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A grue is a term for a fictional predatory monster that dwells in the dark. The word was first used as a fictional predator in Jack Vance's Dying Earth universe (described as being part "ocular bat", part "unusual hoon", and part man).
Actually, the word gru is Danish for horror. Sir Walter Scott used the word gruesome in the 16th century. It comes from a Scottish word meaning to feel horror or to shudder. This word and its uses are far older than Vance's work or Zork.
Dave Lebling introduced a similar monster, whose name was borrowed from Vance's grues, into the interactive fiction computer game Zork, published by Infocom. Zork 's grues fear light and devour human adventurers, making it impossible to explore the game's dark areas without a light source. The grue subsequently appeared in other Infocom games.
A common catchphrase associated with grues is the line that displays whenever players in Zork and related Infocom games enter a dark area without a light source: "It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue."
In the fourth Zork game, Beyond Zork, an evil being called an "Ur-grue" is introduced as the primary villain. Though similar in name, the Ur-grue is significantly different from the classic grue, being more akin to an evil god than a simple predatory monster.
Again, Scandinavian and German language may account for this etymology, where the Ur- prefix is used to signify origins (for example, German Ur-ur-großvater means "great-great-grandfather"). An Ur-grue would be the mother/father of all grues, possibly the first grue, or even Great-grue.
In popular culture
Grues are a common reference in hacker culture or among computer-savvy people.
On IGN's list of the "Top 100 Video Game Villains of All Time", the grue was listed as number 46. When summing up the creature and the development behind it IGN wrote, "The grue's presence may have been a handy solution to a very particular problem in the game design, but it has grown far beyond being a mere gameplay convenience to become one of the chief boogiemen in the early history of video games."
The main character of the movie Despicable Me is a supervillain called Gru.
- Vance, Jack. The Eyes of the Overworld. Ace. p. 37.
This is the skull-stone of a grue, and at this moment trembles with force..
- Vance, Jack. The Eyes of the Overworld. Ace. p. 143.
Grue: man, ocular bat, the unusual hoon.
- The Best Monsters in Gaming: Grue Gamespot, archived 28 October 2007 from the original
- Top 100 Videogame Villains: Grue is number 46 IGN