Countries and Their Monsters

Monsters.  What can  you say?  They’re awesome.  Those interested in traveling to areas of historic significance may be frustrated that the kids couldn’t care less about a castle.  But tell them a werewolf was once thought to live in the nearby forest and their ears will perk right up.  Below is a list of several countries and their respective monsters.  Some are steeped deep in ancient folklore, while others are modern machinations of Hollywood.  Either way, a knowledge of monsters will add color to any vacation.

Egypt, Mummies

Pyramids at Giza - The Mummy

Pyramids at Giza - The Mummy

Three guesses what the most famous monster in Egypt is, and if you really need all three guesses we have a problem.  The answer, of course, is mummies.  Ancient Egyptians believed that preservation of the body was essential for one’s afterlife.  The result, of course, was countless ancient Egyptians were preserved through mummification, and are still being found today.  Folklore and Hollywood brought about the idea of mummies returning to life.  When it comes to folklore, however, the only real dangerous aspect of mummies are the supposed curses placed upon their tombs.  Where can one see mummies?  Museums of course.  If in Egypt, the Luxor Museum actually has two mummified pharaohs.

Scotland, The Loch Ness Monster

monsters-2

Loch Ness Monster - Loch Ness

It’s one of the most famous monsters in the world, the Loch Ness Monster.  “Nessie”, as the monster is colloquially known, gained national popularity in 1933.  Substantial searches and speculation have gone on for decades trying to figure out what the monster could be, or if it even exists in the first place.  So what is our official opinion?  Does the “monster” really exist?  Certainly.  So, what is it?  Probably a number of things, depending upon the viewer.  On the most mundane level, seals are known to visit the loch along with various other animals.  Keep in mind that if one is “looking for a monster” they’re probably going to see one.  The least mundane idea lies in a simple, but surprisingly little known fact about the loch.  It has eels in it.  If anyone has had a pet fresh water eel, they’ll tell you they’re relatively boring animals that spend most of their time burrowed under the sand in your tank.  When they do come out to eat, they’ll stick their head out of the water trying to find a way out.  If one of these eels were to grow at all large, even six feet, let alone huge, say fifteen feet, it would certainly come across as a monster.  Plus, its questionable if a creature that spends most of its time burrowed under the gunk at the bottom of the lake would show up on sonar.  How old can they get?  There is one that has been living in a well in Sweden for 150 years.  So, where can one possibly see Nessie?  Loch Ness of course.

United States, Sasquatch

Olympic National Park Washington State - Bigfoot

Olympic National Park Washington State - Bigfoot

The United States has many of its own monsters including skunk apes, and the Jersey devil, but the most famous is without a doubt the Sasquatch, also known as “Bigfoot”.  Stories of “wildmen” originate from all over the world.  The most predominant ones, however, come from the Pacific Northwest where the native Americans told stories of giants who lived in the mountains and would on occasion steal fish from their fishing nets.  The stories of Bigfoot gained the most prominence in 1958 when the media finally picked up on the stories and published them  nationwide.  So is Bigfoot real?  Who knows?  It seems unlikely that a giant race of humanoids could still be living within the United States yet remain undiscovered.  It doesn’t help that many so-called “Bigfoot tracks” have proven to be hoaxes.  Another damning coincidence is the fact that bears exist in virtually every area where Sasquatches have been sighted.  It seems plausible then that the Sasquatch of legend could simply be bears standing on their hind legs.  If one wants to go look, however, a great place to start would be the state of Washington, where the most reported sightings have taken place.

Romania, Dracula

Dracula -

Dracula - Poenari Castle

Possibly the most famous monster in the world.  Vampires are known world-wide in various iterations, but the modern European style vampire is the one embodied in the idea of Dracula.  The stories surrounding European vampires originated largely from Southern Slavic folklore.  When Bram Stoker created Dracula it was only natural that he would choose this region as the home for his vampire, let alone a noble from this region known for his ruthlessness.  Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, also known as Vlad the Impaler, gained his nickname by creating forests of impaled bodies to intimidate his rivals and enemies.  In western Europe, he is considered a psychopath.  In east Europe, however, he is regarded as a hero, who kept the Turks at bay with his behavior.  So where can one see Dracula?  In the movies of course.  There are, however, a number of sites in Romania attributed to Vlad III.  The ruins of Poenari Castle is a site, without question, tied to Vlad III’s history.  When Vlad III was captured at this castle, it is said his wife threw herself into the river below, so she would not be held captive.  The castle is in Romania, where Wallachia was once located.  Another historic region of Wallachia goes by a different name, Transylvania.

France, Werewolves

Statue in Gevaudan - Wolfman

Statue in Gevaudan - Wolfman

Although England seems to be attributed by Hollywood as the place for werewolves, this is a bit of a misnomer.  Wolves were wiped out in England some time ago, so British werewolf folklore is virtually non-existent.  While werewolves and various shape-shifter lore can be found throughout the world, one of the best places is France, where they are known as “loup-garou”.  The most famous wolf story in France is the Beast of Gevaudan.  During a short period in the former province of Gevaudan (modern Lozere), a monstrous wolf attacked numerous locals.  Estimates have placed the numbers as high as over 200 attacks and over 100 deaths, with dozens of injuries.  Worse, this was not an isolated event.  Large man-killer wolves have terrorized France for centuries.  The term man-killer is not hyperbole.  These wolves were specifically known to target humans even when there were much more easier animals nearby.  Women and children were especially victimized.  In Gevaudan, two wolves were shot, both believed to be the beast, and the attacks finally stopped.  Today the beast is believed to have been either an aggressive wolf or perhaps a wolf-dog hybrid.  Today the area of Lozere is known for its beautiful countryside and great fishing.  The Abbaye des Chazes, where the first beast was killed, still stands to this day.

Monsters are fascinating, and knowledge of the local folklore can bring new depth to any journey or vacation.
Photo credits: liber, conner395, enderu, wikipedia, nature travels.

Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: Flickr/ conner395

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