10 Mythical Water Creatures You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
The sea is an unforgiving place. So are lakes, to a lesser degree. They’re a bit forgiving. Basically, any body of water can be unpleasant. We, as a species, have a weary respect for their power and mystery. It’s no wonder we’ve imagined so many fictitious inhabitants within that unseen world.
We’ve all heard of Cthulhu and the kraken. They’ve hogged the limelight for far too long. Here, we list ten mythical water creatures we hope you’ve never heard of.
#10. Bakunawa – The Moon Eating Dragon
If you’ve ever wondered what causes an eclipse and want a far more interesting explanation than science could ever give you, Philippine mythology has you covered. Ancient Filipinos believed that the eclipse has nothing to do with orbital overlap but is actually the result of a sea-based dragon called the bakunawa.
It was believed that the Earth once had seven moons. Six of them were thought to be eaten by the bakunawa, who rose from the sea, so enticed by their delicious appearance. Other supreme entities became aware of the bakunawa’s gluttonous behaviour at this point, intervening just in time to force the dragon to spit out the seventh moon.
All eclipses were believed to be the bakunawa returning to the scene of its lunar crime, attempting to chow down on the sky’s final satellite. So, when an eclipse happened, it was pretty much all hands on deck for every ancient Filipino. As much noise as possible was made—banging drums, screaming, and smashing whatever was nearby, in order to cause the bakunawa to once again spit out the moon.
#9. Ahuizotl – The Hand-Tailed Sea Dog
Ahuizotl roughly translates to spiny aquatic thing, which gives you a basic idea of what it is. However, the most noteworthy parts of its body are its hands, found at the end of its tail, and its dog-like legs.
It’s a creature invented by the Aztecs, potentially with the practical purpose of preventing kids from playing too close to water. The story goes that if anyone is to do so, they risk an ahuizotl grabbing them with one of their five hands and dragging them into the water. The ahuizotl has a particular hunger for human eyes, nails, and teeth. A detail that for some reason evokes even more fear than if it were to simply dine on the more meaty areas of the human body.
The ahuizotl was also believed to be an excellent mimic. It had the ability to create a sound similar to a crying child, meaning that do-gooders were lured over to bodies of water, where the ahuizotl could then whip its tail in their direction and dine on human crunchy bits.
#8. Qalupalik – The Inuit Child Snatcher
The qalupalik is another creature that most likely originated as a way for parents to control their unruly kids. It’s an Inuit creation, described as humanoid with long fingernails and green skin.
Inuit parents, exhausted by attempts to make children listen to them for factual reasons, instead warned them not to wander off or a qalupalik would kidnap them. Children would then be imprisoned in the qalupalik’s underwater layer. There, they were said to be kept in a state of slumber while the qalupalik absorbs their energy. This has regenerative benefits for the creature, who is obsessed with the pursuit of eternal youth.
The story goes that if one is near to a shoreline and hears humming, it means a qalupalik is nearby. Conveniently, humming requires no lip movement, meaning it’s a nightmare to determine where it’s coming from. So Inuit parents could simply hum whenever their children were misbehaving, triggering the Pavlovian response of desperate clinginess. We’re sure a lot of older siblings had a lot of fun torturing their little brothers or sisters this way, too.
#7. Inkanyamba – The Horse-Headed Eel
Inkanyambas are giant eels with horse-like heads. Zulu and Xhosa tribes in South Africa believe that at least one lives underneath Howick Falls, near the city of Pietermaritzburg.
The creatures are believed to be so powerful that their behaviour is responsible for irregular weather occurrences, such as summer storms and tornadoes. The latter is thought to be an inkanyamba flying through the air, in search of a mate.
Much like the kraken myth is potentially born out of the real existence of giant octopi, the inkanyamba could be a hyperbolised corruption of giant eels that are readily found in South Africa. They are known to grow to at least 6 feet long. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for something even bigger to be hidden away in an African body of water. We’d be pretty surprised if it turned out to have a horse’s head though.
#6. Lukwata – The Fisherman Hating African Lake Monster
The lukwata is believed to have a square head, a long neck, and brown body with a white belly. It lives in Lake Victoria, which stretches between Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. It’s said to mostly target fishermen, which seems pretty justified from a sea creature’s perspective.
Supposedly, the lukwata has lived in the lake for centuries. So long, in fact, that it exposes devastating inaccuracies. These largely concern water levels, which have shifted so much in the stated time of lukwata’s existence that it would have endured periods of time where there was no lake for it to hide in.
There have been multiple sightings of the creature. The most charitably non-dismissive explanations of such occurrences centre around witnesses misinterpreting what they saw. Catfish have been known to grow close to ten feet in length. As bottom-feeders, they can hide in the depths of Lake Victoria, popping up every now and then—creating monstrous silhouettes in the water.
