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Learn how to draw realistic figures for comic books, anatomy courses, and more.
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From animated umbrellas to polite-but-violent turtle-people, Japan's folklore contains some extremely creative monsters.
- Compared to Japan's menagerie of creatures, Western folklore can feel a little drab.
- The collection of yōkai—supernatural beasts or spirits—has a staggering amount of variety.
- Although there are many more creative folkloric creatures, here are nine that caught our attention.
1. Tanuki<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTEzNjQyOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjcyOTg3MH0.GlE6jeIoq_ksmZM6W_2WjvmOk2PjTgh2-WbCYnqnzAQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="6a7f3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="38b615251bfb3cbb17770a0e4df98b23" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Tanuki" />
A bake-danuki uses it's, um, special skill set to fashion a boat.
Kazusa-ya Iwazô, 1842<p>Starting the list off strong are the <em><a href="https://www.tofugu.com/japan/tanuki/" target="_blank">tanuki</a></em>, or raccoon dogs. Tanuki are real animals native to Japan that look, as their name would suggest, like a cross between a raccoon and a dog. But the folkloric version of tanukis, <em>bake-danuki</em>, are much more mischievous and powerful. If you have ever been or go to Japan, you have or will undoubtedly run across <a href="https://www.google.com/search?biw=1280&bih=530&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=TP1SXPfZHqLv5gKUtqSQCg&q=tanuki+statue&oq=tanuki+statue&gs_l=img.3..0l5j0i5i30l3j0i8i30l2.353.1196..1534...0.0..0.314.1157.0j2j2j1......0....1..gws-wiz-img.......35i39j0i67j0i10.B3cMvuxupHE" target="_blank">statues </a>of wall-eyed, chubby, friendly-looking creatures.</p><p>These are tanuki, but they're a much more modern, friendly reincarnation. Tanuki in the past were tricksters who possessed the ability to shapeshift and stretch their massive scrotums (yes, really). Depictions of tanuki show them using their scrotums for anything from makeshift watercraft to making giant, comical faces.</p>
2. Jorogumo<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTEzNjQzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzQ4NDk1NH0.sPUv6JVnumAwPPz3AcAi97qVBewgUNAkytwHnAzm7kM/img.jpg?width=980" id="4f77c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9d75a038a16efbe58c4303f24bb3aa03" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Jorogumo" />
Wikimedia Commons<p>A decidedly less delightful <em>yōkai</em><em></em> is the <em><a href="https://www.japanpowered.com/folklore-and-urban-legends/jorogumo-the-whore-spider" target="_blank">jorogumo</a></em>. When an orb-weaver spider turns 400 years old, it grows horrifically large and becomes capable of transforming into a beautiful woman to lure men to later eat. Since the jorogumo's origin story involves real spiders, the word is also used to refer to several species of spiders, who, if they could live to be 400 years old, would ostensibly become this unpleasant creature.</p>
3. Kappa<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTEzNjQzNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNTkxNjY2Nn0.56KydILKis_6ZxKfzoYV9LCERmk25za8miqolmTk1mM/img.jpg?width=980" id="1cd93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="21e698434c0a317d58af056d88d2d339" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Kappa" />
Wikimedia Commons<p>Humanoid reptiles named <em><a href="https://mythology.net/japanese/japanese-creatures/kappa/" target="_blank">kappa</a></em> are said to inhabit Japan's ponds and rivers. They are short and scaly, have beaks for mouths, and have a bowl on top of their heads that contains water. If a kappa's bowl is emptied on dry land somehow, they're said to lose their magical powers. Although they're generally malevolent, kappa are supposed to be very polite. If a passer-by bows to them, they'll have to bow back, losing the water in their bowls. If that passer-by refills the bowl, they'll have made a friend and ally for life.</p><p>Kappa drown children, drink their victim's blood, or sexually assault woman, but they also have three obsessions. The first are cucumbers, which they apparently can't resist. The second is sumo wrestling. And the third is obtaining <em>shirikodama</em>, jewels that contain the soul, located—where else?—in people's anuses.</p>
4. Kamaitachi<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTEzNjQ0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MjQ2MTQ4NX0.Uh1QQeAj9uiPUc5pfNHkWjPmYgrHQ9AOs3iQuNQrrjo/img.jpg?width=980" id="176b9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f1238b328adbdcb57980115b565eeeaf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Kamaitachi" />
Wikimedia Commons<p>The <em><a href="https://www.japanpowered.com/folklore-and-urban-legends/kamaitachi-the-sickle-weasel" target="_blank">kamaitachi</a></em> are weasels with sickle-like nails on their paws. When they attack people, they ride on whirlwinds, knocking their victims down before giving them a quick slash on their ankles or calves. Allegedly, the creatures' sickles contain a kind of medicine that stops the wound from bleeding or hurting, which is at least the polite thing to do after knocking somebody down and cutting them up. The pain is said to set in later, however, after the numbing medicine has worn off. For some unknown reason, only men get attacked by kamaitachi.</p>
