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Morlocks are a monster archetype like vampires and zombies. In contemporary versions, Morlocks (also called grimlocks, hadals, crawlers, hunters, CHUDs,note  etc.) are usually descended from humans who became trapped underground by mischance or were driven into hiding there by their enemies. The low-light environments where these creatures live often lead them to develop Innate Night Vision (perhaps enabled by glowing and/or bulging eyes), or to lose their eyesight (sometimes along with their eyes!) in favour of Bizarre Alien Senses like echolocation. Another common Morlock trait is albinism (since less sun means less need for melanin), which tends to overlap with Albinos Are Freaks.

This concept evolved from the trope-naming Morlocks in The Time Machine, hideous troll-like beings that haunt the night while the innocent Eloi culture sleeps. This situation was created as a blunt commentary on class division and the dehumanizing nature of industrial society. Morlocks continue to be applied towards similar ends in modern science fiction and fantasy. Morlocks may represent everything that science and art cannot redeem in the working class, a somewhat insidious remnant of Victorian phrenology and its ideas of Evolutionary Levels that has left a huge impact in genre fiction. As literal embodiments of the dehumanized working class, they often prey on their former oppressors.

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Some important elements associated with the storytelling aspect of this trope are the Morlocks' status as a branch of humanity or a local equivalent; their monstrous, usually cannibalistic, nature; and origins associated with the evils of industry and/or class conflict. Of course, the aesthetic may simply be used for Gollum-style creepiness. While living underground or in dark places is typical, it is neither defining (most Mole Men are not Morlocks) nor essential.

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

Compare their cousins the Mole Men, as well as Future Primitive. If your Human Subspecies looks atavistic not because it's adapted to subterranean life but because it's retained ancestral primate features, see Frazetta Man.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the anime of From the New World the Bakenezumi are anthropomorphic rodent beings which live in servitude to the psychically powered humans, then it is revealed that they've been aiming to overthrow humans all along, and furthermore it's revealed that they are the mutated descendants of the percentage of humans who didn't have psychic abilities.

    Comic Books 
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen : An issue of Allan and the Sundered Veil deals with Morlocks.
  • Legends of the Dead Earth: Subverted in Wonder Woman Annual #5. The Ratbats are a seemingly savage and barbarous race of creatures who evolved from one of the two groups of human survivors on a Generation Ship. They have been in constant conflict with the Unremembered for resources aboard the worldship for generations. AlyXa, a rebellious 18-year-old member of the Unremembered, managed to sneak into the Ratbats' territory without being seen. While there, she receives recorded memories of Wonder Woman and her exploits on Earth when in the proximity of a memory transfer device being used by a female Ratbat. When she uses it herself, AlyXa experiences residual memories drawn from the female Ratbat's mind and she discovers that the Unremembered have badly misjudged them. They are not savage, animalistic brutes but intelligent beings with a sophisticated society, which is more advanced than that of the Unremembered in some respects. For instance, female Ratbats are considered equal to the males while the women of the Unremembered are considered to be the males' property.
  • X-Men:
    • The Morlocks are supporting characters, being 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 two Morlocks, Marrow and Sunder, have ever been members of the X-Men proper (and Sunder was a member for only about 1 or so issues), reflecting the bad blood between the two groups.
    • There's another group of mutants roaming in London's sewers that make the Morlocks look like supermodels.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In this Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) fanfiction, the Many's initial humanoid forms, though technically The Virus, have definite shades of this. They lurk in dark underground spaces, they have very Morlock-like eyeshine, these forms are even created from the Disposable Vagrants who were being used by Alan Jonah's paramilitary as labor.
  • Kaiju Revolution: The Morlocks are descended from members of an ancient and highly advanced human civilization who fled into space and formed an artificial planetoid around Jupiter after their original civilization collapsed when they tried and failed to control Earth's kaiju. Living in space for eons has caused them to develop a highly utilitarian insect-like Fantastic Caste System with the different castes arising from a combination of natural selection and deliberate genetic alteration: The males serve as workers and soldiers with an animalistic intelligence on par with chimpanzees who consume their weak and dead in the name of efficiency which makes them closest to the traditional depictions, some individuals are cybernetically augmented to better specialize them for certain tasks. The females have their non-vital organs removed and become blind, immobile baby factories. Finally, there are the Controllers who claim to be the original founders of the Morlocks, they are able to extend their lifespans through various means (but this leaves some looking more inhuman) and consists of both males and females, they are also able to use telepathy to control the lesser castes. They are actually the most technologically advanced group in the setting as they posses ships capable of Faster Than Light travel and are heavily implied to be the source of Earth's UFO sightings.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The mutants in Beneath the Planet of the Apes are subterranean humans, but they get unusual psychic abilities and are explicitly the product of nuclear fallout.
  • The creatures in C.H.U.D. are morlock-like.
  • The monsters in Dark Heritage are a particularly animalistic version of this subterranean trope.
  • In Death Line, a Cannibal Clan is hiding in the London underground system, the result of an 19th-century dig accident trapping a bunch of male and female workers in the tunnel system. By the time of the events in the film, there are only two exceedingly sickly, barely-human descendants remaining.
  • The Descent has the Crawlers, pale carnivorous hominids who have adapted to living underground but have become mindless predatory 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, and even used the heads of the Morlock costumes from the 2002 adaptation of The Time Machine. Their evolution was manipulated and their ancestors were trapped on a spaceship rather than underground.

