Fantasy is filled with mythological creatures. But how well do we really know them? Who, off the top of their head, can define the difference between phoenix and a thunderbird?
No one? Okay, then let’s start a new blog series on . . . you guessed it. Mythological creatures!
If you’ve read Harry Potter, then you have a good idea what a phoenix is. This mythological bird regenerates from its own ashes every time it dies. According to greek mythology, it’s associated with the sun and fire. The phoenix could be as large as an eagle and generally has scarlet and gold feathers, emitting rays of pure sunlight.
The cry of a phoenix is described as “melodious” and, in the Harry Potter series, the bird can carry a great amount of weight and has healing tears.
Interesting “facts” about the phoenix:
- It could live over 1400 years before rebirth.
- Different cultures have their own interpretations of the Phoenix — the bennu (Egypt), Feng Huang (Chinese), the Huma (Persian), the Garuda (Oriental), etc.
- A phoenix doesn’t just burn up and die when it’s old. It creates a nest of aromatic boughs and spices, sets it on fire, and is then engulfed in the flames. At least it smells nice!
- Only one phoenix can exist at a time. (Loneliest love-life ever…)
The thunderbird originates from Native American mythology and is, apparently, gigantic. It gets the name thunderbird because every flap of its wings causes a clap of thunder (this gives you an idea of its size.) Thunderbirds bring rain and storms to the land.
They are vengeful hunters, fond of killer whales (for breakfast, lunch, and dinner) but even carrying off children for an afternoon snack (aka: villain bird.) Thunderbirds cause storms and are known to show up before a natural disaster strikes. Sheet lightning flashes from its eyes when it blinks, and the creature carries golden snakes to cause individual lighting bolts.
Interesting “facts” about the thunderbird:
- It can assume human form and then remove its feathers to use as a blanket.
- It’s large enough to hunt small whales individually
- The thunderbird is often described and depicted as having teeth within its beak
So who do you would think would win in a battle, the phoenix or thunderbird?
Have you used or seen either of these creatures in a novel?
Cool article Nadine! I hadn’t thought about comparing the two birds before.
I actually have a type of phoenix in an upcoming trilogy that I’ve got in the works, once I finish with my current one. 🙂
How exciting! The phoenix is one of my favorite mythological creatures. 🙂
Just by looking at their abilities, its easy to assume in a direct one on one battle a Thunderbird would easily defeat a Phoenix. Of course their abilities vary across different stories, however there does not seem to be a case where a Phoenix would go directly to face against Thunderbirds in battle, let alone a single one.If anything it seems like the Phoenix would be a benevolent entity trying to avoid as much conflict as possible while the Thunderbirds try hunting the Phoenix.
By no means am I assuming it would be a case of good vs. bad, they both seem to be creatures of balance and nature, primal entities. In any case thanks, this was a good read!
*knows this is almost 2 years old, but comments anyway*
This is a really interesting article. Thanks for sharing! 😀
I don’t know who’d win, but with the descriptions above it seems the thunderbird would be the more likely victor.
I love researching this topic and have a couple thoughts…
In Russia and other Slavic countries, there is a mythological bird called the Firebird. It doesn’t set itself on fire, but its beautiful feathers always glow — even after being plucked from the bird. It has a beautiful singing voice, and when it does pearls fall from its beak (some legends say).
On a different note, I had a intriguing thought concerning the origin of the thunderbird myths: was there a real creature that the natives saw that caused them to think the creatures controlled thunder and rain.
[I apologize for this being so lengthy…]
I was watching a film called “Dragons Or Dinosaurs?” [I know these aren’t dragons, but please bear with me] and it talked about the possibility of dinosaurs living alongside man as the source for all of the dragon legends we have around the world.
