Ziphius

Another creature from A Book of Creatures that seems to have been imported directly from my nightmares.

It’s all too easy for me to imagine being out in the open water somewhere – shipwrecked, perhaps? – treading water, no land in easy reach, then looking down to see those huge shining eyes rising up beneath me. Then that beak, big enough to take me whole and already wide open resolves out of the murk…

Chills. It’s bad enough to have a monster after you. But when it’s a sea monster, you can’t even run.

A Book of Creatures

Variations: Ziph, Ziphio, Ziphij, Xiphia, Xiphias, Zyffwal

Ziphius

The Ziphius is a huge and horrifying sea monster, reportedly found in northern seas and near the Scandinavian coast. It resembles a whale in shape and size, but with a viciously sharp beak and terrifying bulging eyes. The beak and bristly hair around the head and neck combine to give it an owlish appearance. The ziphius also has a pointed dorsal fin, paw-like flippers, and horizontal stripes down its length. It is a carnivore, feeding on seals and sailors alike.

The Ortus Sanitatis gives it four fully-formed legs and tail, making it look more like a beaked lion or even a hedgehog. Olaus Magnus describes its hideous, beaked head, comparing it to an owl (or a toad in the French translation). It has a deep maw, horrid large eyes, and a knife-like dorsal fin used to tear holes in ships. Gessner compared it…

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