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Shub-Niggurath

Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young![1]


Named after H.P. Lovecraft's Shub-Niggurath, the Mother of a Thousand Young is one Older Than Dirt, going all the way back to the Sumerian Tiamat.

The trope itself is based on the concept of an Eldritch Abomination or terrible monster that is mother to many, many more monsters, though she is usually the stronger when compared (save against the father, though not always the case). Typically, the mother is a foul beast, or a diabolical deceiver of would-be mates, sometimes even having the power of shapeshifting, thus allowing for greater variety of half-breed children (and infinite amounts of Shapeshifting Squick).

The purpose of the Mother is usually to cause mayhem and destruction, or destroy an ancient foe by being the procurer of a living Diabolus Ex Machina, which will cause the inevitable destruction of the civilization in question, unless the hero can prevent it.

This generally also makes it One Bad Mother.

The children of the mother are always different from her, and may even be different from their siblings. For the monster who is the first of a line of identical monsters, see Monster Progenitor. Not to be confused with Hive Queen.

Examples of Mother of a Thousand Young include:


Anime and Manga

  • Lilith the Second Angel from Neon Genesis Evangelion fits this trope. It is stated that she is the source of all terrestrial life [2]. She also turns out to be one of the keys to The End of the World as We Know It; the only reason she hadn't done it yet is because her soul was sealed into Rei (and because she needs Adam the First Angel for it).
    • Adam probably also counts, as it's the progenitor of all the Angels.
  • It might be a bit unusual example, but in Tenshi ni Narumon Big Bad Mikael is this for Noelle and Silky. Originally, they were one angel soul, which, due to accident, fell to the ground and split into three imperfect souls. It is lampshaded heavily that Mikael was the original source from which other two were created, particularly in episode 13 when Baba was foretelling him his future and her crystal ball showed one string from which other two sprouted out. Mikael even wanted to kind of absorb Noelle and Silky into himself or fuse with them, so it fits with the devouring mother image.
  • On could make an argument for the D-Reaper from Digimon Tamers. It's already an Eldritch Abomination style being, and the Mooks it generates come in a variety of forms. Plus, [3] both it and its agents speak in Jeri's voice while she's its prisoner, so there's the female aspect.
    • Well, that form of the D-Reaper with the Freaky Mask and Jeri's Head is titled the Mother Reaper. That's....pretty feminine, don't you think? Combined with the most powerful D-Reaper in the Digital World, they'll cause the End of the World. Wait, has someone been watching too much Evangelion?
  • Piccolo Daimao, the so-called "demon king" from Dragonball. While all Namekians reproduce asexually, their offspring are generally homogenous (if not exact clones with a one-time-use-per-body identical spirit), and King Piccolo instead birthed matured warrior children of vastly different apparent species and biology.


Comics

  • The X-Men villain Master Mold, which originally churned out the Sentinel robots. Wolverine and the X-Men even gave it a female voice.
  • In Marvel Comics, the Elder God Chthon is the creator of a race of demons known as the N'Garai, as well as indirectly the creator of vampires which came to be from a spell in the evil magical tome he wrote. The Elder God Set likewise has the Serpent Men, as well as literal offspring in abominations like Sligguth and Damballah; the Legions of Hell were created from the dark energies of the god-killing entity Atum, which was corrupted after it consumed most of Chthon and Set's evil brethern and became the demonic creature called the Demogorge, though in that case the creation of those demons was unintentional.


Film

  • In the movie adaptation of Beowulf Grendel's Mother is also the mother of the Dragon that Beowulf dies fighting.
    • It's also implied that the other dragon Hrothgar killed in his Backstory was another one of her children.
  • In ~9~, the main villain is a robot that makes other robots.
  • The Alien Queen.


