10 Mythical Creatures That Actually Existed

Dragons, griffins, and krakens, oh my! These cryptids were actually real animals.

kraken clash of the titans
Legendary Pictures

Over the thousands of years humanity has developed into the world-sprawling civilization it is today, stories of fantastic and mythological creatures abound. Every civilization has its own version of everything from the boogeyman to dragons, and we still enjoy these mythological creatures in movies and games like Dungeons & Dragons.

You have to wonder: where did these creatures come from in the first place, and why do they exist in different regions of the world, where people never met one another? Like most stories involving things too incredible to be true, every mythological creature or cryptid has its roots in something real.

Whether it's a tall tale about something discovered in Australia, or Central Africa, there's a good chance someone returned home with more than a few embellishments on what they actually saw. Everyone has a "fish that got away" story, and no matter what, it's a whopper. Sightings of mythological beasts are no different.

Because of this penchant for people to embellish their stories, some mythological creatures truly do exist in nature. There's a reason dragons are found all over Europe and Asia, and the real creatures those beasts are based upon make a lot of sense when you stop to think about it for a moment.

These ten mythological beasts were based, at least in some ways, on animals that truly did exist.

10. Moby Dick

kraken clash of the titans
Harper & Brothers

The Myth: Moby Dick isn't a myth in the traditional sense of the word, as he's the bane of Captain Ahab's existence in his eponymous book by Herman Melville. Still, the idea of a vengeful and vindictive whale has permeated the modern zeitgeist as the target of one's obsession, which is mythical in its own right.

The Reality: In 1820, Captain George Pollard Jr., was in command of the Essex when it was sunk by a whale. He survived and returned to Nantucket, where he was given the Two Brothers to captain, but after two years, he crashed it on a coral reef and was thereafter determined to be unlucky at sea.

Pollard's troubles with the Essex came from an 85-foot albino sperm whale, which directly attacked and smashed into the ship. The whale returned to attack the vessel at greater speed, and the Essex began taking on water, leaving the men to flee. Pollard was away from the vessel when the attack occurred.

When he returned shortly after the whale slammed into the vessel a second time, he saw his first mate, Owen Chase, who told him, "we have been stove by a whale," and with that, the legend that would become Moby Dick was born.

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Jonathan is a graphic artist, illustrator, writer, and game designer. Jonathan retired from the U.S. Army in 2017 and enjoys researching and writing about history, science, theology, and many other subjects. He writes for ScreenRant, CBR, NerdBastards, Listverse, Ranker, WhatCulture, and many other sites online. You can check out his latest on Twitter: @TalkingBull or on his blog: jonathanhkantor.com