The Myths Behind the Monsters: A Look at Godzilla’s Latest Co-stars

The giant monster film genre, as referred to in the West, has existed now for nearly a century. While its origins lay in the 1925 US film The Lost World, based on the eponymous novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, many people today may look to another film as the progenitor of the genre. King Kong, which was released in the US in 1933, focused on the capturing of a gigantic ape from a remote island and its later rampage through New York City, famously climaxing atop the Empire State Building. Twenty years later, however, a Japanese film was released about a giant dinosaur that was awakened by nuclear testing and promptly set out to destroy Tokyo, Japan. The film, titled Gojira (1954), was re-released (and re-edited) in the United States as Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956). Thus began Japan’s own giant monster genre – the genre of kaiju.[1]

Literally translated as “strange beast”, the term kaiju refers to giant, other-worldly and often mysterious creatures of fiction that are depicted being aggressive towards mankind or otherwise engage in “monster combat” with other kaiju. In the modern era, the giant monster and kaiju genres are generally accepted as being synonymous with one another, and the creatures of these stories are often representative of some higher meaning. For example, according to the director Merian C. Cooper, King Kong [the ape] was meant to reflect “the primitive doomed by modern civilization”, although King Kong [the film] is more commonly compared to the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast.[2] Similarly, Gojira was created in expression of Japan’s fears and perceptions of nuclear testing following World War II. The creature was written and designed, not only to symbolize the destructive nature of atomic energy, but also as a victim of nuclear radiation and contamination.

The latest kaiju cinematic universe, dubbed the Monsterverse, has since reintroduced Godzilla, Kong, Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah to modern audiences. The Monsterverse, however, also introduced an entirely new set of giant monsters for this new age of cinema. The names of these “Titans”, as they are referred to in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) (KOTM), are derived from certain beings found throughout world religions and mythologies. With that in mind, this discussion will attempt to the identities of these Titans through a bit of literary onomastics and comparative mythology.

Hic Sunt Dracones

Behemoth resembles a prehistoric ground sloth with large, curled tusks reminiscent of those found on a mammoth and walks on its knuckles, like a gorilla. It is covered in light brown fur, while his head resembles that of a mammoth with small ears and a short tapir-like trunk. Behemoth also has a row of small flat spines running down his back. The ends of his forelimbs are tipped with broad fingers bearing very large claws, with the hindlimbs being stouter for weight bearing; due to this, Behemoth is capable of standing on his hindlimbs. Behemoth’s tusks also appear to have some sort of vegetation overgrowth, perhaps insinuating an extensive lifespan.

Titanus Behemoth, otherwise known as Behemoth, is one of two mammalian hyper-fauna discovered by the Monarch Organization (the other being [Titanus] Kong). Behemoth gets its name from the Biblical creature first mentioned in the Book of Job. In the Bible, Behemoth is an untamable and immensely powerful creature, akin to a primordial being of Earth, that God created (alongside Leviathan[3]) and only God can capture. The physical descriptions of the Biblical Behemoth vary throughout history and literature: some citing its appearance to be that of an elephant or hippopotamus, while others believing it to be a sauropod (long-necked) dinosaur. Despite sharing its name with God’s beast, and being of remarkable size, this Titan bears no other relevant similarities to Job’s monster. Titanus Behemoth does, however, bear a striking resemblance to another folklorish creature – the Mapinguari.

The Mapinguari is a cryptid from Brazilian folklore, its name supposedly being a contraction of several words meaning “a thing that has a bent [or] crooked foot [or] paw”. Little is known about the origins of the Mapinguari myth. Reports describe a large, hairy creature with curved-claws, powerfully built frame, can walk either bipedal or quadrupedal, and gives out a terribly foul odor. Sightings of the Mapinguari date back to the early 20th century, many coming from the indigenous people of Brazil who claim to have witnessed (or smelled) the creature as it walked through the forest. While many biologists and cryptozoologist debate as to whether the Mapinguari is a yet-to-be-discovered species of primate, others believe reports to describe an animal closer in appearance to giant ground sloths (now extinct).

When Monarch began its research into proving the validity of these reports, they came across cave paintings depicting Behemoth that dated back to at least twelve thousand years ago. It is assumed that local indigenous people, who referred to Behemoth as the “Mapinguari”, viewed the Titan as a forest deity. Monarch agents later discovered the Titan hibernating in a cavern near Rio de Janeiro and built a containment facility to study it. According to news reports during the credits of KOTM, Titanus Behemoth returned to the Amazon Rainforest, where its irradiated feces has led to the rapid reforestation of deforested areas.

Scylla is a giant armored cephalopod, with black coloration, and six very long, bony, and lightly haired legs, each with two joints and ending with a claw with small spikes growing out of the first joints. It also has a plated mantle with squid-like tentacles and a pair of black eyes. Scylla moves much like a spider, moving in fast bursts of short quick steps.

Titanus Scylla, otherwise known as Scylla, one of the hyper-fauna discovered by the Monarch Organization. It is not entirely clear whether this Titan is more closely related to mollusks or arthropods, or is simply a mix of both. It appears to have six legs and a hard exoskeleton, yet also has several squid-like appendages that extend from under its eyes. With such a strange mix of traits, this Titan is truly worthy of the name Scylla. Though first mentioned by the poet Homer, later mythographers wrote that Scylla was once a beautiful naiad (minor water deity) that was turned into a chimeric sea monster by a jealous rival goddess.

In Homer’s Odyssey, Scylla lived inside a cavern along a cliffside across from her counterpart Charybdis, the great monstrous whirlpool, somewhere in the Mediterranien Sea. Together, Scylla and Charybdis were responsible for the wreckages of several sea-faring vessels between, what classical writers and modern scholars alike believe to be, the Strait of Messina between southern Italy and Sicily. The following is a description of Scylla’s appearance from the Odyssey:

Scylla lurks inside it–the yelping horror, [95] yelping, no louder than any suckling pup but she’s a grisly monster, I assume you. No one could look on her with any joy, not even a god who meets her face-to-face . . . She has twelve feet, all writhing, dangling down [100] and six long swaying necks, a hideous head on each, each head barbed with a triple row of fangs, thickset, packed tight – and armed to the hilt with black death! Holed up in the cavern’s bowels from her waist down she shoots out her heads, out of that terrifying pit, angling right from her nest, wildly sweeping the reefs [105] for dolphins, dogfish or any bigger quarry she can drag from the thousands Amphtrite spawns in groaning seas.

Homer XII.94 – 107, translated by Robert Fagles, 1996

As the Greek hero Odysseus leaves the mythical island of Aeaea, he is advised by the sorceress-goddess Circe, when sailing through the strait, to stir closer to Scylla than Charybdis, as the latter would swallow his ship and his men whole. Odysseus heeded her advice, but as his ship approached the cavern, Scylla emerged and ate six of his crewman:

But now, fearing death, all eyes fixed on Charybdis – now Scylla snatched six men from our hollow ship, [265] the toughest, strongest hands I had, and glancing backward over the decks, searching for my crew I could see their hands and feet already hoisted, flailing, high, higher, over my head, look – wailing down at me, comrades riven in agony, [270] shrieking out my name for one last time! . . . [275] so now they writhed, grasping as Scylla swung them up her cliff and there at her cavern’s mouth she bolted them down raw – screaming out, flinging their arms toward me, lost in that mortal struggle . . .

Homer XII. 263 – 279, translated by Robert Fagles, 1996

According to new reports during the end credits of KOTM, Monarch has made public their research regarding Titanus Scylla’s interactions with humans throughout history. This research has confirmed that it was Titanus Scylla which inspired the myth of the ancient Greek sea monster, and not the other way around. It is possible that what the ancient Greeks observed as Charybdis was actually a gigantic underwater passageway (Hollow Earth theory) in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and Scylla, at some point in human history, made its lair nearby. Monarch has long since speculated that the Titans used a global network of subterranean passageways to navigate across the globe. Currently, Titanus Scylla has chosen to retreat to a massive lake in an undisclosed location where it’s emissions of liquid nitrogen are slowing down the melting of ice in the Antarctic.

Methuselah is a massive, reptilian quadruped with large white eyes and large teeth that form an underbite. It has large horns growing down from the top of his head that curl inwards. Methuselah’s forelimbs are clawed, though it appears to move on its knuckles, while its hindlimbs are hooved. It would appear that Methuselah is fully capable of camouflaging with its surrounding environment. In fact, its camouflage is such that its body can apparently sustain a small portion of the environment and ecosystem on its back while remaining unnoticed and undisturbed for centuries. Methuselah’s size and camouflage make it completely indistinguishable in large mountainous regions.

