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Mummies in Monster High.

Monster history - mummy figure stockphoto

Mummies are a type of undead first found in fiction of the 19th century and made a definite part of the horror scene with the 1932 movie The Mummy. Usually, "mummy" is understood to mean the Egyptian royal variety, but any dead body of which the soft tissue has been preserved is qualified to be called a mummy.


The word "mummy" comes from "mummia", a collective term for any substance used in the Ancient Egyptian mummy-making and any substance made from Ancient Egyptian mummies. "Mummia" itself comes from the Persian word "موم", "mum", which means "bitumen", "asphalt". Bitumen was thought to be used in the mummification process due to bitumen being black and mummies having blackened skin, but research has revealed that if there's even bitumen in the mummy, it most likely got there coincidentally, not intentionally. Bitumen was, however, popularly used in the second millenium to produce fake ancient mummies.

The word "mummy" originally (ca. 1400) referred to the process of mummification, but around 1650 it came to refer to the mummified body too. In the next hundred years, the term's meaning was expanded to "any dead body of which the soft tissue has been preserved".


Ancient Egypt

Mummification is a process that can happen due to natural circumstances or due to human action. Examples of naturally formed mummies are the bog bodies of northwestern Europe, which have been mummified by the acidity, low temperature, and oxygen-free environment of the bogs, the Tarim mummies of China, which have been mummified due to a dry and saline environment of the Tarim Basin, and the Llullaillaco mummies, which have been mummified due to the cold at the summit of Llullaillaco.

Mummification as a result of human action developed first in areas where mummification was prone to happen naturally and thus could inspire the locals to develop mummification techniques. The oldest known deliberate mummy dates from around 5050 BCE and was found in the Camarones Valley in Chile. Needless to say, as time went on mummification techniques became more refined and diverse as they spread to other tribes and nations. Most practices on mummification are no longer in use, but mummies are still made to this day, such as with plastination, which has the water and fat from bodies replaced with plastics.


Ancient Egyptian incorporation of mummification in burial rites appears to have its origin in the city of Nekhen around 3500 BCE. A mummy from the same time period was found in Uan Muhuggiag, Libya. This mummy was preserved with techniques more advanced than the Nekhen ones and several artifacts found at the burial site, such as art depicting humans with animal masks, suggests that the Ancient Egyptians were inspired by customs from their western neighbors.

Death developed into a major theme in Ancient Egyptian society early on. Unlike most other societies of the time, the Ancient Egyptians did not believe the afterlife was an intangible reflection of life and did not believe that the "soul" was indestructible. Ancient Egyptians thought that upon death, a new life started. The deceased had to undergo several tests, but if successful, a nicer life awaited in Aaru, the "fields of reed", which was a section of Duat, the entire afterlife realm. In the Ancient Egyptians' interpretation, Aaru resembled the Nile Delta, the most pleasant landscape present in Ancient Egypt.

Ancient Egyptians divided the state of being into several elements, the kheperu, that all were integral to ensuring continued existence. Death was the separation of these elements, while the burial rites were meant to ensure the parts would come together again.

  • Khat & sahu - The khat is the body (minus heart), believed to be created by the god Khnum and placed into the mother's womb. As long as the individual is alive, the khat carries all other elements in unison. This function ceases when death occurs, at which point mummification turns the khat into the sahu, the Ancient Egyptian term for a mummy. The sahu does not act as a vessel, but as a beacon and a bed. Some of the other elements remain within close proximity of the sahu, while others leave but return every once in a while to rest and rejuvenate within the sahu.
  • Ka - The ka, as well as its female companion hemshet, roughly is the Ancient Egyptians' idea of life energy. It is the spiritual double of the body, and depending on religion specifics created by either Heqet or Meskhenet. As long as the individual is alive, the ka resides within the body. Dying is referred to as "going to one's ka", with the ka leaving the body, though never going too far from it. The ka is immortal, though it will disappear if it doesn't receive spiritual nourishment through food offerings. There was also a spell that guarantees the ka will forever be satisfied even if offerings are not given. Though the ka remains with the body, it also goes to Aaru, where it unites with the ba to form the full "soul", the akh.
  • Ib - The ib is the heart, which unlike the rest of the body was not Khnum's creation, but the result of a drop of blood from the mother's heart forming into a new one for the child. Due to its central position, the heart was thought to be the body's control center, and was associated with emotions, intelligence, memory, and moral sense. During mummification, the heart was the only organ either not removed or replaced with an amulet if it couldn't be preserved. The Ancient Egyptians believed the heart was necessary to gain access to Aaru.
  • Ren - The ren is the name of the individual and thought to ensure the togetherness of the individual's elements. A birth was considered incomplete until the child received a name. As long as an individual kept its name and the living remembered it, the individual would not enter true death. Therefore, the name was at least inscribed on the coffin, sometimes surrounded by a protective cartouche, and there existed a spell to guarantee the individual would never forget their own name,
  • Sheut - The sheut is the shadow, which in an unforgiving and hot climate like Egypt got associated with blessing and protection. It is not known what role of the individual the shadow was associated with, though it is known the shadow was considered one of the more mobile elements, being not bound to the body or the earth.
  • Ba - The ba is the distilled essence of an individual or object, roughly akin to the personality or personification. Often represented as a bird with a human head, the ba was one of the more mobile parts of the individual. Its days it spent in Aaru, but at night it returned to the sahu for rest and rejuvenation. At day, it unites with the ka to form the full "soul", the akh.
  • Akh - The akh is dormant as long as the individual is alive. Following death, the akh is reanimated by the union of the ka and the ba. The akh is the completion of an individual as an eternal afterlife entity and comparable to the modern day concept of the soul.

