15 December 2010


Look! It's Book-Related Content!

Because every "book blog" needs some--and I've been neglecting that obligation lately.

The following is mixed media, though . . . but that's really how I like it. When we're in it for good stories and strong themes, how can we separate the reading of books and the viewing of films? I wish I could throw in a few radio plays into my posts now and then--or something else hearkening to an older oral tradition--because they count, too.

I also wish I were the type of person who could make a Top 5 List out of the following topic . . . but I top off at a Three-legged list. (For now???)

3 Zombie Variants
in Books and Film

The Cauldron Born (The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander)

For a long time, I thought of Alexander's Fantasy series as a rip-off of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Doesn't the first novel, The Book of Three, feature a mixed fellowship on a daring quest against a foe who has created his entire unearthly army with a tool of black magic? Well, Alexander's heroes aren't out to destroy a ring of power and Tolkien's Sauron doesn't use a cauldron to turn elves into orcs . . . but the connections do run deeply. And who is to say that orcs aren't the regenerated corpses of elves? (Note to self on possible PhD research topic: zombies in fiction, especially where they are least expected.)

As are all the undead, the Cauldron Born are feared because they are ten times harder to kill than even the most skilled living warriors. Although many of them were once the evil lord Arawn's enemies, they become completely loyal to him once they are cast--still alive, and presumably terrified--into the Black Cauldron and emerge as their undead selves. And Arawn can just keep making more and more of them, as he pleases.

Understandably, the Black Crochan, like the One Ring, must be destroyed at all costs: and such is the aim of the quest in the second book, The Black Cauldron. But this is where Tolkien and Alexander part ways: the resolution for the One Ring and that for the Crochan are very different.

Mummies (The Mummy, starring Boris Karloff)

It seems the only place mummies still get any respect is Old Hollywood. (No, I still haven't watched the Mummy trilogy. Bad me.)

I've called this monster the king pharaoh of the zombie kingdom--and so it is. Any commoner can become a reanimated corpse, but it takes a royal (or a high priest) to carry a curse as well. And indeed, there is something extra dignified about a zombie that kills with restraint--that is, without going for the victim's brains. Mummies aren't merely hungry; they have a higher motivation for their murder. This movie's mummy is just looking for love. =P

As I wrote in an earlier post (See Reading Diary: Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters), mummies scare us because they come wrapped up (snicker) in an ancient evil that does not answer to modern science. It was interesting to hear the archaeologists in this movie invoke the name of "science" with religious fervour, in several contexts--and even more interesting to think that one of these movie's themes is science as a false god.

The paradox is that it takes a perfectly rational mind to be properly terrified by this variation of life after death. When we become skeptical about resurrection, we have room for a morbid fascination with reanimation.

Wendigo (Immortals after Dark series by Kresley Cole)

The creative "stealing" of myths is expected of any Paranormal Romance writer, but Kresley Cole simply does it best. Drawing on a Native American legend of a cannibalistic spirit that can possess humans, she gives mythical dignity to her own special brand of zombies.

Her wendigo are everything you could ask for: hungry for human flesh and able to infect victims with their claws as well as their fangs. Unfortunate beings--human and immortal alike--who are infected have a short grace period in which to kill themselves: a small mercy for the remaining survivors.

We first encounter these unfortunate "Loreans" in the fifth novel of Cole's PNR series, Dark Desires after Dusk, when the leads pass through a ghost town that was once a thriving settlers' community. Although the wendigo initially serve no purpose greater than helping the Mary Sue-esque heroine earn some instant warrior points, they obviously appealed to Cole's imagination, because they show up again in a later novel . . . deep in the Amazon basin . . . in the lost city of El Dorado . . . standing guard all around the "Golden One" mummified in a tomb full of treasure. (Yes, really--because the Egyptian dead shouldn't have all the fun.)

Image Sources: a) The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander, b) The Mummy poster, c) Dark Desires after Dusk by Kresley Cole


Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Wow! Haven't heard of any of these. That first one does sound eerily similar to LOTR! But an interesting spin, to be sure. That last one sounds like a clever twist on zombies. Sounds creeptastic! Great reviews!

P.S. I think anyone who enjoys books would also like films--it's all about the story for me, just different ways they're told...

Taranaich said...

The Chronicles of Prydain are to Welsh Mythology what The Lord of the Rings is to Norse Mythology: taking a lot of mythological elements and giving a modern spin on them. The similarities to each other are largely due to their respective similarities to their chosen mythologies.

Lesa said...

Those old mummy movies used to creep me out as a kid-- loved them.

Zombies don't interest me too much but the ones in the Xanth series are kinda fun-- they don't eat people.

I've been meaning to tell you about a new Transformer cartoon series just out-- yep, zombie transformers! Megatron is reanimating robot corpses from killing fields.

Sullivan McPig said...

Great post!
And more zombie books for me to check out :-D

Enbrethiliel said...


Carol: I think that the "Books vs. Movies" paradigm is finally crumbling as we're all becoming more media savvy. =) You're right that it's all about the story at the end of the day.

Taranich: Thank you for that information.

Just wondering: are you here to play? =)

Lesa: My own love of mummies is a new development. When I was younger, I was really into vampires. But now I can't really stand them. =P Do I blame Edward Cullen again? LOL!

Ooooh! Zombie Transformers?!?!?! How interesting! =D I'll check them out. Thanks for the tip.

Sully: I thought of you when I was writing this post! =) I know you're busy these days, but I'm glad you were able to read it.

Kate said...

Hi! I'm so sorry to gate crash your post, but I don't see a "contact" link anywhere (or I'm not looking hard enough, which could also be the case.) I was wondering about joining the Locus Focus fun, having seen it over at Birdie's blog...may I?

Belfry Bat said...

I can answer that one, Kate: of course you may! there's no password, and E. will be content if you leave a link at her most recent Locus (whatever that is, when ...).


Suburbanbanshee said...

Given Megatron's extremely checkered career in all of the Transformer universes, I think robonecromancy is about the only evil deed he had left uncommitted. :)

Then there's Starscream. No matter what universe he's in, you know he'll find a way to betray his evil buddies.

Enbrethiliel said...


Kate: You are the most welcome gate crasher I've had yet! =D Bat is right: anyone may join Locus Focus--and everyone is encouraged to!

Take Thirty-Two is up now, so you can put a link to your post in the linky, if you already have one. =)

Bat: Well, it's here now. =P And it's actually on time this week! Thanks for being friendly to Kate when I couldn't be here. =)

Suburbanbanshee: And now he'll have a nice, complete record! (Hmmmm. I should do Locus Focus: The Cartoon Edition one of these days. Transformers alone gives me a myriad of universes to choose from!)

Belfry Bat said...

I'm pretty sure you know, Oh Enbrethiliel, O strummer of Christine, O Prime Locus Focalist, that that's not what I meant at all!

"find the most recent" is the full meaning of what I wrote. Because, of course, which is the most recent will change, from time to time!


Enbrethiliel said...


LOL! Actually, I didn't realise that at all! But my interpretation is definitely due to my own feelings about having to backdate late posts rather than to what you originally meant to say.