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The Illustrated Guide Of The Mythical Creatures Most Present In Your Mind


From monsters to gremlins, from zombies to the Kraken and the chupacabra, Monsters and Legends will guide you through their individual history and their scientific explanation.

Bestiaries are by far one of the most interesting reads that we can get a hold of. Comparable to the Greek mythologies, this genre is a combination of myth and sociology, imagination and need, which has resulted in the most entertaining of narratives. In his book Monsters and Legends, David Cali explores, alongside the illustrator Gabriella Giandelli, the legendary “beasts” that have inhabited the world for as long as we can remember, and which continue to live in our imaginary.

From sirens, unicorns, Cyclops, giant octopi, vampires and zombies, every mythical creature comes alive and tells its story. The beautiful drawings by Giandelli and Cali’s masterful narrative give shape to this wonderful book, which is above all refreshing. The following are some of the marvelous creatures featured in their book.

The Kraken

Green Kraken illustration

The Kraken is a gigantic legendary sea monster. Its name comes from the Norwegian word krake, meaning “a twisted or crooked animal.” The origin of the Kraken myth goes back to the 13th century, but it’s not until the 18th and 19th centuries that sailor stories about the Kraken really start multiplying! Stories were told of ships being attacked and destroyed by a creature with tentacles over a kilometer long. Carl Linnaeus… mentioned the Kraken in his first book in 1735, under the scientific name of Microcosmus marinus, but it doesn’t appear in his following books, as he couldn’t prove its existence.

The Mapinguari

Colourful illustration of a red Mapinguari

The Mapinguari, also known as the Isnashi is an enormous nocturnal animal with enormous arms and fangs, the skin of a reptile and bright red fur. It is widely believed that it inhabits the Amazon jungle of Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. According to legend, this creature fears water, which is why it stinks. Some of the natives, who are also believers, think it is a giant sloth, a species that disappeared more than ten thousand years ago. Skeptics, in turn, consider it as a combination of a normal sloth and an armadillo, which terrorized nocturnal travellers in the jungle because, somehow, it was combined with a fearful imagination.

The Chupacabra

Three black and yellow illustrations of a mythical dog.

This contemporary cryptic creature is described as an animal that feeds on the cattle of local farms. There are witnesses who have claimed to see it in Latin America and the United States and they describe it as a type of kangaroo dog that behaves as a vampire and a coyote and sucks its prey’s blood until they’re dry. Some suspect it is was born in a lab, an experiment of genetic modifications gone wrong, while others believe it’s an alien. Some believe the Chupacabra has paranormal powers, among them is the ability to change its color and to hypnotize its prey with telepathy.

But Cali does not merely describe these animals —we know most of them already—, instead he gives us a healthy dosage of scientific explanation. Each myth is followed by the “What we know” section, which presents the reader with the actual evidence that supports the existence of each creature. This adds a fascinating touch to the subject of the myth, since it explains our need to “fictionalize” or to “charm” the world that surrounds us. In the case of the Chupacabra, for example, he says:

The videos of the Chupacabra, often blurry and hard to follow, and the pictures, usually faked, don’t help much with identifying the creature. But if you trust the descriptions, the Chupacabra looks a lot like a rare species of Mexican hairless dog called Xoloitzcuintle.

DNA tests on dead specimens have proven that it is an ordinary dog with nothing extraterrestrial about it at all.


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