The Fighting Machine

The fighting-machine, also referred to as a tripod and at times a Thing, is the main war machine used by the Martians in their attempt to conquer Earth.

Design and functionEdit

As said in the Martian Technology Report:

"And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it? A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder. A flash, and it came out vividly, heeling over one way with two feet in the air, to vanish and reappear almost instantly as it seemed, with the next flash, a hundred yards nearer. Can you imagine a milking stool tilted and bowled violently along the ground? That was the impression those instant flashes gave. But instead of a milking stool imagine it a great body of machinery on a tripod stand... Seen nearer, the Thing was incredibly strange, for it was no mere insensate machine driving on its way. Machine it was, with a ringing metallic pace, and long, flexible, glittering tentacles (one of which gripped a young pine tree) swinging and rattling about its strange body. It picked its road as it went striding along, and the brazen hood that surmounted it moved to and fro with the inevitable suggestion of a head looking about. Behind the main body was a huge mass of white metal like a gigantic fisherman's basket, and puffs of green smoke squirted out from the joints of the limbs as the monster swept by me. "

Fighting-Machines (Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds)

Fighting-Machines (Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds)

The terrible Fighting Machines are perhaps the most vivid impression that survivors have of the Invasion, the hundred-foot tall Titans striding across the landscape with their strange loping gait, laying waste left and right with their devastating Heat-Rays. These constructions are in themselves a masterpiece of engineering, each part precisely machined and interlocked with its fellows. The Fighting Machines were constructed almost exclusively from an advanced alloy of aluminum (which is incidentally much stronger than aluminum alone), which was left unpainted and glittering in the sunlight.

The main body of the fighting machine, holding the Heavy Element Engine, the Heat-Ray and the cowl in which the Martian operator sat, was supported by three spindly, jointed legs, controlled using the pseudo-muscular system described previously. The Fighting-Machines were equipped with a number of devices fitting for their terrible purpose: a Heat-Ray generator mounted on an articulated arm; a wire-mesh basket behind the hood of the machine, in which captured humans were deposited; a steam-hose, used to lay the clouds of Black Smoke once they had served their purpose. Beneath the main body of machinery dangled six glittering tentacles, operated on the same principle as the pseudo-muscular system described above. The discs were covered by an armored sheath of interlocking rings of aluminum, protecting the pseudo-muscles from damage. The tentacles could be used to administer an electric shock to the Martians' victims, subduing struggling humans before they were placed in the metal basket.

The fighting-machines are assembled in the Martian pits by handling-machines before activation and each tripod possesses an unspecified number of tentacles, one of which can retract into the tripod when its primary weapon, the Heat-Ray, is not in use. The tentacles are also able to hold a Magnetic Acceleration Cannon. Tentacles were also used in the novel to pick up people, throw them at objects, and even rip up small trees, indicating a high degree of strength and precision.

The head is described as a "brazen" hood that holds the Martian pilot. Whether "brazen" here refers to the hood being made of a brass like substance, or its attitude is uncertain. The head can turn in any direction. The tripod as a whole appears as if it is made from a substance similar to aluminum.

The martian tripod also is composed of a segment known as the "body," for which there are few details. The body apparently contains a jet, which can fire pressurized steam in order to dissipate black smoke. This steam is capable of breaking glass, and would surely cause a nasty burn, but is not shown in use as a weapon. There are also three legs. The novel never shows tripod legs being used to injure anyone directly, although this is a common occurrence in later works.

On the back of each tripod is what looks like a metal fishing basket, which they use to hold humans that they capture with their tentacles.

The tripods in the original book could be destroyed by human weapons, usually artillery, although losses were usually heavier for the humans than the Martians. A number of later works assert that this is impossible.

According to one instance in the book, the machine gives off a howl that is given as "Aloo!" However, this should not be confused with "Ulla", a sound given off by the Martians themselves.

An earlier work by H.G. Wells, a short story known as The Crystal Egg, is set on Mars, and may actually refer to a fighting machine, or similar device in use on that planet.

The assembly process of the fighting machines is somewhat uncertain. When the Martians first arrive at earth, they erect a device which functions like a heat ray to defend themselves. Later on, they are said to have moved in something like a large covered dish, which is probably the hood of a fighting machine, and some components of the vehicle itself not yet set up in a fully erect form.

The Narrator discusses the fighting machines emitting a luminous green smoke from joints. A mechanical system which mimics the motions of muscles, and a number of sliding bearings are also mentioned as being integral to fighting machine technology. The devices also apparently contain large quantities of some brown fluid, which is seen to leak out when one was destroyed at Weybridge. This brown substance may turn a more reddish colour, and clump up while in water, but this is uncertain, as so many details in the novel are left slightly ambiguous.

