Follow TV Tropes


Clockwork Creature

Go To

He was only about as tall as Dorothy herself, and his body was round as a ball and made out of burnished copper. Also his head and limbs were copper, and these were jointed or hinged to his body in a peculiar way, with metal caps over the joints, like the armor worn by knights in days of old. He stood perfectly still, and where the light struck upon his form it glittered as if made of pure gold.
Ozma of Oz, Chapter 4, "Tiktok the Machine Man"

Welcome, welcome, welcome to Smith & Tinker's Garden of Clockwork Delights! Here you'll find all sorts of magnificent sights, from mechanical monstrosities to Lilliputian machines of supreme beauty. All of them are powered by patented Babbage engines with Antikythera brains. Wind them up and watch as they mimic life!note  See their powerful processors computing complex problems with each turn of the gears! Don't try to feed them any logical quandaries, lest you make their gears clog and smoke pour out them.

...Hey! You little punks, stop coming around here! This ain't a picture show!

A virtual requirement for Clock Punk settings, and very often found in Steampunk as well. Wind-Up Key optional. May be purely mechanical, or, if in a fantasy setting, there may be a blend of mechanical and magical elements. Sufficiently humanoid ones also overlap with Artificial Human and/or Ridiculously Human Robots.

See also Mechanical Monster and Mechanical Animals. Has nothing to do with A Clockwork Orange or Clock Roaches.


    open/close all folders 

  • Omega Coaxial Perfect Mechanical Movements commercials feature breathtaking clockwork representations of the ocean floor (complete with fish and a SCUBA diver), a sailboat (with sailors), a busy street, a bicycle race, the moon landing, and finally, the solar system.

    Anime and Manga 
  • In the 6th season of Cardfight!! Vanguard, Chrono Shindo receives a new clan called Gear Chronicles. The members of the clan have a clockwork design motif.
  • Cat Soup has a few of these.
  • El-Hazard: The Magnificent World has Ifurita, an ancient clockwork powered woman and super weapon combi.
  • Howl's Moving Castle: The castle itself appears as one of these. In fact, it is all held together by magic, and would collapse into a near-worthless pile of 2x4s and scrap metal if Howl and Calcifer weren't there to keep it going.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: one of the hero's True Companions is one. She needs to be wound every so often.
  • Vector Prime in Transformers: Cybertron, being the guardian of time, is much older than the other Transformers, and runs on clockwork more than electronics.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Professor Chronos uses an Ancient Gear Deck. The one-shot character Professor Heitmann in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds (who is probably a Shout-Out to Chronos) uses them too.
    • In the original Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yugi's deck (when he didn't have the Pharaoh's help) included Gadgets, Cute Machines that had clockwork mechanisms.
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, Yuma's pal Tetuo uses Machine-Type monsters that look like clockwork toys.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering has many clockwork creatures. Some actually have "clockwork" in the names. These tend to start out with a number of counters that get whittled down as they attack and block. Some can be "rewound", letting you add more tokens by tapping them or spending mana to recharge them.
  • The Ancient Gear archetype in Yu-Gi-Oh!. Also the Gadgets and Karakuri, both of whom represent this in their own ways. Gadgets get other gadgets from your deck, like how gears turn other gears, while Karakuri are not intelligent: they always attack, even when the only thing to attack can crush them, and when they are attacked, they defend instead of counterattack, even when they are stronger than what is attacking them. The Wind-Ups appear to count too, but most of them aren't Machine Type.

    Comic Books 
  • Atomic Robo has clockwork mummies.
  • Fables has Lord "Monty" Mountbatten of the Raj, who is a sentient clockwork tiger originally created as a toy for the Viceroy's children, but when the entire government was slaughtered by The Empire, he was left as the highest-ranking member of the government, declared himself the Viceroy, and started to lead and extremely ineffective rebellion (he and his mechanic are the only rebels left by the time he joins the main story). This apparent Joke Character becomes very important in the Cubs in Toyland arc, where his dual nature as both a sentient being and a toy allows him to leave the real world (in which he's a toy), and go to Toyland (where he becomes a real flesh-and-blood tiger).
  • Vögelein: Vögelein is a clockwork fairy. Although you wouldn't be able to tell, except for the wind-up in her back.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): In the Golden Age Wonder Woman faced off against a partially clockwork Clock Roach which ensured time loops occurred. It was a monster with a clockface for it's forehead and which had steam pour out of the spout it had for a nose.