Early on in the film, Darek Isaacs mentions the thunderbird legend:
“There is a Indian legend called the thunderbirds, and according to the legend, these huge bird-like creatures would fly and they would actually be able to bring thunder with them. And at first that seems sensational, but if you start looking at the evidence it seems to change just a little bit… [T]he legend is that these giant thunderbirds would actually fly to the top of the Black Hills and they would nest there. Now what is fascinating is that scientists have long believed that those kinds of gigantic creatures needed strong winds to propel them to high heights, and so in the West where you have these gigantic thunderstorms it is really postulated that these gigantic pteranodons would catch thermal updrafts of these storms that would lift them to the top of places like the Black Hills. So from an Indian’s perspective, [in an attempt] to pull meaning from things in nature, they would look at these … thunderbirds and go, “Wow, they are bringing thunder,” but what’s really happening is that it’s the thunderstorms that’s actually bringing the pteranodons.”
Looking at the details mentioned in this article, something that has jumped out at me was the fact that “The thunderbird is often described and depicted as having teeth within its beak”! 😀
One thing that I personally noticed when on a trip to a Native American Reservation, there were a lot of pieces of artwork depicting thunderbirds, and they all had a sort of crest on the back of their head… kind-of like pteranodons did. :}
Anyway this was a very interesting little rabbit trail I wanted to share if anyone was interested in mythological origins. 🙂
Question… Can they breed together and make one powerful mythical bird that has the power of fire, lightning, weather, thunder, healing, sleeping songs, and see the future?
I don’t think so because of there size difference
That is an intresting tid-bit, but they were also said to be able to pick up killer whales and carry tham like how eagles carry fish. Goto wander how it goto be that big.
Also some believe that thunderbirds are made of clouds, sorry had to throw that in
I have my company named Phoenix 🙂
The thunderbird is as the thunderbeings….that is, a raven. Look up thunderbeings and heyoka if you crave some chewing gum for your mind. Know acception. Peace..
I’m thinking of using both Phoenix and Thunderbird in my book but i want Phoenix to win. i mean it kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? Phoenix is carrier of of warmth and fire and light while Thunderbird brings doom and darkness. so is it possible to make Phoenix win? And also, can i change the size of Thunderbird to an eagle?
Well, in fight from my view phoenix doesn’t have enought power to kill thunderbird, and thunderbird can’t pernamently kill kill phoenix. Taking thunderbird doesn’t die from age, but can die from injuries I give this for phoenix – can literally outlive thunderbird, by waiting until something strong enougt to kill thunderbird shows up (maybe dragon)
From my knowlege i belive the Phoenix and Thuderbird are closely related and i also belive that Thunderbirds represent strenght, courage, and justice in the native american religon also it is possible that once the Thunderbird kills the phoenix it brings a storm to blow away the ashes so the phoenix cant rise.
The Phoenix is eternal,
While the rain will pass????
The effort is good but this is far too simple an explanation, especially on the thunderbird. They arr not “villains” but rather are usually considered benevolent.
I think the phoenix would win because if the phoenix dies, it will respawn and keep on doing that until the thunderbird dies
Kind of my taught. Except I think the phoenix would ignite it’s self in the Thunderbird’s beak. Consuming the T bird then just be reborn. Winner!!!
The Thunderbird because lightning makes fire, and the rain would extinguish the Phoenix if the Thunderbird decided to start the fight by starting a fire with it’s lightning, even though it could easily avoid the fight altogether by not starting a fire.
Why do most stories have to have a battle and killing and winning. Each creature has its gift to add to healing, transformation, and growth on this earth. It’s time to change the human story from one of battle to one of support.
This is a very interesting article, I love the way it was put together and how much simpler it is compared to what others have said. I am in the middle of writing a book and was looking for mythical creatures like the Pheonix and other mythical birds and monsters like it. When I saw this post, it made me question if there are different types of Pheonix with different affinities like the Fire Pheonix and Ice Pheonix I am aware of.
The phoenix in a sense is immortal as stated in Harry Potter so even if it can’t win, it can’t lose.
I have viewed them as different interpretations of similar entities..
Maybe it’s a love story between the thunderbird and Pheonix. The Pheonix being female and embodiment of healing to a very angered thunderbird. Their love can not exist if they can’t learn to coexist. With the Pheonix dying off and reborn again. The third has to wait in heartache for his Pheonix to rise again only to hope they get it right that time.
Appreciate your writing. My thoughts…Thunderbird wins the battle. Phoenix wins the war.