Mythological Chimeras and Other Fabulous Monsters [*]

A. Commonly-Known Chimeras

1. Unicorn (European Middle Ages: A horse with a sharp single horn on its forehead)

2. Sphinx (Egyptian: A crouching lion with the head of a man or woman or other variations, such as a hawk)

3. Centaur (Greek: Horse with the head/torso of a man)
(Gratuitously, mammalian embryologists have been quick to contradict the possibility of a centaur, since no known embryogenic architecture has ever produced a six-limbed warm-blooded animal. As entomologists are equally quick to point out, only insects (regular insects, spiders, and millipedes, for example) have evolved a set of limbs greater than two pairs (i.e., arms (wings) and legs). A similar argument could be made for angels, as well.
Question: So, why do we have to have go around inventing names for things that do not exist nor ever could exist in principle?
Answer: Because it's fun or scary or both, and, of course, Aristotle did not have the benefit of modern biology to help him educate his colleagues about the infeasibility of randomly "cutting-and-pasting" animal parts from existing sketches or sculptures.

4. Minotaur (Greek: Bull with the head/torso of a man)

5. Griffin (Greek: A lion with the head and wings of an eagle)

6. Hippogryph (Greek: The head, claws (talons), and wings of an eagle with the body (hooves, hind quarters, and tail) of a horse)

7. Devil (An fundamentally evil man, who makes his home in Hades ( Hell), with red skin, horns, and a long tail, in the style of Satan ( Lucifer) or Beelzebub, one of his chief lieutenants.)

8. Angel (A man or woman with the wings and able to fly, normally living in Heaven ( Paradise), nearby to God. and His inner circle.)

9. Cherub( Cherubim): An angel of the second rank; a winged infant with a bow-and-arrow or sometimes a harp)

10. Archangel (An angel of the first rank; an adult angel capable of carrying a weapon, such as a flashing sword in Genesis)

11. Dragon (A fabulous large winged serpent-like creature that can breathe fire)

12. Pegasus (A flying horse with the wings of a large bird)

13. Phoenix (Egyptian: A bird that rises out of ashes, therefore immortal)

14. Gorgon (Greek: One of three sisters, including Medusa with snakes instead of hair whose stare can transform men to stone; so they're symbolic players of a cautionary tale teaching children that it's not a good idea to spend time in their vicinity.)

15. Mermaid (A beautiful woman with the tail of a fish)

16. Cyclops (An ugly man with a single eye in his forehead)

17. Ogre (A man-eating male giant)

18. Fairy (small child-like creature with wings and magical powers)

19. Elf (small child-like fun-loving creature or dwarf)

20. Sprite (An elf who lives in the forest)

21. Leprechaun (Ireland: A mischievous elf or goblin)

22. Gnome (a deformed dwarf, or small adult)

23. Bigfoot (A large hairy man, who is very hard to spot or track; Sasquatch)

24. Vampire (Eastern European: A combination of man and blood-sucking bat, whose bite is contagious, casts no reflection in a mirror, can only killed with a stake in the heart, appreciates beautiful women and wives, dislikes sunlight, crosses, and garlic; sleeps in a coffin during the day with some soil from his homeland; in the style of Vlad the Impaler of Transylvania, Bram Stoker's aristocratic Count Dracula or the German Nosferatu with exceedingly long finger nails; immortal)

25. Werewolf (European: A lycanthrope; a combination of man and carnivorous wolf who only roams when the moon is full and whose bite is contagious; able to be killed only with a silver bullet; immortal.)

