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Lolth

Lolth is a fictional goddess in the Dungeons and Dragons fantasy role-playing game. Lolth (Lloth in the drow dialect), the Demon Queen of Spiders, is the chief goddess of drow elves. She is also known as the Spider Queen and the Queen of the Demonweb Pits.

Lolth was created by Gary Gygax for the World of Greyhawk campaign setting, later appeared in the Forgotten Realms setting, and is now a member of the default pantheon of D&D gods. In those various settings, the drow pantheon of gods consists of the leader Lolth, as well as Kiaransalee, Vhaeraun, and Zinzerena and also the one good goddess Eilistraee. Other drow gods may be present in different campaign settings.

Lolth was also named as one of the greatest villains in D&D history by the final issue of Dragon.

Publication history

Lolth was created by Gary Gygax.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977-1988)

Lolth was first mentioned in the module Vault of the Drow (1978), and was the main antagonist of the module Queen of the Demonweb Pits (1980). These modules were later reprinted as part of the Queen of the Spiders collection in 1986.

Lolth's role as a deity was first explored in Deities and Demigods (1980). Her game statistics were reprinted in the Fiend Folio (1981).

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989-1999)

Lolth's role in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting was first detailed in Ed Greenwood's Drow of the Underdark (1991).

Lolth was detailed as a deity in the book Monster Mythology (1992), including details about her priesthood.

Her role in the cosmology of the Planescape campaign setting was described in On Hallowed Ground (1996).

Lolth received a very detailed description of her role in the Forgotten Realms in Demihuman Deities (1998).

Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 edition (2000-2002)

Lolth is detailed in Defenders of the Faith (2000), and Deities and Demigods (2002), and her role in the Forgotten Realms is revisited in Faiths and Pantheons (2002).

Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition (2003-2007)

Lolth's priesthood is detailed for this edition in Complete Divine (2004), and her role in the Abyss is detailed in the Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss (2006).

Lolth and the drow are further detailed in both Drow of the Underdark (2007), and the adventure Expedition to the Demonweb Pits (2007).

Dragon #359 (September 2007), the final print issue of the magazine, described Lolth as one of the 20 most memorable villains of the Dungeons & Dragons game.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008-)

Lolth appears as one of the deities described in the Dungeon Master's Guide for this edition (2008).

Description

Lolth is a demon lord and a goddess worshiped by the drow (some myths propose that she was originally a goddess who was transformed into a demon). She displays formidable power and great cruelty with an affection for arachnids. Goddess of Darkness, Drow, Evil, and Spiders (and assassins and chaos in the Forgotten Realms), Lolth has, through deceit and domination, garnered the ears of the dark elves and eventually established herself as their foremost deity, keeping them under her thumb by creating a society in which only the strong survive and her priestesses are strongest.

Lolth is a Chaotic Evil Intermediate Power. Her symbol is a black spider with the head of a female drow (and in the Forgotten Realms, hanging from a spider web).

Lolth's appearance has remained the same with small changes and modifications throughout the game's three editions. Lolth usually appears in two forms: drow and arachnid. In drow form, the Spider Queen appears as an "exquisitely beautiful" female dark elf, sometimes covered in clinging spiders. In her arachnid form, Lolth takes the appearance of a giant black widow spider with the head of a female drow or human peering from between the eight spider-eyes. Sometimes, the two foremost pair of her spider-legs are actually humanoid arms. In third edition, her arachnid form has taken more of a drider-like appearance, due to the events of the "War of the Spider Queen" novel series.

