Mother of a Thousand Young
Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!note
Named after HP Lovecraft
's Shub-Niggurath, the Mother of a Thousand Young is one Older Than Dirt
, going all the way back to the Sumerian Tiamat.
The trope itself is based on the concept of a terrible monster that is mother to many, many
more types of monsters, though she is usually the stronger when compared (except, sometimes, against the father). Typically, the mother is an Eldritch Abomination
spewing Biological Mashups one after the other, or a diabolical deceiver of would-be mates, sometimes even having the power of shapeshifting, thus allowing for greater variety of half-breed children (and infinite amounts of Shapeshifting Squick
The purpose of the Mother is usually to cause mayhem and destruction, or destroy an ancient foe by being the procurer of a living Diabolus Ex Machina
, which will cause the inevitable destruction of the civilization in question, unless the hero can prevent it.
This generally also makes it One Bad Mother
The children of the mother are always different from her, and may even be different from their siblings. For the monster who is the first of a line of identical monsters, see Monster Progenitor
. Not to be confused with Hive Queen
. Can easily overlap with Mook Maker
and Weaponized Offspring
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Anime and Manga
- Lilith the Second Angel from Neon Genesis Evangelion fits this trope. It is stated that she is the source of all terrestrial life note . She also turns out to be one of the keys to The End of the World as We Know It; the only reason she hadn't done it yet is because her soul was sealed into Rei (and because she needs Adam the First Angel for it).
- Adam also counts, as it's the progenitor of all the Angels.
- The Vampire Ancestors, especially Cars, from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, whose stone masks created the vampires. Thus they are also responsible for Dio and his ghouls and all the stand users.
- It might be a bit unusual example, but in Tenshi Ni Narumon Big Bad Mikael is this for Noelle and Silky. Originally, they were one angel soul, which, due to accident, fell to the ground and split into three imperfect souls. It is lampshaded heavily that Mikael was the original source from which other two were created, particularly in episode 13 when Baba was foretelling him his future and her crystal ball showed one string from which other two sprouted out. Mikael even wanted to kind of absorb Noelle and Silky into himself or fuse with them, so it fits with the devouring mother image.
- The D-Reaper from Digimon Tamers. It's already an Eldritch Abomination style being, and the Mooks it generates come in a variety of forms. The form of the D-Reaper with the Freaky Mask and Jeri's Head is titled the Mother Reaper. Combined with the most powerful D-Reaper in the Digital World, they'll cause the End of the World.
- Piccolo Daimao, the so-called "demon king" from Dragonball. While all Namekians reproduce asexually, their offspring are generally homogenous (if not exact clones with a one-time-use-per-body identical spirit), and King Piccolo instead birthed matured warrior children of vastly different apparent species and biology.
- Angel Sanctuary: God, who is the Father of all angels. But not really. Yes, He created the angels, but they're all derived from the flesh of Adam Kadamon, who is a much more straightforward example. Counted as the "mother" of Alexiel and Rosiel, but they only got the lions' share of his/her dismembered body - most other angels were only born from small cellular clusters taken from the leftovers.
- From Sailor Moon, we have Mistress 9 and Pharaoh 90, the latter being the father of all Daimons (the monsters encountered in the third season/story arc), and the former being his partner. They get terminated with extreme prejudice (and a bit of sadistic glee) by Sailor Saturn, who, herself, may have sired Sailors Pluto, Ceres, Juno, Vesta, and Pallas, by way of planet go boom. She gets defeated by Chaos, AKA the Galaxy Cauldron, the font from which all souls spring, including every Big Bad that had shown up in the series until then, who, in turn, gets taken out by Usagi, from whom spawned Chibi-Usa.
- The X-Men villain Master Mold, which originally churned out the Sentinel robots. Wolverine and the X-Men even gave it a female voice.
- In Marvel Comics, the Elder God Chthon is the creator of a race of demons known as the N'Garai, as well as indirectly the creator of vampires which came to be from a spell in the evil magical tome he wrote. The Elder God Set likewise has the Serpent Men, as well as literal offspring in abominations like Sligguth and Damballah; the Legions of Hell were created from the dark energies of the god-killing entity Atum, which was corrupted after it consumed most of Chthon and Set's evil brethern and became the demonic creature called the Demogorge, though in that case the creation of those demons was unintentional.
