Mythical Creatures

A Golden Fleece



logoLast week I watched the recently released movie Clash of the Titans.   A remake from an early 1980’s version.  My son commented on how much better the special effects are today.  I’m not sure I agree with him.  I say this because I believe the special effects from movies made years ago, even decades ago, seem to capture the imagination more.  At least they do for me.  Let me give you an example.

One of my all time favorite movies came out in 1964, Jason and the Argonauts.  I think it is one of the coolest movies ever made.  I first saw it when I was about 11 years old and have seen it many times since.  I remember the joy I had when I visited the video store in the late 80’s and checked the movie out to watch with my son when he was about six.  It is now also one of his favorite movies.  When he was about 11 years old the movie Jurassic Park came out and we saw it four or five times at the theater.  He collected dinosaurs for a number of years.  When he gets older I’m sure he will look back on Jurassic Park the way I do Jason and the Argonauts.  We all have movies that bring back good memories.

Jason and a group of Greek sailors( Argonauts) take the ship Argos on a long dangerous voyage overcoming many challenges in order to reach a land far away said to contain lots of wealth and a fleece made of gold that possessed supernatural powers.    talos

My favorite scene is when they have to fight the huge metal statue called Talos.  There was no way they could have defeated the imposing figure except he had a weakness, an Achilles heel.  Jason pops the plug on the heel of  Talos and all this green liquid comes pouring out and big Talos crashes to the ground.  I admit it looked like a bunch of antifreeze but I still think it was cool; pardon the pun.

Jason and his sailors go on to encounter and defeat other creatures and obstacles on their epic journey.  He asks for and receives the assistance of the Greek gods on his voyage.  Another scene in the movie I really enjoyed was when he fought a bunch of skeletons.  You could stab them but you couldn’t kill them.  It was not until about 30 years later that I saw a documentary on how the special effects for the movie were done.  The skeletons were actually clay figures and the special effects creator had to bend the clay figures a little, take a picture, bend, take a picture, and so forth.  The pictures were then sequenced to create motion.  This one scene took three months to create.  Think about that in the context of today’s computer generated special effects.

The scene that has never really done it for me was when Jason sees the “golden fleece,” but has to defeat the “Hydra,” to capture the prize.  The fleece looked fake to me even as a child and so did the hydra.  The hydra was a multi-headed dragon protecting the fleece that Jason had to fight.  Have you ever wondered where these strange creature stories in Greek mythology came from?

In high school I had to read the Iliad and the Odyssey.  Homer’s 8th century B.C. novels tell how Ulysses and his men on one their adventures had to fight a huge man called Cyclops who had one eye in the middle of his forehead.  Archaeologists now know that elephants once lived on the islands of the Mediterranean Sea but were probably gone by the time of Homer.  The skeletal remains of the elephants would have included very large skulls.  The people of the ancient world were intrigued by the one big hole in the middle of the front of the skull.  You and I know the hole is for the elephant’s trunk but for the people of Greece at that time they did not know much about elephants.  To them the skull was big and looked like a giant eye socket.  It would have been a huge man they thought.argonaut sea creatureThe term Cyclops was used by Homer to describe such a huge man or beast.

As for the hydra, sailors would tell stories of dragons and large sea creatures with long arms, (tentacles).  We know these to be giant squids as well as the Komodo dragons of the Far East, (Indonesia).  With a little imagination the writer of Jason’s story put the two together to create the hydra, the multi-headed dragon.

It is also thought that during the time of ancient Greece there were rumors of a wealthy kingdom that possesed much gold on the far eastern shores near the southeastearn portion of the Black Sea, near present day Armenia.  For the sailing vessels of those days it would have been a challenging adventure.


Researchers believe Jason’s journey took place in the Black Sea, probably on the north shores of Turkey.  I recently saw a documentary about a group of researchers who built a wooden ship to retrace his epic journey.  On the game board for TreasureTrove I placed a drawing of a ship with “Argonauts,” next to it.

