troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
SANDWORM
Shai-Hulud, the Great Maker, the Grandfather of the Desert, the Worm Who Is God

Paul Atreides: Stilgar, have we Wormsign?
Stilgar: Usul, we have wormsign the likes of which even God has never seen.
— Frank Herbert's Dune

So you're travelling the desert. A dangerous place, isn't it? You've got dehydration to worry about, of course, then there's heatstroke, scorpions, snakes, pack animals of dubious trustworthiness, and native peoples who may be ruthlessly territorial or just poorly disposed toward your particular ethnicity. But if you think that's all you've got to worry about, check your setting: if you're somewhere other than Earth, be it a sci-fi or fantasy world, then tread softly; without rhythm and check the ground often, because you may just wind up with a case of Sand Worms.

Scaled-up versions of real-life worms, these beasties tunnel through sand and dirt, being halted only by rocky terrain or artificial ground, though often enough they can force their way through that as well. They generally have no eyes or ears, rather detecting vibrations through their bodies. Beyond these basic traits, even the most incidental similarity to real creatures ceases. Sandworms are big, typically ranging between man-sized and resembling something like a moving mountain. They seem to be carnivorous, since they tend to go out of their way to attack and eat anything trudging upon the surface, either leaping without warning to swallow the prey whole or approaching with a telltale furrow of disturbed earth, depending on whether the writers want to give the target a chance to run away. Aside from the worm-like shape, these monsters are also recognizable by their mouths: they're always either completely round or trifurcated, lined with rows of teeth, and with long tentacular tongues, the better to grab you by the feet and reel you in.

Intelligence varies but is usually pretty animalistic. They may be loners or travel in packs, again depending on how threatening the writers want them. Since they hunt almost exclusively by dint of sound transferred through the ground, they can be diverted by standing still or setting off something loud and percussive a ways off.

Similar monsters can be found in snow or water. These are, perhaps, a bit more believable.

Even in the best of cases, these are obvious instances of artistic license; it simply isn't possible for a creature so dense and large to pass that easily through heavy earth, even if it is fine sand. Failure to observe the Square/Cube Law also applies, especially in larger cases, and especially since worms don't have any internal support structure such as a skeleton. (Exceptions may be made for low-gravity worlds.) Not to mention how does that thing sustain itself? They're usually depicted as being carnivorous, and huge. Nothing is even close to its size, and it doesn't feed that often, and even so, it'd be sustaining itself on creatures less than a hundredth its size, and it lives in the deserts, which have much less biomass than other biomes.

Though when you think about it, they're kind of like scaled-up, desert-dwelling earthworms.

A related creature is the Landshark, a ground-burrowing creature with the appetite, temperament, and often appearance of a Threatening Shark. A landshark is often (but not always) a Shark Man

Compare Space Whale, Flying Seafood Special, Drill Tank, Antlion Monster. See also Wormsign.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's had a desert planet that contained these which the Wolkenritter extracted Mana from. Pretty powerful too, considering how one of them almost killed Signum.
  • These appeared in a desert planet in Dragon Ball GT.
  • They appear in the Acid Tokyo arc of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle.
  • In Trigun, Sandworms are apparently the dominant native species on the planet; in the manga, they play a fairly major part in the story, because they are sentient and able to communicate with one another telepathically.
  • Sand worms appeared in one episode of Excel♥Saga, when Excel fell through a trapdoor and came out in a desert.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! has sand worms controlled by a naughtier Paio II who turned out to be an extremely naughty little girl.
  • Mister from Coyote Ragtime Show takes advantage of Sand Worms as weapons against the 12 Sisters.
  • Bleach. The hollow Bawabawa acts like one of these in desert-like Hueco Mundo, including giving the protagonists a ride to Las Noches.
  • According to Word of God, the Ohmus from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind are partly inspired by Dune's Sandworms, though they don't really burrow and look more like pillbugs. The name is actually a dual pun on both "King Bug" (Oh-Mushi) and the way Sandworm is pronounced in Japanese (Sando Uohmu).
  • The Big O. In episode 17 "Leviathan", the title megadeus is a giant mechanical version.
  • Though shaped more like a lobster, Renocraft in the Monster Farm/Monster Rancher anime digs through the sand and targets its prey much like a sandworm.
  • Vexille uses this, in the form of Jags, giant revolving tubes of scrap metal that make their way across the desert outside Tokyo. They eat more metal to survive, which means that it's really not a good idea to drive cars out there. Also the reason why there's a "giant concrete gate" outside the main city. They also die when they fall into the water, a fact which is used to great effect in the movie.
  • On some occasions, sandworms appear in Space Runaway Ideon.

    Comicbooks 
  • In the original Knuckles the Echidna mini-series, Knuckles encountered a sand worm in the Floating Island's desert, Sandopolis Zone.
    • ...which is never encountered in Sonic (3) & Knuckles's version of Sandopolis Zone, unless you count the caterpillar-like enemies.
  • Thor: The Asgardian desert has giant sand worms.

