Literary Origins of D&D Monsters
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    Literary Origins of D&D Monsters

    Just came across a mention of the Yeth Hound in a 1896 short story, "Maker of Moons" by Robert W. Chambers (known nowadays mostly for The King in Yellow, which became part of the Cthulu Mythos):

    "The Yeth-hounds are dogs without heads. They are the spirits of murdered children, which pass through the woods at night, making a wailing noise."

    As it turns out, though, Chambers seems to have been making use of some prior mythology -- from the Encyclopedia of the Celts:

    WISH HOUNDS. Sometimes called Yell Hounds or Yeth Hounds. The spectral, headless hounds of Dartmoor which sometimes meet also in the valley of Dewerstone. They also run into Cornwall, hunting the demon Tregeagle. Their huntsman is presumably the Devil, though the ghost of Sir Francis Drake was sometimes said to drive a hearse into Plymouth, followed by a pack of headless hounds. Hunt also suggests that Cheney's Hounds are Wish Hounds. Hunt, who gives a short account of the Wish Hounds in POPULAR ROMANCES OF THE WEST OF ENGLAND, suggests that they are the same as the Devil's Dandy Dogs, but the Dandy Dogs have horns and fiery saucer eyes, while the Wish Hounds are headless.
    This isn't the first time I've assumed an obscure fictional reference was the source of a D&D creature, only to find that an older legend inspired both -- there are striges in Thomas Burnett Swann's 1966 Day of the Minotaur, which much resemble stirges except for being the size of large insects, but Col. Playdoh said he didn't know Swann's novel & was inspired by Roman mythology.

    The classic list of literary origins of D&D is here. Not included are that the displacer beast is inspired by Couerl from A.E. Van Vogt's 1939 short story "Black Destroyer", which later became the first chapter of the novel Voyage of the Space Beagle.

    Also, of course, the rust monster and bulette started life as plastic toys - Col. Playdoh confirmed that this was indeed the case, although he said they first appeared on the miniatures grid when someone else was DMing; will have to go back and recheck that thread to see who!

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    The catoblepas, leucrotta (also spelled leucrocuta), and peryton are from Roman folklore ... they are described in "historical" accounts by Pliny the Elder.


    Tolkien gave us the Orc, of course, but there is also a monster in Celtic folklore called the Orc. It was a sea monster, and appears in a Celtic myth reminiscent of the rescue of Andromeda by Perseus. Beautiful princess, horrid sea beastie, brave hero to the rescue, etc.

    Orc, the name of the horrid sea monster, lives on in a creature we know today ... the Orca ...

    Tolkien says he invented the hobbit on his own, but according to Katherine Briggs' Encyclopedia of Faries, there is British folkore of creatures called the Hob-Folk ... also called Hobgoblins, Hob-Hursts, Hobthrusts and Hob-It-Hursts. Of course, there are no "hobbits" in D&D, but there are Halflings...

    And of course, a lot of monsters are already recognizable from mythology and folklore -- some of which is pretty obscure.

    We all know about Pegasus and the Minotaur, for example, but the Terrasque is a dragon from French folklore.
    Last edited by DnDChick; Thursday, 8th September, 2005 at 05:00 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tav_Behemoth
    Also, of course, the rust monster and bulette started life as plastic toys - Col. Playdoh confirmed that this was indeed the case, although he said they first appeared on the miniatures grid when someone else was DMing; will have to go back and recheck that thread to see who!
    I can verify this as well. My brother had those long before I ever saw a D&D book. They came in a big bag of plastic dinosaurs.

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    Things like the Kuo-Toa and Sahuagin may have been inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's Deep Ones, but I am not 100% certain as to that.

    Of course, they could just have easily been inspired by the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
    Last edited by DnDChick; Thursday, 8th September, 2005 at 04:59 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DnDChick
    Things like the Kuo-Toa and Sahuagin may have been inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's Deep Ones, but I am not 100% certain as to that.
    True.

    Quote Originally Posted by DnDChick
    Of course, they could just have easily been inspired by the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
    Which in turn was inspired by Lovecraft's Deep Ones. It even wants to mate with a human!

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    Gnolls come from Lord Dunsay, but his were a cross between gnomes and trolls, rather than hyena-men.

    The Dunsany troll also seems not to match the D&D style from the mentions in the King of Elfland's Daughter as being more like a fey, smaller than human size, afraid of dogs, etc.

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    Yeah, the details of the D&D troll are from Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions, as is the Law/Chaos alignment axis (I'm pretty sure it inspired Moorcock's).

    Dunsany spells them gnoles, no? (CMG just came out with a nifty-looking PDF of Dunsany short stories, btw).

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    I love mythology, though I'm not aswell studied as some.

    The D&D Sphinx is an interesting one becuase it's closer to the Greek Sphinx from Eodipus Rex than the Egyptian guardian beast.

    I also remember the Chimera being mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh as an asian beast composed of parts of many more than the four or five animals/monsters the modern cousin is made of.

    It's amazing how far and wide myths of dragons are. there's atleast one on every inhabited continent. (scientists on antarctica don't count as inhabitants yet )

    If memory serves right... the earliest mention of an ogre comes from African oral stories. I may be wrong but I remember reading something about it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TurlinBlackwind
    I also remember the Chimera being mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh as an asian beast composed of parts of many more than the four or five animals/monsters the modern cousin is made of.
    Chimerae are also found in Greek myth ... well .. one is anyway. It was killed by Bellerophon, mounted upon Pegasus.

    As for literary origins again ... the Shambling Mound, judging from its picture in the 1e Monster Manual, was seemingly inspired my Marvel Comics' Man-Thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DnDChick
    As for literary origins again ... the Shambling Mound, judging from its picture in the 1e Monster Manual, was seemingly inspired my Marvel Comics' Man-Thing.

    Man-thing... never thought of that. Cool!

    I wonder where the aboleth came from? I'm gonna look into it, might find something tasty

    Monster origins that are easily identified like the minotaur and pegasus aren't as interesting as the harder ones. But an ancient story of beastiality can lighten your day if you don't know where the Minotaur came from. ew.....

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