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D&D Monster Origins

Monsters (G)

This is a part of a collection of monster origins. See the main monster origins page for more.

Genies

The genies come from Islamic mythology. Djinn are preternatural mortals, and efreet are the especially powerful and malign djinn. The concept of noble djinn may have come from the tale of Aladdin. Presumably, janni and djinni come from different transliteratations of the same Arabic word. Genie is from the Latin genius, tutelary spirit.

Genie, Djinni

He created man of clay like that of the potter.
And He created the djinn of pure fire

The Qur'ân, tr. Rodwell (1876). Sura 55, lines 14–15.

So Aladdin's mother arose and fetched the lamp for her son, but while so doing she saw that it was dirty exceedingly, so that said: O my son, here is the lamp, but 'tis very foul. After we shall have washed it and polished it 'twill sell better. Then, taking a handful of sand, she began to rub therewith, but she had only begun when appeared to her one of the Jann, whose favor was frightful and whose bulk was horrible big, and he was gigantic as one of the Jababirah. And forthright he cried to her: Say whatso thou wantest of me. Here am I, thy slave and slave to whoso holdeth the lamp, and not I alone, but all the Slaves of the Wonderful Lamp which thou hendest in hand.

The Arabian Nights, tr. Richard Burton (1850). Aladdin; or, the Wonderful Lamp.

Genie, Efreeti

Said he, O nobles, which of you will bring me her throne before they come to me, Muslims?
An Efreet of the Djinn said: I will bring it thee ere thou risest from thy place: I have power for this and am trusty.

The Qur'ân, tr. Rodwell (1876). Sura 27, line 39.

Thereupon quoth the Jinni: "Know that I am one among the heretical Jann, and I sinned against Solomon, David-son (on the twain be peace!), I together with the famous Sakhr al-Jinni, whereupon the Prophet sent his Minister, Asaf son of Barkhiya, to seize me. And this Wazir brought me against my will and led me in bonds to him (I being downcast despite my nose), and he placed me standing before him like a suppliant. When Solomon saw me, he took refuge with Allah and bade me embrace the True Faith and obey his behests. But I refused, so, sending for this cucurbit, he shut me up therein and stopped it over with lead, whereon he impressed the Most High Name, and gave his orders to the Jann, who carried me off and cast me into the midmost of the ocean. There I abode a hundred years, during which I said in my heart, 'Whoso shall release me, him will I enrich forever and ever.'

"But the full century went by and, when no one set me free, I entered upon the second fivescore saying, 'Whoso shall release me, for him I will open the hoards of the earth.' Still no one set me free, and thus four hundred years passed away. Then quoth I, 'Whoso shall release me, for him will I fulfill three wishes.' Yet no one set me free. Thereupon I waxed wroth with exceeding wrath and said to myself, 'Whoso shall release me from this time forth, him will I slay, and I will give him choice of what death he will die.' And now, as thou hast released me, I give thee full choice of deaths."

The fisherman, hearing the words of the Ifrit, said, "O Allah! The wonder of it that I have not come to free thee save in these days!" adding, "Spare my life, so Allah spare thine, and slay me not, lest Allah set one to slay thee." Replied the Contumacious One, "There is no help for it. Die thou must, so ask by way of boon what manner of death thou wilt die." Albeit thus certified, the fisherman again addressed the Ifrit, saying, "Forgive me this my death as a generous reward for having freed thee," and the Ifrit, "Surely I would not slay thee save on account of that same release." "O Chief of the Ifrits," said the fisherman, "I do thee good and thou requitest me with evil!"

The Arabian Nights, tr. Richard Burton (1850). The Fisherman and the Jinni.

Genie, Marid

And whilst implored the Lord and was chafing his hands in the soreness of his sorrow for that had befallen him of calamity, his fingers chanced to rub the ring, when, lo and behold! forthright its familiar rose upright before him and cried: Adsum! Thy slave between thy hands is come! Ask whatso thou wantest, for that I am the thrall of him on whose hand is the ring, the signet of my lord and master. Hereat the lad looked at him and saw standing before him a Marid like unto an Ifrit of our lord Solomon's Jinns. He trembled at the terrible sight, but, hearing the Slave of the Ring say, Ask whatso thou wantest. Verily, I am thy thrall seeing that the signet of my lord be upon thy finger, he recovered his spirits and remembered the Moorman's saying when giving him the ring.

