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Dragons and Fairies and Wraiths . . . Oh My!

Happy last Saturday of February! Today marks the finale of February is Fantasy Month, and I have to say it’s been a blast! There’s been so many great posts on the blogosphere (I guess that’s actually a real term?) about worldbuilding and fantasy creatures, and if you wanted to check them out, you can do so here (just scroll down to the Linkz section). It being a leap year, having an extra day to celebrate this month is awesome, and I’m glad for another opportunity to gush about fantasy things!

So far I’ve only focused on the worldbuilding of this month’s theme, but there was another part to it: fantasy creatures, and for this last day I want to give them some screen time, because they really are amazing.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I tend to make a distinction between a fantasy creature and a fantasy race. Things like elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins, trolls, giants, certain sorts of fae, etc. are what I would put into the latter category. Maybe even dragons, although they hover on the border. Creatures would include things like wraiths, griffons, phoenix, unicorns, thwaps, marsh-wiggles, just about everything under the label ‘chimera’, etc.

Some books only have a few of these creatures, while others are chock full ─ it depends on the world and the story being told. What I think is great about fantasy creatures is that they’re as limitless as the genre to which they belong. They give depth and life to the worlds they live in, making the story that much more an experience as we as readers explore.

What’s neat is that we have a (basically) standard collection that we think of when we hear the word ‘fantasy’ (most prominently dragons), and then there are all of the unique creatures that are specific to the story being told.

Within this category are two subcategories, for lack of a better term. There are magical creatures, ones that are associated with magic or curses or powers of other, such as the Nazgul, sprin, djinn, mushi, fae ─ basically anything that is either formed by or capable of the supernatural.

The second ‘subcategory’ are basically natural creatures that are just . . . not natural, like snickbuzzards and toothy cows, dire wolves and hippogriffs. Chasmfiends and draccus(es?). Giant spiders.

Granted, the line between these is hazy and often difficult to define, and the cool thing is that there are no rules saying your creature has to be one or the other. These are mythical, legendary, fantastical creatures after all (have I mentioned dragons? They’re all over the board). I’m merely listing these generalized types based on what I’ve observed over my years of reading.

So! Why don’t I share with you a few of the creatures I have in my own stories?

In Falconsbane I have dragons, and I wanted to follow in the footsteps of Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon series by putting a different twist on them. The majority of the dragons in the story are small, about the size of a barncat. These are trained by the Phennish military to carry messages (kind of like pigeons, only WAY cooler). There are also these giant deer-like animals called alks. They average in size comparatively to a moose, with a body shape like caribou, and massive antlers that are basically a combination of a moose and red deer. I had a lot of fun coming up with these creatures, and they’re mentioned often in the books

In The Journey Taken I had a much more ‘epic fantasy’ approach, with multiple races, magic, and creatures that leaned toward the magical. These creatures are known as Monsters, Ollpheist, and Archfiends, depending on where you are in the world and who you ask. There are many of these fiends, although I don’t think I ever made a master list of them . . . Note to self: that’s a good idea. One of my favorites is the Arvespine, which are giant spider-bees. They live in colonies under a queen and spin webs that take over large swaths of forested areas. Then there are Venus Man Traps, which lure their victims with the narcotic aroma of its flower before bursting from the ground to devour you. The Seda are another kind, and perhaps the creepiest of them all. They’re phantasms, semi-transparent and silent, and yet their bite is all too real and venomous, inducing hallucinogenic dreams that paralyze their prey while they drain it of blood.

NOT something I’d want to run into EVER.

Coming up with the Monsters for that series was a blast, combining traits from different animals, plants, and whatnot to create something new. There was a lot of ‘what if . . .’ going on!

How about you? What are some of your favorite fantasy creatures? Have you met any that chill you to your bones? Any you wish existed in the real world? Have you created any, whether on a whim or for a story?

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