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D&D Monster Origins

Monsters (H–K)

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

Halfling

The halflings were taken directly from Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, in which halfling is a term used by Men to describe the race, which calls itself hobbit.

I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off.

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), The Hobbit (1937). Chapter 1.

Hobbits are an unobtrusive but very ancient people, more numerous formerly than they are today; for they love peace and quiet and good tilled earth: a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside was their favourite haunt. They do not and did not understand or like machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill, or a handloom, though they were skilful with tools. Even in ancient days they were, as a rule, shy of 'the Big Folk', as they call us, and now they avoid us with dismay and are becoming hard to find. They are quick of hearing and sharp-eyed, and though they are inclined to be fat and do not hurry unnecessarily, they are nonetheless nimble and deft in their movements. They possessed from the first the art of disappearing swiftly and silently, when large folk whom they do not wish to meet come blundering by[...]

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), The Lord of the Rings (1954). Book I, chapter 1.

Harpy

Harpies, half-bird and half-woman, look on angrily from the trees of a dark forest.

Divine Comedy, illus. Gustave Doré. Public domain; thanks to the Gustave Doré Gallery for the image.

The boughs and tapering, but with knares deform'd
And matted thick: fruits there were none, but thorns
Instead, with venom fill'd. Less sharp than these,
Less intricate the brakes, wherein abide
Those animals, that hate the cultur'd fields,
Betwixt Corneto and Cecina's stream.
Here the brute Harpies make their nest, the same
Who from the Strophades the Trojan band
Drove with dire boding of their future woe.
Broad are their pennons, of the human form
Their neck and count'nance, arm'd with talons keen
The feet, and the huge belly fledge with wings
These sit and wail on the drear mystic wood.

Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), Inferno, tr. H. F. Cary. Canto 13.

Hecatoncheires

These fearsome creatures battled the Greek gods alongside the other Titans. Their name is straightforward: hekaton hundred + cheir hand, the hundred-handed ones.

So he said: and the gods, givers of good things, applauded when they heard his word, and their spirit longed for war even more than before, and they all, both male and female, stirred up hated battle that day, the Titan gods, and all that were born of Cronos together with those dread, mighty ones of overwhelming strength whom Zeus brought up to the light from Erebus beneath the earth. An hundred arms sprang from the shoulders of all alike, and each had fifty heads growing upon his shoulders upon stout limbs. These, then, stood against the Titans in grim strife, holding huge rocks in their strong hands. And on the other part the Titans eagerly strengthened their ranks, and both sides at one time showed the work of their hands and their might. The boundless sea rang terribly around, and the earth crashed loudly: wide Heaven was shaken and groaned, and high Olympus reeled from its foundation under the charge of the undying gods, and a heavy quaking reached dim Tartarus and the deep sound of their feet in the fearful onset and of their hard missiles.

Hesiod (8th or 7th c. BC?), The Theogony, tr. H. G. Evelyn-White (1914).

Hippogriff

The hippogriff bears a rider to attack the sea-monster.

Orlando Furioso, illus. Gustave Doré (1877). Public domain; thanks to the Gustave Doré Gallery for the image.

The hippogriff (ippogrifo) was created by Ariosto in his most famous work, Orlando Furioso.

No empty fiction wrought by magic lore,
But natural was the steed the wizard pressed;
For him a filly to griffin bore;
Hight hippogryph. In wings and beak and crest,
Formed like his sire, as in the feet before;
But like the mare, his dam, in all the rest.
Such on Riphaean hills, though rarely found,
Are bred, beyond the frozen ocean's bound.

Drawn by enchantment from his distant lair,
The wizard thought but how to tame the foal;
And, in a month, instructed him to bear
Saddle and bit, and gallop to the goal;
And execute on earth or in mid air,
All shifts of manege, course and caracole;
He with such labour wrought. This only real,
Where all the rest was hollow and ideal.

Ludovico Ariosto (1474–1533), Orlando Furioso (1532), tr. William Stewart Rose (1910). Canto 4, 18–19.

Hobgoblin

I took a good deal of literary license in creating monsters for the D&D game. As I needed a humanoid tougher than a goblin but not as powerful as a gnoll, I simply used "hobgoblin", even though its name indicated a smaller sort of goblin. In short, only the name was drawn from folklore, and the rest was made up out of whole cloth.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), February 6, 2004, EN World Q&A VI

As I recollect, Dave Sutherland, rest his soul, did the hog-faced orcs and the hobgoblins in samurai-like armor. Minifigs worked from those illustrations.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), March 13, 2007, EN World Q&A XII

Hydra

The hydra depicted has seven heads, each wearing a crown. Its body, while snakelike, is rotund and has two clawed feet.