The Arabian Nights, tr. Richard Burton (1850). Aladdin; or, the Wonderful Lamp.

Ghoul

The D&D ghoul was inspired by the Lovecraftian critter of that name and my own imagination. they first appeared in play in c. 1970 in the Chainmail Fantasy Supplement table top games.

Gary Gygax, August 12, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

These figures were seldom completely human, but often approached humanity in varying degree. Most of the bodies, while roughly bipedal, had a forward slumping, and a vaguely canine cast. The texture of the majority was a kind of unpleasant rubberiness. Ugh! I can see them now! Their occupations—well, don't ask me to be too precise. They were usually feeding—I won't say on what. They were sometimes shown in groups in cemeteries or underground passages, and often appeared to be in battle over their prey—or rather, their treasure-trove.

H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937), Pickman's Model (1927)

Giants

Giant, Horag

This monster is from Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff (1999).

I created these ogre-hill giant crossbreeds because I had an area run by ogres and hill giants and I wanted a little more variety in the types of encounters. Plus they're a good "in-between" monster in terms of power level.

Sean K. Reynolds, personal communication, November 28, 2006.

Giant, Verbeeg

As a matter of fact I made up the Verbeeg and used them in some of my campaign encounters, but they were not in print before MMII as I hadn't the time to do a module that included them. I had thought to have a mainly outdoor adventure in a woodland setting with the verbeeg being the lumberjacks, a really big one as their leader, and the lot of them pretty difficult to deal with on a rational basis.

Gary Gygax, May 25, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

Giant Eagle

The giant eagle of D&D is based on the character of Gwaihir, the mighty eagle from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

So it was that when summer waned, there came a night of moon, and Gwaihir the Windlord, swiftest of the Great Eagles, came unlooked-for to Orthanc; and he found me standing on the pinnacle. Then I spoke to him and he bore me away, before Saruman was aware.

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), The Lord of the Rings (1954). Book II, chapter 2.

Githyanki

The Githyanki and Githzerai are the creations of Charles Stross, first appearing in White Dwarf #12 and then in the Fiend Folio.

Apropos the Githyanki, the name was lifted from a George R. R. Martin SF novel ("The dying of the light"). I've always felt slightly guilty about that, and credit should be given where credit's due.

Charles Stross, mid-late 2000, Legacy of Zerthimon interview

The Illithid/Githyanki relationship probably slid into my mind as a result of reading Larry Niven's The World of Ptavvs, which features a psionic master/slave race relationship far in the past that nearly killed all the sapients in the galaxy when it turned hot. (And, oddly, I suspect whoever came up with the Illithids had been reading Larry Niven, too ...)

Charles Stross, mid-late 2000, Legacy of Zerthimon interview

Githzerai

The Githyanki and Githzerai are the creations of Charles Stross, first appearing in hardback in the Fiend Folio.

[Question: Was your original concept of the githzerai closer to that of benevolent alien creatures that just want to be left alone, or the "lesser of two evils"?]

Lesser of two evils.

Charles Stross, mid-late 2000, Legacy of Zerthimon interview

Gnoll

Two shadowy gnoles creep watch Tonker as he peers around the house.

How Nuth would have Practised his Art upon the Gnoles, Illus. Sidney Sime (1917). Public domain; thanks to The Sidney Sime Page for the photo.

Gnolls were entirely the creation of Gary Gygax, although the name was inspired by Margaret St. Clair's The Man who Sold Rope to the Gnoles. This was in turn inspired by Lord Dunsany's How Nuth Would Have Practised His Art Upon the Gnoles.

I took the general name from a short story in The Magazne of Fantasy & Science Fiction, "The Man who sold Rope to the Gnoles". everything else i made up to suit the game

Gary Gygax, February 2, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

Who says a cross between a gnome and a troll can't have a hyena-live visage? After all, it was me that mentioned the origination of the species. I just decided it was too bland and needed something more evil. I dislike hyenas intensly...