Realm

Lolth dwells in her divine realm of the Demonweb Pits, a demonic realm formed entirely of a single great fractal web, where she is served by legions of powerful mystical slaves. Lolth's residence in this realm is a mobile iron spider-shaped stronghold. In the default Dungeons & Dragons cosmology, the Demonweb Pits are located on the 66th layer of the Abyss (although in the Queen of the Spiders supermodule, author David C Sutherland locates her realm on layer 65). In the current iteration of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, the Demonweb Pits is a plane to itself. However, there appears to be some controversy regarding the status of the Demonweb Pits in that particular campaign: the 3rd edition campaign setting says that the Demonweb Pits are a separate plane, but in the novel Extinction by Lisa Smedman they are explicitly referred to as part of the Abyss, namely the 66th layer (as in the "default" cosmology). But, as seen by the end of the War of the Spider Queen series, it is shown that the Demonweb Pits had, while Lolth was "evolving," separated and became its own plane.

Relationships

Lolth has sworn vengeance against Corellon Larethian and his people. She has her own rivalries with the various demon lords of the Abyss, noticeably with Zuggtmoy, the Demoness Lady of Fungi. Lolth's re-ascension to true godhood has basically elevated her above competition from the Lady of Fungi, but the two still harbor hatred for one another.

Lolth opposes at every opportunity the deities of the surface elves, and loathes Corellon with an unparalleled passion. She is hated by Fenmarel Mestarine and Tarsellis Meunniduin, who she seduced (according to varying myths) to gain entrance to the elven pantheon. She also considers among her major foes Vhaeraun, Gruumsh, and Ilsensine. She is served by Keptolo, who is too lazy to oppose her, and by Kiaransalee. She is resisted by Zinzerena and her cult.

The Spider Queen slew Abrogard, Guldor's god of evil, and is currently assuming his aspect on that world.

Servants and minions

Lolth is personally served by a race of shapeshifting demons called the yochlol. In their natural form, yochlol resemble molten blobs of wax with large, glaring red eyes.

Ranking just below yochlols are the myrlochar or soul spiders, arachnid-shaped demons who glow with a greenish hue.

Greatest among Lolth's servants are the Proxies of Lolth, spidery monstrosities with the heads of beautiful drow maidens. They are granted the powers of demigods.

The Dark Seldarine

Lolth is the leader of the Dark Seldarine, the drow pantheon of gods but a pantheon in name only. The Spider Queen dominates all of the other powers of the Dark Seldarine and brooks (or at least admits) no challenge to her ultimate authority and only the weakest members, Kiaransalee and Selvetarm, acknowledge Lolth as the leader of their pantheon, an unavoidable testament to the great power of the Spider Queen. The members of the Dark Seldarine are as follows: Eilistraee the Dark Maiden, Ghaunadaur or That Which Lurks, Kiaransalee the Revenancer, Selvetarm the Champion of Lolth and Vhaeraun the Masked Lord, who is also the father of Selvetarm (Selvetarm is the product of an ill-fated union between Vhaeraun and the goddess Zandilar the Dancer, an aspect of Sharess, a goddess of hedonism worshipped by the Yuir elves). Lolth is unanimously hated by the other members of the Dark Seldarine. All but Eilistraee wish to usurp the Spider Queen and replace her as the head of their dark pantheon, but the Dark Maiden seeks to end her vicious mother's evil tyranny over the drow and help them return to the Realms Above in peace and redemption. Until recently, the home of the Dark Seldarine was based in the Demonweb Pits, the 66th layer of the Abyss, though Eilistraee prefers to reside in Arvandor with her father. This has changed with Lolth's recent ascension to greater godhood, that of Intermediate Power from Lesser Power.

Forgotten Realms

Lolth opposes at every opportunity the deities of the surface elves, and loathes Corellon with an unparalleled passion. She also considers amongst her major foes Ghaunadaur, Eilistraee, Vhaeraun, Gruumsh and Ilsensine. On occasions she allies with Malar and Loviatar, but these are hardly stable friendships. She is served by Selvetarm, who is too weak to oppose her, and nominally by Kiaransalee, though she and Lolth hate each other and recently this rift has deepened when Kiaransalee stole many of Lolth's worshipers, especially in the case of the city of Maerimydra.

History

Lolth was banished to the Abyss by Corellon Larethian, who has forevermore been her enemy.

