Thursday, November 10, 2011

MINI-LIST: Greatest Sandworms of All Time

Throughout history storytellers have conjured monsters from their minds, and developed them into something great by using a tried and true method: take a small creature that exists in the real world and then increase its size until it becomes threatening and grotesque. Tolkien did it with spiders, Lovecraft did it with squids, and Frank Herbert did it with worms

Roughly 45 years ago the Sandworm emerged (from below, I imagine) and began showing up again and again in books, movies, games, and more. They've taken on many different forms, but one thing remains the same: they live and hunt underground and are great consuming beasts. How could you not love such a monster? Let's take a look, shall we?

5. Video Game Sandworms
Where can you find them? Well, in tons of games from the Legend of Zelda series to Shadow of the Colossus, and just about every Final Fantasy game from the last 25 years. If you're playing an RPG or entering a desert area, chances are you'll run into these bastards.
What do they look like? Depending on the game they can be anything from a puny annoyance to a train-sized nightmare. Features will vary but you can count on it having a mouth that wants to eat you.
What's your favourite sandworm encounter from a video game? It would probably have to be the boss fight from the desert temple in Link to the Past. Facing off against three fireball-spewing sandworms in a tiny room was (and still is) a blast.
How far does their influence reach? These worms stretch out across many genres of games and there are no signs of their appearances slowing. Fine with me. Nothing satisfies like slaying earthworms on steroids.

4. The Saturn Sandworm (Beetlejuice, 1988)
Where does it dwell? From all the times I've seen the movie I thought the sandworm just existed in some kind of unknown nether-world, but I've recently discovered that the limbo desert shown in the film is supposed to be on Saturn's moon Titan. It doesn't make much sense, but I shouldn't be looking to a movie like Beetlejuice for "sense".
What does it look like? This worm is easily identified by its Burton-esque black and white stripes, long fangs, and Xenomorph style "mouth inside another mouth".
Isn't this more like a sandsnake? Yeah, I can see the similarities, but it's still obviously a sandworm. Betelgeuse even calls them Sandworms, so don't argue.
How far does its influence reach? Besides being in the movie itself, the Saturn worm appeared often in the cartoon TV show based on the film, and merchandise of all sorts from t-shirts to toys.
What was this worm's greatest achievement? Eating Betelgeuse, of course. It didn't really kill him, since he was already dead, or undead, or whatever, but it definitely got him. It was suggested that these two characters had encountered before and that Betelgeuse was quite afraid of them. My theory is that Betelgeuse had killed a sandworm and made his striped suit from its skin and the other worms have been pissed at him ever since.

3. The Sarlacc Pit (Return of the Jedi, 1983)
Where does it dwell? The Great Pit of Carkoon on the desert planet Tatooine.
What does it look like? It's basically's a giant gaping toothy vagina of the desert. It later developed tentacles and a beak. Not due to evolution, but because of a director who couldn't leave well enough alone.
How can you call this a worm? There is debate over how to classify Sarlacci. They share features of arthropods, carnivorous plants, as well as worms. But I find it to be suitable for this list because a Sarlacc Pit, like all sandworms, is essentially just a fearful devouring maw of the desert.
What's the most terrifying thing about them? Probably their digestive system that results in its prey being slowly dissolved over thousands of years. Yeah, that's gotta suck.
What was this worm's greatest achievement? Eating the bounty hunter, Boba Fett. Yep, as much as Star Wars fans love Boba Fett, the truth is we never got to see him do too much in the movies before toppling headfirst into the Sarlacc Pit. Some fans will insist that Boba survived (because of the slow digestive process and because he supposedly kicks ass), but I say Boba Fett's inglorious death was just a foreshadowing of the horrendous things George Lucas would do to beloved characters in the prequel trilogy.

2. Graboids (Tremors, 1990)
Where does it dwell? Mostly around the small town of Perfection, Nevada.
What does it look like? Kind of like a big ol' slug with three snake-like tentacles in its mouth.
What's the best way to avoid being eaten by one? Graboids are fast, smart, and strong, but they can't travel above ground, so it's best to get as high as you can as fast as you can. An encounter with a Graboid quickly turns into a very stressful game of "The Ground is Lava" where you might be bitten in half at the waist. So haul ass to the nearest boulder or rooftop.
How far does its influence reach? Even though the Graboids saw many evolutionary mutations later on, the original movie did lead to two sequels, a prequel, and a TV series. Not bad.
What was this worm's greatest achievement? It's hard to say. Maybe it was pulling people and whole vehicles into the ground, spitting dynamite at Kevin Bacon, or trying its best to fly. In the end, Graboids are just entertaining as hell, and maybe my favourite sandworm of all.

1. Shai-Hulud "The Maker" (Dune, 1984)
Where does it dwell? The desert planet Arrakis.
What does it look like? Like the most massive fucking worm of the future you can imagine. 400 metres long with a mouth 80 metres wide and filled with crystalline teeth for days, this thing is like God's tapeworm.
So it's big? Big enough to swallow entire structures whole. Big enough to be worshiped for its magnificent size, power, and indefinite lifespan.
How far does its influence reach? Movies, TV series, books, computer games, you name it.
What was this worm's greatest achievement? Being the worm that started it all. As far as I can tell it was Frank Herbert's mind that gave sandworms to the world, and his vision is greater than anything that followed it. It doesn't need fancy things like tentacles, extra mouths, or eyes. It just needs to be huge beyond reason. All hail, the Grandfather of the Desert, Shai-Hulud, the "Worm who is God"!!


Ryan said...

Ah, a list near and dear to my heart! I'm a lover of Frank Herbert's Dune novels, and as you mentioned, the Sandworms play a very large (teehee) role.

If you've read passed the original novel and into God Emperor of Dune, things get really weird where a person actually progressively turns into a Sandworm/human hybrid. Very strange stuff.

Grand list, sir!

cole d'arc said...

you can also find sandworms in the Resident Evil series

so the plural of Sarlac is Sarlacci - i did not know that.

wow, this one came out of left field - totally surprising. I love when that happens. great stuff.

cole d'arc said...

oh, and i don't mean to nag but when did you give up on numbering? this is Five-O-Rama, after all.

Shane said...

Ryan - Thanks! Actually I've not read any of the Dune saga, but I'm certainly interested. My knowledge of the great worms comes from the movie and some games, and general internet research.

Cole - Yeah, I forgot to put the numbers in last night because I was in a hurry to get the post up. I knew this information had to be unleashed upon the masses right away. Anyway, the numbers have been added, because I've had a clear order in mind from the start. Now you can get off my back, Naggy Naggerton. Ha!

Glad I could catch you off guard with the list. I'm always trying to keep it entertaining and unexpected. Strangely my most viewed list was the one about steamrollers. Go figure. Now I'm just trying to recapture the random magic. lol

zach thomas said...

Actually the copywright date on Dune is 1965 I have read the whole (main) series

zach thomas said...

I would like to add that the one Paul summoned was described as half a league long

Josh the Commish said...

They also drown baby sandworms to create the essence that powers The Benefits Gesserit Witches, which is a major part of the series as well.

Great list!! I loved it!!