The Morlocks

Neat fan art.

"The Proles will never awake until they are free and the Proles will never be free until they awaken."
1984

Sometimes, the course of human evolution can lead to a sub-division. Those in the position of power become a higher caste of human beings, and those in the working class are albinos with leech-like mouths who have a taste for human flesh. The latter is due to adapting to living underground becoming a troglofaunal species. Darwin didn't really think about this possibility, but H.G. Wells certainly did.

Common in science fiction and fantasy, the Morlocks usually represent everything that science and art cannot redeem in the working class. This is a somewhat insidious remnant of Victorian phrenology and its ideas of Evolutionary Levels, and has left a huge impact in genre fiction.

The Morlocks as a trope are almost Always Chaotic Evil. They are often the byproduct of a Sufficiently Advanced Society.

Compare their cousins the Mole Men.

The name of this trope stems from The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. The Morlocks are hideous troll-like beings that haunt the night while the innocent Eloi culture sleeps. The book implies that it is kind of a Blue and Orange Morality: the Eloi have no conception of altruism, art, love or even the future tense. They don't actually have a culture. The Morlocks, on the other hand, are actually productive society members: they just breed the Eloi like cattle, and for the same purpose. The narrator speculates that, as the upper class constantly pushed the lower class below ground, the upper class lost the ability to think and work for itself, leaving the lower class adapted to operating heavy machinery and thinking logically. The entire thing is commonly interpreted as a critique on Victorian society.

This concept has since evolved into a monster archetype much like vampires and zombies but hasn't been overused like those tropes.

Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  

  • Metropolis
  • The Big O features the wealthy living in domes and the poor struggling to survive outside them.

     Comic Books  

  • And, of course, X-Men supporting characters the Morlocks, mutants whose mutations are physically disfiguring and who live underground with others of their kind. Of course, even among the Morlocks, there are hierarchies, and the Tunnellers look down on the Drain Dwellers (and vice versa). Only one Morlock, Marrow, has ever been a member of the X-Men proper, reflecting the bad blood between the two groups.
    • Sunder was a temporary member of the X-Men... for about 1 or so issues, but he still technically counts, too.
    • There's another group of mutants roaming in London's sewers that make the Morlocks look like supermodels.
  • An issue of Allan and the Sundered Veil deals with Morlocks where they revealed to be aliens.

     Film  

  • Metropolis, both the anime and the 1920s silent film, have an under-caste of workers who serve the upper classes. In the silent film, the workers are almost more robotic than the robots, though still undeniably human, and the film's relatively positive ending definitely reflects this.
  • 1960 and 2002 adaptation of The Time Machine of course.
  • The 1992 adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft's Lurking Fear of course.
  • The Descent has the crawlers who like the morlocks are pale carnivorous creatures who have adapted to living underground but they are just mindless animals. H.G. Wells also happens to be one of Neil Marshall's favorite writers.
  • The Hunters in Pandorum are very similar to the Morlocks but their evolution was accelerated and they are cannibals for cultural reasons. They even used the heads of the Morlock costumes from the 2002 adaptation.
  • The creatures in C.H.U.D. are morlock-like to some degree.

     Literature  

  • The Morlocks in The Time Machine were actually the more advanced race, providing all the food and luxuries the mentally deficient Eloi depended on.
    • But subverted in The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter. After the time traveler accidentally changes history, advanced Morlocks live inside a Dyson sphere. They live in darkness because it allows a better view of the universe. Meanwhile the "new Eloi", basically standard humans, are busy blowing themselves to bits in pointless wars on the further interior of the sphere (where they can see the sun). At the end of the book, the time traveler vows to try and view the original Morlocks as potential sapient allies and goes to try and deal with them.
  • The creatures in H. P. Lovecraft's Lurking Fear are somewhat like Morlocks as they are carnivorous de-evolved apelike humans. However, it's not social class and evolution that turned them into this, but generations of inbreeding.
  • The "Children of the Night" from Robert E. Howard's stories are the degenerate subterranean descendants of a primitive people driven underground by the arrival of the Picts in the British Isles. Many of Howard's period stories from Celtic times features these dwarfish, hissing mini-Morlocks as a menace, and by the 20th century they've diminished and inbred until only one remains, which looks more like a snake than a human.
  • 1984 by George Orwell gives us the Proles, the underclass of apolitical nobodies who dwell in squalor and ignorance beneath the Party who run Oceania.
    If there is hope, it lies in the proles.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • Orcs are sometimes identified as originally Elves who were subverted by the will of Morgoth, Sauron's master from The Silmarillion. Other times they're the result of Morgoth trying to create his own version of the children of Ilúvatar (elves and men). Tolkien went back and forth on the matter repeatedly, and hadn't settled on a definitive version even when he died, mainly due to trying to reconcile his dislike of Always Chaotic Evil with his belief in Evil as inherently incapable of creativity.
    • Gollum was born a perfectly normal proto-hobbit, but centuries of living under the Misty Mountains under the corrupting influence of the One Ring gradually turned him into a degenerate nocturnal creeper.
  • Jeff Long's The Descent and Deeper, with their pale cave-dwelling cannibal hadals who have evolved to adapted to their conditions, owe a lot to this trope.
  • The Night Land and Awake In The Night Land have the Abhumans, which are prophesied to eventually replace the regular humans.