Forgotten Realms

Long before the elves first travelled to Abeir-Toril from the original elven homeland of Tintageer on the magical world of Faerie, Lolth was known as Araushnee, the "Weaver of Destiny", a Lesser deity of the Seldarine, the elven pantheon of gods. As a goddess of weavers and a spinner of fate, the destiny of the Ssri-Tel'Quessir (dark elves) was placed in the hands of Araushnee by the decree of Corellon Larethian, Creator of the Elves and leader of the Seldarine, in addition to being the consort of Araushnee. The union between Corellon Larethian and the Weaver of Destiny in the form of two children, the Lesser deities Vhaeraun, the Masked Lord, and Eilistraee, the Dark Maiden.

Despite all of this, Araushnee was a jealous schemer who envied Corellon and secretly planned to overthrow him and replace him as First of the Seldarine and Coronal of Arvandor. Allying herself with Gruumsh, leader of the orcish pantheon and an arch-nemesis to Corellon, Araushnee attempted to have her consort assassinated by using her position as a loved one of Corellon. Her many attempts to kill the First of the Seldarine failed and eventually these plots were discovered by Sehanine Moonbow, the most powerful goddess of the Seldarine, who had also been suspicious of Araushnee's true motivations. Upon confronting the Weaver of Destiny, Sehanine Moonbow was imprisoned by the traitor goddess. Seeing an opportunity, Araushnee was roused to action and she, Gruumsh and her son Vhaeraun, another co-conspirator in Araushnee's plots, gathered together a great alliance of Greater and Lesser deities of the orcs, goblinoids, kobolds, giants, ogres and many other gods of the evil races. This army of deities was also joined by Malar, god of evil werebeasts, Auril, the savage Frostmaiden and Ghaunadaur, or That Which Lurks, a primordial evil and a future member of the Dark Seldarine.

The god-army marched on Arvandor, facing Corellon Larethian and the rest of the Seldarine (bar Sehanine Moonbow, who was still imprisoned), including Eilistraee, who was unaware of her mother's treachery. During the battle that followed, Araushnee and Vhaeraun feigned to fight for the Seldarine while attempting to aid the opposing army, Araushnee even going so far as to redirect an arrow fired by her daughter to hit Corellon. Amid the course of the battle, Sehanine Moonbow managed to escape her imprisonment and revealed the treachery and betrayal of Araushnee to Corellon. The battle for Arvandor was eventually won, the evil army of beast gods eventually driven off by the combined might of the assembled Seldarine and the other fey deities of Arborea. As the battle was being fought, Corellon Larethian faced his betrayer.

Araushnee once again tried to kill her former lover but the intervention of three elven goddesses prevented this. Sehanine Moonbow, Hanali Celanil and Aerdrie Faenya had all come to battle Araushnee the Weaver and, coalescing their collective powers into a new form they created the goddess Angharradh, a new consort to Corellon and an equal to him in power. Araushnee was swiftly defeated by Angharradh. Corellon looked upon the defeated form of his betrayer, mother of his children and once beloved by him, it was then that the First of the Seldarine broken-heartedly cursed his love, Araushnee the Weaver of Destiny, into the form of a hideous spider-bodied tanar'ri, stripping her of her divinity and branding her with the name Lolth and casted her into the Abyss, never to return. Corellon also banished Vhaeraun, knowing of his son's duplicity and involvement in his mother's plots. Though Corellon knew his daughter's innocence, Eilistraee chose to share the fate of her mother and brother, the Dark Maiden no doubt sensing that the dark elves would one day need a reprieve from the path of hate and evil that they would eventually set upon, following their dark goddess; their Spider Queen.