Following death, the akh and the ib traveled to Duat and went through many trials against demonic forces before entering the hall of the gods for the Weighing of the Heart ceremony. During the ceremony, Anubis, protector of the dead, laid the ib on a weighing scale against the Feather of Ma'at, who was the goddess of truth. If the ib was lighter than the feather, the deceased had been virtuous in life and could continue on their journey to Aaru. This result could also be guaranteed with several spells. If the outcome was unfavorable, then Ammit, the devourer, would eat the ib and the deceased would cease to exist completely. Those who got through the ceremony were allowed into Aaru for their second life.

Everything about Ancient Egyptian burial ceremonies was done with the aim to ensure not only all parts of the deceased would continue to exist, but also that the deceased would continue to function fully in the afterlife. The coffin and tomb not only protected the mummy, but functioned also as home for the ka and the ba and a transcription point for the name.

Mummification was the practice of making the body eternity-proof. There are no accounts by the Ancient Egyptians themselves how they performed mummifications, but there is an account by the Ancient Greek historian Herodotos. The problem with Herodotos though is that he was a historian, not a language specialist or anthropologist, and that he got much of his information from others and therefore could not guarantee the accuracy. Nonetheless, he is the only source shedding light on the Ancient Egyptian mummification process and his instructions have been proven to result in a quality mummy if given some creative interpretation. Based on this, the mummification process is thought to start with the removal of the brain. Since the Ancient Egyptians ascribed the function of the brain to the heart, they didn't think it had any particular use. Moreso, because it takes a lot of damage to the body to remove the brains whole, instead the Ancient Egyptians stuck a needle through the thin bone at the top of the nostrils and stirred around in the deceased's skull until the brains had become liquid and could be poured out. The liquid may or may have been stored to be entombed with the mummy. Next, the other organs, except the heart, were removed. The liver, stomach, intestines and lungs were dried and stored in four canopic jars shaped like the protector gods of those organs, who respectively are Imset, Duamutef, Qebehsenuef, and Hapi. Following this, the body was dried with natron, stuffed (the materials used ranged from linen to sawdust, and starting the 21st dynasty, sometimes the separately mummified organs were placed back), wrapped up, and placed into a coffin. In case of wealthy deceased, the body and linen could inbetween also have been decorated with symbols and spells.

The Ancient Egyptians took special care in the position of the arms during mummification. In mummification and art, the position of the arms suggests the hierarchical position of deceased and depicted. For most of Egypt's history, commoners were mummified with their arms next to their body or their hands resting on their thighs. The male pharaoh had the exclusive right to be mummified in what most people nowadays consider the classic mummy pose: with the arms crossed over the chest, right usually over left, and an item in each hand. This position of the arms mimicked the way Osiris was always depicted to hold his arms. Queens, even those who reigned themselves, were mummified in a 'half-Osiris' position, with their right arm next to the body and their left hand on their chest right below the breasts. As with the Osiris position, the hand on the chest held something. Towards the sixth century BCE, commoners too became mummified in something akin to the the Osiris position. The big difference is that neither hand held an item and that the hand of the lower arm usually grasped the other side's shoulder.

