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The world is full of stories about brave heroes, magical events, and fantastic beings. For thousands of years, humans everywhere—sometimes inspired by living animals or even fossils—have brought mythic creatures to life in stories, songs, and works of art. Today these creatures, from the powerful dragon to the soaring phoenix, continue to thrill, terrify, entertain, and inspire us. We seem to catch glimpses of these creatures all around us: hiding beneath the ocean waves, running silently through the forest, and soaring among the clouds. Some symbolize danger. Others, we think, can bring us luck or joy. Together mythic creatures give shape to humankind's greatest hopes, fears, and most passionate dreams.
Water beckons us. It is soothing and seductive...but it's also capable of unleashing deadly force. The mythic creatures that inhabit the depths give form to water's essential mysteries. They arouse feelings of curiosity, hope--and bottomless fear. Like water itself, these creatures can be beautiful and enticing.
We share the land with countless living animals. Some are familiar; others seem quite bizarre. Creatures from the lands of myth can be both recognizable and strange. Sometimes they appear to have body parts from ordinary animals combined in very unusual ways.
Have you ever wondered what it feels like to fly? The smallest bird has powers we will never share. But mythic creatures of the air have even greater powers. Imagine a bird so huge it blocks out the sky, or stirs up storms with its wings.
Of all mythic creatures that rise from the water, prowl across land, or fly through the air, the dragon is the most famed. Stories of serpentlike beasts with fabulous powers inspire awe in almost every part of the world.
Mythic Creatures was co-curated by Mark A. Norell, Curator, Division of Paleontology; Laurel Kendall, Curator, Division of Anthropology; and Richard Ellis, Research Associate, Division of Paleontology.
Giant and colossal squids have the largest eyes of any living creature; each eye can be as large as a human head.
Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids was organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in collaboration with The Field Museum, Chicago; Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau-Ottawa; Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney; and Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta.
Mythic Creatures was proudly supported by