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Monster Minute: Marilith

Marilith – Mara and Lilith in Real-World Mythology
Mara in BuddismMy research with the Marilith ended up short this week and much of my sources can’t pin point the actual creator for this D&D monster. But they do say that the Marilith was based on two mythological figures from history: Mara and Lilith.

The Mara is a demon who sent Gautama Buddah visions of beautiful women in attempts to seduce him. Most Buddhist texts and teachings acknowledge the Mara as both the personification and metaphor of unskillful emotions, and the actual son of a god doing evil in the world.

LilithuLilith, on the other hand, has many forms in ancient history.  In Mesopotamian mythology, she is the Sumerian fertility/agricultural goddess. In Greco-Roman mythology, she is the daughter of Hectate.  In ancient Hebrew scholarly texts, Lilith is Adam’s first wife.  While in the older Greek and Latin versions of the Bible, Lilith is mention but not detailed and various modern Bible translations tend to interpret the name into “night creature.”   In both Arabic and Jewish myths, she’s considered a succubus, seducer of men and stealer of children.

Marilith in D&D
The Marilith is a powerful demon who first appeared in AD&D first edition supplement, called Eldritch Wizardry, in 1976 and has appeared in subsequent versions of D&D since then.  In each edition, Mariliths are monsters native to the Abyssal plane.  Mariliths are depicted as a being with the upper body of a woman with six arms and the lower body of a giant snake.

MarililithMariliths are a classification of demon called tanar’ri (or as “type V demons” in the original D&D 1974 set).  As with all tanar’ri, they were the slaves of the obyriths – ancient demons and predate mortal life maybe even the mortal gods (something like elder evil gods from HP Lovecraft).  The tanar’ri revolted against their masters and nearly wiped out most of the obyriths.  The tanar’ri are essentially the classic demons that haunt the dreams and terror the lives of many adventurer.

Mariliths are strategists of the demon world, but will join in melee combat fun and pleasure.  They will attack with six weapons (one in each hand) and a tail that whips and grabs.    In demon armies, they often have the rank of general or as second ranks under balors.  They are adept at illusion and charm magic, and have spell like abilities which summon blade barriers and can gate in other demons.

Marilith in Eberron
All Mariliths in the Eberron campaign setting come from Shavarath. Shavarath is the realm of the Battleground and is an astral dominion inhabited by races of archons, devils, and demons locked in eternal war with each other.  All three races maintain massive strongholds and fortresses across the plane and three-way battles are not uncommon. Some say that Shavarath drew near to Eberron in the year the Last War started and came close at least twice more during the course of the war, each time presaging an outbreak of particularly bitter violence.

In Eberron History, a marilith played an important roll in the Last War. In 922 YK, King Kason ir’Wynarn of Breland, attempted to summon a demon to fight on the kingdom’s behalf.   The summoning brought forth a marilith, who broke free and ate the King and three of his advisors before returning to her home plane.  Though the marilith wasn’t named in the records of Breland history, it was a pivotal moment because the death of King Kason broke all political ties between Breland and Thrane.  Thranes Silverflame Cardinals and Keeper of the Flame denounced Breland and accused their leadership of diabolism. The religious leaders of Thrane prophesied that the Breland would fall to doom and that their citizens needed to be “saved”.  This was the fuel to power the Thranes war engine and invade Breland in the following years of King Kason’s death.

Stormreach’s most famous marilith is Queen Lailat, also known as the Demon Queen. The Demon Queen has brought her forces to Xen’drik and invaded the Sands of Menecturian. She has even managed to convince the Wizard King and the Firebrand clan to turn against Zawabi the Elder Djinni and his refuge.  Zawabi is seeking adventurers to aid him in his fight against the Demon Queen.

Demon Queen