The 13 Most Chilling Fictional Ice Monsters

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at 6:00 am

7. Monty Python Penguin

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After all, not every snow monster is an Abominable Snowman. Who could forget the "electric penguin, 20 feet high, with long, green tentacles that sting people..." from Monty Python's great "Scott of the Antarctic/Scott of the Sahara" sketch.

This titanic flightless avian originates as a compromise when the Hollywood producers realize they can't realistically have their lead actor battling a lion, as he has his heart set on doing, because, of course, there aren't any lions in the Antarctic. But when they move the action to the Sahara, along with the lion, somehow the terrible penguin has made the trip as well.

The sketch starts about five minutes and thirty seconds into the episode; the penguin makes its terrifying entrance at about sixteen minutes in.

6. Walrus Giganticus

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Remember back during the "Deepwater Horizon" oil disaster of 2010, when it turned out that British Petroleum, in its Emergency Response Plan for the Gulf of Mexico, listed walruses among the species that could be threatened by a spill? Since walruses are, you know, somewhat infrequently encountered in the Gulf of Mexico, this gave the faintest suggestion that perhaps their plan was simply boilerplate, hastily copied from some other plan. Or maybe BP was just trying to honor its countryman John Lennon?

Then again, who knows what obscure variety of enormous sea mammal might lurk in those warm and greasy waters? After all, that wondrous and lamented zoologist Ray Harryhausen brought a previously unknown species of pinniped to the attention of the world: Walrus Giganticus, the hyperborean behemoth that rises from below the ice to menace Sinbad and his hearty lads in 1977's Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.

You can get a glimpse of him in action here:

5. Marvel's Ymir

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The comics have also given plenty of life to the Yeti. My childhood comic of choice, for instance, Turok, Son of Stone, devoted an issue (#48, November 1965) to a memorable encounter with them, and Marvel has featured two such characters, one from Fantastic Four of the '70s and the other from X-Force in the '90s.

But it's doubtful that comics have ever came up with a character quite as wintry and monstrous as Ymir, a towering thousand-foot-tall Frost Giant of the Norse, Jotnar school. Introduced in the pages of Journey Into Mystery #97 in 1963 - or rather, in the Poetic Edda of the 13th Century, but we won't nitpick - Ymir is older than the gods of Asgard, and he doesn't much like the crummy upstarts, either.

4. HeroQuest's Frozen Horror

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One of the expansions of Milton-Bradley's fantasy board game introduced in the U.S. in 1990 was "The Frozen Horror," from 1992. Its dramatis personae included a number of ram-horned Yeti and some sword-wielding Ice Gremlins, as well as a couple of armored, club-wielding polar "Warbears."

Formidable foes all, no doubt, but it was the title terror, a sword-swinging snow ogre loosed from his long icy imprisonment toward which the warm-up quests built. Although many more elaborate versions exist, it's the cool-blue version above that came with the Barbarian Quest Pack.

3. Hoth Wampa

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The snowbeast which attacks Luke Skywalker in the frozen wastes of the planet Hoth near the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back is a little amorphous in the (original) movie itself. We didn't get the best look at it until George Lucas decided to change things the first time.

In the merchandising world, however, the Wampa has done well for itself. The original Kenner figure from 1981 is shown above, but a later, "Power of the Force" playset included an upside-down Luke as captive. More recently, an ice scraper in the form of a severed Wampa forelimb has become available, as has a Wampa-skin rug, advertised with a model in Princess Leia slave girl drag sprawled thereon.

2. The Ice Giant

The brief 1912 epic Conquest of the Pole (A la Conquete du Pole) by pioneering film fantasist Georges Melies, about a race to the Arctic by airships, was inspired by Jules Verne's 1864 novel The Adventures of Captain Hatteras. But as with later filmmakers, Melies was sure that Verne's yarn, exciting though it may have been on its own merits, could nonetheless be enhanced by the addition of a monster. Thus the explorers, French of course, who win the race encounter this pipe-smoking Ice Giant, who proves to have a distressing taste for Gallic cuisine.

This was one of the last hits for the redoubtable Melies. Both as film history and as whimsical entertainment, it's worth the investment of your time.

1. "The 'Bumble"

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Obviously the furry, hulking "Abominable Snow Monster of the North," added by the brilliant Romeo Muller to the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for the 1964 Rankin-Bass TV special of the tale, falls squarely into the Yeti category discussed near the beginning of this list. But is anyone likely to argue that this beast, dubbed "The 'Bumble" by the bearlike prospector Yukon Cornelius, doesn't deserve the top spot here?

Not to put too fine a point on it, The 'Bumble is, for many of us born after, say, 1960, Our First Monster. The shuddery sight of his titanic feet stamping by, and the later pre-commercial cliffhanger as he begins to crest the mountains are deep in the programming of plenty of late-period Boomers. And, of course, like all the greatest monsters, The 'Bumble is endearing, even lovable as well as scary, and not just when he's reformed at the end, but even in mid-rampage.

This may be, in part, because so many of the characters in Rudolph - Santa, Rudolph's dad, the Reindeer Coach, the Elf foreman and so on - are such, well, passive-aggressive dickheads to our heroes that the overt aggression of The 'Bumble is oddly refreshing by comparison. With him, at least you know where you stand.

Previously by M.V. Moorhead:

The Ten Least Intimidating, Supposedly Powerful Robots in Sci-Fi

The Top Ten Pop-Culture Cavemen Who Aren't the Flintstones (or the Croods)

The Thirteen Greatest Fictional Snails

The Ten Best Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror Novels You've Probably Never Read


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