'Here be dragons' was the traditional warning used by ancient mapmakers to indicate dangerous, or simply unknown, lands. These were the dwelling places of fantastical beasts, creatures such as dragons, sea serpents, unicorns, griffins and mermaids. Throughout the ages, such beasts have been viewed in complex and contradictory ways because they embody both our fear and our fascination of the unpredictable natural world around us. They appear in the earliest myths and accompany the heroes of medieval romance and folktales. Whether as the symbolic creatures of myth, or as the marvellous beasts of medieval legend and travellers' tales, fantastic animals have always inspired art and literature. Today they feature among the many marvels that populate the alternative worlds of fantasy and the outer reaches of cyberspace. Drawing on sources as diverse as myth, history and folklore, this book explores the ways in which mythical beasts continue to inhabit our fantasies and to define our constantly changing relationship to both real and imagined worlds.