    Fan Works 
  • Sharing the Night: When Celestia starts to feed magic to Harmony to guide along the latter's awakening, this forms by itself into an intricate body of golden clockwork for the newly conscious being to inhabit.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Adventures of Baron Munchausen has a three-headed bird creature, Sybil. When her victims dash off in different directions, she ends up splitting up into three, revealing her clockwork mechanism underneath.
  • The Automaton in The Best Offer.
  • Clash of the Titans (1981) has Zeus ordering Athena to gift Perseus her pet owl Bubo to aid him. She refuses to separate herself from her beloved owl and has Hephaestus build a mechanical copy of Bubo for Perseus.
  • The Cronos Device from Cronos is a mechanical scarab operated by multiple gears and housing an immortal insect inside it.
  • Hellboy:
  • The Automaton in Hugo.
  • The Nutcracker and the Four Realms features an entire army of clockwork soldiers who obey the commands of anyone who possess the Key.
  • Although droids in Star Wars are basically standard SciFi robots, some Star Wars beings are more clockwork than others, especially General Grievous (who is actually a cyborg, not a pure mechanical being).
  • In The Thief of Bagdad (1940), Evil Vizier Jaffar has a mechanical flying horse, and uses a clockwork dancer named the Silver Maid to stab the Sultan to death.
  • Your Highness: Simon, the faithful mechanical bird companion.

  • Ian Tregillis writes about clockwork servants called "clackers" in his Alchemy Wars books.
  • In Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story, "The Artist of the Beautiful," the absent-minded watchmaker's apprentice Owen Warland toils to capture ideal beauty creates a clockwork butterfly.
  • Ron Goulart's The Curse of the Obelisk has giant mechanical bats (big enough to carry people away); the sequel, The Prisoner of Blackwood Castle, has lifelike mechanical people (automatons).
  • The Mechanicals in Deathscent by Robin Jarvis. Though the clockwork is just a vehicle for a much more advanced form of technology, which means that some of them are self-aware.
  • The Japanese drink-serving automaton in The Difference Engine. Notably, it was made entirely of non-metallic components, such as springs made from baleen. So essentially a Bamboo Technology example.
  • In Elfstruck there is a Fair Folk with clockwork wings.
  • In The Gauntlet (2017), all the animals in the game are mechanical, with visible gears.
  • Havemercy: Havemercy herself and her fellow dragons are these, with a touch of magic thrown in.
  • Festus of The Heroes of Olympus is a big mechanical dragon.
  • The killer insects from His Dark Materials (the "Spy Fly" sent after Lyra most notably) apparently, although they are also Magitek. They are supposed to have an evil spirit coiled in their spring, twisting it tighter and never allowing them to stop.
  • The automatons from The Infernal Devices - humanoid clockwork creatures that answer to the Magister and that were planned to be infused with demon energies to create a clockwork army. Only very loosely "humanoid" and many times they are remotely humanoid they lack any facial features, up the creepy factor.
  • Keeper of the Lost Cities: Tinker's home has clockwork animals of her own design walking around.
  • E. E. "Doc" Smith in the Lensman series offers almost braindead zombie servants of Gray Roger, who freak Clio Marsden right out until Conway Costigan describes them as being full of cogs and wheels. Science Marches On, or maybe he was being flippant in his attempt to make it clear to her that these undying servants of evil are not actually human beings (at least, not any more).
  • In the Magic Ex Libris series, there is a whole swarm of Clockwork Insects, the queen of which takes commands from a grieving Abusive Father. They can also build new ones, and they aren't limited to bug size. Of that last fact, the heroes get an object lesson when they are attacked by a dragon made of mining equipment.
  • General Tik-Tok in the Oz books, starting with Ozma of Oz. Who may have the distinction of being the first depiction of a truly sapient clockwork-powered robot in fiction (Olimpia is older, but her intelligence doesn't even seem to match a chat bot). By extension, Wicked also has tik-tok creatures, namely Madam Morrible's servant, Grommetik.
  • La Poupée sanglante: from Gaston Leroux — yes, the guy that wrote The Phantom of the Opera wrote a novel about a man wrongly convicted and guillotined for murder; his head is attached to a robot and he seeks vengeance against those who wronged him. STEAMPUNK CYBORG VENGEANCE.
  • Olimpia from E. T. A. Hoffmann's "The Sandman (1816)" is a life-like mechanical "automaton".
  • The spider Lizzie makes in Spider Circus, complete with Wind-Up Key.
  • The dwarves of The Spiderwick Chronicles have a passion for constructing clockwork creatures, ranging from bugs to guard dogs, out of a desire to have creatures as long lasting as they are.
  • One of Igor's former masters in Thief of Time built a clockwork servant, and then tried to bring it to life so it could really think and wind itself up. Igor, recognising a threat to his profession when he saw one, followed the Mad Scientist's instructions exactly, and then ran for it before the thing exploded.
  • S.M. Peters' Whitechapel Gods not only has a lot of clockworks among its critters and people, but it's contagious.
  • Robert Rankin's The Witches of Chiswick features a Clockwork TERMINATOR complete with stock Arnie phrases and glowing red eyes. And no, it's not even close to the strangest thing in the book.
  • A Master of Djinn: The "boilerplate eunuchs" that serve drinks. There are also the angels, massive clockwork Eldritch Abominations.
  • Beyond The Century tells the story of a clockwork girl.

