D&D Monsters in Fantasy Literature: What's Where?
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  1. #1

    D&D Monsters in Fantasy Literature: What's Where?

    Inspired by "D&D Trolls: Where do they come from?": http://www.enworld.org/forums/showthread.php?t=76271. D&D monsters - or very similar beasties - are scattered throughout fantasy literature. Perhaps it'd be an idea to try and put together a list of what's where.

    For example: Fritz Lieber's Thieves' House has a jeweled skull that looks uncannily like a demi-lich. The Sunken City has, well not cloakers... but some monsters that look a lot like cloaks (both of these short stories are in Swords Against Death).

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Stone Mountain, GA 30087
    take a look at BOZ's work in the Creature Catalog forum....

    or whatever it's called now.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Well, the elves are clearly based on Star Trek.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Fort Worth, Texas, United States
    Well, I think we can thank Mary Shelley for the Flesh Golem.

    I'm wondering where the idea of hags came from? It probably goes back to the Middle Ages.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    D/FW, TX
    Black Annis is a legendary witch. That's where hags come from. A little of that, some Baba Yaga, and you have hags.

    Grimlocks = Morlocks, from The Time Machine

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by pawsplay
    Black Annis is a legendary witch. That's where hags come from. A little of that, some Baba Yaga, and you have hags.

    Grimlocks = Morlocks, from The Time Machine

    Actually Hags a re very common in British folklore besides Black Annis there is Jenny Greenteeth the Green Hag who drowns the unwary, Cailleach Bheur the Blue Hag of Winter (Scots) and various others including various Cailleach associated with the Weather and the Sea (Sea Hag). Cailleach is the Old Mother goddess of Scots myth - associated with the destructive power of winter but also attributed with creation of the Hebrides

    Go back far enough and yep she links with Baba Yaga and the whole Maiden/Mother/Crone triumvrate...

    The Barghest is derived from the barguest one of the many Black Dogs of British folklore. The Bodach is also derived from Scots folklore (a grey figure similar to a Banshee but silent rather than wailing)

    As to literary apparently the Displacer Beast comes from a Sci-Fi book,

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Tilburg, the Netherlands
    And (clay) golems come from hebrew folklore.

    EDIT: (thumbed through my monster manual a bit )

    sphinxes come from egyptian/ancient grecian myth of course.

    The Banshee is from irish folklore, and half the celestial and infernal hosts (devas, erinyes) are from christian legend. The balor however, is tolkien's Balrog.

    The centaur and minotaur are greek too, as is the chimaera. I'm not really sure where the cockatrice and the basilisk come from, but I believe they were from the greek mythology too. Oh also, the hydra is definitely greek. In one of his 12 missions, herakles had to slay a lernean hydra (named after the place where he had to fight it, literally "the hydra of lerna".)

    Gorgon/medusa are from greek myth too, although the name gorgon was used to refer medusa and her 2 sisters. I kinda forgot where the petrifying cow part came from.

    Griffon is greek too. As are the harpies, and the hippogriffs. And the Manticore. And the pegasus. And the satyr. And the titan.

    Dryads/nymphs/pixies/nixies/undine/gnomes and dwarfs are all from english/irish/scottish folklore.

    The giant eagle is obviously taken from lord of the rings, although I don't know if it was an original creation of tolkien's.

    Homunculus is a term used in psychology for the concept of "a little person within someone else", or something like that. However, I've also read somewhere that they go as far back as the middle ages, created out of feces, and that they were little helpers of wizards.

    The kraken can be traced back to natives of the south pacific, I think. With sailors spreading the word around about them.

    The merfolk were obviously based on mermaids, who in turn come from sailor stories in the middle ages, I guess.

    The mummy is egyptian, obviously.

    The worgs are tolkien's wargs.

    Zombies originate from haiti/any other place that had a whole voodoo-culture.