Originally, mummification and an afterlife were luxuries only bestowed upon the pharoah, but this gradually changed to include all nobility and later commoners. Also a custom early on was the murder of the favored servants of the pharoah, so that they could be buried with him and serve him in the afterlife. This practice was completely abolished around 1900 BCE, when the ushabtis became popular. Ushabtis are funerary figurines, usually small though luxurious ones could be statue-sized, buried with the dead and designed to serve the dead in the afterlife. With the rise of ushabti popularity and commoner afterlife, Aaru became less of a blissful divine realm and more of a place where the dead continued their lives, which meant they kept the jobs and tasks they had before death. To avoid an eternity of labor, ushabtis were created to do the work instead.

Contrary to popular belief, pyramids were not the standard tomb design for pharaohs. The pyramid design evolved from the mastaba design under guidance of the architect Imhotep to be a stairway for the dead pharaoh to the divine realm. The first Egyptian pyramid was created in the 27th century BCE, and the practice only lasted for a few centuries, mainly coinciding with the Egyptian golden age and pharaohic supreme rule at the time of the fourth dynasty. After this, the resources to make great and luxurious pyramids simply weren't available, meaning the incidental later pyramids were built smaller and more shoddy. Also, pyramids are easy to spot and known to be filled with valuable artifacts, and thus were often the target of thieves. Later tombs tended to be simply carved out into the rocky landscape so as to not draw a lot of attention, and were mainly built in the Valley of Kings and the Valley of Queens.

Ancient Egyptians

The most modernly inspiring people from Ancient Egypt tend to be those belonging to the royal families, because they had the means to leave a legacy if only in the form of an impressive tomb. Ancient Egypt went through thirty-two dynasties and many societal ups and downs between 3100 BCE and 30 BCE, after which it was reduced to a Roman province.

In Ancient Egypt, the supreme ruler, called the pharaoh starting in the fifteenth century BCE, was considered to be a special human, selected, favored, and protected by the gods to guide the other humans, and the pharaoh themself could ascend to godhood after death. Because of this, there was a tradition to encourage intrafamilial marriage so as to keep the favor of the gods in one family. Female rulers were considered lower in rank than male rulers, and sons were favored as future rulers over daughters. However, Ancient Egyptians weren't strict on patriarchical structures, and several women did become pharaoh or effective ruler with either the support of male family members or through their (induced) deaths.

Cleopatra VII Philopator

Cleopatra was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a Greek dynasty which followed after a series of Persian dynasties. It was the 32nd and final dynasty of Ancient Egypt, and Cleopatra herself is regarded as the last pharaoh, even though technically her son, Ptolemy XV, nicknamed Ceasarion after his father Julius Ceasar, was pharaoh-on-the-run for a few days after her death.

The Ptolemaic dynasty was established by Ptolemy I Soter, one of the bodyguards of Alexander the Great, who acquired Ancient Egypt in 332 BCE. Ptolemy I initially was the governor of Ancient Egypt for Alexander's realm, but after the latter's death, Ptolemy I arranged for himself to be recognized as pharaoh. The Ptolemaic dynasty respected Ancient Egypt's native traditions in order to win favor from the population, but mixed it with Greek traditions such as the focus on the pursuit of knowledge. The Ptolemaic dynasty turned Ancient Egypt into an international center of knowledge and culture. This idyllic situation came to an end when Rome decided it would be better off with Ancient Egypt under its rule.

Cleopatra was an ambitious woman, intent on knowing all that she needed to make the most of her royal heritage. While most of her dynasty only ever learned to speak Ancient Greek, Cleopatra had herself educated to be able to communicate in Ancient Egyptian too, as the first in her family. According to Plutarch, Cleopatra also could talk in Ethiopian, Trogodyte, Hebrew, Arab, Syriac, Median, Parthian, and his words leave the possibility she could express herself in even more languages. In 51 BCE, Cleopatra became married to her younger brother Ptolemy XIII at age 18 following the death of her father and assassination of her older sister. She refused to share power with her younger brother and had her own image stamped on coins and his name removed from official documents. Due to disagreement with previous allies of her father, she was eventually forced to flee and leave Ptolemy XIII to rule Ancient Egypt. He did so, but made the mistake to have Pompey executed to gain favor with Julius Ceasar, Pompey's political rival. However, Pompey also happened to be the widower of Julia, Ceasar's only daughter. Enraged by the execution, Ceasar lay claim on Ancient Egypt and declared himself arbiter between Ptolemy XIII and Cleopatra VII. Cleopatra flattered her way into Caesar's good graces and had a son with him within a year. At this point, Ceasar supported Cleopatra's reign of Ancient Egypt as an ally of Rome. Along with her second brother Ptolemy XIV, Cleopatra resumed her reign and remained Caesar's lover until his assassination in 44 BCE. In the following years, Ptolemy XIII died, and Cleopatra declared Ceasarion her new co-ruler.

