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African Mythological Creatures

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  • 0:03 African Mythological Creatures
  • 0:25 West Africa
  • 2:29 Central Africa
  • 6:15 Southern Africa
  • 8:45 Other African Mythical…
  • 9:36 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Emily Teater

Emily currently is a substitute teacher, and has taught a variety of K-12 courses. She has a master's degree in Mythological Studies.

The continent of Africa is filled with colorful myths about strange creatures. In this lesson, you'll be introduced to a variety of mythological creatures as we explore African mythology region by region.

African Mythological Creatures

Given the abundance of cultures and civilizations that inhabit the African continent, it is no surprise to learn that this variety of mythological traditions has yielded a multitude of fabled creatures. This lesson is but a small sample of the most frequently mentioned creatures. Let's examine these creatures according to their mythological regions of origin.

West Africa

Adze

In Togo and Ghana, the adze are vampires. Although they typically appear as fireflies, adzes take on a humanoid form when captured. As fireflies, adzes slip through cracks to drink the blood of unsuspecting victims, mostly children, who contract a fatal disease that soon kills them. In their captive, human form, adzes possess people and force them to commit evil acts. These victims of possession are usually compelled to harm either their enemies or their own families; as such, individuals possessed by adzes are often accused of witchcraft.

Asanbosam

The asanbosam is a vampiric creature found in West Africa. The general shape of the asanbosam is human-like, but the similarities end there; its iron fangs are designed to drain the blood of its victims, and the iron hooks that serve as its feet allow the asanbosam to hang from trees like a bat does. Typically, the asanbosam is a forest-dweller, and it only attacks trespassers who unwittingly invade its territory. A closely related creature is the sasabonsam; only its wings distinguish it from the asanbosam.

Ninki Nanka

The ninki nanka, also called the Devil dragon, is a river monster, known to frequent the Gambia River. This creature is composed of a crocodile's body, a giraffe's neck, and a horse's head topped with three horns. It is reputed to be an incredibly deadly creature. According to legend, few people have seen the ninki nanka and survived to tell the tale.

Yumboes

The yumboes are fairies native to Senegal. The yumboes have three particularly distinctive features: their pearl-colored skin, their silver hair, and their extremely diminutive stature (standing about two feet tall). Yumboes are believed to host strange feasts in the woods, steal corn from human villages, and use canoes to catch their own fish; they eat at tables, served by servants who are invisible except for their hands and feet. The yumboes are apparently harmless, as they often invite humans to share in their strange feasts.

Central Africa

Abada

According to Congo mythology, the abada is an African version of the unicorn, with a few distinguishing features. For example, while the unicorn has a single spiraling horn, the abada boasts a pair of crooked horns. Furthermore, descriptions of the abada indicate that it is comparable in size to a donkey and has a boar's coarse tail. Like its Western counterpart, however, the abada is so shy that it is rarely seen, and its horns can be used as an antidote to poison.

Eloko

In Zaire, the eloko (or biloko) are restless spirits of the dead: they rise from the grave as dwarf-like creatures covered in leaves. Their bodies sprout grass instead of hair, and this excellent camouflage enables them to hide in the forest, waiting for unsuspecting visitors. Their dog-like snouts afford them an excellent sense of smell. They carry magic bells, which emit a chime that paralyzes the eloko's human victims. The eloko are capable of unhinging their jaws, allowing them to open their mouths wide enough to swallow a grown man whole. If a person manages to kill an eloko before being attacked himself, he must dismember the eloko and bury the pieces separately in order to prevent the eloko from rising again.

Emela-ntouka

Believed to reside near the Congo, the emela-ntouka's name literally translates to 'killer of elephants.' The emela-ntouka is a massive creature (some reports claim that it is larger than an elephant), with a single bony horn rising from its snout and a long crocodilian tail that enables it to swim. While this creature is widely regarded as a vegetarian, its apparently violent temper led it to make fairly regular attacks on elephants. Some European explorers asserted that the emela-ntouka was actually a surviving species of ceratopsian dinosaur, although the fossil record does not bear this out.

Jengu

A jengu is a mermaid, found largely in myths native to Cameroon. They are water spirits, depicted as long-haired beauties with gap-toothed smiles. The jengu are believed to bring good luck to those who worship them; they can also serve as mediators in the relationship relations between human beings and the spirit world. In some parts of Cameroon, a cult devoted to worshipping the miengu (the plural term for jengu) exists. In order to join the cult, girls between the ages of eight and ten must observe a rite of passage.

Kongamato

The kongamato's name literally translates to 'breaker of boats.' The kongamato is described as a large bat-like creature, reddish in color, with a massive wingspan. It is known to reside and hunt near swamps. More recent renderings of the kongamato depict it as a pterosaur-like creature, which suggests that this dinosaur may have inspired the kongamoto legend. However, many argue that the kongamato still exists and is a living relative of the dinosaur.

Mokele-mbembe

The mokele-mbembe's name can be translated as 'one who stops the flow of rivers.' This creature is so massive that some have referred to it as the African Loch Ness Monster. In fact, the mokele-mbembe resembles a sort of sauropod, or long-necked dinosaur. Although explorers and cryptozoologists have devoted a great deal of time and energy searching for proof of this mythical creature, concrete evidence of its existence has never materialized.

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