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The Time Machine



H. G. Wells

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Weena (The Time Machine), Eloi, H G Wells

1960 george pal the time machine morlocks excerpt

Morlocks are a fictional species created by H. G. Wells for his 1895 novel, The Time Machine, and are the main antagonist. Since their creation by H. G. Wells, the Morlocks have appeared in many other works such as sequels, movies, television shows, and works by other authors, many of which have deviated from the original description.


Morlock 1960 George Pal quotThe Time Machinequot Morlocks excerpt YouTube

In choosing the name "Morlocks", Wells may have been inspired by the Morlachs - an ethnic group in the Balkans which attracted the attention of West and Central European travelers and writers, including famous ones such as Johann Gottfried Herder and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and who were described and depicted in various writings as an archetype of "primitive people", "backwardness", "barbarism" and the like.

Morlock FATE SF Morlocks

Morlocks in The Time Machine

The Morlocks are at first a mysterious presence in the book, in so far as the protagonist initially believes the Eloi are the sole descendants of humanity. Later, the Morlocks are made the story's antagonists. They dwell underground in the English countryside of AD 802,701, maintaining ancient machines that they may or may not remember how to build. Their only access to the surface world is through a series of well-like structures that dot the countryside of future England.

After thousands of generations of living without sunlight, the Morlocks have dull grey-to-white skin, chinless faces, large greyish-red eyes with a capacity for reflecting light, and flaxen hair on the head and back. They are smaller than humans (presumably of the same height as the Eloi). Like the Eloi, they are significantly weaker than the average human (the Time Traveller hurt or killed some barehandedly with relative ease), but a large swarm of them can be a serious threat for a single man, especially unarmed and/or with no portable light source. Their sensitivity to light usually prevents them from attacking during the day. The Morlocks and the Eloi have something of a symbiotic relationship: the Eloi are clothed and fed by the Morlocks, and in return, the Morlocks eat the Eloi. The Time Traveler perceives this, and suggests that the Eloi–Morlock relationship developed from a class distinction present in his own time: the Morlocks are the working class who had to work underground so that the rich upper class could live in luxury. With time, the balance of power changed - the surface people no longer dominating the underground dwellers but on the contrary, becoming their livestock. The Morlocks' cannibalism is explained by the extinction of other sources of animal protein.

The Time Ships

The Time Ships (1995), by Stephen Baxter is considered by the H. G. Wells estates to be the sequel to The Time Machine (1895) and was published to mark the centennial of the original publication. In its wide-ranging narrative, the Time Traveler attempts to return to the world of tomorrow, but instead finds that his actions have changed the future: one in which the Eloi have never manifested. Instead, the Earth is a nearly barren waste that has been abandoned in favor of a 220 million kilometers wide self-sustaining sphere around the Sun drawing its energy directly from sunlight (since it entirely encompasses the star and receives its whole energy output), where the Morlocks (and several other offshoots of humanity) now live.

Utterly peaceful, moralistic, and highly intelligent (Nebogipfel learns English in a matter of days and is soon able to speak it fluently - with some limitations due to the Morlocks' peculiar vocal apparatus, quite different from those of humans), the only resemblance these new Morlocks have to the monstrous cannibals of the first future is that of appearance and dwelling "underground". The sphere they inhabit is divided into two concentric shells, with the Morlocks living exclusively inside the nearly featureless exterior. Above them, the inner shell where the sun shines openly, is an Earth-like utopia. In its many forms and at many technological levels (from somehow familiar nowadaylike industrial worlds to worlds having antigravitional devices), they continue on here in much the same way as that of the Time Travelers era (with war being the most obvious holdover).

The Morlock civilization includes a variety of nation-groups based on thought and ideology, which individuals move between without conflict. All needs are met by the sphere itself, including reproduction where the newly born are "extruded" directly from the floor. These peaceful intelligent Morlocks seem also to have extraordinary resistance to disease and perhaps to radiations too, even when not in their homeworld, as stated by Nebogipfel when in the Paleocene (the Time Traveler quickly got ill there because of unknown germs, whereas Nebogipfel, though injured and disabled, suffered no apparent ill effects).

