Map Monsters: The Sea Pig!

Sea Pig, © 2015 Liz Vitale

Going back to at least the first century with Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, there was a theory that every land animal has an counterpart in the sea. It was believed that there were sea dogs, sea lions, sea pigs, etc. Some of these are now the names of real animals—sea lions are the “eared” seals and sea pigs are many-legged deep water sea cucumbers. The medieval imaginings,however, were the literal hybrid of the known land animal with a fish. Here is the medieval sea pig,which was compared to heretics that distorted truth and lived like swine, lived in the North Sea on Olaus Magnus’s 1539 Carta Marina, a lushly illustrated map that inspired many after it. Olaus Magnus called it “The Monstrous Hog of the German Ocean,” and that it had “a Hog’s head, and a quarter of a Circle, like the Moon, in the hinder part of its head, four feet like a Dragon’s, two eyes on both sides in his Loyns, and a third in his belly, inclining towards his Navel; behind he had a forked Tail, like to other Fish commonly.”


Monstrous Engravings: Unknown Sea Monster Caught in Nantes.

Unknown sea monster caught in Nantes,© 2015 Liz Vitale

I drew this after a peculiar engraving I found while looking for Map Monsters. Made in France in the 18th century, this image shows a creature with some sea turtle-like features but it also has a strange penguin-like form as well. I am going to guess that, like a lot of sea serpent carcasses hauled up from the depths, this creature was probably the decayed remains of a perfectly natural and normal animal and decomposition rendered it unrecognizable.

This is also the first page in a new journal/sketchbook given to me by Crazy Cuz’n Jaime, after she got to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios!

Potter Book 6_8_2015

Thank you, Jaime!

Monsters of Europe: The Aspidochelone!


According to medieval bestiaries, the aspidochelone is a supersize whale ,sea turtle,or sea monster with spines on the ridge of its back. No matter what form it is, it is always  huge, and usually first  mistaken for an island as it carries what appears to be beaches on the upper part of its body.

Believing it to be an island, sailors beach their ship alongside the beast, disembark, and plant stakes to tie up the ships. The men usually start to cook a meal after this work, and make fires on the sand as if on land. But when the monster feels the heat of these fires, it immediately submerges into the water, pulling men and ships into the sea with it.