20 Medieval 'Monsters' That Give A Whole New Meaning To Folklore

The medieval period was a time when people were tormented by legends of terrifying monsters. Some folklore told of benevolent pixies and fairies. But then there were the many tales of horrifying beasts intended to scare the living daylights out of the populace. We’ve assembled a list of 20 of the most gruesome medieval monsters. It’s probably not a good idea to read on if you’re on your own and it’s after dark.

20. Hircocervus

Though the Hircocervus was certainly part of the lore of the Middle Ages, its origins lie much further back in time. In fact, the creature’s mentioned in Plato’s great ancient Greek work of philosophy, Republic. That takes us back more than 2,500 years to the 5th century B.C. The first mention of the Hircocervus in English came in 1398. So, what was this Hircocervus like?

A padlock on his mouth

Initially, it was a beast combining elements of a goat and a stag. But there were later variations. In his 1856 book Impressions of England, Arthur Cleveland Coxe described a painting from 1579 of the Hircocervus that he’d seen in the old country. The creature, the American cleric wrote, was “part man, part porker, part deer, and part donkey; with a padlock on his mouth.” But perhaps the most surprising characteristic of Hircocervus was its total lack of ferocity. It was actually dubbed the “trusty servant.”

19. Monopods

Next we look at the monopod — a human-like figure with a very distinctive quirk: just one leg and one foot. These creatures were also part of Roman mythology, described by Pliny the Elder, who died in 79 A.D due to the Mount Vesuvius volcanic eruption. The Romans knew monopods by the name skiapodes. And given that the monopods were hampered by only having the one lower limb, they had some unexpected qualities.

Fleet of foot

Said to be native to Ethiopia, the monopods were apparently fleet of foot and formidable adversaries on the battlefield. That was despite the fact that they were also only little. But perhaps their most bizarre feature was that, according to Pliny, “they are in the habit of lying on their backs, during the time of the extreme heat, and protect themselves from the sun by the shade of their feet.”