Drawing from the Imagination: Mythological Creatures in Star Wars, Part 2

Mythological creatures come in any shape and size, their appearance only limited by the boundaries of the human imagination. Earth’s history is full of mythological creatures and fabled monsters, some of which have found their way to the Star Wars universe, either in form or in name. In the first installment we talked about story inspirations and about names of mythological creatures that are used in the Star Wars universe. This time we’ll elaborate on the mythological creatures from Earth that have appeared in the Star Wars universe in some form or another.

Creature Feature

Angels and demons are found in a range of religions and mythologies. Angels are best known for their role in Abrahamic religions, where they are celestial beings that act as a connection between heaven and earth, often as guiding spirits. Their depiction in art usually has them resemble glowing humans with bird-like wings, dressed in flowing robes. The opposite of the benevolent guardians, demons are malevolent spirits and sometimes even fallen angels (like the biblical devil, Satan). The Diathim and Maelibi are mysterious species often referred to as Angels and Demons, respectively. The Diathim are glowing, winged sentients inhabiting the moons (the ‘heavens’) of Iego, while the Maelibi live under the surface of the planet (the “underworld”). The Diathim were considered to be the most beautiful creatures in the universe and part of numerous wild tales told by spacers at every local cantina. The skin of a Mealibus looked like it was formed from molten gold. Their large horns and sharp claws endorsed their demonic appearance. Maelibi used their songs to disrupt brainwaves and cause a hypnotic compulsion that would eventually lead to their prey being ensnared and eaten alive.

Mythology - Iego

Dragons are one of the most famous legendary creatures. Dragons are reptilian creatures that appear in both European and Asian fables. The European dragons have four legs and bat-like wings, and usually represent evil. They have an intimidating appearance, usually fire-breathing and horned, with spiked spines and scales in a myriad of colors. The Asian dragons are more benevolent creatures. They are often depicted with serpentine bodies and often are an amalgamation of animals. Asian dragons are described in several different ways, sometimes having the head of an alligator or the head of camel. Modern stories even visualize dragons with a more canine appearance, such as Falkor the Luckdragon or Haku from Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.

In Star Wars, dragons are as plentiful as in Earth’s mythology. Endor’s Condor Dragon is a fine example of a creature resembling the European dragon, as is the Arkanian Dragon. To a lesser extent you might even consider the wingless Dragonsnakes and Krayt Dragons to be influenced by the role dragons played in mythology. The Duinuogwuin, also known as Star Dragons, are more akin to the benevolent and wise Asian dragons, as is the Kadri’Ra, although both have more legs than the legendary creatures.

Mythology - Dragon

Mermaids are also one of the more common mythological beings, appearing in legends of many civilizations from Europe, Asia and Africa. They are generally presented as beings with a female human upper body with the tail of a fish. Mermaids have been one of the most persistent legends, and are still part of modern-day cryptozoology. Numerous mummified “mermaids” are still on display around the world as curiosities and ethnological artifacts. Most of them are leftovers from Edo-period Japan, when they were a regular part of sideshow carnival, created by fishermen combining fishtails and monkey bodies. In the Expanded Universe of Star Wars, Lyric’s World introduced the Melodies. Melodies are a humanoid species with fish-like tails native to Yavin 8. They start their life cycle living on land and grow a fishtail during the Changing Ceremony around the age of 20. Many xenobiologists argued that Melodies may have been the product of Sith alchemy.

As mentioned in the introduction, the best known legendary creatures are probably the ones stemming from Greek mythology. Greek mythology has many stories involving a wide variety of heroes, gods and creatures, which are a popular subject for modern-day entertainment with movies such as Disney’s Hercules and Clash of the Titans, as well as the Percy Jackson novels and film adaptations. The cyclops, for instance, is a primordial giant with a single eye in its forehead. They appear in Hesiod’s Theogony as the sons of Uranus and Gaia, and in the person of Polyphemus in Homer’s Odyssey. The Abyssins from Byss were sometimes called ‘cyclops’ or ‘monocs’, although they themselves found these terms insulting and reacted with violence, befitting of their primitive and violent nature. Abyssins were characterized by their single eye and their ability to heal quickly and even regenerate limbs.

