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Morlock

Morlock

Morlocks are a fictional species created by H. G. Wells for his 1895 novel, The Time Machine. They dwell underground in the English countryside of A.D. 802,701 in a troglodyte civilization, maintaining ancient machines that they may or may not remember how to build. Their only access to the surface world is through a series of well structures that dot the countryside of future England.

Morlocks are humanoid creatures, said to have descended from humans, but by the 8,028th century have evolved into a completely different species, said to be better suited to their subterranean habitat. They are described as "almost antlike", because they slink about silently during the night to catch their prey.

Morlocks wear no clothing but are covered with fur. As a result of living underground, they have little or no melanin to protect their skin, and so have become extremely sensitive to light.

The Morlocks' main source of food is the Eloi, another race descended from humans that lives above ground. The Morlocks treat the Eloi as cattle, and the Eloi do not resist being captured.

Since their creation by Wells, the Morlocks have appeared in many other works such as sequels, movies, television shows, and works by other authors, many of which have deviated from the original description.

Morlocks in The Time Machine

The Morlocks are at first a mysterious presence in the book. The Time Traveller, the main character, initially thinks that the Eloi are the only examples of future humanity, although the existence of Morlocks is hinted at. When he first encounters a Morlock, the Time Traveller begins to piece together a new image of the future world of A.D. 802,701.

The Morlocks and the Eloi have something of a symbiotic relationship: the Eloi are clothed and fed by the Morlocks, and in return, the Morlocks eat the Eloi. The Time Traveller perceives this, and guesses that the Eloi-Morlock relationship developed from a class distinction present in his own time: the Morlocks are the working class who had to work underground so that the rich upper class could live in luxury. The Morlocks also live underground, tending machinery, and are seen by many to represent the "soul-deadening" effects of the Industrial Revolution.

The explanation of their cannibalistic behaviour is that there was a time when the Morlocks ran short of food. The hominids that later became the Morlocks started feeding indiscriminately on creatures such as rats. Eventually, they chased the hominoids, who later became Eloi, for mating - but who over time became their prey. The Time Traveller suggests that Eloi and Morlocks are the only species that seem to exist during that time.

After he discovers the Morlocks, the Time Traveller becomes increasingly disturbed by them to the point of paranoia. He devotes more effort to fighting them, eventually creating a huge forest fire in the night.

At the end of the book, the Time Traveller proceeds further into the future and sees, on a desolate beach, giant crab-like creatures hunting after beautiful creatures that resemble butterflies. The Time Traveller theorizes that this is an eventual result of the Eloi/Morlock struggle. Of course it is undoubtedly a struggle for a slow-moving crab to capture a butterfly, and one might conclude that the butterflies are what have become of the Eloi, who have evolved to evade the Morlock crabs. However this is highly unlikely, since neither species have any Mammal Biology to support the theory that they have any Morlock and Eloi Ancestry.

Their most likely fate was extinction from both drowning and freezing to death, when their tunnels flooded and froze in the progressing eons, as mentioned in the cut chapter of The Grey Man.The Eloi however devolved into Rabbits, only to be hunted to extinction later by giant Centipedes, thus resulting in the Human extinction, before The Time Traveller travels further into the future, to the time of giant crabs and giant butterflies.

Morlocks in sequels and prequels to the Time Machine

When the Sleeper Wakes

H. G. Wells also wrote a novel called When the Sleeper Wakes. This centers on a man who somehow falls into a sleep for several centuries, and wakes in the mid-21st century to find that he has inherited the world. In this book, we find out that an organisation derived from the Salvation Army has rounded up most of the world's lower classes, forcing them to work underground in horrible conditions for the sole benefit of the rich upper classes. It seems that these people will later degenerate into the Morlocks.

When the "Sleeper" encounters these apparent proto-Morlocks, they appear as underground workers in horrible conditions. He notes that they seem to be turning paler, as well as developing their own dialect of English.