     Theatre  

  • The thematic play Brand by Henrik Ibsen has a vision how of regular humans will evolve. It starts out with an idea of "eartbound thralls", gradually devolving into something similar to Morlocks (Brand actually uses the term Dwarfs, but the description fits), all in the mind of the titular character, who has a really grim view of where history is leading mankind.

     Live Action Television  

  • Doctor Who has occasionally portrayed the future of humanity this way. "Utopia," set at nearly the end of the universe, has ordinary humans plagued by the "futurekind," tattooed cannibals (or maybe technically not) with sharpened teeth, who seem barely capable of speech.
  • In the Star Trek: TOS episode "The Cloud Minders", the world of Ardana seems to be headed this way. The Troglodites are still recognizably the same species as the inhabitants of Stratos, but constant exposure to Zenite gas is gradually destroying their higher mental functions.

     Tabletop Games  

  • In the Dungeons & Dragons supplement Races of Destiny, there are the Sharakim, who look like orcs and are seen as sub-human because of it, but are a subversion. They actually are "tainted" humans and are generally Lawful Good, while having a thriving arts and culture to show their difference from normal orcs.
    • Grimlocks, originally from the 1E Fiend Folio, are a more straightforward version of this trope, though it's not entirely clear if they were originally human. They have stone-gray skin, sharp teeth, and no eyes whatsoever; they rely on Super Senses of touch, scent and hearing to get around in the darkness.
  • Vampire: The Requiem has a Nosferatu bloodline named the Baddacelli, nicknamed "The Morlocks". They are blind and live in the sewer.
  • Pathfinder features morlocks, using the name from The Time Machine, as degenerate underground-dwelling creatures that were once human. In a subversion, though, they were actually descended from the upper class of an ancient empire who fled deep underground, only to devolve into flesh-eating subhumans due to millennia of inbreeding and exposure to magical radiation. (Early Pathfinder sourcebooks also mention D&D's grimlocks, but due to the two races being almost identical, they've quietly dropped the grimlocks.)

     Video Games  

  • The Falmer in Skyrim are almost perfect Morlocks: They are beings whom evolved to adapt to their underground condition and are a slave race of an industrialized empire that hate surface dwellers. If they run across any surface dwellers (either people venturing into their lairs or one of their rare excursions aboveground) they will kill or capture and enslave them. They also are known to torture their captives, and feed them to their pet Chaurus, judging by the number of human remains in Chaurus pens. If Alftand is anything to go by, they also skin surface dwellers and make leather from them. About the only Morlock trait they don't have confirmed is eating the surface dwellers...but sometimes, when you kill one, you find 'Human Flesh' in its inventory...and human remains in their refuse heaps...
    • They were once a proud and advanced race of Elves who were hunted to near-extinction by the vengeful sons of man after the fall of Saarthal, one of the first human settlements. Their de-evolution was the result of being forced by their masters, the Dwemer, to eat toxic fungi that rendered them blind and decayed their minds, and which their physiology has become dependent upon. For this reason, Knight-Paladin Gelebor, one of the last remaining Snow Elves, refers to them as "The Betrayed."
    • The most disturbing sign of their degradation is the fact that their souls can be captured in white soul gems. A black soul gem is needed to capture the soul of a sentient being, while white soul gems can contain the souls of beasts. The Falmer have fallen so far that they are no longer even sentient. Judging by the Dwemer machines that use white soul gems to power their weapons, the Dwemer almost certainly intended this. The Dwemer deliberately reduced the Falmer to mindless beasts just so they could use Falmer souls as batteries.
  • Parodied in Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden with the furries of Cesspool X. They're not actually mutants, simply people who have undergone Magic Plastic Surgery to look like the creatures of their fantasy. Unlike most examples, they're not Always Chaotic Evil despite being the subject of derision for the "norms" (including Barkley) and are portrayed as people who simply want to live out their relatively harmless fantasies.

     Western Animation  

  • Spoofed as the Dumblocks on the Futurama episode "The Late Philip J. Fry". The gang is on a forward-only time machine looking for a backwards time machine, and the Eloi-like race they encounter say they could have one ready in five years. They return five years later to find that the Dumblocks have taken over.
  • In one episode of the Super Friends, "The Conquerors of the Future" they meet expys of Morlocks, called Barlocks. They are otherwise identical and trying to break in and attack the domed cities of the normal-looking people of the year 3000.

     Real Life  
  • In New York City there are many Urban Legends of "Mole People" living Beneath the Earth in abandoned tunnels. These legends have some basis in fact, due to the many railroad tunnels under Midtown Manhattan (not the New York Subway, however) which were poorly patrolled prior to the Turn of the Millennium. This allowed a variety of eccentrics to dwell there, some of whom never left.
  • While it's never been documented in mammals, the adaptation of invertebrates, fishes, and salamanders to life in caves is well known. Pigmentation is lost due to the metabolic expense of producing it in a nutrient-starved, lightless habitat where color doesn't matter, and eyes often degenerate or disappear because they're even more costly to grow and provide a potential avenue for infection.

Alternative Title(s):

Morlocks