    That's about all I could think of at the moment, I'll add more if I think of them.
    Last edited by gloomymarshes; Thursday, 5th February, 2004 at 11:07 AM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    The Unapproachable West
    The tyranosaurus rex in the Monster Manual is so obviously taken from Jurassic Park.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    The Netherlands
    • Al-mi'raj "Monster in Islamic poetry, a yellow hare with a single black horn on its head." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode.
    • Ant-Lion Based on a real insect, though one which is not quite that large. ("Monster-figure in bestiaries, because of a linguistic misunderstanding pictured as a lion with the hind-quarters of a gigantic ant. Described in detail in the Physiologus." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode.)
    • Basilisk Medieval alchemical folklore. "King of serpents, gigantic monster with the body of a (Male version of a chicken, darned prudent smilies ), iron claws and beak, and a triple snake's tail. Its stare, like that of the Medusa head, is fatal. Killed by holding a mirror up to it." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode. The name is sometimes used in folklore as a synonym for cockatrice.
    • Catoblepas "Ethiopian bull-monster feeding on poisonous herbs. Its breath killed all adversaries. Mentioned by Pliny." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode.
    • Centaurs Greek mythology.
    • Chimera "Ancient Greek monster in Homer, with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, the tail of a serpent. In Hesiod, it has not a triple body, but three heads--of lion, goat, and snake. Begot by Typhon and Echidna and defeated by Bellerophon." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode.
    • Couatl Derived from the feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl of Aztec myths.
    • Cockatrice Medieval alchemical folklore. Created when a snake hatches a rooster's egg, the monster combines features of each creature. Its gaze is fatal.
    • Cyclops, Cyclopes Greek mythology
    • Demodand The name (changed slightly from "Deodand" to "Demodand" to add a tie to the word "demon") and evil nature are taken from the "Dying Earth" series by Jack Vance, but everything else about them was created by TSR.
    • Demon, Succubus (also Incubus) Medieval Christian folklore.
    • Demon, Type V (Marilith) Derived from Indian (Hindi) mythology.
    • Demon, Type VI (Balor) Originally named Balrog, it was taken from Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. It was renamed "Type VI Demon" (with one example being named "Balor") after the Tolkien estate asked TSR to stop infringing Tolkien's copyrights. (The associated picture from the Monster Manual is based in part on the story of "Night on Bald Mountain," put to music by Modest Mussorgsky and animated as part of Disney's Fantasia.) In 2nd edition, "Balor" went from being the name of one of these creatures to the name for the type of demon.
    • Devil, Erinyes Greek mythology, where they are also known as "the Furies".
    • Devil, Horned (Malebranche) Inferno, by Dante Alighieri.
    • Dragon Worldwide folklore. Most of the D&D dragons are derived primarily from European folklore, though folkloric dragons almost exclusively breathed fire. Gold dragons and the Oriental dragons (river, sea, cloud, mist, celestial dragons, et al.) are all from Chinese mythology. Tiamat is from Babylonian mythology, though her D&D form is much different from her original appearance. Tiamat was the evil mother of all dragons, which is partly why TSR made her a "prismatic" conglomeration of all of the evil chromatic dragons they created. The character of Smaug from The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, is an obvious more recent influence.
    • Drow Teutonic folklore included both light elves (good) and dark elves (evil). The word "drow" is of Scottish origin, an alternative form of "trow", which is a cognate for "troll". Trow/drow was used to refer to a wide variety of evil sprites. Except for the basic concept of "dark elves", everything else about drow was apparently invented by TSR.
    • Duergar The word is [Norse?], roughly a synonym for dwarf. Paracelsus (1493-1541) wrote of gnomes as "earth elementals", and described them as little old men who could shift to the size of giants and were malicious, greedy, and miserable creatures. This would appear to be the origin of D&D duergar.
    • Dwarf D&D dwarves are an amalgamation of many sources, including Germanic folklore and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings, chiefly the latter two (though Tolkien's dwarves in turn have Germanic influences). D&D dwarven society and lifespans are primarily based on Lord of the Rings.
    • Eagle, Giant While giant versions of normal animals are a staple of science fiction and fantasy, and are often found in folklore, the D&D version of the giant eagle is lifted directly from The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
    • Elf D&D elves are an amalgamation of many sources, including folklore, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings, the fantasy stories of Lord Dunsany, and other fantasy novels. D&D elven society and lifespans are largely based on Lord of the Rings.
