Wednesday, 18 July 2012

064 - Malifaux Masters Inspiration - Neverborn

The background behind the Malifaux masters has been discussed briefly in the Wyrd forums in the past, but I thought it might be interesting to bring together some of that information, along with a bit of my own research.

First up - Neverborn!

Lilith is actually a pretty easy character to find the inspiration for. She shares her name and a lot of her attributes with the Lilith of Jewish myth who dates right back to Assyria around 700BC (present day northern Iraq). The Assyrians had 2 types of demons named Lilit (female), Lilu (male) and this is believed to be where her name came from originally. It’s pretty obvious to see that these names were also used for the Neverborn twins in Rising Powers.

Babylonian Lilith Statue - no Greatsword here!
A Lilit was a she-demon or succubus with long hair and wings who seduced human men and savagely hunted and killed babies and children. Originally it referred to a type of demon rather than a specific individual.

This ancient legend was incorporated into Jewish folklore in medieval times, where the Lilit myth was merged with the story of Genesis from the Bible. According to this new myth, before God made Eve, he had made Lilith from the same dust that Adam had been created. The first couple argued a lot, as Adam wanted to rule over Lilith but she considered herself his equal. Pesky women, eh!

Lilith eventually left Adam and the Garden of Eden behind and fled to the Red Sea where she gave birth to numerous demon-children. Adam sent three angels to retrieve her, and when they found her they threatened to kill a hundred of her offspring a day if she didn't come back to the Garden with them. Lilith refused, but in return she promised that she would go out and weaken and kill small children and babies descended from Adam, in retribution for her mistreatment. God went on to create the more subservient Eve out of Adam’s rib (so she couldn’t claim her equality) and the rest is history.

In modern popular culture, Lilith is portrayed as the archetypal succubus demon, and examples of her can be seen in anime, film and music. The character also made a recent appearance as a main series villain in the TV show Supernatural.

A typical Succubus


Most people know the story of Pandora’s box, but I hadn't realised that in the Pandora myth she was, just like Lilith, the first woman. This time coming from Greek mythology, Pandora was created by Hephaestus (God of technology, fire and craft) to be the first woman, as a punishment for men who had recently stolen fire from the Gods. The name Pandora means “all-gifted”, referring to the seductive gifts that the various Gods contributed to her completion. Athena gave her beauty, dressed her in a silvery gown and veil and gave her a gold crown, Apollo taught her to sing and play the lyre, Hermes gave her cunning and boldness, and other Gods taught her other skills with the objective of making her the perfect specimen.

Not all was well however, as in revenge for the theft of fire, Zeus made her foolish and mischievous, and Hera gave her curiosity. This was a recipe for disaster when she was presented with a jar, covered in fantastic images, and was told she should never open under any circumstances!

She became married to Epimetheus, who found her to be the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. In a world filled with only men, one has to wonder what they were getting up to before the first woman appeared on the scene. But then again, they were ancient Greeks, so maybe not. Pandora was tormented by the beautiful jar she wasn’t allowed to open and intrigued by what might be inside. She did her best to resist, but eventually her curiosity got the better of her and she opened it to look inside.

Just a little peek...

At that moment all the evils inside the box were released into the world. Sickness, insanity, disease, greed, crime, death, lies, depression and every other bad thing you can think of. This must have been quite a shock to the people who’d been living quite happily up to then, without all these things to mess up their lives!


It should be noted that the Pandora of the myth opened the box out of curiosity and was not evil. In contrast, Malifaux Pandora is a malicious bitch who has weaponised the negative emotions in her box and releases them deliberately.


Zoraida's inspiration doesn't appear to be a come from a single source. Instead it seems to be a stitching together of two main influences, Baba Yaga and New Orleans Voodoo.

