Clockwork Creature

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He was only about as tall as Dorothy herself, and his body was round as a ball and made out of burnished copper. Also his head and limbs were copper, and these were jointed or hinged to his body in a peculiar way, with metal caps over the joints, like the armor worn by knights in days of old. He stood perfectly still, and where the light struck upon his form it glittered as if made of pure gold.

Ozma of Oz, Chapter 4, "Tiktok the Machine Man"

Welcome, welcome, welcome to Smith & Tinker's Garden of Clockwork Delights! Here you'll find all sorts of magnificent sights, from mechanical monstrosities to Lilliputian machines of supreme beauty. All of them are powered by patented Babbage engines with Antikythera brains. Watch as they mimic life![1] the exhibits with Marionette Motion, though) See their powerful brains thinking with each turn of the gears! Don't try to feed them any logical quandaries, lest you make their gears clog and smoke pour out them.

...Hey! You little punks, stop coming around here! This ain't a picture show!

A virtual requirement for Clock Punk settings, and very often found in Steampunk as well. Wind Up Key optional.

Has nothing to do with A Clockwork Orange, oddly enough.

Examples of Clockwork Creature include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Cat Soup has a few of these.
  • Howl's Moving Castle: The castle itself appears as one of these In fact, it is all held together by magic, and would collapse into a near-worthless pile of 2x4s and scrap metal if Howl and Calcifer weren't there to keep it going.
  • El Hazard has Ifurita, an ancient clockwork powered woman and super weapon combi.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima: one of the hero's True Companions is one. She needs to be wound every so often.
  • Vector Prime in Transformers Cybertron, being the guardian of time, is much older than the other Transformers, and runs on clockwork more than electronics.

Card Games[edit | hide]

  • Magic: The Gathering has many clockwork creatures.
  • The Ancient Gear archetype in the Yu-Gi-Oh Card Game. Also the Gadgets and Karakuri, both of whom represent this in their own ways. Gadgets get other gadgets from your deck, like how gears turn other gears, while Karakuri are not intelligent: they always attack, even when the only thing to attack can crush them, and when they are attacked the defend instead of counterattack, even when they are stronger than what is attacking them.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Vögelein: Vögelein is a clockwork fairy. Although you wouldn't be able to tell, except for the wind-up in her back.
  • Atomic Robo has clockwork mummies.

Film[edit | hide]

Literature[edit | hide]

  • General Tik-Tok in the Oz books. Who may have the distinction of being the first depiction of a clockwork-powered robot in fiction.
  • The killer insects from His Dark Materials (the "Spy Fly" sent after Lyra most notably) apparently, although they are also Magitek. They are supposed to have an evil spirit coiled in their spring, twisting it tighter and never allowing them to stop.
  • The dwarves of The Spiderwick Chronicles have a passion for constructing clockwork creatures, ranging from bugs to guard dogs, out of a desire to have creatures as long lasting as they are.
  • S.M. Peters' Whitechapel Gods not only has a lot of clockworks among its critters and people, but it's contagious.
  • Robert Rankin's The Witches of Chiswick features a Clockwork TERMINATOR complete with stock Arnie phrases and glowing red eyes. And no, it's not even close to the strangest thing in the book.
  • The Mechanicals in Deathscent by Robin Jarvis. Though the clockwork is just a vehicle for a much more advanced form of technology, which means that some of them are self-aware.
  • Ron Goulart's The Curse of the Obelisk has giant mechanical bats (big enough to carry people away); the sequel, The Prisoner of Blackwood Castle, has lifelike mechanical people (automatons).
  • Infernal Devices: Almost the whole premise.
  • The Japanese drink-serving automaton in The Difference Engine. Notably, it was made entirely of non-metallic components, such as springs made from baleen. So essentially a Bamboo Technology Clockwork Creature.
  • Havemercy: Havemercy herself and her fellow dragons are these, with a touch of magic thrown in.
  • La Poupée sanglante: from Gaston Leroux—yes, the guy that wrote Phantom of the Opera wrote a novel about a man wrongly convicted and guillotened for murder; his head is attached to a robot and he seeks vengeance against those who wronged him. STEAMPUNK CYBORG VENGEANCE.
  • E. E. "Doc" Smith in the Lensmen series offers almost braindead zombie servants of Gray Roger, who freak Clio Marsden right out until Conway Costigan describes them as being full of cogs and wheels. Science Marches On, or maybe he was being flippant in his attempt to make it clear to her that these undying servants of evil are not actually human beings.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Doctor Who:
    • The clockwork robots in "The Girl in the Fireplace,"
    • The Second Doctor serial "The Mind Robber".
    • The Cyber King in "The Next Doctor".
    • "The Beast Below" has the Smilers.