    • Gargoyle French folklore. Cathedral-builders carved grotesque faces around downspouts used to route rain run-off away from the sides of the building, partially to ward off evil spirits, partially to find a decorative use for what would otherwise be a plain block of stone, partially to have fun with their work; the English "gargoyle" is derived from the French "gargouille", which is thought to derive from the gargling sound water makes as it pours through these downspouts. Over time, things which originally were done to scare off evil spirits became thought of as evil themselves, as the groteque faces on these downspouts often inspired fear in the common folk themselves. Architecturally speaking, "gargoyles" are used to funnel water away from the sides of a building; "grotesques" are similarly-carved statuary or corner blocks that have nothing to do with the building's drainage system.
    • Genie Jinn, Efreet (Ifrit), Dao, and Jann all appear as powerful (and usually trickster-like or demonic) creatures in Arabic folklore, sometimes identified with each of the four elements (fire, water, earth, air). The English term "genie" derives from the Latin "genius", which derives from the Arabic "jinni", the plural of "jinn". The lamp-dwelling, wish-granting genie in D&D is taken directly from the Arabian Nights tales.
    • Ghoul "Ghul. English: ghoul. An Arabian desert monster, blood-sucker and man-eater. It resembles both man and animal." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode
    • Gnome European folklore. According to Webster's dictionary, "One of a fabled race of dwarflike creatures who live underground and guard treasure hoards." Teutonic mythology includes earth spirits closely resembling dwarfs--small, stocky, & generally grotesque. They dwell in the earth and can merge at will with trees or the earth. They occupy their time in quarries & mines deep in the earth, where they are thought to be guardians of fabulous treasures. Paracelsus (1493-1541) wrote of the four elements and the four types of elementals: fire = salamander, water = nereid, air = sylph, earth = gnome. Gnomes looked like little old men.
    • Goblin Very loosely based on The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. ("Goblin" has the same Germanic root as the word "kobold". Both mean 'evil sprites'; Goblin from English folklore, kobold is from German. In English folklore, it is a general term for any malevolent misshapen or grotesque creature that lives in dark places.)
    • Golem Animated man-shaped statue from Medieval Jewish folklore. The golem was made of clay, and was created to protect the Jewish quarter of Prague in the late middle ages, around 1500-1600. The name of God was written either on a piece of paper placed in its mouth, or on its forehead, which gave it life. It eventually went on a rampage until its creator managed to remove the slip of paper from its mouth or erase the letters from its forehead, which turned it back into a clay statue. As the story goes, the golem is still hidden somewhere in the city, ready to be re-animated to protect the local Jews from their persecutors.
    • Golem, Flesh This is exactly the creature from Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley.
    • Gorgon Edward Topsell in his 1607 History of 4-footed Beasts, included a bit translated from Conrad Gesner's 1551 Historiae animalium that was a description of a Gorgon as a [four-legged] animal with dragon's scales, pig's teeth, a poisonous mane, human hands, and lethal breath, that was a native of Africa and supposedly was bred in Libya. This description is possibly based on misunderstandings of Greek descriptions of Medusa's sisters.
    • Griffin, Gryphon Medieval folklore, most often depicted with the body and rear legs of a lion, and the head, wings, and front legs of an eagle, and still used as a heraldic device. Composite creatures such as this were apparently a favorite of the authors of medieval bestiaries.
    • Half-elf The character of Elrond (and his family) from The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien is the origin for the half-elf, but the D&D version is significantly changed from Tolkien's view. For example, Tolkien's half-elves had to choose whether they would be elves or men, and as a result had lifespans typical for the race of their choice, whereas D&D half-elves are a true amalgamation of elves and men.
    • Halfling Halflings were originally hobbits, taken from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. They were renamed "halflings" when the Tolkien estate asked TSR to stop infringing on Tolkien's copyrights. 3rd edition D&D halflings are an amalgamation of 2nd edition halflings with Dragonlance's kender.
    • Harpy Greek mythology.
    • Hippocampus Medieval bestiaries. Depicted as the front half of a horse and the rear half of a fish or sea-serpent. The name is a Latinate construction, used because most scholarly books of the period were written in Latin and no common name already existed for such a beast.
    • Hippogriff, Hippogryph "Horse-griffin (horse's body) with eagle's head and wings." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode.
    • Homonculus Medieval alchemical folklore. Homunculi were created through use of various powders, rare earths, potions, etc., and were lesser than man because only God could create Man from scratch; man could only create lesser beings at best. Mandrake root is sometimes given as the primary ingredient, since it usually appears vaguely man-shaped.
