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Wikipedia states:

Demogorgon is based on the invented, supposedly pagan god or demon Demogorgon, which was first spoken of by Christian scholars as a being whose very name is taboo. A creature named Demogorgon is featured in John Milton's Paradise Lost, Lodovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, Spenser's The Faerie Queene and Percy Bysshe Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, although the D&D Demogorgon's appearance and history may not be based on any of these sources.

(emphasis: bold)


This is a personal bias, but whenever I see imagery such as:

demogorgon 1st edition demogorgan 5th ed.

Lovecraftian influence leaps to the forefront; tentacles, immense size, terrifying presence, bestial integrated - yet alienist... tagged to represent that bias.


Are there sourced statements about what inspired the D&D Demogorgon visuals?

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    \$\begingroup\$ the question appears (to me) to lack for mention of how the Classical and Romantic descriptions don't agree with the D&D visuals. Mind if I edit them in? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Dec 31 '15 at 13:37
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In Playing at the World, historian Jon Peterson suggests that both Orcus and Demogorgon originally found their way into D&D via Milton's Paradise Lost.

Above these rank-and-file fiends rule the Demon Princes, Orcus and Demogorgon, unique monsters who previously shared a couplet in Milton’s Paradise Lost (“Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name/Of Demogorgon”). … The two-headed Demogorgon, with reptilian body and tentacles, possesses virtually every magical power a demon might desire, is 95% resistant to magic and can hypnotize up to one hundred creatures at once with the gaze of one head while the other induces insanity. No doubt Orcus and Demogorgon both serve as potential foes for jaded adventurers who had attained practically god-like power and wealth in the care of unduly generous dungeon masters.

Gygax was certainly aware of Lovecraft, however. Peterson cites an article titled “Fantasy Wargaming and the Influence of J.R.R. Tolkien” by Gygax just after OD&D was published.

Besides [Robert E.] Howard whom I have already mentioned, there are the likes of Poul Anderson, L. Sprague de Camp (and Fletcher Pratt), Fritz Leiber, H. P. Lovecraft, A. Merritt, Michael Moorcock, Jack Vance, and Roger Zelazny.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 Yes. Let me rearrange the answer to be clearer. \$\endgroup\$ – okeefe Dec 31 '15 at 14:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Peterson also has this interesting footnote on the name Demogorgon itself: “Demogorgon however has a somewhat less grand historical pedigree than Orcus. C. S. Lewis, in his Discarded Image, makes a compelling case that Demogorgon was born of a sloppy copyist, who mistakenly transcribed the Greek word for ‘demiurge’ (δημιουργόν, roughly ‘demiourgon’) as Demogorgon, which later authors interpreted as the name of a distinct fiend.” \$\endgroup\$ – okeefe Dec 31 '15 at 14:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nitsua60 Orcus and Demogorgon were both pre 1e, FWIW. Introduction was in Eldritch Wizardry, Supp 3 to OD&D. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 31 '15 at 19:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 I just added one. If you're interested in the history of early D&D, I can't recommend Playing at the World more highly. It's dense but rewarding. \$\endgroup\$ – okeefe Dec 31 '15 at 22:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ The first published image of Demogorgon(Eldritch Wizardry, p. 36) is the one used in the link @adclark09 provided at WoTC. Art in that supplement was by Dave Sutherland, Tracy Lesch, and Gary Kwapisz. Jim Ward and Tim Kask (both still alive) were contributors. Tim Kask was the editor. What is being asked would most likely be known by one of those folks. Sutherland passed away 10 years ago. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 1 '16 at 18:37

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