A couple of footnotes worth mentioning:

  1. There is a small black squid indigenous to the Black Sea called an argonaut.  I should have included this in the footnote section of the game booklet but forgot to do so.
  2. A couple of excellent movies for the 7 to 12 year age range for journeys are, In Search of the Castaways made in the early 1960’s,  Journey to the Center of the Earth produced in the late 1950’s, and the Golden Voyage of Sinbad made in the 1970’s.   For adults, the original King Solomon’s Mines of the 1950’s, Shangri-La also of the 1950’s, and of course the recent Indiana Jones movies.
  3. There is a story in the Old Testament in the book of Judges where an Israelite judge named Gideon seekboxtops God’s advice as to whether or not he should lead the Israelites into battle.  He uses a fleece of wool to communicate with God.  (The Book of Judges, chapters 6 and 7).

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logoCryptid is a term I was not familiar with until recently and that is because it is a word that has was not in existence until very recently.  The word was coined  in the 1980’s by John Wall who I believe derived the word from cryptozoology. The Greek word kriptos means hidden.  “Hidden,” + zoology together form the study of hidden animals, thus cryptozoology.  I like the way it sounds and I like the word cryptid.  It has that catchy mysterious sound.     yeti drawing

Cryptozoologists study and often travel the world in search of animals whose existence has not been proven physically but exist in folklore, myths, and legends.  Animals whose classification does not seem to fit within mainstream biological texts.  Many scientists are skeptical of cryptozoology believing it relies too heavily on anecdotal information, doubtful actual eyewitness accounts, and not enough true scientific methodology in their investigate research efforts.  Yet, a lot of people including myself find it quite interesting to hear about strange and exotic animals such as Bigfoot, Yeti, and the Loch Ness Monster.  I love watching TV shows such as Monster Quest.  There was a TV show in the late 1970’s that I recall watching named “In Search Of”‘ that featured unusual animals.

bigfootI know very little about the origins of cryptozoology.  The little research I did on the subject points to the efforts of a small group of zoologists and paleontologists starting in the 1950’s compiling lists of exotic creatures. They reviewed the writings of previous authors who many years before them had tried to chronicle tales of strange and hard to find animals. Their efforts resulted in the term cryptozoolgy coming into use and in 1982 the International Society of Cryptozoology(ISC) was founded in Washington D.C.   The ISC evaluated unverified animals, that is, animals that have been reported as being sighted but not scientifically proven to exist.  Due to financial problems the ISC ended in 1998, but the interest in cryptids has continued as evidenced by the popularity of shows such as Monster Quest.

I included a number of crypids on the board game of Treasure Trove because in the process of traveling the world in search of treasure it is fun to encounter mysterious creatures.  As you know by now all these photos posted here have been proven to be hoaxes.  In the meantime happy trails to you on your life’s journey.

To learn more about the game go to boxtop


lake okanegan


Let the hunt begin.   I must admit the prospect of spotting a legendary animal of the wild is intriguing, especially one with a cool name like Ogopogo.  When European explorers began entering Canada’s western lands in the early 1800’s, the native Indians spoke of a monster in a lake. They called the sea creature Naitaka.  Today the large body of deep fresh water is called Lake Okanagan in British Colombia. The first documented sightings of the lake monster by European colonists was in the 1870’s.  I’m not sure who started it or when the name Ogopogo began but it seems to bogopogoe here to stay.

When playing Treasure Trove participants travel the world in search for fabled treasure such as Blackbeard’s Booty or Capt. Kidd’s treasure chest.   In their journey they also are in the hunt for the earth’s strange and exotic animals such as the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot.  All of us have heard of Scotland’s “Nessie,” but that is actually a recent phenomena that started in the early 20th century.  On the other hand, Ogopogo had been part of the Indian legend a long time before white people entered the area.

In the late 1980’s when I was looking for interesting monsters to place on the game board I had to spend hours searching library books.  I ran across Ogopogo which I had never heard of.  Twenty years later I happened to be watching a Monster Quest episode on TV that covered Ogopogo.  I enjoyed inviting my wife to join me in watching the hunt for the mythical Ogopogo.  They speculated the creature to be a large lake sturgeon or perhaps a primitive serpentine whale.  In the late 1970’s a TV show called In Search Of aired an episode on Ogopogo that I do not recall seeing, although I remember the series.


In 1990, the Canadian government issued a postage stamp with an artist’s depiction of legendary Ogopogo.  I would love to travel to British Colombia and try to spot the creature but I would be plenty happy to just enjoy the scenery around the beautiful lake.

ogopogo stamp

To learn more about the game go to boxtop