Mythical Beasts of the United States of America


Mythical Beasts of the United States of America

No, there isn't a Chupacabra, yes it surprised us too. This was always going to be an issue when creating a map of the USA. For us, we want the creatures to be as old as possible with stories that still survive. We have a very arbitrary age of 100 years in our head. Coincidentally, it is the same arbitrary number that we would use to assign the term "antique" to some poor unsuspecting object, who until recently had not realised so many years had slipped by and was now in quite a deep existential crisis. We are going to have to show a degree of flexibility when creating this map. We will draw on the Indigenous people and the early settlers as much as possible, but there are a few that we just have to get in there. Some mythical beasts may be included under the term "cryptozoology", which has similarities to mythology, only with a little less time passed and the tiny outside chance that they may exist. But many of the "drunk guy saw it staggering home from a bar at 3 am in 1978" stuff can go, sorry but a cryptid cartographer has to have some standards. Something we were very mindful of during this project was how (or even if) we would include indigenous belief. The decision was that we would include them, this is often our decision in these situations. There is trepidation in talking about or illustrating another person's culture, but we feel not including them in our maps is a greater evil. It would feel like playing a part in cultural erasure, we want no part of that, we are here to preserve and celebrate culture. There is also the glaringly obvious thought of - if we are going to make maps of mythical beasts across the world, representing other cultures is by definition unavoidable. We need to make sure we give other cultures the same respect and representation that we would give our heritage. So, the decision was to include them but with strict rules in place. - Not to use the blanket term "Native Americans" as this has become a problematic phrase that looks to include a wide range of people under one banner. And referring to the Dakota and Seminole under the same name would be no more correct than telling a Scottish person that you consider them to be Portuguese. If we were ever asked about one of the beasts, we would say which people it came from. -A lot of mythical beasts take on a special religious purpose or are still considered a man. Thus, referring to them as beasts could be very offensive. Any we include needing to very clearly be identified as "monsters" or "beasts" within texts we can find. - To represent the creature as the cultural texts describe them, not as a Hollywood vision of them. You will not see some kind of werewolf/demonic stag portrayal of a Wendigo here. It does a great disservice to the original stories, which are far more interesting and take on their special roles within a community to impart valuable lessons about life and the environment. -As usual, we are going to stay away from the super bleak, or issues that still affect communities today. It is the same reason we don't include changelings. Some of the things that happened to children who were believed to have been swapped by a supernatural being just shatters our hearts into tiny fragments. This is when the fun and joy of the project temporarily disappears, and you are left confronted by what can happen when belief turns ugly when people are tired, stressed, afraid, and desperate. We also don't include many witches either, unless it is something quite different from the typical story. Most of the history of witchcraft is the story of how ignorance allowed people to think it was not only OK but morally correct to torture and kill ordinary or outstanding women. A strong example of this that we found was from the Lakota. The Lakota believe in a being called Walking Sam or Tall Man, we won't talk about it here because it's just a massive bummer and we worry about treating it with the sensitivity it deserves. Let us move on to something more pleasant.... Lumberjacks absolutely smashed off their chops on distilled liquor strong enough to melt through the Statue of Liberty, even if she was wearing the Liberty Bell as a rain hat, with no problems whatsoever. Sat spinning tall tales around a campfire, with a higher capacity for the fantastical and ridiculousness than when your dad got drunk that time and insisted he could have been a professional football player. Though with less smashed commemorative plates and collectible figurines. The lumberjacks came up with some absolute beauties of beasties, we would love to talk about them all but that would fill a book. And indeed it has! We highly recommend the 1910 classic "Fearsome creatures of the lumber woods" by William T cox, illustrated by Coert Du Bois. We would have included more of the psychedelic monstrosities but many competed for a spot on the map, the exclusion of the Funeral Mountain Terra shot and the Cactus Cat was indeed a crushing blow. The map was a fascinating one to research as it was just so diverse. We also got to see what stories brought over by early settlers are still told, and how some have slightly morphed from their European counterparts to fit their new environment. It very much reminded me of Neil Gaiman's classic American Gods, which is a wonderful book that explores some fascinating concepts. If you haven't read it - switch your computer off, put your phone down, and go find a copy, we can reconvene at your convenience. The map also contains a couple of Easter eggs that aren't related to the mythical beasts. For example, Blackbeard's ship is off the coast of North Carolina where its wreck was found, also the famous Roswell crash site. Maybe there's more in there? Perhaps there's not? I'm not saying. Until next time, we hope you enjoy the map "Mythical Beasts of the United States of America". Prints are available from our shop.


All the best

Neil and Charley

at

Púca Printhouse