26. Frankenstein (German: From Mary Shelly's tale of a creature created by the good Dr. Victor (or was it Henry?) Frankenstein, M.D. out of spare parts and a spark of electricity; immortal)

27. Golem (Hebrew: Legend of a stone statue of a man who comes to life)

28. Mr. Hyde (UK: A sadistic man; Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Henry Jeckel, M.D.'s "alter ego" (or should we say "id") after drinking a difficult-to-synthesize chemical potion, probably containing alcohol)

29. Mummy (Hollywood: With nine (9) tanna leaves, an Egyptian mummy able to come to life and take revenge on anyone who might be the subject of an ancient curse and who dared to disturb his tomb or his sarcophagus; dislikes grave robbers; immortal)

30. Creature from the Black Lagoon (Hollywood: Man adapted to water habitats with gills and fins; mortality status unknown)


B. More Obscure Chimera (May be useful for Quiz Programs or maybe for Verbal SAT Exams; one can never be sure what an English teacher might expect you to know for a test)

1. Scylla (Greek: Six-headed female monster)

2. Cerberus (Greek: A three-headed dog, guarding the gates to Hell)

3. Harpy (Greek: Any of several hideous, filthy, winged monsters with the head and trunk of a woman and the tail, legs, and sharp talons of a bird)

4. Hydra (Greek: Nine-headed serpent)

5. Bucentaur (A bull with the head and torso of a man)

6. Chimera (Greek: A fire-breathing monster with body of goat, head of lion, and the tail of a serpent)

7. Siren (A woman with the claws and wings of a bird (Lorelei) but a good singing voice)

8. Basilisk (or Cockatrice)(King of serpents whose breath can shatter stone)

9. Moloch (Phoenician: A god to whom human children are sacrificed)

10. Manna (Prehistoric god: Provider of bread or nutrition)

11. Manticore (A lion (or tiger) with the head of a man and the tail of a dragon or maybe a scorpion)

12. Ogress (A female ogre)

13. Dagon (Palestine: A god of the Philistines and later of the Phoenicians, half man/half fish)

14. Thunderbird (American Indian: A bird who creates thunder by flapping its wings, lightening by opening and closing its eyes, and rain by allowing a huge lake to run off its back)

15. Tigerman (India: A combination of man and tiger)

16. Dipsas (A serpent whose bite was fabled to produce extreme thirst)

17. Lamia (A female demon or witch or maybe a vampire, who sucks children's blood)

18. Incubus (A male demon that can have sexual intercourse with a woman during sleep)

19. Succubus (A female demon that can have sexual intercourse with a man during sleep)

20. Satyre (a small deity with pointed ears, pug nose, the legs of a goat with hooves, budding horns, a short tail, with a wanton or lascivious nature; Pan was satyre of the forest, who played a flute)

21. Merman (A male mermaid)

22. Triton (A man with the tail of a dolphin)

23. Yeti (An abominable snowman who lives in snow-covered mountains)

24. Anubis (Egyptian: A man with the head of a jackal; related to the Greek Hermes)

25. Eater (Egyptian (Middle Kingdom from The Book of the Dead) A lion with the head of a crocodile and ears of a hippopotamus)

26. Roc (A fabulous bird)

27. Cyborg (Cybernetic Organism: Any human, part man, part machine)

Just think of the possibilities for generating random multiple-choice test questions based on completely gratuitous knowledge! But on the other hand, Nicholas Wade of the New York Times did interview a Professor of Mythology from Indiana University in writing his story on biological chimera, so this otherwise-useless knowledge may have some value down the line.

C. Assorted Aliens (Species that did not have the benefit of evolving on the Planet Earth)

1. Martians (Little green men with antennae or bug-eyed monsters (BEMs))

2. Star Trek, many

3. Star Wars, See "the cantina scene" and others

4. "Alien Planet", Discovery Cable Channel-TV (Saturday, May 14, 2005; [8:00 - 10:00] PM EDT). Cambridge Physicist, Professor Stephen W. Hawking will be a guest commentator.

* Theriantropism The representation of preternatural beings in combined forms of man and beast, especially in primitive polytheistic worship.


1. Nicole Le Douarin and Anne McLaren, Chimeras in Developmental Biology (ISBN: 0124405800; 456 pages; $120.00; Academic Press, New York; 1984).
2. Ugo Bardi, Chimaera.
3.There are about 20 unique images that one can pick out from the two pages on the Google Images website.

By the way, if I left out one of your favorite chimeras, please send me an E-mail to, and I will try to include them in the next version.