Music[edit | hide]

  • Having a song about a clockwork woman is almost a necessity for a self-respecting steampunk band.

"Gentlemen, this fallen angel is the illegitimate daughter of art and science. A modern marvel of engineering, clockworks elevated to the very natural process which even now is in your blood, racing, your eyes flashing at such irreproachable beauty. Here is Gaia, here is Eve, here is Lilith, and I stand before you as her father. Sprung fully-formed from my brow, dewy and sweet; she can be yours and yours again, for her flesh is the incorruptible pale--the excuse from the wages of sin!"

"Her clockwork heart beats next to mine; the greatest gift that I could give was time. An hourglass I fill again and again, with a limitless supply of sand. I hold her close to me, a cold machine, a ticking reminder of what might have been."

    • "The Inventor's Daughter" by The Cog Is Dead

"I once met a girl with a heart of gold, Two legs of copper and arms of chrome..."

    • "The Doctor's Wife" by The Clockwork Quartet

"Tuesday the eighteenth of July--my latest apparatus is the only thing that's keeping her alive.
I had to stop her heart; the mechanical replacement will ensure the other organs can survive"

    • The Dresden Dolls take it in the other direction with "Coin-Operated Boy"

Coin-operated boy
Sitting on the shelf, he is just a toy
But I turn him on and he comes to life
Automatic joy
That is why I want a coin-operated boy

  • An operatic example: in Jacques Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann, the titular hero falls in love with a clockwork woman, Olympia, who repeatedly runs down and has to be rewound by her builder. He doesn't realize what she is until a man shows up and smashes her to bits.
    • The character of Olympia stems from E.T.A. Hoffmanns tale (hence the name of the opera) Der Sandmann, where she is also the (tragical) love-interest of the main character.
  • Mothy's Clockwork Lullaby series is about singing, clockwork dolls.
  • Steam Powered Giraffe's oldest singing automaton, Rabbit, is a mixture of clockwork and steam.

Multiple Media[edit | hide]

