While researching for my series on How To Create A Modern Day Monster That Will Survive The Ages, I was surprised to learn that the Mummy we know today varies greatly from the original.
The Short Of It
The first fictional mummy was introduced by author Jane C. Loudon in her 1827 book, The Mummy: Or A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century. As you can tell by the title, the original was a science fiction novel not a gothic horror.
The Long Of It
Loudon was a pioneer in science fiction and was so before the genre ever had a name. Her novel reads like a prophecy of things to come in science and the future, and is filled with uncanny accuracy about society, technology, and even fashion. A type of internet is predicted in The Mummy, and Loudon’s female characters wear trousers and their hair is adorned with controlled flames, which makes me think of Katniss in Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games.
BUT, Loudon wrote her science fiction in 1827, 188 years ago—very futuristic for a female living during the Romantic era. She starts her novel:
“In the year 2026, England enjoyed peace and tranquility under the absolute dominion of a female sovereign.” —Jane C. Loudon.
Loudon’s mummy, Cheops, is revived via a galvanic machine not by reading spells from the Book of the Dead as depicted in the 1932, 1959, and 1999 movies of the monster.
(ProbeNote: Galvanism is the therapeutic application of electricity to the body. A galvanic machine is used in current times to enhance and refine facial and body skin as well as revitalize hair growth.)
Loudon’s mummy bears little resemblance to his later counterparts who shuffle around raggedy and inflict horror and chaos on those in his way. Instead Cheops, offers advice on politics and life to his friends, and isn’t the relentless monster in search of his lost love. Although, he does devise a sinister plot to bring down the rich in society so that the meek can inherit the earth.
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Summarizing the differences in Loudon’s mummy and our modern day stereotype of him we see six significant departures.
- The way in which they are reanimated.
- Their names:1827- Cheops, 1932 and 1999- Imhotep, and 1959- Kharis. (ProbeNote: Kharis is the only fictional name. Imhotep was an Egyptian polymath and Cheops was an Egyptian pharaoh.)
- Their purposes
- Their personalities
- Their genres in literature and film
- Loudon’s mummy was never made into a movie.
- He must be created from the imagination of a writer.
- The monster should be so detestable—in actions or appearance or both—that society and even his maker reject him and try to destroy him. This gives the monster something with which we as humans can empathize.
- His depravity is derived from something unnatural like the dead coming back to life, the undead, or being composed of the parts of numerous dead people.
- Love—either as its main squeeze or as a backstory for the journey of a monster.
- The monster must be brought to life on stage or screen.