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An ogre (feminine: ogress) is a large, cruel and hideous humanoid monster, featured in mythology, folklore and fiction. Ogres are often depicted in fairy tales and folklore as feeding on human beings, and have appeared in many classic works of literature. In art, ogres are often depicted with a large head, abundant hair and beard, a voracious appetite, and a strong body. The term is often applied in a metaphorical sense to disgusting persons who exploit, brutalize or devour their victims.


The word ogre is of French origin. Its earliest attestation is in Chrétien de Troyes' late 12th century verse romance Perceval, li contes del graal, which contains the lines:

"And it is written that there will come a time when all the kingdom of Logres [England] which formerly was the land of the ogres will be destroyed by that spear." The ogres in this rhyme may refer to the giants who, in the fictional History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, were the inhabitants of Britain prior to human settlement. Ogre could possibly derive from the two mythical giants Gog and Magog. In fact the name of one of the giants is Gogmagog, he is twelve cubits high,attempts to attack the settlers, but is thrown to his death in the sea from a cliff.

The word ogre came into wider usage in the works of Charles Perrault (1628-1703) or Marie-Catherine Jumelle de Berneville, Comtesse d' Aulnoy (1650-1705), both of whom were French authors. Other sources say that the name is derived from the word Hongrois, which means Hungarian. The word ogre is thought to have been popularized by the works of Italian author Giambattista Basile (1575-1632), who used the Neapolitan word uerco, or in standard Italian, orco. This word is documented in earlier Italian works (Fazio degli Uberti, XIV cent.; Luigi Pulci, XV; Ludovico Ariosto, XV-XVI) and has even older cognates with the Latin orcus and the Old English orcnēas found in Beowulf lines 112-113, which inspired J.R.R. Tolkien's Orc. All these words may derive from a shared Indo-European mythological concept (as Tolkien himself speculated, as cited by Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, 45). Some see the french myth of the ogre as being inspired by the real-life crimes of Gilles de Rais.

The first appearance of the word ogre in Perrault's work occurred in his Histoires ou Contes du temps Passé (1697). It later appeared in several of his other fairy tales, many of which were based on the Neapolitanmarker tales of Basile. The first example of a female ogre being referred to as an ogress is found in his version of Sleeping Beauty, where it is spelled ogresse.The Comtesse d' Aulnoy first employed the word ogre in her story L'Orangier et l' Abeille (1698), and was the first to use the word ogree to refer to the creature's offspring.

Ogres in modern fiction

Literature for children is rife with tales involving ogres and kidnapped princesses who were rescued by valiant knights, and sometimes peasants. Ogres are also popular in fantasy fiction, such as C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, and in various fantasy games.
  • The protagonist of the Shrek films is an ogre. Shrek is voiced by Mike Myers, using a cartoonish Scottishmarker accent. Shrek is an unsociable but not particularly hostile ogre living in a swamp. However his explanation of other ogres suggests the stereotype isn't without basis either. His wife, Princess Fiona, was born human but became an ogre by means of a spell, cast on her before the beginning of the first film. Their three ogre children (who have not yet been named) are also fictional ogres seen in Shrek the Third and Shrek the Halls.
  • These films were based on a children's book, also titled Shrek, written by William Steig, though in that book Shrek was never explicitly mentioned as being an ogre.
  • In the British science-fiction series Doctor Who, aliens called Ogri, which ressemble large rocks and feed of blood appeer in The Stones of Blood. The Doctor suggests that Gog,Magog, and Ogre could derive from this.

  • In Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears, there is an army of villainous ogres residing in Castle Drekmore and led by Duke Igthorn, who attempt to conquer King Gregor and Dunwyn Castle.
  • In the movie Time Bandits, the protagonists are found by an ogre and his wife on the ogre's ship. The ogre is outwitted and left at sea after the protagonists commandeer the ship.
  • In the Xanth Chronicles by Piers Anthony, ogres are stupid beasts with immense strength that communicate almost exclusively through rhyme as in the Chronicle Ogre, Ogre. At several points in A Spell for Chameleon, the first Xanth novel, the lead character worries that the women he encounters are actually female ogres in human form.
  • In the Spiderwick Chronicles (the fifth book), Mulgarath, the primary antagonist, is an evil ogre who wants to enslave the world, ridding it of all humans.
  • In Tamora Pierce's books that revolve around Tortall, there are two kinds of ogres: peaceful farmers and warlike monsters. Both types are extremely tall and often seem menacing. In her book Wolf-Speaker, the peaceful "breed" are slaves who mine black opals.
  • A Book of Ogres and Trolls by Ruth Manning-Sanders contains 13 fairy tales.
  • The Revenge of the Nerds (1984) and film sequels featured Donald Gibb as "Ogre", the most brutish of the fraternity jocks.
  • In the Smurfs animated series, an ogre named Bigmouth (voiced by the late Lennie Weinrib) occasionally befriended the title characters while making life for the evil wizard Gargamel difficult.
Ogre is often used metaphorically, as in the association of ogres with Nazis made in Michel Tournier's novel Le Roi des aulnes (1970; The Ogre). Other modern works depicting ogres include L'Ogre (1973) by Jacques Chessex, and Nacer Khemir's L'Ogresse (1975), a collection of Tunisianmarker tales.

Ogres in modern games

Ogres appear in many popular fantasy roleplaying and video games series. See also Ogre .

See also


  • Rose, Carol. Giants, Monsters, & Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001. ISBN 0-393-32211-4
  • Shippey, Tom. The Road to Middle-earth. London: HarperCollins, 1992 (rev.). ISBN 0-261-10275-3
  • South, Malcom, ed. Mythical and Fabulous Creatures: A Source Book and Research Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1987. Reprint, New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1988. ISBN 0-87226-208-1
  • "Ogre." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 15 May 2006 />


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