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

Neat fan art.

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.

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. —Except that 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:

    open/close all folders 

     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.

     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 by choice. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Orcs of Lord of the Rings 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, to an extent. Born a perfectly normal hobbit (or else, something very much like a 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.

     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."
  • 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  


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