Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Evil and the monsters that go bump in the medieval night.

As you, readers of my blog will know, I wrote a medieval novel, Legend of the Mystic Knights. The premise of this novel is that a pure evil was released in the world in 1100 A.D. This evil has overrun the world with monsters and creatures that are constantly attacking the humankind. As a result of these constant attacks, civilization has been stuck in the middle ages for the past 1,000 years.

As I began my quest to write this medieval fantasy novel, I had to make a decision. Should I use the typical creatures we are all accustomed to; flying dragons that breathe fire, or should I describe actual monsters that medieval people believed in?

As many of you know, although a fantasy novel, I still strive to show historical accuracy in my writing. This accuracy would be carried over into describing the monsters; I would show the creatures that were thought to be real by medieval people.

To accomplish my task, I had to begin researching. This research included going back to the Greek writing Physiologus then progress to Roman writers such as Piney the Elder, and finally to the Medieval Bestiary.

The Physiologus is an ancient Greek text written by an unknown author. It described the monsters known in Europe at that time by the Greeks. Some of the descriptions in the text are written as allegories, detailing the appearance of the creatures but also including spiritual attributes to these stories.

Pliny the Elder was a Roman naturalist, who wrote the Naturalis Historia. This work did not only describe animals and nature, but also included a wide range of topics from mining to astronomy. Side Note: Pliny the Elder died when he was trying to rescue friends when Mount Vesuvius erupted.

I referred to the Medieval Bestiary a lot in the research of my novel. This was a compendium of beasts, some real some imaginary. The concept that medieval people truly believed that these imaginary creatures existed is under debate, many simply argue that these creatures represent allegories and are examples of moral lessons for people. Whatever the reasoning, the real and imaginary creatures are listed together without any distinctions between the two.

The following list consists of creatures that I either include or describe in my novel.

Amphitheres : A small snake like dragon with wings but not legs or arms. Has a tongue that inflicts poison on its victims. One of the major battles in my novel includes hundreds of these creatures attacking the castle.

Cynocephaly : A humanoid with the head and fierceness of a dog. This creature may be an analogy of the duality of the human spirit. It represents the beast, or animal persona, which is inside all of us. Some medieval paintings depict St. Christopher was a cynocephaly.

Dispa: A small mollusk type snake with a powerful bite.

Gorgade: A 5 foot tall humanoid, covered in hair. Again creature may be an analogy of the duality of the human spirit.

Hydra: A multi-headed Dragon.

Lindworm: Pestilence dragon. Resembles a Tyrantasaurus Rex (although smaller), without the front arms. It is known as a pestilence dragon because it caused disease by digging up and feeding on buried corpses.

Revenant: Medieval name for a zombie, or walking undead

Tazelwurm: A small creature covered with scales with the head of a cat. It has only front legs and the body of a snake. It has a poisonous breath. This is a legendary creature which is to be located in the Swiss Alps. Since my novel is located in Switzerland I wanted to include a monster that was only known in that area.

Vampire: Reanimated flesh that preys on humans for their blood.

Waldmannlein or Wood Wife: A creature that resembles a beautiful woman, but is attached to a tree. The scene where I describe this creature is one of my favorites in the novel.

Werewolf: Someone who has the ability to be transformed into a wolf. In modern times a werewolf is created when someone is bitten by a werewolf. In early medieval times, it was perceived that a person WANTED to be a werewolf, and made a deal with the devil or witch for this ability. Later, it was believed a person could be cursed by a witch into becoming a werewolf.

Although I did try to only depict “legitimate’ medieval monsters in my novel, I was unable to find a monster which would fit into a specific scene, so I created my own. The following are the creatures that I described which were of my own imagination.

Demon Fly: The fly is three inches long with a large head. It had two sets of translucent wings. Six pairs of legs were attached to the body. The creature travels in mass numbers and can devour a person similar to that of a group of piranhas.

Giant Grub: This is similar to our everyday grub, except it is huge and devours people.

Monsters and mythical creatures may be a creation of humans to describe the world unknown around us. These creatures may also described or prophesize our inquisitive nature about our destiny in this universe.

In Norse mythology there is a great world serpent named Jörmungandr. This serpent was so large its body encircled then entire earth. The legend is that when this creature is killed by Thor, it releases its grip on the earth, and the world is destroyed. After this and a series of other events, the world is then reborn and repopulated by two human survivors.

