[RPG] Where does the distinction between “Mind Flayer” and “Illithid” come from


I know that a Mind Flayer is an Illithid, and vice versa. And I know in some of the D&D fiction, like Forgotten Realms and the like, that Mind Flayers refer to themselves or their race as Illithids, but where does this distinction originate from?! Why are there two names for one species/monster?

Best Answer

Just before the AD&D transition from 1e to 2e, several articles appeared in Dragon magazine detailing the "Ecology Of..." various monsters. These reflected the transition of the game itself, moving beyond the simplistic hack-'n'-slash style toward more logical and comprehensive settings, both outdoor and indoor. Published adventuress kept pace, also evolving into more complex and (pardon the term) 'realistic' treatments.

As part of this transition, various monsters initially named for functionality -- such as mind-flayers and carrion crawlers -- were given additional names as being their 'real' or 'racial' titles, sometimes attributed to the races themselves.

Several real-world parallels exist. The Republic of the Union of Myanmar (aka Myanmar) was called Burma for many years until the local name became widely known and used. Various birds are commonly called Wrens, even though their 'true' name (genus) is Troglodytes.

All of these newer and/or alternate names for monsters should be viewed in similar context.