Moving on down the list of Mario enemies (well, figuratively speaking, anyway; I’m not actually working from a list, and I’m not sure how many more I’ll write posts about), we come to the Thwomps, giant stone blocks with faces that first appear in Super Mario Bros. 3.
As there’s a volcano full of Thwomps in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, it’s possible that this is where they originate.
They are quite limited in movement, so their only attack is to try to land right on top of anyone who approaches. Some games show them with spikes and some don’t, possibly due to graphical limitations. I suppose an enormous rock wouldn’t NEED spikes when landing on someone, but they do look more stylish.
I wonder if it’s anything like the Sneetches, and the spiked Thwomps ostracize the spikeless ones. Not only do Thwomps appear in many Mario games, including some of the sports titles, but they’re among the Mario enemies to have crossed over to the Zelda series.
There are several variations on the Thwomp, although not quite as many as with some other monsters. Super Mario World introduces the Thwimps, tiny versions of Thwomps that are more mobile, and can hop around at will. Super Mario 64 brings in Grindels and Spindels, as well as the related creatures known as Whomps.
Like Thwomps, they’re made of stone and try to crush any plumbers who enter their territories. Unlike Thwomps, they’re flat and have arms and feet. They usually remain in place, possibly because they don’t have legs, although the occasional Whomp will move around. When I reported back here that Thwomps were inspired by a monster from Japanese folklore, I was misremembering. It’s actually the Whomps who are based on the Nurikabe, living walls that impede the progress of travelers. The picture on the Wikipedia page depicting a statue of a Nurikabe from a manga looks a lot like a Whomp, albeit with less of a face and better-defined toes. EDIT: The picture doesn’t appear to be there anywhere, but here’s a nurikabe statue.
The Whomps have their own leader, the Whomp King, who presumably presides over the Thwomps as well. In fact, he also considers ordinary, non-living paving stones to be his subjects.
It definitely seems that the Nintendo 64 era was when Nintendo started giving most of the individual groups of enemies who fight Mario their own rulers. Super Mario 64 not only marks the first appearance of the Whomp King, but also the Big Bob-omb. Paper Mario brings in the Goomboss (known in that game as the Goomba King) and General Guy. King Boo doesn’t show up until the GameCube era, but he and the Goomboss are both in the DS remake of Super Mario 64. Petey Piranha is known as “Boss Pakkun” in Japanese, and the latest addition to this group is probably Giga Lakitu from Super Mario Galaxy 2. I wonder how much longer it will be before we see rulers for Buzzy Beetles or Ninjis. Also, would a King Bullet Bill work?