    Live-Action TV 

  • Having a song about a clockwork woman is almost a necessity for a self-respecting steampunk band.
    • "Herr Drosselmyer's Doll" by Abney Park:
      "Gentlemen, this fallen angel is the illegitimate daughter of art and science. A modern marvel of engineering, clockworks elevated to the very natural process which even now is in your blood, racing, your eyes flashing at such irreproachable beauty. Here is Gaia, here is Eve, here is Lilith, and I stand before you as her father. Sprung fully-formed from my brow, dewy and sweet; she can be yours and yours again, for her flesh is the incorruptible pale—the excuse from the wages of sin!"
    • "The Doctor's Wife" by The Clockwork Quartet:
      "Tuesday the eighteenth of July—my latest apparatus is the only thing that's keeping her alive.
      I had to stop her heart; the mechanical replacement will ensure the other organs can survive"
    • "The Inventor's Daughter" by The Cog Is Dead
      "I once met a girl with a heart of gold, Two legs of copper and arms of chrome..."
    • "So Long, Sally" by Professor Elemental:
      "I add a brass heart, pneumatic arms
      and a brain that loves my romantic charms
      artificial intelligence, laser eyes
      copper wire hair, shapely thighs..."
    • "Her Clockwork Heart" by Vernian Process.
      "Her clockwork heart beats next to mine; the greatest gift that I could give was time. An hourglass I fill again and again, with a limitless supply of sand. I hold her close to me, a cold machine, a ticking reminder of what might have been."
    • The Dresden Dolls take it in the other direction with "Coin-Operated Boy":
      Coin-operated boy
      Sitting on the shelf, he is just a toy
      But I turn him on and he comes to life
      Automatic joy
      That is why I want a coin-operated boy
  • Evillious Chronicles: The Clockwork Lullaby series is about singing, clockwork dolls.
  • Steam Powered Giraffe's oldest singing automaton, Rabbit, is a mixture of clockwork and steam.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Changeling: The Lost: It's entirely possible for a changeling, in the game of the same name, to be one of these. By default, they will be human-shaped, but there are options for other forms and characteristics.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has quite a few examples beyond the more typical magically-powered golems.
    • These pop up in the Greyhawk campaign setting. The Archmage Rary was particularly fond of making these, and had given Lord Robilar a clockwork horse. Rary was also working on a clockwork dragon.
    • The Complete Sha'ir's Handbook Al-Qadim supplement had the Clockwork Mage kit, which allowed the creation of Mechanicals — clockwork-based machines which could be used while adventuring or left to perform some task autonomously until they wind down. These have magical cores for control and spellcasting, but are powered by springs or even steam engines.
    • Originally depicted as nonmechanical, modrons, the dominant race of Mechanus, the Lawful Neutral plane in Dungeons & Dragons, became more mechanical over time before being replaced by formians and inevitables, another mechanical race who are basically the multiverse's law enforcement officers.
    • Spelljammer has the "clockwork horrors", a common mechanical threat. They were also given a third edition incarnation in the Monster Manual 2.
    • Mystara and Savage Coast has a few, including sort-of-sentient clockwork warriors.
  • Featured in any RPG supporting a Steampunk setting, such as GURPS Steampunk.
  • In the New World of Darkness sourcebook Immortals, the secret to the immortality of the Patchwork People (besides harvested organs) is a clockwork heart, which is implied to be powered by a Spark of Life stolen from a Promethean. In addition to allowing the use of hideous and immoral medical procedures to stave off age, improve strength and dexterity, and make the immortal better looking, the clockwork heart also ensures that they never need to sleep and can never be rendered unconscious by fatigue or injury.
  • Pathfinder has an entire category of creatures called Clockworks. They run the gamut from run-of-the-mill clockwork soldiers and scouts to the more advanced clockwork sorcerers and steeds to the diminutive clockwork spies and familiars to the powerful clockwork dragons and leviathans.
  • Talislanta has the Parthenians, an ancient seafaring "race" of automatons that have their own society.
  • In Unknown Armies, one of the oldest kinds of magick is Mechanomancy, a magickal school from the industrial era based on making clockwork creatures, from near-perfect replicas of your dead loved ones to bulldozer-tanks that run on human blood to little lunchbox-sized replicators that can eat a scrapyard overnight. Making the bigger stuff has a steep price, though, paid in memory and history - unwary mechanomancers tend to end up even more soulless and machine-like than their creations. There is a workaround: if you can work a historical artifact of singular importance (like John Wilkes Booth's pistol) into your machine, you won't need to give up any memories to make the thing work.
  • The Convergence of Cyriss in War Machine is a faction composed mostly of clockwork creatures. The Convergence worships Cyriss, the Maiden of Gears, goddess of mathematics and innovation. Cyriss does not possess much influence on Caen so she cannot grant her followers a proper afterlife, so her followers place their souls into clockwork vessels to allow them to remain in the world after their deaths.