5. Nuribotoke<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTEzNjQ0Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTY4Mzc4OX0.8iAcTeC9iduUYyuau0gYB6FdNQAxTAWKMvU5tt-65ic/img.jpg?width=980" id="83e75" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fd7201b907030c1b96b526e65ea1f40b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Nuribotoke" />
Brigham Young University via Wikimedia Commons<p>The word <em><a href="http://yokai.com/nuribotoke/" target="_blank">nuribotoke</a></em> means 'lacquered Buddha' or 'painted Buddha' due to the creature's black skin and minor resemblance to the Buddha, mainly because of its large stomach. Their eyeballs dangle out of their sockets, and they have a long tail that resembles a catfish's tail. They also stink.</p><p>Japanese homes and temples often contain a Buddhist shrine called a <em>butsudan</em>, a kind of ornate cabinet containing a small shrine within. Butsudans stay open during the day but are closed at night since it's believed that spirits can use it to enter the material world. When a butsudan is poorly maintained or left open at night, nuribotokes can enter homes, sometimes appearing as Buddhas who give false prophecies or dance around at night.</p>
6. Tsukumogami<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTEzNjQ1Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzgyMzk0NH0.ZzXspdbg6Du6Helhj1X5GlyapTAmRSOhiiSgFbIj7gg/img.jpg?width=980" id="4a7f4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5d55eb51b433531b0d6b158763a4044e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Tsukumogami" />
A lantern that's become a tsukumogami.
Wikimedia Commons<p><em><a href="http://jpninfo.com/3549" target="_blank">Tsukumogami</a></em> is an umbrella term for tools or household objects that, after their 100th<sup></sup> "birthday," gain a soul. Generally, they're depicted as friendly, but tools that were thrown away or misused are thought to become vengeful toward their previous owners. You could have a possessed futon (with the delightful name of a <em>boroboroton</em>), lantern (<em>chōchin-obake</em>), umbrella (<em>kasa-obake</em>), or any number of items. </p>
7. Nuppeppo<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTEzNjQ2NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTE1ODkzN30.DP1Pq1T2Rajzxe3Syd5k9HOT2nkdYceh2c_qL70OA4U/img.jpg?width=980" id="0f041" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="790e9da8900812f6c2f5222b5569189e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Nuppeppo" />
Wikimedia Commons<p>The word <em>nupperi</em> is a slang term used to refer to a woman who applies too much makeup, which is the likely origin for this creature's name. <em><a href="http://yokai.com/nuppeppou/" target="_blank">Nuppeppo</a></em> are blob-like creatures with the suggestion of a face beneath their amorphous fat. Folklore describes them as being mostly harmless aside from their disgusting odor, which smells like rotting flesh. Generally, they appear at night near graveyards and temples. Some sources say that if a human can catch the quick-moving creature, kill it, and manage to eat the <em>nuppeppo</em>'s disgusting flesh, they might gain eternal youth or cure a serious disease.</p>
8. Ashinaga-tenaga<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTEzNjQ2Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNzQyNjQzOH0.bNtyp28H_Se8hk-Cm6HppTdxNxbb7iArsZbXHwhuh-0/img.jpg?width=980" id="b65d0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="00eb62da3e79dc8b02217752ea8a6425" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Ashinagatenaga" />
Wikimedia Commons<p>These are actually <a href="https://libmma.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15324coll10/id/90893" target="_blank">a pair of <em>yōkai</em></a>: <em>ashinaga</em> ("long legs") and <em>tenaga</em> ("long arms"). As their names would suggest, these creatures resemble men with either long legs or long arms. The pair work together to catch fish: <em>ashinaga</em> wades into deep waters, and <em>tenaga</em> uses his long arms to catch the fish below.</p>
9. Futakuchi-onna<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTEzNjQ3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTg0Mjc4N30.9M7TmcrQTz_a-BsCeMb7R8920_Z1W3PFa8BM0gzLUiI/img.jpg?width=980" id="17f30" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="549b065009f27a9feaf010465da33903" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Futakuchi-onna" />
Wikimedia Commons<p><em><a href="http://yokai.com/futakuchionna/" target="_blank">Futakuchi-onna</a></em> appear as regular woman, although they have a concealed mouth on the back of their heads. The <em>futakuchi-onna</em> uses her hair, which act as tentacles, to grab nearby food and feed her second mouth. In most folkloric tales, the <em>futakuchi-onna</em> was the wife of a miser who rarely supplied her with food. Eventually, the wife sprouted a second mouth that demanded food, spitting obscenities and screaming otherwise, thereby transforming into a <em>futakuchi-onna</em>.</p>
Towards the end of his life, Francisco Goya began painting terrifying scenes directly onto the walls of his house.
