Psychic Garden presents a rare Egyptian children's book with incredible mystical artwork - A dictionary of mythological folklore creatures from various cultures around the world ~ Written by Egyptian writer Shawky Abdul Hakim and illustrated by Egyptian artist Mohieddine El-Labbad.
~ This article contains dozens of HQ images, please allow a few moments for all of the incredible content to load before reading ~
This article was made possible by resident creative Sireen El Araj, who provided us with the full 40-page Arabic to English translation. This opening passage of the article is adapted from the book's back cover.
"The book examines about fifty characters based on famous superstitious creatures in myths and folklore tales, whether in the Arab world or in other countries, these characters were arranged in the book in alphabetical order in the form of a dictionary - We will be reading about : (The Ghoul), (The Phoenix), (The Roc), (Shaqq And Sateeh), (Luqman's eagles), (The Beautiful Monkey), (El Naddaha) and (The Fire Dog). We will also read about: (Ganesha) and (Garuda), (The Dragon), (The Fire Rooster) and (The Water Goblin). This amazing and insightful book provides concise and accurate information about each character and their unique characteristics, providing a fictional illustration for each one. Our budding reader will enjoy learning about the Fantasies of different nations, and the way people everywhere have embodied their fear of the unknown in strange, humorous characters, far from logic and reason."
"The readers then realize that their childhood fear of these myths was an ordinary and common fear that one must go through in his childhood before his perception is refined, as human groups also go through it during their childhood and before their perception is fully realised. By knowing about the different types of these unique mythological creatures, the readers will know how the these creatures often have a strong relationship with the environment in which it appears in (the Elephant in India, the Eagles in Arabia, the monkeys in Sudan, and the tiger in Central America)"
"After the budding readers have folded the last page of the book, they will come up with clear ideas to help them assess their own stage of childish fear, and to permanently close that period. They also - perhaps – will enjoy the revival of their childish feelings of fear, with its wit and humor! The material of this book was prepared by, the writer, critic, and folklore researcher, Shawky Abdel Hakim, in cooperation with El-Labbad the illustrator, who also directed the book and drew its paintings."
~ Please enjoy the raw 40 pages of the book. The full translation and exploration on every individual creature is featured below ~
The Sphinx - (Egypt - Iraq - Greece)
A mythical creature with the body of a lion, and human head, sometimes portrayed with wings. Among the Assyrians, we find him with a long beard, There is also a Sphinx with a falcon head. In all forms of this Sphinx, his head symbolises rightful-thinking, and his body symbolises powerful force, he’s the creature that brings mind and power together.
In Assyria, beards were considered a sign of manliness and strength - akin to the lion’s mane ! The beard was also a status symbol. The higher up you are in the royalty ladder, the more flamboyant your beard had to become.
Alan - (The Philippines)
Alan lives in a house of gold, her upper half is human and the lower half is a bird. One of her habits is to cling her feet into the branches of trees. She appears in fairy tales as a creature that tends to cause evil and harm despite its naive and innocent appearance that deceives its victims.
Amphisbaena - (Europe - North America)
A snake with two heads: the first is in the front and the other is at the end of its tail. It moves quickly when one of its heads is placed between the other, this allows it to roll from one place to another like a huge collar. Myths say: This creature lives in the state of (Massachusetts) in the USA.
Aspidochelone - (Europe)
A horrific aquatic whale-like beast that floats still and motionlessly on the water's surface. Even trees, plants and flowers can grow on its huge back, sailors think it’s an island, so they land on it, and everything remains fine until they prepare fire for heating or preparing food, here the beast feels the burning sting. So it drags those unsuspecting sailors down under the waves straight down to reach the depths, where they all would perish. Aspidochelone eats in a strange way , the smell of it's breath is like small fish, he keeps his mouth open wide so the fish will swim into its throat.
Anansi - (West Africa)
A giant spider, which in some myths reincarnates the trickster’s personality, and has the ability to appear in a human form. This spider is characterised by many abilities and skills, he is typically selfish and loves tricks and setting traps. One of the characteristics of this supernatural creature is his ability to speak eloquently, except that he has a Lisp (when the tongue goes between your front teeth and makes the “th- sound for the /s/ and /z/ sounds). Anansi has an eerily big appetite. In the stories, the victims of this tricky spider try to fight him and sometimes some of them succeed.
Moon Rabbit - (Japan)
While we (Arabs) liken the moon's craterous surface to a human face, the Japanese see a rabbit on the surface, always grinding dry rice by hammering it. Japanese myths believe this rabbit is millions of years old, and his gray hair begins growing when it reaches the age of five hundred!
