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American Mythological Creatures

Instructor: Jeremy Battista
Throughout history, there have been stories of scary and strange creatures roaming the Earth. The United States was certainly no stranger to these stories. Let's look a few of the most prominent ones.

What Are Mythological Creatures?

Mythology refers to a collection of myths, stories, tales, that are associated with a culture religion, or region. Traditionally, mythology has been a way for humans to explain why things happen. We use mythology to explain things that we see and cannot understand.

Many mythological creatures are unexplained sightings of odd creatures. Things that are animal and human-like are frequently found in mythology. When people see something they don't understand, it begins to take on a life of its own. Often, these are figments of the imagination. These creatures exist because the human mind is a powerful thing. When frightened, people often see things that are simply not there. Their mind tells them they see something that is large, hairy, with green eyes, and huge wings.

Some of the most famous mythological creatures come to us from antiquity. Think for a moment back to world history in high school. You would have discussed ancient Greece where mythology was commonplace. Personally, I see clearly the Minotaur or Hercules or Zeus when I hear the term, ''mythology.''

Depending on where you look, mythology also includes folktales, lore, legends, and fables. Because of this, we see mythology as a huge umbrella term for a venerable cornucopia of different stories. In the United States, you may have learned about a number of these including Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan and Bigfoot. Some of these stories are based on real people, such as George Washington chopping down a cherry tree, and others are simply fictional, based on claims of crazy wild-eyed monsters such as Bigfoot. The more crazy sounding characters are commonly referred to as cryptids, a word that refers to any animal or creature that has never been scientifically proven to exist.

In many Native American cultures we see a rich history of different mythological beings. To explain good and evil, heaven and hell, why the Earth looks as it does, Native American cultures developed complex mythologies. In our own culture, we see similar ideas in devils and evil beings. These things supposedly cause humans to act with evil intent. We will focus on the mythological creatures of America, most namely the three most prominent.

Prominent American Examples

This is an artist
Bigfoot Drawing

The most prominent American example would have to be the legendary Bigfoot. Bigfoot, or the Sasquatch, is a mythological beast that roams the forests of the American Northwest. However, it has been ''spotted'' all around the country. Bigfoot is said to look similar to an large human-like ape. Accounts can vary, but most describe it as at least 6 to 7 feet tall, with hair all over it. It usually is accompanied by a pungent smell and any video or photographic evidence has been grainy and hard to view. Because there is no DNA evidence for the beast, most people deny it exists. Although Bigfoot has been exposed in recent years as a fabrication thought up by two men, people believe in the hairy beast. He mainly exists as a way for people to try to understand the connection between apes and humans. He also exists to try to explain the strange sights that people have encountered while deep in uninhabited woods.

A sketch of the infamous and grotesque Jersey Devil
Jersey Devil

Number two on my list would be the famous, or rather infamous, Jersey Devil. According to the legend, in the 1700s, Mother Leeds had a dozen children and while pregnant with her 13th, she learned she was giving birth to the devil. The child was born and promptly changed into a hideous devil-like creature that now inhabits the Pine Barrens in New Jersey. Descriptions of the Jersey Devil vary, but a few details remain the same: goat's head, hooves, bat wings, with a forked tail. It screams and screeches in the Pine Barrens, and generally scares anyone who ''sees'' it. People believe that this is responsible for the horrid screams and strange sights that they witness when in or around the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.

Another artist
Mothman

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