In 41 BCE, Cleopatra met Mark Antony, one of the two new leaders of Rome, and started a relationship with him. On Cleopatra's request, Antony had her younger sister and last remaining sibling murdered, so that Cleopatra's and Caesarion's rule would go unquestioned. The couple got three children, but Rome feared the increasing power of Cleopatra and sought to put an end to the threat she posed. Also a bit of an issue was that at the time Antony started his affair with Cleopatra, he was married to the younger sister of his colleague, Augustus. In 33 BCE, Augustus convinced Rome to wage war on Ancient Egypt and Rome conquered the place three years later.

While Cleopatra's life up to 30 BCE had been significant enough to ensure she would be remembered, easily as important to her lasting popularity is the way she supposedly died. It is generally believed she committed suicide to escape humiliation as Augustus's prisoner. The popularly reported but scientifically challenged method by which she did it was through a bite by an Egyptian cobra in either her arm or her breast. The Egyptian cobra was a symbol of royalty in Ancient Egypt.

It is unknown if Cleopatra was mummified, cremated (a Greek custom that has happened to some members of the Ptolemaic dynasty), or treated otherwise after her death. Reports say her remains and those of Antony were placed in a tomb together, but if so, it has yet to be rediscovered.


Nefertiti, probably originally pronounced as Nafteta, was an Egyptian queen of the eighteenth dynasty through her marriage with pharaoh Akhenaten. Akhenaten had at least five more wives, but Nefertiti was his first and favored one. Akhenaten and Nefertiti had six daughters, of which the first, Meritaten, may have succeeded her father as pharaoh, and the third, Ankhesenpaaten, would change her name to Ankhesenamun and marry the later pharaoh Tutankhamun, the son of Akhenaten with one of his sisters.

Nefertit is thought to have lived from around 1370 BCE to 1330 BCE and married Akhenaten, then known by the name Amenhotep IV, prior to 1356 BCE. When Amenhotep IV took on the name Akhenaten in order to establish a new religion, Nefertiti changed her name to Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti.

Nefertiti and Akhenaten started the Amarna Period of the eighteenth dynasty. The Amarna Period is named after Amarna, the modern day name of Akhetaten, which was the location Nefertiti and Akhenaten made the capital of Ancient Egypt during their reign. Along with this, the couple caused a religious revolution by dimishing the worship of the then-sun god Amun (and the power of Amun's priests) and promoting the worship of the Aten. Starting with Tutankhamun, later pharaohs of the eighteenth dynasty disagreed with the religious and capital changes and mostly reverted things back to before Akhenaten's reign. However, pharaohs of the next dynasty were even less pleased with Akhenaten's reign and considered all that came after Akhenaten but before Ramses I, who founded the nineteenth dynasty, a part of Ancient Egypt's history best forgotten. As a consequence, much of the Amarna Period was destroyed during the nineteenth dynasty and to this day the Amarna Period is one of the time periods in Ancient Egypt known least about.

Among what has survived the ages in relation to Nefertiti are carvings in the temple ruins, which strongly suggest that Nefertiti was not just Akhenaten's favored and most influential wife, but his full-time co-ruler. The carved scenes surviving show Nefertiti more often than Akhenaten, and several scenes show Nefertiti engaging in acts that were considered beholden to the pharaoh, such as executing captive enemies. While this alone would make her interesting to a modern day audience, Nefertiti's main source of fame is the bust of her found in Amarna in 1912. The bust is believed to have been created in 1345 BCE, when Nefertiti was about 25 years of age, by the sculptor Thutmose. The bust is considered an icon of feminine beauty and is one of the most reproduced images of Ancient Egypt.

To this date, Nefertiti's mummy has either not been found or not been identified as Nefertiti.


?ore correctly spelled Ramesses, Ramses was the name or part of the name of eleven pharaohs who ruled during a period ranging from the 13th century BCE to the 11th century BCE. They were either members of the 19th or 20th dynasties. The most famous of them is Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great, who ruled from 1279 BCE to 1213 BCE. He is regularly regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Ancient Egyptian Empire.

Ramses II is believe to have become pharaoh in 1279 BCE at about age 25, and that he ruled for 66 years until 1213 BCE, his supposed year of death. He acquired eight Great Royal Wives during his lifetime, only one of which the identity is modernly not known. Nefertari was his first and favored wife, and at least three to possibly four of his Great Royal Wives were his own daughters.

