Monster Monday: Hydrus

Photo from the British Library

Old maps are amazing. They show a much different version of the world than what we know. Prior to the further exploration into the interior of new countries there were writers like Pliny the Elder who wrote about the new creatures and people that he had heard about. One of the beasts Pliny wrote about was the Hydrus, this is not to be confused with the hydra.

The Hydrus was a snake type animal that lives in the Nile river in Egypt where it was considered a crocodile killer. The hydrus would allow the crocodile to roll it in the mud while it slipped into the crocs mouth. While in the crocs stomach the hydrus would eat it’s way through the side of the croc. Thus killing it.

The interesting fact about the hydrus is how it is described. Pliny states that it is type of river otter whereas Isidore of Seville lists the Hydrus as a type of snake. In Isidores description of the hydrus that caused those that it bit to swell up. But you would be able to cure the swelling with Ox dung. Isidore also noted that the smell of the beast is healthful. However; you wouldn’t want to put the hydrus in your food as the meat is poisonous.

I find the hydrus to be really interesting. In that there are two different descriptions of the hydrus that are widely different. Was it a otter or a snake? This was a new monster for me and I am interested in seeing if any of the other ancient writers wrote about the hydrus. I personally have only found the two descriptions of the hydrus. If you have seen another ancient author writing about the hydrus please let me know. I reviewed a few of the ancient maps that are online but I didn’t see the hydrus listed in Egypt.

Monster Monday: Elephant eating Dragons

I decided to open up my weird little world a bit and I am going to be writing a couple of different weekly columns Monster Monday and joining in for Folklore Thursday. I believe that my love of horror really stemmed from my love of monsters, mythology, folklore and fairytale. They are all scary in their own ways and are usually the first “horror” stories that we are told.

Most of us love dragons. The wing creatures that take flight with large leathery wings that can scorch the earth or hide deep underneath the mountains on hills of gold. But did you know that India had a dragon that fought elephants? The Roman historian Pliny the Elder wrote about the Indian dragons in The 8th Book of the History of Nature chapter XI.

Pliny stated that the elephants and the dragon’s were continually at war with each other. The dragon would hide in the foliage of trees along the route the elephant would take to get food or water. It would drop down on the elephant and wrap itself around the packaderm’s legs and attack their vulnerable eyes and trunk. In Pliny’s manuscript there was no mention of the dragon breathing fire or being venomous however; Hugo de Folieto added to Pliny’s description of the Dragon’s of India. Folieto added indeed the the dragons are indeed venomous and attack ships that are sailing in the Indian Ocean.

Today we may think elephant fighting dragons are ridiculous. However, during this time it would have been common for the local mythology to be included in histories of areas of the world that hadn’t been explored by the author.