    Films 
  • Tremors reinvented the trope to drastic degrees. Indeed, the Graboids weren't really wormlike at all except in basic principles, and asserted the predatorial habits that have made Sandworms the monster-movie favorite they are now. (actually, there were precursors- a few Godzilla enemies come to mind- but they had smaller budgets and no Kevin Bacon)
    • They made some nice theoretical background for the series, though. They "swim" through the ground through the use of thousands of little "teeth" on their sides, they must retreat from explosions due to sheer pain from vibrational shock, and they have a brilliantly executed life cycle; the Sandworms which show up on seismometers, are mini-velociraptors with infrared-vision, then organic rocket-critters which carry the eggs to other areas.
    • The website explained that their initial classification as "pre-Cambrian" life was incorrect, and graboids actually evolved from squid or cuttlefish-like organisms that adapted to drier habitats (such as by losing the eyes and relying on other senses). This theoretical background was rather well thought out even if it did have its flaws. The squid/cuttlefish connection does make a lot of sense when you look at the Graboids' anatomy and intelligent behavior.
  • The Dune film by David Lynch helped codify their typical appearance. They're also a Fantastic Cavalry.
  • The Empire Strikes Back, where the Millennium Falcon lands inside one - well, inside of an Asteroid Worm - and barely escapes.
  • Beetlejuice was taken out by one of another iconic Sand Worm species that lived on Saturn. These had white-and-black stripes and one mouth inside another- compare the xenomorphs of the Alien movies.
  • The grossly CG sand worms from the Sci Fi Channel movie Sand Serpents.
  • Jeff from Men In Black II, though he uses tunnels which are already built (the NYC subway).
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon introduces The Driller, which is essentially a Mechanical Lifeform version of a sandworm. They're supposedly Cybertron's apex predators. Shockwave has one as a "pet".
    • Skorponok in the first two movies also sort of fills this role, being able to burrow through sand and leap out to strike against his enemies.

    Literature 
  • Invented by Frank Herbert's Dune, where the beasties were hundreds of feet long, used as mounts, capable of swallowing entire ships whole, and their offspring crapped out the substance that kept the entire cosmos's economy running. Practically every case of Sandworms in fiction since has been a carbon-copy of these critters, though scaled down to somewhat less incredulous levels.
    • The Dune example is a bit more realistic, since it's established that they feed on a combination of the plankton-like larval form of themselves, and other, smaller worms. Their mass is sustained by their semi-crystalline body, and their ability to pass through the sand is because they consume it, as part of getting the aforementioned plankton. The reason they attack anything that vibrates is because, since they are blind and have low intelligence, they attack on the off-chance that the vibration is caused by another worm. Their physical attributes are consistently extrapolated from the neccessities of their living-in-sand nature - their bodies are designed to be capable of passing off enormous amounts of heat to deal with the friction in sand, and their strength is quite enormous, as it would have to be to move such a mass through such a dense medium.
  • The immense wormlike monster in the catacombs of Bookholm, from Walter Moers' The City of Dreaming Books.
  • Man-eating giant earthworms begin crawling on the surface in Brian Keene's The Conqueror Worms after an endless rainstorm forces them out from deep underground.
  • Dholes or bholes (it's not quite clear whether they are different creatures or just a different way of spelling) appear in H.P. Lovecraft's mythos. They are enormous wormlike creatures that secrete corrosive acid slime that helps them tunnel through solid rock. Cthonians are another burrowing mythos creature, but they are more squidlike than wormlike.
  • Bore grubs inhabit the Clayr's Glacier in Garth Nix's Lirael. Unlike other examples on this page, they're not actually malevolent, but they're pretty stupid, slow to react, and can chew through solid rock and ice with their rotating jaws, so it's best to stay out of their way. The bigger ones are largely responsible for hollowing out the places where the Clayr live.
  • According to supplemental material, the planet Vulcan has a second, silicon-based type of these known as a'kweth, or "underliers". They're sentient.
  • Summer of Night by Dan Simmons has these in the rural Midwest. They're described as being like Moray eels
  • Subverted in the third book of John Varley's Gaea Trilogy. Yes, there is a giant sand worm; Gaea herself has created and placed it, no doubt directly inspired by Earth fiction. It's miles long, it's probably hungry (it has turned the original landscape into the desert it is now)...and it moves so slowly that it's basically just a living terrain featurenote . Some of the passing humans cut graffiti into its skin.
  • Diggles in Piers Anthony's Xanth series are giant worms that could phase through solid rock and literally worked for a song.
  • A Star Wars Expanded Universe example is Greater Krayt Dragons, ridiculously huge ten-legged dragons that mostly ate banthas, but there's an illustration in The Wildlife of Star Wars of one digging up and eating a sarlaac . Usually they stayed buried in the sand.
    • Tatooine also has dune worms, which... are basically exact Expys of sand worms.
  • The Flayers in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch are carnivorous worm-like creatures which lurk beneath the sand of a certain desert on the planet Harkoum. They're known to eat people; crossing the desert on foot is practically suicide.
  • In the Retief story "Internal Affair", the ambassador sent to the planet Quahogg disappears after reporting being chased by forty-foot giant worms, and Retief and Magnan are sent to investigate. The worms turn out to be the intelligent life forms the ambassador was sent to meet (somehow the CDT overlooked this little fact), and, while the ambassador was eaten, this did no harm—in fact, it turns out that the only safe place for humans on the planet is inside the worms.
  • Redshirts has Borgovian Land Worms, which eat two characters.
    • Later it is revealed that not only did the lead writer of the show have nothing to do with these, he was on vacation, but the TV company got in trouble with the Herbert estate as well proving that sand worms are VERY lawyer unfriendly.
  • In The City Who Fought, Simeon is attacked by a literal "worm" program, two metres thick with rows of rotating concentric teeth - apparently based on a real creature.
  • In Exiles of ColSec, these are a recurring threat. They vary from about three feet long to about seven feet in diameter, and are armed with deadly stinging tentacles. They're at least somewhat justified in that they have durable exoskeletons, and that they lurk under a shallow layer of soil and ground cover rather than actually burrowing. In the end, it's helping to kill a particularly large one that serves to somewhat endear the central cast to the native humanoids.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Tremors: The Series
  • The Sand Rays and Sharks from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, obviously based on the Graboids from Tremors.
  • During its "movie ripoff" phase, Sliders likewise did an episode featuring one.
  • The Dune miniseries.
  • An episode of 1960s Outer Limits called The Invisible Enemy had an astronaut team investigating why a previous landing party had vanished and their ship destroyed. They barely escape after being attacked by giant sand sharks.
  • Seaquest DSV featured a giant, fire-breathing worm that lived in underwater caves.
  • Earth 2 had the Terrians, humanoids with a complex and very alien psychology who traveled like sandworms through the soil of their (living, symbiotic) homeworld.
  • Lost Tapes did an episode about Mongolian death worms.

