Gnolls

A paladin confronting some gnolls?

Gnolls are a weird D&D monster — hyena-headed humanoids. The name is taken from Lord Dunsany, as the original edition of D&D mentions (“Lord Sunsany….”) in the brief description of gnolls. Lord Dunsany does not describe his gnolls* in any detail, and the first edition description just suggests they may be a hybrid of gnomes and trolls. But the look of the AD&D monster is pure Medievalism — they are the Cynocephalies (Dog-headed people) of Medieval folklore.

Strangely, in some traditions St. Christopher is depicted as a dog-head too.

Two Grenadier AD&D Gnolls. The swordsman had a small short sword which broke off some time back and I replaced it with a large scimitar blade.

I don’t know why one is a lefty and one is a righty.

*Dunsany actually used the spelling “gnoles” in his story “How Nuth would have practised his art upon the gnoles,” which is collected in his The book of Wonder (the link goes to a free pdf). Because of this spelling, I would later confound that story with the story “The man who sold rope to the gnoles” by Margaret St. Clair and for a while I thought Dunsany wrote that one too. St. Clair gives a much more alien appearance to gnoles, which are not described in much detail apart from the fact that they have tentacled faces and use gems for their eyes. The rope salesman makes a major faux pas regarding this last fact.

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Published in: on April 6, 2010 at 12:44 pm  Comments (5)  
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  1. Gnoles are a Tunnels and Trolls monster kindred also. I took them, however, from H.P. Lovecraft who called them dholes and had them burrowing through the endless bone heaps of the underworld of the ghouls. One of my Elite members of Trollhalla likes them so well that he took G’noll as his trollish name, and his character as a hyena man. Said intelligent hyenas are called Yyenas in Trollworld.

    Looking at your miniatures makes me wonder if they could be the so-called “dog brothers” that Conan the Cimmerian was always talking about? Did you know that conan means dog in old celtic?

    • That is fascinating — I was not familiar with the dholes but hyenas have frighteningly powerful jaws for bone-crunching, don’t they?

      I knew Cuchulainn meant “Hound of Chulainn” because my high school English loved detailing Irish myths to us (Didn’t he kill Chulainn’s watchdog and have to serve as the hound for awhile or something in payment?), so the Cu/Conan connection makes sense. Never made the dog brothers connection but they will go by that name from now on, thanks!

      I’ve actually considered giving all my townsfolk & henchmen figures names, maybe I should do the monsters too, at least the humanoids.

      Thanks for the comment, Ken.

  2. Cool! The medieval gnolls are news to me. -Click- -save image-

    • Some day I’d like to build smallish armies of all the “monstrous races” from Pliny that decorate Medieval maps & books… http://www.theoi.com/greek-mythology/fabulous-tribes.html
      I think the Blemmyae will be really fun to model. I’m thinking 1/72 plastic figures will provide the bulk of raw material, and an Xacto knige, pins, and glue will do the rest.
      Too many project ideas, not enough time.

  3. Ah, yes, the Blemmyes. I need to stat those up like I’ve meant to tout suite. Indeed, all of the Pliny bestiary is up for inclusion in the more distant parts of my game world, sooner or later. I want the world to get weirder the further the PCs go, you see.

    I need to look into St. Christopher’s backstory–although it’s given me an idea for an NPC saint who was the recipient of a less-than optimal reincarnation spell.


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