Within the pages of ancient fairy tales and fables, all sorts of mythical and magical creatures — both good and bad — live their lives and enchant our dreams. There are sweet fairies that spread pixie dust. Of course, there are also huge, hideous monsters that feed on human beings, too.
What are we talking about? Ogres, of course! If you've seen any of the Shrek movies, you might have a mental image of what an ogre looks and acts like. Shrek isn't your typical ogre from mythology, though!
Ogres have existed in mythology and folklore for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Although they have been depicted in many ways, they're almost always very large and human-like. In artwork, they're often pictured with huge bodies, large heads, and lots of hair.
The idea of ogres may have gotten its start way back when prehistoric humans known as Neanderthals roamed Earth. Ogres are often categorized with other large, beastly creatures, such as giants, Cyclops and trolls.
The origin of the word “ogre" is a mystery. Most experts agree it's a word of French origin. Some believe it's derived from Hongrois, which means Hungarian. Others believe it comes from an Italian word — orco — that means “demon." Still others believe ogre refers to mythical giants Gog or Magor or even an ancient Greek river god named Oiagros.
Whatever the origin of ogres, they've been around in literature for a long, long time. Ogres tend to be dim-witted, unpleasant creatures who don't like humans. They're often found in woodland settings, such as forests, so Shrek's swamp home isn't far off the mark. You'll also find ogres in caves and high mountain peaks.
They can also often be found hiding under bridges, like trolls, and attacking castles in search of humans. Given their brutal nature, ogres are often thought of as being male. However, there is also such a thing as a female ogre, known as an ogress! Of course, if you're a Shrek fan, you already knew that!
Ogres have been featured in famous works of fantasy and science fiction, including the works of popular authors such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Ogres often make appearances in modern fantasy and role-playing video games, too.