Folklore and Mythology

  • Classical Mythology has several big mommas:
    • First is Nyx, the protogeneia (primeval goddess) of night, who gave birth to beings like Thanatos (Death), Geras (Old age), Moros (Doom), Eris (Strife), Lyssa (Madness) and many more. Not all of her children are demonic, though -- they include Hypnos (Sleep) and Philotes (Friendship and/or Sex).
    • The half-snake, half-nymph Echidna is the mother of several monsters, including Cerberus, the Chimera, the Sphinx, the Nemean Lion, the Hydra, and Orthrus the two-headed dog.
    • Gaia, Mother Earth herself, gave birth to the Giants (some of which have hundreds of serpent tails in place of legs); the Cyclopes; the hundred-handed, fifty-headed Hecatonchires; and Typhon, himself something of an example (see below).
    • There is Echidna's mother, the literal mother of all sea monsters, Ceto, who is traditionally depicted as either an unpleasantly large shark, or an ultracarnivorous whale. In Classical Mythology, Ceto, together with her husband Phorcys, are the personification and progenitors of everything fear-inducing about the sea (bad weather, tidal waves, sea monsters, toxic fish, sharp barnacles...)
    • Typhon, Echidna's mate is an Spear Counterpart, being a Father of a Thousand Young -- all of them by her.
  • Lilith from Jewish Mythology-- some legends claim she bore hundreds of demonic children every day.
  • In Norse Mythology:
    • The giantess Angrboða is mother -- by Loki -- to Fenrir (a giant god-killing wolf), Hel (the half-undead goddess of the underworld), and Jörmungandr (the continent-sized World Serpent). She dwells in Ironwood, where she gives birth to monstrous wolves.
    • Loki himself is a shape-shifter, and by becoming female can bear monstrous young -- though they might be benevolent ones, such as Slepnir, Odin's eight-legged horse.
  • According to the Enuma Elish, the primordial goddess Tiamat gave birth to at least 11 entire races of monsters, including "ferocious dragons," "virulent" and "horned serpents," mushussu-dragons, various demons, scorpion-men, and rabid dogs.
  • The biblical Leviathan fits here since God, having originally created two of them, killed the mate so that their offspring, which are implied to be all manner of other sea monsters and otherwise, would become not so numerous that the world could not stand before them. This makes it very much a mirror of Tiamat and Ceto.
  • Hariti, Goddess of Childbirth in Buddhist mythology, is the mother of 500 raksha children. Before her Heel Face Turn, she fed them on human children that she kidnapped.


Literature

  • Error (who is directly based on Echidna) in Spenser's Book I of The Faerie Queene.
  • As stated above, H.P. Lovecraft's Shub-Niggurath is a prime example, and is the trope namer of a Mother with a Thousand Young.
  • Discworld has its Expy, Tshup Aklathep, Infernal Star Toad with A Million Young. To torture its victims, it shows them pictures of all its children ("and this one's eyes are exactly like yours!"), until either their brains implode or they kill themselves to stop this.
  • JRR Tolkien's Ungoliant, an Eldritch Abomination who can give even Morgoth problems. Her descendants are the reason for Arda's little spider problem, including the ones in Mirkwood and Shelob.
    • In her case, however, none of the offspring come anywhere close to matching the threat and terror their ancestress embodied. Even Shelob is a joke compared to Ungoliant.
  • In Clive Barker's Weaveworld, the Magdalene makes a habit of raping men and, mere hours later, subsequently spawning new members of her innumerable brood, the hideous 'by-blows'. And just so we're clear, the Magdalene (along with the Hag) is one of the Big Bad's triplet sisters who she killed in the womb. Ghost rape.
  • Clark Ashton Smith give us Abhoth, a sentient pool of gray mass that bizarre creatures constantly form from. Abhoth just devours most of its children, though some manage to escape.


Live Action Television

  • Supernatural has the Mother of All Monsters, the Big Bad of the second half of season six. Funnily enough she calls herself Eve, rather than Echidna, the mythological Mother of All Monsters.
  • A Monster of the Week in Reaper would replace the sperm in a sperm bank with his own, resulting in dozens (possibly hundreds) of children.