Talking Trees - (Egypt - India)
In fairy tales the characteristics of supernatural powers do not only apply on animals and birds, but also on trees. There are tales about trees that do not have a shadow, trees that can walk or speak with the protagonists of the story, they often give them pure advice if they were good heroes.
Anubis - (Egypt)
This hybrid creature is a mixture between dog, fox, wolf, and human. He has long ears and piercing eyes that can see clearly in complete darkness, which are essential as he guards and walks between tombs at night. Anubis has the power to kill thieves who desecrate sacred graves and try to steal its treasures, which were usually buried with the wealthy dead.
Bunyip - (Australia)
An elliptical water goblin with four legs, its face resembles the face of a small pony, but it’s without a tail, and inhabits the bottom of lakes. Myths say that a hunter once caught it and stole it as a child, and its desperate mother revolted and created a huge flood that almost destroyed the town with its residents, the flood did not calm until when the residents mobilised and forced the hunter to return the little goblin back to its angry mother.
Barghest - (Britain)
Often shown in English myths as a monstrous goblin dog, a wild animal with fangs, horns and a tail, it rarely appears in a human form and can only be seen at night. In all forms, this creature's eyes sparks with the color of burning coals. It always wears an iron chain that makes loud clunking noises. In most of the Bargest myths, you find it to be a wicked being, whose appearance threatens the hero of the myth or story.
Poki - (Hawaiian Islands)
In the Hawaiian Islands there is a so-called (bell stone), it was called this because the locals realised it sounded like a bell when you knocked it. The people of the region believe that it is a truly magical stone. Anyone who goes to visit it at night can see the dog “poki” if they wish to. Poki is a giant brutal dog, it wanders over the Towering mountain peaks near the sky, and sometimes it can be seen in the form of a cloud in the sky.
The Kind-Cow (Buwch Frech) - (Britain - Wales)
A magical cow dotted with black and brown spots. Her tales and qualities are told in the stories of people of Northern Europe. She is affectionate and sympathies with the poor and meets the desires of the needy. She appears and offers needy people a bowl of milk, and then disappears from where she came into the nearest lake. The myth says that she has a distinctive voice, and a soliloquy heard by those who get visited by her.
Ganesha - (India)
The elephant in India is a sacred animal which represents intellectual strength, and sturdy earthy mental strength. A symbol of good fortune that gets much respect, veneration and attention. The Elephant is a favoured idol in India and celebrations and rituals are held for it. Legends have embodied this sacred idol into the character of (Ganesha). You find “Ganesha” with an elephant’s head and a fat human body, with four arms. He moves from place to place on the back of a mouse. This mouse is also a truly magical creature, who can miraculously support the huge weight of “Ganesha”, who is said to be addicted to eating candy and pies.
Garuda - (Indonesia - India - Cambodia)
Garuda is a mythical hybrid animal, with the large white head of an eagle and a golden humanoid body. It has two large wings that are red, while its feet resemble a bird's flock. The myths surrounding this bizarre creature present it as the enemy of all kinds of snakes, seen below as Garuda prepares to feast on a snake she has captured in her human grip.
Glaistig - (Scotland)
Glaistig is a fictional hybrid creature with the body of half a woman and half a goat, she loves children and loves to care for them, she also protects pets. Her compassion and care for them reaches the point of fighting (with those who want to cause children/animals harm) using her golden horns.
Griffin - (Europe)
A legendary hybrid beast that represents a mixture of Eagle and Lion. The Griffin has the head of an eagle and long ears that allow it to detect the smallest sounds. The top half of the body represents the eagle half of the hybrid, with the bottom half of the body representing the mighty Lion. It's number one enemy is the horse, and its job is to guard gold and hidden treasures, so it makes death the fate of those who think of stealing!
The Bear - (Europe, Britain)
A magical bear, who takes various forms in legends. In some, it appears as a huge black shadow, the size and scale of the bear differs from time to time, until it reaches an infinite magnitude, here this mythical perception meets with our local myths about demons and nocturnal supernatural creatures that they will expand until they block a street or a sprawling field.
The Fiery Rooster - (Aitvaras) - (Lithuania)
This strange creature is a hybrid of rooster and dragon. When it flies at night, its tail billows like an inferno. A fiery rooster lives in country houses as a normal, calm rooster, until it turns into its true personality, and here no one can hope to stand up to it. The rooster is fond of eating eggs, so it is possible for the bird to swap spoils in exchange for one or two eggs.