In the Abyss, many millennia passed by as Lolth raged bitterly over her failed plans, along the way rejecting the advances of Ghaunadaur and sending it into a terrible rage, during which it stole the intellect of many of its followers, effectively robbing itself of most of its power, power which it has only recently regained. However, the Queen of Spiders learned an important lesson from That Which Lurks, by gaining the worship of mortals she could return to her former level of power and beyond. Revealing herself to the dark elven races on various worlds, especially Abeir-Toril, Lolth regained her divinity, achieving part of her ultimate goal to wreak terrible vengeance on Corellon Larethian and the Seldarine. Lolth was the secret power behind many of the dark elven houses of Ilythiir during the terrible Crown Wars that waged between the great elven empires of an age long ago. When the clerics of lost Illefarn prayed to the Seldarine for salvation from the evil elves of Ilythiir and the avatar of Corellon Larethian cursed all Ssri-Tel'Quessir to share the fate of their Abyssmal mother, naming them dhaeraow and divorcing them from the light of day, Lolth led her people into the Underdark, mirroring her own fall from Arvandor so long before. Again, Lolth broke Corellon's heart with this Descent. The dark elves were sundered forever from their creator and all Tel'Quessir, and again Lolth had taken another step in her quest for vengeance against Corellon and his Seldarine.

The drow, as they came to be known, grew strong in the Underdark, infiltrating and dominating their subterranean environment with zealous fervor. Lolth's worship became paramount to the power hungry, status-obsessed drow and the Spider Queen's dark majesty has flourished as the dark elves have grown in power. Great temples and cities were built in Lolth's name, foremost among them Menzoberranzan. Founded by Menzoberra the Kinless, a refugee high priestess of Lolth who had fled the destruction of Golothaer (which fell due to infighting among the city's rival clergies), Menzoberranzan is the favoured city of the Spider Queen: so much so that it was her refuge during the events of the recent series of events known as The Time of Troubles.

Lolth's recent activities included:

  • During the Time of Troubles, manifesting in Menzoberranzan where she found and slew the minor drow goddess of assassins Zinzerena, assuming her portfolio. She also paid a visit to the old Matron Baenre to help her get rid of the heretic psionicist Matron Oblodra.
  • In 1371 DR, Lolth allied herself once again with Malar in order to invade the homeland of Corellon's people on Toril, Evermeet, by releasing the villainous elf Kymil Nimesin from his extraplanar prison, and unleashing Ityak-Ortheel, the Elf-Eater. Her plots were again foiled by the might of Amlaruil, queen of Evermeet, and the goddess Angharradh, and she was driven off with Malar by Ityak-Ortheel.
  • In 1372 DR, Lolth fell silent, not answering the prayers of her priestesses, and causing chaos amongst the drow, particularly the drow of Menzoberranzan—led by House Baenre, whose own High Priestess of Lolth, Triel, commanded her sister Quenthel to investigate—and Ched Nasad—which was destroyed. These events are detailed in the War of the Spider Queen series.
  • At the culmination of War of the Spider Queen series Lolth achieved Greater divinity after choosing her Yor'thae (Chosen One), Danifae Yauntyrr.

Greyhawk

Lolth was, along with Iuz and the demoness Zuggtmoy, one of the deities involved in the plots centered around the Temple of Elemental Evil.

Later, she attempted to invade Oerth via the city of Istivin in Sterich, but her plans were foiled by a band of heroes. These events are assumed to have occurred in the first edition Dungeons & Dragons supermodule GDQ1-7 Queen of the Spiders.

Dogma

Lolth teaches her children that fear is strength, while love and respect are weakness. She demands that those drow who will not worship her must be converted or slain. She seeks to kill the weak and reward the strong. Disobedient males and non-drow must be sacrificed to Lolth. Spiders are a holy animal in Lolth's faith, and those who to kill a spider is a cardinal sin. Lolth is so chaotic, however, that her commands are ever-changing and often contradictory, so that those who seek to follow them blindly may meet with destruction.