    Mythology 
  • The Olgoi-Khorkhoi (Mongolian Death Worm), a legendary beast said to inhabit the Gobi Desert, is a 2-5 foot long worm capable of spitting acid and able to electrocute prey.
  • Northern European and Siberian folklore held that the dead mammoths, whose bones were found in earth, or who sometimes were embedded in the permafrost, were burrowing creatures that died instantly upon contact with air. The word "mammoth" is likely derived from "underground deer" in some Finno-Ugric languages.
  • Medieval Russian folklore had the beast Indrik ("the beast of all beasts"), who cuts underground riverbeds through earth and dies from exposure to light. Depending on the narrator, it could be the same creature as mammoth, or a separate animal.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The iconic Purple Worm
      • It looks very much like a sandworm from Tremors, including the mouth parts, but lives underground and tunnels through solid rock, leaving tunnels similar to the Horta from "The Devil In The Dark". It hunts by sensing tremors of moving creatures which touch the ground, so flying is advised. And they're purple, covered in slime, and pictures of them have inspired a lot of eye-rolling from gamers. One of the monsters that would go beyond the game's PG-13 rating, if parents didn't pretend they hadn't seen it. In later editions, the artwork has made more the worm more scaly and less suggestive.
      • One edition mentioned a mottled worm, which was described as an aquatic version of a purple worm. This was later retconned and explained that they were both the exact same species, and purple worms could simply live underwater as well as they could on land.
      • In the Desert of Desolation series, Purple Worms (as well as a relative called the Thunderherder) could be found in the title desert.
    • There's also the frost worm (based directly off of the yakhmar from The Lair of the Ice Worm) and the Remorhaz (also inspired by the yakhmar, but is a bit more like a giant centipede than a worm and burrows through ice and snow with a body temperature that rivals molten iron).
    • Likewise the Thoqqua (Rockworm) from the 1981 Fiend Folio and the Nightcrawler (no, not that one) from the Basic D&D game.
    • 3.5 Edition also has the Ashworm, the Purple Worm's smaller brother. There's also a prestige class called the Ashworm Dragoon, which serves as sandworm-mounted heavy cavalry.
    • Dragonlance module DL12 Dragons of Faith. One possible encounter is with a Dune style sand worm. Its approach causes an earth tremor and leaves "worm sign" on the surface.
    • The Mystara setting had the Leviathan Worm. The desert version was up to 500 feet long and 40 feet wide. It was sensitive to vibrations and attacked anything moving on the surface within a quarter mile. When moving underground it caused a ripple like an ocean wave on the surface above it. It attacked by engulfing an area of sand.
    • Since the Dark Sun setting was set on the desert planet of Athas, it naturally had several examples.
      • Silt Drakes, Red Silt Horrors and Silt Spawn all swam through the Silt Sea.
      • The Sink Worm was Dark Sun's version of the Dune sandworm. It was 50 feet long, left a sunken depression in the ground behind it (wormsign), burst out of the ground under its prey and swallowed it whole, its mouth was lined with teeth, and it could feel the vibrations of creatures walking on the ground.
    • 3rd Edition Creature Collection. Sand Burrowers track prey through vibrations. They grab their victims with tentacles that extend from their mouth, like the Graboids in the film Tremors.
    • In the Forgotten Realms, illithid tadpoles that manage to grow up without a host become Neothelids. Basically Sand Worms with Psychic Powers and tentacles growing on their "faces".
    • Aside from adopting the purple worm, remorhaz, ice worm, thoqqua, and neothelid (that last now uncoupled from its connection to illithids, which are a Wizards identity product) from D&D, Pathfinder has added the death worm (a direct interpretation of the Olgoi-Khorkhoi) and seugathi (neothelids' servitor spawn) to its lineup of such beasts.
    • There's also the Spawn of Rovagug known as Chemnosit, The Monarch Worm. It's a kaiju-sized Eldritch Abomination sandworm with Disintegrator Ray Eye Beams and the ability to Mind Rape those it stares at into feeling insatiable hunger for the flesh of their own kind, driving them into insane rampages of cannibalism in which they will eat their own flesh if they can't get anyone else's. Chemnosit has been described as actually holding back from devouring cities to first let its Hungry Gaze do its terrible work; only once the city's inhabitants have devastated themselves does it grow bored and consume the few survivors.
