Metanarrational Monsters, Part Four – Mummy: Fear of the Past

Part 4 of 8

Archetype Three: Mummy –

Fear of the Past

For a moment – an eternity it must have seemed to the others – I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, ‘Can you see anything?’ it was all I could do to get out the words, ‘Yes, wonderful things…

-Howard Carter,

speaking of his discovery of King Tut’s Tomb[1]

         The late 1800s represented the golden age of Egyptian archeology. The long-forgotten kingdoms of the desert had seemingly awoken from their long slumber and announced themselves to the present generation via a steady stream of discoveries that were plastered the front pages of worldwide newspapers and stoked the imaginations of both young and old alike. But one discovery virtually stopped the presses like none other: the legendary tomb of King Tut had been discovered! When world-renowned Egyptologist Howard Carter first lifted his candle into the dark recesses of Tut’s tomb and later carried out his solid gold sarcophagus in 1922, he also carried treasure into the imaginations of future Hollywood scriptwriters.

But those who would write the scripts for generations of mummy movies lacked no fertile soil for their idea of a curse-carrying mummy. When King Tut’s tomb was opened to the media, an amateur student of hieroglyphics who was also an English reporter, mistranslated a warning to grave robbers found on the wall in Tut’s tomb as saying, “I will kill any one who enters the tomb.”[2] This fueled the idea that there was a curse on the tomb. It did not help when Lord Carnarvon, who had assisted in the discovery of the tomb, died one year later from what may have been nothing more then a mosquito bite.[3] And so it was -10 years after the watershed discovery of King Tut’s tomb, fueled by a mistranslated warning to tomb robbers and the death of one its discoverers – that the first mummy horror script appeared in 1932.[4]

Perhaps, it is in this sense that the mummy metanarrative represents a kind of evolution in cultural monster making. As mentioned previously, the Transformational Love Monster archetypically factors into many of the mummy stories – and it did with all the subsequent script variations of mummy movies that followed. Just as the Hammer production in 1959 did, each took the cultural mythos of the discovery of King Tut and incorporated the classic ethos of Transformational Love. There is little doubt that the socio-creative dynamics that brought the mummy to life on the silver screen will bring other monsters to life as well. Will the events in Japan create a radioactive-archetype that takes on a life and category of its own? Who knows? But this much can be said – that as long as people remain fascinated with the stories of mummies and the past lives they represent – there is no doubt that Hollywood will continue to produce mummy movies and as long as the creative fires and the fears that tend to them burn within those who make movies – we will surely see more monsters –those both old and those quite innovative.

[2]  Egyptologist Zaho Hawass explaining the mistranslated curse and his take on the curse.

[4] The Monster Show – A Cultural History of Horror, pg. 20.


About hollerscholar

I'm a theology & philosophy student, writer, web developer, and medical laboratory professional.
This entry was posted in Cinema Studies, Cultural Mythology, Dystopicism & Fear, Existentialism, Horror (Classic), Philosophy Studies, Propaganda Studies, The Mummy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Metanarrational Monsters, Part Four – Mummy: Fear of the Past

  1. cathy says:


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