The Time Ships

The Time Ships (1995), by Stephen Baxter is considered by the H. G. Wells estates to be the sequel to The Time Machine (1895) and is officially authorized to mark the centenary of the original publication. In its wide-ranging narrative, the Time Traveller attempts to return to the world of the Eloi and Morlocks, but instead finds that he has changed history somehow and finds a completely different world in the future: one in which there never were Eloi. Instead, humanity has constructed a metallic sphere around the Sun where the Morlocks (along with several other versions of humanity) now live. These humans are physically just like the Morlocks, although they are a race of scientists, not monsters. They lack war, religion, and many other things common to most of humanity.

These Morlocks are a moralistic, civilized race who are certainly not cannibalistic. Their sphere around the Sun consists of two sections: the outer section, where the Morlocks live in utter peace, and the inner section, where there is solar light in addition to entire floating cities composed of various non-Morlock humans of various types (some are Neanderthal-like, for example, and can design their own bodies) who are constantly at war with each other.

The Morlocks here live in a variety of nation-groups without conflict, and individuals may come and go between them as they choose. It is also worth noting that the Morlocks of the sphere do not reproduce sexually; instead, they physically "build" their offspring out of a clay-like substance.

The Morlock Nebogipfel joins the Time Traveller on his travels through time. Nebogipfel's name comes from the main character of H. G. Wells' first attempt at a time travel story, then called "Chronic Argonauts." The character's name was Dr. Moses Nebogipfel. (The name Moses was also used in The Time Ships, though it is given to the younger version of himself that the Time Traveler meets on his journey.)

Morlock Night

In K.W. Jeter's novel Morlock Night, the Morlocks have stolen the Time Machine and used it to invade Victorian London. These Morlocks are much more formidable than those in The Time Machine - a clever, technological race with enough power to take over the entire world. They also get support from certain treacherous 19th century humans, especially a dark wizard named Merdenne. It is also revealed that the Morlocks living in their native time (the 8,028th century) have stopped allowing the Eloi to roam free and now keep them in pens.

The Morlocks are separated into two types, or castes, in the novel. One is the short, weak, stupid Grunt Morlocks, who are supposedly the kind that the Time Traveller encountered, and the other is the Officer Morlocks, who are taller, more intelligent, speak English, and have high rank within the Morlock invasion force. An example of the latter type is Colonel Nalga, an antagonist later in the book.

For some reason, these Morlocks are always described as wearing blueish spectacles, which are presumably to protect the Morlocks' sensitive, dark-adapted eyes.

Other books involving Morlocks, by different authors

  • Die Reise mit der Zeitmaschine (1946), by Egon Friedell - translated by Eddy C Bertin into English and republished as The Return of the Time Machine. According to the synopsis on the back of the book, this was then the only sequel to The Time Machine. It describes the Time Traveller's further visits to the future, and the Time Machine's entanglement with the past.
  • The Man Who Loved Morlocks (1981), by David Lake. According to the synopsis on the back of the Australian edition, this novel recounts the Time Traveller's second journey. This time, he meets the Morlocks again, but is equipped with a camera and a Colt revolver.

Morlocks in other fiction

In addition to the books and stories directly based on The Time Machine, some authors have adopted the Morlocks and adapted them to their works, often completely unassociated with The Time Machine.

Allan and the Sundered Veil

The Morlocks appeared in a story by Alan Moore titled Allan and the Sundered Veil, which appeared as part of the comic book collection The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume I. In the story, the Time Traveller takes some of the regular League characters into his future world, where he has made a base out of the Morlock sphinx. The party is soon attacked by Morlocks, who are fierce, simian creatures in this story. They are physically much more powerful than Wells' creatures, although they're not much unlike the Hunter Morlocks from the 2002 film.

The Time Traveller also calls the Morlocks by a variant name, "Mi-Go" (derived from H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos tales), and states that they are "known to other ages as Abominable Snowmen." They are implied to be fairly intelligent, as the Time Traveller talks of a suspicion that they are working for the malevolent forces which are attacking the time stream.

J.R.R. Tolkien also wrote a poem about Morlocks, though these were substantially different from H.G. Wells' version.

