The Lure of the Imaginary

(Introduction to Imaginarium - A Compendium of Poems about Monsters and Mythical Beings For Adults and Children).

Our books and films are full of imaginary creatures – of monsters and fairies and mythical beings. It seems like we need them. They don’t exist, so we make them up. We always have, and we always will.

This book presents some of the most enduring invented creatures from around the world. Some, like the dragon, exist in most societies and seem to be part of the human collective imagination. Others, like Godzilla, are recent inventions, fabricated to satisfy our urge for more and more monsters. Others, like the centaur, are half-human.

They all have one thing in common. They do not actually exist. So what explains the lure of these imaginary beings? Why do they keep cropping up in our lives, in movies, in our imagination, and in books – like this one?

Humans like to escape from their everyday life. That is why TV and movies are so popular – they transport us to another place and another time. Books, at least good books, do the same. But TV and movies have only been with us a few generations, and even books are just a few hundred years old. Stories about strange beasts go back to the beginning of time.

Tales of mythical creatures and magical places and marvelous deeds are older than human history. When cavemen sat around the campfire, when the Egyptians built their pyramids, when the first humans crossed the land bridge from Siberia to Alaska, they told tales of strange animals and weird beasts that their fathers had seen, or their fathers’ fathers, or their fathers’ fathers’ fathers.

The only way people knew things back then was from what they saw with their own eyes or what they were told by other people. Legends grew from the constant retelling of tales, and in the retelling the animals grew bigger and the people grew braver. The nights were darker and the sun was hotter.

When people tell stories they add to them or change them a little, often without knowing that they do, not intending to exaggerate. So it was that over many generations, stories that may have begun as an ancestor chasing a lizard grew to become the beginnings of the Dragon legend. The Kraken was originally just a big octopus, the Unicorn a horse with a small facial deformity, the Yeti a lost brown bear covered in snow.

Some people deliberately set out to create these creatures. Monsters and fantasy creatures are a staple of literature and movies. It seems we can never get enough of them.

That is because the tellers of tales know what we want. We like to escape our daily lives. We like to believe in strange things that are beyond the bounds of our humdrum everyday lives. Today it is movies and TV, but in olden times it was the tales told by the elders, passed down and embellished from generation to generation, which performed this role.

That is how most of these creatures came into being. They are products of our collective imagination. They exist to satisfy our craving for the super-normal, the extraordinary, for life beyond our life.

That means these animals and monsters and demi-humans do not actually exist.

Or do they?

Read the poems

Here's a selection of poems from the Monster book. Click on the title to read.

On Loch Ness

 

The Snowman so Abominable

 

The Bunyip in the Billabong

 

Phoenix Rising - A Sonnet

 

Is the Unicorn a Monster?

 

In the Labyrinth, The Minotaur

 

Ganesha Hear Us Call

 

The Mermaid's Song

 

Pity the Poor Werewolf

 

So Sorry, Doctor Frankenstein

 

Faeries Are Amongst Us

 

In Elvish Times

 

On Loch Ness

Inverness is monster town, they make a big thing of it
Like the Kiwis with their Middle Earth. and Orcs and Dwarves and Hobbits
I’m never one to laugh at such, I don’t like to inquisis it
But when I stood there on the shore. the Monster came to visit

She was quite nice, and very large, all black and round and finny
I’d never think that she could live in a place so cold and windy
They’ve said for years she lives up there, in the loch up in the heather
In the howling winds and biting frost that in the Highlands they call weather

We gave her food, a piece of bread, and a small brown ball of haggis
And a piece of fruit and a shortbread cake and a little plate of tatties
She wolfed them down, in lizard style, then splashed away with glee
For monsters rarely eat enough, and not like you and me

Some say that Nessie’s just a myth, a phantasy of man
A made up thing, a fairytale, an imaginarium
But she’s real, she’s there, she swims about, she’s of the female gender
So don’t you listen when they say she’s like Charlie, a Pretender

The loch is dark, the sky is bleak, the land is fierce and barren
But deep beneath the waves there lies a monster-laden warren
With Nessie eggs, that soon will hatch, and banish all the doubters
When the Monsters swim about in droves and play upon the waters.

Illustration by Shaz
Illustration by Shaz

The Snowman So Abominable

In the mountains so unclimbable
Where the ice is so interminable
There’s no man so remarkable
As that snowman so abominable

His life is unimaginable
With the climate so intolerable
It’s all so disagreeable
Which is why he is abominable.

He’s large and quite formidable
His strength is quite indomitable
And yet he’s quite invisible
Is the Yeti who’s abominable.

The food he eats is inconceivable
His appetite is quite phenomenal
We’d have him at the dinner table
But his manners are abominable!

In the mountains so unclimbable
Where the ice is so Interminable
There’s no man so remarkable
As that snowman so abominable.

Illustration by Shaz
Illustration by Shaz

The Bunyip in the Billabong

In the far Australian Outback, where the kangaroos roam free
The Bunyip lives in the billabong, by the eucalyptus tree
From dusk til dawn he sings his song, a ghostly wailing cry
That chills the bones, and wakes the dead, and makes the angels sigh.

Some say the Bunyip’s cries aren’t real, it’s just a whistling in the wind
Some say the sound’s a made up thing, or else it’s in the mind
But the noise you hear will freeze the blood and give you such a fright
When you hear the Bunyip’s wailing in the middle of the night.

In the Dreamtime there were Bunyips far across the land
They roamed around the Aussie bush in merry little bands
In those days they lived their lives in tranquil domesticity
They were kept as pets and trained to fetch by the aborigines.

But it ended when the Dreamtime woke, and shattered their routine
They retreated to the night time, when their sadness can’t be seen
Now in the dark and the early morn they sing their mournful songs
By the lakes and streams and rivers, and the creeks and billabongs.

They say the Bunyip’s days are past, that they never more shall roam
Around the Aussie Outback, the place that they call home
But one day the Bunyip’s cries will sound, like the wail of the banshee
One day soon they will all come back –  the Bunyips will be free.

Phoenix_Revamped

Phoenix Rising – A Sonnet

The flames fly high in fierce conflagration
When the fire finally flickers the ashes stay warm
The Phoenix flies out of that fiery foundation
From the infernal furnace the bird is reborn.

More bright than the fire that gave it its birth
The Phoenix rises to show us the way
As light as the sun that shines on the earth
Its colors glow gold to start the new day.

As old as the night and as young as the morning
The Phoenix gives hope that life starts again
It comes out of the flames and reverses the warning
All that begins one day surely must end.

The cycle of birth and of death always turning
Like the fire within us that never stops burning.