“What makes a monster? A monster is seen to be any creature that deviates from the norm…We feel pity and compassion, but we are also greatly unsettled.”
-John & Caitlin Matthews, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, 2008.
Monsters are timeless. From ancient mythology to modern day entertainment, monsters have remained popular and captivating. As such, tales dating back to antiquity are ripe with monstrous and fantastical beings. The ancients often fused the fantastic with the natural, cultivated this ideology, and passed it down through the ages, persisting in studies of the natural world for many centuries. Eventually these stories evolved into the creation of entirely fictional literature that draws from the ancients and mirrors the evil of men through monstrous beings and the eternal struggle between good and evil. This exhibit features mythological monsters of the Classical, Germanic and Jewish peoples; supposedly natural creatures such as dragons, merfolk, animal/human hybrids and others that appear in natural history works of the medieval and early modern period; plus later Gothic literary titans such as Frankenstein, Dracula and the nefarious Mr. Hyde; and concludes with modern-day examples from the hit Harry Potter franchise. Monstrous figures continue to captivate today and remain a popular source of wonder and curiosity.
This exhibit was developed using original books in UAB's Reynolds-Finley Historical Library and the Mervyn H. Sterne Library.