Gary Gygax, June 19, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

The senior gnole is a little like a Jerusalem artichoke made of India rubber, and he has eyes that are faceted in the same way that gemstones are. [...] the gnole, by turning his head to the side, showed him that he had no ears Nor was there anything on his head which could take their place in the conduction of sound. The gnole opened his little fanged mouth and let Mortensen look at his narrow, ribbony tongue.

[...]

The senior gnole was there before them, his network of tentacles outstreched. He caught Mortensen in them easily and wound them, flat as bandages, around his ankles and his hands.

Margaret St. Clair (1911–1995), The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles (1951)

But the gnoles had watched him through knavish holes that they bore in trunks of the trees, and the unearthly silence gave way, as it were with a grace, to the rapid screams of Tonker as they picked him up from behind—screams that came faster and faster until they were incoherent.

Lord Dunsany (1878–1957), How Nuth Would Have Practised His Art Upon the Gnoles (1912)

Gnoll, Flind

The Fiend Folio credit for the flind is to J. D. Morris.

The flind is not my creation, it was done by a Brit, and first apeared in White Dwarf magazine, then in the Fiend Folio.

Gary Gygax, February 2, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

Gnome

The term 'gnome' was first recorded by Paracelsus, though he suggests he did not invent the term.

Their abode is of four kinds, namely, according to the four elements: one in the water, one in the air, one in the earth, one in the fire. These in the water are nymphs, thosein the air are sylphs, those in the earth are pygmies, those in the fire salamanders. These are not good names, but I use them nevertheless. These names have been given them by people who did not understand them. But since they designate the things and since they can be recognized by the names, I shall leave it at that. The name of the water people is also undina, and of the air people sylvestres, and of the mountain people gnomi, and of the fire people vulcani rather than salamandri…

The same applies to the gnomi in the mountains: the earth is their air and is their chaos. For everything lives in chaos, that is: everything has its abode in chaos, walks and stands therin. Now, the earth is not more than mere chaos to the mountain manikins. For they walk through solid walls, through rocks and stones, like a spirit; this is why these things are all mere chaos to them, that is, nothing. That amounts to: as little as we are hampered by the air, as little are they hampered by the mountains, by earth and rocks.

Theophrastus of Hohenheim (styled Paracelsus; 1494–1541), Liber de Nymphis, Tractatus II, tr. Henry Ernest Sigerist and C. Lilian Temkin.

As you undoubtedly know, gnomes were originally the nbame for small earth elementals, as salamanders were of fire, sylphs of air, and undines (I think, it's been a long time since I read on this subject) water.

Despite the origination of the gnome, I meant to make the race more attuned to nature than are dwarves. The deep gnomes, Svirfneblin, are meant to be exceptional. The balance of their cousins deal well with both nature and the subterranean.

Dwarves are miners, forgers, and somewhat mechanical.

Gnomes are miners, botanists, and highly mechanical.

Dwarves love gold and gems.

Gnomes appreciate objects d'art more than gold, although those of Zurich love to keep the wealth of dwarves and others secure.

Gary Gygax, May 6, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

Gnomes have wispy facial hair, albeit males have a decent beard. As the author quoted indicates, female gnomes do have rosy, if leathery complexions, and their visages are generaly devoid of beard and moustache.

Gary Gygax, June 6, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

Goblin

The origins of D&D goblins is not clear. The word originally referred to a spirit, though later it could also be applied to an elfish creature or demon. The word itself is of uncertain origin. Tolkien's flesh-and-blood goblins in The Hobbit may have been an inspiration for the game, but they may have been a parallel invention. Note, though, that Tolkien makes no distinction between goblins and orcs, though the orcs of The Lord of the Rings are more advanced than the goblins of The Hobbit.

There in the shadows on a large flat stone sat a tremendous goblin with a huge head, and armed goblins were standing round him carrying the axes and the bent swords that they use. Now goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones. They can tunnel and mine as well as any but the most skilled dwarves, when they take the trouble, though they are usually untidy and dirty. Hammers, axes, swords, daggers, pickaxes, tongs, and also instruments of torture, they make very well, or get other people to make to their design, prisoners and slaves that have to work till they die for want of air and light. It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them, and also not working with their own hands more than they could help; but in those days and those wild parts they had not advanced (as it is called) so far.

