Sunday, October 5, 2008


The word mogwai is the transliteration of the word 魔怪 meaning "ghost", "evil spirit", "devil" or "demon".

Mogwai/Mogui in Chinese culture

According to Chinese tradition, mogwai are certain demons, which often inflict harm on humans. They are said to reproduce sexually during mating seasons triggered by the coming of rain. Supposedly, they take care to breed at these times because rain signifies rich and full times ahead.

The term "mo" derives from the Sanskrit "Mara", meaning 'evil beings', which shares a cognate with the Persian "Magi" from which the English word "" derives. In Hinduism and Buddhism, Mara determines fates of death and desire that tether people to an unending cycle of reincarnation and suffering. He is the source of evil and purposely leads people to sin, misdeeds and self-destruction. Meanwhile, "gui" does not necessarily mean 'evil' or demonic spirits. Classically, it simply means deceased spirits or souls of the dead. Nevertheless, in modern Chinese, it has evolved to refer usually to the dead spirits or ghosts of non-family members that may take vengeance on living humans who caused them pain when they were still living. It is common for the living to redress their sins by sacrificing money to gui by burning paper banknotes so that ''gui'' can have funds to use in their afterlife.

Notably, the modern popular use of mogui as 'demonic' and gui as 'devils' is somewhat a consequence of Western influences as Chinese-language biblical texts translate the Satan in the Book of Job and the Greek term 'diabolos' as mogui.

Mogwai in the ''Gremlins'' series

As depicted in the 1984 Joe Dante film ''Gremlins'' and its 1990 sequel ''Gremlins 2: The New Batch'', the word mogwai is used by some to describe a rare sentient being as it is a furry, cute, good-natured creature.

There were 'three rules' that are known to keep a mogwai--- if exposed to water, it immediately reproduces more of its kind by budding from its back; if it eats food after midnight, it will transform into a cocoon, going through changes and, given the circumstance, becomes a ferocious, reptilian monster called a ''gremlin''. Sunlight will kill a mogwai and bright light is known to hurt it. Most of the mogwai creatures are mean-spirited and mischievous, with Gizmo, the most famous mogwai, being a rare exception.

The level of maliciousness in the personality of mogwai and gremlins vary. Some like Stripe , Brain , and Mohawk are exceedingly violent and show great delight in hurting others. Others like the Christmas carolers, and the flasher, just delight in scaring people and causing hijinks. All mogwai are also energetic and extremely curious, the latter quality often getting them into trouble.

Mogwai are also pack minded, following a leader who is dominant but also has a quality that differentiates them from the others of their kind. Examples of this come from the primary mogwai/gremlin leaders: Stripe, Mohawk, and Brain. Stripe and Mohawk both had a strip of fur the others didn't, but were more violent and more dominant than their species. Brain was originally a normal gremlin but after his transformation became much more intelligent then the rest of his kind and replaced Mohawk as the leader .

Little else is revealed about the mogwai's biology. In ''Gremlins 2'' Gizmo is taken to a laboratory, where the scientists speculate that mogwai are rodents. However, when confronted with gremlins, they believe that the gremlins are reptiles or viruses. The scientists also note they are uncertain as to whether Gizmo's cuteness is genetic. They also explain Gizmo's fear of bright lights by calling it an allergy.

In the novel ''Gremlins'', by George Gipe, published by Avon Books in June 1984, it is stated mogwai were created as gentle contemplative creatures by a scientist on an world, and that the transformation into gremlins was an unintentional side-effect.

Also, in the novel, it is stated that for some reason, mogwai are now almost always born mischievous or just plain evil, with a very rare gentle one viewed as an anomaly and hated by other mogwai. The book also states that there are 3 other "minority" mogwai on this planet, hinting that they were once plentiful.

Other appearances

The Scottish post-rock band is named after the creatures who make an appearance in the film ''Gremlins'', although the guitarist of the band, Stuart Braithwaite, comments that "it has no significant meaning and we always intended on getting a better one, but like a lot of other things we never got round to it."


Lee Peace said...

it means , strange magic

Unknown said...

I was watching the movie "Gremlins" and decided to look into the possibility of the connection between the fictional character and Chinese mythology which brought me to your blog. After reading a portion of your blog I moved on attempting to locate a stronger more factual source of information as blogs typically offer the author's opinion regarding the subject matter and in so doing discovered a web page that is almost verbatim what you have posted. If you borrow information from another source it is incredibly disrespectful and illegal to use the information without acknowledging and citing the original author!

If you are a serious author and value your influence of the literary world I encourage you to properly cite all the information you chose to use from sources outside yourself.