Known Space

Larry Niven included a version of the Morlocks in his Known Space books. They appear as a subhuman alien race living in the caves in one region of Wunderland, which is one of humanity's colonies in the Alpha Centauri system.

Morlocks in essays and other nonfiction

In Neal Stephenson's essay on modern culture vis-à-vis operating system development, In the Beginning... was the Command Line, he demonstrates similarities between the future in The Time Machine and contemporary American culture. He claims that most Americans have been exposed to a "corporate monoculture" which renders them "unwilling to make judgments and incapable of taking stands." Anyone who remains outside of this "culture" is left with powerful tools to deal with the world, and it is they, rather than the neutered Eloi, that run things.

The assumption seems to be that the Eloi will manage to fill their heads with garbage one way or the other, so American culture exists to ensure that it is harmless garbage rather than the dangerous types that lead to disruptions, violence, wars, and inquisitions.

To quote Stephenson directly:

"But in our world it's the other way round. The Morlocks are in the minority, and they are running the show, because they understand how everything works. The much more numerous Eloi learn everything they know from being steeped from birth in electronic media directed and controlled by book-reading Morlocks. So many ignorant people could be dangerous if they got pointed in the wrong direction, and so we've evolved a popular culture that is (a) almost unbelievably infectious and (b) neuters every person who gets infected by it, by rendering them unwilling to make judgments and incapable of taking stands."

Morlocks in film and television

The Time Machine

George Pal version

In a movie version of The Time Machine directed by George Pál, the Morlocks are eventually defeated by the Eloi, who are motivated to fight by the Time Traveller. One of the differences of the movie Morlocks (who are blue-skinned brutes with glowing eyes) is that the divergence was created not by a varying caste system, but by being forced underground by a nuclear war. This history was told by three recording rings found in an ancient palace.

The Morlocks in the film also have a system for summoning the Eloi into their sphinx by using a disaster siren. Supposedly, this was originally used to warn of bombing. Responding to the siren has become inborn, and the Eloi now do so like cattle. It is one of the ways that the Morlocks get their food.

Simon Wells remake

In 2002, another film based on The Time Machine was directed by Simon Wells, the great-grandson of H. G. Wells. The Morlocks in this film, as well as the Eloi, have been changed in several major ways. The Morlocks have become physically stronger and faster, and are very ape-like now. In addition, they have split into several types. In addition to the "Hunter" Morlocks, who are the most like apes, there are also the "Spy" Morlocks who are physically weaker. These shoot darts at escaping Eloi, marking them with a pungent substance and making it easier for the Hunter Morlocks, with their powerful sense of smell, to track and capture them.

All the Morlocks are controlled by a race of Über-Morlocks, who appear more human than the other two castes seen in the movies. Instead of having gray skin and patches of fur, the Über-Morlock that appears in the film has long, flowing hair of the same pure white color as his skin, has the physique of a human, and wears clothing. His brain is so large that it doesn't quite fit into his head, but instead trails down his back and envelops his spine. He is telepathic, articulate in English speech, and eventually ends up fighting Alexander Hartdegen (the main character of this film).

As explained by the Über-Morlock (in terms of the 2002 movie), the Morlocks originated from humans that sought shelter underground, after an attempt at constructing a lunar colony on the Moon sent fragments of the Moon crashing to Earth. They remained underground for so long that they developed bodies with very little (if any) melanin in their skin and very sensitive eyes that could not tolerate sunlight for long. As a result of the past catastrophe and the resulting strain on resources, the proto-Morlocks divided themselves into several castes. They inbred within each caste until the Morlock race became composed of genetically fine-tuned sub-races designed for specific tasks.

The movie displays three of these races: the Hunter Morlocks that herd Eloi, the Spy Morlocks that shoot them with blowgun darts, and the Über-Morlocks that command the first two races. The Morlocks seen in the movie are destroyed when Alexander causes his time machine to malfunction and explode in their tunnels, but there are other Morlock colonies that remain and are unseen.

