Grue (monster)

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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[1] universe (described as being part "ocular bat", part "unusual hoon", and part man).[2]

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.[3] The grue subsequently appeared in other Infocom games.

Due to Zork‍ '​s prominent position in hacker history and lore, grues have served as models for monsters in many subsequent games, such as roguelike games and MUDs.[citation needed]

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."


Main article: Beyond Zork

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[edit]

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.[4] 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."

In the popular clicker/idle game Clicker Heroes, a grue may be one of causes of death to your mercenaries. The game tells you that the mercenary was "eaten by a grue".


  1. ^ 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. .
  2. ^ Vance, Jack. The Eyes of the Overworld. Ace. p. 143. Grue: man, ocular bat, the unusual hoon. 
  3. ^ The Best Monsters in Gaming: Grue Gamespot, archived 28 October 2007 from the original
  4. ^ Top 100 Videogame Villains: Grue is number 46 IGN