• UnEarthed

Real Animals with Mythological Meanings!

By Sophia Zhu

Narwhals


Mythology and folklore: From the Inuit people of northern Canada and the+ Arctic circle

Geographical region: Arctic waters of Canada, Greenland, Russia, and Norway.


Narwhals are most famous for the giant, spiraling unicorn-like horn protruding from their heads. It’s actually a tooth or tusk growing through their skull and extending over six feet long! They are closely related to the beluga whale, both of which also spend entire months living under deep sea ice.

Inuit m


yths say the narwhal was once a woman with long hair twisted in the shape of a tusk, who drowned and became a narwhal in the depths of the ocean.


Green Sea Turtle



Mythology and folklore: Hawaii

Geographical region: Found in the subtropic and temperate oceans


The green sea turtle, “honu,’ is native to Hawaii and is the largest sea turtle in the world. They mainly feed on mainly algae and sea grasses, which makes them green. Fun facts - they can stay underwater for up to 5 hours and love to eat jellyfish!

As a symbol of groundedness and patience, the sea turtle carries the world on its back. They also embody good fortune, protection, and longevity.


Jaguars

Mythology and folklore: Ancient Maya, Olmecs, and Aztecs.

Geographic region: iIn rainforests from Paraguay and northern Argentina up to Mexico and Arizona.


Jaguars are the only big cat native to the Americas, and they are one of the fiercest predators around. They can easily be confusedmixed up with leopards, but jaguars have spots inside their “rosettes,” the black ring patterns in their fur, whereas leopards don’t!

To the Mayans, Olmecs, and Aztecs, the jaguar was worshipped as a deity. Since it has extraordinary night vision, they saw the jaguar as being able to walk between worlds; a being of both the heavens and the Eearth. Traditionally, the jaguar represents power, strength, and wisdom.


Manatee



Mythology and folklore: Greek, American.

Geographic region: North American coast south of Florida, Amazon river, and the west coast of Africa.


These gentle giants live in shallow coastal areas and rivers, and spend their days lazily dining on sea grasses. They can grow to eleven feet in length by adulthood, and weigh 1,000 pounds! Their closest living relatives are actually elephants, even though manatees live in water. Scientists believe the two evolved 50 million years ago.

The ancient Greek mythology of sirens as beautiful mermaids to lure sailors to their death is closely connected with manatee sightings - apparently explorers and sailors frequently mistook manatees for mermaids!


Sources:

https://folklife.si.edu/talk-story/myth-and-matricide-how-the-narwhal-got-its-tusk#:~:text=According%20to%20myths%20collected%20among,but%20transformed%20into%20a%20narwhal.

https://sailmaui.com/the-magic-of-hawaiian-sea-turtles/#:~:text=To%20the%20Hawaiian%20people%2C%20sea,protection%2C%20endurance%20and%20long%20life

https://mauioceancenter.com/marine-life/hawaiian-green-sea-turtle/#:~:text=Hawaiian%20green%20sea%20turtles%2C%20or,most%20common%20turtle%20in%20Hawaii.

https://www.ellacanta.com/hoy/jaguar#:~:text=The%20jaguar%20was%20a%20being,who%20kills%20with%20one%20blow

https://www.fws.gov/international/jaguars.html

https://oceana.org/blog/what-you-didn%E2%80%99t-know-about-manatees-honor-manatee-awareness-month#:~:text=Manatees%20have%20been%20mistaken%20for%20real%2Dlife%20mermaids.&text=In%20ancient%20mythology%2C%20%22sirens%22,rocky%20shores%20using%20mesmerizing%20songs.&text=As%20such%2C%20the%20manatee%20has,mermaids%20for%20thousands%20of%20years.



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