Looking for figures from myth and legend

Sorry if this question is vague–I’m trying to nail down an elusive idea.

I want to list mythical/legendary sentient creatures which are like humans, but not human. Preferably ones which are reasonably familiar to many readers and come with a set of expectations. I want the creatures to be diverse within their own people as well.

The only example I’ve got is the fae (fairies). If I tell you a character is fae, it sets up some expectations about how they work and what the rules are (which I can alter, but at least they’re there). The category of fae contains many different types–sidhe, pookas, brownies, pixies–depending on who you ask.

Elves or dwarves might count, but they’re more homogenous than I’d like.

Dungeons and Dragons uses the term “demi-human” and Shadowrun calls them “metahuman.” Both words imply a relationship to humanity that doesn’t seem accurate to me.

Can anyone name other categories like fae?

ETA: What I want here is the overarching term for non-humans in fantasy. A term that avoids the problems of describing sentient non-humans as another “race.” “Species” is too generic; it covers plants and microbes. I want to complete this parallel: Science fiction authors write about aliens. Fantasy authors write about…?

I think this term doesn’t exist and I need to invent it. Help me poke my brain with a sharp stick and see what happens.

4 thoughts on “Looking for figures from myth and legend

  1. Djinn. I’m not fully conversant with Arab myths, but my impression is that they’re a people co-equal with humanity, that can choose to be good or evil, that can form communities and empires, and basically do all the humanish things, but are not human.

    In Hindu mythology, rakshasas are somewhat the same way. Although they tend to be evil, they don’t have to be. They tend to have alot of limbs and such in their commonly-represented demonic form, but can also generally shape-shift, and have been given an assortment of powers.

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    • Ooh, good one. Someone mentioned djinn on LJ. They’re people of fire, rather than people of clay–so a parallel to humans.

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  2. Hmmm….

    If you’re thinking in terms of form, there’s “humanoid” (e.g. one head with sense organs in it, two arms/manipulators, two legs, etc.), but that’s more of a science fiction term, and lacks the specificity you seem to be looking for.

    There are terms related to environment: avian, aquatic, etc.

    Fantasy writers generally write about “magical creatures”, and that’s the most generic term I can think of that fits what you seem to be looking for. If you’re looking for a one word equivalent, I agree that you’ll need to invent it. “Magicals”. perhaps?

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