- Another Marvel Comics example: Spider-Man once learnt from Loki that Norse Gods really get around and can father hundreds of children. (Surprisingly, he's very protective of them.)
- Lilith appears in Lucifer as Adam's discarded first wife, who takes on all comers and bears an entire race of Half-Human Hybrids, the Lilim.
- DC also has the Mother of Champions, a member of the Chinese superteam the Great Ten, who experiences greatly accelerated pregnancies (three days) and births short-lived superhumans, twenty-five at a time.
- Implied with The Merkin, Mother of Spiders, a minor demonic character in Sandman.
- The Discworld tale "The Importance of Index Cards'' pits one determined Watchman against the ordeal of the encounter with Tshup Aklathep, Infernal Star Toad with A Million Young. Can A.E. Pessimal survive a trip to the Dungeon Dimensions with an unexploded head? He finesses the ordeal in a not-wholly-improbable way and comes back alive....
- In the Pony POV Series Entropy, the female Draconequi Elder, has shades of this. Not only is she the mother of the Draconequi along with her mate Havoc, she's shown the ability to create monsters (namely the Windigo's) from her blood with little effort and, during the Draconequi/Alicorn War, created a creature called Nightmare Legion from the Shadows inhabiting her realm.
- In the movie adaptation of Beowulf Grendel's Mother is also the mother of the Dragon that Beowulf dies fighting.
- It's also implied that the other dragon Hrothgar killed in his Back Story was another one of her children.
- In 9, the main villain is a robot that makes other robots.
- The Alien Queen creates many alien eggs on the spot, as seen in Aliens. Notably, their larval forms are all the same once hatched, but after that larva impregnates a host, the subsequent Chest Burster and the adult it grows into will be very different from strains hosted on other species, having laterally adapted its physiology to its specific host species.
- In The Brood, the protagonist's insane wife develops this as a Lovecraftian Superpower, giving birth to murderous manifestations of her own psychosis.
Folklore, Religion and Mythology
- Classical Mythology has several big mommas:
- First is Nyx, the protogeneia (primeval goddess) of night, who gave birth to beings like Thanatos (Death), Geras (Old age), Moros (Doom), Eris (Strife), Lyssa (Madness) and many more. Not all of her children are demonic, though — they include Hypnos (Sleep), Philotes (Friendship and/or Sex), Hemera (Daytime) and many more.
- Then Eris, in turn, gave birth to Ponos (Toil), Lethe (Forgetfulness), Limos (Famine), Algos (Sorrow), Hysminai (Combats), Makhai (Battles), Phonoi (Murders), Androctasiai (Manslaughters), Neikea (Quarrels), Pseudologoi (Lies), Amphilogiai (Disputes), Dysnomia (Lawlessness), Ate (Ruination), and Horkos (Oaths)
- The half-snake, half-nymph Echidna is the mother of several monsters, including Cerberus, the Chimera, the Sphinx, the Nemean Lion, the Hydra, and Orthrus the two-headed dog.
- Gaia, Mother Earth herself, gave birth to the Titans; the Gigantes (some of which have hundreds of serpent tails in place of legs); the Cyclopes; the hundred-handed, fifty-headed Hecatonchires; and Typhon, himself something of an example (see below).
- There is Echidna's mother, the literal mother of all sea monsters, Ceto, who is traditionally depicted as either an unpleasantly large shark, or an ultracarnivorous whale. In Classical Mythology, Ceto, together with her husband Phorcys, are the personification and progenitors of everything fear-inducing about the sea (bad weather, tidal waves, sea monsters, toxic fish, sharp barnacles...)
- Typhon, Echidna's mate is an Spear Counterpart, being a Father of a Thousand Young — all of them by her.
- Lilith from Jewish belief— some legends claim she bore hundreds of demonic children every day.
- In Norse Mythology:
- The giantess Angrbođa is mother — by Loki — to Fenrir (a giant god-killing wolf), Hel (the half-undead goddess of the underworld), and Jörmungandr (the continent-sized World Serpent). She dwells in Ironwood, where she gives birth to monstrous wolves.
- Loki himself is a shape-shifter, and by becoming female can bear monstrous young — though they might be benevolent ones, such as Slepnir, Odin's eight-legged horse.