- The Black Paintings stand out in art history for their dark composition and themes.
- The biggest mystery, though, is that Goya painted them directly onto the walls of his home and never told anybody about them.
- With such little information, all we can do is speculate about the 14 horrifying Black Paintings.
The tenebrous meaning of the Black Paintings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODk3NTIwNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MTA1MjAxMn0.BY7Phc2pwiTTwzCYZMEE1fS1peBBnvyn5LXs9rPt0tc/img.jpg?width=980" id="868e5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="64b2ef56970431154658a499f46b1be0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Two Old Men
Image source: Wikimedia Commons<p>The 14 Black Paintings are almost invariably painted with dark colors — they're not called the Hot Pink Paintings after all. The human figures are painted in an expressionistic style that depicts humans as <a href="http://hekint.org/2017/01/26/francisco-goyas-black-period/" target="_blank">pseudo-monsters</a>, like the blurred, deformed faces in <em>Women Laughing</em> or the whispering goblinoid in <em>Two Old Men</em>. Goya had seen the cruelty that human beings inflicted on one another, and the faces of his human subjects reflect this interior monstrosity.</p><p>Aside from this, interpreting many of the Black Paintings is challenging. Goya hadn't intended to display them publicly and offered no explanation of their subjects. Many of the paintings' backgrounds are morphing shades of black or brown, lacking details we could use to orient ourselves, and even the titles are the inventions of art historians.</p>
Duel with Cudgels
Image source: Wikimedia Commons<p>The painting with the clearest meaning, <em>Duel with Cudgels</em>, shows two peasants fighting each other with their legs stuck in a quagmire, unable to escape from one another except by beating their opponent to death. Most <a href="https://www.academia.edu/3769678/Goyas_Black_Paintings" target="_blank">scholars agree</a> that this represents Spain's violent civil war at the time: stuck in their home country, the only way forward for each side was victory.</p><p>But to understand the meaning behind <em>The Witches' Sabbath</em>, where a group stares in horrified fascination at a demonic goat-man, or <em>Atropos (the Fates)</em>, where four jet-black figures hover above a landscape, you would have to ask Goya.</p>
Goya's most horrific painting<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODk3NTIyNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDU0OTA3OX0.4n1QmO4xUSJBuZr-i_rtPuci86Hy3wHWhkxxPyJ5zV4/img.jpg?width=980" id="6d6f2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="19a3909a16604580737f5670f7847f9d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Saturn Devouring His Son (detail)
Image source: Wikimedia Commons<p>The most famous of the Black Paintings is, without a doubt, <em><a href="https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/saturn/18110a75-b0e7-430c-bc73-2a4d55893bd6" target="_blank">Saturn Devouring His Son</a></em>. For the unfamiliar, Saturn was a Roman god, one of the titans that came before the traditional gods who lived on Mount Olympus. He had come to power by overthrowing his father, Caelus, but it had been prophesied that one of his children would do the same to him. To avoid this, he consumed his children after they were born.</p><p>Roman mythology say that Saturn swallowed his children whole — later, they spring from his stomach after Jupiter (or Zeus in the Greek equivalent) escaped being eaten and fed his father a poison to make Saturn vomit up his siblings. Most paintings of this scene depict Saturn greedily swallowing his children whole.</p><p>In <em>Saturn Devouring His Son</em>, however, Saturn viciously chews on his partially eaten child — there's blood everywhere, and his child is clearly dead. The most striking detail, however, is Saturn's distress. Prior paintings of this subject show Saturn unsympathetically. But in Goya's version, he is crouched in the dark with a crazed, anguish look on his face. In <em>Saturn Devouring His Son</em>, the titan seems devastated to be eating his children to survive and looks as though he's gone mad.</p><p>It's easily the most terrifying painting in the collection. We can speculate that it deals with Goya's own fear of madness and death, but again, there's no record of what the painter truly intended. The mystery of what this meant to Goya is part of what has captured art historian's attention for a century.</p>
Controversy<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODk3NTIzMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNjg4NTI5OH0.XdOXMz1C-CKEjODG3s-bLdXf16-Js00SmTSF9vcsV4c/img.jpg?width=980" id="3f3f9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a0189027ad4997ada520c1ef7042a352" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Atropos (The Fates)