This is an example of an ouroboros symbolism, meaning an ending and a beginning. This symbol itself is a serpent eating its own tail. Types of these symbols go back to before ancient Egypt, and are represented throughout the world.

In Christianity, Dragons have been associated with the devil. Revelation 12:9 states: And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

The dragon in these cases is a manifestation, or representation of pure evil itself. It is a force that is constantly testing and attacking the human race, trying to drive a wedge between a person and God.

Monsters may also mean our examination into our own souls. As I mentioned before there are many creatures, which may represent the animal nature which as people, we have tried to suppress inside ourselves. We are aware of this monster, the one that is part of us; it has a hunger that we cannot control, and is waiting to be released.

Now you have an understanding of the research I did for my novel. For those of who have read it, I hope you enjoyed the reading.

As always, I love to hear comments from you.

Next time: Reviews and Comments about LEGEND OF THE MYSTIC KNIGHTS


  1. William, I love research and finding out things. As I was reading about the research you did I was thinking there must have been times when you were completely caught up in the research and in 'what happened next'. I also found it interesting that snakes- or snake like creatures - were often depicted as evil. Truly interesting post.

  2. I think Legend of the Mystic Knights should be made into a film. Although I don't usually read medieval fantasy novels, "Gothic" is definitely popular these days and I guess your book and its characters fit well in that category.

    1. I think it looks gothic now, because the setting is dark, eerie and troubling. I had to do this in the first novel to describe the state the world is in. In the big picture, it will become apparent when the sequels come out, it is an old fashion story of good vs. evil. Do not be misled though, there is going to be a lot of heartbreak and difficulties for the antagonist in the future.

  3. I love it! If you can't find a "legitimate" monster that fits the bill, you create your own or make something bigger and more threatening. Interesting list of creatures that your predecessors created!

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  5. Yikes! I've always been afraid of vampires and werewolves..the rest are downright terrifying! But wow...am I impressed with all the research!

  6. I appreciate your commitment to historical accuracy. I have not yet read your novel but I am sure the authenticity makes for a better story.

  7. Your research sounds fascinating as does your novel. It's interesting to see how your came up with your monster and more of what went into your story. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Interesting to read about the monster of medieval times. Whether people believed they really existed or whether they were allegories still speaks to the fears of the time. I wonder what monsters will be identified with our time 1000 years from now.

  9. That is an interesting thought. Maybe in 1,000 years someone will write the same blog describing the chupacabra, bigfoot or even slender man. Wonder if they will wonder if we thought these creatures were real or not?
    Speaking of the slender man, created by Eric Knudsen, I wonder how many monsters in medieval mythology was created by someone like him? Word of mouth kept the story going until it became a myth.

  10. Wow, great research like always.
    I am much scared with these creatures. I am happy that we are not under attack of such monsters that were in medieval time. Your Novel seems great.
    Many believe that vampires do exist but I never did but last time when I went on holidays and came to know about such creatures who attacked few women, men and children who managed to escape their attack and those creatures even cut their fingers and eat them up the description that was given by victims make people believe that Vampires do exit.

  11. It is amazing that you were able to unlock the fears of a time long ago. Some of these creatures are relevant today but as Donna mentioned above, it will be very interesting to see what history records as our fears...they will have a lot to chose from :)

    1. The difference from then and now is our perception of these monsters. Vampires and werewolves at one time were considered to be total evil. Today with some novels and tv shows we have a more sympathetic view of these creatures. I think it may have begun with Frank Lagella’s performance of Dracula in the 19070’s.
      Also, the myth of the monsters have changed, again mostly by literature and movies. Our concepts of vampires come from the novel “Dracula”, if you look at old legends many of our concepts of vampires were not accepted by then. As for werewolves, there was no great novel, so it was not until the 19040’s with “The Wolfman” that there was a reference. An example of this is, in the movie it showed that silver was the only way to kill a werewolf. Until the release of the movie, it was assumed you could kill a werewolf as you could kill any large animal.

  12. Too many mosters for my taste. Probably would have found it interesting when I was a kid. Loved that kind of movies in those days.

  13. I have to tell you what I came to your blog and saw the skeleton image, I actually took a second look. Good idea for getting attention. Every era has its monsters, but as time goes on they are just different.

  14. I like all of the research you're doing for your book. I can also appreciate the thought you're putting into your creativity. The psychology behind common behaviors and ideas reveals truth that anyone could miss.

  15. Very interesting research William! Whether medieval monsters existed or not, their presence remains true as ever when stories continue to be passed on over generations.