The nature of Pennywise and his powers (spoilers within)

  • New to the board or trying to figure out how something works here? Check out the User Guide.
  • Hot Topics is on indefinite hiatus.

  • The message board is closed between the hours of 4pm ET Friday and 8:30am ET Monday.

    As always, the Board will be open to read and those who have those privileges can still send private messages and post to Profiles.
Aug 22, 2016
18
74
47
#1
First off, just a note; loving this board. No arguing or name calling that I've seen, just good old fashioned, solid discussions about our favorite books. Gotta love it.

So one thing I wanted to get other thoughts on (and there may be no definitive answer) is the nature of Pennywise's powers; specifically, how he changes shape.

We know a few things from the book.

  1. He can appear as a clown, and does so frequently through history as a means to lure children close enough to get them.
  2. He can appear as the thing a viewer is most afraid of, and whatever that form is appears to be dictated by the victim; this ability, then, is somewhat involuntary.
  3. While "locked" into this form he is obliged to abide by the physical rules that form will follow; for example, being vulnerable to silver as a werewolf.
  4. His ability to appear as something you are afraid can work differently on different victims at the same time. During their fist visit to Neibolt Street, Richie sees him as the teenage werewolf, but Bill sees him as the clown...at the same time.
  5. If one person "calls out" a form, however, he may appear as that form to anyone who sees him at the time who was present for the call out. During the second Neibolt visit when the whole Losers club goes looking for him, no one sees him in any true form until Richie yells "It's the teenage werewolf", whereupon Pennywise takes that form for all of them.
  6. He can appear as something totally innocent; his appearance as Mrs. Kersh was fine until he started to change her.
  7. He can, however, modify the appearance he takes to some degree to make it scarier, without changing form completely. For example, he appears as a clown, but has giant razor shaped teeth in a couple of incarnations that he doesn't have later. He also changes Mrs. Kersh from a stately older lady into an old hag, gradually while Beverly is with him.
  8. He can choose to appear with no disguise at all, in which case they see the spider form of him. He only does this "at home".
  9. The size and number of objects he appears to be are not limited; he can be one big thing (like the bird) or many small ones (like Patrick's creepy flying leeches).
  10. He can also manipulate the enviroment as part of his power; Beverly's old house, for example, looked like a nice apartment, and then the Gingerbread House from Hansel & Gretel while Beverly was there.

Okay. So given all that, how much control do you think Pennywise has over his appearance? In some ways it seems like he can pretty much appear to be anything he wants, whenever he wants. My issue there, or question rather, is if he can change at will, why would he LET himself be forced to appear in a vulnerable form? Richie sees him as the werewolf; fair enough. But the second they shot him in the eye and it damn near killed him, you' d think he would immediately change to something else...something over which silver had no effect. But he didn't; he let them bluff him and actually had to run from them. And in his own inner monologue, he questions whether his power is actually working against him, rather than for him.

Kind of sticky, but a fun thought-problem to work through, I think. I figure his ability to mirror your fear is sort of involuntary. That is, he can choose to turn it "on", but when he does, he CAN'T choose what he looks like. He has to turn it "off", and pick a form by himself at that point...usually the clown in some form or other. So when he's mirroring your fears, he isn't controlling what he looks like. But when he wants to appear as something else - like a clown, or an old woman - he CAN choose it, knowing that whatever it is may not be something the victim is afraid of (and indeed, he seems to do that on purpose).

Thoughts from others? I know, I know...probably way to detailed a bit of minutiae. Just something fun to kick around!
 
Last edited:

staropeace

Richard Bachman's love child
Nov 28, 2006
15,106
48,030
Alberta,Canada
#4
First off, just a note; loving this board. No arguing or name calling that I've seen, just good old fashioned, solid discussions about our favorite books. Gotta love it.

So one thing I wanted to get other thoughts on (and there may be no definitive answer) is the nature of Pennywise's powers; specifically, how he changes shape.

We know a few things from the book.

