Shane Hegarty's Top Mythical Monsters
The Darkmouth series by Shane Hegarty is a funny and thrilling fantasy adventure, populated by a cast of memorable mosters called the Legends. To celebrate our upcoming event with Shane, and in anticipation of the release of the fourth book in January, we caught up with him to ask about his favourite mythical beasts!
The great thing about mythical monsters is that they’re just that: myths. So, you can have a bit of fun with the details. You can switch things around, add stuff, take it away, as long as it’s still pretty recognisable as its original myth. I’ve done that with a Greek creature called The Orthrus, which normally has two dogs heads and a snake for a tail. I took one head away and made the creature a double act. I wondered what it would be like to be a snake stuck between the back legs of a dog all your life. Especially if the only word that dog says is “sausages”.
The good old Minotaur – half bull, half human, all-scary – is one of the most famous legends for a reason. With all those muscles, tusks, hair, hooves and probably a lot of slobber, it’s pretty much the last creature you’d want to have to come up against. The original lived at the centre of a labyrinth, but it has featured in so many stories in the thousands of years since and never gets dull. It’s also the first creature we meet in the world of Darkmouth.
The Romans had some great mythical creatures, some better known than others. Someone who deserves a bit more attention, and who features in Darkmouth: Chaos Descends is the Blemmyes. Why is he there? Because he has no head and has his face in his chest. What a wonderful idea! The Romans thought these guys were a real tribe living in Africa about 2000 years ago. I’m not sure I’d want to be one of these headless Blemmyes, even though it would save on the cost of hats.
When I was young, Jason and the Argonauts was one of my favourite films. I’d watch it every time it turned up on the television but always hid behind the sofa when the hero had to fight Medusa the Gorgon, with her head full of snakes. If you’re not terrified by a woman with a poisonous, biting hairdo then there’s something wrong with you. I have yet to find a way to get the Gorgon into Darkmouth, but I hope the time will come.
Myths are great for mixing up various animals into crazy combinations, and the Manticore – which has a lion’s body and a scorpion’s tale – is a great example of this. Even more fun is that they like to spin riddles for some reason. Oh, and they had sort of bat’s wings too. Because why not?
It’s taken me ages to learn how to pronounce the name of this Aztec legend – and even longer to spell it – but I love these feathered serpents. They were brightly coloured gods in Aztec culture, and while in the universe of Darkmouth they look a bit more like broken umbrellas with long fangs, they’ve become a big part of that world because it’s great fun writing about creatures that swoop in from the sky.
There are so many great creatures of myth from Britain and Ireland and the Hogboon is one of those. A mischievous, sprite-like character from Scotland, the Hogboon is one of those you might not always be sure is good or bad. In Darkmouth, one of the main characters is a Hogboon called Broonie and I’ve had great fun making his ear hair as vivid as possible, his nostrils as wide, and his appearance generally as ugly as I can. He thinks he’s very handsome, though, which is all that matters.
This Japanese creature is a skeleton, about 15 times the size of a human, said to be made up of the bones of those who died from starvation. Sounds fun, right? Whoever thought that one up centuries ago certainly had a dark imagination. It is a properly scary beast and when I was looking for something for future Darkmouth books, I found this and realised it should really feature. It’s also a reminder of how every culture has its own distinctive and crazy beasts to be frightened of.
The Darkmouth series is published by HarperCollins and is up to three books, with a fourth due out in January 2017! We've got some fantastic learning resources to help you introduce Darkmouth: Chaos Descends into the classroom - check them out here.
Browse through our book lists for more fantastic book recommendations for all ages!