Mythology and fiction in NetHack

Mythology and fiction in NetHack

The computer game "NetHack" draws from many mythologies which are not explicitly fictional, as well as works of modern fiction and other computer games.


* djinni
* ghoul


* Marduk, the Creator
* The cave(wo)man pantheon: Anu, Ishtar and Anshar


* zombie


* The knight pantheon: Lugh, Brigit and Manannan mac Lir


* dragon—but see below
* ki-rin
* The monk pantheon: Shan Lai Ching, Chih Sung-tzu and Huan Ti
* yeti


* Archon
* centaur
* Cerberus (this monster does not appear in actual game currently)
* Geryon
* erinys
* Medusa
* minotaur
* nymph
* The Cyclops
* The healer pantheon: Athena, Hermes and Poseidon
* The Staff of Aesculapius
* titan
* The statue of Perseus
* Sirius (ranger's pet dog name, referring to Orion's dog)


* Book of the Dead
* The wizard pantheon: Ptah, Thoth and Anhur


* ettin


Some monsters are taken from myths and folklore whose precise origins are unknown, but which are essentially medieval European.
* bugbear
* chickatrice
* cockatrice
* dragons were known to the Chinese, but dragons as monsters are a European myth
* gargoyle
* giants are present in almost all cultures
* goblin
* gremlin
* imp
* incubus
* kraken
* leocrotta
* leprechaun
* ogre
* succubus
* troll
* unicorn
* vampire
* werewolf


* doppelgänger
* elf
* gnome
* kobold


* naga


* The samurai pantheon: Amaterasu Omikami, Raijin and Susanowo
* The tsurugi of Muramasa
* tengu


* Angel
* Asmodeus
* Baalzebub
* golem
* Hell (now called Gehennom)
* Moloch
* Three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Death, Famine, and Pestilence (in conversation with these three, and in the sourcecode, the role of War is implied to have been assumed by the player)
* The invocation ritual ("Bell, book, and candle") is loosely connected to the Catholic excommunication ceremony []


* couatl or "coatl" is the nahuatl name for snakes
* The archeologist pantheon: Quetzalcoatl, Camaxtli and Huhetotl (a variant spelling of Huehueteotl)
* xans are named after the mosquito from Popol Vuh


* dwarf
* Mjollnir, the artifact war hammer
* The valkyrie class and pantheon: Tyr, Odin and Loki
* Lord Surtur

North American

* The cryptozoological sasquatch


* Demogorgon
* Dispater
* Geryon
* lemure
* manes
* Orcus
* The ranger pantheon: Mercury, Venus and Mars


* Excalibur
* King Arthur
* The Cŵn Annwn


"NetHack" draws on several fictional works, especially "Dungeons & Dragons" and the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien, but also many other fantasy writers, some of which in turn were inspired by ancient myths.

"Dungeons & Dragons"

* Aleax
* gelatinous cube
* giant spider
* green slime
* hezrou
* Juiblex, the demon lord
* lich
* lurker above
* marilith
* mimic
* mind flayer
* nalfeshnee
* owlbear
* piercer
* pit fiend
* pyrolisk
* quasit
* rothé
* rust monster
* trapper
* umber hulk
* vrock
* winter wolf
* xorn
* Yeenoghu, the demon lord


* balrog
* barrow wight
* cram ration
* dwarvish/elven mithril coat
* Elbereth
* hobbit
* lembas wafer
* Mordor orc
* mumak
* Nazgûl
* Olog-hai
* orc
* Orcrist, the artifact weapon
* Sting, the artifact weapon
* The ranger class
* Uruk-hai
* warg


* Jabberwocks and Vorpal Blade, the artifact sword, are from Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky"
* The Magic Mirror of Merlin is from Edmund Spenser's poem "The Faerie Queene"
* References to 'Maud' when the player characters lose their memory are inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Maud"


* Grayswandir, the artifact silver saber, is from Roger Zelazny's "Chronicles of Amber"
* Stormbringer, the artifact runesword, is from the "Elric" fantasy fiction stories by Michael Moorcock
* The barbarian class and pantheon (Mitra, Crom, Set), Pelias, the Heart of Ahriman, and Thoth-Amon are related to Robert E. Howard's "Conan the Barbarian" novels
* The tourist class, pantheon (Blind Io, The Lady, Offler) and quest (with Twoflower) are based on Terry Pratchett's "Discworld"
* The rogue class pantheon (Issek of the Jug, Mog, Kos) is from Fritz Leiber's "Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser" stories. []
* The crysknife is from Frank Herbert's "Dune" novel, and the "Long Worms" are based on "Dune"'s sandworms, called Shai-Hulud
* The towel, the graffiti message "We apologize for the inconvenience", the dog-eared spellbook and several hallucination monsters are from Douglas Adams' "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy"
* The Eyes of the Overworld and sandestins are from Jack Vance's "Dying Earth" books
* The graffiti messages "A.S. ->" and "<- A.S." are references to "Journey to the Center of the Earth"
* A player who has become invisible can wear a "mummy wrapping" in order to become visible again, a reference to the opening scene of H. G. Wells's "The Invisible Man"
* A hatching dragon makes a cry of "Gleep!"—a reference to the dragon Gleep from "MythAdventures"

Film and television

* The archeologist class (starting with fedora, leather jacket and bullwhip) is based on Indiana Jones movie character
* gremlins appear with their unique characteristics as portrayed in the 1984 movie "Gremlins"
* grid bugs are from the 1982 movie "Tron"
* The save and exit message "Be seeing you..." is from "The Prisoner"
* The Keystone Kops from early silent films appear as the game's police force

Video games

* The Wizard of Yendor first appeared in "NetHack's" predecessor, "Hack"
* The wumpus is from the computer game "Hunt the Wumpus"
* The brass lantern, the fortune cookie message "The magic word is XYZZY" and the graffiti message "You won't get it up the steps" are references to "Adventure"
* The 'Sokoban' levels are a tribute to the Japanese computer game of the same name
* "NetHack"'s currency, the zorkmid, is from the computer game "Zork"


* Snickersnee, the artifact katana, is from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta "The Mikado"
* The graffiti message "notary sojak" is a reference to "Smokey Stover"
* Eating tinned spinach produces the message "This makes you feel like Popeye!"
* The Quantum Mechanic monster may drop a box containing Schrödinger's cat


Some characters and monsters are based on historical reality:
* Ashikaga Takauji
* baluchitherium
* Croesus
* Hippocrates
* killer bee
* Lord Carnarvon
* mastodon
* Oracle of Delphi
* queen bee
* titanothere
* Vlad the Impaler


* [ A Bibliography of NetHack's Database]

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