Image source: Wikimedia Commons<p>Despite the macabre attraction of this story, some scholars <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/27/magazine/the-secret-of-the-black-paintings.html" target="_blank">don't believe</a> that Goya was truly the original artist of the Black Paintings. First, there is a stark difference between the Black Paintings and Goya's previous art. This can be explained away by the idea that the Black Paintings were private, experimental work; since they were not commissioned by the aristocracy, Goya was free to experiment.</p><p>But there are additional details that suggest Goya did not paint these images. La Quinta del Sordo was originally a one-story home, though the Black Paintings covered the walls of the first floor and a second floor that was added later. Historians have recovered renovation documents from Goya's time in the villa, none of which mention the addition of a second story. It's possible that the second floor was added after Goya's death — meaning the second-story Black Paintings would have been added afterwards as well.</p><p>Some theorize that this means Goya's son Javier created the Black Paintings. Javier's son, Mariano, would later inherit the house. Mariano had money problems, so its feasible that he attributed the Black Paintings to the famous Goya rather than to Javier to get a better price when he sold the villa.</p><p>This is a hotly contested theory, however. The artistic merit of the paintings makes them valuable regardless of the creator, and whoever that was — whether Goya or Javier — had no intention of making them public. Ultimately, they are dark, private ruminations whose murky history adds to, rather than subtracts from, their power.</p>
Really puts the whole "don't give up until you're dead" thing to shame.
- It's been said that "You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everybody dances with the grim reaper."
- These ten folks made huge advances in their field... but never lived long enough to see the fruits of their labors.
- Can you think of someone alive today who might make the list in the future?
Gregor Mendel<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc4Mzg4NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzI5NDI5OX0.KrxqBQc941pLUPTfIukLKlmMyKP2wB57V6WwziGpPwk/img.jpg?width=980" id="611d5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6e984767ef7d9c08f135950d39eb9fa8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Mendel pioneered genetics <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mendelian_inheritance" target="_blank">back in 1865</a>... but nobody took it seriously until 1915, some 30 years after his death in 1884. His experiments with pea plants established the basic rules of heredity. One of the problems was the simplicity of his discovery. In essence, Mendel was scientifically confirming that genes can be passed down and that some can skip generations, which is what farmers and animal breeders had known anecdotally for centuries. Mendel was the one, however, who both named and proved the existence of "dominant" and "recessive" genes, which he called "factors." </p><p>He knew he was on to something, despite being completely ignored by his contemporaries, allegedly saying "my time will come" to several friends after two well-attended lectures led to nowhere professionally. His work was rediscovered in 1900 by two leading botanists and geneticists at the time—Hugo de Vries and Carl Correns—and this led to a resurgence in his work as his experiments were replicated and shown to work flawlessly. </p><p>In the 1850s, Mendel tried several times to get his teaching credentials, but continuously failed the oral presentation part of the exams. Between this time and 1865, he turned his attention to physics, although he didn't make a ton of money doing so. In 1868, he became an abbot at a monastery. </p>
Van Gogh<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc4ODAwMy9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTY0NDU1Mn0.JpMuo37LzHj44OAHLqUDIjoTQ8uzSzGqoG-uW0oVSjc/img.png?width=980" id="242ea" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9853f8de8aa3565ed24ebc099c86a105" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Van Gogh famously only sold one painting in his lifetime: the '<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Red_Vineyard" target="_blank">Red Vineyard at Arles'</a>, completed in 1888. He sold it for 400 francs, or roughly $2,000 today. He painted Vineyard roughly two years before he took his own life by shooting himself in the chest at just 37 years old. It was during these last two years of his life that he painted the vast majority of the work he is known for, including <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night_Caf%C3%A9" target="_blank">The Night Cafe</a></em> and <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Starry_Night" target="_blank">The Starry Night</a></em>. </p><p>He was apparently not easy to get along with. The widely rumored story that he cut off his ear to give to a woman might actually not be true; a recent book claims that <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=7506786&page=1" target="_blank">it came off in a fight with a friend of his</a>. </p><p>The woman who bought his vineyard painting, Anna Boch, was herself a painter and a friend to many in the artistic community in France at the time, and ostensibly became a prominent art collector of Impressionist artist. When she died, she asked that all proceeds from the sale of her collection go towards a fund that helped the retirement of artists. </p>