The only Morlock given a name is Nebogipfel, who remains with the Time Traveler throughout the book. Nebogipfel's name comes from the main character of H. G. Wells' first attempt at a time travel story, then called "Chronic Argonauts." The character's name was Dr Moses Nebogipfel. (The name Moses was also used in The Time Ships, though it is given to the younger version of himself that the Time Traveler meets on his journey.)

Morlock Night

In K. W. Jeter's novel Morlock Night, the Morlocks have stolen the Time Machine and used it to invade Victorian London. These Morlocks are much more formidable than those in The Time Machine - a clever, technological race with enough power to take over the entire world. They also get support from certain treacherous 19th century humans, especially a dark wizard named Merdenne. It is also revealed that the Morlocks living in their native time (the 8,028th century) have stopped allowing the Eloi to roam free and now keep them in pens.

The Morlocks are separated into two types, or castes, in the novel. One is the short, weak, stupid Grunt Morlocks, who are supposedly the kind that the Time Traveller encountered, and the other is the Officer Morlocks, who are taller, more intelligent, speak English, and have high rank within the Morlock invasion force. An example of the latter type is Colonel Nalga, an antagonist later in the book.

These Morlocks are always described as wearing blueish spectacles, which are presumably to protect the Morlocks' sensitive, dark-adapted eyes.

Other books involving Morlocks, by different authors

  • Die Reise mit der Zeitmaschine (1946), by Egon Friedell - translated by Eddy C Bertin into English and republished as The Return of the Time Machine. At the time of its publication, this was then the only sequel to The Time Machine. It describes the Time Traveller's further visits to the future, and the Time Machine's entanglement with the past.
  • The Man Who Loved Morlocks (1981), by David Lake. This novel recounts the Time Traveller's second journey. This time, he meets the Morlocks again, but is equipped with a camera and a Colt revolver. This book is notable for portraying the Morlocks in a sympathetic, and completely different light. The Time Traveler discovers, on his second trip, that the Eloi and Morlocks of the future world are all dying due to a disease introduced by him on his first trip, to which they have no immunity. Traveling further into the future, he discovers a great and noble civilization, the beautiful inhabitants of which it is eventually learned are the descendants of the few surviving Morlocks. Also, an ancient journal is discovered, which tells the story of the Time Traveler's first trip from the Morlocks' point of view, revealing that the Morlocks, rather than being hostile predators/farmers of the Eloi, were in fact the custodians of a kind of natural reserve dedicated to protecting and preserving them. The apparently hostile acts of the Morlocks are explained by showing the story from a different viewpoint.
  • Time-Machine Troopers (2011), by Hal Colebatch published by Acashic. In this story the time-traveler returns to the future about 18 years beyond the time in which he first visited it, hoping to regenerate the Eloi, and taking with him Sir Robert Baden-Powell, who will later found the Boy Scout movement in England. They set out to teach the Eloi self-reliance and self-defense, but are captured by Morlocks. It turns out the Eloi and Morlocks are both more complex than the time-traveler had thought, also that Weena is still alive and leading an Eloi resistance movement. The story sets out to be an answer to Wells's pessimism, as the Time Traveler and Baden-Powell seek to teach the future world scouting and cricket. Winston Churchill and Wells himself also feature as characters.
  • Morlocks in other fiction

    In addition to the books and stories directly based on The Time Machine, some authors have adopted the Morlocks and adapted them to their works, often completely unassociated with The Time Machine, or were named in-universe in homage to H.G. Wells' works.