  1. He can appear as a clown, and does so frequently through history as a means to lure children close enough to get them.
  2. He can appear as the thing a viewer is most afraid of, and whatever that form is appears to be dictated by the victim; this ability, then, is somewhat involuntary.
  3. While "locked" into this form he is obliged to abide by the physical rules that form will follow; for example, being vulnerable to silver as a werewolf.
  4. His ability to appear as something you are afraid can work differently on different victims at the same time. During their fist visit to Neibolt Street, Richie sees him as the teenage werewolf, but Bill sees him as the clown...at the same time.
  5. If one person "calls out" a form, however, he may appear as that form to anyone who sees him at the time who was present for the call out. During the second Neibolt visit when the whole Losers club goes looking for him, no one sees him in any true form until Richie yells "It's the teenage werewolf", whereupon Pennywise takes that form for all of them.
  6. He can appear as something totally innocent; his appearance as Mrs. Kersh was fine until he started to change her.
  7. He can, however, modify the appearance he takes to some degree to make it scarier, without changing form completely. For example, he appears as a clown, but has giant razor shaped teeth in a couple of incarnations that he doesn't have later. He also changes Mrs. Kersh from a stately older lady into an old hag, gradually while Beverly is with him.
  8. He can choose to appear with no disguise at all, in which case they see the spider form of him. He only does this "at home".
  9. The size and number of objects he appears to be are not limited; he can be one big thing (like the bird) or many small ones (like Patrick's creepy flying leeches).
  10. He can also manipulate the enviroment as part of his power; Beverly's old house, for example, looked like a nice apartment, and then the Gingerbread House from Hansel & Gretel while Beverly was there.

Okay. So given all that, how much control do you think Pennywise has over his appearance? In some ways it seems like he can pretty much appear to be anything he wants, whenever he wants. My issue there, or question rather, is if he can change at will, why would he LET himself be forced to appear in a vulnerable form? Richie sees him as the werewolf; fair enough. But the second they shot him in the eye and it damn near killed him, you' d think he would immediately change to something else...something over which silver had no effect. But he didn't; he let them bluff him and actually had to run from them. And in his own inner monologue, he questions whether his power is actually working against him, rather than for him.

Kind of sticky, but a fun thought-problem to work through, I think. I figure his ability to mirror your fear is sort of involuntary. That is, he can choose to turn it "on", but when he does, he CAN'T choose what he looks like. He has to turn it "off", and pick a form by himself at that point...usually the clown in some form or other. So when he's mirroring your fears, he isn't controlling what he looks like. But when he wants to appear as something else - like a clown, or an old woman - he CAN choose it, knowing that whatever it is may not be something the victim is afraid of (and indeed, he seems to do that on purpose).

Thoughts from others? I know, I know...probably way to detailed a bit of minutiae. Just something fun to kick around!
Welcome to the board. Do not mind Out of Order and Gnt....they are just banging their gums for fun. They are always up to the Dickens on here lol.
 

GNTLGNT

The idiot is IN
Jun 15, 2007
81,027
307,967
56
Cambridge, Ohio
#10
....IMO, the power is a mirror of fears....what each of the kids sees is a reflection of same....IT has a great deal of control over the shape-shifting, but not ultimate power, hence the "screw ups"....this was probably a mistake in the "recipe" when the creature was "born" from The Prim....
 
Last edited:

César Hernández-Meraz

Wants to be Nick, ends up as Larry
May 19, 2015
571
4,143
38
Aguascalientes, Mexico
#11
I like the thoroughness of your fact finding. Well done! :D

I think the weaknesses It has are not necessarily attached to the assumed shape, but rather to the beliefs of his would-be-victims. The Losers believe a werewolf should be vulnerable to silver bullets, so the strength of their belief is what causes the weakness.

I say this because of the "acid" in Eddie's aspirator, a voluntary belief strengthened by his own use of it (and its taste).
 