Mythology - Farfalla

Jedi Lord Velenthyne Farfalla and his lieutenant Lirondo have been depicted in the Jedi vs. Sith comics as beings with a humanoid upper body with goat-like legs, with Lirondo also sporting cranial horns. This species, later named Half-Bothans in the Essential Guide to Warfare, is remarkably similar to the fauns and Pan and his satyrs from the Greek and Roman mythology. Fauns were half human, half goat forest gods encountered by humans traveling in the woods. Satyrs were originally humans with goat-like features in Greek mythology, but they were in time syncretized with the Roman fauns. Similarly, the Envoy in service of Farfalla in the same comic series has been inspired by the winged beasts known as harpies. These creatures are described as beautiful women with wings instead of arms, or birds with the head of a woman. They appear in Rhodius’ Argonautika, where they steal the food out of the hands of Phineus as part of a punishment by Zeus.

Other references to Greek mythology include the Chironians, who are described as centauriforms in The Crystal Star. This is an obvious reference to the centaurs, who had the torso of a man on the body of a horse and are usually attributed as the offspring of Ixion and Nephele. Another centauriform species is the Octusi from Blaudu Octus. They are, however, more alien-inspired centaurs, with an Ithorian-like torso on the body of a Nerf. The aforementioned Nephele was a nymph, a minor nature deity in Greek mythology. They are celestial spirits that inhabit the forests, groves, mountains and rivers, and are regarded as responsible for giving life to nature. The Star Wars equivalent of nymphs may be found in Orphne, a female being living in the underworld of Aleen. This being is seen in the episode Mercy Mission of The Clone Wars.

The griffin is a mythological hybrid from the Greek myths, having the body of a lion with the head and wings (and sometimes talons) of an eagle. It was a powerful and majestic creature, as the lion and eagle were considered to be the king of beasts and birds, respectively. Griffins are often seen as guards of treasure and are a prominent subject in heraldry to symbolize strength and courage. Daughter, the Winged Goddess of Mortis seen in Overlords, could transform into a griffin, which symbolized the light side of the Force.

Mythology - Griffin

The Lernaean Hydra was a chthonic serpent with many heads. While vase art depicts the hydra as a many-headed snake, other sources add legs to the creature, giving it a more dragon-like appearance. The Hydra of Lerna was defeated as the second of Heracles’ Twelve Labors. Champions of the Force introduced the Battle Hydra to Star Wars, a dragon-like Sithspawn with two heads. The Geonosian Hydra seen in Ultimate Adversaries has three heads and a more insectoid appearance. These two creatures may not resemble most depictions of the mythical hydra, safe for the multiple heads, but their names indicate that the creature from Lerna may have had a least some influence towards their creation.

Medieval times also gave rise to several infamous mythological creatures. The werewolf was a creature that was developed during the Middle Ages, though some examples already appear in ancient mythology. The powerful cursed creature may have been added to the folklore in the Middle Ages, it was during the Early Modern Period (17th and 18th century) that trials and persecutions of people who were accused of being werewolves really peaked. The werewolf managed to outlive these legends and it became an icon of our modern horror pop culture. In Star Wars we have several candidates to fill in the position of the werewolf. Two of these species can be encountered in Chalmun’s Cantina at Mos Eisley: the Shistavanen and the Defel. The link between a werewolf and these species is quite obvious since both masks came from make-up artist Rick Baker’s personal shelf during the pick-up shots for A New Hope (the Shistavanen’s mask was nicknamed ‘Hyena-Man’ and the Defel’s mask ‘Wolfman’). George Lucas never liked them and replaced them in the Special Edition (Arleil Shous, the Defel, can still be seen though). A third species that shares a feature with the werewolf are the Lashbee from Lashbane. Physically, they may not have looked that similar to a werewolf, but when a small innocent Lashbee reached puberty or faced a lot of stress, it (permanently) turned into a fearsome Huhk. A species known as Wyrwulves actually exists in the Star Wars universe. They were six-legged canine animals and the offspring of the Codru-Ji species. When a Wyrwulf reached puberty, it turned into a four-armed humanoid several weeks later.

A gargoyle was originally a carved stone creature or character in (Gothic) architecture. Sometimes they were used to spout water, but sometimes they were just used to serve an ornamental function (called grotesques). A large bat-like creature, that was also known as a gargoyle, was carved very often. The Son of Mortis, one of the Force Wielders on Mortis, was able to transform himself into a gargoyle, also known as the Fanged God, the counterpart of the Winged Goddess.

Mythology - Gargoyle

The will-o’-the wisp from European folklore (also known as ghost-light or orb) is a ghostly light that was often seen hovering over swamps and bogs. It is said to resemble a flickering light luring travelers of their routes (or towards hidden treasure) and was believed to be an elemental spirit. Some group these entities with other similar phenomena such as fairies. Wisties, or firesprites, from the forest moon of Endor resemble these glowing, fairy-like orbs. A biochemical reaction in their body created energy in form of light and heat. They were ruled by Queen Izrina during the reign of the Galactic Empire and their beauty and rarity caused them to be in high demand on the black market.

The kraken may be the epitome of the legendary Sea Monster. Although it has become common knowledge in popular culture due to its recent appearance in the Pirates of Caribbean movies, the kraken finds its origin in Medieval Icelandic tales (not in Greek mythology). The creature remained prevalent in Scandinavian legends, but the kraken has been depicted in a number of ways, especially as a giant octopus, since the 18th century. The famous poet Alfred Tennyson even wrote a sonnet he called Kraken (1830). There are a few creatures in Star Wars that remind us of the kraken. The Demonsquid was a huge octopus living in the oceans of Aquaris, whereas The Krakana and the Great Arctic Skra’akan were fearsome predators in the oceans of Mon Cala. The two latter examples seemed to have been inspired (and named) after the kraken.

A couple of modern mythological creatures are also represented in Star Wars. Although the legend of the Yeti or Abominable Snowman has been part of pre-Buddhist beliefs in the Himalaya, the alleged existence of the giant cryptid became first known to the rest of the world during the 19th century. The alpha predator on Hoth is called the Wampa and these semi-sentient creatures are similar to the Yeti. They both have white fur, they possess a higher intelligence than a normal creature and they live in barren ice cold conditions.

A relative of the Yeti is Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch. This ape-like being is supposed to live in the Pacific Northwest region of North America and he looks a lot like a Wookiee. When Return of the Jedi was being filmed in the Redwood Forest in northern California, Peter Mayhew was actually asked not to wonder too far from the set, because the locals might have thought he was Bigfoot. Cryptologists explain that Bigfoot might be the last surviving specimen of Gigantopithecus, a prehistoric ape from Asia that could grow three meters tall. Into the Great Unknown, an Infinities comic in Star Wars Tales 19, made a direct link between Bigfoot and Chewbacca.

Another North American mythological creature is the jackelope. This creature is a mix between a rabbit (body) and an antelope (antlers). Most likely the tales of jackelopes were inspired by sightings of unfortunate rabbits infected with the Shope papilloma virus. The jackelope was a creature that also existed in the Star Wars universe, though there is no proof of any visual similarities between both creatures. It was native to Douglas III in the Centrality and the Poly Pyramid emporium on Rafa IV had a taxidermized Jackelope on display. It was known as an animal that was hard to catch during hunting expeditions. The explorer Mendel Douglas was able to catch a Jackelope, but he never returned from that particular hunt.

Mythology - Gampassa

The final example is a creature that was meant to appear in The Clone Wars but was never used in the episode of Season Two Children of the Force. The Gampassa was a sea turtle living on Glee Anselm. It was so large (twice the size of a Venator-class Star Destroyer) that the surface of its shield was used by the Nautolans as a location for their villages. This is very reminiscent of the Native American oral legend of Hah-nu-nah, the Great Turtle also known as turtle island.

Tim Veekhoven (Sompeetalay) is president, editor-in-chief, and cofounder of TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars Fanclub. He’s an administrator for Yodapedia and has written the backstories for Swilla Corey, Tzizvvt, Wam Lufba, and Maxiron Agolerga.

Kevin Beentjes (Wild Whiphid) is a molecular biologist working at the Dutch natural history museum. He’s an editor for TeeKay-421, an administrator for Yodapedia and fascinated with the myriad of alien life forms, in that galaxy far, far away.