The Hoopoe, the bearer of messages - (Yemen - Arabia - Egypt)
In the mythological beliefs of some countries in the Arab world, the myth of Hoopoe describes it's ability to combine two lovers is union. This is due to the belief that the hoopoe was the sacred bird of Queen Bilqis, the queen of Sheba in Yemen four thousand years ago. She would send him carrying her messages to King Solomon. Until recently, keeping an alive hoopoe, or the head of a dead one was one of main superstitious ideas that people believed would help ease the road between them and the one they love.
Fatne the Serpent - (Lebanon)
An enornmous serpent, Arabic and Asian myths often tell many stories about it. One of the myths states that the body of this serpent - when it died - occupied over an acre area of land. This mythical serpent can swallow a knight with his horse in one - Myths tell that prior to her death she caused a huge fire, That burned down a large portion of the Lebanese cedar forests.
Water House (England)
A horse that lives in water, and its myths have spread in many countries, and although it is without wings, it can fly. It can be seen on a lake or on a beach grazing. Sometimes it lets a human ride their back, but immediately it flips its rider on the ground, fleeing and hiding from where it came.
KAPPA - (Japan)
Resembling a humanoid-turtle monkey with a long nose. It walks on its feet despite the presence of a turtle shell covering his back, It has webbed fingers and toes that helps it swim with ease in the lakes and rivers and swamplands that it inhabits, it doesn't like to get closer to oceans at all.
Catoblepas - (Ethiopia)
Described as a medium-sized mythical creature, very similar to the calf. Its body is covered with scales similar to fish scales, and it has a tail that resembles the tail of a snake, the head is made of thick, shaggy hair, and this hair is so heavy it reaches a level that makes it difficult for him to lift its head off the ground, This is a good thing, because if it raised its head and .looked at any other creature, it would immediately kills it with one look
Cockatrice (Basilisk) - (Europe)
Myths say that a snake stole a chicken’s egg and laid on it, so that the egg would hatch this wondrous creature that combines the features of the rooster with the features of the snake, and which can fly in space. Despite the small size of this creature, its breathe can kills crops, and its gaze kills living creatures on sight. Although it is a king on snakes, it dies upon hearing a rooster sound, and for this reason it lives in deserts. There is a legend that says that the Basilisk can only be killed if it looks in the mirror.
Kikimora - (Eastern Europe)
A mythical creature that looks like a hen, but wears the clothes of European peasants. She has a long neck and a beak, and her hands and feet are similar to chicken feet. Kikimora takes care of Chickens in rural Farms, and various legends claim that she helps housewives with their chores.
Qilin - (China)
A mythical animal that looks like a large deer, it has one big Antler in the middle of its forehead, a sign that it is the leader of all animals, The Qilin is a very gentle animal, to the point that its footsteps do not harm the micro creatures that its feet may step on, and its sounds are said to be beautiful.
Dog of Fire - (Sudan)
The Dinka tribes - whose home is in the White Nile in Sudan - have never hit dogs, they believed that the dog is the first to bring them fire. These old tribes lived a long time without knowing about fire and if a man among them caught a fish he would cut it into pieces, and would leave it in an exposed container under the sun's heat to ripen before eating it.
The terrifying Dog (Black Shuck) - (Britain)
Described by myths as a thick black-haired dog, bulky in size. His eyes are frightening and burning when he looks in the dark, and he does not attack unless a person touches him with his hand, then he mauls them brutally.
Lamia (El Naddaha or Al-Silmawah) - (Egypt-Libya)
Greek mythology tells that “Lamia” was a Libyan princess and wife of “Zeus”, the chief deity of Greece, but he abandoned her after a while and imbued her with a spirit of revenge and became eager to steal husbands from their wives. The myth of Lamia evolved In the Arab and Egyptian mythological heritage, to the character of "El Naddaha or Al-Silmawah” that deceives young travellers and peasants when she meets them individually when they are alone, and she can causes them great harm that sometimes reaches the point of absorbing their blood for her pleasure.
(Luqman's Eagles) - (the Arab World)
The Arab sage known as "Luqman the wise” believed that his life was related to the lives of nine eagles, and that he would die as soon as the last one of them died. This last eagle, called the "Leaped" eagle, stayed alive after the death of the other eight, and therefore Luqman the wise remained spoiling him and trying to prolong his life, to extend his own life as well. Myths did not mention which of them died before his companion!
