it became quite a task, which apparently has no end! Any way, in compiling this list, I have not attempted to describe ALL monsters and other nasties, but restricted myself to those creatures I have become aware of as being used in various computer games. I have not included those characters that I assumed were common knowledge e.g. Archers.

AmazonsArmenian for “Moon women”. Greek mythology. Renown as fierce warriors, they lived on the South-eastern shores of the Black Sea (Scythia). They worshiped the moon and bore arms. Their speciality was the bow. One famous Queen of the Amazons was Hippolyte, who was captured by Theseus and taken back to Attica by him. (7). Alternately Brewer (5) describes the name Amazon as being a Greek word meaning “without breast”, in that they cut off one breast that they might better draw the bow.
Assassin(Hashishin) Originally a sect of Moslem fanatics founded in Persia (about 1090AD)., They were killers by treachery and mainly directed their terrorism against the Seljuk authority. They later extended their influence through Iraq and Syria in the early 12th Century. Their name “hashishin” is derived from their reputed habit of taking hashish prior to their murderous assaults. (5)
Baal(Means Lord) A Canaanite god originally associated with thunderstorms; however, the title “Baal” has been used in numerous other roles. He was not considered an evil god but Jahweh eventually replaced the worship of Baal. (2, 5, 14 et. al)
BalrogTolkien describes it as a kind of fire demon, or demon of might. Servants of Melkor. “Their hearts were of fire, but they were cloaked in darkness; they had whips of flame”. (3) (See Note 1)
BansheeCeltic mythology. (Ban-shee or Bean-shee, means fairy woman). Her appearance presages death, although in other tales, they take part in banquets and fight alongside the warriors. (c.f. Valkaries) (8)
BarbarianAnyone who was not Helene (Greek) or Roman. A rude, wild, uncivilized person who could not speak in a civilised toung (Greek or Latin). That means most of us! (5)
BasiliskThe Basilisk, or Cockatrice (q.v.), was a serpent with the head and wings of a cock and the tail of a dragon. King of the serpents (Basilus means King) Its glance killed whatever it encountered. (5)
BehemothA mighty mortal beast (Job 40:15) Biblical monster used as an object lesson for Job, probably a hippopotamus or rhinoceros. (2, 5)
BeholderNot traced other than that it is believed to have occult connections. (See Note 2)
Berserker(Beserkirs) Scandinavian mythology. Fierce warriors in the service of Odin. “They were as strong as bears and bulls...and neither fire nor steel could prevail against them. on battle fury and the memory of it”. (8)
Cabalist(Cabbalist). One who practices the Cabala. A group of people (11th Cent A.D.) who believed in mystical interpretations of the scriptures and “secrets of divine truth”. Jewish in origin; however, it spread to Europe in the Middle Ages. Also known as Kabbala or Quabbala. (5, 9, 14)
CantorA soloist who sings liturgical music in church. (14) (Note 2)
Centaurs(Kentaurs) A race of beings shaped like a horse with the body of a man in place of the horses neck. They dwelt in ancient Thessaly (Greece). The origin of the myth is probably from a tribe that were excellent horsemen and who were never seen off their horses, giving rise to the myth that it was one creature. (5)
CerberusA monstrous dog with three (or more) heads whom guarded the entrance to Hades (hell). Its capture was one of the 12 labours of Hercules. The origin may be in the use of dogs to guard graves in ancient Egypt. (5, 7)
CetoOrigin in the whale (Cetacea). A female sea monster in Greek mythology. One of the original creatures born from the mother earth and from whom the Gorgons (q.v.) descended. (5)
Chimaera(Chimera). Greek mythology. Described by Homer as a fire-breathing goat with a lion’s head and serpents body. A calendar symbol of a three part year where seasonal emblems were lion, goat and serpent. (5, 7)
CockatriceA fabulous and heraldic monster with wings of a fowl, tail of a dragon and the head of the cock. Similar to a Wyvern (q.v.) and Basilisk (q.v.) Isaiah 11:8. Possibly based on the crocodile. (1, 5).
CyclopsGreek mythology. A race of giants that had only one eye in the centre of their forehead. Living in caves, they forged iron for Vulcan. One was encountered by Odysseus (Homer; The Odyssey). In reality it is believed they were smiths who had concentric circles tattooed on their forehead to denote their trade. (5, 7) That they threw large rocks may stem from seeing rocks thrown from a volcano such as Etna.
