Cruelty was actually one of her better qualities.
Cruelty was actually one of her better qualities.
World mythology is full of fabulous beasts, beings, spirits, and creatures. There are the ones everybody knows, like gryphons, dragons, and unicorns; then there are those that are semi-familiar, like the harpy and thunderbird; and lastly, some that are truly obscure, like the grootslang, the ahkluyat, the senmurv.
Here’s a list of randomly generated creatures — all of them imaginary — that falls firmly into the last category.
Jellund: An immortal wolverine with a mass of tentacles instead of a head. It watches over sleeping children to make sure no harm comes to them.
Cenotalon: A huge silver fox with two heads and the wings of a pterodactyl. It has an alert, watchful stance and likes to lair in mountain aeries.
Umbramorg: A mythical heron with eight legs and the iridescent green throat of a hummingbird. Its red-gold plumage appears to be on fire but is never consumed. Legend says it lives on the moon and visits earth only once a year.
Ganjatang: An elephant with the fins and tail of a fish. Students of the occult say it can be found in fetid swamps. It sports a golden mane around its neck and has stubby wings, though it cannot fly.
Harouille: A wise old horse, the leader of all its kind. Legend says it has wings attached to its legs and flies amongst the clouds, creating rain.
Lempsoogle: A giant snail with two heads and the scaly legs of a rooster. It is always surrounded by an aura of heat and puffs out clouds of steam from under its shell.
Sophidyle: The sacred blue crocodile of the city-state of Maggaphis. It is fond of entertaining humans with its singing and has a penchant for stealing scissors.
Sophiclaw: A demonic flying serpent with six wings. It has foul, obscenity-filled speech.
Fornharp: A wise old tortoise with the head and tail of a fox.
Yathnang: A giant catfish covered with green slime. It has ten chin barbels and a single eye in the middle of its forehead.
Cerephant: A giant brown-furred dog with four mouths that guards the Citadel of Lies.
Koratas: Giant scarlet mosquitoes with human heads and arms. They attack the genitals of unwary adventurers.
Ampyroc: A giant raven with an ivory horn on its forehead.
Lephuan: A legendary gazelle of the Southern deserts. It has eight wings and eight golden horns, and will grant you a wish if you catch it.
Leddendrill: The Silver Rabbit of the Moon. It guards the Ocarina of Time and can travel the world in one day.
Jessoboon: A white-furred monstrosity resembling a baboon with three buttocks. It lives under a glacier made of silver ice.
Unimeek: A legendary phoenix that, instead of burning, freezes everything in its path with its icy breath.
Umdyrie the Scarlet: A great dragon that constantly nibbles at the roots of the World Tree, Yggigna.
Aahuan: A nature elemental in the shape of a hawk. It has a frail appearance, a mournful, hooting cry, and a human mouth instead of a beak. Legend says it emits feces made of flame and is able to aim them at its enemies.
Dinoockies: Small, fierce gryphons with the bodies of rats rather than lions.
Bramoth: A giant armadillo-like monster with two heads and jagged teeth. It has a harsh, gutteral voice and will devour the sun at the end of Time.
Aspoone: A giant sea turtle with the tail of a scorpion, with which it uses to procure sharks, its favorite prey.
Rhinavern: A legendary dog with ivory wings and a golden mouth. It has the ears of a human and consumes gems as food.
Many people, myself included, have thought that the book of Middle Eastern fantasy tales, One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, is a unified work of one author or compiler from the 16th century, ala The Brothers Grimm. But it isn’t. It’s a far older collection of folk tales and poetry from a far wider range of cultures — Persian, Mesopotamian, Indian, Jewish, even Egyptian — compiled and translated by as many diverse scholars. The tales the Western World is most familiar with are Aladdin and His Lamp, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and Sindbad the Sailor, but there are many more, some with talking animals, Aesop-style, while others are erotic or incorporate medical advice. The whole is unified within the framing device of a young bride telling her husband one tale a night, and leaving at a cliffhanger, to prevent him from killing her. It’s inspired authors from Tanith Lee to Steven King, and even myself (admittedly second-hand, as I’ve yet to find a translation that is easy to read yet not too colloquial.)
