Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The QQQE Creature Compendium Volume II: Humanoids

Hopefully you saw the introduction to this series of posts yesterday. If not you can read it here (or just scroll down, duh).

Anyway, the idea is to summarize some of the most common types of monsters that I've come across in my love of literature, film, video games, and the pillar of every nerdfighter's merit badge vest: role-playing games (specifically Dungeons & Dragons).

Today's category of monstrous creatures is Humanoids.

I'm not going to cover fantastic races likes Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, halflings, Kender, Gnomes, Fae, or Pixies (except for one exception you'll see below) because they are generally considered "good guys," player-characters, or fill the roles of protagonists, friends, and sidekicks.

This series is about the bad guys. These guys:

Orc: One of J.R.R. Tolkien's greatest inventions, the Orc may be the singular greatest manifestation of evil in all of fantasy. They may not be the most intelligent, powerful, or legendary creatures, but considering the origin of their creation (Tolkien describes the birth of the Orcs as Elves twisted to evil by Morgoth, the deity of all that is evil in Middle Earth). Orcs have obviously evolved since Tolkien's earliest dreams, but remain very similar in their basics. Appearing like men or elves twisted by dark arts, and possibly crossed with swine, they are grey or green of skin, with fangs or tusks protruding from their mouths, brutally strong, and sour of disposition. Some people play Orcs or Half-Orcs as characters in RPGs, but we all know that's just wrong. Right?

Goblin: Contrary to J.K. Rowling's opinion (esteemed and wonderful as it is) Goblin's are not bankers. They are twisted, evil little creatures, sometimes considered to be weaker and lesser Orcs (as in Middle Earth), or somehow related to gnomes or brownies, and their physical characteristics are highly varied, depending on who you listen to. My own opinion is that if an Orc is an Elf twisted by evil magic, then a Goblin might be a Hobbit, twisted by the same malevolent forces.

Hobgoblin: I didn't know this until I just looked it up, but apparently the first Hobgoblin was Puck, from a Midsummer Night's Dream. I've always considered Puck to simply be some kind of mischievous little Fae, so that's news to me. My understanding of a Hobgoblin has always been that they resided somewhere on the spectrum between Orc and Goblin. Larger than their smaller cousins, but not as powerful as their larger ones. To continue the analogy: if Orcs are evil Elves, and Goblins are evil Hobbits (or Dwarves), then perhaps Hobgoblins are evil Men.

Kobold: According to Wikipedia, a Kobold is a sprite of Germanic origin, but as far as I'm concerned, that's got nothing to do with anything. In fantasy and role-playing, a Kobold is a small humanoid monster, smaller even than a Goblin, that depending on what source you want to listen to, are either hairy and fanged like some kind of cross between rats, dogs, and little men, or scaled, fanged, and thick-tailed like a lizard-man. Feel free to get creative with your own interpretation.

Gnoll: In Middle English the word Noll meant a very stupid or drunk person. Like the Kobold, that has little to do with anything. According to Wikipedia, a Gnoll is a cross between a Troll and a Gnome, but we all know those two races would never breed (mission impossible anyone?), so I prefer to just consider the original D&D description, which considers Gnolls to be humanoid monsters who are taller than humans, covered with brown fur except on their hands and faces, and vaguely resemble upright hyenas.

Drow (Dark Elf): A Drow is an an Elf that lives underground, is dark or purple-skinned, and often considered to be evil, or at least chaotic, by comparison to their above ground counterparts. In fantasy and role-playing they have often played the part of evil monsters, which is why they're featured here, but they have also taken the role of hero (or anti-hero, like the Forgotten Realms character: Drizzt).

Several minor creatures such as Gremlins, Swanmay, Ratlings, Kuo-Toa and Sahuagin will not be listed here, in the interest of time. Hopefully some of the creatures covered will still be new to some readers.

Did I miss any monsters you would have included?

43 comments:

Vicki Rocho said...

Love this list. This is not my usual genre, so there's a lot of these I've never seen before.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks so much for this series. I'm trying to decide on another race of creatures for my next project. You're giving me ideas I hadn't thought of. Thanks.

salarsenッ said...

Why do I just like the sound of Swanmay??

Em-Musing said...

While here in Akumal, Mexico, I've learned of little people the Mayans call Alux...pronounced Ah-loosh. They're not really bad, unless you don't honor them...then they play mean tricks on you.

Old Kitty said...

I've just now bought Terry Pratchett's latest novel "Snuff" - features bad humans enslaving and trading "goblins"!! Awww goblins have feelings too! Yay! Take care
x

Matthew MacNish said...

LOL. That's the cool thing about Goblins, they can range from very evil (Tolkien) to Bankers of somewhat questionable morals (Rowling). Gotta love creativity!

Miranda Hardy said...

I haven't heard of a couple of them. Love learning new things and I love learning different culture stories.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Love this series! I included Drow in Champion of Valor. Those were some of the most fun scenes to write.

Joshua said...

