31 Lists of Horror: Tammy Armstrong’s Favourite Literary Monsters

Howev­er you want to say and/or spell it—Halloween, Hallowe’en, All Hal­lows Eve, Net­flix and Chill—October 31 is indis­putably the choco­late industry’s spook­i­est time of year. With that in mind, I present 31 Lists of Hor­ror, of my own and of my lit­er­ary brethren both near and far.

These are per­son­al, high­ly sug­ges­tive lists of rec­om­men­da­tions, avoid­ances, and/or rem­i­nis­cences. I make no guar­an­tees, save one: if you don’t read the whole of each list, you’ll get a nasty splin­ter in the near future. I don’t make the rules.

Today’s special guest lister: Tammy Armstrong


Tam­my Armstrong’s most recent poet­ry col­lec­tion is The Scare in the Crow (Goose Lane). She is the recent win­ner of the 2017 Yeats Inter­na­tion­al Poet­ry Prize for her poem “The Vary­ing Hare.” Tam­my lives in south­ern Nova Sco­tia.

October 4, 2017

Tammy Armstrong’s Favourite Monsters in Literature

Jab­ber­wocky (illus­tra­tion from the nov­el)

The Jabberwocky
  • Lewis Carroll’s Through the Look­ing-Glass and What Alice Found There
  • Carroll’s non­sen­si­cal mon­ster. A chimera-like, “slithy crea­ture,” it has the body of a drag­on and the head of a catfish—though we nev­er real­ly know what it’s angry about, we do know it means busi­ness because it “wif­fles” and “bur­bles.”
  • Full poem here.

Behe­moth (illus­tra­tion from Signet edi­tion)

  • Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Mas­ter and Mar­gari­ta
  • Not only is he a giant, demon­ic cat who is equal­ly fond of firearms and vod­ka, he also enjoys play­ing chess with live pieces, and mak­ing boozy jokes and philo­soph­i­cal obser­va­tions incom­pre­hen­si­ble to all but him­self.

Sred­ni Vashtar (cov­er, Dover Thrift Edi­tion)

Sredni Vashtar
  • Saki’s short sto­ry “Sred­ni Vashtar”
  • A sharp-fanged pole­cat that inspires mys­tic rev­er­ence in the ten-year-old con­va­les­cent, Con­radin. Sred­ni Vashtar becomes a mer­ci­less, tool-shed god, silent in his stack of straw, and wor­shipped for his poten­tial to destroy those that Con­radin dis­likes most.
  • Full sto­ry here.

The Gob­lin Mar­ket (illus­tra­tion from the sto­ry)

The Goblins
  • Christi­na Rossetti’s poem “Gob­lin Mar­ket”
  • They’re indus­tri­ous, ear­ly ris­ers who believe in the free mar­ket. Cat-faced, rat-faced, and whisk-tail’d, they still have to pay the rent, regard­less of what the young ladies in the neigh­bour­hood think.
  • Full poem here.

The Doubt­ful Guest (illus­tra­tion from the sto­ry)

The Doubtful Guest
  • Edward Gorey’s The Doubt­ful Guest
  • A strange crow/penguin/aardvark crea­ture in high-tops appears unin­vit­ed, unex­pect­ed and stays and stays at the Bish­op family’s house for sev­en­teen years with “no inten­tion of going away.” Like all bad room-mates, it caus­es trouble—it tears chap­ters out of books, snaps off pieces of stereo equip­ment, and throws their favourite pos­ses­sions into the pond. On low ener­gy days, it falls into bouts of melan­choly, forc­ing every­one to walk over it. It is, I think, one of the most annoy­ing mon­sters on this list.
  • Full sto­ry here.

The Groke (Deviant Art, illus­tra­tion by Oceansoul7777)

The Groke
  • Tove Jansson’s Moomim books
  • The Groke’s a mound of a mon­ster with strange lit­tle eyes and rows of very sharp teeth. Like The Doubt­ful Guest, she’s a lon­er who tends to show up unin­vit­ed, look­ing for a hand-out. While pitied, The Moomins keep their dis­tance because wher­ev­er she walks, the ground freezes, bon­fires freeze, and plants die.

The Hound (illus­tra­tion from the nov­el)

The Hellhound
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hounds of the Baskervilles
  • Big, black, with red-glow­ing eyes—the mon­strous hell­hound has haunt­ed the Baskerville fam­i­ly ever since an ances­tor made a deal with the dev­il. Its char­ac­ter is very much like the myth­i­cal Black Shuck, a ghost­ly black dog that roams the Eng­lish coast, ter­ror­iz­ing those who trav­el alone at night.
  • Full book here.

The Noth­ing (frame from the movie adap­ta­tion)

The Nothing
  • Michael Ende’s The Nev­erend­ing Sto­ry 
  • An exis­ten­tial mon­ster, a dark cloud set on eras­ing all mag­ic, inven­tive­ness, and imag­i­na­tive think­ing from the world. It’s described as rep­re­sent­ing “human apa­thy, cyn­i­cism, and the denial of child­ish dreams.” It reminds me of the black light­ning storms that roam across the moun­tains in Colorado—just the sort Tes­la came to study.

The Rav­en­ous Bug­blat­ter Beast of Traal (DeviantArt, illus­tra­tion by Lonean­i­ma­tor)

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
  • Dou­glas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • A mind-bog­ging­ly stu­pid” mon­ster. If you can’t see it, it assumes it can’t see you—wrapping a tow­el around your head is the best defense. It is very big and likes to eat things, espe­cial­ly tourists and looky-loos.

The Black Rab­bit of Inlé (frame from the movie adap­ta­tion)

The Black Rabbit of Inlé
  • Richard Adams’ Water­ship Down
  • A sil­hou­ette of dark­ness upon dark­ness and he had no scent,” the Black Rab­bit of Inlé is a rabbit’s grim reaper. Immor­tal and feared, he lives in a dark war­ren filled the bod­ies of dead rab­bits, mem­o­ries of vio­lent deaths from snares and fox­es, and sad­ness. The rab­bits sense him behind them, but when they move it moves with them. “What lies on the dark side of the moon? Ask the Black Rab­bit. He knows.”

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