Titanus Methuselah, otherwise known as Methuselah, is one of the reptilian hyper-fauna discovered by the Monarch Organization with an entire forest on its back, almost like an organic and ecological shell. Methuselah is named after one of the antediluvian (pre-flood) patriarchs spoken of in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic scriptures. The grandfather of Noah, Methuselah was the son of Enoch who was said to have lived on Earth for 365 years and was taken into Heaven by God. Methuselah, in comparison, is renowned as the longest living human in the Bible, having died before the Great Flood at the age of 969. Given that the name “Methuselah” has become synonymous with longevity, it has been theorized that this Titan is the oldest living being on the planet.

Throughout world religions are several myths concerning the authority, power, and longevity of turtles & tortoises. The Cosmic Turtle, or World-bearing turtle, is a mythological motif-creature found in Hindu mythology and the mythologies of American indigenous people. In Iroquois oral tradition, the world (presumably North America) is called “Turtle Island”, since the land that mankind lived on was created from the soil that was placed atop the shell of a turtle. In Hindu mythology, Kurma, the half-man and half-tortoise avatar of Vishnu, while in the form of a tortoise – and sometimes accompanied by a nāga, half-serpent half-human – commonly written to have supported mountains, landmasses, and even the world on its back. There are even verses in Hindu texts that define the tortoise as the world: its upper shell as the sky, its lower shell as the earth, and the space in-between as the air.

Within East Asian mythologies exists the tradition of the Four Symbols, otherwise known as the Four Holy Beasts or the Four Guardians. The Black Tortoise of the North, which is associated with the winter season (and water), is often depicted as turtle entwined with a snake, symbolizing longevity. The Black Tortoise goes by many names across East Asian legends, but it is the most well-known through Chinese legends and Japanese Shintoism. In China, it is associated with the god Xuanwu who is served by the “Turtle” and “Snake general”; and in Japan, Genbu is the guardian of the city of Kyoto who protects it from the north.

Methuselah was discovered lying dormant in Munich, Germany by Monarch scientists. Local legends, according to the Godzilla: King of the Monsters (novel), spoke of a village that existed centuries earlier in the Munich area that seemingly disappeared overnight. A traveler, having left the village for some time, found a mountain had replaced the village on his return home. Research on Methuselah progressed steadily until its abrupt awakening by the call of Titanus Ghidorah.  After the events of KOTM, the whereabouts and activities of Titanus Methuselah are currently unknown.

Jinshin-Mushi is an enormous female parasite that spawns subspecies by preying on other hyper-fauna. The Prime (equivocal to a virgin bee) is similar in appearance to its female offspring, except for several notable differences. It has a hardened outer shell with razor sharp back spires on it, large orange-glowing forelimbs, several smaller pairs of forelimbs on her chest, and an ovipositor to deposit its eggs directly into its victims’ bodies. Subspecies are sexually dimorphic, with the females being much larger and males possessing a pair of long, pointed modified wings. It is theorized that a subspecies female could metamorphose into a Prime under extreme circumstances.

Titanus Jinshin-Mushi, designated the M.U.T.O. Prime[4], is a recently deceased parasitic hyper-fauna discovered by Monarch researchers. A [virgin] queen bee, the Jinshin-Mushi preys upon other hyper-fauna throughout the globe, generating small seismic quakes to lure one of these creatures into an ambush before forcibly impregnating the weakened Titan’s body with its parasitic larvae. It is also known for causing supershear earthquakes and sonic booms whiles swiftly traveling through the Earth’s crust. Thus, its bio-terrestrial nature prompted Monarch to name it after the “earthquake beetle” of Japanese folklore, which is often called the “dragon beetle” for its rather draconian features. The larvae of the Jinshin Mushi hatch as a mating couple and would mature (through metamorphosis) into their own subspecies after a millennia in hibernation.

In Japanese folklore, the Jinshin-Mushi is considered to be a strange beetle that burrows under Kyoto, Japan causing earthquakes and disrupting civilization. The myth of the “earthquake beetle” seems to have spun-off of an earlier myth, that of Namazu-e the giant catfish who causes earthquakes if left unchecked by the Kashima-no-kami.[5] As time passed, Namazu-e was slowly replaced by Jinshin-Uwo (the great ocean eel) and, presumably in the Kyoto and southern Japan regions, the Jinshin-Mushi. The Jinshun-Mushi is described as having a scaly body, a dragon-like head, and enormous legs that give it a similar appearance to that of a spider.