Tripods in other mediaEdit

In the movies and TV series/specials, the tripods have seen many designs.

George Pal's The War of the Worlds Edit

The 1953 adaptation of The War of the Worlds by renowned sci-fi producer George Pal used models resembling manta
Martian Craft firing Heat Ray and Skeleton Beams.

Martian Craft firing Heat Ray and Skeleton Beams.

rays topped with a heat-ray "swan-neck" to portray the fighting-machine, likely inspired by Well's description of the Flying-machines. Appropriately, these machines also hovered in the air like a spaceship. There were originally three electromagnetic legs, which can be seen early in the film and in the climax, but were discontinued during production, most likely because the producers deemed the one million volts needed to create the effect was too dangerous. Because of this it makes its legs invisible for most of the film proving it does not hover.

George Pal's machine had two different weapons, including two wingtip mounted "skeleton beams"(which replaced the black smoke from the novel) and a swan neck heat-ray. It also has a magnetic energy shield to protect the machine from enemy fire. This shield was powerful enough to withstand the effect of the atomic bomb.

Like Steven Spielberg's tripod design, George Pal's so-called manta-machine had a remotely operated "electronic eye" which was used to scout inside derelict buildings.

TV series Edit

Tripods from War of the Worlds (TV Series)

Tripods from War of the Worlds (TV Series)

The sequel to the 1953 film rarely uses war machines, but in respect to continuity, those seen are based on Albert Nozaki's design.

One episode ("Dust to Dust") does show a centuries-old variant of the manta-machine that does have physical legs for locomotion.

Steven Spielberg's War of the WorldsEdit

The most recent film adaptation of War of the Worlds features a squid/jellyfish-like design for the tripod. For this design, it has two windshields that are on both sides of the dome like head, a dozen or more tentacles that can be
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retracted, two heat rays (the heat rays themselves disintegrate any living organism, but leaves behind inanimate objects such as clothing), bendable legs which connect to the wrist or ankles of the tripod that have three fingers or toes, and three headlights on the front, with one massive headlight. In the movie itself, there has shown to be three different types of tripods, one of which lacks tentacles and instead only has heat rays, while the other has their tentacles deployed and visible cages on the under-behind of their hood, but with the third model shown later in the film as it has Four headlights along with the central massive headlight leading to the design of it more Heavy-duty as it used both tentacles and heat-rays.For each tentacle, it has at least one camera probe.Their horn is a deep-foghorn noise, similar to the "aloo!" of the book. Like the other adaptations, this tripod has an energy shield. It possessed two sprayers on its sides,
Screenshot 2017-09-26 at 7.41.18 AM - Edited


which fertilize the surrounding area with red weed. Their walk was inspired by the red-eyed tree fog when it walks.

It is evidently taller than any other adaptation (150 feet tall to be exact), besides the 1953 designs of the war machine. In this adaptation, the tripods have been waiting beneath under the ground for countless years to be activated by the returning aliens.

However, it lacks one thing that is common in other models; the Black Smoke.

Jeff Wayne's The War of the WorldsEdit


Tripods as Seen in Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds, Live on Stage 2006.

Perhaps the most iconic version of the fighting-machine is the Jeff Wayne's Musical version of The War of the Worlds. This is the first tripod design not to include a storage basket (which was placed instead on the handling-machine).

It also does not appear to have tentacles, but the animation for the live tour of The War of the Worlds The New Generation shows them using tentacles in two scenes, one where it picks up a soldier and another where it carries the debris of a destroyed fighting machine. Its weapons include two black smoke launchers and one socket joined Heat-Ray in the cupola of the hood. It is also the most chunky and heavily armored design although because the cockpit is immobile, one would believe it to be it is less maneuverable. After the death of the Martians; a red synthetic is pulled out of the open hood by crows.

Pendragon Pictures' H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds Edit


Pendragon's 2005 tripod.

Fighting machine 2 by capestranus
Pendragon's fighting-machines are silver, with a cockpit and a retractile Heat-Ray. It has four chain-link tentacles, 3 articulate legs and a basket for storing humans. Instead of emitting the famous "Ulla" cry, it screeches a high-pitched howl.

The Asylum productions War of the WorldsEdit

Pendragon Tripod

Asylum's War of the Worlds Walker

In H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, a film adaptation from The Asylum productions, the fighting-machine is a walker, but not a tripod. Instead it has six legs, resembling a crab. The heat-ray is built into the body of the machine, shooting through a slot on its "head," which rotates like a turret. This machine can also eject an object that emits a green gas (a substance similar to the black smoke) through the same slot. It also has an opening atop the head through which Martians can leave the machine, as well at least one appendage that is depicted as grabbing fleeing humans.

