I recently finished reading the book Monster, by A. Lee Martinez, which includes a lot of different mythological monsters. Some are quite familiar, like the sphinx and the hydra, while others are rather more obscure. I’m going to look at three of the more obscure ones here. I’d like to get three separate entries out of them, but there really isn’t enough information available. First, since today was exceedingly warm for December, we’re going to travel to Greenland and look at a creature from Inuit mythology, the az-i-wu-gum-ki-mukh-‘ti.
Picture by Jen Dickinson
I can’t find any indication as to what this long name actually means. The explorer E.W. Nelson simply called it a “walrus dog,” without bothering to come up with a literal translation. This is a pretty accurate description, although the lore about it presents at as much more dangerous than this might suggest. It does resemble a walrus with the legs and possibly the head of a dog, but also thick black scales on its body. Its tail is powerful enough to kill a person in one blow, and even to totally destroy boats. It’s sometimes said to serve as a protector of ordinary walruses.
Picture by Christopher Bonnett
The Gaborchend comes from Irish mythology, and is a humanoid with the head of a goat.
They were said to be among the earliest intelligent inhabitants of the island, before actual humans settled there; and are descended from the monstrous Fomorians. They’re thought to now be extinct, having died in the war between the Fir Bolg and the Tuatha De Danann.
Finally, the Kojin is a kind of Japanese ogre with at least a hundred arms that crushes and eats children. They reside in enoki trees, and broken dolls are given as offerings to them. It is said that the Kojin eventually changed her ways and became a protector rather than a destroyer of kids. Kojin is also the name of a god of the hearth, worshipped as a personification of destructive forces harnessed for beneficial ends. He not only presided over fire, but also made sure the kitchen was stocked with food, and kept tabs on the household. I suppose there were either a lot of Kojins or one who could be in multiple places at once. This Kojin was depicted with two or more pairs of arms, and sometimes three heads as well.
Even though they were usually portrayed as male and the ogre as female, they might have been variations on the same being. Or maybe the males are fire deities and the females tree-dwelling demons.