    • Hydra Greek mythology. The classical form is the Lernaean hydra, which had nine heads and could only be killed by cutting off all of its heads--however, whenever one was cut off, two more quickly grew in its place. Hercules defeated it by using a torch to immediately cauterize each stump as he cut heads off, thus preventing new ones from growing. The cryohydra and pyrohydra variants were apparently created by TSR.
    • Ki-rin Chinese mythology, sometimes written "Ch'i-lin" (depending on one's transliteration scheme). "Chinese male-female form of unicorn; symbolic of grandeur, felicity, noble offspring and good administration." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode.
    • Kobold Cave-dwelling evil sprites from German folklore. (Note: cobalt is named for supposedly having the same blue/green color as German kobolds.)
    • Lamassu "Winged lion, or winged bull with human head, of late Assyrian times. Guardian spirit of the city of Assur." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode.
    • Lamia "Greek witch who devours children, also called Mormolicoe. She has cow's feet and cat's claws.... In the Alexander romance, very beautiful women, larger than life, with long hair and horse's feet" -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode. The origin is from the Greek myth of Lamia, Queen of Lybia, who ate children, and whose own later children were cursed with half-human/half-animal bodies. When the authors and artists of medieval bestiaries got their hands on this one, it became a scaled 4-legged beast with claws on the front paws, hooves on the rear, and a woman's head and breasts.
    • Leucrotta From Roman folklore, mentioned in Pliny's Natural History. (Also known there as "leucocrotta")
    • Lich, lych A lychgate is an entrance to a churchyard where a body rests before burial--"lych" means person or dead body (From German "Leiche", meaning "dead body, cadaver, corpse"). The D&D lich is very similar to a character from Taran Wanderer, by Lloyd Alexander, a magician with an unnaturally-extended life who can only die if the item in which he has stored his soul is broken (in this case, a bone from his little finger); however, the term "lich" is never used in the book. The origin of both the D&D lich and Alexander's character is probably the Russian folkloric character "Kotshchey the Deathless", an unnaturally long-lived magician (or demon) who was almost impossible to kill. (Kotshchey himself was written up with D&D stats in The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, reprinted in Monster Manual II.)
    • Lycanthrope Worldwide folklore. Werewolves are found throughout European folklore, and tales of men turning into other creatures are found all over the world. The word is a medieval Latin creation (used in bestiaries and the like), based on Greek.
    • Lycanthrope, Werebear Largely based on the character of Beorn from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
    • Lycanthrope, Wereboar The tale of Circe, from Homer's Odyssey?
    • Lycanthrope, Werefox North American Indian mythology?
    • Lycanthrope, Weretiger Hindu mythology?
    • Lycanthrope, Werewolf At least partially based on the character of Lawrence Talbot from the 1930's Universal Pictures movie The Werewolf.
    • Manticore "Monster mentioned in [medieval] bestiaries, probably of Indian provenance, according to a report by Ctesias." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode.
    • Medusa Greek mythology, though a proper name there rather than a type of creature. "Gorgon" was the general term used to describe Medusa and her sisters, but TSR used medusa as a general term, and gorgon for a different kind of beast.
    • Mermaid Greek folklore, though similar tales can be found in the tales of sea-faring cultures around the world. The D&D form is basically identical to fairy tales from the 19th-20th centuries, such as The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson, which were related to European sailor's tales from the 17th-19th centuries. All of these owe their source to the Greek myth of the Sirens.
    • Minotaur Greek mythology. Bull-man creature who lived in Minos' labyrinth of Crete; usually portrayed as a hairy man with the head and rear hoofs of a bull. ("Minotaur" means "Minos' bull")
    • Mummy 1930's Universal Pictures movie. Egyptian beliefs had the mummy moving on to the next life, not returning to this one. Even the supposed curse of Tutankamun, which was part of the influence for the movie, involved the curse's power making people catch deadly diseases and/or suddenly drop dead, not anything to do with the walking dead. The movie (and the Egyptology fads of the early 20th century that spawned it) is the first place walking mummies are seen.
    • Naga "Naga. Indian [Hindi] demigods, part snake, part man." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode. The accompanying picture depicts a creature with the body of a snake and the head of a man.
    • Nereid Sea-nymphs from Greek mythology.
    • Nixie Water elves from European folklore, sometimes depicted as mermaids.
    • Nymph Greek mythology. Female sprites who are the embodiment of beauty and female lust.
    • Orc Very loosely based on The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, which was in turn based on creatures from English folklore.