Television shows

The Big Bang Theory

In the episode The Nerdvana Annihilation, Leonard buys a movie prop of the time machine from the original movie for $800 USD. Sheldon dreams he falls asleep in the machine and imagines he traveled to April 28, 802,701 AD (the episode's original airdate, several millennia removed), where he is attacked by morlocks, then he wakes up and tells Leonard to get rid of the machine. Leonard then calls in movers from the company "Starving Morlocks" and they continue to eat Sheldon's flesh. He then wakes up in his bed and screams "Leonard!"

Doctor Who

In the Timelash episodes of the twenty-second season of Doctor Who, the Sixth Doctor takes H. G. Wells into the future where they encounter an underground-dwelling, reptilian species called the Morlox (a homophone of "Morlocks"). The Borad, an evil ruler, accidentally becomes half-Morlox before the episode.

Monster in My Pocket: The Quest

In 2003, Peak Entertainment relaunched Monster in My Pocket with former lead villain Warlock as the hero. The new villain became Warlock's evil twin, Morlock. The series was passed on by Cartoon Network and Peak's rights to Monster in My Pocket were revoked on December 22, 2004. With the series' limited distribution, it is difficult to say if the connection was more than a nominal one.

Power Rangers: Mystic Force

In 2006, a new incarnation of Power Rangers, titled Power Rangers: Mystic Force, includes Morlocks as the enemies of the Power Rangers. Sources from before the show's premiere described them as "zombie-like foot soldiers", and it was also implied that they live underground below the town of Briarwood (where the show takes place) and plot to rise up and destroy everything.

However, it has since been revealed that the Morlocks in the show are not simply foot soldiers; they comprise the entire group of enemies of the Power Rangers. The Morlocks in the show are entirely unlike those in The Time Machine, except that they still live underground and are villains. These Morlocks are not portrayed as a divergent species of humanity, but instead as an ancient, evil legion who were sealed underground centuries ago. The Morlocks have finally broken the seal and are planning to invade Briarwood, and later the world.

The Morlocks in this show are apparently undead, with machine components built into their bodies. Their leader is Morticon, who often quarrels with his top warrior, Knight Wolf. The main area shown of the underground Morlock headquarters is a large throne room, with an audience of Morlocks who look down and cheer at Morticon.

Also, the zombie-like foot soldiers which were originally thought to be the Morlocks are actually called "Hidiacs", who are foot soldiers who serve the Morlocks. It is unknown whether they can be considered a variety of Morlock themselves.

Specific Morlock characters

Although Morlock life has rarely been fully explored, and The Time Machine didn't depict individual Morlocks, various other sources (sequels by other authors, movie versions, etc.) have introduced characters belonging to the Morlock race. Examples of these include:

  • Nebogipfel - An example of an advanced, highly civilized Morlock race living in a different reality than the one in The Time Machine. The Time Traveller encounters Nebogipfel here, and learns about Nebogipfel's Morlocks. Nebogipfel joins the Time Traveller on his journeys through time. This occurred in The Time Ships, Stephen Baxter's sequel to The Time Machine.
  • Colonel Nalga - One of the generals of a Morlock invasion force trying to overrun England in 1892 in K.W. Jeter's Morlock Night. Nalga spoke English, unlike his Morlock brethren, and so dealt with the protagonists.
  • The Über-Morlock - In Simon Wells' 2002 remake of the 1960 film, the Über-Morlock, played by English actor Jeremy Irons, was the leader of the Morlocks, controlling them through telepathy. He had an incredibly large brain, which extended out of his head and down his back. The Über-Morlock is the main villain of the movie.
  • Morticon - In the children's show Power Rangers: Mystic Force, Morticon is the leader of a group of Morlocks, who, in the show, are cybernetic, undead creatures who dwell underground. He is the main villain of the series. Unlike traditional Morlocks, Morticon appears as a blue monstrous creature with bulky mechanical attachments which occasionally emit steam.

Creatures based on Morlocks

In the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, there is a race of creatures called the Grimlocks which seem to be based on Morlocks. They dwell underground, only ascending to raid villages, and are extremely sensitive to light. In the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, the backstory for these creatures reveals that they did evolve from a tribe of humans. They are extremely xenophobic. In the Monster Manual II there is a race of disfigured, hunchbacked humanoid creatures called Meenlocks, which may also be based on Morlocks.