    Literature 
  • In The Book of the New Sun, the mines in Severian's homeland are worked by completely nocturnal, aggressive ape-creatures. When Severian is attacked by a pack of them, he is shocked to see that they still have human eyes. Like many other things in the series, this may be a deliberate Shout-Out to classic science literature (in this case, to The Time Machine).
  • Jackelian Series: Not subterranean, but the Ab-locks of Secrets of the Fire Sea owe their name to this trope. They are aggressive, feral pack-dwelling hominids descended from an ancient Jagonese civilization that destroyed itself which are bitter enemies of the much larger, more solitary ursks which are also The Morlocks, but derived from Ursine Aliens from the same long-ago civilization, rather than humans.
  • 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.
  • H. P. Lovecraft:
    • The creatures in "The 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.
    • One of Lovecraft's earliest stories, "The Beast in the Cave", tells of an encounter between a lost cave-explorer and an ape-like subterranean creature he thinks is this trope — at least, until the dying creature utters a few final sounds, revealing itself to be an ordinary man who'd been lost in the vast, pitch-black caverns so long that he'd reverted to animal-like behavior.
  • 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.
  • The Night Land and Awake in the Night Land have the Abhumans, which are prophesied to eventually replace the regular humans.
  • Star Wars Legends: The lower levels of the global city that covers Coruscant are an all-too-literal underworld of collapsed buildings, flooded passages and lightless spaces, which the residents of the upper layers avoid for a large number of reasons. One of these reasons is the presence of the Cthon, ghoulish humanoids descended from humans who were forced to live in the city's depths and eventually degenerated into eyeless, pale-fleshed and primitive beings, which now haunt the deepest, lightless parts of the planet's urban sprawl and will readily try to catch and eat any surface-dweller who stumbles into their gloomy domain.
  • "Os Tatús Brancos" (published in O Pão de Ouro by Bernardo Guimarães): The "Tatús Brancos" ("White Armadillos") are a Brazilian nation that went to live underground. They have pale skin, are short, have curved nails, and can't see well in bright light. At night, they come to the surface to look, principally, for humans from outside their society to eat. They generally don't kill beforehand. Despite the Tatús Brancos' taste for human flesh, they do not ever consume their own and they are willing to take outsiders in on request of one of their own.
  • The Time Machine:
    • The Morlocks in the original novel, the Trope Namers, were actually the more advanced race, providing all the food and luxuries the mentally deficient Eloi depended on, essentially farming the child-like Eloi like cattle. They were supposed to be descended from the working classes of modern-day societies, who, as class divides grew sharper, spent more and more time underground tending to industry and machinery. Over time, they evolved into a race of pallid troglodytes who kept the machines running out of instinct as much as anything, still tending to the descendants of the indolent upper classes (who they over time adapted to feed on).
    • Subverted in The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter. After the time traveler accidentally changes history, advanced Morlocks live on the outside surface of a Dyson sphere, living 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 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.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Blake's 7: The artificial planet Terminal is created to study the future evolution of Mankind. Turns out it's a vicious ape-like creature. In an inversion of this trope, the scientists who study them live in an underground base, while the Links roam the surface.
  • Doctor Who: The future of humanity is occasionally portrayed 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.
  • The Gifted (2017), being set in the Marvel-verse, prominently features the Morlocks in the second season. Though as opposed to the comics, here they're presented more as an Underground Railroad helping mutants hide from the increasingly-repressive world above.
  • In merchandise, the villains of Power Rangers Mystic Force are explicitly called Morlocks. However, despite them being humanoid evil creatures living underground, these Morlocks have no further similarity to this trope, as they are a collection of supernatural beings based on creatures from mythology or fantasy. In the show itself, they aren't even referred to as Morlocks, but rather "The Forces of Darkness".
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • The much-maligned episode "Spock's Brain" also inverts the Trope Namer. The Eymorg, a Lady Land of beautiful but childlike women who live in an automated Underground City, abduct the Morg, the male Future Primitives who live on the desolate surface of the planet (though it appears they use them for servants and procreation rather than food). The women aren't simple because they're women, but because thousands of years in a physical Lotus-Eater Machine has atrophied their intelligence; otherwise it takes Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty to an extreme.
    • In the 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.

