Is there a yeti in the Brecks?
- Credit: Wooden Books
What is the difference between a ghost and a ghoul? Where would you find a chimera or a manticore? What did Herodotus have to say about werewolves? And what is a mythozoologist?
The answers to all these questions, and many more, can be found in Tam O’Malley’s fascinating book Mythological Animals: From Basilisks to Unicorns.
Tam, who runs a company working with big film and television companies around the world in research and post-production, said: “I've always had a love for things like adventure, mythical creatures, the supernatural and history."
As a child she wanted to be Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider games. “In fact I still do, some things never change!” she said.
Mythological Animals became a quest through myth and folklore, searching out strange creatures, making Tam a mythozoologist.
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“Mythozoologists like to study the lives and biology of creatures in fiction. Many people say unicorns or dragons don't exist, they are however very much alive and thriving in our imaginations!” she explained. Her favourite creatures are dragons and mermaids – and she even has her own dragon pets.
“Ozzy, Smidge, Stumpy, Eli and Ronan are all Australian Bearded Dragons and are without a doubt, my scaly kids! One of the gang was always on my desk with me, throughout the whole process of writing the book,” she said.
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“I think many mythical creatures with dangerous reputations are really just a bit misunderstood. As is often the case with animals we know and love in the real world, quite often a bark is worse than the bite. I think that given the right amount of respect and understanding, traditionally fearsome creatures such as the Minotaur could probably have lived alongside humans quite peacefully, perhaps even becoming quite friendly with us in the way that dogs have warmed to people since their wild wolven days of old.”
Tam grew up in Hunstanton and Titchwell and lives in Keswick, near Norwich. She said Norfolk creatures lurk among her worldwide imaginary menagerie, from the yeti-like beast of the A1075 reportedly haunting Thetford Forest to the beautiful mermaid who hauled herself from the sea to hear the singing at All Saints church in Upper Sheringham and can still be seen, carved into a pew.
"The Beast of the A1075 is reportedly a Bigfoot or Yeti like creature, currently haunting the earthy boughs and dank undergrowth of Thetford Forest," said Tam. "There has been such a raft of sightings in recent years of this colossal beast stalking the rugged Brecks landscape, that advice has been given to not do anything to provoke the beast on sight, to keep a low profile and not wear any kind of strong perfume which might attract the creature. Watch out next time you go for a picnic!"
After studying film production at Norwich University of the Arts Tam set up Psykey Films, to work as a researcher and post production expert on nature and history documentaries – dealing with real wildlife and events from the past. She has worked with the BBC, Netflix, Universal Pictures, National Geographic, the Discovery Channel and more on programmes and films including Forbidden History, Judi Dench's Wild Borneo Adventure, Thai Cave Rescue, Story of God with Morgan Freeman and Netflix feature film News of the World.
"Each week is different to the next, no two projects are ever the same. One week I could be researching the many wives of Henry VIII, the next it could be the friendships and brotherhoods formed between British and American soldiers during World War II," said Tam. "At the moment I am rounding up work on a feature film due out next year for Universal and starting post production work on a new series for Yesterday channel about the Black Panthers of the Second World War. Being a history buff these are fun to research!"
Mythological Animals, from basilisks to unicorns, by Tam O’Malley, with illustrations including intricate engravings by historic artists, is published by Wooden Books for £5.99.