#5. Tlanusi – The Cherokee Giant Leech
The tlanusi is a Cherokee myth. It’s been described as a giant leech with red and white striping on its body. Its home is in North Carolina, where Valley River and Hiwassee River join. The Cherokee people know it as Tlanusi-yi, meaning “The Leech Place”.
The tlanusi is thought to have been as large as a house. So large, in fact, that people were lured into a false sense of security and would approach it, believing it to be a solid structure. It’s quite a common trope in a lot of water-based mythology—the lynbakr of Icelandic mythology being a notable example. Its back is covered in faux heather, which is like catnip to Icelanders… presumably.
The tlanusi’s gargantuan size also allowed it to control the ferocity of the water. This meant that people who ventured onto the river could be dragged under at the tlanusi’s will.
Today, the river is a popular destination for recreational whitewater larks. The story of the tlanusi is therefore consistently butchered by overly-energetic outdoor activity instructors. Shaka brah!
#4. Nguruvilu – The Underwater Fox-snake
The Mapuche are an indigenous grouping of people, whose home stretches across Chilean and Argentinian borders. In their traditional religion exists a creature called the nguruvilu, which roughly translates as “fox-snake”. Its body is the snakiest bit of it. The tail is pretty foxy, albeit with the horrific addition of a claw.
It’s traditional Mapuche belief that nguruvilus both create whirlpools and live inside them. And they’re malicious, too. They trick people into believing river crossings are safe, by making the water seem shallow.
Witch-doctors, known as kalku were employed to extract nguruvilus from rivers. It was their job to dive directly into the whirlpool and drag the creature to land. There the nguruvilu receives a stern mystical talking to and is released back into the water, on the condition it behaves itself.
Celebrations would then take place, with locals rejoicing in the seemingly frail belief that the river no longer posed a threat.
#3. Mishipeshu – The Underwater Panther
Mishipeshu is an underwater panther. It’s highly revered by the indigenous people of the American Northeastern Woodlands.
Specifically, the Alonquins believe that the creature is the most powerful of all the underwater creatures. Other indigenous groups also hold Mishipeshu in great reverence, yet there is a small amount of variation concerning the creature’s power.
Mishipeshu is different in appearance to its land-based counterpart. Mercifully, it’s scaled—which must make its life a lot easier than if you were to just submerge a regular panther in water. It also has spikes running down its spine and is often depicted as having the feathers of a bird.
Mishipeshu was believed to guard copper mines that ran alongside rivers. Dead bodies that washed ashore were often believed to be the result of an attempt to snag some copper. If someone was found with white sand in their mouth, it all but confirmed that they were killed by Mishipeshu.
#2. Muldjewangk – The Aborigine Fish-Man
The muldjewangk is an Australian Aboriginal creation. In its narrative, it dwelled in the Murray, which is Australia’s longest river. Its most often depicted as a giant fish-human hybrid creature.
It’s another mythical creature that was used to great effect as a deterrent to children, to stop them acting stupid near water. In one particularly popular story, the muldjewangk is said to have attacked a steamboat. As it climbed up the boat’s hull, the captain, ignoring an Aborigine’s warning, shot at the muldjewangk. Angered by its injury, the muldjewank placed a curse on the captain. He was soon covered in red blisters and died six months later.
If you see a big chunk of seaweed floating in the sea, avoid it like the plague. It’s believed that muldjewangks hide in it. If you swim away, they’ll catch up with you. If you fight back, you’ll die a slow blistery death. So, yeah, get away in good time or just accept your fate. You don’t want a muldgewangk curse.
#1. Naga Seri Gumum – The Dragon Spirit Of A Bleeding Log
Naga Seri Gumum is a dragon that many of the indigenous Orang Asli people of Indonesia believe lives in Lake Gumum, which leads into the larger Chini Lake.
Supposedly, before both dragon and lake were created, the area belonged to an old lady. One day, intruders attempted to claim her land as their own. In a symbolic declaration of her ownership, the old lady jammed her walking stick into the ground. She then told them that if they remove it, there will be dire consequences.
As the suitably spooked intruders made their way back home, they hit a log which began to bleed and caused the weather to dramatically alter. Terrified, they ran back in the direction they came—accidentally knocking over the old lady’s walking stick. This caused water to spring from the ground, forming the lake. Naga Seri Gumum is the spirit of the bleeding log.
Sadly, the lake isn’t coping so well with modern pollution and the wildlife is slowly dying out. If the guardian dragon’s out there, now would be a really good time to make its presence known.