    The Morlocks appeared in a story by Alan Moore titled Allan and the Sundered Veil, which appeared as part of the comic book collection The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume I. In the story, the Time Traveler takes some of the regular League characters into his future world, where he has made a base out of the Morlock sphinx. The party is soon attacked by Morlocks, who are fierce, simian creatures in this story. They are physically much more powerful than Wells' creatures, although they're similar to the Hunter Morlocks from the 2002 film.

    In the X-Men series, a community of mutants refer to themselves as the Morlocks. They are individuals who took to squatting in sewers and subterranean areas because of an inability to pass as human, anti-social sentiments, or abandonment as children.

    Larry Niven included a version of the Morlocks in his Known Space books. They appear as a subhuman alien race living in the caves in one region of Wunderland, which is one of humanity's colonies in the Alpha Centauri system. Many of these stories are by Hal Colebatch in the shared spin-off series, "The Man Kzin Wars", especially in vols. X, XI and XII. They are also mentioned in stories in the same series by M. J. Harringtom.

    In Joanna Russ' short story "The Second Inquisition," The Time Machine is referenced a number of times, and the unnamed character referred to as "our guest" (who is evidently a visitor from the future) claims to be a Morlock, although she does not physically resemble Wells' Morlocks.

    In the fictional universe of Warhammer 40000, Morlocks are the elite warriors of the Iron Hands chapter of space marines and feature in several Horus Heresy novels where they act as bodyguards for their primarch Ferrus Manus.

    In the 4th episode of the point-and-click adventure game series Deponia creatures named Fewlocks play the role of the main enemy, displaying all core characteristics of traditional Morlocks. At the end of the game a fourth-wall-breaking comment mockingly explains that the play-on-words name Fewlock came about only because of copyright concerns.

    In Stephen King's 1986 novel It, the antagonist of the story, a monster with no name known only as It, lives in the sewer and regularly comes out to kill children. Since the protagonists are children who play near pumping stations that lead into the sewer system, and since they know the monster lives in the sewer, they refer to the pumping stations as Morlock holes.

    Morlocks in essays and other non-fiction

    In Neal Stephenson's essay on modern culture vis-à-vis operating system development, In the Beginning... was the Command Line, he demonstrates similarities between the future in The Time Machine and contemporary American culture. He claims that most Americans have been exposed to a "corporate monoculture" which renders them "unwilling to make judgments and incapable of taking stands." Anyone who remains outside of this "culture" is left with powerful tools to deal with the world, and it is they, rather than the neutered Eloi, that run things.

    J. R. R. Tolkien mentioned Morlocks thrice in his 1939 essay On Fairy-Stories, which discusses the genre now called fantasy. The first reference occurs where Tolkien attempts to define the genre, and he suggests that the Morlocks (and Eloi) place The Time Machine more in the genre than do the Lilliputians in Gulliver's Travels. He reasoned that the Lilliputians are merely diminutive humans, whereas the Morlocks and Eloi are significantly different from us, and 'live far away in an abyss of time so deep as to work an enchantment'.

    Another reference to the creatures of The Time Machine occurs in the essay's section Recovery, Escape, Consolation. Here it's argued that fantasy offers a legitimate means of escape from the mundane world and the 'Morlockian horror of factories'.

    Elsewhere in his essay, Tolkien warns against separating fantasy readers into superficial categories, using the Eloi and Morlocks as a dramatic illustration of the repercussions of sundering the human race.

    The Time Machine

    In the 1960 film version of The Time Machine directed by George Pal, the Morlocks are eventually defeated by the Eloi, who are motivated to fight by the Time Traveler (named George). They are shown to be quite susceptible to blows, though this may be due to them having never encountered resistance before. One of the differences of the movie Morlocks (who are blue-skinned, sloth-like brutes with glowing eyes) is that the divergence was created not by a varying caste system, but by being forced underground by a nuclear war that started in the 1960s and lasted hundreds of years.

    The Morlocks in the film also have a system for summoning the Eloi into their sphinx by using air raid sirens. Supposedly, this was originally used to warn of bombing. Responding to the siren has become inborn, and the Eloi now do so like cattle. The Morlocks use whips to herd them.

