Fighting machine (The War of the Worlds)


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Fighting machine
The War of the Worlds character
Correa-Martians vs. Thunder Child.jpg
Martian fighting machine and Thunder Child
illustration by Henrique Alvim Corréa
for the 1906 edition of the novel
First appearanceThe War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (1898)
Last appearanceThe War of The Worlds (2019)
Created byH.G. Wells
In-universe information
  • Tripod
  • Martian Tripod
  • Alien Tripod
  • Martian Fighting Machine
  • Martian War Machine
  • Heron
  • Thing
OccupationMilitary vehicle

The fighting machine (also known as "Tripod") is one of the fictional machines used by the Martians in H.G. Wells' 1898 classic science fiction novel The War of the Worlds. It is a fast-moving, three-legged walker, reported to be 100 feet tall, with multiple whip-like tentacles used for grasping, and two lethal weapons: the Heat-Ray and a gun-like tube used for discharging canisters of a poisonous chemical black smoke that kills humans and animals. It is the primary machine the Martians use when they invade Earth, along with the handling machine, the flying machine, and the embankment machine.


Martian tripods drawn by Warwick Goble in 1897; personally criticized and disowned by H.G. Wells.

The fighting machines walk on three tall, articulated legs and have a grouping of long, whip-like metallic tentacles hanging beneath the central body, a single flexible appendage holding the heat-ray projector, and atop the main body a brazen hood-like head that houses a sole Martian operator.[1][non-primary source needed] The fighting machines are armed with a heat-ray, which is fired by a camera-like device held by an articulated arm, and a chemical weapon known as "the black smoke", a poison gas which is deployed from gun tubes.[citation needed] The fighting machines can also discharge steam through nozzles that dissipates the black smoke, which then settles as an inert, powdery substance.[citation needed] The metallic tentacles, which hang below the main fighting machine body, are used as probes and to grasp objects. The height of the fighting machines is unclear; a newspaper article describes them to be more than 100 feet (30 m) tall.[citation needed] HMS Thunder Child, a Royal Navy torpedo ram, engages a trio of tripods that are pursuing a refugee flotilla heading to France from the southeast English coast; the Thunder Child is eventually destroyed by the Martian heat-ray, but not before taking out two or three fighting machines.[citation needed]

The original conceptual drawings for the fighting machines, drawn by Warwick Goble, accompanied the initial appearance of The War of the Worlds in Pearson's Magazine in 1897.[2]


The War of the Worlds (1953 film)

The Martian fighting machines designed by Albert Nozaki for George Pal's 1953 Paramount film The War of the Worlds barely resemble the same machines in the H. G. Wells novel. The novel's fighting machines are 10-story tall tripods and carry the heat-ray projector on an articulated arm connected to the front of the machine's main body. In the film each fighting machine is armed with a visible, reddish heat-ray, atop a moving goose-neck, mounted in a cobra-like head.[3]

Television series

The serialized War of the Worlds (1988–1990) television series was established as a sequel to the 1953 film with many of the alien technology in the first season cued with visual references to the design of those in the aforementioned film.[4]

War of the Worlds (2005 film)

There are several differences between the fighting machines as described in Wells' novel and those in Steven Spielberg's 2005 film, which come from an undisclosed alien world. In this version the tripods were long ago brought to Earth, having been buried underground sometime in its distant past. The aliens instead travel in capsules to their buried machines, which transport them underground. In a published interview screenwriter David Koepp stated his belief that they were planted by these extraterrestrials as a part of some kind of alien "contingency plan" (said plan never being revealed to the audience).[5]

H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds (2005 film)

In Pendragon Pictures' direct-to-DVD H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds the tripods have a large, free-moving head atop the smaller main body, giving its sole Martian occupant a panoramic view. It has four thick, metallic tentacles, which are held on high, made up of boxy-looking segments, making them appear like large bicycle chains rather than slim and whip-like, as described in Wells' novel; they are used mainly to capture humans during the film. The tripods have three long, ridged, and stilt-like legs, which occasionally stride with the right and rear leg moving forward together in a clumsy, unconvincing manner.[6]

War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave (2008 film)

In the Asylum's 2008 sequel War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave, the walkers are tripods called squid-walkers, and are capable of flight. Unlike the first film, the Martians do not control the fighting machines directly from the inside but manipulate cyborgs by remote control. A heat-ray is attached to the walkers, as well as a kind of ray that teleports humans directly to the alien mothership, where humans are then drained of their blood to feed the invaders. Whereas Wells' fighting machines carried cages to hold captured humans, these tripods place humans directly into the tripods' interiors. These appear organic, with no windows or controls, and the walls absorb anyone unlucky enough to touch them, sending them to an unknown destination.[7]

Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds

The fighting machines are described in Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds and depicted on the album artwork painted by Michael Trim. This version of the tripods does have major inconsistencies when compared to Wells' description in the novel.[citation needed]

Parallel and sequel novels

In Kevin J. Anderson' The Martian War the Martians use two type of tripods, the ones from The War of the Worlds and a smaller, "overseer" variant. In Sherlock Holmes's War of the Worlds, the fighting machines are described as having legs that can telescope down allowing for entry and exit, and as being possibly based upon the original body type of the Martians.

Influence on later fiction

Creatures and machines similar to the fighting machines are featured in video games, such as the Annihilator Tripods from Command & Conquer 3;[8]


In 2021 the Royal Mint announced a new version of the UK Two pound coin in tribute to HG Wells. The coins will bear an image of a Martian Machine with four, instead of three, legs and The Invisible Man with the 'wrong hat' resulting in derision from fans of Wells' work.[9]

See also



  1. ^ "Chapter 10: 'The War of the Worlds' by H.G. Wells." Wikisource. Retrieved: January 31, 2015.
  2. ^ Dalby 1991, pp. 92–93.
  3. ^ Rubin 1977, pp. 4–16, 34–47.
  4. ^ "George Pal's 'War Of The Worlds' TV Series (Circa 1975)." Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved: 31 January 2015.
  5. ^ Morris 2007, pp. 353, 357.
  6. ^ Hagerty and Rogers 2008, pp. 118–119.
  7. ^ Hagerty and Rogers 2008, p. 119.
  8. ^ Meer, Alec. "Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars Review". Eurogamer, 26 March 2007. Retrieved: 31 January 2015.
  9. ^ "HG Wells fans spot numerous errors on Royal Mint's new £2 coin". 5 January 2021.


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  • Edge, Laura Bufano. Steven Spielberg: Director of Blockbuster Films. New York: Publishers, Inc., 2008. ISBN 978-0-7660-2888-3.
  • Hagerty, Jack and Jon Rogers. The Saucer Fleet. Burlington, Ontario, Canada: Apogee Books, 2008. ISBN 978-1894959-70-4.
  • Morris, Nigel. The Cinema of Steven Spielberg: Empire of Light. New York: Wallflower Press, Columbia University, 2007. ISBN 978-1-904764-88-5.
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  • Vander Hook, Sue. Steven Spielberg: Groundbreaking Director. Edina, Minnesota: ABDO, 2009. ISBN 978-1-60453-704-8.
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