DaemonDaimon or Demon. A demon is an evil spirit. The word is derived from the Greek daimon, which in ancient times signified various kinds of spirits or semi-divine beings, most of which were not specifically evil. Daimon came to mean an evil spirit in Jewish and Christian usage. It was given that meaning in the Septuagint (c.275-100 BC), the earliest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. In the Latin Vulgate (5th century AD), daemon was used to refer to idols and pagan gods in general, as well as to spirits that might take possession of human beings. The word demon is often synonymous with devil, which comes from the Greek diabolos ("deceiver"). Diabolos also refers to Satan, the prince of demons. (2, 4)
Dervish(Turkish) Mohamidian friar vowed to poverty. They are reported to perform religious dances and work themsellves into a frenzy, becoming capable of extreme feats of strength. (4)
Dendroid[Dendroidea]. Extinct marine organisms that built tree like forms with branches similar to coral. (6). Or from the Greek myth; Dendrites – tree youth. A title given to Dionyus during the spring festival. (7) (See Note 2)
DjinDjinn. See Jinn, Genie, Efreet et al (See Note 3)
DiabloThe devil. From the Greek – Diablos. Also known as Satan.
DragonA Lizard like monster with horny head and forked tongue, a scaly back and rib-like armour on chest and belly, bat like wings, four legs ending in talons and a pointed barbed tail. Origin in classical and medieval mythology. Some myths show two types of dragons, winged and wingless. (5). The dragon also is referred to in Biblical mythology as a creature of the devil (2)
Druid(Oak man) A pre-Roman Gallic (French) order of priests thought to possess special powers. (5) They used mistletoe from oak trees to concoct magic. After the Romans banned the cult they took refuge in England and finally disappeared about 560 AD (8). They were not warriors and took no part in fighting. There were several degrees in the order, with severe tests for the initiate to advance. A Bard was one of the lower degrees who specialised in music. Human sacrifice was part of their ritual.
Dwarf(pl: Dwarves) Teutonic and other north European sources. Generally Dwarves are the same class of creature as Elves (q.v.) but lived in rocks and caves. They were guardians of mineral wealth and precious stones. They were not unfriendly to man but could be vindictive. Reported height varied from 1 foot to 3 feet. (5, 8) Also used by Tolkien (3)
EfreetIfrit. Arabic. A Genie (q.v.) or Jinni. Ifrit is masculine, feminine is Ifritah (see note 3) (12)
Elf(pl: Elves) A Dwarfish being of Teutonic mythology, possessed of magical powers which it used for the good or ill of mankind. (5) Associated with natural life and resided in woods, water or mountains. Gentle and kind. They had a society with their own king. (8) Also used by Tolkien (3)
EnfieldHas a fox’s head and ears, a wolf’s body, hind legs and tail. An eagle’s shanks and talons for his forelegs. Origin in medieval heraldic mythology. (1).
FamiliarA spirit slave in the form of a cat, dog or raven; attendant upon a witch and supposed to be a demon in disguise. (1 Sam 28:7) (5)
FiendThe arch enemy of mankind. An evil spirit.
FuriesGreek mythology; aka Erinnyes – angry ones. Born from the blood of Uranus in the form of winged women. The daughters of night or darkness. They were merciless avengers against crime, especially against crimes against family or king. (5, 7)
GargoyleOriginally a grotesque form of animal or human figure projecting from a gutter to carry rain water clear of the building.
GenieJinni. Djin Arabic origin, A Spirit. “Whose head reached the clouds. . . his head was a dome, his hands like pitchforks, his legs like the masts of ships and his mouth like a cave . . . .” Genie is a translation of Jinni. See also Efreet, (12) (See note 3)
GeryonGreek mythology. A monster with three bodies and three heads. Killed by Hercules. (5)
Ghoul(Ghul or Goul) An evil spirit that robs graves and prey on human corpses. Arabic origin.
GiantsGiants – persons above normal height - play a large part in many mythologies and are generally accepted to stem from the finding of large bones from extinct animals that were assumed to be human. (5)
GnomeA Misshapen elemental spirit dwelling in the bowls of the earth and guarding mines and quarries. (5) Also used by Tolkien (3)
GoatThe goat as such is not a monster, but it has strong mystical connections with sin and associated with devil lore. (5) The devil is often shown as having goat horns and cloven hoofs.