Galileo Galilei<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc4Nzk5Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwODA0ODY4M30.bJ-sZucahYLi8LLz42AdkvmaG_DyjgbhC1dHng9_zmI/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=330%2C-1%2C624%2C1&height=700" id="b8eb3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ce28450710c7e76a03ca515ee6547740" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>In terms of length of time after death to being discovered, Galileo really takes the cake. He takes so much cake, in fact, that he could pretty much open his own bakery in the afterlife. He died in 1642 but his work wasn't allowed to be fully published until 1835 thanks, in large part, to an injunction that took place during his lifetime by the Catholic Church. His crime? He built a telescope that proved that the Earth revolved around the Sun, which went against the Earth-centric teachings of the Catholics at the time. He supported the heliocentric theory put forth by Nicolaus Copernicus.</p><p>The Catholic Church labeled Galileo as both a heretic and a suspicious character, and ultimately sentenced him to house arrest in 1633 in what is referred to as the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_affair" target="_blank">Galileo Affair</a>. He finally got one of his books published mass-market in 1638, just four years before his death. In 1668, Isaac Newton builds his own reflecting telescope and picks up where Galileo left off. </p><p>Albert Einstein referred to him as the father of modern science, and Stephen Hawking once said that Galileo "bears more of the responsibility for the birth of modern science than anybody else." He didn't get a full apology by the Catholic Church until Pope John Paul II in 1992. </p>
Bill Hicks<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc4Nzk4Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNDM4ODAxNH0.7q9FqoA0ShKV0wfkS7i1yPMhleofczAHeDNjQQBUYks/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C293%2C0&height=700" id="13a95" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="42c5553a953f4990099ea43dbf322d85" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Bill Hicks during the taping of Relentless, 1992.<p>While not a scientist, Hicks' influence extends far beyond the stand-up comedy circuit. Raised by Baptist parents, he rebelled young and took to stand-up early in his teens. After establishing himself in the mid-'80s, he was discovered by Rodney Dangerfield's team and promptly moved to New York City, where he performed some 300 sets a year. He became quite popular in England, and toured there in the early 1990s. </p><p>Hicks' material largely focused on expanding your mind via psychedelics, the downfalls of capitalism, and the death of the American dream. While this in and of itself might not seem like "top 10 greatest" material, consider this: While alive, he was a sometimes mentor to other comedians, including Jon Stewart. Hicks <a href="http://gozamos.com/2011/12/christopher-hitchens-furious-hero/" target="_blank">encouraged the young Jon</a> to "walk the room" whenever things got rough, and encouraged many others to push their boundaries further and to apply philosophy to their sets; Hicks himself was a big fan of <a href="https://medium.com/the-mission/unconventional-inspiration-the-best-of-terence-mckenna-5040385a69a2" target="_blank">Terence McKenna</a> and Howard Zinn. He's also been cited by thinkers and philosophers (the late Christopher Hitchens was reportedly a big fan, although citations confirming this are misty at best) and politicians. In 2004, a member of the British Parliament tabled a motion to declare February 26th "Anniversary of the Death of Bill Hicks". </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">That this House notes with sadness the 10th anniversary of the death of Bill Hicks, on 26th February 1994, at the age of 33 [sic]; recalls his assertion that his words would be a bullet in the heart of consumerism, capitalism and the American Dream; and mourns the passing of one of the few people who may be mentioned as being worth of inclusion with Lenny Bruce in any list of unflinching and painfully honest political philosophers.</p><p>He died of pancreatic cancer at just 32, possibly brought on by his heavy, lifelong cigarette use. </p><p>Just this week, director Richard Linklater announced he's going to be <a href="https://news.avclub.com/richard-linklater-is-making-a-bill-hicks-biopic-1829979893" target="_blank">filming a Bill Hicks biopic</a>. </p>