According to Godzilla: Aftershock, a prequel comic to KOTM taking place in 2014, Jinshin-Mushi was progenitor of the two M.U.T.O. that appeared in Godzilla (2014), and was responsible for the death of at least one other member of the Titanus Gojira super-species (known as Dagon). Upon reawakening, Jinshin-Mushi engaged in an almost immediate struggle with Monarch researchers and Godzilla, eventually being killed by the latter. A third hibernating M.U.T.O. was being monitored by Monarch until awakened by [Titanus] Ghidorah. Its whereabouts and actions following KOTM are currently unknown.

A New Age for Monsters

Monsters have always existed within myths, legends, and folklore. They may symbolize the uncontrollable, destructive powers of nature or epitomize the worst (and best) tendencies of humanity. In King Kong we have death of the primitive to the modern amidst a story of human greed and violence, while Gojira attempts to caution mankind on the dangers of atomic energy. As a result, Kong and Godzilla have become two of the most recognizable and respected monsters in cinematic history, although this achievement pales in comparison to this other – they have birthed a whole new mythology of their own kind. It is now Kong and Godzilla, Mothra and Ghidorah and Rodan, who have become the gold standard, the points of origin, for those attempting to write giant monster stories. So while the new kaiju of the Monsterverse may have been inspired by other fables and tales, they will soon become legends in their own right.

The next installment in Monsterverse is already scheduled for release. Godzilla vs. Kong (2020) will be the first time that the two kaiju will have appeared on the big screen together in nearly 60 years. I have no doubt that there will be more monsters joining the ranks, I hope to see their own storied inspired in the future. Cinema has become one of today’s leading forms of modern myth-making and those who work in this medium are masterful in how they honor the tales which inspired them, while producing new ones to inspire the future.

Update (03/21/2020): It has come to my attention that the production images of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) that were uploaded onto Instagram after the film’s release may have wrongly identified the M.U.T.O. 3 as Titanus Abaddon. Thus, I have removed that information from this article to avoid any confusions and inconsistencies with what has been confirmed of Titanus Jinshin-Mushi in the comic Godzilla: Aftershock. Perhaps with Godzilla v. Kong (2020) we may learn more concrete information on Titanus Abaddon and the others that were only briefly discussed in KOTM.


  • Borges, Jorge Luis. The Book of Imaginary Beings. New ed., Google Books, Vintage Books, 2002.
  • DeKirk, Ash “LeopardDancer”, and Oberon Zell-Ravenheart. A Wizard’s Bestiary. Google Books, New Page Books, 2007.
  • Dougherty, Michael, director. Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2019
  • Edwards, Gareth, director. Godzilla. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2014.
  • Keyes, Gregory. Godzilla: King of the Monsters – The Official Movie Novelization, London: Titan Books. 2019. Print.
  • Myth and Geology. edited by L. Piccardi and W. B. Masse, Google Books, Geological Society, 2007.
  • Nelson, Arvid, writer. Godzilla: Aftermath. Art by Drew Edward Johnson. California: Legendary Comics. 2019. Print.
  • Rose, Carol. Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth. Google Books, W. W. Norton & Company, 2001
  • Rosen, Brenda. The Mythological Creatures Bible. Google Books, Sterling Publishing, 2009.
[1] The Japanese term kaiju translates to “strange beast” and is believed to have been an adopted word from earlier Chinese texts the Shan-hai Ching, a classical text and compilation of mythological geography and creatures. The term came to express ideas and concepts based in paleontology and folklore after Japanese isolationism ended in the late 19th century.
[2] King Kong famously ends with the lines, “No, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was Beauty that killed the Beast.”
[3] In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the name “Titanus Leviathan” shows up as one of the seventeen discovered Titans still in dormancy around the globe. Outpost 49, where Titanus Leviathan is being studied, is located in Loch Ness, Scotland. The film’s novelization also mentions the aquatic nature of this creature, perhaps alluding to a connection between it and the famous Loch Ness monster.
[4] M.U.T.O. stands for “Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism”. It is a placeholder name for any Titan that has yet to be scientifically classified.
[5] Kashima-no-kami, otherwise known as Takemikazuchi, is a god of thunder and sword god in Japanese Mythology. In the catfish paintings of Japan’s Edo Period (1603 – 1868 c.e.), Kashima-no-kami is depicted subduing Namazu-e to keep it from thrashing about and causing earthquakes.

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