    Radio 
  • Dimension X: In episode thirty-one, an adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's "Universe", the Mutants of the Upper Levels are assumed to be primitive creatures who are little more sophisticated than animals by the so-called superior race that resides on the Lower Levels of the Ship. As their leader Gregory informs Hugh Hoyland, most of them are every bit as intelligent as he is in spite of their physical deformities.
  • Journey into Space: Subverted in The Return from Mars. The Talians tell Jet, Lemmy, Doc and Mitch that the Sotteers are primitive and aggressive genetic rejects who detract from their perfection. While the Sotteers lack the Talians' so-called physical perfection, it turns out that they are every bit as intelligent and civilized as the Talians.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Atomic Highway has morlocks as a title for degenerate, subterranean radiation mutants, serving as an Evil Counterpart to the playable "Trogs" (humans who, after the apocalypse, settled in caves and subway systems).
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In the supplement Races of Destiny, there are the Sharakim, who look like horned 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 (it's usually a Depending on the Writer thing). They have stone-gray skin, sharp teeth, and no eyes whatsoever; they rely on Super Senses of touch, smell, and hearing to get around in the darkness. Their cannibalistic tendencies and lack of sight make them popular servants with medusas (who like having minions that can't get turned to stone by their gaze) and mind flayers (who only eat the brains of their victims and leave the rest to the grimlocks).
    • Troglodytes are sometimes depicted as the Lizard Folk equivalent to Morlocks, being pale and degenerate subterranean relatives of a race that is already pretty primitive.
    • The bear-like quaggoths once had a thriving society on the surface, but competition with the ancient elves drove them underground, where the quaggoths fell into cannibalistic savagery. Their Intelligence scores keep going down with every edition they appear in, so if trends continue, at some point the quaggoths will devolve into nonsentient cave monsters.
    • Albino wyrms are descended from dragons who got trapped in the Underdark, and are now pale creatures with vestigial wings and no magic beyond their Breath Weapon. Though still brilliant, to some degree, albino wyrms are so far gone that they can barely express a coherent thought.
    • The Cynidiceans, from Basic D&D module "The Lost City", can be considered the in-universe precursors to this trope: formerly surface-dwelling humans who have adapted to life underground by developing infravision and the loss of pigmentation, but haven't (yet) degenerated so far as to turn cannibal. They do spend most of their lives drugged out of their minds on fungal narcotics and are dominated by the cult of an Eldritch Abomination that's urging on their decline, so barring intervention from outside, they'll probably sink that low eventually.
    • Forgotten Realms: The skulks arose in much the same fashion as Morlocks, being descended from humans who escaped slavery at the hands of various evil Underdark creatures but couldn't find their way back to the surface. An enigmatic Neutral deity of caverns and darkness taught them a spell granting superior stealth and senses, the better to endure their incredibly-hostile new environment, but overuse turned its recipients permanently into skulks.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Morlocks are degenerate, cannibalistic and demon-worshipping 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.
    • Although descended from xulgaths rather than humans, troglodytes in Pathfinder have their origins in this trope, having degenerated into pallid subterranean savages in the wake of their advanced long-ago civilization's fall. The twist, in their case, is that they fled up into the cavernous realms they now inhabit, having originated in one of the Vaults of Orv that lie even deeper underground.
  • Rocket Age: Deep below the Martian city of Y'therthl is a network of tunnels full of the mutants occasionally created by the ritual use of genetic engineering technology. Generally hideous and broken parodies of those above, they can still run the whole gamut of morality.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade: The Nosferatu are hideously deformed vampires who, due to being unable to pass off as humans like other vampires, live in "warrens" under the city and prey on anyone who stumbles on their lairs.
  • Vampire: The Requiem has a Nosferatu bloodline named the Baddacelli, nicknamed "the Morlocks". They are blind and live in the sewers.
  • Warhammer: Gorgers are Ogres who were abandoned in caves as children. Due to having been left all their lives in dark, food-starved conditions and with no contact with other intelligent beings, they become savage, bestial creatures with sickly pale skin and viciously carnivorous attitudes. Ogres mostly leave them to their caverns, but during times of war sometimes lure them from their lairs with offerings of meat and set them loose onto their opponents.

