The Mythology Behind The Creature From The Black Lagoon
Updated: May 29, 2022
This week on Lunatics Radio Hour we are continuing our exploration of the classic Universal Monster films and diving into The Creature from The Black Lagoon franchise. The first film was released in 1954, but the mythology behind the story can be traced back much, much further.
There are three main Central American mythological creatures that most historians point to when they look at films like The Creature from The Black Lagoon or Shape of Water. The Ipupiara, The Iara (or Lara) and The Yacuruna.
The Ipupiara was a creature from the mythology of the Tupi people, who lived along the coast of Brazil in the 16th century. The Ipupiara, or sea-man was believed to attack and kill humans living on land by pulling them under water and hugging them to death and would eat very specific and small parts of their body; eyes, fingers, noses and genitals. There are reports from 1564 that one of the creatures was actually captured and killed by a Portuguese commander who stabbed it in the midriff. The river creature was described as over 15 feet long, hair covering the body and long bristles around the mouth. And a mustache and fin that could hold the body upright.
Lara is a somewhat related myth, another water monster. In the local language, the Lara means quote “the mother of the water that lives in the bottom of the river.” The Lara is more closely tied to mermaid mythology that we see in other cultures. More of a seductress who would lure people into the water using their beauty or voice and song.
In 1941, Orsen Welles hosted a dinner party (during the production of Citizen Kane), where producer William Alland (who plays the reporter in Citizen Kane) ended up in deep and riveting conversation with Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa. Figueroa told Alland about a myth from The Amazon River. A species of hybrid humanoid fish creatures. Ten years later, Alland wrote a story called The Sea Monster inspired by this mythology. It was largely similar to the plot of King Kong, which was later diluted as more writers helped create new versions. The story was later turned into a treatment called The Black Lagoon.
Listen to Episode 104 of Lunatics Radio Hour - anywhere you listen to podcasts for more.