Historiae Animalium, illus. unknown (1551). Public domain; thanks to the National Library of Medicine for the photo.

According to Hesiod, the hydra was born of the union of Ekhidna and Typhaon.

As for me giving a hydra legs, where do you see my name in the illustration?

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), June 19, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

As a second labour [Eurystheus] ordered [Herakles] to kill the Lernaean hydra. That creature, bred in the swamp of Lerna, used to go forth into the plain and ravage both the cattle and the country. Now the hydra had a huge body, with nine heads, eight mortal, but the middle one immortal. So mounting a chariot driven by Iolaus, he came to Lerna, and having halted his horses, he discovered the hydra on a hill beside the springs of the Amymone, where was its den. By pelting it with fiery shafts he forced it to come out, and in the act of doing so he seized and held it fast. But the hydra wound itself about one of his feet and clung to him. Nor could he effect anything by smashing its heads with his club, for as fast as one head was smashed there grew up two. A huge crab also came to the help of the hydra by biting his foot. So he killed it, and in his turn called for help on Iolaus who, by setting fire to a piece of the neighboring wood and burning the roots of the heads with the brands, prevented them from sprouting. Having thus got the better of the sprouting heads, he chopped off the immortal head, and buried it, and put a heavy rock on it, beside the road that leads through Lerna to Elaeus. But the body of the hydra he slit up and dipped his arrows in the gall. However, Eurystheus said that this labour should not be reckoned among the ten because he had not got the better of the hydra by himself, but with the help of Iolaus.

Apollodorus, Library and Epitome (1st cent.?), tr./ed. James George Frazer. Book 2.

And again she bore a third, the evil-minded Hydra of Lerna, whom the goddess, white-armed Hera nourished, being angry beyond measure with the mighty Herakles. And her Herakles, the son of Zeus, of the house of Amphitryon, together with warlike Iolaus, destroyed with the unpitying sword through the plans of Athene the spoil-driver.

Hesiod (8th or 7th c. BC?), The Theogony, tr. H. G. Evelyn-White (1914).

Jermlaine

I made up the jermlaine based on the gremlin, an older version of it if you will.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), December 3, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

Kilmoulis

The booka and kilmoulis are "fairie folk" from books of folklore from which I devised the creatures of the same nemes for the AD&D game.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), December 3, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

Kobold

Well, all i worked from was Germanic folklore about the forest littel people called kobolds. All the rest of the material in the game I made up to suit what i deemed as the needs of it. In short, the D&D kobolds are mostly the whole cloth of my imagination.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), February 2, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

I thought of kobolds as humanoid, but with green complexion due to their forest habitat and skin that was rough and scaly even though they were mammalian.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), February 2, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

It was indeed Dave sutherland that decided to give the kobolds a dog-like visage, likely because I had described gnolls as hyena-like. I had actually originally envisaged them as more impish ot countenence, but I went along with the depiction, as it made no difference to the game's play.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), February 3, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

[Kobolds] are Germanic forest and mine "spirits," that is goblinesque creatures.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), June 20, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

Kuo-Toa

Another "I need something new" race dreamed up out of whole cloth so populate the subterranean world.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), March 10, 2003, EN World Q&A II

Krenshar

Designed for the third edition of D&D (2000) by Sean K. Reynolds. Sam Wood made concept art for this creature.

[In] 3.0 we deliberately introduced a low-level fear monster (the krenshar, created by yours truly) so that paladins and bards could use their abilities to resist fear (aura of courage and inspire courage, respectively) at earlier levels.

Sean K. Reynolds, April 18, 2004, 3.5 Opinions: PH Intro, Races, and Classes

With the new version of the game, several character classes gained new abilities or had certain abilities made more useful, in particular the paladin's aura of courage and the bard's ability to inspire courage. Those abilities are useless unless the PCs fight monsters that use fear attacks, so when I was doing some of the early 3E monster writeups the 3E design team told me to "create a low-level fear monster" so bards and paladins could take advantage of their class abilities. I have always been a fan of John Carpenter's "The Thing," and there's a scene in that movie that always creeped me out where the thing-dog reveals its true nature, sprouting tentacles and finally peeling its face open like a weird flower to reveal the bones underneath. I based the krenshar (a feline-canine thing that uses fear to herd its prey into the jaws and claws of its pack) on that concept.

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