Monday, September 15, 2014

Mythical Monday (60)

It seems there are many books based on or influenced by Myths and Mythological Beings.

There are so many different Mythology and Mythological Beings recorded. Some are very popular and well known, others not so much. There are many similar beings, yet different depending on the culture it’s based in.  The definition of Myth covers about anything in the Urban Fantasy/Fantasy realm to me.

I’ve invited authors to share briefly the Mythological being or Myth that influenced their character(s) or story, or what their character(s) are based on influencing their books.  Hosting here, one author and being or myth per week.

This week we have:
Author Patrick Scaffido
Talking of mythical African Zombies.

Let's talk about zombies. Not your modern movie zombie that shambles in packs, infects with bite wounds, and eats a few brains on the side; but the mythical African zombie, the creature forced back into life against its will as a slave for a twisted and insane master.

In Haitian and African myth, sorcerers control plantations and mines where the enslaved dead work to make the dark sorcerer rich. In secret, the sorcerer uses magic and poison to attack potential zombies and then claims their bodies to reanimate. These zombie masters might be witches or sorcerers, male or female, neighbors or strangers. The terror of the zombie is not just the monster itself, but the malignant being that forces that fate of zombie on someone else.

To be a zombie, you must be stolen. The sorcerer digs up your body then mutilates you to prevent rebellion and speech. Unlike the mindless flesh eaters of Hollywood film , there exists a soul in traction to the master. The victim is still there: tortured and controlled. The idea of a loved one stolen and lost features heavily in the mythology and many stories have family members searching for loved ones only to find them mute and mutilated, one of many slaves. We don't fear the zombie itself. We fear becoming the zombie or finding our loved ones transformed into the zombie. We fear what we might be forced to do when our will is no longer our own.

The zombie represents a loss of control, an enslavement more powerful than imprisonment or shackles or ownership. The zombie shambles through its life, completing tasks it cares nothing for, all to benefit a cruel master. The parallels with an unwanted 'day job' seem forms easily. The barely conscious suburban worker going through the motions of life is played for laughs in Shaun of the Dead but in the tradition of the mythological zombie, we could take the comparison so much further.

This mythical zombie inspires the antagonist Myra in the Horde, a zombie ex-girlfriend of the dark swordsman protagonist who has been turned to a zombie in order to torment the hero. To make her a more viable character, I played with some of the specifics of how zombies were created. Instead of removing her speech, I had the villain leave her the ability to form words she speaks with a harsh rasp, the result of torture at her master's hands. I loosened the control of the sorcerer a bit as well, letting her retain her memories and feelings for the hero leading to scenes where instead of merely following the sorcerer's every whim, she fights the hero due to her own mixed emotions towards him. Intended to be a mix of terrifying and sympathetic, I intend to explore more of what can be done with the master-slave relationship that makes this particular myth so emotionally resonant and frightening for me.

For the Hounds of Tartarus, my story in the Dirty Magick anthology, it began with the idea of what if a man became his own slave and was forced in every moment to follow their ambition instead of being free to make their own choices. I have a human who returns from the grave intent on revenge who repeatedly finds difficulty veering from that course that he was raised for, even as the events change around him and he starts to question his original motivations. A man without self control and reflection can make a poor master of himself, especially when his goals are ill considered. The protagonist of that story is in many ways mindless and without self control, but simply acts out his dying impulses as he walks through his second life.

There's so much as yet unused potential for inspiration with the African myth of the zombie- the relationships between zombie slaves and their masters, the attempts by loved ones to retrieve their family members from this state, what happens to a zombie freed from sorcery. As zombies continue to spread across film and television, I would love to see more stories make use of this much more resonant, emotional, threatening and tragic creature instead of the motivationless plague victim that has become the zombie du juor.

For more on the available tales of the African zombie, I suggest starting with the wikipiedia page (, where you can find out about the idea of cultural pressure turning people into zombies and the idea of the witch train staffed by zombies roaming the African railroads.

About Patrick:
I’m Patrick Scaffido. I write, play guitar, sing, and do readings.

I taught for 8 years. Then I got sick. Till I get better, I work on the artsy stuff to keep myself going. I miss helping students.

I’m wrote the novel the Horde, currently being released as a musical through podiobooks and a spoken word story through the Headcast.

I run a Youtube vlog called Morning Coffee.

I’m into philosophy, music history, semiotics, video games, literature, empowerment, nonsense, and exploration. I’m kind of a private person and always felt the easiest way to know me is through my work. If you’re curious about something, ask.

Find Patrick:
Blog:  Thousand Heads
Twitter:  @thousandheads
Facebook:  The Thousand Heads

Books By Patrick:
The Horde  - Links to listen at:

Dark Magick anthology


Blodeuedd said...

Zombies *shudders* The running ones *hides*

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

I've always thought that this kind of zombie was the scarier. At least with the other kind, if you become one you are dead and not really there. Oh creepy post! :)

Jaclyn Canada said...

I love this! It would be absolutely terrifying to lose your will to someone else controlling it. Eek! I'm so much of a control freak it definitely makes me shiver. Jaclyn @ JC's Book Haven.