The A,D&D Nymph Image

My favourite image from A,D&D's monstrous manual is the nymph.

The write-up leaves no surprises to anyone who knows A,D&D. Gygax et alia created a genre, which entails a lot of making-shit-up-on-the-fly, which tracks well for a DM. He took a standard mythology creature, and introduced it to a Lord of the Rings world.

The legends stated that nymphs' amazing beauty could blind a man, which apparently entails a save vs spell (the standard saving throw for anything not covered by dragon's-breath, death-rays, or poison).

What could an artist possibly do with this write-up? The image tells its own tale. But first, I have to tell you some more facts from the write-up:


This is what the Monstrous Manual says about nymphs:

  • Animals flock to them, like a Disney Princess.
  • Nymphs can cast spells like a level 7 druid.
  • Nymphs hate 'ugliness and evil'.
  • Nymphs are worth 1,400 XP if you kill them.
  • When the nymph disrobes, onlookers must make a saving throw or die.
  • If a woman bathes in a 'nymph's pool' then she gets +2 Charisma until she bathes again.

This is what the monstrous manual does not mention:

  • The book mentions no method of reproduction. Are they born? Or birthed through spells-gone-wrong? The manual says nothing.
  • Are nymphs dangerous to ugly people? Like, will they go out of their way to disrobe, in an attempt to kill them?
  • What happens if a woman looks at nymphs? Can they get struck blind? Or just men? Or men and lesbians?
  • What's it like growing up when the sight of you will likely blind or kill someone?
  • Do women ever swim in a nymph's pool and say 'well that's the last bath I ever take'?

The Image

The nymph in question

Nymphs are not human, and the image tracks. But what do they look like? What might seem attractive to human who feel attraction to women? What might be inhuman, yet attractive? What image could anyone draw which seems so alluring that the viewer can understand that this beauty can cause blindness, or death?

The artist seems to respond with a cutting parody of fashionable beauty.

Her arms don't have the muscle to brush her own hair. The legs seem so thin at the knee-joint that she might snap if she walks wrong.However, the hips are wide, and we can see a voluptuous ass - something you can only get with back-side muscle.

The collar-bones support an uncomfortably large head. The eyes feel too far apart, like a deer, or other prey-animal. The nose (beckoning to European standards) barely exists, and makes the lips seem even more over-sized.

Everything about this image seems uncanny-valley, as if the artist wanted to poke fun at fashions in body-types. The massive hoop-earrings even seem seem to allude explicitly to the notion of (then) modern standards of beauty, pushed in magazines.

Given how anatomically precise the other images from the book appeared, I have to conclude that the artist intended every bit of parody.