GoblinA familiar demon dwelling in private houses. See also Kobold (5)
GolemA man like creature made from clay that can be given life by placing a piece of paper between its lips with the secret name of God written on it. From the Cabala. (q.v.) (9)
GollumSmeagol. A loathsome creature that lives in a dark cavern and will eat anything raw that he can catch - even Orcs. (3) (See Note 1)
GremlinAn Elf (q.v.) that is supposed to cause faults in technical equipment. Originated in the RAF during WW2. (5)
Gog, Maygog.British legend of the off-spring between demons and the daughters of the Emperor Diocletian. Their effigies stand in the Guildhall in London. (5)(10)
GorgonGreek mythology. The Gorgons were creatures of the underworld and depicted as winged females with their heads covered in serpents and having enormous teeth. There were only three; Sthenno, Euryale and Medusa. of these only Medusa (q.v.) was mortal. (5, 8)
GriffinGryphon or Griffon. Has the breast, head, fore-feet and wings of an eagle; the ears, hind quarters and tail of a lion. Griffins drew the chariot of the sun; they also guarded a golden treasure that the Arimaspians, a one-eyed Scythian people, tried to steal. Griffins probably originated in Indo-Iranian mythology (1, 5).
HalflingA Hobbit (q.v.). (See Note 2)
Harpy(Snatchers) A vulture with the head and breast of a woman. Origin in Greek mythology. (1, 8).
HephastoPossibly a diminutive of Hephaestus the Greek god who was a smith. (7)
HierophantAn interpreter of any esoteric principle or sacred mysteries.
Hobbit(Halfling). Man like, but about 3 feet tall. No beards and have little magic but they can make themselves invisible to the big folk (us). Live below ground. Timid but excellent thieves. There were three races of Hobbits; Harfoots, Stoors and Fallohides. (3) (See Note 1)
HobgoblinAn impish ugly and mischievous sprite. Origin possibly in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream in reference to Puck (II,i.) (5) Also mentioned by Tolkien in connection with Orcs. (3)
HydraGreek mythology. It was a nine (or more) headed water snake, and was one of the beasts destroyed by Hercules. (5). The name is still used for certain type of marine organisms (6)
HoradrimNot found. See note 2
IncubusA nightmare. A mediaeval demon who was supposed to have sexual relations with sleeping women. (see also Succubus). (5)
InfidelA person who disbelieves in every form of Christian faith. (14)
IzualNot traced. Note 2
Jinn(Djin, Genie Arabic myth. An order of spirits lower than angles, said to have the power to assume human or animal forms, and to exercise supernatural powers. See also Genie and Efreet. Jinn is masculine, Jinniah (Jinniyah) is the female form. (see note 3)
JuggernautHindu myth. Idol of the deity on an enormous cart, which has 16 wheels, the belief is that fanatical devotees threw themselves under the wheels to be crushed to death. (5) (See Ann St during rush hour).
KoboldA house spirit or underground goblin or demon; of German origin. (5) A Dwarf (q.v.) who preferred to live near men. They were elderly, wore hoods and liked to live in stables or cellars. (8)
LeviathanUgaritic (Hebrew) mythology, one of the primeval sea monsters, “a piercing crooked serpent” (under the name Lothan or Lotan) (Job 41.5).(2) (10)
LichOld English. A dead body.
MaelstromDutch. A whirlpool.
Mage.Someone who casts magic. A priestly cast credited with occult powers. Origins in Mediaeval legend. (5)
MagiBiblical wise men or sages (Matt 2:1-18) Teachers. (13, 14)
MawOld English. The stomach. “Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf, witch’s mummy Maw and gulf”. Macbeth 4:1;3.
Maygogsee Gog.
MedusaGreek mythology, Medusa was the only mortal of the three Gorgons (q.v.), daughters of the sea god Phorcys and his sister-wife Ceto. Originally very beautiful women, they were transformed into winged monsters, with serpents for hair, claws of bronze, huge teeth and staring eyes capable of turning anyone who looked at them into stone. The hero Perseus killed Medusa by cutting off her head whence the winged horse Pegasus (q.v.) sprang from the body. (7)
MephistoMephistopheles. Mocking evil spirit to whom Faust sold his soul. (11) The Devil.
