Convergent evolution of nonsense monsters

The idea of a time traveler messing up the present by changing the past is a Sci-Fi staple, and is used to good advantage in Ray Bradbury’s 1952 short story, “A sound of thunder”. Bradbury’s subtlety is sadly lost in the 2005 movie of the same name; here, silly looking monsters run amok in the perturbed present of the movie. If you haven’t watched it, you may wish to save your time for something better.

However, there is one monster that caught my attention. This is a 50-foot eel-like monster that happily chases the humans in the flooded subway tunnels. here are two shots of its head:

Eel monster from "A sound of thunder"

These photos don’t do the eel justice -this is one creature you don’t want to be close to – but what struck my associative imagination at once was the certainty that I’ve seen this face before!

The Jabberwock's head, detail from John Tenniel's illustrationYou can see where I’d met it  in the image at right. This is a detail from John Tenniel’s illustration of the Jabberwock, the monster in Lewis Carroll’s immortal nonsense poem from the second Alice book, “Through the looking glass”. Here is the very same bulbous head on a long neck, with the four tentacles and the bulging eyes. Only the dentition is different.

So how did the Jabberwock and the Eel come to be so similar? I see two possibilities. Perhaps the movie’s effects people had seen the Tenniel classic and copied it, consciously or otherwise. But if they haven’t, we may have here a strange case of convergent evolution, where two unrelated creatures evolve in parallel under similar constraints and attain the same outcome. What parallel constraints, you ask? Well, in both cases the artists were striving to objectify nonsense. Carroll’s Jabberwock is part of a wonderful nonsense poem; whereas the movie, though far from wonderful, is itself a sorry piece of cinematic nonsense!

1 Response to “Convergent evolution of nonsense monsters”


  1. 1 Melissa

    Hi, I was looking for a picture of an eel but I needed an eel that looked aggressive, fierce and coming towards you. I found your picture and I was wondering if I could use it to make a logo out of it for a client. I know it is not exactly an eel but definitely I could use it.

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