Pennywise The Dancing Clown from Stephen King’s story IT is arguably one of the most fascinating villains in horror history. Whether it’s his creepy smile, shapeshifting ability or the sinister side that makes him one of the most evil monsters ever put to film, you have to agree that he has a certain allure about him.
Whilst I already covered the character in a breakdown video earlier this year, I thought I’d take the time to revisit the creature with the added context of It Chapter 2 to discuss all of the newly added information that we have about it.
Throughout this, I’ll be discussing Pennywise’s origins, history and the inspiration behind the character.
From here on out it’s full spoilers ahead so if you haven’t had a chance to watch IT Chapter Two yet then I highly recommend that you turn off now.
With that out the way, I just wanna give a huge thank you for clicking this video now let’s get into my breakdown of all things Pennywise.
Was Pennywise A Real Person?
Ok, so the first thing that I want to clear up is a question that I’ve seen asked across a lot of my videos and breakdowns. That is ‘did Pennywise used to be a person?’
This theory has gained popularity due to the fact that a lot of the marketing material for IT Chapter Two focused on an old photograph showing what appeared to be Pennywise the dancing clown and his traveling circus.
To get rid of any confusion, this isn’t Pennywise or what we know it to be at least. Whilst this man did exist, along with his daughter, Pennywise killed him and his child and then used his form and appearance in order to lure in the children of Derry. This is because Pennywise realised that children are more trusting of a friendly, smiling face and from this point onwards it adopted the appearance of a clown in order to disarm and almost hypnotically bring children to it.
This old photograph in the movie still has some significance as it showcases how long Pennywise has been in Derry for and that over the years it has changed it’s appearance several times to appear more and more friendly to children in the town. In It Chapter 2, when confronting Beverly, It takes on the form of both the real Pennywise and his daughter in order to torment the character and to also remind her of just how long the character has been around and that it has outlived many that have tried to stop him.
When creating the character Stephen King based his appearance on Ronald McDonald, Bozo and Clarabell all of which were popular children’s figures at the time. Whilst King has always denied that John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer that sometimes donned the costume of a clown inspired IT, I think it’s a safe assumption to make that he did. Gacy was arrested in December of 1978 which is also the same time that King began writing the book so this adds a lot of weight to the theory.
Similar to Gacy, It uses the appearance of a friendly clown because it lures children into a false sense of security and entices them into investigating what’s happening instead of immediately running away like what tended to happen when It appeared in any other form.
Though, if I saw a clown standing in a sewer I probably wouldn’t go over and talk to it, you’re on your own with that one Georgie.
Pennywise The Dancing Clown Explained
The creature IT is actually billions of years old and is known as a Glamour. IT originates from another dimension outside of the universe known as the Macroverse that complete dwarfs our own solar system. It’s real name and species is known as the Deadlights but as the Losers Club are unaware of this they simply refer to the creature as IT.
The Deadlights are a play on the word headlights, most notably the saying ‘like a rabbit stuck in the headlights’ which refers to how people instantly freeze up when they see them. This is because they represent all things evil, hellish and dark and people purely cannot comprehend staring into them. They represent the saying when one gazes into the abyss, the abyss gazes back and most either end up dead or insane upon gazing at them.
The deadlights are an immortal being that is pure destruction and lives only to feed. Juxtaposing this the Space Turtle from IT lives only two create and the two are polar opposites of one another, bringing balance to the galaxy.
IT refers to itself as the eater of worlds which probably means that it has drifted through the galaxy going planet to planet carrying out the parasitic attacks until the location has been drained of all of its resources.
Whilst most assume that Pennywise is male it’s actually a female and in the story, we discover that the creature is actually pregnant and has also laid several eggs, though it is killed before it can give birth and the lair is destroyed, presumably along with it’s children.
When Did IT Land On Earth?
IT is millennia old and landed on the planet in what was seemingly a meteor shower. It found it’s home in what would come to be known as Derry, and it thrived in the area, allowing humans to build a town and settlement around it so that is had a regular food source.
