Monster of the Week

Vengeful ghosts, entities called upon for justice, the raising of the dead to right a wrong. The name for such monsters is a revenant. I have heard the term before, but had never really filed it away as an entity of vengeance, especially considering the 2015 film Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio (even though revenge is a major theme).

Revenants have been used in fiction for centuries but have been called other names: vampire, ghost, zombie, banshee, etc. Even Shakespeare used the revenant concept in his tragedies Hamlet (the ghost of Hamlet’s father) and Macbeth (the ghosts of Banquo and King Duncan).

Revenants, however, have traditionally been reanimated corpses seeking vengeance by feeding on the living. Many are the “wicked” who come back to terrorize the village, yet some are innocent people who were killed by someone evil. Fans of Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane may recognize these elements in his story “Skulls in the Stars.” Howard’s character often faced some sort of undead antagonist, and many of the Kane stories can be found in the public domain.

Vampires are an interesting concept for a revenant simply because revenge is a rare setup for the vampire story/novel. Stephen King’s “Popsy” does have a vengeful vampire, but that’s not why the vampire existed. Perhaps Dracula could be considered a revenant if one were to go by the 1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula starring Gary Oldman, Winona Rider, Anthony Hopkins, and Keanu Reeves. Here, Dracula claims he will avenge the suicide of his beloved wife after some priest lie to her about his death in battle. He then curses God, stabs the crucifix, and drinks the blood that issues forth. This turns him into the blood-drinking fiend we all know and love. In this instance, he would be considered a revenant. In a lot cases, the vampire is simply a case of misfortune as one can find in Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire.

I personally wouldn’t consider the pop culture Walking Dead zombie a revenant, but there are some that do fit the category. One story that come to mind is from the Creepshow movie. One of the stories, “Something to Tide You Over,” details the murder of a couple who come back from the dead for revenge and have the gruesome zombie appearance. Another episode from Creepshow 2 also has a revenant in the form of “The Hitch-hiker.” The X-Files has many episodes of the dead coming back to punish the living, and one episode is even named “Revenant.”

In the end, the most common form is the vengeful ghost. Countless folklore, myths, and stories have the vengeful ghost. Ju-on/The Grudge as well as Ringu/The Ring and many other Japanese horror film use this motif–not to mention Poltergeist, The Fog, and Thirteen Ghosts. La Llorona and Bloody Mary have their place here as well. A multitude of vengeful spirits have become a part of world culture, which make sense. Revenge, death, and the afterlife play deep roles within the psyche of humanity. A creature that exemplifies all three would be a popular creature. So, next time you look in the mirror and utter “Bloody Mary” three times, remember: vengeance is on Mary’s mind, and she doesn’t care who she takes it out on.

Monster of the Week

Monsters are often inspired by real animals. Whether it’s a spider, a bat, or the snake, these creatures have terrified humans for millennia. So much so that people have become instinctually afraid of these creatures, so it is no wonder that many of the evil monsters we read about have some arachnoid, serpentine, chiropteran (bat-like) characteristic. The monster of the week is no exception: the Grootslang.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the actual Boomslang snake, which resides in sub-Saharan Africa. The Grootslang likewise has its origins in South Africa, specifically from the Zulu and Xhosa. Whereas the Boomslang means “tree snake,” Grootslang (also a mix of Dutch and Afrikaans languages) means “great/awesome/giant snake.”

The Grootslang has many similarities to a traditional dragon in that it is large–elephant-sized according to some legends–and desires precious stones. These creatures also inhabit watery areas such as swamps, rivers, and lakes. Incredibly strong and intelligent, it was said to be one of the first creations of the gods. The gods learned from their mistake of created such a powerful creature, so they didn’t make anymore like it. So, coming across one is rare, unless you’re searching for gemstones in a cave near a large body of water.

Image source

Monster of the Week

Just last week, I wrote that I would not get political on the website. I hold to that idea, however, times demand a reaction, a response, to the recent and tragic death of George Floyd. This is why I’ve chosen a real life monster this week.

It is cliche now to state that monsters are real and blend in with the rest of humanity. Sometimes, they are the one who should be protecting us from said monsters.

I have several friends in law enforcement. They are good people who work to serve and protect. As a teacher, I’ve had the pleasure of working with student resource officers who make an actual difference in a student’s life. Not because the SRO brought the hammer down and punished the kid, but because he/she took the time to understand the situation this child was in and acted compassionately.

With that said, reforms are desperately needed. Too many young people of color have died tragically and unnecessarily at the hands of police officers using their power to menace and intimidate. Perhaps one of the most impactful statements I’ve heard over the last few day has been “Good cops don’t let bad cops get away with it.”

Black lives do matter, and a fundamental systemic change is needed to make sure that these lives are not taken because of police brutality, gang violence, poverty, and a myriad of other systems put in place to minimize an entire segment of our population.

I don’t consider this post political for simple fact that this is about humanity, dignity, compassion, and justice. These should be traits that appeal to both sides of the aisle. In America–a democratic-republic, the land of the free, a beacon of liberty–we have to do better. We have to be intolerant of abuse and support the just cause.

The monster of the week is not just the man who helped murder George Floyd; it is all racism, prejudice, discrimination, and hate.

Monster of the Week

Amarok

Image created by James Jacko and provided by https://cryptidz.fandom.com/wiki/Amarok

A source of weird creature lore often overlooked in the world is that which comes from Native American myths. This particular monster from the Inuit culture is the Amarok, which is a giant wolf creature perhaps, like many myths, based on actual animals that roamed ancient North America. It could be based on the dire wolves that once lived in the forests of Canada, or possibly the short-faced bear (talk about a monster). The creature often hunted humans, in particular those who wonder the wilderness alone.

For more info, please visit:

James Jacko

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amarok_(wolf)