Alfred Wegener<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc4Nzk2My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTc5ODI1N30.cDkJuS__XNXsqh_2eeykdHHR3C-AJuslbEsbM53HQbE/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C278%2C0%2C950&height=700" id="a321c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="76fc938cfd854e178652aa23a60b3c5f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Wegener on a polar expedition.<p>Alfred Wegener, a German-born meteorologist and polar researcher, was a pioneer of the theory of continental drift, i.e. the idea that continents are moving very slowly on tectonic plates. He died in 1930 but his theory wasn't accepted until 1953 when two British scientists revisited his work and began to produce data that confirmed it. He originally posited the theory by noticing how all the continents fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, and that fossils and rock types were similar on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. </p><p>One of the reasons Alfred's theory wasn't accepted during his life is that he overshot the estimation: He figured that the continents drifted at about 250cm (or around 8ft) a year, when in actuality it's about 2.5cm (just under 1 inch) a year. Another reason, which perhaps falls under speculation more than concrete fact, was that Alfred himself was either too affable to publicly defend his works (he's noted as not replying during lectures where fellow scientists picked apart his work) or simply not confident in his skill with the English language. </p><p>Nowadays, GPS can measure Wegener's findings down to the millimeter, and the theory of <a href="https://bigthink.com/news/pangea-politico-map-reveals-modern-countries-on-the-ancient-supercontinent" target="_blank">Pangea</a>—a landmass containing all the current continents that broke apart millennia ago, which Wegener called <em>Urkontinent</em>—is widely accepted. </p>
Doménikos Theotokópoulos<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc4Nzk0NC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MzQwMDUyNH0.M6onu9QrVFfZVGfgxDcfgcttOK9L9gmpzA88-Fgh46E/img.png?width=980" id="8c136" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="366b263ced2cb2ce91313fda4905b6a9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A self-portrait.<p>More commonly known as 'El Greco' ('The Greek'), Doménikos created a style of painting that was laughed at during his time for being <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Burial_of_the_Count_of_Orgaz" target="_blank">too dark and angular</a>, yet lauded in the 20th century, some 300 years after his death in 1614. After settling in Venice, Italy, his profoundly individualistic style (and apparent disregard for being polite about other artists, as there's at least one record of him dismissing Michelangelo's painting style) rubbed a lot of the moneyed folks in Venice the wrong way. Because of this, he moved to Toldeo, Spain, which at the time was one of the main religious capitals of Europe. </p><p>To say that he wasn't famous during his time isn't entirely true, as he did quite well for himself in Toldeo, owning a 24-room, 3-bedroom sprawling apartment from 1585 until his death in 1614, which became not only his studio but somewhat of a hub for the artistic community of Toledo at the time. Yet during his life and even decades after his death his work was described by critics as "sunk in eccentricity", "strange", "eccentric," and "odd." This was because <a href="https://mymodernmet.com/baroque-period/" target="_blank">the gaudy, overwhelming Baroque style</a> was hugely popular at the time, and El Greco's somewhat more artistic visions just didn't fit in. In the 20th century, Pablo Picasso was a huge fan and often repainted some of El Greco's more famous works (in his own style, of course) as a homage to his hero. </p>
Edgar Allan Poe<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc4NzkyMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDM5MjMyOH0.6EXkr7QWySjdiXzCUQlCN7gfZSjUsHjur7FygcZ1IGk/img.jpg?width=980" id="b8516" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7856f9bb7c928352ef07fb27738e17fa" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Edgar Allen Poe, around 1847.<p>An impoverished writer not making a lot of money is nothing new, but it might surprise you a writer as influential as Edgar Allen Poe spent much of his life scraping by. After getting purposefully discharged from the Army and marrying his 13 year-old cousin, he spent a few years bouncing around editorial jobs while trying to get his work published. The country was just coming out of a recession and the publishing industry was afraid to take on new writers; because international copyright laws were scarce at best, publishing companies often just reprinted (you could say 'rebooted'!) older works. When Poe did get published, it was often for very little money. 