Horror slices and dices a helpless victim’s meek sensibilities, or sinks its pointy claws into your supple psyche. Horror is a shapeshifter, and each form expresses dark aspects which are unique to the vision or style. Sometimes the fright is jackhammered into your soft brain, while other times it crawls through the jungle of life, like a panther stalking a mammal who strayed too close to the watering hole.
Monsters inhabit the land of horror, but where the hell do they come from?
Let’s face the gruesome facts: monsters make people soil their slacks. People have been staining their loincloths for thousands of years. The only difference is…well…the monsters that ancient people feared were fuckin’ real! Cave tigers, saber-toothed tigers, short-faced bear, woolly mammoth, mastodon, giant ground sloth, North American lion, teratorn…just to name a few.
Nature is an absolute freak-show, and it’s natural for wild animals to inhabit our nightmares.
Animals don’t just inhabit our nightmares, either. Take a quick gander at the mythologies created by various cultures. Greek mythology is famous for having a feral cast of animal-inspired characters. Rip a head off a bull and stick it on a chiseled man, and you’ve got yourself an authentic Minotaur. Who wouldn’t be scared of a bullheaded beast equipped with six-pack abs? Yikes.
Medusa had serpentine dreadlocks. Enough said.
Oh! What about Pegasus? A plain ol’ white horse ain’t that exciting, but slap some wings on that vanilla mustang and you got yourself a flying horse. Yeehaw.
Just in case that’s not enough—if you were to toss a tasty lion, goat, snake, and a dragon into a blender, then puree those nightmarish baddies into a gooey glop, you’d get a chimera! The fiercest mythological thing ever created. Chimeras belch fire, too. Run for your life.
True fact: Chinese culture is infested with fantastical dragons, and nothing is scarier than a damn dragon, right? Exactly. But…what is a dragon? A dragon is simply an iguana which so happens to be a litttttle larger than the rest of the lizards, and so happens to have the ability to fly, and so happens to have the ability to expel fire from its fat mouth. No big deal.
What about King Kong? Hollywood made a generic gorilla just a litttttle larger, then what happened? Everyone released their bowels into their khakis. Everyone. Who in their right mind wants to fathom a giant gorilla climbing a skyscraper? That’s the kind of stuff nightmares are made of.
If there’s a mutant lizard responsible for burning Tokyo to ashes, please blame it on Godzilla. Remember the iguana? Pump it full of radioactive steroids and step far, far away, because atomic breath kills. So do steroids. Lesson learned, kiddos.
Animals seem to be the creative inspiration which manifested the monsters of ancient lore. Many monsters share the same physical traits as animals: teeth, scales, tails, wings, stingers…it seems like monsters are, indeed, animals. Recent creations (like King Kong) also reflect the savage duality between animals and monsters.
Let’s hop on a plane and soar to ancient Egypt. Abominable entities hide inside the burning sands of Egyptian culture. Canines don’t need any help—they’re frightful all on their own. What happens if you stick the head of a dog on a hypothetical god? Well…that shit is just insane. Anubis (or Anpu) is a dog-like god who is in charge of everything that’s no longer breathing, in other words: dead. If you need to be mummified, Anubis is your
man dog-man dog-god.
There’s something creepy about a dog-god who enjoys preserving organs in clay jars. Anubis doesn’t need a map to explore the gooey insides of a dead person, that’s for damn sure! His vast experience with embalming dead things has granted him specialized knowledge, and people respect that kind of qualities. Apparently.
Here’s another lovely recipe for the blender: 4 TBSP of eagle talons, a bunch of lion parts, chop it all up, and presto! A griffin will bust out of the blender and will most likely destroy your kitchen. These magical monsters are characterized by two back legs from a lion, and two eagle talons on the front legs. The head is also an eagle.
Did I forget to mention that a griffin has wings? Because it does.
Due to the intrinsic nature of a griffin’s mixed up biological parts, these peculiar mythological flying lion-eagle things were believed to be one of the most exquisite creatures to ever exist. Griffins often make appearances in fantasy stories or other creative expressions (such as video games), and they even graced the cover of medieval coat-of-arms.
What can we learn from our investigation? The answer is simple: monsters are animals and animals are monsters. Case closed.
How to Blend a Monster
There are some practical tactics we can use to create our own monsters, though. All we have to do is jumble a little of this and a little of that. So…stuff a kitten and bullfrog inside your blender and see what happens. Wait. Stop. Don’t literally stuff your blender with a cute feline and ugly amphibian, okay? Great. Use the squishy thing inside your skull and imagine what a frog-kitten would look like. Go on. See? That wasn’t so bad. No kittens or bullfrogs were harmed. (…right?).
The Monster Recipe
- Select two biological entities from the Animal Kingdom
- Combine the selected animals into a single beast
- See what happens.
People can relate to animals, which is why the movie Jaws made people wet their swimming trunks. Was there anything really special about the shark? Not really. The shark was just a shark, and it didn’t need wings, talons, beaks, tails, or the ability to belch napalm. The shark had a fat mouth and sharp teeth, which it used to tear apart the viewer’s dormant dread.
Animals are not only outside our front door—they also roam the dark landscape inside our primordial fear.