Mythical Creatures Series
A tiny humanoid created through alchemy, the homunculus could easily carry out your commands. So imagine having an army of them. It reminds me of Frankenstein in many ways.
What is it?
Throughout history homunculus refered to a miniature, fully formed human body. There are two definitions:
In scientific terms, it is a scale model of the human that would grow inside a person and become a human – what was once thought to be sperm.
In the lore side, it is a created human with a physical form but born without a soul through alchemy or preformationism (the idea that organisms develop from miniature versions of themselves). It seems the alchemists didn’t spend all their time trying to make gold out of metal. They tried to create life as well.
They are said to lack intelligence, but can perform basic tasks.
According to Paracelsus, this was the recipe to creating a homunculus:
“Let the semen of a man putrefy by itself in a sealed cucurbite [glass vessel] with the highest putrefaction of the venter equinus (horse manure) for 40 days, or until it begins at last to live, move, and be agitated, which can easily be seen. After this time it will be in some degree like a human being, but, nevertheless, transparent and without body. If now, after this, it be every day nourished and fed cautiously and prudently with the arcanum of human blood, and kept for 40 weeks in the perpetual and equal heat of a venter equinus, it becomes, thenceforth, a true and living infant, having all the members of a child that is born from a woman, but much smaller. This we call a homunculus; and it should be afterwards educated with the greatest care and zeal, until it grows up and begins to display intelligence.” Source: Shuker Nature.
Mostly miniature human-like, but when it comes to fiction, the homunculus could take any form and size:) They remind me a bit of golems.
Appearances in Culture
- In the Atelier series by Gust Corporation, Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland includes a Homunculi who helps the main protagonist, Rorona, around the workshop.
- The light novel series Baccano!, by Ryohgo Narita, features several characters who are Homunculi created by alchemists that had gained immortality.
- In the Wizards of the Coast trading card game, Magic: The Gathering, homunculi are a recurring creature type. These homunculi typically have a single, large eye and act as servants to rich, powerful individuals, as well as assistants to mad scientists.
- In the Doctor Who serial The Talons of Weng-Chiang, the ‘Peking Homunculus’ was an animated doll running off a computer wired into the cerebral cortex of a pig.
- In the Sony PlayStation 2 video game Haunting Ground one of the antagonists is a successfully created Homunculus, made by the keeper of the castle that you play through.
- In Guilty Gear, one character A.B.A. is a homunculus.
- German horror writer Hanns Heinz Ewers used the mandrake method for creating a homunculus as the inspiration for his 1911 novel Alraune, in which a prostitute is impregnated with semen from a hanged murderer to create a woman devoid of morals or conscience.
- The British children’s writers Mary Norton and Rumer Godden used homunculus motifs in their work.
- In the young-adult fantasy book Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures by German novelist and cartoonist Walter Moers, Homunculi are hybrid life forms created out of a giant viscous liquid containing various animal cells. They are used as cheap labour.
- In English novelist Peter Ackroyd’s 1993 novel The House of Doctor Dee, John Dee, the Elizabethan mathematician, astrologer, philosopher and magus, attempts and succeeds in creating a homunculus.
- American author David H. Keller, M.D., wrote two pieces featuring homunculi. One was a short story, “A Twentieth-Century Homunculus”, published inAmazing Stories in 1930, which describes the creation of homunculi on an industrial scale by a pair of misogynists.
- Also examining the misogynistic tendencies of the creators of homunculi, Swedish novelist Sven Delblanc lampoons both his homunculus’ creator and the Cold War industrial-military complexes of the Soviet Union and NATO in his novel The Homunculus: A Magic Tale.
- In American author Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and BPRD comic books, a medieval homunculus is discovered by BPRD agents.
- A homunculus called Twigleg is one of the main characters of the 1997 children’s novel Dragon Rider by German author Cornelia Funke.
- In Jane R. Goodall’s 2004 mystery novel The Walker.
- In James P. Blaylock’s novel Homunculus.
- In Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist, the main antagonists are Homunculi.
- Dungeons & Dragons – The homunculus was one of the earliest creatures introduced in the D&D game.
Did you know? One of the very earliest literary references to the homunculus, which also hints of its origination, occurs in Thomas Browne’s Religio Medici (1643) in which the author states-
I am not of Paracelsus minde that boldly delivers a receipt to make a man without conjunction. … (Part 1:36)
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