Baba Yaga is a Slavic myth, and the likely origin of the "Old Crone Living in the Woods" archtype found throughout literature for hundreds of years. In the original myth, Baba Yaga flies through the air in a giant pestle and mortar, often kidnapping, and presumably eating children. Rather than there being one particular story in which she features, she seems to crop up in various folk tales from Eastern Eurpoe, usually crossing paths with one or more wayward children and filling the antagonist role. On rare occasions, however, she has been known to give advice and guidance to the main characters.

Pestle & Mortar doesn't seem the most practical transportation
In one particular Russian fairytale called "Vasilisa the Beautiful", Baba Yaga is served by three riders of White, Red and Black, each one representing Day, Sun and Night. That this is connected to the Malifaux Hooded Rider's ability to change phase from turn to turn seems likely.

In another Malifaux borrow from the myth, Baba Yaga's home is a hut that walks on gigantic chicken legs - something Wyrd have hinted at in their fluff with a brief mention of a hut that walks on mechanical legs being sighted in the Bayou.

Better than a caravan!

The Zoraida character takes the Baba Yaga myth and mixes in a healthy dose of Voodoo, in particular the dolls (although dolls also feature heavily in Slavic myth), the curses, the swamp setting and the tarot influences.

Voodoo (meaning a spirit/force that can intervene in human affairs) originated in Haiti, but a particular blend of voodoo grew to be practised in Louisiana by exiles following the Haitian revolution. It was largely practised by slaves, who merged Catholic beliefs with beliefs from their African heritage. Zoraida's Obey spell and her Voodoo Doll totem (her primary means of dealing damage), both stem from this religious origin. I was surprised to learn that in real-life voodoo, dolls are usually used to bless instead of curse - the intention is for them to act as a type of talisman to protect the target in particular ways.

The Dreamer

It doesn't appear that the Dreamer (and Lord Chompy Bits) was directly influenced by mythology - instead drawing together a few tropes in a completely original way. EricJ has explained that he came up with the original concept as a result of wanting a child Master who started the game facing down an entire enemy crew all on his own.

The evil child archtype, the "enfant terriblé", already features in Malifaux in the form of Candy and Kade, so the Dreamer was a natural extension, however where Pandora's child companions are effectively spirits/demons in child form, the Dreamer is an actual young boy. Evil children are inherently scary, so are found across film and television. I imagine the Dreamer himself to be basically a blonde version of Damien from The Omen, but he could equally be influenced by scary young characters in The Shining, Children of the Corn or that classic episode of the Twilight Zone where a young boy controls his entire family who live in constant terror of his reality bending power.

Damien was most unhappy with the lack of in-car DVD player

This boy could make you disappear if you displeased him

The theme of dreams becoming real, and being able to manifest creatures and objects through the power of dreams has been a part of fantasy fiction for generations, appearing in, for example The Wheel of Time, The Matrix and Nightmare on Elm Street. Usually these examples feature the dreamer moving through a separate dream world in which they take control of their surroundings, but can die in real life if overcome by the dream creatures they have to face. In contrast, Wyrd's Dreamer brings the Nightmares *out* of the dream world and into the "real" world to menace the Malifaux citizenry.

Lord Chompy Bits is effectively the Bogeyman. No, not the WWE wrestler - the monster used by parents to threaten children if they misbehave! Traditionally he lives in the closet or under the bed, and versions of the Bogeyman myth are found across the entire world. In most of them he kidnaps and/or eats children who displease their parents. It would seem that children are a key food group as part of a balanced nutritious diet for the average Neverborn master!

Are you afraid of the dark?


dagijst said...

What a lovely read.

wrabbit37 said...

Nice read - as Neverborn are my primary faction, I enjoyed reading more about the origins of their masters. I knew a little of this already, but not near as much as your research turned out. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post. It's interesting to read this information all put together so coherently.

I guess I can add (somewhat redundantly) that Collodi, the puppet master, is surely a reference to Carlo Collodi, who wrote Pinnochio.

Dr Loxley said...

I'd actually like to see a series of articles like this, not only for each faction, but also the minions as well, drawing out the obscure little references, I know about Copellious for example, but how many others are there that I don't know about? This intrigues me!