Week sixty-five: TANIWHA (probability 12926), by David Sutton

The ocean has always been a place of mystery, so it is not surprising that many legendary creatures are associated with the element of water. One of these is the TANIWHA, that according to Maori myth lives in deep pools or in parts of the sea, especially where there are treacherous breakers or currents. Various identifications are possible, for who knows what the Maori voyagers encountered in their great migrations across the Pacific before settling in New Zealand, probably some time in the latter part of the thirteenth century, New Zealand being one of the last major landmasses to be settled by humans. However, the creature seems to be most often conceived of as a kind of shark, possibly the Great White.

Other supernatural creatures associated with water include the RUSALKA, a Russian water-nymph, the WASSERMAN (plural WASSERMEN), a man-shaped sea monster, the Scots KELPY or KELPIE, a water-horse that lures riders on to its back and then carries them off into the water, the HIPPODAME, a fabulous sea-monster found in the pages of Spenser, and of course the well-known LEVIATHAN from the Bible, probably based on the whale, and the KRAKEN from Norwegian myth, which may have been based on sightings of the giant squid.


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