Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Sphere of Many Eyes

Though many of the monsters of Dungeons & Dragons have their origins in mythology and folklore, many more are wholly original creations. Perhaps one of the most iconic is the beholder, which first appeared in Supplement I to OD&D, Greyhawk, in 1976. As I recall, the beholder was not a Gygaxian creation, but instead the work of Terry Kuntz, player of Terik and the Monk with No Name.

I've often wondered about what might have inspired the beholder. Did it have any antecedents in pulp fantasy literature? Was it based on a piece of artwork, like the remorhaz in this earlier entry? A nightmare perhaps? The seeds from which great ideas spring can be found almost anywhere and that's certainly true in the case of D&D, whose monsters have origins as diverse as rubber "dinosaur" toys from Japan (like the rust monster and bulette) or fondness for a particular movie from one's youth (like the iron golem).

I personally find tales of the origins of D&D monsters fascinating and would love to know more of them. Do any of my fellow contributors have any insights to share on the beholder's genesis?


Rob Kuntz said...

Subject: Re: the original beholder
Date: Tue, 06 Nov 2001 10:56:22 -0600
To: Geoffrey McKinney

Geoffrey McKinney wrote:
> Dear Rob Kuntz:
> Sorry for asking such a trivial question, but I'm fascinated by the origins of things D&D.
In his preface to the 1977 Monster Manual, Gary Gygax wrote that he wanted to acknowledge the contribution of "Terry Kuntz, who was never thanked for his prototypical beholder, a revised version of which was included in GREYHAWK."
>What was this "prototypical" beholder like? How did it differ from that in GREYHAWK? Do you have the stats and description of it?
> Any information at all about this would interest me greatly and be much appreciated.
> Thank you,
> Geoffrey McKinney

My brother, Terry, created the beholder, first, by writing a short story about it (since lost) and afterwards he wrote up the "prototype" of it and presented it to EGG and myself for inclusion in supplement #1, Greyhawk in 1975. He was never thanked for this due to an oversight on EGG's part; and so when it was updated to 1E, EGG made a note on this in the front matter of MM. That's about it. No alternate statistics existed, though the idea of many eyes having many different magical spells/powers is altogether my brother's conception.

Rob Kuntz


Also note that this history was included by myself in Paizo's MONSTER ECOLOGIES book several years ago, and I quote a post from PPP's Ye Olde Forums: "I have received my comp copies of Paizo's Monster Ecologies and it looks pretty sharp. They list the ecologies of many monsters from the Dragon Ecologies run and include time-line histories from TSR products on up to note changes/comparison, some really good art in many cases and quotes from industrial professionals like EGG and (yep, yours truly) myself (mine was on the history of the beholder).

Anonymous said...

I must extend a most belated thanks to your brother, Terry. To have one of these beasts raging in a frenzy was real poetry in motion. It is true, the beauty is in the ire of the beholder...