5E What's the origin of the Nightmare?
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    What's the origin of the Nightmare?

    Pretty much what's on the thread title. Is there any inspiration in real world mythology for the D&D nightmare? I think it's a pretty cool concept for a monster, but I'd like to know where it originated. Funny enough, I managed to find real world equivalents to weirder beasts, but my Google-fu couldn't show me where the nightmare first appears.

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    My understanding is that it was simply another version of the old incubus/sucubus/night hag folklore kind of thing of a spirit (usually a "demon" by medieval texts) that came to you in the night and pressed/sat on your chest, to prevent you from breathing or [at the least] having a comfortable sleep.

    Perhaps there might be something to find for the horse imagery in medieval French sources, given their [still/current] word for a nightmare (both dream or situation), cauchemar, which literally translates as something like a "spirit that tramples [one in their sleep]."

    Or it could be the similarity of the piece of the word "-mar" to the English "mare" that brought about the idea that this demonic being/spirit that assaulted you as you slept might be horse-shaped.

    Now, whether that is at all substantiated in folklore or myth or the assumptions/creations of D&D's creator, I really don't know.
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    It's also blended with with the kelpie, which was a water-horse that came to land masquerading as a normal horse, then plunged into the sea with an unsuspecting rider - the nightmare does the same sort of thing, except it plunges to hell...

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    Maybe someone saw the "mare" in the word "nightmare" and ran with the definition of "mare" of an adult female horse. Add "night" and boom, evil horse. Perfect for death knights, evil paladins, blackguards, infernal cavaliers, evil tiefings, and cambions.
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    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nightmare think it is the best you are going to get.

    Etymology

    The word "mare" comes (through Middle English mare) from Old English mŠre, mare, or mere, all feminine nouns. These in turn come from Common Germanic *marōn. *Marōn is the source of Old Norse: mara, from which are derived Swedish: mara; Icelandic: mara; Faroese: marra; Danish: mare; Norwegian: mare/mara, Dutch: (nacht)merrie, and German: (Nacht)mahr. The -mar in French cauchemar ("nightmare") is borrowed from the Germanic through Old French mare.

    The word may ultimately be traced back to the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European root *mer-, "to rub away" or "to harm". Hungarian folklorist ╔va Pˇcs endorses an alternate etymology, tracing the core term back to the Greek μόρος (Indo-European *moros), meaning "death".

    In Norwegian and Danish, the words for "nightmare" are mareritt and mareridt respectively, which can be directly translated as "mare-ride". The Icelandic word martr÷­ has the same meaning (-tr÷­ from the verb tro­a, "trample", "stamp on", related to "tread"), whereas the Swedish mardr÷m translates as "mare-dream".
    Last edited by Hand of Evil; Friday, 12th December, 2014 at 03:01 AM.
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    I always thought they were the evil version of Apollo's horses.

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    Too much cheese right before bed, in my experience.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hand of Evil View Post
    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nightmare think it is the best you are going to get.
    See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mare_(folklore)

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    Edit: Heh, actually the D&D Nightmare pre-dates the Magic one. It's likely the Magic one is inspired by D&D, rather than the other way around.

    Also, it is the title of Piers Anthony Xanth book from 1983. Those books are all about the puns, so maybe it's just a play on words that occurred to two people at the same time.
    Last edited by GSHamster; Friday, 12th December, 2014 at 04:59 AM.

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    As others pointed out the word nightmare can be traced back to old norse.
    I have always been confused why the nightmare is a horse, becasue for me a nightmare is the monster called Night Hag in DnD.

    And the mythological monster nightmare isn't from bad dreams, but from sleep paralysis:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_paralysis
    an effect that suits well for monsters like Night Hags, Succubi, and Inccubi.

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