The concept of a monster that presents as a single entity, but is composed of a multitude of worms, bugs, or insects can be found in many media. Examples of this type of monster include The Nightmare Before Christmas's Oogie Boogie, Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Worm Guy, and the character Arclo in Brandon Sanderson's Edgedancer.

Swarms and hive minds may act as one, but do not pretend to be a singular entity. "Colony organism" comes close, but this term from biology lacks the villainous air of a monster. The term I'm looking for would specifically describe an assemblage of simple (usually disgusting) lifeforms that are guided by a (mostly) singular intelligence and intentionally masquerade as something more complex, usually with evil intent. Is there a specific mythological name for such a creature?

1 Answer 1


Perhaps a bit tenuous, but The Worm That Walks might be the closest to what you're seeking.

I am not aware of a similar equivalent term from classical mythology, but you could argue this to be inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos. One interpretation of the ending to HP Lovecraft's The Festival is a monster composed of maggots:

Wisely did Ibn Schacabac say, that happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes. For it is of old rumour that the soul of the devil-bought hastes not from his charnel clay, but fats and instructs the very worm that gnaws; till out of corruption horrid life springs, and the dull scavengers of earth wax crafty to vex it and swell monstrous to plague it. Great holes secretly are digged where earth's pores ought to suffice, and things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl.

The concept of "the worm that walks" has since inspired a slew of such monsters, and lends its name to the associated trope.

  • 1
    I agree that's very close! I'm just very surprised that there's no precedent in classic myth.
    – jdobres
    Oct 16, 2019 at 20:26

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