Be Very Afraid: 8 Monsters of Literature and Folklore
Just years after Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein first appeared on shelves, the title took on a life of its own. Though many people incorrectly believe that Frankenstein refers to the stitched-together monster endowed with life, the name, in fact, belongs to the monster's creator, Dr. Frankenstein. However, this error is so ubiquitous that the term is now widely used to refer to the monster as well as the man.
Victorian English literature has Frankenstein, and Jewish folklore has the golem. Formed from clay, this humanoid midrashic monster comes to life with the aid of supernatural powers. In some stories, the golem becomes animate when the Hebrew word for "truth" is written on the forehead the monster. When the first letter in this word is smudged out, the Hebrew word "death" remains, and the golem dissolves into a mound of clay.
The epic poem Beowulf features one of the most terrifying creatures in the Anglo-Saxon literary canon, Grendel. Written in Old English, Beowulf chronicles the story of the title character, a brave warrior, as he protects the King Hrothgar from an attack by Grendel. Once Beowulf defeats Grendel, however, the fun is not over; he must then defeat Grendel's equally frightening revenge-seeking mother.
While many folks know Dracula as a tuxedoed vampire sired by Bram Stoker in 1897, few are aware of Stoker's real-life inspiration for this undead creature of the night. Vlad III Dracula notoriously skewered his enemies on stakes and then left them to die. These brutal tactics earned him the nickname Vlad the Impaler. The name Dracula means "son of Dracul," and was a name handed down from Vlad III's father.
Big Foot, sometimes called Sasquatch, is a large, hairy apish creature who wanders through the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest and Canada. This elusive giant is often hunted, but never caught. He gets his name from what his pursuers have gleaned about his form from the giant footprints he leaves behind. Perhaps one day these imprints will lead us to the genuine article.
The yeti or the Abominable Snowman is Big Foot's Asian counterpart. Allegedly found in the Himalayan Mountains, this white-furred beast treks through the high altitudes, unseen by human eyes. His name comes from the Tibetan word yeh-teh meaning "little manlike animal."
[boog-ee-man, boh-gee-, boo-]
Possibly from the Middle English bugge meaning "a frightening specter," bogeyman has been part of a cautionary tale told to naughty children since Victorian times. The bogeyman is said to kidnap children who have been bad, so always be good. We wouldn't want the bogeyman to steal you away, now, would we?
Diminutively called Nessie, the Loch Ness monster swims through the waters of Loch Ness, a lake in Scotland. The term Ness likely comes from the Old Celtic word meaning "roaring one." Though there are many stories of the Loch Ness monster, her existence has never been confirmed by science. She exists merely as a legend. Perhaps it's better this way.