Sciapods (also monopods, skiapods, skiapodes, Monocoli) are mythological dwarf-like creatures with a single, large foot extending from one thick leg centered in the middle of their body.
The name Sciapodes is derived from σκιαποδες- 'shadow foots' in Greek, monocoli from μονοκωλοι- 'one legged' in Greek.
A Sciopod (or Sciopodes, plural) was described as being human in appearance, though small in stature and so pale as to be described as albino. Its main distinguishing characteristic was that instead of having two independent legs, like an ordinary man, the Sciopod has only one thick leg ending in a single, very over-sized foot. Because of its extreme paleness, it is naturally very sensitive to the sun. In order to protect itself, during midday it will lie on its back and raise its single giant foot in the air, using it as a giant sun umbrella. Hence the origin of its name.
In the book Baudolino, by modern author Umberto Eco, a Sciopod features as one of the major characters. One note of physiology described by Eco, which is untraceable to any source yet translated into English, is that the Sciopod's genitalia is found behind its massive leg, rather than before it.
Sciapods are featured in Aristophanes' play The Birds, first performed in 414 BCE.
Sciapods were described by Pliny the Elder in Naturalis Historia. Pliny describes how travelers have reported their encounters or sights of Monopods in India, and he records their stories. Pliny remarks that they are first mentioned by Ctesias in his book India, a record of the view of Persians of India which only remains in fragments. Pliny describes Monopods as thus (Natural History 7:2):
He [Ctesias] speaks also of another race of men, who are known as Monocoli, who have only one leg, but are able to leap with surprising agility. The same people are also called Sciapodae, because they are in the habit of lying on their backs, during the time of the extreme heat, and protect themselves from the sun by the shade of their feet.
Philostratus mentions Skiapodes in his Life of Apollonius of Tyana, which was cited by Eusebius in his Treatise Against Hierocles. Apollonius of Tyana believes the Skiapodes live in India and Ethiopia, and asks the Indian sage Iarkhas about their existence.
The legend of the Monopod survived into the Middle Ages. Isidore of Seville mentions this strange creature in his Etymologiae.
According to Carl A.P. Ruck, the Monopods's cited existence in India refers to the Vedic Aja Ekapad ("Not-born Single-foot"), an epithet for Soma. Since Soma is a botanical deity the single foot would represent the stem of an entheogenic plant or fungus.
It is also possible that the myth derived from a misinterpretation of the practice of Indian yogis (sadhu) who sometimes meditate on one foot.
Last but not least, the distribution of the filariasis or non-filariasis endemic elephantiasis of the lower legs in Africa supports the notion that the Sciapodes may well have been sufferers of tropical elephantiasis.
There is a South American legend of a monopod woman named Patasola.
C.S. Lewis introduces monopods in the book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a part of his children's fiction/fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia.
Umberto Eco in his novel Baudolino describes a sciapod named Gavagai. The name of the creature "Gavagai" is a reference to Quine's example of indeterminacy of translation.
Sciapod is also part of the Monster in My Pocket series.
Sukiya Podes (a Japanization then re-romanization of Skiapodes) is a character in the Puyo Puyo series.
In the Legend Owain, or the Lady of the Fountain, a massive sciapod is mentioned to have control over the animals and to have outstanding physical strength.
Tim MacIntosh-Smith briefly refers to edible monopod poets in the preface to Yemen - Travels in Dictionary Land
de Beauvais, Pierre translated by Mermier, Guy R. A medieval book of beasts - Pierre de Beauvais' Bestiary. Mellan; Lewiston, NY 1992
Bovey, Alixe Monsters and Grotesques in Medieval Manuscripts. The British Library; London, England 2002