MinotaurA Greek mythological monster, half man and half bull, the Minotaur was the offspring of Pasiphae, wife of King Minos of Crete, and a beautiful white bull. Poseidon had caused Pasiphae to fall in love with the bull as a punishment to Minos for failing to offer the bull in sacrifice to the gods. Kept in the labyrinth designed by Daedalus, where 14 youths were annually sacrificed to him by Minos, the Minotaur was finally killed by the Athenian hero Theseus, with the help of Ariadne, daughter of Minos. (4)
Nagas(Naginis) Indian mythology. Serpent deity with female body and serpent tail. Guardians of spiritual truth. (8)
NecromancerOne who can call up the dead. (5)
OgreGiants of malignant disposition who live on human flesh. Originated about 1600 in France. (5)
OpinicusHas a Griffin’s head, neck and wings, a lion’s body and a bear’s tail. Origin in classical and medieval mythology. (1). Or; it is a mixture of Dragon (q.v.) Camel and Lion. (5)
OrcOriginally a sea monster that devoured men. (Orc from orca, a whale). (5) However, Tolkien uses the term Orc to describe a man-like fierce beast, monster, daemon, goblin or hobgoblin. They can re-produce themselves and they have a language. (3) (See Note 1)
OtyughNot traced. Note 2
Paladin(French – means Champion). An officer of the palace. Usually confined in romance to the 12 Peers of Charlemangne’s court, and hence applied to any hero or knight-errant. Not strictly a monster as the Paladin is equated with good. (5)
PegasusGreek mythology, Pegasus was the winged horse of the Muses, born of the blood of the decapitated Medusa (q.v.). He was tamed by Bellerophon with the aid of a golden bridle given him by Athena. When Bellerophon tried to ride the horse to heaven, Pegasus, stung by a gadfly sent by Zeus, threw him to his death and continued the ascent alone, becoming the Stella constellation bearing the same name. (4)
PhantomA spirit or apparition, an illusionary appearance. (5)
Phoenix(Phoinix) Sacred bird of Egypt. It resembles an eagle but has red and gold plumage and said to be born in the ashes of a fire. (5) It visited Egypt only once in every 500 years on the death of the parent bird, where the sibling buries the body at the temple of the sun (13). “Phoenix” also appears in Greek mythology as the brother of Europe. He went in search of Europe when she was abducted by Zeus. Phoenicia was so named in his honour. (7)
PoltergeistA household ghost or spirit that can cause physical objects to move or create noises. [German: Polter – noise, Geist – spirit] (5)
RakshasaHindu. A “Genie”(q.v.).
Roc(Rukh) Arabian legend. A fabulous white bird of enormous size and strength, it preyed on Elephants for food. Described in ‘Sinbad the Sailor’. (5) (12)
SalamanderA lizard from which flames issue in all directions. (1). In reality there is a creature called a fire salamander, which grows to 16cm in length. It is glossy black with yellow, orange or red blotches. The skins of some sub-specie contain toxins. (6)
SatanThe Hebrew devil.
SextonAssistant to the priest, he rang the bells and dug the graves.
ShamanA priest of a primitive Slavonic (Siberian) religion (Shamanizm). They believed good and evil spirits governed the world. (5)
Siren(Those who bind with cord)
SorcererA wizard, a magician. Uses magic or enchantment through material objects e.g. hair clippings or effigies. Mediaeval mythology. (c.f. witch.) (11)
SphinxThere are two types of Sphinx. (a) Egyptian; Recumbent, with the body of a lion, wingless and with the face of a man. (b) The later Greek Sphinx had the body of a lion but with the head and breasts of a woman, a serpents tail and with eagles wings. The Greek Sphinx posed a riddle that was answered by Oedipus so freeing Thebes (7). Jung interprets this Sphinx as an expression of the boyhood urge to kill the father and marry the mother. Which in fact Oedipus did.
SpriteA spirit. A disembodied soul, a ghost. Mediaeval legend. (5)
StygianGreek mythology. Infernal, pertaining to the river Styx. (5). The Stygian Nymphs supplied Perseus with his winged sandals and helmet of invisibility, which he needed to kill the Medusa (q.v.). (7).