Tery

A homeward angel on the fly
Moderator
Apr 12, 2006
13,525
35,124
Bremerton, Washington, United States
#12
....IMO, the power is a mirror of fears....what each of the kids sees is a reflection of same....IT has a great deal of control over the shape-shifting, but not ultimate power, hence the "screw ups"....this was probably a mistake in the "recipe" when the creature was "born" from The Prim....
Bet he was picked on as a young creature. That could explain a lot. ;;D
 
#16
Okay. So given all that, how much control do you think Pennywise has over his appearance? In some ways it seems like he can pretty much appear to be anything he wants, whenever he wants. My issue there, or question rather, is if he can change at will, why would he LET himself be forced to appear in a vulnerable form?
Pennywise or simply "It" for lack of a better name isn't a physical being by nature. It comes from outside, i.e. outside everything. It understands our reality through our minds and our perceptions. It can take any form it wants that it has taken from one mind or another over time. It isn't forced to do these things, but it often chooses to do them. It likes appearing as the clown to get closer, but it then will take the form of what terrifies a victim because that is part of how it feeds. The incidental weaknesses of the flesh, whatever form it takes, are besides the point. You have to remember that the creature sees itself as immortal and prior to the Losers it never even came close to feeling in jeopardy. So in part, It takes forms which have weaknesses because it doesn't really take said weaknesses seriously. That is what made the monster's encounter with the Losers so unnerving for it. It started to believe itself. It started to have doubts. It started to have fear. A gnawing suspicion of the "Other" was rekindled in its immortal heart.

I don't believe its ability to shapechange is involuntary at all. It can choose when it wants to do so, but for the most part Pennywise is LAZY. It is an apex predator which doesn't fear starving to death. Consider the Losers who escaped its clutches. They got away simply because It couldn't be bothered to continue to chase them. When Ben ran far enough away from the Mummy, the creature simply gave up and moved on to other, easier meals. Even when Mike hurt it at the ruins of the Iron Works, It eventually moved on. I submit that he takes a particular form from the minds of its victims to scare the ever living crud out of them because that is easier than working something original up on its own. Can it do it? Sure. When motivated, It can be downright nasty. Think of the tricks it played on both young and old Beverly. Those weren't spur of the moment terrors like becoming a mummy or a werewolf. The things it did to Bev were cruel and calculated. It chose those forms, just as it chose to ride her father for some extra bitter revenge. I'll revisit this more later.

I want to talk about It from an objective standpoint. It is not God, but is a god. It is a horrific, monstrous evil which is utterly alien to our reality. It is so far removed from us that the further you go to approach its true self, the less sanity and form remains. Objectively, human beings are nothing to such a creature. We are literally out of sight and out of mind to it. It uses human beings for all sorts of purposes, but mostly it seeks purely to eat and indulge its pleasures.
This isn't an ambitious, driven creature like the Crimson King whose personal delusions and insecurities drive it to want to topple the Tower and remake creation.
The monster beneath Derry is just fine with creation the way it stands now. If you want a comparison to Tolkien, think of Meklor and Ungoliant. Melkor/Morgoth is an entity which seeks to control and remake things in his own image. Ungoliant (a spider form entity as it happens) could care less. It just seeks to feed and is quite content to stride across the world as a shadowy goddess of destruction incarnate. To put it in more human terms, what is more terrifying, a Hitler wannabe or a Great White Shark? Pennywise/It is a Great White Shark that is both sentient and insane.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

mjs9153

Peripherally known member..
Nov 21, 2014
3,236
20,025
#17
Very well put by Robert Gray..and the human body,the flesh,really is an afterthought..what it feeds on most is the fear,the pure,unadulterated terror,that energy is what it is really seeking..and why it takes on what the victim fears most.When It gets confused or put upon,that is why It changes to recent manifestations of It's recent victims..
 
We’ve created a Stephen King Library action for the 
			  Google Assistant and skill for Amazon Alexa. It'll give 
			  you a personalized reading recommendations based on your 
			  answers to a series of questions—so what are you waiting 
			  for? Find out which Stephen King book you should read 
			  next!