Friday, January 6, 2023

Friday Creature Feature - Demogorgon

Normally our Friday Creature Features are explorations of the history of a monster in their fictions and just us gushing about our favorite non-humans, but I want to go in a different direction with this one: I want to talk about why the Demogorgon from Stranger Things is not the same as the one from Dungeons and Dragons and why that's an absolutely wonderful thing. 




The Differences Out of the Way
Okay it's already been talked about how the Stranger Things flower made of flesh and teeth is not the same as Dungeons and Dragons two-headed baboon demon with tentacles for arms. The reason it's called the Demogorgon in Stranger Things is because it's the monster the kids were fighting against in their Dungeons and Dragons game when all the nonsense with Eleven and the Upside-Down landed at their doorstep. The two creatures have absolutely nothing in common on the surface, except both were defeated by a bunch of pre-teens (if barely).




Now Demogorgon don't appear that much in Dungeons and Dragons. I've been playing for over 20 years as both a player and dungeon master and I think I've only used the thing once (I had a magic Saw type trap involving magic circles, high level demons and a Deck of Many Things.) Stranger Things has brought the obscure monsters into the spotlight, so now a Dungeons and Dragons supplement features stats for Mr. Bitey Face and the Magic: The Gathering Demogorgon card featured a shadow of the Stranger Things monster instead of the baboon thing, so Demogorgon has become a new staple in the game.

Cosmic Horror Monsters
Stranger Things is considered a cosmic horror (Or Lovecraftian horror) story, a signature of which is that we just don't know how the universe truly works and thus as humans can't handle it. I would've been disappointed if the boys had ridden their bikes over to the library and found the monster in some pop-up book about ancient Samaria, or if the monster was exactly like the one in the Monster Manual. Either case would mean that the kids would know what it is, that it can be beat, and how to beat it.



The characters in cosmic horror are unprepared to deal with real monsters. They usually spend most of the plot trying to convince themselves that these things don't exist (Hopper in season 1) or when finally faced with the creatures completely overwhelmed by the realization that monsters are real that they can go completely insane (Let's face it, Joyce is not okay at this point). The kids name the creature the Demogorgon, and subsequently the Mind Flayer and Vecna because these monsters are the closest reference they have to describe the horrors they're seeing in reality, despite the fact that they are not a 1:1 comparison to the monsters in their game.

Children's Fears
In my The Thing I Love About Stranger Things post I talked about how my favorite part of the show is the cosmic horror and how the kids drifted between mildly entertaining to "get off my lawn". I do love how the horror is seen through the eyes of the children, who still see the world in terms of good guys/bad guys and monsters. They know that when monsters show up, you figure out their weaknesses and take them down. The father of cosmic horror H. P. Lovecraft never put children into his cosmic horror situations because I think they would've figured out his horrors too early and ended the thereat with a well-aimed slingshot instead of going slowly insane surrounded by thinly veiled racism. They named the monsters and in doing so took a tiny bit of fear away from them and decided that if they have a name there must be a way to stop them.




That's just good writing.


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