Smiling Tiger (Balamam) - (Central America - Mexico)
The name Balamam originates in the tales of the Indigenous peoples of Central America and is shown as a tiger or leopard with magical abilities and is sometimes called the smiling tiger. It can bond quickly with people, and loves all animals of his family (the cat family "Felidae"), and has a very wide mouth. Mexico's myths say it protects villages and wheat fields.
Skrzak - (Eastern Europe) - (left) & Simurgh - (Iran - Russia) - (right)
Simurgh is a winged dog, with the jaws and the head of a dog and also owns a pair of bird wings. It is a creature who loves human beings and does not seek to harm them, and legends say that it lives in a tree whose fruits can heal all diseases. Skrzak is one of the fictional creatures that is said to cultivate fields from time to time, and it is said to live in tree trunks, cavities or in a dank cave. It resembles a sad, poorly hen, and its tail hangs weakly in a way that provokes sympathy, but in a moment it can turn into a goose, cat, dog, or even a thick-haired human. Myths claim that it brings happiness and richness to the family in which they live with.
Phoenix - (Arabia - Egypt)
The Phoenix is larger in size than the Vulture, distinguished by its beautiful voice. It is between five hundred and a thousand years old, and when this legendary bird reaches this age, it builds nests for itself on top of the highest trees, where the sun rays can burn the nest with the "phoenix" inside it until it turns into a pile of ash. Soon after, a little phoenix emerges from the ashes, as soon it gets stronger, it carries the ashes to the Temple of the Sun in Egypt, and returns to where it grew up to start a new life cycle. There are legends in China and Japan: similar to the Arabian legend of the Phoenix, the Chinese and Japanese legends exaggerate the description of the beauty of “the phoenix, and its colourful feathers. And they mention that other birds pilgrimage with it and gather around him wherever it goes.
Ifrit (Demon) of the House (The Arab World - Eastern Europe)
Ifrit is rarely seen, he dwells under the doorsteps of houses and it is forbidden for those who see him to draw his attention. Despite his illusive nature, he feels the need to appear in front of people, he can disguise himself as a cat, dog, or as a child. When he returns to his original form, we find him with a body that is completely covered with fine hair up to his Palms, sometimes he has two horns and a tail, As for his voice, it’s like a whistling wind. Some mothers say that he resents hearing obscenities!
The Water Goblin (Vodyanoy) - (Eastern Europe)
An aggressive mythical creature that inhabits a glass castle under the water, he decorates his palace with the precious treasures he finds in sunken ships. He hates humans and kidnaps some of them to use them as slaves in his palace after giving them the ability to live underwater. While he appears as a fish, and sometimes as a huge frog. The 'water goblin ' is characterized by the fact that he can only see in the darkness of the night.
The White Elephant - (India)
Ancient Indian myths and legends describe the sacred white elephant as resembling snow in the pure whiteness of it's tough skin, and that it also has two wings that it with fly through the sky, where its magical abilities enable it to create clouds on dry days when the sky is clear of clouds.
Saft - (the Arabian Peninsula)
Saft is a wondrously enornmous bird. The Myths and legends say that it spends all its life flying in space without any rest, it even lays eggs while flying, and the egg hatches a small chick in space before it crashes to the ground, the shells are the only parts of the egg that reaches the ground. And if any animal eats those shells, it will immediately go insane!
The Cat - (Europe - Japan)
Old mythical beliefs approached the cat as an enchanted animal, and myths often linked black cats with fairies. The myths tell a lot about enchanted cats who give their owners milk, cream and butter each Morning, but they also inflicted severe punishment on other cats who have harmed them. The Japanese believe that the cat has the ability to transform itself into a human. At the same time, the myths of the whole land agree, that a cat - whether it was enchanted or a demon - is afraid of dogs, and runs as fast as possible in front of any dog that appears in front of it!
The Beautiful Monkey (Sudan)
She is a deceiving monkey, who meets the heroes of Sudanese fairy tales, during their travels in search of a beautiful and loyal wife. All the heroes abstain from this ugly monkey, and they do not realize that she turns (if the hero accepts her marriage) to a gorgeous, obedient, and faithful wife.
Roc - (Arabia - Madagascar Island)
A terrifyingly huge fictional bird, which can carry a huge elephant with its claws and transport it from one place to another with ease. The roc is mentioned in the stories of (Sindbad the Sailor) in the tales of a One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights). In one of the scenes of these stories, Sinbad sees a roc's egg from afar and thinks it's a mosque dome.