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), The Hobbit (1937), chapter 4.

Golem

The monster was battering down the door of the synagogue.

Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends (1919), illus. uncredited. Public domain; thanks to the Internet Sacred Text Archive for the photo.

The concept of the golem, an animate construct, is popular in Jewish mythology.

He set to work on his novel idea and in a few weeks had completed his mechanical creature, a woman. She looked like a big, strong, laboring woman, and the rabbi was greatly pleased with his handiwork.

Now to endow it with life, he said.

Carefully, in the silence of his mysterious study at midnight, he wrote out the Unpronounceable Sacred Name of God on a piece of parchment. Then he rolled it up and placed it in the mouth of the creature.

Immediately it sprang up and began to move like a living thing. It rolled its eyes, waved its arms, and nearly walked through the window. In alarm, Rabbi Lion snatched the parchment from its mouth and the creature fell helpless to the floor.

Gertrude Landa, Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends (1919). The Rabbi's Bogey-Man.

Three Mothers, אמש, in the Soul are fire, water, and breath. The head is created from fire, the belly is created from water, and the chest, created from breath, decides between them.

Three Mothers, אמש: Engrave them, carve them, permute them, and with them seal three Mothers in the Universe, three Mothers in the Year, and three Mothers in the Soul, male and female.

Make א king over breath, bind a crown to it, and combine one with another. And with them seal air in the Universe, the temperate in the year, and the chest in the Soul, the male with אמש, and the female with אשמ.

Make מ king over water, bind a crown to it, and combine one with another. And with them seal earth in the Universe, the cold in the Year, and the belly in the Soul, the male with מאש, and the female with שמא.

The Sefer Yezirah (short version, c. 400), tr. Aryeh Kaplan, chapter 3

Rabha created a man and sent him up to R. Zera. The latter spoke to him, and he did not answer. Exclaimed R. Zera: I see that thou wast created by one of our colleagues. It is better that thou shouldst be returned to the earth from which thou wast taken.

The Babylonian Talmud, tr. Michael L. Rodkinson (1918). Tract Sanhedrin, chapter 7.

Golem, Blood Golem of Hextor

This monster was a pick-up from an article I wrote for the Living Greyhawk Journal. The idea of a blood golem (of Hextor) existed in earlier Greyhawk products but was just an animate mass of blood. Erik and I thought it made more sense that a martial deity like Hextor would create an armored guardian creature rather than just a heap of blood, and Sam Wood (who illustrated the monsters in the LGJ issues) came up with the idea of it having two triple-flails (which fits with Hextor's six arms).

Sean K. Reynolds, personal communication, November 28, 2006.

Golem, Bronze

The iron golem was drawn from Greek mythology, the bronze one therein, Talos.

Gary Gygax, March 24, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

Putting to sea from there, they were hindered from touching at Crete by Talos. Some say that he was a man of the Brazen Race, others that he was given to Minos by Hephaestus; he was a brazen man, but some say that he was a bull. He had a single vein extending from his neck to his ankles, and a bronze nail was rammed home at the end of the vein. This Talos kept guard, running round the island thrice every day; wherefore, when he saw the Argo standing inshore, he pelted it as usual with stones. His death was brought about by the wiles of Medea, whether, as some say, she drove him mad by drugs, or, as others say, she promised to make him immortal and then drew out the nail, so that all the ichor gushed out and he died. But some say that Poeas shot him dead in the ankle.

Apollodorus, Library and Epitome (1st cent.?), tr./ed. James George Frazer. Book 1.

Golem, Flesh

His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.

[…]

Oh! no mortal could support the horror of that countenance. A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch. I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then; but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.

Mary Shelley (1797–1851), Frankenstein (1816), chapter 5

Golem, Iron

The iron golem was drawn from Greek mythology, the bronze one therein, Talos. The breath weapon addition was from Rob.

