It is a 1986 horror novel by American author Stephen King. It was his 22nd book and his 17th novel written under his own name. The story follows the experiences of seven children as they are terrorized by an evil entity that exploits the fears of its victims to disguise itself while hunting its prey. “It” primarily appears in the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown to attract its preferred prey of young children.
The novel is told through narratives alternating between two periods and is largely told in the third-person omniscient mode. It deals with themes that eventually became King staples: the power of memory, childhood trauma and its recurrent echoes in adulthood, the malevolence lurking beneath the idyllic façade of the American small town, and overcoming evil through mutual trust and sacrifice.
King has stated that he first conceived the story in 1978, and began writing it in 1981. He finished writing the book in 1985. He also stated that he originally wanted the title character to be a troll like the one in the children’s story “Three Billy Goats Gruff“, but who inhabited the local sewer system rather than just the area beneath one bridge. He also wanted the story to interweave the stories of children and the adults they later become.
The novel won the British Fantasy Award in 1987, and received nominations for the Locus and World Fantasy Awards that same year. Publishers Weekly listed It as the best-selling hardcover fiction book in the United States in 1986. It has been adapted into a 1990 two-part miniseries directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, a Hindi 1998 television series directed by Glen Baretto & Ankush Mohla, and into a film duology directed by Andy Muschietti; It was released in September 2017 and It Chapter Two was released in September 2019.
It is a shape-shifting creature known as a Glamour who is billions of years old. Although It lived on planet Earth for many years, It originated in a void/dimension outside the regions of space known as the Macroverse. Since Its true identity is unclear, due to its shape-shifting abilities and being from another universe, It’s real name and species are called Deadlights, but few know this, which is why it is referred to as IT. The form of a female spider seems to be Its true physical form on Earth, living deep below the fictional town of Derry, Maine.
It can morph into any other person, animal or object (including combinations thereof). This ability is useful for A) appearing as the target’s loved ones or friends to lure them into a trap or B) appearing as the target’s worst fear. However, It’s favorite and most common form is that of a circus performer named “Pennywise the Dancing Clown,” as kids love a clown and generally, it seems that the people in Derry happily accepted the presence of a stray circus performer.
It’s real name (if indeed, it has one) is unknown. Although, several times in the novel, It calls itself by the name Robert “Bob” Gray. This may be an allusion to real-life child cannibal Albert Fish, who reportedly used the name “Robert Gray” as an alias. He may also get his first name from Robert “Bob” Bell, the man who originally portrayed Bozo the clown.
It’s primary goal is to feed on humans, generally preferring children over adults since they were easier to scare and manipulate. According to the creature, frightened flesh tastes better and uses fear to “salt the meat”.
It lives below towns and cities, makings its lair in abandoned sewer lines, subway tunnels, and caverns. It rarely strays further than a few miles from its lair, preferring to cow and cull prey from the safety of its domain.
On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), It takes a lair action to cause one of the following effects. It can not use the same lair action two rounds in a row:
- It shows a creature within 5 feet of it its deadlights. If the creature can see It’s deadlights, It can force the creature to make a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw if It isn’t incapacitated. On a failed saving throw, the creature can’t divert its eyes and is restrained. The target must repeat the saving throw at the end of its next turn. On a success, the effect ends. On a failure, the creature is permanently paralyzed. While paralyzed, the creature is aware of its surroundings and levitates as if under the effects of the levitate spell. A creature that isn’t surprised can avert its eyes to avoid the saving throw at the start of its turn. If the target takes damage from a source other than It, or someone uses an action to shake or slap the paralyzed target, the target can repeat its saving throw. If the target succeeds this saving throw, the effect ends for it. Otherwise, the target is paralyzed until a greater restoration spell or similar magic is cast upon it.
- It uses one of its innate spells.
- It regains 22 (4d10) hit points.