Tabletop Games

  • Mortasheen has a few, but its most notable one is Genetisaur, an expy of the Alien Queen with a strong phallic motif, who produces offspring via Chest Burster.
  • Dungeons and Dragons examples:
    • Edition 3.5 had a creature named Ragnorra (Elder Evils) that was a being from the positive energy plane. Her arrival to a world brings about large amounts of life and good health until it grows to the point of cancerous effects, rabid, mutated monsters that she gives birth to, and all sorts of delightful events of chaos.
    • A third-party supplement introduces the Chaos Mage class, whose practitioners risk accidentally mutating their own bodies with their magic. One option is a gradual transformation into a giant sedentary womb that continually gives birth to bizarre and unique monsters.
    • 2nd Edition had the Deepspawn, a monster that exists solely to hang around in dungeons stocking them with its utterly random offspring, which can pretty much be whatever the DM picks from the Monster Manual.
  • Terra, the Titan of the World in Scion, embodies fertility through its female avatars. Kamimusuhi in particular defends herself by giving birth to bodyguards (though one-eighth of them ditch her and go to fight for the Gods instead). Gaia and Jord, meanwhile, have divided the labor - Jord conceives the children and Gaia births them. Coatlicue, on the other hand, is a subversion - Mother of a Thousand Stillborn Young. (She embodies infanticide and the "devouring mother" concept.)
  • Werewolf: The Forsaken has Aharnuz, from its "Predators" sourcebook. A ghastly creature that spawns an apparently infinite variety of twisted "children", the only mercy is that none of these creatures can breed - something it/she is struggling to overcome. The two sample possible origins given for this thing is that she is an almost complete Host that has become even more twisted than it was originally, and that she used to be one of Luna's Handmaidens that remained overlong in the world and was stranded there by the Gauntlet. Its name even means "The Mother" when translated from First Tongue.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade, the Nosferatu antediluvian Absimiliard is seen as a father of monsters, as he's produced monstrous children known as the Nictuku who have a habit of hunting down and wiping out chunks of the rest of the clan. You see Echidna, mentioned above? Yeah. That's one of Absimiliard's special children.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, the three Eldrazi titans spawn legions of twisted critters in the image of themselves. Each of the three brood lineages has traits that make them similar to the particular titan that spawned them, from writhing masses of tentacles to abnormal numbers of limbs to Eyes Do Not Belong There.
  • Exalted gives us Kimbery, one of the Yozis. She's a creator goddess with serious Yandere tendencies, alternatively either smothering those she loves or utterly destroying those she hates, and you're never really sure which side of that divide you're on. She can't give birth (given that her current form is an acidic sea), but she does have Charms that allow her to infect others with parasitic offspring that come in a delightful assortment of configurations.


Video Games

  • In Final Fantasy VII, one can argue that the creature JENOVA fits, as she is a creature from unknown space origins, and attempted to create more creatures like her(?) self.
  • Dragon Age has the Brood Mothers, creatures created from females of different species, which give birth to legions of Darkspawn. You fight one created from a Dwarf.
    • In Awakening the Final Boss is The Mother, an insane "freed" Broodmother (and boy is she pissed about that) who might have been human judging by her appearance, but spawns The Children instead of Hurlocks.
  • Darkspore's Arakna fits this trope perfectly.
  • Mem Aleph from Strange Journey, creator of all earthly life. Her name is derived from the Phoenician and Semitic characters that would become "MA", the root for "mother".
    • Tiamat also counts- she's the mother of the first four Sector bosses and her plan is to give birth to demons faster than mankind can kill them.
  • Prototype has Elizabeth Greene (codenamed, naturally, MOTHER); since her first baby was taken away, she's decided to make up for that with more babies. Mostly in the form of giant man-eating fleshy shaved-bear things. Rather than giving birth directly, she packs water towers with human bodies and deposits some genetic code in among them to give the creature something to feed on before it hatches. She also considers Alex Mercer, or rather, his viral doppelganger one of her children, despite them being quite different in abilities and motivations. Finally, the viral strains ravaging New York were all originally extracted from her body, so in a sense all the shambling zombies are her children as well.
  • Mass Effect 3 introduces Kalros, the largest and oldest known Thresher Maw, and said to be literally the "mother of all Thresher Maws". She calls Tuchanka, the Krogan homeworld, her home, and does not take kindly to the Reapers invading her territory. We find this out when Shepard calls her over to a Reaper walker standing between him/her and his/her objective, leading to Kalros easily overwhelming and destroying the previously-uncontested Reaper.


Web Comics

  • Ow, My Sanity has Shubby herself as the Cool Big Sis character, who looks more than a little pregnant in her humanoid guise. She gives relationship advice to the protagonist, on the theory that given her, erm, experience, she is more than qualified.


Web Original

Notes

  1. The little specks down there are people, just to put the size of that thing in perspective.
  2. according to Christian mythology, Lilith was Adam's first wife and mother to many demons and spirits
  3. in the dub at least. I don't know about the original Japanese
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