    In 2002, another film based on The Time Machine was directed by Simon Wells, the great-grandson of H. G. Wells. The Morlocks in this film, as well as the Eloi, have been changed in several major ways. The Morlocks have become physically stronger and faster, and are very ape-like now, frequently running on all fours. In addition, they have split into several different castes. In addition to the "Hunter" Morlocks, which are muscular, gorilla-like hunters, there are also the "Spy" Morlocks who are more slender and agile but much weaker. The Spies shoot blowpipes at escaping Eloi, marking them with a pungent substance and making it easier for the Hunters, with their powerful sense of smell, to track and capture them.

    All the Morlocks are controlled by a race of Über-Morlocks, who appear more human than the other two castes seen in the movie. Instead of having grey skin and patches of fur, the Über-Morlock that appears in the film has long, flowing white hair and white skin, the general physique of a human, and clothing. His brain is so large that it doesn't fit into his head, but instead trails down his back and envelops his spine. He is telepathic and telekinetic, articulate in English speech, and eventually ends up fighting Alexander Hartdegen (the main character of this film).

    As explained by the Über-Morlock (in terms of the 2002 movie), the Morlocks originated from humans that sought shelter underground, after an attempt at constructing a lunar colony on the Moon sent fragments of the Moon crashing to Earth. They remained underground for so long that they developed bodies with very little melanin in their skin and very sensitive eyes that could not tolerate sunlight for long. As a result of the past catastrophe and the resulting strain on resources, the proto-Morlocks divided themselves into several castes, two of which (the 'Hunters' and the 'Spies') could survive in the daylight. They inbred within each caste until the Morlock race became composed of genetically fine-tuned sub-races designed for specific tasks.

    The movie displays three of these races: the Hunter Morlocks that hunt down and capture the Eloi, the Spy Morlocks that shoot them with blowgun darts (so as to make them detectable to the hunters), and the Über-Morlocks that command the first two races telepathically. The Morlocks seen in the movie are destroyed when Alexander causes his time machine to malfunction and explode in their tunnels, but there are other Morlock colonies that remain and are unseen.


    A 2011 television movie produced for Syfy and starring David Hewlett. Plot sees a time machine open a portal to the future allowing Morlocks to travel back to the present and wreak havoc. These Morlocks are descended from a patient with terminal cancer whose father used the military time travel project to look for technology in the future as a cure. One of the first Morlocks to escape through the portal into the present is captured and has its DNA extracted; paradoxically, it is treatment with this DNA that causes the patient to mutate into the first Morlock.

    Television shows

    In the serial Timelash episodes of the twenty-second season of Doctor Who, the Sixth Doctor takes H. G. Wells into the future where they encounter an underground-dwelling, reptilian species called the Morlox (a homophone of "Morlocks"). The Borad, an evil ruler, accidentally becomes half-Morlox before the episode.

    In the 1978 Challenge of the Superfriends episode titled "Conquerors of the Future", the Legion of Doom travelled to the future and conquered the Galaxy with the help of the Morlocks.

    Homer Simpson mentions Morlocks in the The Simpsons episode "Homer the Moe", claiming he became their king while telling a shaggy dog story.

    In 2003, Peak Entertainment relaunched Monster in My Pocket with former lead villain Warlock as the hero. The new villain became Warlock's evil twin, Morlock. The series was passed on by Cartoon Network and Peak's rights to Monster in My Pocket were revoked on December 22, 2004. With the series' limited distribution, it is difficult to say if the connection was more than a nominal one.