Ramses II's early rule was marked by war with the Nubians and the Hittites, from whom he conquered back land they took from the Ancient Egyptians prior to his reign. The greatest battle recorded he was involved in is the Battle of Kadesh against the Hittites. Hatti eventually became an ally of Ancient Egypt following a peace treaty in 1258 BCE between Ramses II and Hattusili III, which was sealed with the wedding between Ramses II and Maathorneferure, Hattusili III's daughter, in 1245 BCE.

Perhaps even more significant to his lasting fame than his military accomplishments are Ramses II's construction projects. To put it into perspective, anything the scale of his projects was not seen in Ancient Egypt since the fourth dynasty had the pyramids and Great Sphinx built in Giza some 1500 years earlier, and none of Ramses II's successors can individually lay claim on one even comparable to Ramses II's. Among his most famous commissioned works are the Ramesseum, the Abu Simbel temples, and the tomb of Nefertari. One motivation he had for several projects was to intimidate enemy nations, particularly the Nubians, but the main motivation overall was that Ramses II wanted to be remembered. To this end, he had statues of his predecessors reworked to become statues of himself if the original lines were shallow enough to allow the adjustment. Knowing this, he had his own statues made with deep lines to prevent his successors from pulling the same stunt on him. Other works he could not rework to his own ends, he had marked with his name to at least give the initial impresssion the work was commissioned by him.

Due to the power he held and the projects he commissioned, Ramses II is a popular candidate for the pharaoh mentioned in The Exodus. As a result, many of the movies and media in which he plays a role are retellings of The Exodus. Note that there is no evidence to suggest The Exodus was a historical event, at least not of the magnitude described, though this wouldn't stop the supposedly fictional pharaoh from being based on Ramses II.

Ramses II's mummy has been found and is currently on display in Cairo's Egyptian Museum. Hieroglyphics on his linen reveal that in ancient times, the mummy has been moved twice to other tombs by the priests to avoid vandalism by thieves.


Tutankhamun was born as Tutankhaten in about 1341 BCE as the son of Akhenaten and one of Akhenaten's sisters. Tutankhamun became pharoah himself during a power vacuum around 1332 BCE, at the young age of nine years old. He married his half-sister Ankhesenamun, born Ankhesenpaaten, with whom he'd have two daughters, both stillborn. Tutankhamun died around 1323 BCE, at age 18, leaving his wife a childless widow in a power vacuum Tutankhamun didn't manage to solve.

Tutankhamun is thought to have been under a lot of influence from his advisors, priests, and generals. This would explain why Tutankhamun spent a significant portion of his rule reversing the religious changes his father established, including restoring power to the priests that Akhenaten had been able to claim for himself. Tutankhamun is thought to have suffered many health problems through his short life, no little thanks to him being a product of incest. Malaria and leiomyomata are believed to have been the direct cause of his death.

The reason Tutankhamun has been able to become an icon in modern times is precisely because he was a relatively insignificant pharoah as well as a descendant of a pharaoh reviled and made to be forgotten by the next dynasties' pharaohs. Tutankhamun's tomb was small, possibly not even built for him but given to him when he suddenly died, and easy to miss compared to the great tombs of his successors and predecessors. While his tomb has been robbed of some times, that is estimated to have happened shortly after he was buried. After that, the tomb became buried in the sand and due to lost knowledge of its existence was spared when the twentieth dynasty had the tombs in the Valley of the Kings dismantled.

Tutankhamun's tomb was found in 1922 and kicked of an interest in Ancient Egyptian history not seen since the craze following Napolean's discoveries in Egypt a century earlier. No other tomb or monument this intact had been discovered prior or has been discovered since. The mummy is currently on display in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

Aside from the intact tomb, another reason Tutankhamun has become one of the best known pharaohs is because of an alleged curse that would have caused the death of people who had any sort of connection to the opening of the tomb. However, while some pharaohs have had threats written to potential robbers or priests who didn't do their job of guarding the dead, Tutankhamun didn't have any such threat written anywhere in his tomb. Moreso, the effects of the supposed curse were and are greatly embellished. Deaths that in some way could be attributed to the curse were and are highlighted, while the far greater number of people involved with the opening of Tutankhamun's tomb that went on to live long and prosperous lives are mentioned not nearly as often.