  • Behold the Thermopod from Magic: The Gathering, a giant slug that is not unlike D&D's Remorhaz. This one actually has a plentiful supply of caribou and goblins to feed on, though.
    • Also of note is the Wurm Creature type. These can vary quite a bit from creature to creature but most of them share a similar, dragon-like head. Oh, and these Wurms happened to live in Forests. Of course, there are also a few more traditional desert dwelling Wurms as well.
  • The Dune boardgame.
    • Had it gone to press, Last Unicorn Games' Dune RPG.
  • Shadowrun has some miniature (2'-5' long) versions among its Awakened animals. They're descended from earthworms, secrete a powerful acid to penetrate stone, and eat concrete, particularly highways.
  • Talislanta has giant sand eels. Same idea, different flavor-text.
  • Deadlands has rattlers. No, not those. Mojave rattlers are named for the noise a cowpoke's teeth make as they race toward him. Before taking one on, re-read that part about "varying intelligence" real careful: rattlers in different parts of the country even have different personalities, implying at least the intelligence of a clever hunting animal. They're smarter than they seem, too. And they don't eat everyone they catch. What do they do with them...?
  • Warhammer 40,000 brought about several incarnations of these with the Tyranids since third edition.
    • "The Red Terror" was a relative of the Ravener species (snake or worm-like Tyranids) that had the ability to burrow its way onto the battlefield and swallow smaller enemies whole. The Red Terror was later removed from the playable creatures: the Raveners got its burrowing abilities.
    • The Trygon is a giant version of the Ravener with all its burrowing abilities and an electrical attack. Since Raveners were much too small for a proper Sand Worm, the Imperial Armour books introduced their giant form (their being able to move is Hand Waved as their electrical field breaking the ground into fine particles, which are easier to move around).
    • January 2010 had Games Workshop feature a new sub-strain of the Trygon called the Mawloc. It is the most Sandworm-like creature in the game so far, having shorter arms and a multi-jawed mouth. On top of everything the Mawloc is not only able to burrow underground, but move around while underground and reappear elsewhere later (apparently it's faster while underground than on the surface).
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, the Medusa Worm is a card that, when flip summoned, can destroy an opponents monster. You can then flip it back down so it can eat your opponents monsters again next turn.
  • The Graveworm from GURPS: Creatures of the Night is an effectively harmless version of this. They're very easy to kill (literally, they have the "Easy To Kill" disadvantage) and have no real attacks but if people that spend to much time around a living one find their intelligence being drained away.
  • Call of Cthulhu has two:
    • Dholes, gigantic underground worms with a penchant for destroying planets by burrowing through them. They are that large. Getting hit by a Dhole requires you to make a Luck roll; a success means there is enough of you left to hold a proper funeral.
    • Chthonians, somewhat smaller underground worms with blood-draining tentacles and telepathy.
  • Arkham Horror, being Cthulhu Mythos The Board Game, has dholes and cthonians as per the literature and RPG examples above. In game terms, dholes are massive and incredibly powerful while cthonians can damage all the investigators by causing earthquakes.
  • The CCG Guardians has a card called "The Great Ba'te" and it is one of the largest creatures in the game.
  • Chaosium's supplement All the Worlds' Monsters. Sand Worms: are 100-200 meters long, live in sandy deserts, water poisons it, can hear things miles away, attack creatures on the surface by creating a sand whirlpool beneath them, and a certain item allows them to be controlled and used as a mount. In other words these are a fantasy version of Dune sandworms.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse has the Thunderwyrms, gigantic beasts that travel under the earth and are drawn above the surface by storms (hence the name). It's believed they were born of irradiated soil, a belief backed up by the fact that the largest Thunderwyrm (big enough to host a Caern inside it) nests under the soil of the Trinity test site.