    In 2006, a new incarnation of Power Rangers, titled Power Rangers: Mystic Force, includes Morlocks as the enemies of the Power Rangers. Sources from before the show's premiere described them as "zombie-like foot soldiers", and it was also implied that they live underground below the town of Briarwood (where the show takes place) and plot to rise up and destroy everything. However, it has since been revealed that the Morlocks in the show are not simply foot soldiers; they comprise the entire group of enemies of the Power Rangers. The Morlocks in the show are entirely unlike those in The Time Machine, except that they still live underground and are villains. These Morlocks are not portrayed as a divergent species of humanity, but instead as an ancient, evil legion who were sealed underground centuries ago. The Morlocks have finally broken the seal and are planning to invade Briarwood, and later the world. The term was used exclusively in promotional material and was never mentioned in the show.

    On the episode of The Big Bang Theory called "The Nerdvana Annihilation," Leonard Hofstadter and his friends chipped in to buy an original time machine prop from the 1960 film classic The Time Machine. None in the group was more excited about the purchase than Sheldon Cooper, who seemed to think he was the only one able to grasp the full possibilities of owning such a unique piece of memorabilia. His viewpoint changed drastically though, after he experienced a series of episode-ending dreams, all featuring the infamous cannibalistic Morlock species from the classic H.G. Wells book. The first dream was him travelling to the future on 28 April 802701, and being eaten alive by three Morlocks. When he wakes up, Leonard agrees to get rid of the time machine, but he hires Morlocks to do it (called Starving Morlocks), and as they eat Sheldon, he wakes up again and yells for Leonard to help him.

    In the 2010 episode of Futurama "The Late Philip J. Fry," Bender, Farnsworth, and Fry travel to the future where they meet a society of small creatures who explain that humanity has diverged into two distinct groups through evolution. Upon returning five years later, the crew discovers that the small, intelligent creatures have been overrun and destroyed by the troglodytic "Dumb-locks."

    Specific Morlock characters

    Although The Time Machine did not depict individual Morlocks, various other sources (sequels by other authors, movie versions, etc.) have introduced characters belonging to the Morlock race. Examples of these include:

  • Nebogipfel - An example of an advanced, highly civilized Morlock race living in a different reality than the one in The Time Machine. Nebogipfel joins the Time Traveller on his journeys through time. This occurred in The Time Ships, Stephen Baxter's sequel to The Time Machine.
  • Colonel Nalga - One of the generals of a Morlock invasion force trying to overrun England in 1892 in K.W. Jeter's Morlock Night. Nalga spoke English, unlike his Morlock brethren, and so dealt with the protagonists.
  • The Über-Morlock - In Simon Wells' 2002 remake of the 1960 film, the Über-Morlock, played by English actor Jeremy Irons, was the leader of the Morlocks, controlling them through telepathy. He had an incredibly large brain, so large that it protrudes from his skull, extending out of his head and down his back. Unlike his underlings, who are brutish, aggressive and bestial, the Über-Morlock is human-like in appearance and physiology, highly articulate and extremely intelligent. The Über-Morlock is the main villain of the movie. He explains that without his guidance, the morlocks would be little more than beasts who would hunt their food source out of existence, showing the power he holds over the others of his kind. He questions Hartdegens' logic for why one human should be able to deem 800,000 years of evolution wrong. His way of explaining this involves referring to humans as food rather than people.
  • Morticon - In the children's show Power Rangers: Mystic Force, Morticon is the leader of a group of Morlocks, who, in the show, are cybernetic, undead creatures who dwell underground. He is the main villain of the series.
  • Curnwal and Valadar are Morlock leaders in Hal Colebatch's "Time Machine Troopers" Poddletench and Chubley are Morlocks killed by the time-traveler and Baden-Powell when trying to communicate with them.
  • Suruk the Slayer is a major character in the Captain Smith novels by Toby Frost. His race calls themselves M'Lak but are known by humans as Morlocks and resemble Hollywood's Predators, though more eccentrically dressed. Suruk is violently homicidal, but honorable and quaintly middle-class.
  • Morlock Sevigny was a crime syndicate button man on the crime serial The Edge of Night.
  • References

    Morlock Wikipedia