It primarily appeared as a giant eagle among many other things however it had difficulty hunting it’s prey so switched to the more friendly face of Pennywise in order to gain it’s victim’s trust. Native Americans carried out a practice known as the Ritual Of Chud in which they used positive energy to trap The Deadlights. Depending on which version you read or see this either worked or failed on Pennywise but in the most recent incarnation, IT Chapter 2, the spell did not work and Pennywise was able to break out of this.
The novel states that IT is much of Derry as Derry is IT and thus the town is as much part of It as It is of the town.
It has a hibernation pattern of 27 years and its awakening is normally marked by a huge tragedy such as the Kitchener Ironworks explosion which killed 88 children during an Easter egg hunt.
IT has the ability to shapeshift and it uses this power to scare the humans which live in the area. According to IT, frightened flesh tastes better which is why it spends the majority of its time attempting to scare people or hunting those in a vulnerable state, such as Adrian Mellon or The Loser’s Club immediately after they have been tormented by Henry Bowers. Pennywise primarily hunts children as these are easier to frighten and because the fears of adults such as bills and money worries are difficult to manifest as.
Nowadays it would probably just pretend the Wifi Signal wasn’t working but over the years it’s taken the form of a mummy, a leper, and werewolf.
Whilst the creature seems complex, it’s only goals are to eat and sleep and when awakened it tends to operate for roughly a year before returning to its slumber. IT eventually becomes arrogant and it begins to taunt and torture its prey for months before eating them which ultimately leads to its downfall. IT views humans as below it and thus allows them to escape sometimes as it doesn’t really see any difficulty in taking them further down the line.
The movie differs slightly from the book in that in the source material The Loser’s Club barely escape each encounter with the creature whereas in the film a lot of the time it seems that Pennywise allows them to escape. One thing remains though, IT has killed and it will kill again.
Due to IT’s psychic abilities, it’s able to carry on this pattern of behavior as it can influence the police into not investigating the disappearances too deeply and thus it flies under the radar. It can control minds which is why the adults seem quite nonchalant to the missing children and why Beverly’s father cannot see the blood in the bathroom. Pennywise has a huge control over the town and that is why those who manage to leave the city tend to do well in life because merely breaking out of the spell and having the courage to leave shows that they have a high caliber of character.
Along with the name Pennywise, the creature also uses the alias ‘Robert Grey’ which is a nod to real-life child cannibal Albert Fish who adopted the pseudonym during his murders.
Now the main difference between the story and the film is that in the adaptation, IT is barely able to pass as a human whereas in the book it can completely blend into society and has done this for several years, often operating and spying on the townspeople. In IT we see a librarian looking over Ben that is actually Pennywise in disguise though it is unable to keep up the facade.
It’s famous phrase ‘you’ll float too’ also differs in the movie as in its lair we see the children’s bodies that it has taken floating in the air, whereas in the source material the phrase you’ll float refers to the children’s corpses floating in the water of the sewers.
Whilst we never see it’s true form in It Chapter 2 the creature manifests as a giant spider with the head of Pennywise. It chooses this form because Spiders, in general, are often feared by many. Throughout the 1990s mini series we hear children singing the song ‘The Incy Wincy Spider’ and also when Beverly is sprayed with blood in the bathroom, she screams and blames it on a Spider when her father asks what happened. This showcases the general fear that people have over arachnids and cements why Pennywise chooses the form that he does. We also see The Deadlights controlling it and though it doesn’t have a true form it’s appearance is often decided by the onlooker. This actually empowers those who know the truth and they are able to manipulate the creature themselves to control it.
As it has no true form it cannot be killed by conventional means and thus the only way to defeat it is through self belief and a strong connection with others. At the end of the story, the Loser’s Club form a psychic connection that destroys it.
This rids the town of the creature and in the book upon it’s death a lower part of Derry completely collapses showing that the creature was always tied to the town. After it’s death the scars that Pennywise caused and the ones they created as part of their oath disappear and the group are able to go their separate ways and continue their lives free of fear.
Obviously I’d love to hear your thoughts on Pennywise and what you think the scariest thing about the character is. Comment below and let me know and if you enjoyed this video then please like it and make sure that you check out my full breakdown of the recently released IT Chapter 2 trailer which will be linked at the end.