- It can use its action to teleport itself from its current location to any other spot within 1 mile of its lair, or back to its lair. It does not need to see the location in order to teleport to it. It can bring along objects weighing up to 1,200 pounds with it. It can also bring one willing or incapacitated Medium or smaller creature with it.
- If a mature humanoid spends at least 24 hours within 1 mile of It’s lair while It is conscious, that creature must succeed on a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw or be affected by It’s Madness. It’s Madness is a character flaw that lasts until cured, It is destroyed, or It is hibernating. While affected, It and all of It’s illusions are invisible to the target unless It chooses to be seen. In addition, the target believes that any creature that tries to convince the target of It’s existence is lying or insane themselves.
- Mature humanoids within 1 mile of It’s lair become unusually uninhibited, taking actions which would generally contradict its better nature. Affected humanoids rampantly steal from others, imbibe alcohol with greater frequency, or even commit acts of violence and indecency.
Large aberration (shapechanger), chaotic evil
Armor Class 14 (natural armor)
Hit Points 95 (10d10 + 40)
Speed 40 ft., climb 40 ft.
Abilities Str 20 (+5), Dex 12 (+1), Con 19 (+4), Int 10 (+0), Wis 16 (+3), Cha 20 (+5)
Saving Throws Int +3, Wis +6, Cha +8
Skills Deception +8, Insight +9, Perception +6, Stealth +4
Damage Immunities bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons
Condition Immunities charmed, frightened
Senses blindsight 60 ft., passive Perception 16
Languages all, telepathy 60 ft.
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)
Shapechanger. It can use its action to polymorph into a Large or smaller creature, or back into its true form, which is a Large spider-like creature. It’s statistics, other than its size, are the same in each form. Any equipment It is wearing or carrying transforms with it. It reverts to its true form if It dies.
If It uses this feature to change into a frightening form, such as one It senses using its Detect Fears feature, so long as It remains in this form, any creature hostile to It that starts its turn within 20 feet of It must make a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw, unless It is incapacitated. On a failed save, the target is frightened until the start of the target’s next turn. If a creature’s saving throw is successful, the creature is immune to It’s Fear Form for the next 24 hours.
Detect Fears. As a bonus action, It can magically sense the innate fears of one creature It can sense within 60 feet of it. The effect can penetrate barriers, but 3 feet of wood or dirt, 2 feet of stone, 2 inches of metal, or a thin sheet of lead blocks it. While the target is in range, It can continue sensing its fears, as long as It’s concentration isn’t broken (as if concentrating on a spell). While It is detecting the target’s fears, the target has disadvantage on Wisdom saving throws made against It’s spells and effects.
Innate Spellcasting. It’s innate spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 16). It can innately cast the following spells, requiring no components:
- At will: enthrall, friends, mage hand (the hand is invisible), minor illusion
- 3/day each: charm person, hallucinatory terrain, major image, suggestion
- 1/day each: control weather, dominate person, mass suggestion
The Ritual of Chüd. Any non-frightened creature that is within 60 feet of It can use its bonus action to believe its own attacks are magical even if they aren’t. The creature must make a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw. On a successful saving throw, the creature’s weapons are considered magical for the purposes of overcoming It’s damage immunities. If It is destroyed by weapons created through the Ritual of Chüd, It goes into hibernation for 1d4 + 26 years then rejuvenates (see below). Then, if It is destroyed by a second Ritual of Chüd, It is permanently destroyed and does not rejuvenate.
Rejuvenation. If It is destroyed by the first Ritual of Chüd, or through any other means than the Ritual of Chüd, It goes into hibernation. While in hibernation, It rests in a pocket dimension where It is immune to all damage and cannot be detected by divination magic, even a wish spell. It remains in hibernation for 1d4 + 26 years, at which point It returns to its lair with all of its hit points.
Salt the Meat. Any target that is frightened of It takes an additional 7 (2d6) damage when It hits the target with its bite attack.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d6 + 5) piercing damage.