In the Asylum's sequel War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave the new walkers are tripods. Unlike the first film the Martians do not control the tripods from the inside but instead the tripods are living cyborg organisms controlled by a signal from a Mothership. They also have the ability to disappear.

Manga Gothic Media's "The War"Edit


Unfinished Fighting Machine for MGM's "The War"

The Fighting Machine in the upcoming Open Movie "The War" is depicted as a predatory arachnid. It is deliberately designed so as not to incorporate the wheel (as the Martians showed no evidence as to utilizing it in their technology). It is made of an unknown metal and motivated by a metallic muscle and bone structure. They are in effect an extension of the Martian's will, highly flexible and agile. They are capable of great speed and large slow strides. Their joints also emit a greenish smoke (as depicted in the book) and they emit the sound "alloo" and "Ullah. They come with at least six tentacles of an unknown flexible metallic like material and the carry their heat-rays on a flexible antenna. The cage which holds captured creatures is located on their underbelly. They also come in several classifications. In the two films, "The Harvest" and the "Crystal Egg," a pre-war type, referred to as the scout or the hunter, is seen hunting down and harvesting the few surviving humans on the planet Mars.


The War of the Worlds: Goliath Edit

First Tripod in War of the Worlds Goliath

The first variant of the Martian Tripods in "The War of the Worlds: Goliath".

There are two variants of the Martian's tripods in WOTW:G. The first are seen at the beginning of the film in Leeds during the Martian's initial invasion in 1899 and are later seen in flashback when showing footage of London and other locations coming under attack. The tripods have a round 'cap' on the top of its head, while the head of the machine appears to resemble a face - having two large red eyes and an open section full of red tubes and a jagged edge that resembles a mouth; serving to give it a creepier design. This version has a trio of tentacles on each side with a sharpened point on each end, three spikes protruding out of its back and twin heat rays. The smaller heat ray at the base between its legs and consists of two cannons that appear to be used for a quick strike attack, while the larger variant is on its front with a triple cannon that is used for firing a more powerful beam for a longer length of time. However, this variant apparently does not have the Black Smoke and - unlike other Fighting machines in other films/media - it does not have shields as a young Eric Wells was able to throw a rock at it, which bounced
Screenshot 2017-09-08 at 10.54.29 AM

The War of the Worlds: Goliath - The Upgraded Fighting Machines.

harmlessly off it's leg. When the Martians fall after succumbing to Earth's bacteria, this variant of their fighting machine is recovered and studied by humanity - with its technology eventually reverse engineered by Professor Nikolai Tesla to create the various Tripods used by A.R.E.S.

The second variant appears during the Martian's second invasion attempt in 1914 and are based on H.G. Wells's version of a tripod with elements of Spielberg's Tripod mixed in. It features little to some original design, with some of the design elements of its previous variant carried over.

It is bigger than many buildings and is both bigger and faster than the 1899 tripod variants, along with possessing more tentacles and more powerful heat rays than its predecessor. However, it still lacks both shields and the Black smoke.


The Great Martian War 1913-1917Edit

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The Great Martian War Tripod

In this mockumentary of the story of the War of the Worlds, the tripods are described kind of like the ones in the book. They move similar to the movements of an insect. It can fire it's signature Heat Beam to melt objects or set them on fire. They also can move out tentacles that abduct or kill humans. They can come in different sizes. The large tripods are called Martian Herons and the smaller ones are called Martian Spiders. The spider, is kind of like the handling machine.

War of the Worlds: The True Story Edit

Wotw-the-true-story tripods
In this 2012 reboot of the story by Pendragon Pictures (who previously made the 2005 adaptation of The War of the Worlds), the Fighting Machines are brown, and they tower over 100 ft high. They can fire the signature heat ray, and black smoke. Though they are still vulnerable like the ones in the book, seeing as one was shot down. Still, they are so powerful, the humans who fight, are almost always literally wiped out. They are either killed, or abducted.

The War of the Worlds (TV Miniseries)Edit

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Tripod (BBC War of the Worlds)



  • Alien tripod machines have been featured in many other media somewhat unrelated to The War of the Worlds novel, though they may still be inspired by H.G. Wells' tripods. Examples include the walkers from Chicken Little, the Walkers used by the Nexosporidium (Nexos) Warriors in Destroy All Humans! Path of the Furon and the tripodal walkers used by the Imperium in the animated series Justice League. The most notable, however, is John Christopher's 1967 Tripods trilogy.
  • The graphic appearance of the tripods in the innumerable novels' printings varies drastically. Though the story remains the same (unless it is an adaptation), the novel's tripod illustrations (if there are any) will almost always be the individual artist's own unique tripod design.


See alsoEdit

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