Wednesday, October 20, 2010

10 FAVORITES (7) - Halloween PART III: Magical Creatures

It is Halloween season and we are now on the 3rd installment of 10 FAVORITES' tribute to the holiday. After vampires and witches, we now shift to the magical creatures of folklore and fairy tales. We've had so many worlds of magic over the years from Oz to Narnia to Middle Earth to Hogwarts to beyond. Each land took their take on different creatures from the fairy tales and legends that have enchanted our childhood and have been Disney-ized in our culture. But who are the most important magical creatures? Well, today's 10 FAVORITES will answer that question and remind us all of the powerful beings that did everything from delight us to frighten us to just plain thrill us.


The Hobbits are the heart and soul of Middle Earth. J.R.R. Tolkien created characters that were agriculturally dependent and grounded in their traditions. The only reason these great characters are Honorable Mention is because Hobbits are primarily exclusive to Tolkien's world. They have become part of the cultural lexicon because of the series and do not really extend beyond it.

The tiny Irish imps who protect the Pot O' Gold at the end of the rainbow are deeply rooted in Celtic myth. They have since been a huge part of movies (like Disney's Darby O'Gill and the Little People) or musicals (like Finian's Rainbow) and not to forget college sports or a complete breakfast (both pictured below).

These mythical creatures have been the fantasy of little children (especially little girls) everywhere. The horses with the unique horn atop their head have been depicted in art, film and literature to great acclaim (used in everything from Harry Potter to My Little Pony). Their healing powers and pure blood have fueled legend of these creatures that many fanboys and fangirls still believe in.

One of the most beloved and romantic legends is that of the valiant Knight who slays the dragon and rescues the fair maiden. Dragons have always had a mystical aura around them and they have ranged from being dangerous monsters (see Harry Potter) to intelligent creatures (see Eragon) to trainable companions and lovable pets (see How to Train Your Dragon or Pete's Dragon, both below).

Probably the most violent of all the creatures on this list, werewolves have had a long history as one of the big-time classic movie monsters (alongside vampires and mummies). Thanks to films like An American Werewolf in London and the Twilight series, werewolves have become sensitive creatures who are victims of their circumstance and cannot help the horror that ensues in their presence.

The mystical world that Scheherazade weaved in her tales for her king, Shahryar, was made more fascinating by the presence of genies. Genies could be anything (and if you watch Disney's Aladdin, you believe that!). They could be terrifying or humorous or kind or endearing or even beautiful (Barbara Eden...YOWZA!!!).

These lovable little guys have helped shoemakers, dragon-fighters and even the Big Guy in red. In some cases, they are sidekicks and in others, they are henchmen. In Tolkien's world, they are more human-like and have great powers and skills (plus they look like Liv Tyler and Orlando Bloom!).

Halloween always tends to bring out our fascination with the afterlife. Ghosts have been a big part of the cultural lexicon (I mean, Jennifer Love Hewitt whispered to them!). Some of the best ghosts (and most prominent) came from comic books (see Casper) and a Victorian short-story related to a different holiday (no, Jane Austen did NOT write an Easter story!).

Jack defeated one. David did too, with just a slingshot. Harry Potter befriended one (well, a half-one). Giants are (forgive me) a huge part of folklore. Fairy tales and the Bible have us fearing these imposing figures. Recently, giants have become gentle and friendly (they even play basketball!)

While not technically magical themselves (with the possible exception of Rumpelstiltskin), these creatures do evoke a world of magic and legend. For many of us, Snow White was one of the first fairy tales (and even films) we saw as children and so the Seven Dwarfs became staples in our pop culture. Dwarves even appear in Tolkien's world with great strength and powerful fighting skills.

With waves of their wands, fairies have delighted audiences all over the world. Disney has even branded the term to create a new franchise (much like their Disney Princess franchise where Peter Pan's Tinkerbell is at the center). Other fairies in folklore have been useful aides to our heroes or heroines (like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty or Pinocchio). We even call them "Fairy Tales!"

So there you have it, the 10 BEST MAGICAL CREATURES in folklore and legends. If you're thinking this list is a little Disney heavy, well, there is a reason for that. Disney has been the company that has influenced our culture and our mindsets for what seems like an eternity. Next week, our Halloween lists continue, as 10 FAVORITES will cover the best Candies!

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