  • In Jacques Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann (adapted from E. T. A. Hoffmann's "The Sandman (1816)"), the eponymous hero falls in love with a clockwork woman, Olympia, who repeatedly runs down and has to be rewound by her builder. He doesn't realize what she is until a man shows up and smashes her to bits. Leo Delibes' ballet Coppelia is based on the same story.

    Theme Parks 
  • In The Little Prince dynamic movie from the Futuroscope (based on The Little Prince), most inhabitants of the planet of the Timemaster are clockwork creatures. Notably, a clockwork dragon/snake, whose Breath Weapon you can feel thanks to the physical effects (blast of a air and bright light timed to the movie).

  • Most of the known lifeforms in BIONICLE are biomechanical, and the mechanical halves are clockwork (at least we know they are in the case of the Matoran Universe characters). They've also designed and built pure robots, also clockwork. As far as the toys themselves go, gear-based action features were all the rage in the line's early run (2001-2005), then they phased them out in favor of better articulation or simpler gimmicks.

    Video Games 
  • American McGee's Alice: Quite a few of the enemies, and other characters qualify.
  • Arcanum's High-Fantasy/Steampunk would be incomplete without clockwork mechs, and there is a nice variety for the tinker to build. Decoys that explode or illuminate, arachnids to poison enemies or heal your allies, and an automaton as heavy as a tank.
  • Banjo-Tooie: Clockwork Kazooie is a small robotic bird born out of special eggs called Clockwork Kazooie Eggs. These birds can be controlled by the player, and placed into a destination to explode like remote bombs. These are necessary to explode objects in spots that cannot be accessed directly by the due, including the engine of the HAG 1 during the final battle against Gruntilda.
  • The setting of Belladonna has clockwork used in Frankenstein-style reanimation experiments, creating clockwork cyborgs.
  • There is an entire class of villain in City of Heroes that are known, logically enough, as "The Clockwork". They are led by the arch-villain Clockwork King, and have two giant monsters: the Clockwork Paladin and Babbage. Subverted in that the clockwork elements are actually non-functional and all of them are powered, simultaneously, by the Clockwork King's vast yet unconscious telekinetic powers.
  • Dr. Nefarious Tropy of the Crash Bandicoot series takes this trope rather literally — he has several actual clocks on his body. Naturally, he is the self-proclaimed "Master of Time" in that universe, and even built a device known as the "Time Twister" which allows time travel.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: The Dwemer ruins feature numerous clockwork denizens, including spiders and humanoid robots. Their bodies even sometimes yield cogs or gears.
  • The Automatons in Endless Space are a race of clockwork robots left behind by their creators. Their bodies are built up of dozens of gears which often have no visible attachment points, and their capital ships have gyroscope-like assemblies made from gears.
  • Kirby:
    • Galactic Nova is a gigantic planet-sized Clockwork. It has an ability to grant a wish to the summoner, which Marx misused to take over Popstar; while Kirby managed to destroy it once, Marx absorbed its pieces to transform into Marx Soul to fight against Kirby in True Arena.
    • The recurring Mini-Boss Mr. Tick-Tock may also count, though it's a literal clock.
    • Creatures in planet Halcandra along with Magolor also fall into this category.
  • The champion Orianna, "The Lady of Clockwork", from League of Legends.
  • LittleBigPlanet has one crafted by Larry Da Vinci as a tutorial boss. As well as Clockwork Spiders in Bunkum Lagoon.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 Storm of Zehir has a side quest in which you have to hunt down several mechanical cockroaches. The quest giver's camp also has clockwork spiders.
  • Ōkami: Lechku and Nechku, the two clockwork owl demons.
  • Pikmin 2: The boss "Man-At-Legs" features a Steampunk body with four spider-style mechanical legs, and uses a laser-guided Macross Missile Massacre as its main attack.
