Children are not afraid of the dark. They are afraid of what is hiding in the dark, waiting to devour them whole once the last electric light has been shut off by a parent’s treasonous hand. Possibly there is the faintest glimmer of a streetlamp’s light slipping through the child’s Strawberry Shortcake curtains, but the light is too diffused to overcome the inky darkness with all its hidden horrors.
If a child is resourceful, she may have secreted away an anti-dark arsenal beneath her sheets prior to bedtime: a miner’s helmet she found one day playing in the attic and her favorite stuffed dog, Pepe. But, lo, the miner’s helmet no longer works! Wide awake in the grip of a feverish terror, the child yearns to cuddle something reassuring. But even as her eyes adjust, and all becomes a less menacing gray, not even the plushy exterior of her beloved Pepe is a comfort to her. If only Pepe had a shiny nose, like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer! If only Pepe could…glow?
What better way to appease a child’s fear of the dark than to create a toy that was part night light, part plushy toy? Toy designers looked no further than the beautiful wonder of bioluminescence, and Hasbro mulled over their options before deciding upon the larvae of the fungus gnat, also known as glow worms. There is nothing particularly cuddly about a stinging jellyfish, after all, but a cartoon-like larvae wearing a night cap and pajamas? Eureka!
Hasbro’s Glo Worm marked its debut in 1982. The heads were made with a special plastic that allowed them to glow in the dark. A green plush body encased the battery pack, so Glo Worm was the first nightlight a child could cuddle as she fell asleep. The adorable toy soon became a fixture in children’s bedrooms all over the USA, and the monsters lurking in the dark were no match for Glo Worm’s illuminated cuteness.
The success of the toy spawned a series of spin-off toys like Glo Worm Criblight and Glo Worm Light and Learn, the latter being a board game in which children handled a Glo Worm shaped pointer to match different objects, which glowed when a correct match was made. A larger scale Glo Worm doll glowed when a child applied pressure to the plush body encasing a battery-operated light mechanism. Glo Worm even invaded the bookworm’s territory in educational books such as Count In The Dark With Glo Worm.
In 1985, an animated television special called The Glo Friends Save Christmas introduced an array of glowing animal friends like Glo Spider, Glo Bashfulbug, Glo Dragonflyer, Glo Bunny, and even Glow Prayer Bug. Marketed as Glo Friends, they were given their own segment on My Little Poiny ‘N Friends. After regular television appearances, the Glo Friends were given a toy line of their own, and Glo Friends toys began appearing in toy stores during 1986. Wendy’s Restaurants also sold several of the finger-puppet-sized Glo Friends as a tie-in.
Hasbro continued to manufacture the original Glo Worm well into the mid-1990′s, and in recent years, a New Glo Worm has emerged in stores, one considered to be “softer, smaller, and more child-friendly” than his predecessors, and now produced by Playskool. How did they make it more child-friendly, you ask? Basically, by giving Glo Worm a bigger head, and making he/she/it less wormy.
If you were protected by the illumination of a Glo Worm as a child, we would love to hear your memories in our comments section, as we fondly remember the most lovable larvae that has ever graced our presence. May its illumination continue to sooth the nocturnal fears of youth for decades to come.