Since the ba had to return to the sahu every night and the ka remained in the tomb, there was a constant possibility of the elements rejoining into a resemblance of the individual. The Ancient Egyptians believed in ghosts and interpreted them as more benign and rational than the way other cultures viewed their ghosts. While ghosts could do harm, they tended to do so only for understandable and good reasons. Ghosts, as manifestations of the personality and life energy, could join with the sahu to form a mobile mummy. However, this was a choice up to the individual and not one considered obvious.

The earliest modern day story about mummies was published in 1827 and written by the science fiction writer Jane C. Loudon. The story is titled The Mummy!: Or a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century and is about a mummy named Cheops being brought back to life in the 22nd century through electricity and divine favor. Three possible sources that could have inspired her to write the story have been suggested: the findings of the French expedition in Egypt by Napoleon Bonaparte from 1798 to 1801, the Mummy Parties of the early 19th century, and Mary Shelley's publication of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus in 1818, wherein the monster is compared to a reanimated mummy.

The rest of the nineteenth century saw a steady release of mummy fiction, most published in newspapers, such as "Some Words with a Mummy", a humor story by Edgar Allan Poe which also saw a mummy revived by means of electricity. Needless to say, many of the recurring themes and recurring characteristics of reanimated mummies in mummy fiction developed in this era. Most notable of these is the mummy curse, a European notion itself as old as the sixteenth century but for most of its time not a prominent aspect of mummies. The first stories known to incorporate a mummy curse are from the 1860's, and often deal with female mummies. They are also often written by female writers, and some suggest the stories represent an analogy to rape.

It is true that some pharaohs have had threats inscribed on and in their tomb to graverobbers and vandals, mostly in the form of the gods avenging the disrespect, but even in Ancient Egypt those weren't taken seriously enough to prevent rampant robbery. After the disappearance of the Ancient Egyptian Empire, Ancient Egyptian became a lost language until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone during Napoleon's campaign. Nonetheless, the concept of undeads is multicultural, and was applied to the mummies prior to the nineteenth century, accounting for some pre-Rosetta Stone reports on curses. As applied in the nineteenth century, mummy curses primarily manifest through magical objects found with the mummy. Be it a piece of jewelry or a scepter or something else, it is an enchanted object that brings harm to the defilers. More rarely it's the mummy themself who carries out the revenge or who through the magical item is brought to life as part of the revenge, but reanimation as consequence of the curse is largely a twentieth century convention.

Item-based curses in fiction at first employed generic items, but gradually stories came to rely more on actual Ancient Egyptian objects and imagery, such as the ankh, the shen ring, the Eye of Horus, the crook and flail, and the scarab. Also in this era came the first ideas of mummy traits, the most noteworthy being the mummy's ability to rise from ash or sand or to turn into a pile of ash if defeated. This trait appears to have been thought up by several writers independently.

Stories featuring mummies continued to be written and published into the twentieth century, some highlights being Arthur Conan Doyle's 1892 story Lot No. 249 and Bram Stoker's 1903 novel The Jewel of Seven Stars, but this would have probably not brought reanimated mummies their fame as classic horror figures. An important factor in the uprising of the mummy in horror culture was the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. Unlike any other tomb discovered prior, Tutankhamun's was largely intact. Millennia old treasures, flowers, one royal mummy, and a supposed curse brought back much of the early nineteenth century Egyptomania. A decade later, this resulted in Universal Pictures wanting to create a mummy-based horror movie.


In 1932, Universal Pictures released The Mummy, one year after Dracula and Frankenstein. Its titular mummy is Imhotep, a fictional undead priest named after the real-life inventor of the pyramids, and he seeks to revive his lover from days gone by, Ankhesenamun, a fictional princess named after the real-life half-sister, wife and widow of Tutankhamun. The script was written by John L. Balderston, who had done work for Dracula and Frankenstein and covered the opening of Tutankhamun's tomb in his journalist days, the movie was directed by Karl Freund, who had co-directed Dracula, the makeup was done by Jack Pierce, who had earlier created the iconic look of Frankenstein's monster in Frankenstein, and Imhotep was played by Boris Karloff, one of Universal's big horror movie stars and also the man who played the monster of Frankenstein a year prior.


