Stranger Things and the Demogorgon

First, the obvious. My wife and I love Stranger Things. Season 2 might have even been better than Season 1, and we’re very much looking forward to Season 3.

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Demogorgon in Stranger Things Season 1 (Photo: Aaron Sims Creative)

However, there’s one thing that’s been bothering me about the mythology surrounding the show, and it revolves around “Demogorgon”. The reason why this warrants a blog post right now is because Demogorgon is not only a specific Dungeons and Dragons reference (which makes sense for Stranger Things), but D&D actually lifted the character from Biblical discussions (and even discussions of the Greek pantheon before that). There’s actually a lot of history around the Demogorgon character, and I thought readers might find a discussion of its roots and how it relates to the show interesting.


Demogorgon in Stranger Things

First, let’s talk about how Demogorgon has been used in the Stranger Things Netflix series and why this is a bit confusing. For those unfamiliar with D&D, the name Demogorgon is being thrown around and tagged on many things. The kids are using the name as a catch all for basically the worst evil that they are currently laying eyes on. In Season 1, it was the face-splitting monster that drags people into the upside-down. In Season 2, the kids start calling the feral dog-like creatures mini-demogorgons. These creatures appear to be controlled by the Shadow Monster.

So what’s the problem?


Demogorgon in D&D

Demogorgon[1]The problem is that as far as baddies go, Demogorgon is generally the baddest of the baddies in D&D and beyond. In D&D, Demogorgon is literally the Prince of Demons. He fights with other demon lords for dominance, and he always wins. He’s the Big Baddy, with capital Bs. The Stranger Things kids are D&D enthusiasts, so with that understanding, each time they invoke this name, it almost needs to be something bigger. However, in Season 2, they actually label subservient creatures (the feral shadow monsters that Dart turned into) mini-demogorgons. This is going backwards a bit. Demogorgon is something you really need to save up for, in my opinion, rather than wasting it on the little guys.

Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the name “Demogorgon” might stick with the first monster we see in Stranger Things Season 1, which as you may have noticed in Season 2, is nowhere close to the biggest bad guy we’re likely to see. Things tend to get bigger as seasons progress. The Shadow Monster in Season 2 is a lot scarier and more powerful than Demogorgon. In fact, the “Demogorgons” in Season 1 seem like they are controlled by the Shadow Monsters.


Demogorgon in Human Mythology

What are the origins of Demogorgon? Believe it or not, it’s not Dungeons and Dragons. It’s from ancient Greek and was typically used to describe the chief deity in the Greek pantheon. The only surviving scrolls and works we have from this period (BCs to early ADs) have the term first show up in the works of Lactantius Placidus (350-400 AD). In his work, he said “Dicit deum Demogorgona summum, cuius scire nomen non licet“, which translates to “He is speaking of the Demogorgon, the supreme god, whose name it is not permitted to know”. When Christianity first took hold, this could have been taken to mean that Demogorgon was not a demon but another word for the Almighty God, whose true name we’re not supposed to know. However, that’s not what actually happened.

By the tenth century, Demogorgon was cited as a primal god and the chief primal god in various texts, including Adnotationes super Lucanum to Lucan’s Pharsalia. By the Middle Ages, it begins to morph from the Super God over Pan and Hermes to “Demon-Gorgon”, “Terror-Demon” or “God of the Earth”. It’s these former two labels that really stuck, and some would argue was a targeted campaign to demonize the ancient Greek and Roman pantheons.

Demogorgon was associated with such things as being “Master of Fate” in Hell’s hierarchy by Johann Weyer (~1560s), and it was kind of finalized in its transition with Milton’s Paradise Lost (~1674 AD), where Demogorgon is named with Orcus and “Ades” (Hades) as a “dreaded name” in “Hell”. It’s all downhill from there. Demogorgon became not the “supreme god, whose name it is not permitted to know” but instead became the “Prince” or even “King” of demons, which got kind of confusing when comparisons were being made to Lucifer/Devil. Most Christian scholars appeared to make Demogorgon separate from the Devil, and Demogorgon was somehow placed underneath the Devil, in whatever hierarchy was appropriate.

And this is where we come full circle to D&D and the mythology of Stranger Things. In D&D, Demogorgon is a self-styled Prince of Demons who fights with other demon lords for dominion over the levels of the Abyss. In the biblical scholar realm, Demogorgon is at the very least a powerful prince of Hell and at the very most the Devil himself. So, you kind of want to save this label for something really, really bad.

I’m kind of hoping Stranger Things relabels a creature even worse as Demogorgon in Season 3 so the show eventually ends up pointing at the real Demogorgon from D&D and mythology. In D&D, Demogorgon can mesmerize anything by looking at it with one of his two heads. In mythology, he’s a supreme god and maybe even the creator, or a prince of Hell, depending on which point of the historical arc you are looking at. There’s a lot of possibilities here. I think the creators of the show have great talent, and I’m excited to see where they take this thing. Demogorgon or not, Jenny and I will definitely be watching Season 3!


Demogorgon and The Age of Magic fantasy series

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Wrath and Ruin Box Set

Why have I researched Demogorgon? I’m a fan of Stranger Things, but I’m definitely not a fan of him.

Demogorgon is actually a character in my new high fantasy series The Age of Magic, and he’s not a puppet or subservient creature of anyone in my books. He’s the most powerful demon in the Void or the Abyssal Plains, and he fights with Orcus and the mysterious demon lord Mekadesh under the world of Nirendia. He’s such a big baddy that he’s never been defeated, and you really almost have to trick him into leaving for him to ever be defeated, especially by mortal hands.

Book One, The People’s Necromancer, introduces the fight of the demon lords but focuses on the interactions of humans and elves in their squabbles outside the battle raging in the underworld between the demon factions. Book Two, The Dark Paladin, talks about the influence of Mekadesh and Orcus and really introduces them to the human population of Nirendia (the world this takes place on). Book Three? That’s where Demogorgon is going to be first presented to the readers, because this is an ancient, powerful creature that is really unrivaled in the demon world. He’s a physical, imposing threat that is really a final boss for humanity, the elves, and even the orcs of this world.

If you’d like to read the first novel The People’s Necromancer, it’s being released for 99c as part of the fantastic Wrath and Ruin box set with 23 other fantasy and science-fiction novels. This box set will be released on January 2nd, 2018, but it is available for pre-order. There are USA Today Bestselling and award-winning authors in this set, and it’s especially a great deal given the preorder price.

As for the Age of Magic series? The second book is being drafted. Both novels should be released in 2018. Stay tuned on this blog or my newsletter.

About Rex Jameson

Rex Jameson is the author of the three novels in the Primal Patterns series and half a dozen short stories. An avid history buff and an unabashed nerd with an appetite for science fiction and fantasy, he loves to create complex speculative fiction with layered characters. He earned a PhD in Computer Science at Vanderbilt University and researches distributed artificial intelligence in robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. Rex and his wife Jenny live in Pittsburgh where they enjoy hosting family and friends.

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