    Video Games 
  • Sands of Destruction has sandwhales.
  • Serious Sam 3: BFE has sand worms, which are known as Sand Whales for their sheer bulk. Contrary to the usual example, these (unkillable game-wise) bad boys eat mineral matter without a damn to give about mostly everything; they are nothing more than extremely territorial, though, which makes them a perfectly diegetic example of Border Patrol on the more open-ended levels.
  • Gears of War 2 features the Riftworm, a gigantic worm that the Locust use to sink cities, awakened by the detonation of the lightmass bomb in the first game. "Giant" doesn't even BEGIN to describe it— it'd probably be around 4 kilometers long. It's also Hand Waved as far as biology and physics go. It's supported by a skeleton, and doesn't seem to be carnivorous. Also it has red blood, and a lot of it.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Dirge the Tenth Colossus is a giant sand worm. Except it hits you. At high speeds. And it's hard.
  • Wahsh Al-Sahraa in Legacy Of A Thousand Suns
  • Lost Planet features a giant snow worm in one of its missions.
  • Giant Worms or "Wurms" are recurring monsters in the MMORPG Guild Wars. They come in a wide variety from basic Sand Wurms in the Crystal Desert, Frost Wurms in Shiverpeaks of Tyria, the Desert Wurms and unique undead Junundu wurms of the Elonan Desolation and the Chaos Wurms of the Fissure of Woe. They're by far the biggest monsters in the game (with the exception of one of the endgame bosses) and the boss versions of some of them, (and unique ones such as the Canthan Leviathan) are absolutely TITANIC. Very intimidating. The expansion pack Eye of the North gives us even more Wurms, with a whole dungeon dedicated to them. The end boss of that dungeon is the second most largest enemy in all of Guild Wars, only bowing to Abbadon. Yes, they surpassed their previous records of gigantic Wurms with even more gigantic Wurms.
  • The planet Blenjeel from Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy is loaded with them. There's a reason why you only have to do 4 of 5 missions in each act. Perhaps as a shout-out, you can trick them into eating explosives to distract them from chasing you.
  • Thresher Maws in Mass Effect, apex predator of the Death World that raised the krogan. They don't exclusively appear on desert planets, but the only one that's actually necessary to fight in order to complete a mission does. Others can be found here and there, but they can be avoided with no ill effect beyond missing out on the experience from killing it.
    • The lore also explains what in the hell they eat to maintain their mass: metal. That is, underground ore, usually. This also explains why they attack things like tanks and settlements: plenty of metal to munch on. It even explains the damaging acid they can spit, as they would need some pretty potent acids to digest metal.
    Mordin: Thresher Maw getting closer!
    Wrex: Tell me something I don't know!
    Mordin: Metal in truck an excellent iron supplement for Maw's diet.
  • These pop out of the sand in the Egyptian stage of Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin.
  • Tales of Symphonia has Sand Worms and Snow Worms. Which are pretty much a white/blue Palette Swap.
    • The sequel has them, as well, where they're among the largest monsters you can have on your team. They're also a bit unusual in that they have arms.
    • Tales of the Abyss has them as well.
    • Tales of Hearts has a Sandworm boss, several miniature versions of itself populating its dungeon, and a later Palette Swap in the final dungeon.
    • Tales of Xillia has them, though never in the sand, instead appearing in caves and canyons.
  • A recurring enemy in the Final Fantasy series. Probably the most memorable ones are in V, where its corpse provides a stable path across the desert, and VI, where being eaten by a specific one on a specific island leads to a hidden dungeon and party member.
    • A particular area of the overworld in V has a winding path of greenery passing through the desert. Simply traveling across the desert is faster, but you run the risk of encountering these things, which will almost certainly kill you at that point of the game.
    • These monstrosities are living, breathing, adventurer-eating entrances to special boss fights in Final Fantasy XI. There are also much smaller person-sized worms that cast magic— although considering they are immobile in combat, it's needed to prevent them from being too damn easy to kill with ranged attacks.
    • The first time you face a Sand Worm in Final Fantasy X, it has the most HP of any enemy you've faced thus far (and it's only a random encounter!). Fortunately, it's not too deadly, and it's vulnerable to attacks that remove fractions of the enemy's HP, so if you have some Shadow Gems lying around, you can make quick work of one.
      • And if you don't, you can steal Shadow Gems from the Sand Worm itself.
    • The Abyssal Worm in the Very Definitely Final Dungeon can be farmed for the very valuable items that allow you to exceed the 9999 damage cap. Unfortunately, they're located after the Point of No Return.
  • Rogue Galaxy has them. And they're huge, even by this trope's standard.
  • The pop culture reference-heavy Kingdom of Loathing has a quest that involves sandworm riding.
  • Space Quest 1 used one of these to prevent the player from venturing into the open desert.
  • Death Worm, in which you play a giant worm, leaping from the ground and eating people to grow larger.
  • World of Warcraft has a few, the first being Ouro, a then-unique model boss in the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj. The Burning Crusade expansion introduced acid-spitting worms capable of tunneling through solid rock in Hellfire Peninsula and the Bone Wastes in the middle of Terrokar Forest. In homage to Frank Herbert, one quest chain ends with summoning a giant undeground worm named "Hai'shulud" with a "fumper", and gives "Dib'Muad's Crysknife" as a quest reward. Jormungar of Northrend are quite a bit smaller, but adhere to the same principles (and spit acid too). With the release of the Cataclysm expansion, World Of Warcraft got sandworms that are made of stone Stargates and magma wurms.