In the videogame Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, the children of the Vampire Lieutenant, Turel, were known as Morlocks in the early stages of production. The first such Turelim vampire encountered in the game bestowed the Telekinesis ability upon the protagonist, Raziel, and has since been named Morlock in terms of canon.

In H. P. Lovecraft's story The Lurking Fear, the protagonist discovers that the (fictional) region of Thunder Mountain in the Catskill Mountains is inhabited by a population of ape-like, cannibalistic, degenerate humanoids who live underground. It is unclear whether these creatures are based on H. G. Wells' Morlocks, but they are remarkably similar.

In The Descent, the 2005 horror film, the 'Crawlers,' a blind cannibal race living in a deep cave system in Appalachia, closely resemble H.G. Wells' Morlocks.

In Orson Scott Card's Homecoming Saga, The fourth book Earthfall features the 'Diggers' who live below ground and terrorize the cattle-like 'Angels' who live on the surface. The Diggers share similarities with Wells' Morlocks.

In Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda television series, Magog are a violent furry species that prey on other life forms, including humans. In another thematic relation to Wells' theme of time travel, advanced Magog are brought back from the future by a super-genius engineer and crew member of the spaceship Andromeda Ascendant named Seamus Zelazny Harper.

In the movie I Am Legend, starring Will Smith, the Dark Seekers have many similarities to Wells's Morlocks, including an aversion to light, cannibalism, tribal nature, little to no melanin pigmentation, and the fact that they were originally human.

In the Warcraft series, the creature Murlock contains slightly similar features to the Morlock, and shares an almost identical name. There is also a creature called a Trog. A cannabilistic race that dwell underground and evolved from the same race that would become the dwarf.

Morlocks in popular culture

Ransom

In the film Ransom, Gary Sinise's character compares himself to a Morlock, and Mel Gibson to a fragile Eloi.

Comic Books

In Marvel Comics, a tribe of mutants who lived below New York's sewer system, the Morlocks, were named after H. G. Wells' Morlocks. They appeared originally as adversaries of the X-Men, but after Storm defeated their leader, Callisto, in battle, they became their allies.

Most of them were slaughtered in the Mutant Massacre, and the survivors later moved to Gene Nation, located in a parallel dimension. A later retcon made some of them the failed creations of the Dark Beast.

Paper Computer Games

The Paper Computer Game series features Morlocks in some of its adventures. In "Tutorial Bot's Past", a single Morlock will attack the main character if he/she comes too close. The Morlock emerges from a dark cave on a mountain.

Also, in "Welcome to Death Ward Hospital", one area of the areas has a well which leads down to the Morlock habitat. Here, the player can meet Gorbertron—the leader of the Morlocks.

IT

In the novel IT by Stephen King, the antagonist, Pennywise, lives in the sewers. The holes leading to them are referred to as "morlock holes" throughout the book.

The Simpsons

In the episode of The Simpsons, "Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder", Homer—when falling from a building with Otto on a bungee cord—goes down into an open manhole and sees various underground creatures, including Morlocks, C.H.U.D.s, and mole men (with Hans Moleman as their leader).

In "Homer the Moe" Homer is telling a story at the bar and summarizes a story he's been telling with "Eventually I become king of the Morlocks". Carl Carlson replies "But Morlocks are from the future!".

The Big Bang Theory

In the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory, Season 1, Episode 14: The Nerdvana Annihilation, Leonard impulsively purchases the actual time machine prop from the movie, The Time Machine, from an auction website. Sheldon buys a share in the time machine and falls asleep only to dream he has traveled to the year 802,701 AD and is attacked by Morlocks. Upon awakening, he is comforted by Leonard by the news that the time machine prop has been resold and to be moved immediately. The moving company then appears at the door and is comprised of Morlocks that again attack Sheldon. He then wakes up in his bed realizing it was a nested dream.

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