Worshipers

Drow who fail Lolth (and there are many ways to fail the capricious goddess) are usually either slain or transformed into driders: centaur-like creatures that have spider-like bodies below their waists instead of a centaur's equine features. Other aberrations that Lolth transforms her victims into include the aracholoth, spiderleg horror, and brood mother. Lolth is also served by a race of shapeshifting demons called the yochlol. In their natural form, yochlol resemble molten blobs of wax with large, glaring red eyes.

Lolth is also worshipped by spidery creatures called chitines and araneas, and by some human cultists such as Lareth the Beautiful.

Clergy

Lolth's clerics are usually female. There are rare male clerics, but no male is allowed to achieve the rank of high priest. Her clerics wear red and black, and drow tunics and helms. The Spider Queen's sacred animals are (naturally) arachnids.

During rituals, clerics of Lolth are nude or clad in black robes with purple and deep red trim. Lesser clerics wear dark red or purple robes, trimmed with black. Ornate spider-shaped helms may also be worn.

Temples

Lolth is worshipped in underground marble temples or fanes. They are large and imposing, dominating and overshadowing the communities in which they are built. They are defended by priestesses, soldiers, and often spiders of various kinds. Dark lore and potent magics are stored within.

Holy days

Ceremonies to the Spider Queen are held on the nights of the full moon as a deliberate affront to Sehanine Moonbow.

Rituals

Surface elves are sacrificed to Lolth monthly. By custom, only females are permitted to attend these rituals, which take place in a sacred room. Some rituals, however, involve extraordinary power or require public display, and these may be performed in the open, in mixed company. When Lolth's aid is required, the blood of enemies of the faith and/or the faithful is spilled with a spider-shaped knife. Gems or other treasures may be sacrificed by casting them into burning braziers while the appropriate prayers are incanted.

Lolth's taste in sacrifice is perverse. She prefers the blood of elves to other humanoids, that of drow to other elves, and craves the deaths of her own priestesses more than any other beings. This last sort of sacrifice is extremely rare, but it pleases the Queen of Spiders above all else.

Periodically, drow may be forced to prove themselves worthy of Lolth's favor in a variety of harsh tests. Those who pass are rewarded, while those who fail are transformed into driders and other horrific beasts. In 4th edition, however, becoming a drider is actually the reward for successfully passing the test and driders are respected and admired in drow culture.

Orders

Militant Myrlochar, Order of Soul Spiders:The Militant Myrlochar, also known as the Order of Soul Spiders, is an elite military order composed solely of male crusaders and found in the few dark elven cities where Lolth is revered and males are permitted to enter her priesthood. The Militant Myrlochar directly serve the ruling Matron Mothers of the city in which they are based as agents of uncontrolled destruction, tirelessly hunting any creature designated as their quarry or who interferes with their pursuit and wreaking havoc until recalled (which rarely happens) or destroyed (their most common fate).Handmaidens of the Spider Queen:The Handmaidens of the Spider Queen is an order of female crusaders with no permanent ties to any individual city. Also known as the Daughters of the Yochlol, the Handmaidens serve as instruments of Lolth's will in times when the Spider Queen needs to bring an entire city into line.

At least three times in recorded history the Handmaidens of the Spider Queen have assaulted and destroyed an entire dark elven city that threatened to drift from Lolth's web of chaos. When not assembled into an army of chaos and vengeance, the Handmaidens work in small companies scattered throughout the Underdark, harassing merchant trains that look to other deities for protection and conducting hit-and-run raids on cities ruled by the clergy of other deities.

Myths and legends

The banishment of Lolth

According to the myths of the surface elves, Lolth was once an elven goddess of weavers and destiny known as Megwandir or Araushnee, dwelling with the other gods of the Seldarine in the plane of Arborea, where her worshippers produced the best silk in the multiverse. After trying to usurp the throne of Corellon Larethian, she was transformed into a demon and cast into the Abyss. There, she slowly regained her lost divinity by corrupting the dark elves.

The drow consider this myth blasphemous; their goddess was always supreme, and never bowed before another deity. She was always Lolth, and names like "Megwandir" or "Araushnee" are fictions invented by the light elves.