  • Phantasy Star IV had these infesting the planet Motavia, with an enterprising farmer deciding to open a sandworm ranch. Unfortunately, it gets too big for its britches, and thus becomes one of the first (and hardest) Bonus Boss fights in the game at that point. You often fought baby Sandworms in Random Encounters, and at least one variant, if you left a single one alive, would run off and summon Mama (another full-sized one like the boss mentioned above). When you get the Land Rover, one of the enemies you ran into was a Palette Swap of the Sandworm, while swaps of both the small and large kind could be found in the planet's oceans.
  • The Bonus Boss of zOMG shares its name with this trope's alternate title/humorous variation: Landshark. It is, quite literally, a shark that swims through (and appears to be made of) sand. Other than than its anatomy, it acts almost exactly like a sandworm, burrowing underground and eating unsuspecting Gaians.(It can kill a CL 10.0 Player with multiple armor buffs and a health boost in 3 hits, and unbuffed players in less than that. It took 3 6-Person Crews of CL 10 players to take it down. Plus the area it spawns in is usually filled with CL 5 players).
  • Nydus Worms in StarCraft II are an improvement on the first game's Nydus Canals: Load a bunch of units into a Nydus Network building, and have it grow a giant underground worm in another area. The creature bursts out of the ground and begins disgorging tons of units all at once.
    • One mission in Heart of the Swarm features an "ash worm" that pops out of the ground to spit acid at your units before burrowing again and popping up somewhere else. It apparently killed a Brood Mother that way. When slain the Zerg use its DNA to enable Swarm Hosts to move while burrowed.
  • Great Wyrms in Master of Magic.
  • Overlord features giant sand worms in the later levels.
  • Zombies Ate My Neighbors the excellent but Nintendo Hard Lucas Arts game for the SNES is filled with homage monsters for the two teens to battle, and of course, has a gigantic people-eating worm. It lashes its tongue in and out at people.
  • F-Zero GX shows a sandworm in the background of the Sand Ocean stages, though since this is a racing game, you (thankfully) don't interact with the scenery in any way.
  • Dune, Dune II, Dune 2000 and Emperor: Battle for Dune, of course. In the first game (which doesn't actually share any continuity with the others) they mostly serve as Paul's means of transportation, while in "2" and "2000" they show up semi-randomly to eat units, in "Emperor" they mostly do the same thing but Fremen can intentionally summon them and temporarily control them.
  • Viva Pinata doesn't technically have a sandworm, but the Whirlms can dive into the ground without making a mark and pop out again without any dirt on them, so they could easily burrow through ground like a sandworm if they wanted.
  • The Burrow Beast in Destroy All Humans! 2, a Tremors Shout-Out that Crypto summons by dropping bait, whereupon it starts popping up from beneath any mook in the surrounding area and dragging them underground to feed on.
  • There were a couple of these in Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. Some were real sand worms, and some were ice worms.
  • In the Patapon games, there are two Sandworms named Zaknel and Dokaknel in the deserts. They drop vegetables.
  • One of the bosses in Ginormo Sword is called "Sand Worm".
  • The first Star Ocean game features Sandworms in the deserts of planet Roak, and also their cousins, called "Fellworms," in the mountains.
  • NetHack features both D&D Purple Worms, and lawyer-friendly versions of Dune's sandworms. Neither actually burrow through the ground, though.
  • The Immortal features these as recurring enemies up until level five. Level four is dedicated to avoiding them by floating around on a magic carpet with extremely bad handling.
  • Pokémon:
    • Onix and Steelix are Rock Pokémon that resemble giant snakes made out of boulders or iron. Fittingly, their respective types are Rock/Ground and Steel/Ground.
    • Gible and its kin resemble sharks in their design, but they're really Dragon/Ground types.
  • Metroid Prime 2 features Amorbis, a trio of Sand Worms, as the boss of Dark Agon Wastes which is a huge scaled up version of the light world critter the Sandigger, which are about 6 foot long and spit acid.
  • Mabinogi has two different types of these.
    • One is an odd twist on the traditional sandworm type; which bizarrely occurs in normal terrain rather than sand, including inside certain dungeons, moving indiscriminantly through turf, rock, and soil. Possibly justified, in that it appears to be partly supernatural in nature. This was the first version developed. There is a high-level field boss version, the giant sandworm, which does occur in desert sand dunes; and a minor variant, the ice worm, found only in snowfields. Both of these are played completely straight.
    • A second type is called a "lungfish" (and looks vaguely like a real-life lungfish). Although the appearance is actually that of an eel-like fish, it acts like a straight sandworm, and is found in desert sand dunes.
  • Gradius Gaiden has a snow worm as its first boss.
  • Resident Evil: Code: Veronica has the Gulp Worm. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis has the Grave Digger, though it is based on the millipede.
  • Breath of Fire IV actually has a Sand Worm dragon that resembles a Sand Worm with fins. It wrecks your ship, enabling you to find the Heroic Mime Ryu.
  • Armageddon 2, a map-pack for Skulltag, has a pair of these as bosses in the "Sand Worm Trench" level. They don't swallow people, just breathe fire at them (and are lanky, looking somewhat like snakes).
