As we have been contemplating pictures over the last week or so, I thought some of you out there might find it interesting to compare some of the creatures that appeared on the ’toon with some of their possible inspirations in the texts of the original Dungeons & Dragons (or, strictly speaking, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) game. To make it a little more interesting (to me, at least), I thought I would concentrate on those creatures which were not actually named in the cartoon, but which have close analogues in the books. Ready? Here we go!
Let’s start with an easy one. There is absolutely no doubt that the monsters found at the Forbidden Oasis in “City at the Edge of Midnight” were “Hook Horrors,” as found in 1981’s Fiend Folio:
Monsters from the Forbidden Oasis — “City At the Edge of Midnight”
Hook Horror — Alan Hunter
The Fiend Folio, it may be noted, was a largely British production; many of its creatures had, I believe, been drawn from British gaming magazines such as “White Dwarf”. (Those who own the volume and who also own the once-popular coffee table book Faeries by the U.K. artists Brian Froud and Alan Lee may recognize that the “Mephits” are variants of some of the marginal fairies of that work.) The Folio describes the Hook Horror as being “mottled grey” [sic]; the cartoon artists seem to have ignored the mottling, but they seem gray enough.
Okay, I know I said “no named creatures,” and this next is a kind of double violation of that rule, but I cannot forego the pleasure of comparing and contrasting the various versions of “Lolth, Demon Queen of Spiders.” Lolth, though she appears in the Folio, was invented by the creator of the game, Gary Gygax, and had previously appeared in TSR’s gaming module, “Vault of the Drow” and its sequel, “Queen of the Demonweb Pits”:
Lolth — “The Hall of Bones”
Lolth — David C. Sutherland III in Vault of the Drow
Lolth — Boris Roslof in Queen of the Demonweb Pits
Lolth — Erol Otus in the Deities & Demigods Handbook
Lolth — Russ Nicholson in the Fiend Folio
Obviously the cartoon’s design is closest to the one found in the Folio, though the intricate loops on her abdomen have been changed to much-easier-to-animate bars, and her face has lost its spit curl and cute little nose and become deeply entrenched by lines — which I believe are a convention of Japanese art when portraying demons. (Is there any otaku out there who can confirm this?)
Jumping ahead to Season Three, we have the unpleasant Ugar in “The Dungeon at the Heart of Dawn.” Zakiyah, in her invaluable character guide, calls him a “dark dwarf.” There were dark dwarfs (or, more correctly “gray dwarfs” or “duergar”) in the old game, but they didn’t show up, I believe, until the second Monster Manual. Besides, there is a strong resemblance between Ugar and the illustration by David A. Trampier in the original Monster Manual of the Goblin:
Ugar — “The Dungeon at the Heart of Dawn”
Goblin — David A. Trampier
The Monster Manualdescribes the coloring of goblins as “ranging from yellow through dull orange to brick red,” and their clothing as (among others) a dull maroon, which describes Ugar fairly well. I don’t believe, though, that Gary Gygax contemplated the horns on their helmets shooting laser beams. (Argh!) (Trampier’s drawing, by the way, is much closer to the way I always envisioned Tolkien’s orcs than either the frog-like Rankin-Bass orcs, the pig-faced D&D version, or Peter Jackson’s blotchy horrors, except that I always imagined them as having rather dirty greenish-black skins. Tolkien himself says they are debased versions of the Mongolian types that Western Europeans find the least attractive.)
Going back to the first season, we have a monster not from the game disguised, I believe, as a monster from the game. Cawamung, from “Beauty and the Bogbeast,” is of course, a Bogbeast himself, but in his enchanted form he rather resembles the “Ogre Mage” from the first Monster Manual, as depicted by David C. Sutherland III:
Cawamung — “Beauty and the Bogbeast”
Ogre Mage — David C. Sutherland III
Notice the pony-tail, the forehead horn, the strapped-on arm-guard — I think we’ve found our monster. I find it amusing that Sutherland has obviously attempted to make his Ogre Mage rather Japanese in style, whereas the almost certainly Japanese animators don’t.
Now, two monsters from the same episode, “In Search of the Dungeon Master”. The first, though called a “fairy” by Eric, is identical with the “Sprite” which Sutherland drew for the Monster Manual:
”Fairy” — “In Search of the Dungeon Master”
Sprite — David C. Sutherland III
Next, we have some creatures that seem to have confused a number of commentators. It is true that they do not resemble the drawing in the Monster Manual (again by Sutherland) as closely as the Sprite does, but I myself am in no doubt that these creatures are “Androsphinges”:
Androsphinges — “In Search of the Dungeon Master”
Androsphinx — David C. Sutherland III
Finally, let’s look at one of our favorite monsters — Willie the Slime Beast:
Willie the Slime Beast — “P-R-E-S-T-O Spells Disaster”
“The Creature” — “Servant of Evil”
Xill — Russ Nicholson
Willie may have been inspired by the “Xill” in the Fiend Folio; he has the four arms, the fangs, the pupiless eyes, and something similar to the frill around the face. On the other hand, he has a tail; the frill is not antennć and tushes, but something more like tendrils; he has barbels on his chin; he has overlapping scales in place of pecs and abs; and he seems much bulkier and hunchbacked—altogether he seems more bestial than the more humanoid Xill, right down to the lack of weapons. Moreover he is bluish-gray (with a whitish face in “Servant of Evil”), rather than the bright red prescribed by the Folio for the Xill. If the artists were inspired by the Xill, I thoroughly approve of the changes, notwithstanding the fact that “P-R-E-S-T-O Spells Disaster” is absolutely my least favorite episode and I think that da Giant wid da Brooklyn Accent’s calling his monster pet “Willie” and referring to him as “slime-beast” (where’s the slime, by the way?) are deplorable condescension to “da kiddies,” as he would no doubt term the audience.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this romp through the creatures of Dungeons & Dragons. If anyone has any others to add, I’ll see if I can’t scare ’em up in the old books.
Tann, Tann, the Monster Man
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