    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.

    Video Games 
  • In ANNO: Mutationem, the Outcasts are a tribe living beneath Freeway 42. They are the remnants of their former selves that survived Mechanika Virus deadly effects, and chose to remain in their Underground City without any advancement towards the surface and before long, some of them are Driven to Madness when their bodies become too unstable.
  • 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.
  • Dinosaurs For Hire have a stage set in a prehistoric cavern containing feral, brown-skinned troglodyte-like humans who walks in a hunched position and designed based off the classic Morlocks.
  • In The Elder Scrolls, the Falmer of Skyrim are an almost perfect example of Morlocks. Thousands of years ago, they were a race of Mer (Elves) with a territory covering Skyrim and Solstheim, and who had a civilization that rivaled even the Altmer (High Elves). However, they would clash with the ancestors of the Nords who were coming over to Skyrim in droves from the freezing-over continent of Atmora. Ysgramor, an Atmoran leader, would rally 500 of Atmora's greatest warriors and lead them on a crusade to exterminate the Falmer. He almost succeeded, driving the survivors to beg for help from their Dwemer cousins. The Dwemer agreed to take them in, but forced them to eat toxic fungi that rendered them blind and decayed their minds, and which their physiology became dependent upon to survive.
  • Gaia Crusaders, a game set After the End, have various morlocks-like midgets as recurring enemies. They're first seen in the ruins of what used to be New York, and later on they show up in large numbers in the underground caverns.
  • In Grim Dawn, Trogs are pale-skinned humanoids inhabiting the deepest caves. They're considered to be Beastkin rather than humans, suggesting that they're an offshoot of trolls or grobles. While they're not explicitly man-eaters they make heavy use of Blood Magic and bone weapons and shields.
  • In SteamWorld Dig, all of humanity has degenerated into this. They're known as Shiners by the Steambots and treated as savages, and they don't do much to disprove that fact. A more intelligent, friendly Shiner colony does show up in the sequel, but they turn out to be the real villains of the story.
  • Time Slip have a stage set in a Bad Future where you travel to New York, decades after humans lose a war to the Tirmatian aliens. The city is in ruins and the streets are crawling with furry, shaggy-haired Morlocks who used to be the citizens, for starters.
  • World of Warcraft's Warlords of Draenor expansion introduced the Pale orcs, inhabiting many of the planet's cave systems. In a ritual intended to connect a new orc shaman with the elemental spirits, some initiates inadvertently contact evil voices from the darkness instead. This destroys their sanity, and their clans exile them into the wilds out of fear of their mental state. Over time the exiles gathered into loose underground colonies, and after tapping into a direct source of the same magic that touched their minds, have been grotesquely transformed. The previously hulking orcs have inherited the build and posture of Gollum, their deep brown skin has lost most of its pigment, and they possess Glowing Eyes of Doom, Throat Lights, and Volcanic Veins. They are known to eat captured surface-dwellers alive.

    Web Original 
  • Dorkly Originals: In "Mario Goes Down The Wrong Pipe", Mario finds himself stuck in the sewers before running into Toad dwellers that also got stuck there before they assault as they take him in as fresh meat.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-3288 ("The Aristocrats") is a species of these dwelling in the underground of Central Europe, and one of the rare upper class cases. They are led by an especially fat entity known as "Emperor Maximilian the Great".

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama: Spoofed through the Dumblocks is the episode "The Late Philip J. Fry". The gang is on a forward-only time machine looking for a backwards time machine, and comes to the year 5,000,000, when humanity has split into two races: a foot-tall, bright pink and highly advanced species and the Dumblocks, "stupid, vicious brutes, who live underground." The Eloi-like race says they could have a backward-going time machine ready in five years. The gang returns five years later to find that the Dumblocks have taken over and killed all the other humanoids.
    • Parodied with the sewer mutants below New New York City. While they are physically repulsive, they're behaviourally normal and have built an underground society that is pretty indistinguishable from a human one. They are still oppressed by the surface-dwellers and prohibited from showing themselves in the streets, until they gain civil rights in the episode "The Mutants Are Revolting". Leela turns out to be one of them, less mutated than the others and given up to an orphanage on the surface since her parents wanted to give her a better life.
  • Rick and Morty: In "Rickdependence Spray", Rick and Morty seek help from cannibalistic horse people living underground for assistance in killing all the evolved sperm.
  • In one episode of the Superfriends, "The Conquerors of the Future" they meet expies 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 City 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

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