European lake monsters
Special part – Phantoms of European rivers and lakes

In so many countries can be find legends, which are talking about different creatures which can human take to water and drown him there. Can be all these creatures real part of our past and maybe still also present or are they only phantoms?

Vodník is usually described as a man, although it could be also woman, with green skin and green clothes, who dwelts under water, and who is drowning people to give their souls to mugs. This is probably the most common idea about Vodník, but many times is so different. As stated Peter Ševčovič: „he can be small and big, young or old man. Sometimes are his toes webbed, sometimes not. He can be covered with frog like skin, but it´s not rule. People use to describe him as a creature overgrown by hair, algae and moss but also as a handsome man in modern clothes, who don´t have no green colour on him. He can also change on water animals, but also on horse or goose.“

What is important to note, in getting souls are Vodníci (note of author: Vodníci – plural of Vodník) focused on thieves, drunks and similar people. Fishermen, rafter or millers left without any problems. Of course they revenge if someone was doing problems to them or if they were catch in the form of fish and person don´t want to let him go. Even the legends about the goldfish, who after returning into the water royally rewarded its rescuer are connected with Vodník. Often is goldfish wife of Vodník. Although many would seek for Vodník in Czech Republic or Poland, many legends about it can be find also in Slovakia. Even, as stated Ševčovič, „some chronicler claimed that lower from city (note of author: Bratislava), in the delta of Danube, is headquartered  of Danube Vodníci.“ 

In some countries we can find information about similar creature which is called Vodyanoy. Although is Vodayanoy described with humanoid figure, the difference is that his face is rather similar to the frog or seal one. Similarity with Vodník can be found in that also Vodyanoy use to drown people but the difference is that his aim is to make from people his slaves.

Similarly to Vodník also Vodyanoy could change on different animals as frogs, ducks and so on. But in Vodník case, he can change his form also on horse one. About this we can also find one legend. As stated Igor Janota this horse was „slim, but muscular (...) glistened like a black diamond (...) grandfathers always been saying that Vodník from Prievoz, when already down there in Danube get bored, in different form comes between people. Once as a raven sits on the steeple and looking after the village, once as  a fox running around yards.

So, Vodník can take any form, which he likes. But the form of a horse can take also other strange creature. Actually horses, respectively half horses, half fish can be found already in ancient mythology, where they pulled charriot of god of the sea, Poseidon. These sea horses were displayed with gold or sometimes green scales. However, the whole horse, awaiting their victims comes from Scotland.

Kelpie is water creature of Scotland, which dwells in rivers and streams, usually take form of a horse.When entices passers-by, who sit on the wonderful horse, it kidnaps him into the water. Sometimes his remains get out of water. So, unlike asVodník or Vodyanoy Kelpie drag human into the water to eat him. But what is interesting this super natural being can shapes also into a man, who lured women and youths. Althought there is no hard evidence about Kelpie´s existence similar creatures can be found also in the other parts of Europe. In Island we can find similar horse-like being which is called Nykur. This grey or sometimes black horse can be according to the legends identified with that it´s hooves are on backward. 

This creature which dwelts in rivers and lakes, even in the sea, is also as Kelpie luring humans but its victims are also cows. As stated Jacquline Simpson „in the island of Grimsey off the north coast, people believed that a Nykur lived in the sea and neighed whenever he knew that the islanders had gone to fetch a cow from the mainland; the cows went mad at his neighing, flung themselves in the sea, and so were drowned.“ Faith in Nykur´s existence was so strong that, as stated George Eberhart, „inhabitants (...) refused to keep cows on their Island until about 1850 because they claimed there was a Nykur in the sea that drowe mad any cow that they tried to bring across from the mainland.“

We mentioned only few from all of the shapeshifting water demons. It  is possible that all these creatures actually exist or are they only some kind of phantoms which are arising from some general knowledge? As stated Sarah Bartlett according to Jung „in mythology, reflects the ideas and memories accumulated throughout the history of mankind (...) for a detailed view exists in mythology differences resulting from geographical conditions and needs of people living on the ground.“ So, as we find in myths different cultures creation of the world, heroes and gods, it is possible that a kind of collective past also refers to the existene of some past monsters.

Source of the picture: 
George M Eberhart. Mysterious Creatures. A guide to Cryptozoology. (Santa Barbara: ABC CLIO, 2002)
Igor Janota. Prešporské Rozprávky. (Bratislava: Marenčin PT, 2015)
Jacqueline Simpson. Icelandic Folktales and Legends. ( Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1972)
Peter Ševčovič. Z kuchyne prešporských vodníkov. (Bratislava: Albert Marenčin – Vydavateľstvo PT, 2003)
Sarah Bartlett. Mýty a báje od A do Z. Všechno, co chete vědět o mytologii celého světa. (Praha: Metafora, 2009)


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