Posts Tagged 'Humor'

Yo, Melanthios, I ain’t sure this dead-eyed witch sellin’ phallus curses is on the level

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

The quote above is from the three witches, the Weird Sisters, in MacBeth. It reflects a genuine belief in folklore and tradition that magic sometimes required the use of obscene, gruesome ingredients. We have accounts of this from second hand sources, and also from sources written or even used by magic practitioners. However, there’s one particular page of papyrus written in Greek, dating from the 4th century AD that sort of pulls the pants down on this whole notion.

In a column on the left it lists assorted strange or gruesome spell components supposedly used in witchcraft and magic. In a column on the right it lists what each one actually represents. You see, according to the anonymous authors, their local magicians were filthy liars.

It was theatrics. If you made things seem more weird and gruesome and mystical, more people were likely to think you were legit. Given that many magicians in the ancient world were in it to make a buck, bullshitting of this nature was a valuable talent. It also meant your rivals weren’t sure what sort of stuff you were using, and if you did use weird and exotic ingredients, it meant you had some more mundane stuff to fall back on when supplies were low.

Here’s the twin lists, translated from Greek* (the headers are mine): Continue reading ‘Yo, Melanthios, I ain’t sure this dead-eyed witch sellin’ phallus curses is on the level’

Ray Harryhausen 1920-2013

In a blog dedicated to the use of myth, legend, and especially monsters in fiction, I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t mention the passing of a great. Ray Harryhausen was one of my childhood idols, and source of great inspiration.

Continue reading ‘Ray Harryhausen 1920-2013’

On Mummies (Apologies to Mightygodking)

Me: I wonder how you’d remake the Mummy as a horror film. Not so much a rollicking action adventure. I mean, in the old Mummy movies, he’s basically a bandaged zombie that strangles people. Not really gonna cut it in this day and age. I mean, either you make him an evil sorcerer (but a SCARY evil sorcerer) or you make him a zombie. That’s really the only way to do it. And in that case, why not just make a movie about a zombie or an evil sorcerer who isn’t an Egyptian guy in bandages? I don’t know why I suddenly started thinking about mummies

My Friend: There are stories with fast mummies, including one by Conan Doyle. And the Karloff Mummy wasn’t bandaged. So, the slowness issues are purely a modern phenomenon (but, even the recent films had fast mummies)

Me: It’s been a while since I saw the movie. Okay, so, fast mummies. That’s still just a step down from fast zombies. At least the fast zombies will rip you apart and eat you. Fast mummies do what, exactly, that zombies can’t do better?

Friend: The difference is mummies are sapient. They have personalities, desires, and inhuman patience. They’re actually closer to D&D liches than zombies.

Me: But see, that’s the issue right there. A lich is basically an evil sorcerer. He just happens to be dead. Depending on the sort of mummy you use, you could make essentially the same movie with A) an evil sorcerer or B) a zombie. What about mummies is inherently appealing?

Friend: In general a lich deliberately becomes undead in search of greater power, whereas a mummy expects to be waking up in paradise and what is all this shit I’m wrapped in? Mummies are tragic.

Me: Some mummies are tragic, I will grant that. Others are just dicks

Friend: A mummy is cursed.

Me: Wait, I thought mummies did the cursing. Sleeping in your tomb, some asshole steals your stuff, you wake up and get your curse on. Isn’t that how it goes?

Friend: The originals tend to be confused on this. Generally, though, mummies don’t want to be up and about.

Me: Okay, but can’t you make a zombie or an evil sorcerer tragic as well? I’m still missing the inherent mummyness that makes this all go around

Friend: Mummies just want you to put their stuff back where you found it. They’re not evil.

Me: And if you don’t they’ll curse you. Okay, so, the crux, the real crux of a mummy story is the curse then, right? What makes a mummy’s curse any more unique then Joe Faust’s curses?

Friend: Most films combine this with a sense of ennui etc.

Me: Well, yes, they would. I mean, at least with vampires we have the whole drinking blood thing. And crosses. And garlic. Point is, lots of stuff unique to vampires

Friend: Motivation is an important part of any nontrivial film

Me: Okay, sure, motivation is important. But my point is the motivations attributed to mummies are not unique to mummies

Friend: What ‘give my stuff back’? No, because, unlike other monsters, mummies aren’t intrinsically inhuman or evil.

Me: Neither are vampires.

Friend: Vampires think you’re prey, as do zombies.

Me: Or Frankenstein

Friend: Frankenstein’s monster has a lot in common with mummies, true. He wants people to leave him alone.

Me: But he’s got some unique stuff of his own. He’s all by himself, he’s stitched together from bodies, and sometimes he has LIGHTNING POWERS. …I digress.

Friend: So does the mummy. He’s even more alone, he’s actually dead, and he just wants his stuff back.

Me: Mummies sometimes show up in groups

Friend: Not in the originals, interestingly.

Me: Let’s say I want to make a movie. I want to make it a supernatural horror story with lots of pathos

Friend: Right.

Me: I could use an evil sorcerer or Satanist or whatever. He longs after his lost love or something. And he curses people. Or I could go with the mummy. Why should I go with the mummy?

Friend: See, none of that screams evil sorcerer to me. Motivation’s wrong.

Me: Not all evil sorcerers are obsessed with immortality or more power. And I note, in that case, to be a mummy in the first place you ALSO have to be obsessed with immortality

Friend: The mummy thing happens to protect your stuff. Meantime, your ka is off in Egyptian heaven.

Me: But your stuff follows you to heaven. That’s why you buried yourself with it in the first place

Some Jackass: The next mummy horror movie should be someone’s mum wrapped up as a mummy

Me: Duly noted