I take special delight in fairy tales, fables, and myths. I enjoy studying cultural myths and learning about the culture that produced them through the stories so much that I call myself a collector of fairy tales. I have a complete anthology of the stories collected by the Brothers Grimm; a separate, annotated anthology of the same works; all of the color fairy books; and a couple of anthologies of myths specific to a few certain cultures. I’m also amassing a large collection of myths from all over the world on Pinterest. (Technically, I call it research, since elements of these myths may end up in a story some day.)
I find fairy tales, fables, and legends to be such an interesting pass-time that I was overjoyed when my husband and children “kidnapped” me for my birthday a few weeks ago and took me to the Mythic Creatures exhibit at the Witte Museum in San Antonio. If you’re even somewhat near the area, it is worth the detour to visit this tour (Sept. 28, 2019 – Jan. 12, 2020).
While there, I toured cultural myths and artifacts that either told their stories or displayed them in an artistic way. There were also plenty of statues, and I took selfies with unicorns, dragons, griffons, and mermaids. It was an absolute blast! In addition to my familiar favorites, though, I also learned of some new stories from other cultures. My top three favorites of these are:
Mishepishu – This is a creature known to the Native peoples in and around the Great Lakes on both the U.S. and Canadian shores. A water-dragon type creature, it possesses the body and scales of a sea serpent, spikes on the back, copper horns, and a face that resembles a lynx. Mishepishu stir up storms and sink boats, but also gives aid to hunters.
Ahuizotl – A legend of the Aztec, this creature is described as a dog with pointed ears; hands and feet like a monkey; and a long, flexible tail with a hand on the end. It is said to cry like a baby in order to lure people near, then grab them with the hand on its tail and drag them under water. This creature looks a lot like a feral, deadly version of the Pokemon Aipom.
Bunyip – The bunyip is a man-eating monster that dwelt in Australian lakes, swamps, and rivers. It howled at night, causing people to fear entering the water as it prowled the land in search of women and children to devour. It looks a lot like a monkey with the face of an ape, typically depicted with shaggy fur although some are described as having scales or feathers. Roughly the size of a small cow, the bunyip possesses sharp tusks and flippers for swimming that change to legs capable of walking on land at night.
At first glance, I thought the museum exhibit was much too small to satisfy my curiosity. I know that I will never be able to explore all of the myths of every culture in our world, no matter how much research I do, but I had hoped to be immersed for a long while, at least. Two hours later, I was almost finished exploring every facet of the exhibit, and I was much surprised and greatly pleased by the depth and detail the seemingly-short exhibit actually had to offer. I am so thrilled at the thoughtfulness of my family, and (like the indulgent glutton that I am) I am already looking forward to the next fairy tale/myth based experience.
Do you have any favorite myths or fairy tales that are not common in modern Western culture? Or do you know of any exhibits, websites, podcasts that feature mythology and fables? Please share about either or both of these things in the comments below!