Gary Gygax, March 24, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

Gorgon

This gorgon is like a bull covered in scales with a tail like a snake. Its head is bent downward, covered in thick fur.

The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes (1607), illus. unknown. Public domain; thanks to James Eason for the picture.

Edward Topsell gave this mythological name (after the three Gorgons of Greek myth) to the catoblepas, giving them scales and killing breath in place of a deadly gaze. It was further copied and appeared in many medieval bestiaries.

The scale-mailed bull model of a gorgon came directly from a copy of a medieval bestiary, the title of which I do not recall, but it was and probably still is in the local (Lake Geneva) public library. I was happy to use that model, for it added another fearsome monster to the roster for DM use

Gary Gygax, May 13, 2006, EN World Q&A X

Among the manifold and divers sorts of Beasts which are bred in Affricke, it is thought that the Gorgon is brought foorth in that countrey. It is a feareful and terrible beast to beholdd, it hath high and thicke eie lids, eies not very great, but much like an Oxe or Bugils, but all fiery-bloudy, which neyther looke directly forwarde, nor yet upwards, but continuallye downe to the earth, and therefore are called in Greeke Catobleponta. From the crowne of their head downe to their nose they have a long hanging mane, which maketh them to looke fearefully. It eateth deadly and poysonfull hearbs, and if at any time he see a Bull or other creature whereof he is afraid, he presently causeth his mane to stand upright, and being so lifted up, opening his lips, and gaping wide, sendeth forth of his throat a certaine sharpe and horrible breath, which infecteth and poysoneth the air above his head, so that all living creatures which draw in the breath of that aire are greevously afflicted thereby, loosing both voyce and sight, they fall into leathall and deadly convulsions. It is bred in Hesperia and Lybia.

Edward Topsell (c. 1572–1625), The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes (1607), p. 262.

Griffon

The regions beyond are known only from the accounts of the Issedonians, by whom the stories are told of the one-eyed race of men and the gold-guarding griffins. These stories are received by the Scythians from the Issedonians, and by them passed on to us Greeks…

Herodotus (484 BC – 425 BC), The Histories, tr. George Rawlinson. Book IV.

Grimlock

The grimlock was a Fiend Folio creation of Albie Fiore, inspired by The Time Machine's Morlocks.

I do not know how long I lay. I was roused by a soft hand touching my face. Starting up in the darkness I snatched at my matches and, hastily striking one, I saw three stooping white creatures similar to the one I had seen above ground in the ruin, hastily retreating before the light. Living, as they did, in what appeared to me impenetrable darkness, their eyes were abnormally large and sensitive, just as are the pupils of the abysmal fishes, and they reflected the light in the same way. I have no doubt they could see me in that rayless obscurity, and they did not seem to have any fear of me apart from the light. But, so soon as I struck a match in order to see them, they fled incontinently, vanishing into dark gutters and tunnels, from which their eyes glared at me in the strangest fashion.

I tried to call to them, but the language they had was apparently different from that of the Over-world people; so that I was needs left to my own unaided efforts, and the thought of flight before exploration was even then in my mind. But I said to myself. You are in for it now, and, feeling my way along the tunnel, I found the noise of machinery grow louder. Presently the walls fell away from me, and I came to a large open space, and striking another match, saw that I had entered a vast arched cavern, which stretched into utter darkness beyond the range of my light. The view I had of it was as much as one could see in the burning of a match.

Necessarily my memory is vague. Great shapes like big machines rose out of the dimness, and cast grotesque black shadows, in which dim spectral Morlocks sheltered from the glare. The place, by the by, was very stuffy and oppressive, and the faint halitus of freshly shed blood was in the air. Some way down the central vista was a little table of white metal, laid with what seemed a meal. The Morlocks at any rate were carnivorous![…]

In a moment I was clutched by several hands, and there was no mistaking that they were trying to haul me back. I struck another light, and waved it in their dazzled faces. You can scarce imagine how nauseatingly inhuman they looked—those pale, chinless faces and great, lidless, pinkish-grey eyes!—as they stared in their blindness and bewilderment.

H. G. Wells (1866–1946), The Time Machine (1898). Chapter 6.