One of the best parts about reading the fantasy genre is the way in which anything from your imagination can be brought to life. Ever wonder what it would be like if your pet could talk? What if a horse could fly? How about a world where a mythical creature was king? Fantasy books can share with you a world in which that (and more) is possible. Some people say that fantasy is escapist, and while it certainly can be, it is also where creativity, inventiveness, and passion combine. So in celebration of that, I’m sharing the list of my top five creatures in fantasy.
It’s a bit cliche to say that dragons are my favorite magical creature, but it’s the truth. When I was first introduced to the fantasy genre, it was through the Dragonrealm and Dragonlance series. Since then, I am a sucker for a story with dragons. They could be the antagonist (Smaug in The Hobbit), a pet (Sybil Ramkin’s swamp dragons in Discworld), mounts (A Song of Ice and Fire), or a main character (Tooth and Claw). If the blurb tells me “Here be dragons,” I’m in.
As a dog owner, it makes sense that I’d love a mythical dog in my fantasy book. However, the majority of stories that contain dogs will place them in an evil role, such as Cerberus (the three-headed dog who captures Hercules) and Barghest (the large, black dog associated with death). My favorite stories are those that tell the deeds of good boys, and there is no better good boy than Huan in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion.
While not as big of a fan of cats as I am of dogs, I still love a good cat in a story. Many will immediately think of the Cheshire Cat, and he is a great example of the typical role a cat will play: trickster, taunter, teaser. I enjoy stories with talking cats as guides, such as Mogget in Sabriel and Luna in Sailor Moon. However, my new favorite might have to be Fenestra in Nevermoor. She’s a giant, talking cat who is head of housekeeping.
Unlike the others in this list, dæmons are specific to Philip Pullman’s world of His Dark Materials, beginning with The Golden Compass. If you can’t tell by now, I’m a sucker for animals, usually of the cute and cuddly variety. So when there is a world in which your soul manifests as an intelligent, loyal animal, I’m hooked. I really enjoyed that the animal was fluid until the person hit adolescence, mimicking the solidifying of one’s identity as we grow up.
This might be a cop-out since it is technically not one creature, but it was simply too difficult to narrow it down. Myths and fantasy have brought to life creatures of all varieties: minotaurs (human/bull), satyrs (human/goat), harpies (human/bird), naga (human/snake), pegasus (bird/horse), chimera (lion/goat/snake), wolpertinger (rabbit/deer/bird), and many more. I have always been partial to those that fly (see dragons above), so the hippogriff (eagle/horse) holds a special place in my heart. While it first came to my attention through Dungeons & Dragons, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban‘s Buckbeak is the most prominent.