Literature’s Most Underrated Monsters

Posted by E.H. Kern

We can agree that not all monsters are created equal. However, what's with certain types enjoying more popularity over others? If you ask us, vampires and werewolves have had more than their fair share of the limelight. Here's a list of literary monsters we think should get more love from pop culture. 

The Mummy

The underrated monster that first comes to mind is the mummy. There are different kinds of mummies, of course, but the mummy that is of interest here is the Egyptian mummy, which comes with a mythology of cursed tombs, mysterious deaths, and ancient history.

Horror literary giants Bram Stoker and Anne Rice have both written novels about mummies. Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of the Seven Stars tells the tale of a mystery surrounding a jewel stolen from the mummified corpse of Egyptian queen Tera. Published in 1903, Stoker wrote this novel as a commentary on the British Empire’s colonization of Egypt and the plunder of ancient Egyptian tombs that followed.

In her novel The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned, Anne Rice gives Pharaoh Ramses II the Vampire Chronicle treatment in that she turns him into a tortured individual who is at odds with his nature. At the time of publication in 1991 it was indicated that this novel would be the first in a new supernatural series by Rice, but so far no other mummy novels have been published.


The Golem

The golem belongs to Ashkenazi Jewish folklore and is a man-made monster created out of clay. The golem is bound to a master and obeys his or her every command. However, the golem is capable of extreme violence and is therefore very dangerous. The most famous story about a golem takes place in sixteenth-century Prague and can be read in Elie Wiesel’s The Golem.

Other novels featuring golems are Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle and Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett. Yes, that Terry Pratchett.




The Leviathan

Just like the golem, the leviathan has its origins in Jewish texts. The leviathan is a sea monster mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. Arguably, the most famous novel featuring a leviathan is Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

In her trilogy The Liveship Traders, Robin Hobb has created sea snakes who can destroy ships by their mere size. The body fluids of these leviathans are poisonous, which means that humans can’t kill them without running the risk of dying themselves.


The Jinn

Novels featuring a jinni as their main character are difficult to find.

However, in his latest novel, Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty-Eight Nights, Salman Rushdie introduces us to Dunia, a jinnia (a female jinni) who enters into a relationship with the medieval philosopher Ibn Rushd. Centuries later, their descendants protect the earth against an attack from the evil jinn, or ifrit.


Underrated Monster Mash-Up

One of the best novels to come out in recent years featuring some of our underrated monsters is Helene Wecker’s monster mash-up novel The Golem and the Jinni.

The novel takes place in the late nineteenth-century where Chava, a female golem without a master, and Ahmad, a male jinni from the Syrian Desert, struggle to find their footing in the fantastical world that is New York City.