The Intriguing Origin of the Gnoll in Dungeons & Dragons

The Intriguing Origin of the Gnoll in Dungeons & Dragons

Gnolls are now a familiar presence in the fantastical world of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Their menacing hyena-like appearance and fierce nature make them a formidable adversary for many adventurers. But few are aware of the gnoll's intriguing origin story within the game.

Gary Gygax, the co-creator of D&D, played a pivotal role in the development of the gnoll. Gygax's association with the gnoll extends back to his early novel, "The Gnome Cache," parts of which were serialized in DRAGON Magazine. Originally, the term "gnoll" had an entirely different connotation in the D&D universe. In the early 1974 game, the gnoll was conceptualized as a curious combination of a gnome and a troll. The name itself was derived from this intended hybrid: "gnome" + "troll" = "gnoll".

As development continued, the game designers reconsidered this fusion of gnome and troll. Perhaps recognizing the potential in the name "gnoll", but desiring a more distinctive creature, they pivoted away from the hybrid idea. Instead, they reimagined the gnoll as a humanoid with features reminiscent of a hyena. This change brought with it a new persona for the gnoll; they became carnivorous humanoids, notorious for their savage culture and allegiance to the demon lord Yeenoghu.

Over the years, the gnoll has solidified its place in D&D lore as a creature to be reckoned with. Their transition from a hybrid concept to the hyena-esque beings helped place them as one of the most iconic monsters in D&D.

Back to blog