- According to the Enuma Elish, the primordial goddess Tiamat gave birth to at least 11 entire races of monsters, including "ferocious dragons," "virulent" and "horned serpents," mushussu-dragons, various demons, scorpion-men, and rabid dogs.
- The biblical Leviathan fits here since God, having originally created two of them, killed the mate so that their offspring, which are implied to be all manner of other sea monsters and otherwise, would become not so numerous that the world could not stand before them. This makes it very much a mirror of Tiamat and Ceto.
- Hariti, Goddess of Childbirth in Buddhist mythology, is the mother of 500 raksha children. Before her Heel-Face Turn, she fed them on human children that she kidnapped.
- In Hawaiian Mythology, the Earth goddess Papa. She gives birth to all the other deities, and to the first people.
- A fertility goddess named Haumea fits this description as well.
- Error (who is directly based on Echidna) in Spenser's Book I of The Faerie Queene.
- As stated above, H.P. Lovecraft's Shub-Niggurath is a prime example, and is the trope namer of a Mother with a Thousand Young.
- Another possible Lovecraftian example is the infamous Nyalathotep since one of their many titles is 'Father of the Million Favoured Ones', although it's somewhat unclear if it is literal or metaphorical.
- Discworld has its expy, Tshup Aklathep, Infernal Star Toad with A Million Young. To torture its victims, it shows them pictures of all its children ("and this one's eyes are exactly like yours!"), until either their brains implode or they kill themselves to stop this.
- J. R. R. Tolkien's Ungoliant, an archetypal Animalistic Abomination who can give even Morgoth problems. Her descendants are the reason for Arda's little spider problem, including the ones in Mirkwood and Shelob.
- In her case, however, none of the offspring come anywhere close to matching the threat and terror their ancestress embodied. Even Shelob is a joke compared to Ungoliant.
- In Clive Barker's Weaveworld, the Magdalene makes a habit of raping men and, mere hours later, subsequently spawning new members of her innumerable brood, the hideous 'by-blows'. And just so we're clear, the Magdalene (along with the Hag) is one of the Big Bad's triplet sisters who she killed in the womb. Ghost rape.
- Clark Ashton Smith give us Abhoth, a sentient pool of gray mass that bizarre creatures constantly form from. Abhoth just devours most of its children, though some manage to escape.
- Casimira is the "mother" of all the vermin of Palimpsest. They see everything and report back to her.
- Downplayed in Animorphs—the Ellimist at one point came across a species called the Jallians, whose leader, the Life-Giver of the Jain Sea, was a giant slug giving birth to multiple other Jallians even as she talked to him. She was unpleasantly demanding, but not particularly terrifying.
Live Action Television
- Supernatural has the Mother of All Monsters (the creator of The Alphas), the Big Bad of the second half of season six. Funnily enough she calls herself Eve, rather than Echidna, the mythological Mother of All Monsters.
- A Monster of the Week in Reaper would replace the sperm in a sperm bank with his own, resulting in dozens (possibly hundreds) of children.
- Angel: One episode had a demon hire men to help him impregnate dozens of human women.
- Aversion: The succulent plant Kalanchoe diagremontiana is commonly referred to as "mother of thousands" in reference to the rows of plantlets that grow along the margins of its leaves. It's quite toxic if eaten, but in the scheme of things it's not particularly eldritch or horrific.
- Another aversion: Many insects, amphibians, and fish note , and naked mole rat queens, give birth to huge numbers of offspring, but that's not eldritch either: in some cases it's because there's only one fertile female in the community, and in other cases it's just to ensure that some of the offspring will survive.
- Mortasheen has a few, but its most notable one is Genetisaur, an expy of the Alien Queen with a strong phallic motif, who produces offspring via Chest Burster.
- An example from Pathfinder is Lamashtu, a demon queen and goddess who is supposedly mother of many monstrous races, including gnolls, harpies, goblins and minotaurs.
- Shub-Niggurath herself is in the setting, and the Carrion Crown adventure path features a few of her spawn.
- Dungeons & Dragons examples:
- Edition 3.5 had a creature named Ragnorra (from the book Elder Evils) that was a being from the positive energy plane. Her arrival to a world brings about large amounts of life and good health until it grows to the point of cancerous effects, rabid, mutated monsters that she gives birth to, and all sorts of delightful events of chaos.