Where did you read that Puck was a Hobgoblin? I know Shakespeare used the word "Hobgoblin" (Midsummer Act II, Scene i) when the Fairy was speaking to him, but if Puck's real name is Robin Goodfellow, that would make him, according to English folklore, a mythological fairy or mischievous sprite. He's a trickster and jester.

I guess I always compared the Hobgoblin as a smaller version of a bugbear crossed with a goblin.

Slamdunk said...

Two days, two lessons for me.

I can now use the term "Drow" and sound "learned."

Kristen said...

Bad guys are fantastic. That is one scary dude up there. I love hating the orcs--they are my personal fave on your list.

Rusty Webb said...

It's like an encyclopedia of evil right in front of me. I'd probably have to see the series in its entirety before I could say if you've left anything off. Good stuff all around.

Cynthia said...

YOu have put a lot of thought into these choices. Great idea for a post!

Angela Ackerman said...

Loving it! :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

Good choices again, Matt.

Little Ms. Fun said...

I like to think of Goblins as bankers! (Harry Potter nerd, can you tell? lol)

Charissa Weaks said...

SO much fun! I'm loving this series :) Maybe you could do one on Super Powers? My characters aren't superheroes but they do have genetic altering that allows them to have special abilities.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, what a fun series! Very Halloweenie!!!

Just FYI, my group of Pottergeeks considered the Goblins equivalent to Switzerland... banking, find cutlerly and time pieces... Neutral even though to be so wasn't really ethically right. teehee... And my favorite hobgoblin is from Spiderwick... a goblin gone wrong (and therefore GOOD)

But technically you've got 'em all right... I just like some of the fun twists.

Bryan Russell said...

Bugbears! Ogres! Gremlins!

Michael Offutt said...

Sometime we should compare D&D stories, Matt. You ever been through Tomb of Horrors? Queen of the Demonweb Pits?

Michael G-G said...

I am in awe of your encyclopedic knowledge.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I really love monsters, I can see the appeal of playing as an orc or night elf in certain RPGs. Somehow it's easier to play evil in an MMO than a single-player RPG... which brings to light some mildly terrifying aspects of human nature.

D.G. Hudson said...

Interesting. I think the 'swarming' of certain monster types - like goblins - orcs - etc. is more creepy than one alone. The movement is slithery and quick.

Dark dreams are made of this...

Andrew Leon said...

What happened to ogres and trolls? They're humanoid, and they're bad.

Just a note about dark elves: in Middle-Earth, dark elves were not evil. They were just elves that didn't live in the light of the silmarils. Or something like that. I'm just going off of memory here, and it's been a long time since I read The Silmarillion.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Cool stuff! I like your extrapolation on the hobgoblin. :)

Kristen Pelfrey said...

Matthew, as always, it is a pleasure and an education.

maine character said...

I'm hobgobled by your gob-knowledge.

Elana Johnson said...

I'm not gonna lie. This post scares me a little... :)

Elle Strauss said...

I'm not a fantasy reader, so most of this is news to me. And I'm with Elena...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I am totally geeking out on the trip down D&D memory lane!

Carrie Butler said...

Nice list! :)

Bane of Anubis said...

This so takes me back to my D&D days. For one of my first stories (epic fantasy, of course), I made up a list of monsters -- with description and armor class and hit points and everything.

RIP, Gary Gygax and thanks for the memories.

Nate Wilson said...

I believe you may have forgotten to include the Foolish Consistency. According to renowned creature expert Ralph Waldo Emerson, it is the hobgoblin of little minds.

(I'd apologize for the bad pun, but if I started doing that, I'd be apologizing every other sentence.)

Lydia Kang said...

Ah, nice to have a humanoid lesson today. Thanks Matthew. :) And thanks also for the congrats!

A Doc 2 Be said...

You forgot undead and trolls! Kobolds in the morphed D&D (Warcraft) are not all evil. Some are actually helpers for the Ally.

Hannah Kincade said...

Ah, man. You almost make me miss playing WOW. Almost...

Nancy said...

I'm thinking these lists may be useful in my very near future, like Halloween costumes.

ali cross said...

ROFL! I feel all geeked out right now. I feel my D&D roots showing ;)

WritingNut said...

Ooh... love this list!

Barbara Kloss said...

This is FABULOUS! Great work, Matt, I love this list. You've also made me resort to daydreaming and I'm going to go find my Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual because inspiration has struck...

*runs away*

Jamie (Mithril Wisdom) said...

Another epic list :) I think you've covered all the bases there too. I adore Tolkien's original history of orcs - it makes them that much more sinister to think of what they once were.

Just Another Day in Paradise said...

Are you kidding me? Most of these creatures I have never heard of. That's what I get for NOT gaming.Orcs still top my list of scariest brutes around.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i remember once i was reading some true ghost stories (a habbit i paratake of every few months) and one section was devoted not to ghosts but to strange creatures. That is where i learned of the Pukwudgie for the first time and have been frightened ever since.