SuccubusMediaeval mythology. A female demon fabled to have sexual relations with sleeping men. (5)
TitansGreek Mythology. Children of Uranus and Gae. Of enormous size and strength they are the ancestors of the Greek gods (Zeus There was a power struggle between Zeus and the Titans, which Zeus won and he banished the Titans.(5) Titans are also found in Babylonian and Palestinian astrology where they were seven in number and gave rise to the seven day week (7)
TroglodyteAn ancient Greek race of uncivilised men who dwelt in caves or holes in the ground. (5)
TrollsIcelandic mythology. Malignant one eyed giants. They are especially averse to noise in the memory of the time when Thor was forever flinging his hammer after them. (5)
Unicorn(Latin; one horn) Resembles a horse but has one long projecting horn from the forehead, cloven hoofs and a lion’s tail. Always white body but whose tail may be coloured. Origin in ancient mythology. (1, 5).
UrdarA type of Djinn. (q.v.)
ValkyrieGermanic legend, attendants of Odin, messengers and hostesses at Valhalla. Female warriors on horseback. Normally invisible, those who can see them are about to die heroically and be taken to Valhalla, where they spend eternity at banquets drinking beer served to them by the valkyries. (8) (c.f. Banshee)
VampireThe ghost of a heretic who returns from the grave in the guise of a bat to suck the blood of sleeping persons. Slavonic origins. (5)
WarlockAn evil spirit or wizard. (5)
WendigoSaid to be a relative of the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman. Giant creatures supposed to be living high in the Himalayas. (11) (Note 2)
WerewolfSlavonic folk law. A man (Neuri) who could turn himself into a wolf and who roamed at night devouring infants. Its skin was proof against shot or steel unless the weapon had been blessed. (5, 8) Living in an area North West of the river Dnieper and near the river Bug live the Neuri. There is a story that they practice magic and once a year every Neurian turns into a wolf for a few days, then turns back into a man, (13).
WightAn old English word meaning a person. Usually associated with bad luck. (5) (See Note 2)
WitchSomeone who can manipulate powers of evil against people (Deut 18:10) (2). They possessed mystical power. Often accompanied by the ‘evil eye’ and the ability to produce ‘familiars’ (q.v.) (11)
WizardOne who practised magic, sorcery, divination or necromancy. Either male or female. (2)
WraithThe phantom of one still living, usually taken as an indication of death. A spectre or ghost. (5)
WyvernWivern. A kind of dragon but with only two legs. Green head, back and legs and a red chest belly and insides to his wings. Origin in classical and medieval mythology. (1).
ZakarumiteNot found See note 2
ZealotA Jewish sect or nationalistic movement who fought fanatically during the rebellion against Rome which began in 63 AD.. (2, 14)
ZombieThe python god of certain West African tribes. It survives in the Voodoo ceremonies. The term Zombie is also applied to a dead body brought to life by Voodoo magic. (5)

Note 1: Creatures invented, or re-invented, by Tolkien in the 1930’s when he wrote the famous “Lord of the Rings” series of books.
Note 2: It is possible that the creature was the creation of the game writer’s imagination.
Note 3: Spelling is often variable, depending on the whims and customs of translators. e.g. Genie = Jinni. Source 12 has been translated from Arabic into French, then from French into English.

Research done by J L Finch from the following sources:

  1. Puttock, A Dictionary of Heraldry Blaketon Hall. 1985
  2. Achtemeier (ed) Harper’s Bible Dictionary Harper and Row 1985
  3. J R Tolkien The Lord of the Rings Unwin London 1954
  4. Grolier Encyclopaedia
  5. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Cassell London 1975
  6. The Oxford Dictionary of Natural History
  7. Graves, R. The Greek Myths. Penguin. 1955 (Vol. I & II)
  8. Larousse World Mythology. Hamlyn London 1965
  9. The Wordsworth Dictionary of the Occult. Bordas, Paris 1988
  10. Senior. Who’s Who in Mythology. Orbis 1985
  11. Penguin Encyclopedia. Penguin 1965
  12. The Thousand And One Nights. Routledge and Kegan Paul. 1964
  13. Herodotus, The Histories, Penguin
  14. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.

Un-referenced sources come from the Oxford; English, French and Latin Dictionaries, the Internet, the Bible and possibly, myself.


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