  • Pirate101 has clockwork soldiers that look so lifelike that they could be mistaken for mere Faceless Goons.
  • Pokémon Black and White has the Klink evolutionary line that starts out as two gears, and gains more gears as it evolves.
  • The clockpunk Vinci faction in Rise of Legends.
  • Sly Cooper series: Clockwerk, the main antagonist in the first two games, who is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Sonic Generations: Several gears can be seen sticking out of the Time Eater's shadowy form. In its perfected state seen at the end of the game it has even more mechanical components, which are revealed to have been installed by Dr. Eggman and his past self in order to control the creature.
  • Ashlotte from Soul Calibur IV is one, despite the setting. She looks like this
  • Syberia: Pretty much everything that moves (and isn't of biological origin) is a clockwork piece.
  • Faradeus, the mechanical bird boss, in Teslagrad. Made somewhat more unsettling by the fact that its outer skin has rotted away, leaving only a bronze skeleton.
  • The enemies in The Watchmaker (2018). Justified by the game being set in a giant clock tower.
  • The clockwork spiders and clockwork golem that come in both wind up and steam powered flavors from Marleybone in the MMORPG Wizard101.
  • World of Warcraft has Clockwork Gnomes, the ancestors of normal gnomes (it involves Eldritch Abominations, and It Makes Sense in Context, sort of). You can even get one as a pet with the new archaeology skill.

  • A Beginner's Guide to the End of the Universe: The creatures spawned by the lightbulb tree are humanoids and horses made out gears and springs.
  • Girl Genius: "Clank" is a general term for a clockwork automaton, and as you might expect from any work of "gaslamp fantasy" worth its salt, they're quite a lot more sophisticated than anything we've ever accomplished. Agatha Clay has some cute little clanks shaped and sized like pocketwatches. They also can build more of themselves, albeit later generations are less and less advanced. On the other hand, other sparks—and especially previous generations of Heterodynes—were not known for their restraint. Popular variants include the clockwork tigers known as Fun-Size Mobile Agony and Death Dispensers.
  • The birds from Gunnerkrigg Court certainly suggest this, with their ticking, and they have electronic components as well.
  • Skin Horse has Moustachio the Thinkonium, a Steampunk robot who's probably a Shout-Out to the Oz example.
  • Stomp! has clockwork monsters called hissclickers,
  • Tozo: Tozo has his chatty miniature companion Klikker.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin: The Series featured a recurring villain called Mechanicles, a brilliant Greek inventor who built armies of anachronistic clockwork creatures, such as giant mechanical scorpions or miniature wind-up bugs.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse features a villain called Maltruant, an alien that is capable of time traveling, complete with a Wind-Up Key.
  • Paws, the robot cat in the Danger Mouse episode "Cat-astrophe," is called to his face a "clockwork caterwauler" by Colonel K.
  • A clockwork doppelgänger of Dave is created in the Dave the Barbarian episode "The Terror of Mecha-Dave."
  • The machine from Elephant's Dream is filled with such creations, mostly in the form of various birds.
  • The Smurfs (1981): Sure enough, Clockwork Smurf.
  • All of Nox's creations in Wakfu. Fitting, given he was a clock and toy maker and a member of the Xelor race. After discovering the Eliacube, he moved on from making toys to making a Killer Robot army.

    Real Life 
  • Central European jewelers and clocksmiths made elaborate clockwork creatures for town clocks and royal courts. The most famous of these were made even earlier, done by Greek and Arabic scientists.
  • Engineer/artist Theo Jansen has created a multitude of autonomous clockwork creatures that are powered by wind.
  • Planthopper nymphs are the only known animals that use a biological gear mechanism which is located on their hind legs. Said mechanism allows these insects to jump several times their own height.