One plus it has is a lot of exotic names with a Middle Eastern/Central Asian feel that is not pinned down to one place in particular. Likewise, so are my names, randomly generated for your writing use.
(A note on naming conventions. Very broadly, Muslim names are typically the proper name, then father’s, then the grandfather’s, then the great-grandfather’s, etc. ending with the family name. A prefix before each male ancestor’s name, bin, indicates “son of.” (Bint means “daughter of.”) Other prefixes before names are often used, such as abd, “servant of/slave of.” As these names are intended for pseudo-Arabian Nights worldbuilding, and not actual cultures, feel free to make up whatever connecting syllable you want to give the name that kind of feel.)
What Galadriel became after she was seduced by the power of the One Ring.
My short story, Arabica, about the erotic nature of how to brew a good cuppa joe, is now available for your listening pleasure in the audiobook version of MASHED, available on Audible.com. There are also food-related sexy stories from other fine authors. Remember, that if you don’t have a subscription (yet) you can set up a FREE 30-day trial membership.
(The cuppa joe is question is brewed by a woman, not the hunky male figure as pictured. But it did get your attention, didn’t it?)
As told to Michael Oren Fitzgerald
University of Oklahoma Press, 1991
[Challenge # 8: A book with a color in the title]
This book wasn’t at all what I expected. I thought it would be a straightforward bio, like Lame Deer Speaks. Instead it was more of an ethnological examination of the Sun Dance religion of the Crow. Maybe it should have been my God’s Mansion selection for a different religion, rather than Harm. Certainly, it was more philosophical and dealt more with spirituality than the Aldiss book. It made me think, but it was also long-winded, which is more the fault of the editor than the writer. It’s also a book chosen for classwork in Sociology 101, or Comparative Religion, which may account for its dryness.
What did I get from it? The refreshingly casual nature of Yellowtail’s religion.
by Brian W. Aldiss
Ballantine Books, New York, 2007
[Challenge # 10: A book based in a religion not your own.]
British SF author Brian W. Aldiss, who died recently at the age of 92, was one prolific writer. He started his SF writing career in 1954 and by the end of it, had over a hundred books and innumerable short stories, poems, articles, and essays to his credit. His last book, Comfort Zone, was published in 2013, which means he remained writing well into his eighties. Now THAT’s the kind of career I wish to emulate!
My first exposure to this author came in the form of a book of short stories, The Book of Brain W. Aldiss. I found them literate, mystifying at times, gently satirical, grandiose, and tongue-in-cheek funny. I’m sorry to say I lost that book over the years, but I still remember some stories vividly, such as “In the Arena,” the tale of a human gladiator slave on an alien-captured world, who is partnered with a young woman to kill a creature in the aliens’ arena. His Helliconia series I never got into, because it seemed too much like the 1980s commercial, crowd-pleasing SF that was then being written by old names in the field, like Harry Harrison’s West of Eden and Phillip Jose Farmer’s Dayworld series, to name two. Likewise, I had never been interested in Aldiss’s Hothouse World, either (though I am now.)
Harm, as the author explains, was written 2007 in response to the heightened terrorism threats after the 2001 World Trade Center attacks in New York. It is the story of a young half-Muslim, half-English writer who is imprisoned and tortured in a near-future London because of a throwaway line in his debut novel… a line about killing the prime minister of England. For that he is kidnapped, interrogated, and tortured. The torture is not explicitly shown, but the effects on the main character are, and the dialogue of the torturers is horrifyingly real. To escape, the writer he creates another world in his mind, the story of a man on a recently colonized planet where society is slowly collapsing and fascist politics are coming to the fore. I had originally chosen the book because of its ties to Islam, but it not so much about religion as about politics. Christianity actually figured in the story more, used as a plot element but neither derided nor espoused.
It was a fascinating, engaging read. I blazed through it on my lunch hours which was not the case with Cinder, my previous read, which had been a damn chore. I wonder why I could read something difficult and thought-provoking so readily, and something simple and spoon-fed, so slowly?
