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  "There's something... on the wing of the plane!" Bob Wilson, and millions of William Shatner impressions.

Gremlins are mythical little creatures who are said to live solely to infest mankind's machinery and tear it apart, either just to be mischievous (or downright evil), or in an insanely curious attempt to figure out how various devices work. Especially found around airfields or on airplanes, as they originated as a story told by British pilots starting in roughly the 1920's to explain various mechanical failures on their planes. They only began to penetrate mainstream culture during World War Two; see below under Literature. Although the name may have been derived from an Olde English word, gremian, which means "to vex", this obviously makes them Newer Than They Think.

Examples of Griping About Gremlins include:

Anime and Manga

  • Impu, the gremlin from the hospital in Humanoid Monster Bem.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima when shadow-demon summons comes to Mahora, Nanaka Earhart from aviation club calls them gremlins.
  • Rosario to Vampire: one was used to sabotage a plane the main characters were using to travel to China.



  • The first children's book by Roald Dahl was The Gremlins, a book written for Disney to tie in with a Movie that was never made. The characters in it, though, would go on to appear in Epic Mickey. The book was the first appearance of Gremlins outside of the Royal Air Force, making this the Trope Maker.
  • Gremlins are one of the many "Demon" (dimension-travelling) races in Robert Asprin's Myth books. Aahz the Pervect (NOT "pervert") does not believe they exist until he meets one.
  • There's a Bailey School Kids episode featuring a gremlin who ruins technology around the school.

Live Action TV

  • The Twilight Zone gives us the Trope Codifier in "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet".
  • Seven Days had Parker bring a gremlin with him during a jump. The jump turned out to be a failure. Repeating it correctly was a problem because the gremlin kept messing with the time flow.

Tabletop Games

  • Gremlins of various sorts appear in Dungeons and Dragons, in which they are usually portrayed as related to goblins and/or evil fey.
    • In Pathfinder, gremlins are an evil, ugly, and small sub-type of fey who live to spread discord and mischief, usually through sabotage and dangerous pranks. The jinkin gremlin strongly resembles those in Gremlins.


Video Games

  • Epic Mickey has Gus the Gremlin and his friends.
  • Disgaea has gremlins as recruitable units.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic 3 had Gremlins as recruitable units, in a technomagical city of Tower. Average unit, but upgraded Gremlins were one of the few first tier units with ranged attack.
  • Arguably Rotom from Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. It is an Electric/Ghost type Pokémon that can posess electronics, and its name even comes from the word "motor" spelled backwards.
  • Spiral Knights has Gremlins as a monster type. They originally were just the "insanely curious" type, but the players stepping into their territory prompted Project Roarmulus, a superweapon to be used to destroy Haven. Gremlins actually have some form of hierarchy, but you never see it in game. [1]
  • The titular Zool is a Ninja Gremlin from the Nth dimension.
  • In Attack of the Mutant Penguins, gremlins actually help build machines rather than cause them to break down. They are also necessary for opening treasure chests; the more gremlins working on a chest, the sooner it will burst open.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons gives us Terror at 5 1/2 feet, replacing the plane with a bus and William Shatner with Bart.
  • Looney Tunes had two appearances of gremlins in two wartime cartoons : Falling Hare, a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and Russian Rhapsody, involving Soviet Gremlins making Adolf Hitler's life a hell.
    • Tiny Toons had two more appearance's of the gremlins from Falling Hare. Once in another parody of Terror at 20,000 feet, this time with Plucky Duck in the Bob Wilson role, and another, Journey to the Center of Acme Acres, where the gremlins are causing earthquakes after Montana Max steals a Golden Idol.
  • Simon the gremlin from Trollz plays this straight and averts this; while he's skilled at building magical machines, he has no aptitude for modern-day technology.
  • An episode of Extreme Ghostbusters did this. Apparently a gremlin sunk the Titanic in The Ghostbuster Verse.
  • Gremlins appear in American Dragon Jake Long where they are slippery and hard to catch and can only be caught if they're put to sleep by Hawaiian Folk Music.
  • One of Ben's alien forms in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Jury Rigg, is basically an alien gremlin. It's very good at taking machines apart (and has a powerful compulsion to do so that Ben can't control) and it's also very good at fixing them.


  1. There is a king, but the only Gremlins even allowed to share an audience with him are his own Praetorian Guard, the Crimson Order.
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