  • RuneScape has the Strykewyrms, which come in Jungle, Desert and Ice varieties. They're normally unagressive and can only be fought as a Slayer task.
  • Darksiders has these in a desert called the Ashlands, with an even larger one as the boss of the area.
  • The Subterranean in Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (N64).
  • Mousehunt has the "Big Bad Burroughs Mouse" and its smaller brother, the Itty-Bitty Burroughs Mouse. They're pretty much a cross between this trope and a mouse.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog series has some robotic ones in Sonic 3 & Knuckles located in Sandopolis zone. Giant stone sandworms appear in Sonic Adventure. Alien worms appeared in Shadow the Hedgehog. More organic and fiery ones can be found in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) although the latter two seem to prefer any surface, not just sand.
  • TimeSplitters: Future Perfect has twenty-foot-long vicious dirt-worms in the backyard of the haunted mansion. The player gets to rescue a scientist who had taken refuge in a tree by defeating the worms with a flamethrower. The scientist also references Tremors by name, in keeping with the game being filled with movie Shout Outs.
  • The Hapurubokka from Monster Hunter Portable 3rd is a three-way cross between a sandworm, a sand shark and a submarine. It even has the distinctive "burst up vertically from the sand and eat something on the way" move.
  • Black Sigil has a desert in which are sandworms. You can avoid them by walking through a specific path, but going out of said path leads to interesting items (in chests, of course).
  • Bug! had a really nasty swamp worm as the boss of Splot.
  • Heavy Weapon has the robotic Mechworm boss, fought in Antagonistan. It jumps out of the sand and spams missiles and bombs.
  • One of Wario World's bosses is named one of these, but in reality it's more like an antlion with scythe-hands. It still tunnels through the sandpit it's found in at high speed.
  • Panzer Dragoon has plenty of examples; they make an especially prevalent appearance in the second level of the first game.
  • E.V.O.: Search for Eden featured these in one level. Notably, they are the only invincible enemy in the game, fortunately they wouldn't attack you actively, though one might pop out of the ground under or in front of you. A later level featured sand-dwelling dinosaur-like creatures called Mosuchop which would jump out and bite you before retreating under the sand. (Real Moschops, the mammal-like reptile on which it was based, were not known to do this.)
  • The land shark variety is in Saints Row 3 and a League of Legends champion, released at about the same time. You shoot or throw a fish at the target, and after a short delay a shark breaks through the pavement and takes a big bite. SR3 claims it is a sewer shark. LoL does not explain anything.
  • Terraria has quite a few: Giant worms, devourers (corrupted versions of the former), the Eater of Worlds, diggers, world feeders (stronger versions of the first two) and the Destroyer (a robotic version of the Eater of Worlds).
  • Several appear in Epic Battle Fantasy.
  • Penumbra has these deep inside an old mine. They are mutations of indigenous rock worms. They are "only" about four to eight feet in diameter...
  • The sixth game of the Mega Man Battle Network series has a seldom seen sandworm virus that leaps in and out of panels, periodically appearing in front of or behind you before trying to plow through you. Its chip summons worms from behind your foes to attack in the same fashion.
  • Threshers in Borderlands 2. Threshers tend to live on fertile ground near water, and they have squid-like tentacles that they use to either pummel or throw rocks at you. The "Captain Scarlett" DLC campaign introduces actual Sand Worm enemies, which are found in an arid desert; they don't seem to be related to Threshers, appearing and behaving quite different from them.
  • Diablo II has the burrowing Sand Maggots, which the official backstory points out are actually arthropods and not worms at all. A gigantic boss variant named Coldworm the Burrower was so bloated it resembled a worm more than the normal Sand Maggots. Diablo III once again features desert locations with giant worms, this time the far more traditional Rockworms, which can swallow players whole and spit them out. The Cave of Burrowing Horror has the corpse of a truly immense specimen winding through the floor. This game also features the dinosaur-like Dune Threshers swimming through the sand like sharks.
  • The Burrowing Snagrets from the Pikmin series are functionally similar to these, though they can burrow through the dirt as well as the sand.
  • The first Shantae game had these in the desert area near Oasis Town. They're long, durable, and look menacing with their mandibles and single eye, but they're mostly harmless since they just sit there in their hole in the sand.
  • Star Trek Online has aehallh worms, first seen on the desert planet Nimbus. They are sessile predators that sprout from the ground and let their prey come to them. The name refers back to the TOS novel The Romulan Way, where it is the Romulan word for "ghost" or "monster".
  • At least one kind of fauna found in No Man's Sky can be considered this, though its scaly exterior suggests it has more in common with a snake than a worm.
  • Civilization: Beyond Earth has the Siege Worms, massive, Boss in Mook Clothing aliens that spawn in the world starting from turn 1. Luckily, they aren't automatically hostile; aliens are only hostile to humans if humans have a reputation for attacking aliens. If you get lucky, it's possible to get one for yourself, long before the other factions have access to anything that stands a chance against them. In addition, because of the Affinity's Nuclear Weapons Taboo, Harmony players can instead send spies to set up a Thumper in an enemy city, summoning a horde of Siege Worms to ravage it.
  • Lunar: Eternal Blue has Sand Sharks in the Salyan Desert.

