In those various settings, the drow pantheon of gods consists of the leader Lolth, as well as Eilistraee, Kiaransalee, Vhaeraun, and Zinzerena. Other drow gods may be present in different campaign settings.
Lolth is a demon lord and a goddess worshipped by the drow (some myths propose that she was originally a goddess who was transformed into a demon). She displays formidable power and great cruelty with an affection for arachnids. Goddess of Darkness, Drow, Evil, and Spiders (and assassins and chaos in the Forgotten Realms), Lolth has, through deceit and domination, garnered the ears of the dark elves and eventually established herself as their foremost deity, keeping them under her thumb by creating a society in which only the strong survive and her priestesses are strongest.
Lolth is a Chaotic Evil Intermediate Power. Her symbol is a black spider with the head of a female drow (and in the Forgotten Realms, hanging from a spider web).
Lolth's appearance has remained the same with small changes and modifications throughout the game's three editions. Lolth usually appears in two forms: drow and arachnid. In drow form, the Spider Queen appears as an "exquisitely beautiful" female dark elf, sometimes covered in clinging spiders. In her arachnid form, Lolth takes the appearance of a giant black widow spider with the head of a female drow or human peering from between the eight spider-eyes. Sometimes, the two foremost pair of her spider-legs are actually humanoid arms. In third edition, her arachnid form has taken more of a drider-like appearance, due to the events of the "War of the Spider Queen" novel series.
Lolth dwells in her divine realm of the Demonweb Pits, a demonic realm formed entirely of a single great fractal web, where she is served by legions of powerful mystical slaves. Lolth's residence in this realm is a mobile iron spider-shaped stronghold. In the default Dungeons & Dragons cosmology, the Demonweb Pits are located on the 66th layer of the Abyss (although in the Queen of the Spiders supermodule, author David C Sutherland locates her realm on layer 65). In the current iteration of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, the Demonweb Pits is a plane to itself. However, there appears to be some controversy regarding the status of the Demonweb Pits in that particular campaign: the 3rd edition campaign setting says that the Demonweb Pits are a separate plane, but in the novel Extinction by Lisa Smedman they are explicitly referred to as part of the Abyss, namely the 66th layer (as in the "default" cosmology). But, as seen by the end of the War of the Spider Queen series, it is shown that the Demonweb Pits had, while Lolth was "evolving," separated and became its own plane.
Lolth has sworn vengeance against Corellon Larethian and his people. She has her own rivalries with the various demon lords of the Abyss, noticeably with Zuggtmoy, the Demoness Lady of Fungi. However, Lolth's re-ascension to true godhood has elevated her above competition from the Lady of Fungi, but the two still harbor hatred for one another.
The Dark Seldarine
Lolth is the leader of the Dark Seldarine, the drow pantheon of gods but a pantheon in name only. The Spider Queen dominates all of the other powers of the Dark Seldarine and brooks (or at least admits) no challenge to her ultimate authority and only the weakest members, Kiaransalee and Selvetarm, acknowledge Lolth as the leader of their pantheon, an unavoidable testament to the great power of the Spider Queen. The members of the Dark Seldarine are as follows: Eilistraee the Dark Maiden, Ghaunadaur or That Which Lurks, Kiaransalee the Revenancer, Selvetarm the Champion of Lolth and Vhaeraun the Masked Lord, who is also the father of Selvetarm (Selvetarm is the product of an ill-fated union between Vhaeraun and the goddess Zandilar the Dancer, an aspect of Sharess, a goddess of hedonism worshipped by the Yuir elves). Lolth is unanimously hated by the other members of the Dark Seldarine. All but Eilistraee wish to usurp the Spider Queen and replace her as the head of their dark pantheon, but the Dark Maiden seeks to end her vicious mother's evil tyranny over the drow and help them return to the Realms Above in peace and redemption. Until recently, the home of the Dark Seldarine was based in the Demonweb Pits, the 66th layer of the Abyss, though Eilistraee prefers to reside in Arvandor with her father. This has changed with Lolth's recent ascension to greater godhood, that of Intermediate Power from Lesser Power.
Lolth opposes at every opportunity the deities of the surface elves, and loathes Corellon with an unparalleled passion. She also considers amongst her major foes Ghaunadaur, Eilistraee, Vhaeraun, Gruumsh and Ilsensine. On occasions she allies with Malar and Loviatar, but these are hardly stable friendships. She is served by Selvetarm, who is too weak to oppose her, and nominally by Kiaransalee, though she and Lolth hate each other and recently this rift has deepened when Kiaransalee stole many of Lolth's worshipers, especially in the case of the city of Maerimydra.
Lolth was banished to the Abyss by Corellon Larethian, to whom she has been an implacable enemy since the moment of her exile.
