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Morlocks are a fictional species created by H. G. Wells for his 1895 novel, The Time Machine. They dwell underground in the English countryside of AD 802,701 in a troglodyte civilization, 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 structures that dot the countryside of future England.
Morlocks are troglofaunal humanoid creatures, said to have descended from humans, but by the 8,028th century have evolved into a completely different species, said to be better suited to their subterranean habitat. They are described as "ape-like", with little or no clothing, large eyes and grey fur covering their bodies. As a result of living underground they are albinos and thus have little or no melanin to protect their skin, which makes them extremely sensitive to light.
The Morlocks' main source of food is the Eloi, another race descended from humans that lives above ground. The Morlocks treat the Eloi as cattle, and the Eloi do not resist being captured. However, because of the Morlocks' adaptations to darkness, the Eloi have an incredible fear of the dark and are terrified of being underground.
Since their creation by 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.
The Morlocks' physical features are the result of thousands of generations of living without sunlight. They 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 being the same height as the Eloi.
When he first encounters a Morlock, the Time Traveler begins to piece together a new image of the future world of the year 802,701 AD. 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.
The explanation of their cannibalistic behavior is that there must have been a time when the Morlocks ran short of food. The hominids that later became the Morlocks started feeding indiscriminately on creatures such as rats. Eventually, the Eloi became their prey.
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 self-sustaining sphere around the Sun where the Morlocks (and several other off-shoots of humanity) now live.
Utterly peaceful, moralistic, and highly intelligent, 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. The remainder of future humanity, in its many forms and at many levels of civilization, 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.
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.)
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.
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 their mutations made it impossible to pass for 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.
H. P. Lovecraft featured cannibalistic subterranean monsters in both The Lurking Fear and The Beast in the Cave which are highly reminiscent of the Morlocks in concept. In the conclusion of both stories the protagonist is presented with the opportunity to examine bodies of the freshly killed beasts and the documented anatomical appearance is strikingly similar:
Excerpt from The Beast in the Cave:
It appeared to be an anthropoid ape of large proportions, escaped, perhaps, from some itinerant menagerie... Its hair was snow-white, a thing due no doubt to the bleaching action of a long existence within the inky confines of the cave, but it was also surprisingly thin, being indeed largely absent save on the head, where it was of such length and abundance that it fell over the shoulders in considerable profusion... The inclination of the limbs was very singular, explaining, however, the alternation in their use which I bad before noted, whereby the beast used sometimes all four, and on other occasions but two for its progress. From the tips of the fingers or toes, long rat-like claws extended... For a moment I was so struck with horror at the eyes thus revealed that I noted nothing else. They were black, those eyes, deep jetty black, in hideous contrast to the snow-white hair and flesh. Like those of other cave denizens, they were deeply sunken in their orbits, and were entirely destitute of iris. As I looked more closely, I saw that they were set in a face less prognathous than that of the average ape, and infinitely less hairy.
Excerpt from The Lurking Fear:
I saw that they were dwarfed, deformed hairy devils or apes-monstrous and diabolic caricatures of the monkey tribe... The object was nauseous; a filthy whitish gorilla thing with sharp yellow fangs and matted fur. It was the ultimate product of mammalian degeneration; the frightful outcome of isolated spawning, multiplication, and cannibal nutrition above and below the ground.
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 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.
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 a disaster siren. 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 movies. 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.
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 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.
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 April 28th, 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."
Although Morlock life has rarely been fully explored, and The Time Machine didn't 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: