|First appearance||the original Dungeons & Dragons "white box" set (1974)|
A gelatinous cube is a fictional monster from the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. It is described as a ten-foot cube of transparent gelatinous ooze, which is able to absorb and digest organic matter.
Oozes are relatively common antagonists in fantasy fiction; in addition to the oozes of Dungeons & Dragons, examples include the monster from the film The Blob, slime in Dragon Quest, and flan in Final Fantasy. These fictional oozes may have been inspired by microscopic organisms such as amoebae, which, like oozes, can consume organic matter by engulfing it (phagocytosis).
The gelatinous cube is an original invention of Gary Gygax, rather than being inspired by outside sources and adapted to the roleplaying setting, as were many mythological monsters such as the minotaur and dryad, all of which appeared in the 1974 Monsters & Treasure book of the original boxed set.
Being a cube that is a perfect ten feet on each side, it is specifically and perfectly "adapted" to its native environment, the standard, 10-foot (3.0 m) by 10-foot (3.0 m) dungeon corridors which were ubiquitous in the earliest Dungeons & Dragons modules.
The gelatinous cube appeared in first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the original Monster Manual (1977). The creature was further developed in Dragon #124 (August 1987). Published first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventures which included gelatinous cubes as adversaries that the player characters encounter included "The Ruins of Andril", published in Dragon #81.
Under the ooze entry, the gelatinous cube appears in the third edition Monster Manual (2000), the 3.5 revised Monster Manual (2003), the fourth edition Monster Manual (2008), the Monster Vault (2010), and the fifth edition Monster Manual (2014).
A gelatinous cube looks like a transparent ooze of mindless, gelatinous matter in the shape of a cube. The cube's transparency coupled with a dimly-lit dungeon gives it the element of surprise to engulf unsuspecting beings, and only an alert adventurer will notice the cube. The cube slides through dungeon corridors, being able to mold its body to flow around objects and fit through narrow passages and then returning to its original shape once enough space is available. A cube will absorb everything in its path, with its acidic digestive juices dissolving everything organic and secreting non-digestible matter in its wake. David M. Ewalt, in his book Of Dice and Men, describes the gelatinous cube as "a dungeon scavenger, a living mound of transparent jelly", The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters called it a "dungeon clean up crew", well adapted to this unique fictitious ecosystem.
Tyler Linn of Cracked.com identified the gelatinous cube as one of "15 Idiotic Dungeons and Dragons Monsters" in 2009, stating: "Unless an encounter plays out exactly like the steamroller scene in Austin Powers, we fail to see how the Gelatinous Cube ever kills anybody who's not either glued to the floor or fast asleep. In fact, we're pretty sure the Dungeon Master's Guide reads: The first player to ask "Can't I just get out of the way?" automatically defeats the Gelatinous Cube."
Chris Sims of the on-line magazine Comics Alliance stated of the gelatinous cube that "there can be no question of what is the greatest monster" in D&D, calling the gelatinous cube "amazing".
The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters called the gelatinous cube one of the "iconic monsters" of the D&D game.
In other media
Gelatinous cubes have appeared in the television series Adventure Time by Pendleton Ward and Nickelodeon's The Penguins of Madagascar. They also appear in several video games, including NetHack, and Kingdom of Loathing.
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- Greenwood, Ed. "The Ecology of the Gelatinous Cube." Dragon Magazine #124 (TSR, 1987)
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- Thompson, Rodney, Bonner Logan, and Sernett, Matthew. Monster Vault (Wizards of the Coast, 2010)
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- Clinton Boomer, Jason Bulmahn, Joshua J. Frost, Nicolas Logue, Robert McCreary, Jason Nelson, Richard Pett, Sean K Reynolds, James L. Sutter, and Greg A. Vaughan. Dungeon Denizens Revisited (Paizo, 2009)
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- "15 Idiotic Dungeons and Dragons Monsters". Cracked.com. Archived from the original on 15 Jun 2009.
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- "Jiggles". IMDB. Retrieved 2020-02-10.
- "Gelatinous cube". NetHack Wiki. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
- "Gelatinous cube - TheKolWiki". Kol.coldfront.net. 2015-11-10. Retrieved 2020-01-20.