  • Most of the known lifeforms in Bionicle are biomechanical, and the mechanical halves are clockwork (at least we know they are in the case of the Matoran Universe characters). They've also designed and built pure robots, also clockwork. As far as the toys themselves go, gear-based action features were all the rage in the line's early run (2001-2005), then they phased them our in favor of better articulation or simpler gimmicks.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Dungeons & Dragons has quite a few examples beyond the more typical magically-powered golems.
    • The Complete Sha'ir's Handbook Al-Qadim supplement had the Clockwork Mage kit, which allowed the creation of Mechanicals—clockwork-based machines which could be used while adventuring or left to perform some task autonomously until they wind down. These has magical cores for control and spellcasting, but are powered by springs or even steam engines.
    • Originally depicted as nonmechanical, modrons, the dominant race of Mechanus, the Lawful Neutral plane in Dungeons & Dragons, became more mechanical over time before being replaced by formians and inevitables, another mechanical race.
    • Spelljammer has the "clockwork horrors", a common mechanical threat. They were also given a third edition incarnation in the Monster Manual 2.
    • Mystara and Savage Coast has a few, including sort-of-sentient clockwork warriors.
  • Featured in any RPG supporting a Steampunk setting. Such as GURPS Steampunk
  • A whole range of Magic: The Gathering artifact creatures. Some actually have "clockwork" in the names. (These tend to start out with a number of counters that get whittled down as they attack and block. Some can be 'fixed' with more mana.)
  • Changeling: The Lost: It's entirely possible for a changeling, in the game of the same name, to be one of these. By default, they will be human-shaped, but there are options for other forms and characteristics.
  • In Unknown Armies, one of the oldest kinds of magick is Mechanomancy, a magickal school from the industrial era based on making clockwork creatures, from near-perfect replicas of your dead loved ones to bulldozer-tanks that run on human blood to little lunchbox-sized replicators that can eat a scrapyard overnight. Making the bigger stuff has a steep price, though, paid in memory and history - unwary mechanomancers tend to end up even more soulless and machine-like than their creations.
  • In the New World of Darkness sourcebook Immortals, the secret to the immortality of the Patchwork People (besides harvested organs) is a clockwork heart, which is implied to be powered by a Spark of Life stolen from a Promethean. In addition to allowing the use of hideous and immoral medical procedures to stave off age, improve strength and dexterity, and make the immortal better looking, the clockwork heart also ensures that they never need to sleep and can never be rendered unconscious by fatigue or injury.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Okami: Lechku and Nechku, the two clockwork owl demons.
  • There is an entire class of villain in City of Heroes that are known, logically enough, as "The Clockwork". They are lead by the arch-villain Clockwork King, and have two giant monsters: the Clockwork Paladin and Babbage. Subverted in that the clockwork elements are actually non-functional and all of them are powered, simultaneously, by the Clockwork King's vast yet unconscious telekinetic powers.
  • Sly Cooper: Clockwerk, the antagonist in the first two games, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Banjo-Kazooie: Clockwork Kazooie.
  • Syberia: Pretty much everything that moves (and isn't of biological origin) is a clockwork piece.
  • The clockpunk Vinci faction in Rise of Legends.
  • Arcanum's High-Fantasy/Steampunk would be incomplete without clockwork mechs, and there is a nice variety for the tinker to build. Decoys that explode or illuminate, arachnids to poison enemies or heal your allies, and an automaton as heavy as a tank.
  • The boss "Man-At-Legs" in Pikmin 2. It features a Steampunk body with four spider-style mechanical legs, and uses a laser-guided Macross Missile Massacre as its main attack.
  • Ashlotte from Soul Calibur IV is one, despite the setting. She looks like this
  • The clockwork spiders and gearheads from Marleybone in the MMORPG Wizard101.
  • Pokémon Black and White has the Klink line-up that starts out as two gears, and gains more gears as it evolves.
  • World of Warcraft has Clockwork Gnomes, the ancestors of normal gnomes (it involves Eldritch Abominations, and Makes Sense in Context, sort of). You can even get one as a pet with the new archaeology skill.
  • American McGee's Alice: Quite a few of the enemies, and other characters are this.
  • The champion Orianna from League of Legends.
  • Skyrim's Dwemer ruins feature numerous clockwork deziens including spiders and humanoid robots. Their bodies even sometimes yeild cogs or gears.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • In Girl Genius, "clank" is a general term for a clockwork automaton, and as you might expect from any work of "gaslamp fantasy" worth its salt. They're quite a lot more sophisticated than anything we've ever accomplished. Agatha Clay has some clanks shaped and sized like pocketwatches. They even tick. They're cute. Not creepy. Her clanks also can build more of their like, albeit later generations are less and less advanced.
  • The birds from Gunnerkrigg Court certainly suggest this, with their ticking, and they have electronic components as well.
  • Skin Horse has Moustachio the Thinkonium, a Steampunk robot who's probably a Shout-Out to the Oz example.
  • Tozo: Tozo has his chatty miniature companion Klikker.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • SCP Foundation: SCP 217, essentially a clockwork virus, turns any creature in the kingdom Animalia into one of these. It's much worse than it sounds.
  • The League of STEAM has a clockwork zombie-hunting cyborg named R.O.S.E.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Aladdin: The animated series spin-off featured a recurring villain called Mechanicles, a brilliant Greek inventor who built armies of anachronistic clockwork creatures, such as giant mechanical scorpions or miniature wind-up bugs.
  • The machine from The Elephants Dream is filled with such creations, mostly in the form of various birds.
  • The Smurfs: Sure enough, Clockwork Smurf.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • The sciences of Engineering, Computing and Robotics originated when Central European jewelers and clocksmiths started out making elaborate Clockwork Creatures for town clocks and royal courts. The most famous of these were even earlier, done by Greek and Arabic scientists.
  • Engineer/artist Theo Jansen has created a multitude of autonomous clockwork creatures that are powered by wind.
  1. (The faint hearted may wish to avoid