Shaqq And Sateeh (Arabia)
A pair of mythical characters, the Pre-Islamic Arabs told many myths about them. Ancient myths describe these cyclops snail creatures as having one hand and one palm, one-eye, and no bones in their bodies except the bones of the two skulls, and therefore all of them can fold themselves as well as a garment is folded. The pre-Islamic myths add that they were - at the same time - famous priests, once called upon by (Khosrow, the king of the Persians), to explain to him a disturbing dream that he saw in his sleep.
A wondrous creature that lives in forests and mountains - a mixture of human and bird, it has a beak in its face with human features and two wings. It masters the burglary and the fraud of Lumberjacks and lives in large palaces, where it welcomes its guests of spirits. Myths say that it is generous in giving luxurious gifts, that vanishes when morning appears!
The Dragon (All countries of the world)
The ubiquitous symbol of the Dragon takes various shapes that vary by country, it is depicted in some countries as a winged beast with several wings, and in others as a four-legged animal. There are Dragons who crawl on their stomachs like snakes, and other types with multiple heads, if one of them gets chopped off, three more heads will grow back in its place. Most Dragon forms across the world can breathe fire through their noses and mouths, and their bodies are covered with reptilian scales. The dragon, in European myths, does not appear except in at night, where it hunts and devours humans, before cutting off their water supply. European myths describe the dragon as wise, but at the same time, they talk about incidents in which it appears as a reckless or stingy creature who treasures and hoards piles of gold and jewelry. Dragons in eastern countries are wise and friendly most the time. The Dragons of China are multicoloured, their skin shines at night, it can fly and transform into a human form. They were portrayed with a long beard on both sides of its face, and with a precious jewel under its chin. The eastern dragon doesn't breathe fire, but would release smoke from its nostrils. Therefore, it can make clouds and then control the rain and the waters of the lakes and oceans where it lives.
Ancient Egyptian Myths of nomadism tell that an Egyptian navigator took refuge in a secluded island after his ship sank and that he met the ruler of the island, he found him a dragon with a length of thirty cubits, and the length of his beard reaching two cubits. The Egyptian navigator knew that the dragon lived alone after seventy-five other dragons, who were his children and brothers perished due to the fall of a celestial object on the island. Thus, the dragon lived alone, with a broken heart, waiting for the arrival of a stranger to the island, so he can reward him generously until his departure from there, as happened with the sunken Egyptian navigator.
The Fox (Asia - Europe)
The Fox in Japanese myths has many magical powers; it is able to switch to a human image to be able to harm them. The Japanese myth presents the fox as a perennial creature. Sometimes it reaches a million years old. In this case, its fur will become gray, and then cannot walk. In Chinese myths, we find the fox, as a friend of demons and goblins. In other countries, we find it able to completely disappear from the eyes of humans to practice its hobby of spying on them. Other countries myths tell of the fox's intimate relationships with human beings and how it honors those who protect it.
Unicorn (Asia - Europe)
A mythical creature whose hind legs are similar to the nightingale and its shape combines deer and horse characteristics, but it is faster and stronger than the deer. It has a spiral horn on its forehead, which is striped in red, black and white. It is usually meek, but it can also turn into a monster who is thirsty for blood. Myths say that if its horn is placed in water, it will purify it and any poison in it will be neutralized. Myths tell of a large group of thirsty animals who stood next to a polluted stream, the Unicorn came to purify the water with its horn, so that the animals could quench their thirst.
The Ghoul (The Arabian Peninsula - Egypt - North Africa)
Myths and legends of the (ghouls) were widespread in Arabia and North Africa. The Ghoul is a fictional creature in the form of an ugly, obese woman. She lives in a constant state of attempting to hunt, kill, and devour human beings. We find her in fairy tales as the house owner with cooking tools and utensils, and sometimes we find that she has various daughters or friends. Often the hero of the story can overcome her malice either by tricking her, or treating her with tenderness and kindness at other times. She often has a fatal weak spot, and the clever hero will often finds it.
Legends refer to a famous poet in the Arabian Peninsula, known as “Ta'abbata Sharran” who said he had knocked down The ghoul with one strike of his sword, and that the Ghoul was begging him to hurry up and kill her with another strike, but he refused and left her to die. This Situation is widespread in the Arab ghoul stories, The hero's strike is never to be repeated, and that the second strike may bring life to the ghoul. There is a myth about the ghouls that if they were struck again they would resurrect.
We finally reached the end of our amazing 40-page tranlsation.
We hope you enjoyed the artwork and mythology!
This article would not have been possible without Sireen El Araj
We hope to bring you more collaborations with her soon!
~ Psychic Garden