The story of The Mummy is one of the earliest Universal horror movies not based on any preceding literary novel. It concerns the priest Imhotep who seeks to revive his recently deceased lover, Princess Ankhesenamun. He is mummified as punishment by Pharaoh Amenhotep III and buried away. Millennia later, Imhotep's tomb is discovered at an archaeological dig. A member of the expedition reads aloud the life-giving spell on the Scroll of Thoth, which brings back Imhotep to life. He then escapes and takes on the identity of Ardath Bey, and resumes his quest from before his death to revive his beloved. Ten years later, he finds her final resting place and gets a duo of archeologists to dig her mummy out. Subsequently, he meets Helen Grosvenor, whom he recognizes as a reincarnation of Ankhesenamun. He tries to mummify her to make her his bride, but Helen recalls her previous life in time and calls on the goddess Isis for help. Isis destroys the Scroll of Thoth and with that reduces Imhotep to the pile of ash and bone he was supposed to be.

Unlike The Mummy's big two predecessors, The Mummy did not receive a sequel. It was, however, the predecessor of a series of four mummy horror movies centered around the mummy Kharis. These movies are The Mummy's Hand, The Mummy's Tomb, The Mummy's Ghost, and The Mummy's Curse, which were released from 1940 to 1944. The mummy in The Mummy's Hand was played by Western-film actor Tom Tyler and the subsequent three movies' mummy was Lon Chaney, Jr., the man who also played Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man. It is these actors' performance which influenced the wooden movement associated with mummies, since Karloff's mummy hardly was on screen in mummy form.

The story of Kharis starts similarly to Imhotep's. Kharis's beloved, Princess Ananka, dies, and he attempts to resurrect her using Tana leaves. He is stopped before he succeeds and mummified to be Ananka's guardian in death. Thanks to the Tana leaves, Kharis is resurrected several times throughout the movies, usually to do some modern evil sect priest's bidding. In The Mummy's Ghost, he finds Ananka reincarnated as Amina Mansori, and manages to be reunited with her.

The two movie series have been the inspiration each for another series of mummy films, one a loose remake, the other a loose alternative continuation. Inbetween, many books, comics, films, and series have been made featuring mummies. A notable mention is the 1997 series Mummies Alive!, about a group of four reanimated mummies who have to protect the reincarnation of the fictional Prince Rapses from being murdered too. While the semi-default of a female mummy from the nineteenth century has been overwritten by that of a male mummy due to Universal's movies, mummies are one of the few monster types about as likely to be represented by a female as a male character.

Monster High

The Monster High mummies are Mr. Mummy and the De Nile family, consisting of at least of Cleo de Nile, Nefera de Nile, and their father Ramses de Nile. Referred to in the Dawn of the Dance diaries and on Facebook is the girls' uncle Tut, and the Monster High book series make mention of an aunt named Nefertiti, while the Ghoulfriends books refer to an aunt named Neferia.

Cleo's House 1

Cleo de Nile is roughly 5,842 years old and her sister Nefera roughly 5,845 years. This means that in the Monster High universe, Ancient Egypt and its mummification practices kicked off well before they did in the real world. The De Niles are a royal family which lost its throne due to betrayal by people the family trusted.[1] This presumably led to the family being mummified and entombed for nearly 6,000 years, from which Cleo emerged with a severe case of fear of the dark.[2] There is a small suggestion that the De Niles weren't constantly entombed and occasionally traveled abroad, but this is not confirmed.[3] At some point in the third millenium CE, Cleo's father had the family leave their tomb and relocate to the United States of America, where the family's daughters came to attend Monster High.

As far as Cleo and Nefera are concerned, neither wears much bandage as they have allround flawless skin (Nefera's birth-scar excluded). This is roughly in line with Imhotep from Universal's The Mummy, but also many other mummies in fiction, who all rely more on magic to preserve them than actual preservation techniques. Given the De Niles affinity with magic, this is not unlikely. However, the girls do need to wear some wrappings at all times or else they will disappear into dust.[4] This too is a classic mummy trait. They also both have a glass-breaking scream, though it's not known whether that is a mummy skill or is theirs for another reason.

Both Cleo and Nefera have a weak spot for reptiles, which in both their cases is inspired by Ancient Egyptians' use of the Egyptian cobra as symbol of royalty. Specifically, the trait originated with Cleo, whose affinity with snakes is inspired by the real-life Cleopatra's association with snakes following her choice to use one as means of honorable suicide. At least Cleo can command snakes to do her bidding, though she makes a point out of not ever using her powers on her gorgon boyfriend, Deuce Gorgon.[1] Cleo's and Deuce's relationship is also a play on the real-life Cleopatra's association with snakes. In the books, Cleo received her pet cobra, Hissette, from Deuce, who obtained her from his mother as her first grey hair. In the diary continuity, Hissette came with a shipment from the De Niles' Egyptian home. In the webisodes, the De Niles have a pond containing crocodiles in front of their house.[5] In addition to snakes, Nefera likes bugs,[6] and has a pet scarab named Azura. In Ancient Egypt, scarabs were associated with the sun gods Khepri and Ra due to the way they rolled a ball forth too and seemingly created themselves from dead matter as well. Nefera is also a bit of a cat enthusiast,[1] another animal sacred to the Ancient Egyptians, which is why she is friends of sorts with the werecats Toralei Stripe, Purrsephone, and Meowlody. In the books, there are seven cats in the De Nile household: Chisisi, Bastet, Akins, Ebonee, Ufa, Usi, and Miu-Miu.