- A third-party supplement introduces the Chaos Mage class, whose practitioners risk accidentally mutating their own bodies with their magic. One option is a gradual transformation into a giant sedentary womb that continually gives birth to bizarre and unique monsters.
- 2nd Edition had the Deepspawn, a monster that exists solely to hang around in dungeons stocking them with its utterly random offspring, which can pretty much be whatever the DM picks from the Monster Manual.
- 3.5 has the demon known as Pale Night. While she is certainly old enough to be the mother of lots of creatures, it's never outright stated she is. It is, however, stated that she and several other sources consider her to be a mother to something, although they disagree on what. Pale Night says she is the mother of many demon lords, with another source claiming "she is the mother of several tanar’ri lords, including Graz’zt, Lupercio, and Vucarik of Chains." The Black Scrolls of Ahm claim she is the mother of nothing less than the tanar’ri race (the tanar'ri are by far the most common types of demons). Yet another source says she is not a mother of demons, but the mother of several monstrous races on the material plane. As such Pale Night is possibly this trope, but it is intentionally left inconclusive.
- The patron deity and progenitor of beholders, the Great Mother, has as her dogma the desire to replace all life with her own offspring. Fortunately for Material Plane folk, she's Chaotic Evil with a twist of Blue and Orange Morality even by beholder standards, so it's not like she'll be mobilizing the kids any time soon.
- Terra, the Titan of the World in Scion, embodies fertility through its female avatars. Kamimusuhi in particular defends herself by giving birth to bodyguards (though one-eighth of them ditch her and go to fight for the Gods instead). Gaia and Jord, meanwhile, have divided the labor - Jord conceives the children and Gaia births them. Coatlicue, on the other hand, is a subversion - Mother of a Thousand Stillborn Young. (She embodies infanticide and the "devouring mother" concept.)
- Norse Mythology's Angrboda turns up in the game, having expanded her interest in the creation of monsters; she's not content simply birthing them, she also creates them using gene-splicing, cloning, and other techniques. It should be noted that she - and her subjects, the troll-wives - were apparently spawned by Terra's power.
- Werewolf: The Forsaken has Aharnuz, from its "Predators" sourcebook. A ghastly creature that spawns an apparently infinite variety of twisted "children", the only mercy is that none of these creatures can breed - something it/she is struggling to overcome. The two sample possible origins given for this thing is that she is an almost complete Host that has become even more twisted than it was originally, and that she used to be one of Luna's Handmaidens that remained overlong in the world and was stranded there by the Gauntlet. Its name even means "The Mother" when translated from First Tongue.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Urge Wyrm G'louogh spontaneously spawns banes and is believed to be the progenitor of Nexus Crawlers.
- In Vampire: The Masquerade, the Nosferatu antediluvian Absimiliard is seen as a father of monsters, as he's produced monstrous children known as the Nictuku who have a habit of hunting down and wiping out chunks of the rest of the clan. You see Echidna, mentioned above? Yeah. That's one of Absimiliard's special children.
- All Antediluvians count, seeing as each of them is the progenitor of a legion (well, Clan) of vampires who are more or less monstrous, though often in a psychological sense. However, with the Tzimisce being what they are, the Tzimisce Antediluvian is a textbook example.
- In Magic: The Gathering, the three Eldrazi titans spawn legions of twisted critters in the image of themselves. Each of the three brood lineages has traits that make them similar to the particular titan that spawned them, from writhing masses of tentacles to abnormal numbers of limbs to Eyes Do Not Belong There.
- Exalted gives us Kimbery, one of the Yozis. She's a creator goddess with serious Yandere tendencies, alternatively either smothering those she loves or utterly destroying those she hates, and you're never really sure which side of that divide you're on. She can't give birth (given that her current form is an acidic sea), but she does have Charms that allow her to infect others with parasitic offspring that come in a delightful assortment of configurations.
- And of course in Pathfinder we have multiple Mothers of Monsters, with Gods and Demons getting in on the action, but the only one that has been explicitly statted out is the Drakania, a huge Mythical Aberration from Bestiary 4; who can either spawn horrible mutated Spawn herself, or implant her rapidly gestating spawn into a hapless adventurer with ease; and considering "she" accelerates the effects of all poisons and Diseases, can sacrifice her spawn to teleport within a range of a mile, and releases life energy like a 20th level cleric, without suitably experienced adventurers "she" could wipe out a major metropolis in days.
- In Final Fantasy VII, JENOVA is an interesting treatment of this idea. Originally she appeared to be a very resilient alien monster that killed the Cetra using a plague. However, a human who was studying her impressive regenerative powers hit on the idea that if her cells are implanted into other creatures they can take on part of her superhuman aspect. He initially tried introducing her cells to a human foetus, and when that process created a powerful superhuman he next implanted cells into multiple fully developed humans. These altered people have serious identity issues, monstrous powers that can lead to bodily transformations into imitations of JENOVA, and crave the chance to become one with her again. In this way JENOVA became a Mother of a Thousand Young through rape by mad science.
- Dragon Age has the Brood Mothers, creatures created from females of different species, which give birth to legions of Darkspawn. You fight one created from a Dwarf.
- In Awakening the Final Boss is The Mother, an insane "freed" Broodmother (and boy is she pissed about that) who might have been human judging by her appearance, but spawns The Children instead of Hurlocks.
- Darkspore's Arakna fits this trope perfectly.
- Mem Aleph from Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, creator of all earthly life. Her name is derived from the Phoenician and Semitic characters that would become "MA", the root for "mother".
- Tiamat also counts- she's the mother of the first four Sector bosses and her plan is to give birth to demons faster than mankind can kill them.
- Prototype has Elizabeth Greene (codenamed, naturally, MOTHER); since her first baby was taken away, she's decided to make up for that with more babies. Mostly in the form of giant man-eating fleshy shaved-bear things. Rather than giving birth directly, she packs water towers with human bodies and deposits some genetic code in among them to give the creature something to feed on before it hatches. She also considers Alex Mercer, or rather, his viral doppelganger one of her children, despite them being quite different in abilities and motivations. Finally, the viral strains ravaging New York were all originally extracted from her body, so in a sense all the shambling zombies are her children as well.
- Isaac's mother from The Binding of Isaac. Most — if not all — of the various enemies are implied to be other children of hers.
- Brütal Legend's Emperor Doviculus is a highly rare male example of this trope. He fathered all of his soldiers. Yes, this includes the cars, the Chicken Walker and the various other weird monsters of the Tainted Coil.
- Shial the Mother of Spiders from Blood is the local Ungoliant expy. When you fight her, she spawns loads and loads of spiders at you.
- Baldur's Gate has a sorceress named Centeol who is found looking very swollen and pregnant. She explains to you that she had been cursed by her sorcerer lover shortly before exploding into a mass of spiders.
- Half-Life has Gonarch, monarch of gonads (and tons of headcrabs).
- Risk of Rain brings us the Toxic Beast (Mother of Many), who summons her children to help fight.
- The Bed of Chaos from Dark Souls is the "Source of all demons".
- The Gold Box game Pools of Darkness has an enemy, Kalistes the Marilith, who has a number of 'children', standard D&D monsters, who she naturally wishes to spread all over the Realms. As it happens, neither her rulership over the drow (in the usual Forgotten Realms setting this is Lolth) nor her production of many of the standard monsters are standard for the D&D setting.
- Ow, my sanity has Shubby herself as the Cool Big Sis character, who looks more than a little pregnant in her humanoid guise. She gives relationship advice to the protagonist, on the theory that given her, erm, experience, she is more than qualified.
- A rare Male example is Leviathan, a Fallen Seraphim from New Vindicators. While has made normal human Nephilim like his brothers, he has also partaken in a lot of bestiality, and since the Fallen can change their shapes, he is the father of a lot of monsters:Ogopogo, the Jersey Devil, the Tarrasque, and more. His children are as varied as they are monstrous.
- The SCP Foundation has at least two variations: a "wet nurse of a thousand young" and a bloody pool that spawns random creatures.
- Similar to her mythological counterpart, the Echidnas in the Monstergirl Encyclopedia (there's an entire race of these things in that setting) are stated to produce any number other types of monsters and that many races are believed to have originally been children of the Echidnas. A fanfic with the setting has one whose daughters consist of a dark elf, a slime, a harpy, and a minotaur.
- Worm has Echidna, a parahuman who creates Evil Twins of anyone she touches.
- In The Brothers Grunt, the Primus Gruntus Maximus is the progenitor of the Grunt race. The Gruntus Maximus is a colossal humanoid being that once floated in the sky, spawning infant Grunts out of its back.