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Theatre & Film

7 Classical Creatures And Creeps

A tribute to writer and director Wes Craven, featuring music about monsters, spirits, and other sinister characters.

Quick! Name some famous horror movie villains! I'll give you a second...

You don't like horror movies? Come on, you can still probably name a few, right?

Okay, who'd you come up with? Jason Voorhees, probably. The hockey mask is so iconic. Michael Meyers? Sure! Another iconic mask! Leatherface? Yeah, of course. Pinhead? Absolutely! Just don't open the box...

What about these guys?

Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
Public domain.
Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
Ghostface, the fictional antagonist of the Scream films
Fair use.
Ghostface, the fictional antagonist of the Scream films.
You want to talk about iconic faces in horror, Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Ghostface (yes, he has a name!) from Scream are without a doubt two of the most recognizable villains of their respective decades, the 80s and the 90s. These two legendary figures are characters from one of horror filmmaking's greatest talents: Wes Craven. Craven died of brain cancer earlier this week, and he left behind such an impressive legacy that will surely continue to resonate with horror fans in the future. To pay tribute to the man who gave us such delightfully creepy characters, here is a list of malicious characters and creatures who have been depicted in classical music:

Erlking

Illustration of Goethe's "Der Erlkönig" by Moritz von Schwind.
Illustration of Goethe’s “Der Erlkönig” by Moritz von Schwind.
Often called the "king of the elves" or "king of the fairies," the Erlking is a figure from Danish and German folklore, probably most popularly depicted in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's poem Der Erlkönig, which became the setting for one of Franz Schubert's most famous lieder. In the story, a father is racing home on horseback with his frightened young son in his arms. The Erlking is a malevolent spirit attempting to apprehend the boy, enticing him with promises of games and dancing, and the father continues to reassure the boy that all he sees are wisps of fog, the wind rustling the leaves, and shadowy willow trees. When they reach their home, however, the father finds that the boy has died in his arms, ostensibly claimed by the Erlking.

Baba Yaga

Illustration of Baba Yaga by Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin.
Public domain.
Illustration of Baba Yaga by Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin.
Baba Yaga is a creature of Slavic folklore, described as a grotesque old woman who can either be kind or wicked depending on the story. One defining feature of her legend is actually her house, which is described as a simple hut that stands upon chicken legs, and can sometimes be seen running to the forest, or at rest with its back to any visitor. Baba Yaga has been depicted multiple times, once by Anatoly Lyadov in his short tone poem Baba Yaga, and indirectly by Modest Mussorgsky in a movement from Pictures at an Exhibition called "The Hut on Fowl's Legs" after a painting by Viktor Hartmann depicting Baba Yaga's famous domicile as a clock. (Here’s the orchestral arrangement by Ravel.)

Lady Midday and Vodyanoy

Vodyanoy, the Water Sprite. Illustration by Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin.
Public domain.
Vodyanoy, the Water Sprite. Illustration by Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin.
Lady Midday, also known as the Noon Witch. Illustration by Nadezhda Antipova.
Public domain.