    • Pegasus Greek mythology, from the tale of Bellerophon.
    • Peryton Greek folklore that the souls of the lonely manifest as dangerous half-deer/half-eagle creatures that cast human-shaped shadows.
    • Phoenix "A wonder-bird, which according to Herodotus flies once every five hundred years from India to Egypt, burns itself there on a pyre and arises renewed from the ashes." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode.
    • Roc "Enormous bird, probably of Persian origin, said to live in India... best known from the tales of Sindbad the Sailor" -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode.
    • Satyr Greek mythology. Half-man, half-goat forest creatures who are the embodiment of unbridled male lust. "Faun" is the Roman term for the same creature.
    • Scorpion-man "Sumerian and Akkadian monster-figure, Girtablulu, created by Tiamat to do battle with the gods. Gilgamesh meets him on his wanderings." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode.
    • Sea-Horse Horse-like aquatic creature from Sinbad's first voyage in the Arabian Nights.
    • Shedu "Human-headed, winged bull-monster of Assyrian-Babylonian mythology." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode.
    • Simurgh "An enormous bird, which lived before Adam. Al-Mas'udi describes it as having a human face.... Gigantic bird of Persian mythology." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode.
    • Sphinx, Androsphinx Based on Egyptian statues with a lion's body and a man's head.
    • Sphinx, Criosphinx Based on Egyptian statues with a lion's body and a ram's head. (The Greek word "Crios" means "ram")
    • Sphinx, Gynosphinx Greek myth of Oedipus. In the tale, Thebes was beset by a monster with the body of a winged lion, but the head and chest of a woman. It posed a riddle to all travelers, and would eat all who answered it wrong. Oedipus was the first to answer it correctly. The Greek monster is based on the Egyptian creature; note that Thebes is in Egypt.
    • Svirfneblin Scandinavian folklore.
    • Swanmay "Swan maiden" is a "[t]erm for the Valkyries in Nordic mythology. In fairy-tales they are supernatural beings, who fly down to earth, mostly to bathe, laying aside their winged or feathered garb." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode. Also, one of Grimms' tales includes seven maidens cursed to turn into swans. The D&D swanmay is actually taken from Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson, who based it on the folkloric swan maidens.
    • Tarrasque The Tarasque (one "r") was a dragon-like creature that lived near Tarascon, France. It was a giant, hulking, turtle-like fire-breathing beast with six legs and armor-like scales that were impervious to even the sharpest weapons. The sheer size and invincibility were about the only recognizable features that were kept when TSR turned this into a D&D creature, however.
    • Treant The original name, "ent," betrays the creature's origins in Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Except for the name, which was changed along with hobbit and balrog at the behest of the Tolkien estate, the creature is essentially identical to how it appeared in Tolkien's books.
    • Triton Merman from Greek mythology.
    • Troll While trolls can be found throughout folklore, and are well-known to readers of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, the D&D troll comes from Three Hearts and Three Lions, by Poul Anderson.
    • Unicorn "Unicorn. Found in the legends of many countries. Often derived from the rhinoceros and explained as a real animal, or interpreted as the profile view of a two-horned animal... But in the literature of many peoples, unicorns occur clearly as fabulous animals." -- Fabulous Beasts and Demons, by Heinz Mode. The D&D unicorn is straight out of medieval European tales, like the Unicorn Tapestries, that involve it being the ultimate purity, susceptible to virgins, able to purify water with the horn, the horn being a powerful item to use in alchemical creations, etc.
    • Wight Essentially identical to the barrow-wight from Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. ("Wight" is the Anglicized form of the Germanic "wicht", which now means "elf, goblin, dwarf, gnome", but originally simply meant "a being". The English word used to mean "a human being", but changed to be a term for a type of malicious sprite during the 14th-16th centures, like happened with many English synonyms for "person", including hob, pukka, orc, and boggart.)
    • Will-o'-wisp English folklore, probably based on swamp lights or marsh gas, or possibly the way lanterns look through a thick fog.
    • Worg The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
    • Wyvern Medieval heraldry & folklore, in which it is a dragon with wings, two legs, and a barbed tail. ("Wivere" is a Saxon word meaning "serpent".)
    This comes from this internet site . My Google-Fu is strong
    Last edited by Allanon; Thursday, 5th February, 2004 at 11:10 AM. Reason: because of the discrimination against male chickens!
    XP Shane H not Hensley gave XP for this post

  10. #10
    The Gorgon Bull is the Medieval form of the Catoblepas, how it got the name Gorgon only a medieval quack could tell you and they're all dead!

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