Long before the elves first travelled to Abeir-Toril from the original elven homeland of Tintageer on the magical world of Faerie, Lolth was known as Araushnee, the "Weaver of Destiny", a Lesser deity of the Seldarine, the elven pantheon of gods. As a goddess of weavers and a spinner of fate, the destiny of the Ssri-Tel'Quessir (dark elves) was placed in the hands of Araushnee by the decree of Corellon Larethian, Creator of the Elves and leader of the Seldarine, in addition to being the consort of Araushnee. The union between Corellon Larethian and the Weaver of Destiny in the form of two children, the Lesser deities Vhaeraun, the Masked Lord, and Eilistraee, the Dark Maiden.
Despite all of this, Araushnee was a jealous schemer who envied Corellon and secretly planned to overthrow him and replace him as First of the Seldarine and Coronal of Arvandor. Allying herself with Gruumsh, leader of the orcish pantheon and an undying foe to Corellon, Araushnee attempted to have her consort assassinated by using her position as a loved one of Corellon. Her many attempts to kill the First of the Seldarine failed and eventually these plots were discovered by Sehanine Moonbow, the most powerful goddess of the Seldarine, who had also been suspicious of Araushnee's true motivations. Upon confronting the Weaver of Destiny, Sehanine Moonbow was imprisoned by the traitor goddess. Seeing an opportunity, Araushnee was roused to action and she, Gruumsh and her son Vhaeraun, another co-conspirator in Araushnee's plots, gathered together a great alliance of Greater and Lesser deities of the orcs, goblinoids, kobolds, giants, ogres and many other gods of the evil races. This army of deities was also joined by Malar, god of evil werebeasts, Auril, the savage Frostmaiden and Ghaunadaur, or That Which Lurks, a primordial evil and a future member of the Dark Seldarine.
The god-army marched on Arvandor, facing Corellon Larethian and the rest of the Seldarine (bar Sehanine Moonbow, who was still imprisoned), including Eilistraee, who was unaware of her mother's treachery. During the battle that followed, Araushnee and Vhaeraun feigned to fight for the Seldarine while attempting to aid the opposing army, Araushnee even going so far as to redirect an arrow fired by her daughter to hit Corellon. Amid the course of the battle, Sehanine Moonbow managed to escape her imprisonment and revealed the treachery and betrayal of Araushnee to Corellon. The battle for Arvandor was eventually won by the forces of light, the evil army of beast gods eventually driven off by the combined might of the assembled Seldarine and the other fey deities of Arborea. As the battle was being fought, Corellon Larethian faced his betrayer.
Araushnee once again tried to kill her former lover but the intervention of three elven goddesses prevented this. Sehanine Moonbow, Hanali Celanil and Aerdrie Faenya had all come to battle Araushnee the Weaver and, coalescing their collective powers into a new form they created the goddess Angharradh, a new consort to Corellon and an equal to him in power. Araushnee was swiftly defeated by Angharradh. Corellon looked upon the defeated form of his betrayer, mother of his children and once beloved by him, it was then that the First of the Seldarine broken-heartedly cursed his love, Araushnee the Weaver of Destiny, into the form of a hideous spider-bodied tanar'ri, stripping her of her divinity and branding her with the name Lolth and casted her into the Abyss, never to return. Corellon also banished Vhaeraun, knowing of his son's duplicity and involvement in his mother's plots. Though Corellon knew his daughter's innocence, Eilistraee chose to share the fate of her mother and brother, the Dark Maiden no doubt sensing that the dark elves would one day need a reprieve from the path of hate and evil that they would eventually set upon, as they followed their dark goddess - their Spider Queen.
In the Abyss, many millennia passed by as Lolth raged bitterly over her failed plans, along the way rejecting the advances of Ghaunadaur and sending it into a terrible rage, during which it stole the intellect of many of its followers, effectively robbing itself of most of its power, power which it has only recently regained. However, the Queen of Spiders learned an important lesson from That Which Lurks, by gaining the worship of mortals she could return to her former level of power and beyond. Revealing herself to the dark elven races on various worlds, especially Abeir-Toril, Lolth regained her divinity, achieving part of her ultimate goal to wreak terrible vengeance on Corellon Larethian and the Seldarine. Lolth was the secret power behind many of the dark elven houses of Ilythiir during the terrible Crown Wars that waged between the great elven empires of an age long ago. When the clerics of lost Illefarn prayed to the Seldarine for salvation from the evil elves of Ilythiir and the avatar of Corellon Larethian cursed all Ssri-Tel'Quessir to share the fate of their Abyssmal mother, naming them dhaeraow and divorcing them from the light of day, Lolth led her people into the Underdark, mirroring her own fall from Arvandor so long before. Again, Lolth broke Corellon's heart with this Descent. The dark elves were sundered forever from their creator and all Tel'Quessir, and again Lolth had taken another step in her quest for vengeance against Corellon and his Seldarine.
The drow, as they came to be known, grew strong in the Underdark, infiltrating and dominating their subterranean environment with zealous fervor. Lolth's worship became paramount to the power hungry, status-obsessed drow and the Spider Queen's dark majesty has flourished as the dark elves have grown in power. Great temples and cities were built in Lolth's name, foremost among them Menzoberranzan. Founded by Menzoberra the Kinless, a refugee high priestess of Lolth who had fled the destruction of Golothaer (which fell due to infighting among the city's rival clergies), Menzoberranzan is the favoured city of the Spider Queen: so much so that it was her refuge during the events of the recent series of events known as The Time of Troubles.