One of the things I liked about the book, and a thing I have never before seen done properly before, was how the protagonist creates the dream world he goes to. It was written in a way similar to the progression of real (sleeping) dreams, where there’s a bare skeleton of a place and situation at first that is later sketched out as the sleeping mind chugs along, incorporated pieces of real-world recent events and past memories. Aldiss explains this away as the hero’s multiple personality disorder, which leads him to disassociate. Which is too bad, because the creation aspect, to me, was clearly about the creative process of being a writer, coming up with a character and a situation, then musing on it, replaying it, and gradually adding more elements. This was the only displeasing note in the whole book, though.
Harm worked as allegory, cautionary tale, and magic realism, but there are just enough quirky details that make it more like a real-life memoir, or extended dream, some of which are thrown in but not followed up on. Again, very much like real life, which can be random in what it gives us.
Oh, lookies! I found another book of forgotten magic in the vast dungeon library I call my home! Wonder if it has anything this fellow is looking for? Perhaps something to animate that pink lightbulb heart?
A new group of randomly generated, mostly useful, magic items that may find a home in your story or campaign.
Ranthvand’s Tasting Filament: Creates a thin, string-like tentacle that snakes out from the caster’s palm to touch any food or drink item. If the food is poisoned, the tentacle shrivels and dies with no harm to the caster.
Jerath’s Tome of Catastrophe: Never open this book.
Notebook of Fulsome Terror: Don’t open this one either.
Mornesza’s Reptilian Plate: Clothes the caster’s body in invisible armor made of lizard-like scales.
Heldelm’s Throat of Brick: Strengthens the caster’s throat so they can swallow acid, high proof liquor, or other noxious substances with no ill effect. Note: does not prevent drunkenness.
The Silver Notebook of Imprisonment: Any creature that has a name can be trapped inside when their name is written in it.
Helm of Precise Candor: Causes the wearer to speak the truth and nothing but the truth.
Elixer of Wondrous Burrowing: When drunk, this potion enables the drinker to dig like a mole.
Cowl of The Healer: This hood endows the caster with first aid knowledge and skills.
Clarity of the Sculptor: Enables a caster with artistic skills to create a highly realistic model of anything they see.
Gloves of Serpent Mimicry: Creates the illusion of the caster’s arms turning into two snakes.
Cap of The Peacekeeper: Allows the wearer to mediate between two arguing beings or parties.
Oljerine’s Fighting Feet: Enables the caster to use his/her feet as well as their hands when fighting. The caster must be barefoot for it to work. Useful if the arms are bound or otherwise restricted.
Phorgamel’s Muddled Manticore: Confuses any manticore it is cast upon.
Scroll of Frozen Fungus: Not a spell, but the favored medium to write cold-related spells on.
Ludawana’s Voice of the Serpent: Turns the caster’s voice into a violent hiss.
Ankhus’s Leather Centipede: A cat-sized automaton created by the late mage to be his servant. The centipede can scuttle across walls, floors, and ceilings, burrow, and swim underwater. It can be used to spy, fetch things, and deliver stinging attacks. Being made of leather, it is not indestructible.
Seashell of Oration: This magical object looks like a giant conch shell. When the mage holds it to his mouth and speaks through it, whatever he says will have the weight of a speech from a skilled orater.
Traadia’s Arousing Ungeant: Useful in a bedroom situation. Often paired with Chrysian’s Blue Manual of Seduction.
Iriselga’s Purple Libram of Transformations: Contains an untold number of spells to transmute one substance to another, or one creature to another.
Ulbhren’s Imaginary Imprisonment: Makes the subject believe he or she is locked in an invisible cage and can’t get out.
Ordelag’s Filthy Hands: Causes clean hands to look dirty.
Heart of the Turtle: When drunk, this potion enables the drinker to endure any hardship.
Brooch of Phoenix Combustion: Enables the wearer to “die” in an explosion of flame and then miraculously come back to life, healed of all wounds and imperfections.
Tweezers of Death: When used on hair, these tweezers eradicate the hair and follicle permanently. But if they touch skin, the being dies instantly.
Lute of the Necromancer: Controls all sorts of undead, depending on the song that is played. “Stayin’ Alive” remains a favorite.