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Lair of the Beasts The Svokan: Myth vs Reality
A Monster of the Mountains
By Nick Redfern
September 22, 2012
The monster of the mountains
© Nick Redfern
Who would ever have thought that an entire range of mountains could be considered definitively monstrous?Probably not many, that’s for sure.But, it can definitely be said about the spectacular Caucasus Mountains situated in Eurasia, between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea, and which are home to the highest mountain in all of Europe, Mount Elbrus.
A North Caucasus town situated in Russia’s Kabardino-Balkaria Republic, Tyrnyauz has a population of just over 20,000. The majority of them are just regular, everyday people. One of them, however, most certainly is not. Its name is the Svokan and it is said to dwell deep in the heart of the nearby White Rock hills, adjacent to a ragged and bleak group of immense peaks that are known collectively, and intriguingly, as the Stepmother’s Teeth.
According to the stories passed down across generations of residents of the town, the Svokan is a gigantic, muscular man-beast, around twenty feet tall, partly covered in white hair, and possessed of a cone-shaped head that is set off by a pair of glowing red eyes and immense fang-like teeth. And, most unfortunate for the people that live in the vicinity, the favorite delicacy of the Svokan just happens to be the Human Race. But, it feasts in a most strange and unearthly manner indeed.
Legend suggests the Svokan is a creature with powerful, magical abilities that know no bounds. And that is particularly borne out by the way it devours its prey. For the Svokan, bones, meat and blood are just not enough.
The beast, the locals have long maintained, first snares its prey by hiding out in the woods at night, mimicking the distressed cries of a human baby, and cunningly enticing its victim to follow the sounds. Then, when the unlucky soul is in the dark depths of the forest, utterly disoriented, the Svokan quickly pounces. Not via a savage attack with its teeth and claws, however.
Rather, the Svokan casts upon the terrified person a terrible spell which turns them into a small ball of stone, and which the unholy monster then carries back to its dark den in the mountains and stacks alongside numerous other such stones, until hunger strikes and the Svokan does likewise. But, there is even more to the curious tale.
After being turned to stone, the soul of the victim remains trapped within the ball until it is fully devoured. At that point, the Svokan is sated and satisfied, and the person’s life-force makes its ethereal transition to Heaven or Hell.
But, if another person finds one of the stones before it is swallowed whole by the Svokan, and if that same person then prays to God and smashes the stone into tiny pieces, such an act will ensure the Svokan stays hungry, and the souls of both the savior and the victim are forever guaranteed a place at God’s – rather than Satan’s - side. A nice piece of folktale, to be sure, but is that all there is to it? Maybe the answer to that question is: “No.”.
The Caucasus Mountains have their own equivalent of the Bigfoot of North America and the Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas. Its name is the Almasty. I will leave you with the following thought: while the Svokan is clearly a mythological beast that should not be interpreted literally, perhaps the legend began with real-life sightings of the Almasty, which became mutated and distorted by centuries of folklore and story-telling.
Nick Redfern’s new book, The World’s Weirdest Places, is available now from New Page Books.