Expulsion from the surface world

In this drow myth, Lolth, "strongest and wisest" of the elven gods, approached Corellon Larethian and suggested that he help her convince the other elven deities to "spread wisdom and skill" among the elves in order that they could dominate the "lesser races." Corellon agreed, but betrayed her in the end, arguing instead that the elves should remain exactly as they were rather than being reduced to the level of "these new beasts."

Furious, Lolth visited the strongest and most skilled of the mortal elves in secret, cloaked in darkness and night, teaching them the arts of weapons, deception, magic, and survival. These chosen elves named themselves duaral, a word meaning "Hunters of the Crescent Moon." This word eventually became the modern word drow.

When traitors among the duaral revealed their secret training to the other elven gods, they were terrified that Lolth's chosen might come to dominate elven culture. To prevent this from happening, Corellon led the other elves into war, and the Seldarine marked the skin of the duaral with darkness so that they would be easy for the other elves to distinguish from their own. Though the duaral were more skilled, the unelect were more numerous, and ultimately the duaral retreated beneath the world, where their enemies were too cowardly to follow. There, they thrived.

The drow exodus

This is a variant of the "expulsion from the surface world" myth, and is more popular among the drow. In this variant, there was no war between Lolth's followers and the mewling servants of the other elven gods. Instead, Lolth led her chosen away in the dead of night, marking them herself so that they could better blend with the darkness. She chose kingdoms for them under the Oerth where they could rule without distractions from their weakling cousins.

First among elves

In this rare variation, the elven race originated in the Underdark. When Lolth chose the best and wisest of them to be her chosen followers, she banished the weaker and less intelligent elves to the surface world to burn beneath the sun, cursing them with pale skin so that their weakness would be obvious for all to see. This myth seems to have been suppressed for thousands of years, either by the surface elves or the drow who wished to maintain the hatred and resentment felt by their kind, but it has been gaining rapidly in popularity among the youngest generation.

Lolth in other media

Television

Lolth makes an appearance in the episode "Hall of Bones" of the 1983 Dungeons & Dragons animated series. Lolth initially appears as a beautiful elven woman who offers to lead the series' heroes through an underground passage to escape a horde of monsters. Having lured the heroes into her subterranean trap, Lolth transforms into her demonic spider form and drops her victims onto a giant web. She is then joined by the series' main villain Venger, with whom she is apparently allied, who introduces her as "Lolth, Demon Queen of Spiders." The animated version of Lolth appears far weaker then her depictions in the Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk settings, as she is quickly and easily defeated when her web is cut, causing her to fall helplessly down a bottomless pit.

Fiction

In Rose Estes' novel The Eyes Have It, Lolth is slain by Kathryn Fern-Clyffe, Queen for Life of the Yeomanry, with the aid of a magic gem called the Eye of Tiros, stolen from the drow.

In Paul Kidd's novel Descent into the Depths of the Earth, Lolth's plans to conquer the Flanaess are foiled by the Justicar and Escalla (thanks to a magical bottle of fairy wine, vintage sixty-three); a few months later, in the Queen of the Demonweb Pits novel (also by Kidd), Lolth and her allies try to have their revenge on the adventurers, however, at the end of the novel, Lolth is destroyed in her native plane, supposedly for good.

Lolth is A recurring character in the comic strip Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic

Imitations

Velma Green from The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy seems to be based on Lolth; she appears as a female drider and is able to control spiders by singing. At her wedding she had dark elves do the catering, further connecting the two.

Also, in one episode of South Park, a giant spider (who resembles Ungoliant from The Silmarillion) makes an appearance and is called the Queen Spider.

Elephant Mud features a demon called 'Lloth' at the end of the Drow Temple, which is currently the most feared of all the monsters in the realms.

References

Additional reading

  • Races of the Wild
  • Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (Third Edition)
  • Dragon magazine #54 - "Down-to-earth divinity"

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