Can You Eat a Gremlin? And Other Questions Answered by Secrets of the Mogwai

Max's Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai explains the entire mythology behind the beloved movie critters.

Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai
Photo: Max

This article contains spoilers for Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai season 1.

Don’t get them wet. Avoid bright lights. Never, ever feed them after midnight. If you want a Mogwai, the most exotic of exotic pets, these rules are sacred. The problem is that neither Gremlins or Gremlins 2: The New Batch ever revealed where these life-forms spawned from and why they morph from furry mammalian things to scaly green agents of chaos if they take a bite after 11:59. For anyone who has been wanting to find out the answers to these questions since the green horde last stormed the big screen in 1990, Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai on Max (also produced by Steven Spielberg) is hiding them. 

The ten-episode prequel answers so many questions that Gizmo never gave up. Where did the Mogwai emerge from? How did they end up in human hands? What happens if you eat a Gremlin? You’re about to find out.

Who is the Mysterious Mr. Wing, and How Did He Het His Hands on a Mogwai?

Secrets of the Mogwai goes back in time to when Mr. Wing is just a curious kid in Shanghai who rescues an unusual creature from the circus. Sam Wing (Izaac Wang) has no idea what it is and thinks it’s some bizarre mashup of a cat and a dog. When he brings Gizmo back to his parents’ apothecary, his eccentric grandfather (whose myths and legends are sometimes questionable) realizes what it is right away, and that it needs to be returned to its ancestral home. In Gremlins, no one knows exactly how long Mr. Wing has been the guardian of a Mogwai. A flashback to his childhood reveals that his grandfather trusts him to save the species by bringing Gizmo back to the mystical valley where he came from. More on that later.

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Where Did Gizmo Get the Name “Gizmo,” Anyway?

When Mr. Peltzer hands Billy his early Christmas present in Gremlins, he pretty much shrugs off the Mogwai’s name, saying “I just call him Gizmo. He seems to like it.” The smirk on Gizmo’s face at that moment is telling. It might have meant nothing in 1984, but as we find out in Secrets of the Mogwai, his actual name is unpronounceable, being a magical creature and all, so he introduces himself with a sound that comes out like “Gizmo” and then just puts up with being called Gizmo. Something similar that eludes human pronunciation has been his name as long as he’s been around. Mogwai are loosely based on Chinese mythology, with the two characters for “mog” and “wai” referring to a sort of mischievous demon.

Where Do Mogwai Come From?

Mogwai live in the secluded Valley of Jade, far from the influence of humans. They enjoy standing in the moonlight and singing a song that echoes the same background melody of the Gremlins scene in which Billy Peltzer first looks into the wondering eyes of Gizmo. The Valley of Jade is exactly what it sounds like—full of lush greenery and, of course, jade. Getting there isn’t exactly going down a road and taking a left turn. To deliver Gizmo back where he belongs, Sam has to put up with a demonic entity on a train, a dead expanse of land infested with zombie vampires, pass through a portal to the spirit realm, and finally get the permission of a goddess to pass through yet another portal to the Valley of Jade. At least he can prove to his grandfather that it really exists. 

How Were the Mogwai Created?

They apparently didn’t just evolve like everything else. Sam and his traveling companion Elle learn this from Nüwa, the human-headed, snake-bodied goddess of creation, at a bar of all places. She and her husband Fuxi created humankind and everything else from clay using the Sword of Life, which now resides in the middle of the Valley of Jade. But why Mogwai? After enough drinks, she reveals that she came up with Mogwai after a heated argument with Fuxi about whether or not humankind was intrinsically good or intrinsically evil. This is why they created those three infamous rules. Nüwa made a bet that humans would not break these rules, while Fuxi doubted them. The loser would never create again. Humans ended up exploiting Mogwai, which is why the last thing Nüwa created was the Valley of Jade as a safe haven for them before she lost her powers. 

How did Gizmo End Up in the Circus Before Sam Finds Him?

He is seized by the insatiable industrialist and sorcerer Riley Greene, a creep who comes off as a Doctor Strange poser and uses the dark arts to conjure whatever he wants. His first idea for profiting off a Mogwai—before he actually knows what a Mogwai is—is to have Gizmo (which he calls a “cat-dog”) perform at the circus. His mission is to recapture Gizmo and use water to multiply as many Mogwai as he can, then sell them off. He relentlessly chases Sam as the boy scrambles to transport Gizmo to the Valley of Jade. Greene already has Gremlin henchmen who he thinks will fetch gold, but when he finds out they are worthless after morphing, he realizes he has to get his hands on a furry one for a reason. This brings us to the fourth rule of the Mogwai that is never mentioned in the movies.  

What Happens If You Eat a Gremlin?

Greene has the supernatural ability to turn any living thing into a glowing orb that will transfer all its memories and magic to him when swallowed. Meaning, that parlor trick is the only real talent he has, because he acquires everything else from ingesting others. He now wants a Mogwai to do the same with. The fourth rule of the Mogwai is eternal life, meaning these creatures not only live forever, but anybody who eats one also can. There is just one problem. Greene tries this with one of his Gremlin henchmen, since they were once Mogwai, but only ends up vomiting a glob of green slime with two glaring red eyes. It is then that he realizes you need a Mogwai in its pre-Gremlin form if you are desperate to achieve immortality. If only he can use water to create more Mogwai from Gizmo, gulp him down and keep multiplying Mogwai, he figures he can sell eternity to the masses.  

Can Gremlins Be Turned Back into Mogwai?

Yes—but only by their creator Nüwa. The problem is that Nüwa has been poisoned and struggles to travel. By the time she reaches the Gremlin horde, they have already terrorized Shanghai. Claw, the ringleader who could technically be considered Greta Gremlin’s grandmother, is a horror in red lipstick. Brain Gremlin also has a predecessor who can speak eloquently after drinking a concoction much like the Brain Hormone seen in Gremlins 2. If you were wondering, he does dress up like Frank Sinatra, fedora and all. There is also a throwback to the infamous Gremlins bar scene which can’t be complete without something swinging from the ceiling, even if it’s holding on to a chandelier instead of a ceiling fan. Nüwa releases a powerful wave of magic once she reaches Shanghai, and the green monsters instantly morph back into adorable furry things.

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Why Does Gizmo End Up Back in the Human World?

Contrary to what Fuxi might have thought when Mogwai were first created, decisions concerning Mogwai aren’t only made by humans. Gizmo grows so attached to Sam that he can’t bear to leave him. Even when he reluctantly walks through the portal to an enchanted valley where he can live undisturbed for eons and eons, he soon runs back to Sam and decides to live among humans. This is how he ends up in a Chinatown antique shop owned by his human companion for so many years. Mr. Wing never actually wants to give up Gizmo. It is his grandson who secretly sells the Mogwai to Randall Peltzer, though at least he remembers to remind him of those three imperative rules. Of course, we would have never had the chaos of Gremlins and Gremlins 2 if those rules hadn’t been accidentally broken. 

Still craving more Gremlins after midnight? Gremlins 3: The Curse of the Mogwai is at least supposed to be released this December, but until then, all 10 episodes of Secrets of the Mogwai are available on Max now.