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Sunday, 19 June 2011

Supernatural Sunday - Ghouls

It's time for Supernatural Sunday again. This weeks topic - Ghouls.

Ghouls are used to describe humans with an interest in death and the macabre (so most of us horror/paranormal writers fit right in there).

Mythic lore about Ghouls stems from Arabic culture - the root word is "ghala", meaning to seize. Arabic ghouls are desert-dwelling demonic creatures, believed to have the ability to shape-shift, usually into hyaenas.
Their goal is to lure unwary travellers into the desert and feed on them, and they take on the shape of their last victim when the feeding is done.
Other charming habits include feeding on corpses, robbing graves, drinking blood and stealing coins, as well actively preying on children.

While sharing a number of traits with zombies and vampires, ghouls consider the dead to be the ultimate snack food, and will chose a dead body over the living.

Boris Karloff starred in the 1933 horror The Ghoul, and the ghoul as pop culture monster turns up in everything from books, to band names, to some really funky artwork on Magic the Gathering cards.

As a main character in fiction, the ghoul has never really taken off, unlike other monsters; it's hard to for an audience to empathize  with  this particular beastie. Romance? Nope. Show a ghoul a girl and he'll eat her. Sex Appeal? Barring a few rather unusual members of the human population, rotting corpses don't ring any bells. Angst? Not going to happen here. Ditto for intelligence and sense of humour. (Although, if anyone comes up with a sparkling, lovelorn ghoul let me know. I'd have to check that out).

As side characters, or something for the protagonist to face off against, they fare a bit better.
The Anita Blake books use ghouls through the series as red herrings, referring to their pack-like behaviour and habit of enjoying the local cemetery. Cowardly and vicious, with no ability to talk (if it's lurching forward saying "Brains," you have a zombie, not a ghoul) they are dangerous to the wounded, ill, and children. A solitary ghoul is likely to run from confrontation. A pack on the other hand, is dangerous to anyone they come across.

Repelled by any form of light source, especially a sunlight, ghouls can be destroyed by using fire or decapitation.
They are however, immune to poison, don't need to breath and feel no pain, so although highly flammable, getting up close and personal with a ghoul could be tricky.


Thanks to LSH (on twitter as @magicdarcy) for this weeks topic. Tweet me with ideas for next week, or post in the comments below.

You can find WolfSong on AmazonSony  e-bookstoreNook and Smashwords. Basement Blues is on Amazon and Smashwords.