As depicted in the 1984 Joe
Dante film Gremlins and
its 1990 sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch, the
word mogwai is used to describe a rare sentient being as that is furry,
cute, and very curious.
There are "rules" for keeping a mogwai; "Don't get him wet" as, when exposed
to water, it immediately reproduces more of its kind asexually by
budding from its back; "Keep him away from bright lights....especially sunlight"
Sunlight will kill a mogwai and
bright light is known to hurt it; and the most important rule "Don't ever feed
him after midnight" because if it eats food after midnight, it will create a cocoon, going through
changes and become a ferocious, reptilian monster called a gremlin. Gremlins are ammonia-based lifeforms.
Gremlins are bigger than mogwai and considerably more vicious and deadly
(possessing fangs, claws, and, possibly, a higher intellect). They are governed
by the first two rules of owning a mogwai; however, eating after midnight has no
effect on them, and any spawn they produce immediately start out as gremlins.
Mogwai creatures are mean-spirited and mischievous, with Gizmo, Billy Peltzer's
pet mogwai as a rare exception.
The level of maliciousness in the personality of mogwai and gremlins vary.
Stripe (the main antagonist of Gremlins), Brain (one of the gremlins
turned intelligent in Gremlins 2), and Mohawk (one of the primary
antagonists of Gremlins 2) are exceedingly violent and show great delight
in hurting others. Others, like the flasher and many of the "bar patrons" from
the first movie, just delight in scaring people, causing hijinks, and general
destruction. All mogwai (including Gizmo) are energetic and extremely curious,
the latter quality often getting them into trouble.
Mogwai/ gremlins are also pack minded, following a leader who is dominant but
also has a quality that differentiates them from the others of their kind.
Examples of this come from the primary mogwai/gremlin leaders: Stripe, Mohawk,
and Brain. Stripe and Mohawk both had a strip of fur the others didn't, and were
more violent and more dominant than their brethren. Brain was originally a
normal gremlin but after his mutation with the brain hormone became much more
intelligent than the rest of his kind and replaced Mohawk as the leader.
Little else is revealed about the mogwai's biology. In Gremlins 2 Gizmo is taken to a
laboratory, where the scientists speculate that mogwai are rodents. However, when confronted with gremlins, they
believe that the gremlins are reptiles
or viruses. The scientists also note they
are uncertain as to whether Gizmo's cuteness is genetic. They also explain
Gizmo's fear of bright lights by calling it an allergy.
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