Friday, October 21, 2011

Respinning the Demon Queen

N. Wright has rattled my cage with his post on Lolth.*  I had been thinking about this post for a while, and noted it in my blog schedule document, but I hadn't moved it up the queue, much less written it.  I shall wait no longer!

Lolth (or Lloth)

Every gamer of my generation remembers Lolth, Demon Queen of an underworld filled with drow and giant spiders, this way:
Erol Otus' Illustration from the Fiend Folio, 1981
Erol Otus' Illustration from Queen of the Demon Web Pits, 1980

 And "she also enjoys appearing as an exquisitely beautiful female Dark Elf," in D&D, called drow (Q1:31).  So perhaps she was even more memorable to pubescent and adolescent boys as looking something like this:

Another Erol Otus Illustration from Queen of the Demon Web Pits, 1980

Thus Lolth has two forms of appearing, even as she has two aspects: Goddess of the drow and Demon Queen of spiders.  These forms are both favorites of artists: reward yourself with a Google image search and you will be inundated with forms both of a horrendous arachnid with varying female humanoid attributes, and of the exquisitely beautiful female dark elf.  (All drow chicks are hot, ergo, Lolth must be the hottest of the hot.)

J. M. Collier's Lilith, 1887

Another powerful demoness is the similarly named Lilith, from Jewish mythology.  Lilith is another sexy demon: according to the tales of some rabbis, she was Adam's first wife, divorced and turned into a demon because she wanted to be on top during coitus.  Thus she was punished as a threat to the belief in a divinely ordained male dominance.  Denied children of her own, she became an envious demon who kidnapped children.  In some people's mythopoesis, she became the first vampire.  Remember vampires?  How often they have pointed ears and are beautifully irresistible?  Like, well, elves.  Also note, female vampires from earliest days were portrayed as kidnapping children, just as the elves did with changelings.

Mash-Up Time: The Demon Queen Gets a Makeover
These two demon-goddesses offer a strong case for identifying the two figures as the same individual.  They share so much thematically that it is easy to do.  As I noted, even their names are very similar.  If you keep the two names, they can just be differences due to language.  Or you could call her Liloth.  Combining them has happy consequences.

If you are tired of the same old folklore controlling vampire game mechanics, you can now offer vampires a makeover based on their demon mistress: driders could be the spider form available for vampires.  Now we know why the drow moved underground: those who had received Liloth's gift (many of the nobles) had to flee the destructive rays of the sun.  Why should you especially identify bats with vampires?  There is one species of vampire bat, but don't all spiders suck their victims dry of their vital juices? We also have tehe answer for why evil elves and vampires kidnap children: Because they are easy-to-catch-and-carry little bags of blood, that's why.  Changelings would be ones selected to be allowed to survive and grow up to be turned into vampires and sent back to plague their old communities.  And remember the fear about female dominance represented by Lilith?  Of course drow are a matriarchal society under the demon goddess.

Vampires and drow tend to be among lots of gamers favorite monstrous races.  They also are the object of complaint as overly used and overly familiar.  I offer this new spin on the Queen of the Demonweb Pits as a way to creatively revamp both the Lolth and her elven devotees.

* His post led me back to Tim Brannan's earlier post.