Top Ten Monsters in Literature

Because Not All Creatures are Created Equal

Dunwich horror by Skullbeast Deviant Art

We all love a good monster. Monsters make good villains, and they are a big part of horror and speculative fiction.

In many ways, they are their own subgenre. What would horror be without scary, massive and disturbing monsters for our heroes to overcome?

Earlier we spoke about monster horror and how it goes as far as the first epic poems and myths. But not all monsters are created equal. Some are unforgettable and perhaps more unique.

This was a fun list to compile. As usual, these are my personal favorites. The monsters are ranked by books I am familiar with and their hold in popular culture. If I leave out one of your personal favorites, it is because I have probably not read the book they feature.

Feel free to agree and disagree in the comments.

Here are My Top Ten Monsters:

Clyde Baker’s Pinhead

  1. Cthulhu– Lovecraft’s most famous monster sleep and dreams, waiting for his return to Earth while being worshiped by cultists. He is probably more popular now than when “The Call of Cthulhu” was first published in 1928. There are games (i.e., Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror) and plenty of references from him in pop culture (like the infamous South Park episode). This monster inspired a whole mythos around him. Let’s hope he never wakes up from his sleep in R’lyeh.
  2. Frankenstein’s Monster– This is the monster that started it all. Technically a reanimated corpse brought back to life, which makes him a zombie. He is the granddaddy of all horror monsters and still as scary as he was when initially introduced in 1818.
  3. Pennywise the Dancing Clown– Most people find clowns scary (I do not). Hence, clowns terrorizing children it’s another thing. Stephen King‘s masterful creation from his famous novel It, it is just as scary now as when first published in 1986. Technically, this is a shape-shifting entity. Regardless of shape or form, it still belongs on this list.
  4. Balrogs and Shelob from the Lord of the Rings series– I know am cheating here, but I cannot pick one over the other. The Balrog is one of the scariest dragon-like creatures in fiction, with its lava fire and shadows dwelling in the mines of Moria. Spiders are scary by nature, and it does not get any more frightening than the giant spider-like creature known as the Shelob that poisons Frodo in the Two Towers.
  5. Count Dracula– The granddaddy of all vampires, the old Count may be European royalty, but at heart, he is a predator who would suck your blood and take your life if provoked. Treat with caution.
  6. Dementors and the Basilisk, Harry Potter novels– The Dementors are weird monsters in the sense that they feed off your emotions and memories.  Behind those cloaks they wear, are soulless creatures with no eyes. The Basilisk is a giant snake (50 feet long) inhabiting the Chamber of Secrets. That is quite a guardian!
  7. White Walkers– From George R.R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels, comes its most visually scary creatures. This snow monsters, also known as ‘the Others’, have pale flesh and glowing blue eyes. And they may or may not feed off children.
  8. PinheadClive Barker is the master of dark fantasy and horror and his most iconic creation is Pinhead, the priest of the Cenobites. Created in Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart, what makes him scarier is that he is intelligent and articulate. Barker himself indicated he based his personality in movie depictions of Dracula.
  9. The Dunwich Horror– The eponymous creature from H. P. Lovecraft‘s short story is as gross and frightening to the sight as it was in 1928. The spawn of Yog-Sothoth and a human female, the creature was invisible, but the damage it caused was not.
  10. The Zombies from World War Z– Forget the Brad Pitt movie and go with the original Max Brooks novel. This is the zombie apocalypse as terrifying and hopeless as it should be. These zombies are no joke. The social commentary the novel provides also adds to the fear factor.

Dementor image from Pinterest

Horror literature would be nothing without its monsters. Monsters may be ugly but they certainly know how to earn the fans’ love by making life miserable to our heroes. Long live the monsters.

Those were my top ten. Feel free to share yours in the comments. Which monsters is your favorite?



2 Responses

  1. The Soul Eater in The Soul Eater by Mike Resnick
    Wan-To in The World at the End of Time by Frederik Pohl
    Grendels in The Legacy of Heorot by Niven, Pournelle and Barnes
    The Vang in The Vang by Christopher Rowley
    Maximillian in The Black Hole by Alan Dean Foster
    The Nipe in Earth Invader by Randall Garrett
    Vain in The Wounded Land by Stephen R Donaldson
    Cthulhu in The Call of Cthulhu by HP Lovecraft

    • Albizu73 says:

      What a great list, Michael. Granted, I only included monsters I was familiar with as well as part of the popular culture.
      Cthulhu is already in my top ten.
      Thank you for sharing your insight, Michael, as well as including the novels and authors.
      You just gave me an excellent reading list.
      How could I forget Maximillian when the Black Hole is my second favorite Disney movie?
      Then again, this is mostly a literary blog.
      Again, thanks for reading and sharing your suggestions.

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February 2023