    Webcomics 
  • In Demon Eater some demons are seen to grow into this shape.

    Western Animation 
  • SpongeBob SquarePants had the Alaskan Bull Worm, which went around eating half the town, prompting Sandy and Spongebob to go hunt for it. At one point, Sandy even claims to have found "wormsign", which is a small wooden sign with "WORM" written on it. "It's BIG, SCARY and PINK!"
  • In an episode of The Fairly OddParents, Cosmo poofs up a sand worm during Septemberfest.
  • Ben 10 ran afoul of several of these while trapped on an alien planet.
  • Bounty Hamster. A white sandworm is pursued by mad Captain Rehab in a spoof of Moby-Dick.
  • Terra's introductory episode in the second season of Teen Titans. Granted, they're mechanical, but they still count.
  • Scooby-Doo encountered a (fake, natch) sand worm while on a cross-country race in Mexico.
  • At least two episodes of Disney's Aladdin: The Series featured or alluded to what was essentially a landshark-variety sandworm hunted by an Captain Ahab Captain Ersatz.
    • It was much more sharky than wormy.
  • Pirates of Dark Water had one of these, though it was referred to several times in dialog as a "crustacean," it had a long, serpentine body and other characteristics that fit this trope.
    • A recurring character was Bloth's sandworm-like pet, the Constrictus, which looked like an homage to Tremors but was more realistically depicted as dwelling in and moving though water and sewage rather than sand or soil (it lived in the bowels of Bloth's huge ship). It was a large, mindless, constantly hungry beast with a worm-like body, tentacles and sharp teeth.
  • In The Flight of Dragons, the band encounters a giant worm swimming in some kind of slime in Ommadon's kingdom. They were able to defeat it by having Danielle shoot a flaming arrow into its mouth, causing its head, then body, to explode.
    • The slime was sulfuric acid that the worm oozed from its skin as a defensive mechanism. Fortunately for the heroes, it was also highly flammable.
  • We don't actually see it, but in Futurama Al Gore claims to have "ridden the mighty moon worm".
    • Years later we actually do see it; its habitat seems to be more jungle than sand.
    • A sandworm also appears on Mars in Into the Wild Green Yonder. The locals use it for transport.
  • In an episode of The Mummy: The Animated Series, Imhotep sends a sand worm after the heroes.
  • Sandworms weren't just in the live action Beetlejuice. They were also a fairly constant theme in the animated series as well, and Beetlejuice was pretty darned terrified of them.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog had one episode dealing with a sand whale attacking the house, trying to get back his accordion from Eustace (who he thought was his father, who actually did steal the accordion). At the very end of the episode when he does get it back, it's revealed that he's part of an entire orchestra of sand whales.
  • The episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic "Three's a Crowd" has a giant worm who attacks Twilight and Cadance after they pick the giant flower it was under.
  • The Legend of Korra has an episode where Korra and Asami encounter a gigantic land shark in the middle of the Earth Kingdom's desert. Its made more terrifying by the fact that it has the jaws of a fish called a "Sarcastic Fringehead".

    Real Life 


Robot GirlOtherness TropesScary Amoral Religion
Sand Is WaterDesert TropesScary Scorpions
Sand Is WaterThe Ground Beneath Our FeetShifting Sand Land
Space WhaleAlien TropesBig Creepy-Crawlies
Sand Is WaterSpeculative Fiction TropesSapient Cetaceans
Turtle IslandIndex of Fictional CreaturesShoulder-Sized Dragon
Pretty ButterfliesInvertebrate IndexScary Scorpions
DuneImageSource/LiteratureEccentric Circles

alternative title(s): Land Shark; Shai Hulud
random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
106728
2