'The Raven' was perhaps his best known work printed during his lifetime but <a href="https://www.eapoe.org/papers/psbbooks/pb19871e.htm" target="_blank">he only made $9 from it</a>. </p><p>Poe's wife began to show signs of tuberculosis around 1842 and ultimately died from the disease in 1847. Poe never quite recovered from her death and began drinking heavily. Weirdly, the circumstances around his death remain a mystery. He was found wandering the streets of Baltimore in clothes that weren't his, and taken to a hospital where he was shown as having "cerebral inflammation"—a term which often, in those times, referred to severe alcoholism. </p><p>Poe was far better known known as a critic during his lifetime, often getting into spats with poets and authors of the time, most notably Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. An enemy wrote a <a href="https://bigthink.com/think-tank/american-gothic-the-character-assassination-of-edgar-allan-poe" target="_blank">scathing obituary</a> that propagated many untruths about Poe (drug addiction, etc) and assassinated his character in a way that echoed for years. But after his death, Poe's work spread thanks to French translations by none other than Charles Baudelaire. Because of this, he became huge in Europe in the decades after he passed. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the <em>Sherlock Holmes</em> series, was quoted as saying "Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?"</p>
Du Fu<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc4NzkxMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMTkzMjk5OH0.6a9LuJAebwRrpXHNOaU1796dW_gqAQ7Va-qUaLf6HMs/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C935%2C0%2C280&height=700" id="fadde" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a37057ae65b4bf84e888cf8800cc9a34" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Du Fu, sometimes known as Tu Fu.<p>Du Fu was a Chinese poet who lived from 712 to 770. He tried to become a civil servant but failed the test, possibly because his writing style was deemed too imaginative and dense. He then bounced around Shandong and Hebei for 10 years attempting to live the life of a poet-scholar, much like his idol Li Bai. When this didn't work out as planned (Li Bai was reportedly a "poetry star" at the time), he tried to retake the test in 745 but was failed by the Chinese prime minister at the time, along with every taker of the test, in what is thought to be an attempt to quash a rebellion. He married and had five children, four of whom survived floods and then a subsequent famine that devastated China around 750-755. </p><p>Turns out that the Chinese prime minister who failed him in 745 was onto something, as in late 755 there was a massive rebellion in China, referred to as the An Lushan Rebellion, that lasted for eight years. It upended Du Fu (who had earlier that year accepted a comfy position in local government), who spent much of the rest of his life trying to find a good home for him and his family. Conversely, the rebellion time period was particularly fruitful for Du Fu, who wrote much of his great works during this time. </p><p>But—like everyone else on this list—his work wasn't accepted during its time. In Du Fu's case, this was mostly due to the fact that he liked to write in different voices, i.e. using more correct language for more affluent characters (written in the first person), and more colloquial language for common people. At the time, this was considered pretty damn weird. But around the 9th century, Du Fu's work was revisited and taught and indeed lauded far more than it ever was in his lifetime. His work is exceptional (<a href="http://www.chinese-poems.com/d62.html" target="_blank">try this one</a>), and definitely holds up today, even when translated into English. </p>
William Shakespeare<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc4Nzg4OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMDUxOTczN30.hE0UHeTSNoSLbuemeHiz8JnBk2eMVZ9C08ZKgdygBK4/img.jpg?width=980" id="1ec44" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f54216532dac4067675cbb11637e21a4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Now, I know what you're thinking. Shakespeare is <em>mega-famous</em> and had to have been <em>super popular </em>during his time, right? </p><p>Well, not exactly. When he was alive, Shakespeare was regarded as a popular poet and a successful playwright, but he was nowhere near being widely recognized as one of the greatest writers to have ever lived. During his life, his poems were bigger than his plays, because his plays were only performed by his own company (which were