It’s Elementary, My Dear

Hog Island Press, Philadelphia.

Monsters in America (courtesy Hog Island Press)

Monsters in America (courtesy Hog Island Press)

This interesting map of regional cryptids across the United States suddenly made me think of something.

In the magical and metaphysical traditions of Europe and America, there exist four types of elemental beings, corresponding to the four elements. Gnomes were the elemental beings of earth, sylphs those of the air, undines those of the water, and salamanders those of fire.

These beings were more or less the personification of the forces of nature, although they could be actually seen or detected by human beings at times. They usually appeared as small homunculi, akin to fairies and elves, but they also could be giant, or take the general form of the element they represented.

Now what this map seems to show, is that the classic cryptids that people report across the United States also show this elemental quaternity of forms. We see sea monsters (undines), various apelike creatures (gnomes), batlike or large birdlike flying things (sylphs), and dangerous, red-eyed dog or catlike creatures (salamanders).

Are we just hardwired to categorize weirdness this way?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s