Name: Shambling Mound
From: Dungeons and Dragons (1974)
Classification: Intelligent humanoid plant monster of the swamps.
One of the first monsters to ever grace the world of Dungeons and Dragons was the Shambling Mound. Its first appearance was in a TSR newsletter that was printed in 1975, a whole two years before the publication of the first Monster Manual in 1977. The description of the beast was quiet simple and described it as an apparent heap of rotting vegetation, although in reality an intelligent form of vegetable life that suffocates prey in its slime.
To say the original art for the creature bears an uncanny resemblance to Marvel Comic’s Man-Thing is fair. Man-Thing was first introduced in Savage Tales #1 in 1971 and Dungeons and Dragons was known to find inspiration in a wide variety of sources. This will not be the last time Marvel Comic’s appears in this monster’s bio, but more on that later.
Little has changed in the world of the Shambling Mound other than its looks. Taking the humanoid part of the creature to the next step, the 2nd edition of Dungeons and Dragons went a little too human. The picture seen at the top of the post is by far my favorite and gives the creature a more “fey” appearance. That picture appeared in the 2nd Edition Monster Manual, but right before that the Shambling Mound made an appearance in the Monstrous Compendium. Now I feel I need to explain this to those that may not know. The Monstrous Compendium was a 3 ring binder that you bought and insert packs were released for it. At the end of the day it ended up being very expensive and very large, too large to carry in your weekend gaming backpack. Anyways, this version of the Shambling Mound was by far the most humanoid of them all.
After this point, the Shambling Mound took on a more “construct” like appearance.
And yes, that is a man fighting for his life, entangled within the back of a Shambling Mound.
Even though a Shambling Mound is a plant it can only survive off of the flesh and blood of living creatures. When the monster is first born (grown?) it can live off of simple swamp animals such as fish, frogs, and rodents. But as it grows, so does its prey. Depending on the version of the Shambling Mound it may crush its prey with monstrous strength, entrap it with its gooey body, or use the vines of its body to capture. Either way the outcome is always the same, it will eat you.
In 1982 LJN toys made a great figure of the Shambling Mound. Albeit not very poseable, it still was great to see one of the classic monsters turned into a toy.
Heck, in 1981 the Shambling Mound even was in this awesome comic book ad for D&D….
Green Slime also got a shout out!!
But one of the biggest shout outs for the Shambling Mound was in the 1983 Dungeons and Dragons cartoon. In the episode “Prison Without Walls” our heroes come across a Shambling Mound like monster that was really a Wizard trapped within an evil curse. The creature was a direct cross between a classic Shambling Mound and Marvel’s Man-Thing. Here is were things get funny. The episode “Prison Without Walls” was written by Steve Gerber.
Steve Gerber was an acclaimed writer for Marvel Comics in the 1970s that got his start working on Man-Thing. His most famous creation was Howard the Duck and both characters shared stories together. After a dispute with Marvel over Howard the Duck, Gerber quit the Comics and focused on writing cartoons throughout the ’80s. His work has been hailed as some of the best with his work on G.I. Joe being the seen best of the series. Was this Gerber’s way of returning to the comic where he got his start?
Still today the Shambling Mound is a feared monster of the swamps in Dungeons and Dragons, and that’s the way it should be.