From Pennywise the Clown in It by Stephen King to the dementors in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, there are a lot of scary monsters in literary history. Yet, there are some that, no matter how hard you try, haunt your nightmares for weeks after setting the book down. In honor of Halloween right around the corner, let’s take a moment to reflect on the scariest monsters in literature to ever make your skin crawl.
1. The Witches
Witches are not a new addition to literary history in the slightest, yet Roald Dahl’s The Witches turns creepy into terrifying and markets the story directly to the children these monsters are plotting to murder (or turn into mice). They’re bald with large nostrils, blue spit, no toes, and wear gloves to conceal their deadly claws as they live in our midst.
2. The Balrog
Notable for appearing in The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, the Balrogs are tall, menacing demons that can shroud themselves in fire, darkness, and shadows. Tolkien wrote many stories featuring the Balrog, always changing their characteristics, but basically these creatures are twice the size of humans with claws of steel and bat-like wings, carry fiery whips, and are nearly undefeatable because, like Gandalf, the Balrog are powerful Maiars.
3. The Jabberwock
Although the Jabberwock first appeared in a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll in which he created his own words, the terrifying creature was included in his sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass. To create a truly blood-curdling monster, Carroll largely left the Jabberwock’s description up for interpretation, leaving the image up to the reader’s imagination and deepest fears.
The first monster to appear in the epic poem Beowulf, whose author is unknown, Grendel is a descendant of the world’s first murderer, Cain. God cursed Cain’s lineage with physical deformities, creating the horrific monster. Although he’s never entirely physically described, Grendel is said to be “very terrible to look upon.” Perhaps because he eats men as they sleep (or scream).
Written about in various stories by H.P. Lovecraft, Cthulhu is said to be everything we all find frightening wrapped up into one monster, or alien as it turns out. Dwelling beneath the ocean in a deep sleep, Cthulhu is a being of darkness and madness that’s similar to both reptiles and octopus in appearance waiting for his time to strike.
What monster from literary history do you find the most terrifying?
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