Lolth's recent activities include:
- During the Time of Troubles, she manifested in Menzoberranzan where she found and slew the minor drow goddess of assassins Zinzerena, assuming her portfolio. She also paid a visit to the old Matron Baenre to help her get rid of the heretic psionicist Matron Oblodra.
- In 1371 DR, Lolth allied herself once again with Malar in order to invade the homeland of Corellon's people on Toril, Evermeet, by releasing the villainous elf Kymil Nimesin from his extraplanar prison, and unleashing Ityak-Ortheel, the Elf-Eater. Her plots were again foiled by the might of Amlaruil, queen of Evermeet, and the goddess Angharradh, and she was driven off with Malar by Ityak-Ortheel.
- In 1372 DR, Lolth fell silent, not answering the prayers of her priestesses, and causing chaos amongst the drow, particularly the drow of Menzoberranzan—led by House Baenre, whose own High Priestess of Lolth, Triel, commanded her sister Quenthel to investigate—and Ched Nasad—which was destroyed. These events are detailed in the War of the Spider Queen series.
- At the culmination of War of the Spider Queen series Lolth achieved Greater divinity after choosing her Yor'thae (Chosen One), Danifae Yauntyrr.
Later, she attempted to invade Oerth via the city of Istivin in Sterich, but her plans were foiled by a band of heroes. These events are assumed to have occurred in the first edition Dungeons & Dragons supermodule GDQ1-7 Queen of the Spiders.
In Paul Kidd's novel Descent into the Depths of the Earth, Lolth's plans to conquer the Flanaess are foiled by the Justicar and Escalla, (thanks to a magical bottle of fairy wine, vintage sixty-three); a few months later, in the Queen of the Demonweb Pits novel (also by Kidd), Lolth and her allies try to have their revenge on the adventurers; however, at the end of the novel, Lolth is destroyed in her native plane, supposedly for good.
Servants who fail Lolth (and there are many ways to fail the capricious goddess) are usually either slain or transformed into creatures called driders: centaur-like creatures that have spider-like bodies below their waists instead of a centaur's equine features. Lolth is also served by a race of shapeshifting demons called the yochlol. In their natural form, yochlol resemble molten blobs of wax with large, glaring red eyes.
Clergy, temples, and rituals
Lolth's clerics are usually female, although there are rare male clerics, but none of which are allowed to achieve the rank of high priest. Her clerics wear red and black, and drow tunics and helms. The Spider Queen's sacred animals are (naturally) arachnids. She is worshipped on the full moon in underground marble temples. Enemies and riches are sacrificed to her monthly.
- Militant Myrlochar, Order of Soul Spiders
- The Militant Myrlochar, also known as the Order of Soul Spiders, is an elite military order composed solely of male crusaders and found in the few dark elven cities where Lolth is revered and males are permitted to enter her priesthood. The Militant Myrlochar directly serve the ruling Matron Mothers of the city in which they are based as agents of uncontrolled destruction, tirelessly hunting any creature designated as their quarry or who interferes with their pursuit and wreaking havoc until recalled (which rarely happens) or destroyed (their most common fate).
- Handmaidens of the Spider Queen
- The Handmaidens of the Spider Queen is an order of female crusaders with no permanent ties to any individual city. Also known as the Daughters of the Yochlol, the Handmaidens serve as instruments of Lolth's will in times when the Spider Queen needs to bring an entire city into line.
- At least three times in recorded history the Handmaidens of the Spider Queen have assaulted and destroyed an entire dark elven city that threatened to drift from Lolth's web of chaos. When not assembled into an army of chaos and vengeance, the Handmaidens work in small companies scattered throughout the Underdark, harassing merchant trains that look to other deities for protection and conducting hit-and-run raids on cities ruled by the clergy of other deities.
Lolth in other media
Lolth makes an appearance in the episode "Hall of Bones" of the 1983 Dungeons & Dragons animated series. Lolth initially appears as a beautiful elven woman who offers to lead the series' heroes through an underground passage to escape a horde of monsters. Having lured the heroes into her subterranean trap, Lolth transforms into her demonic spider form and drops her victims onto a giant web. She is then joined by the series' main villain Venger, with whom she is apparently allied, who introduces her as "Lolth, Demon Queen of Spiders." The animated version of Lolth appears far weaker then her depictions in the Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk settings, as she is quickly and easily defeated when her web is cut, causing her to fall helplessly down a bottomless pit.
Lolth was created by Gary Gygax:
From: "Gary Gygax" <...> To: "Kim NEVELSTEEN" <...> Subject: Re: Wiki questions Date: Sun, 14 Aug 2005 11:40:39 -0500 > What are the origins of "Lloth"? Inspired by Tolkien, "The Silmarillion"? Lolth is strictly a creation of my own imagination without any inspiration from Professor tolkien's writings. Gary.
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