Demons, Monsters, and Ghosts, Oh No! Part VI: Incorporating the Mythological

I’ve talked a lot about different types of demons, and some about how to work a demon into your story.  However, this series is called Demons, Monsters, and Ghosts, not just demons.  So today I want to start talking about monsters.  Specifically I want to provide an example of how I worked one of my favorite mythological monsters into a book, but first, the monster.

The only portrait I could find of a Nasnas. This picture was done by Scott Mcdaniel, who has some wonderful art on at the link provided.

One of my favorite monsters in Arabian mythology is the Nasnas.  The Nasnas appears in the writings of Edward Lane, a 19th century British scholar and translator.  It also appears in The Temptation of St. Anthony by Gustave Flaubert.  The Nasnas is also one of the strangest monsters I have ever found…anywhere.  The Nasnas is a half-man.  Not like a centaur or mermaid, a half-man, half something else, just half a man.  Literally the Nasnas appears as a man that has been cut in half lengthwise.  It has half a head, half a torso, one arm, and one leg.  In the stories it hops around on its one leg and appears in order to scare children.  I love the Nasnas, mostly because I love that which is strange and inexplicable.

Now the Nas-Nas does not present much of a danger when compared with most of the creatures that populate modern fantasy tales.  Really, the Nasnas is pretty much just half a person.  I present the Nasnas in my story as an experiment.  It is imprisoned below one of the cities of the Neshelim and observed, to see how long it will live.  I use the Nasnas to show the extremes to which the Neshelim go in pursuit of knowledge.  In this case the Nasnas was created simply to see if it was possible.  It is kept alive to see for how long it is possible to do so.  Perhaps the experiment will someday yield productive results for the Neshelim, perhaps it will not.

Most of the creatures that populate fantasy novels are either dangerous, or whimsical.  However, the mythologies of the world are filled with the odd, inexplicable, and sometimes disturbing that all too often goes to waste.  I love the Nasnas because it is, on the surface, just that…useless.  However, so many of these items, and creatures, can be put to good use with a little bit of creative thought.

We all know what a chimera is, though the actual mythical creature has been lost somewhere in the modern versions of it.  Likewise dragons like Smaug or Fafnir are fairly common.  The basilisk has had some recent exposure, thanks to Harry Potter, but when was the last time you saw a cockatrice, ahuizotl, kapre, na-gui, or rusulka? So tell me, what is your favorite mythological creature and how can it be used?  Can you think of an odd mythological creature that could be put to use?


Among The Neshelim: My first novel, Among the Neshelim, is now available from Smashwords here, and Amazon here. Print copies are not yet available, but will be soon.

Among the Neshelim


Tobias Mastgrave

Understanding. One little word, and yet it means so much. We spend our lives pursuing it in one form or another. We long for it, seek it out, and break ourselves trying to find it. But it is always a rare commodity.

Chin Cao Yu, priest and scholar, has sacrificed all he held dear in its pursuit. Now he undertakes the journey of a lifetime, a journey among the mysterious Neshilim, a people of power unlike any he has seen before – all for the hope of understanding. This journey will turn upside down the world he thought he knew and challenge all of his dearly held beliefs. Has he found the ultimate truth or the ultimate lie? And what will he do with it when he learns?


About noothergods

I hate writing these things. Ok, a little bit about me. I split my time between this world and other worlds so I'm only here about 25% to 50% of the time. Other times my body might be here (or you never know it might not) but I am off somewhere else having strange and usually pretty horrible adventures. I consider myself a scholar of Christian Theology and of Religion in general, I love learning about other people's belief systems. I think that Shinto is fascinating and I'm obsessed with the theology of sin...and with monkeys...I don't know why I'm obsessed with monkeys but I blame Gus...if you know him you'll understand that, if you don't then...well...I blame Gus. Anyway, I'm the one of the blog that needs to be censored the most so if there's anything posted that you find offensive it was probably me. I think that my brain doesn't really work the way it's supposed to but that's an issue for a whole other time. I have two degrees, a B.S. in Religion and an M.Div. in leadership. I enjoy a great many things some of which include writing (gee, what a surprise), martial arts, anything media that has a good story to tell, cooking, discussing/reading/occasionally writing about Christian theology, General theology, religious belief systems, philosophy, etc. I also enjoy reading medieval and previous magical texts and studying the history, practice, and beliefs about magic from around the world. I don't practice magic and if you want to know my personal beliefs on the subject you can email me, however the intersection of magic and religion is a very interesting topic.

Posted on April 9, 2011, in Monsters, Tobias Mastgrave and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I quite like the idea of a Barghest – fairly similar to a Gytrash (as featured in Jane Eyre) but more terrifying/evil. They have been used quite a lot, especially under the wider “black dog” theme (Harry Potter, The Witches, Dracula to name but a few). Merlions are pretty cool too – head of a lion, body of a fish. Hybrids are definitely the most interesting mythological creatures!

  2. Interesting and inspiring post! 🙂
    I think my favourite right now is the sphinx. I just wrote a short piece featuring one snarky sphinx, and I would like to bring him back in more stories.

  3. The Barghest is an interesting creature, but it usually gets absorbed into the larger Black Dog category, so it’s difficult to find fiction featuring an actual Barghest, which has a wilder, more bear-like aspect than most of the Black Dog style creatures. The Dungeons and Dragons RPG has an interesting interpretation of the Barghest.

    Strangely enough, I’ve never like the Sphinx. There are a few monsters in a vague, broader category of Riddle Creatures, that I enjoy stories about; but the sphinx just never did it for me.

  4. I’m rather fond of the Windstone version of the Kirin.

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