popular, sure, but only in and around London). The plays themselves had extremely limited print runs because his theater company was protective of his work being performed by others due to copyright laws at the time being minimal at best. Five years after his death, his work—including the plays—was collected in 1623 and compiled as the First Folio (folios being a luxury item at the time) of his work. A 2nd Folio was printed nine years later. </p><p>But one of the reasons he got so popular post-death was that all plays and performances were banned in England from 1642 to 1660 thanks to Puritan leadership taking over the country due to the English Civil War. To get around this, actors performed short pieces of larger plays. Shakespeare's comedic plays were among the most performed during this time. When the Puritans finally were defeated in 1660, there was a mad dash to secure the rights—any rights, really—to plays that people liked. Because he had become so popular during this underground period, Shakespeare became overwhelmingly popular about 50 years after his death. </p><p>Interestingly, because Shakespeare didn't follow established "rules" of writing (unlike his contemporaries Ben Johnson and the writing team Beaumont and Fletcher) and played with concepts of space and time, Shakespeare's work was therefore more adaptable to different interpretations of his work. </p>
Robert Johnson<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc4Nzg2NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzE1Nzg5Nn0.bSxU3ws2iq89QYynOr_Onm9CVnJW2vNxR5RLtZWp8i4/img.jpg?width=980" id="7b88b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="84186ed4235b0f6fe7b463fd313e2d6e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
One of only 2 photographs of Robert Johnson.
Photo: Columbia Records.<p>Robert Johnson holds a singular place in music history: He's often considered the father of blues music. Which isn't bad for a guy who only released two albums during his lifetime, hardly made any money from them, and died as the result of a bar fight. </p><p>Born in Hazelhurst, Mississippi, Johnson moved around the southern United States a fair amount—mostly between Memphis, TN, and the Delta region of Mississippi. Around 1930, after his wife died during childbirth, Johnson moved to Robinsonville, MS to pursue a full-time career as a musician and was struck by the sound of musicians Son House and Willie Brown. Apparently unable to keep up with them, he moved to Martinsville (some 250 miles north of Robinsonville) allegedly to find his birth father, but what is confirmed is that along the way he met guitarist <a href="https://www.academia.edu/2408177/_Ike_Zimmerman_The_X_in_Robert_Johnson_s_Crossroads_Living_Blues_2008" target="_blank">Ike Zimmerman</a>. What happens next is where things get weird: Johnson, before he left to Martinsville, was a terrible guitarist by all accounts including both Son House and Willie Brown, who described his playing as embarrassingly bad. So after two years in Martinsville, Johnson moved back to Robinsonville an incredible guitarist. So what happened? </p><p>The legend goes that Robert Johnson sold his soul at a crossroads in Mississippi to attain his incredible skill. But the truth is that Ike Zimmerman most likely taught Robert Johnson everything he knew. Zimmerman is alleged to have gotten his guitar prowess "supernaturally", allegedly playing his guitar in graveyards at night. As to Johnson selling his soul, what this could be attributed to is the fact that playing secular (i.e. non religious) music at the time could be referred to as "selling your soul to the devil." </p><p>Johnson toured from 1932 onwards, often staying with women he'd met at his shows. He traveled to Chicago, New York, Texas, and even Canada. He often busked on street corners to make ends meet. He recorded his songs in 1936, facing the corner of the studio to make his guitar sound louder. Only one of his songs sold relatively well; 'Terraplane Blues' sold about 5,000 copies regionally on 78rpm records. He died in August of 1938 after allegedly drinking poisoned whiskey after flirting with a married woman at one of the bars where he had been playing. </p><p>In 1961, a compilation of his work, <em>King of the Delta Blues Singers</em>, became hugely popular and inspired a blues revival that itself spawned the Chicago blues sound. It could be one of the most influential albums ever released; An early copy was given to Bob Dylan, who combined Johnson's sound with that of Woody Guthrie, another of his idols, to create his own signature sound. The compilation was particularly huge in the UK, inspiring guitarists to play the blues through newly released amplifiers that distorted the sound, thereby creating rock music as we know it. Notable fans include Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, the guys in Black Sabbath, The Who... the list really does go on and on. </p>