Deconstructing: Who’s that monster?

I’ve been burning through Stranger Things recently (a phenomenal show that you should definitely watch if you haven’t already). This blog post today is going to look into that and how it ties to some past creations from certain horror writers. If you’re okay with spoilers continue after the jump.

Alright, so, if you’re reading here, you’ve gotten far enough that you know that there is a monster lying at the heart of the whole matter. This creature, we don’t appear to get a proper nomenclature for it, lives in “the Upside-Down” – a terrifying mirror of our world full of darkness, cold, and fungus.

You also might have noticed how much this show resembles people playing an RPG. Perhaps prompted by the show’s motif, clever homages to, without referencing, Dungeons and Dragons, we were immediately brought into that headspace. It was not long before my partner-in-crime, most recently having played Call of Cthulhu, shouts out “he just failed his fast talk check” duringone particular scene.

 I warned you there would be spoilers.
I warned you there would be spoilers.

From all of this, perhaps it is no doubt that when I saw the monster it immediately struck me that this creature was familiar. While not a dead ringer, there was the nagging sensation in the back of my head that I had seen this somewhere before. Heard of it somewhere before. A creature with a strange mouth, a lack of a normal face, that lived and hunted in a world that was a mirror to our own.

It wasn’t long before I started looking through some of my books, trying to figure out what I could possibly be thinking of. After talking to another writerly friend online, and rereading some things, I found the passage that had sparked something within me.

It was a paw, fully two feet and a half across, and equipped with formidable talons. After it came another paw, and after that a great black-furred arm to which both of the paws were attached by short forearms. Then two pink eyes shone, and the head of the awakened gug sentry, large as a barrel, wabbled into view. The eyes jutted two inches from each side, shaded by bony protuberances overgrown with coarse hairs. But the head was chiefly terrible because of the mouth. That mouth had great yellow fangs and ran from the top to the bottom of the head, opening vertically instead of horizontally.

— H.P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
 Not a perfect fit, but definitely close.
Not a perfect fit, but definitely close.

Gugs, found in the Dreamlands, are one of Lovecraft’s lesser known and lesser appreciated creations. We certainly have the talons, the strange vaguely human shape, and the taloned claws. The forearms aren’t quite right, though it could be argued that this was merely not making out the best view of it being a terrifying creature. The head failing to open quite sideways and instead more like a flower is another concern, but there are certainly a large number of similarities.


The Upside-Down represents another fascinating parallel between the two. In Lovecraft’s creation, this is a distorted mirror world of our own, only accessible through those with proper sensitivity, or through other bizarre means. Perhaps Eleven’s particular skills are one such realization. The hyper-geometry of Lovecraftian magic could very well be how her capabilities are executed, just outside of our own understanding. The dark realm that she is able to reach in the sensory deprivation tanks could be her folding and manipulating reality itself to connect points through dimensions imperceptible to us.

Our modern era of television and movies is at once both a golden era of great content and a difficult one of rehashing of old, safe ideas. Grappling with old materials and reinterpreting and reimagining them is often a noble way to create new and powerful things, and this certainly feels like one of them to me. Like so many other things, it is influenced by what came before. While I would be surprised for Stranger Things to officially admit to being in the Lovecraftian mythos in a second season (please oh please give us a second season), claiming that there is no inspiration from there is laughable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *