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11 Cannibals From Mythology Around The World

Updated January 2, 2020 3.0k votes 785 voters 56.7k views11 items

List RulesVote up the mythological cannibals you'd be most afraid to run into on a dark and rainy night.

Cannibalism, the act of eating the flesh of your own species, is considered taboo in most cultures. As such, it's long been a focus of fascination, woven into myths and stories in a variety of ways. Creepy mythological cannibals come in many guises, hail from all parts of the world, and appear in all different belief systems. 

Cannibals in mythology, unrestrained by reality, are often more disturbing than those in real life. Sometimes, they take the form of humans, and other times, they walk the line between human and creature. No matter what form they come in, they share a hunger for human flesh, or the desire to feed someone else human flesh. Sometimes, these cannibal myths can even lead to real-life cannibalism.

 

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    Baba Yaga, Who Decorates With The Bones Of Her Targets

    Commonly depicted as either an old ugly woman or a trio of sisters, Baba Yaga, is a cannibal from Slavic folklore. A shapeshifter normally in the guise of a wicked old woman, she travels by flying around in an iron kettle or in a mortar, using a pestle to steer. It's believed she lives in the woods in a hut made of chicken legs, surrounded by a fence made of the human bones of her targets.

    Legend has it that she nabs, cooks, and eats those who fail to complete her tasks and riddles, oftentimes children. 

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    Atreus And Thyestes, Who Ate Their Own Kin At A Feast

    The mythological brothers Atreus and Thyestes of Greek lore grew up to have an intense rivalry over many things, including various thrones and the wife of Atreus, Aerope. After discovering that his brother, Thyestes, usurped the throne of Mycenae and had an affair with his wife Aerope, Atreus decided to get the ultimate revenge on Thyestes.

    Atreua invited Thyestes and his sons to dinner. Then, without his brother knowing, Atreus had Thyestes' sons slain and served their flesh as part of the banquet. This is how the phrase Thyestean Banquet (or Feast) came to be.

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    Muma Pădurii, Who Likes Some Little Girl Soup

    A sort of Hansel and Gretel character from Romanian myth, Muma Pădurii is the kind of cannibal that can cause little children to never want to leave their homes again. Although her name means "mother of the forest," there’s nothing maternal about her thirst for little children.

    Able to shift shapes, she can appear in different forms, but her true embodiment is as an ugly old woman. Depicted as taking and imprisoning children, in some versions of the myth, she attempts to boil a little girl alive and make a soup out of her. Similar to the story of Hansel and Gretel, the children manage to outsmart her and escape.

     

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    Tantalus, Who Tried To Feed His Son To His Dad

    Photo: August Theodor Kaselowsky / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    In Greek mythology, Zeus's son Tantalus angered the gods when he took ambrosia and nectar from their sacred table. After being chastised, he decided to get the gods back by slaying his son Pelops and feeding him to them as a test of their omnipotence. Given their legitimate all-knowingness, the gods didn't eat any of Pelops (except for Demeter, who was distracted and took a tiny bite). After the near cannibalistic consumption of his grandson, Zeus ordered that Pelops be brought back to life, and the tiny piece of shoulder that Demeter ate was replaced with solid ivory.

    Zeus punished Tantalus by exiling him from Olympus and to eternal unhappiness after his demise. 

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