Cleo's and Nefera's father originally carried the implication of being either Imhotep or Kharis due to the association of the main characters with the Universal Horror line-up. The name in the books aside, too many details about the girls' father has since surfaced for him to be either. Ramses de Nile is a stern man who believes in his family's superiority over commoners and insists they behave worthy of their heritage. This doesn't mean Mr. De Nile is an unpleasant person: he specifically does not allow any in his family to treat the servants badly[7] and is very supportive of his daughters' career choices. However, he does expect both his daughters to work hard to be worthy of his support and does not want them to lose their sense of decorum in public.[2] In the books, he is an antique dealer, while Cleo's student file reveals that he is the chairman of the MH construction committee and oversees all new building plans.

Cleo de Nile is strongly based on the real-life Cleopatra. Aside from the snake theme, Cleo's student file mentions she excels in Dead Languages. The real-life Cleopatra was the only one in her family to ever bother to learn another language than Ancient Greek, and she mastered some ten languages if not more. In contrast, Nefera doesn't appear to be modeled after a particular pharaoh but to be a mixture. Nefera's name, emphasized beauty and blue hair in a high tail evoke Nefertiti, a queen of Ancient Egypt of whom a bust remains. The bust is considered to represent an ideal of beauty and has Nefertiti wearing a high blue crown. The similarities end with the appearance though. Nefera's profile states that she believes she does not have to learn other languages as long as she has servants who can translate for her - a sentiment prominent in the real-life Cleopatra's family.

As per nineteenth century mummy fiction customs, the De Niles possess a large collection of enchanted items which they can use for a variety of goals. Especially Cleo is prone to resort to using them, though she has come to understand that the items' usage is not a free deal. Most of the De Niles' items are cursed and come with a nasty payback if used too much.[8] These paybacks have included: the disappearance of Cleo's hair, the unleashing of frog and gnat infestations - Ancient Egyptian plagues mentioned in The Exodus, and a pizza slice brought to life. Each idol has a name which holds a pun on the name of a real-life pharaoh: the Statue of Notalotincommon is a play on the name of Tutankhamun, while the Amulet of Knuck'n'nothin' is a play on the name of Akhenaten.

In their everyday life, the De Niles are assisted by servants resembling Anubis, the protector god of the dead in Ancient Egypt. These servants are presumably ushabtis, Ancient Egyptian statues buried with the dead to follow them into the afterlife and serve them.

A running theme in the De Nile family is, of course, the Nile. In Ancient Egypt, the Nile was a sacred river because only near it was life in Egypt possible. The rest of the land was too dry and warm for anyone to survive. As a result, the Nile Delta, where Egypt is at its most beautiful and comfortable, is how the Ancient Egyptians envisioned the afterlife kingdom to look like. Aside from the family name, the Nile theme is what Nefera's beauty is designed around, which is described as "timeless like the blue of the eternal Nile."[9] Since moving to the USA, Cleo has become a rain enthusiast due to water and thus rain being scarce in Egypt.[2]

While Cleo's fondness of geometry is probably a simple reference to Ancient Egyptian pyramids, it is possible the idea goes a little further. One of the main adults of the franchise, Mr. Mummy, is a math teacher and has studied at the Alexandria Institute of Technology M.S., Euclidian Geometry. This references Euclid, who is also known by the title "Father of Geometry". Euclid did much to further the understanding of geometry, and was partially able to do so due to the intellectual environment created in Alexandria by the Ptolemaic dynasty, of which the real-life Cleopatra was a member.

Cleo and Nefera have a habit of holding their arms in a two-dimensional pose, which mimics the figures in Ancient Egyptian art and hieroglyphs. Mr. Mummy does not have this habit, though admittedly he has not appeared much yet. Also, both girls occasionally hold their arms crossed over their chest in the so-called 'Osiris position'.[10][11] This is counter to real-life Ancient Egyptian tradition that only allowed the male ruler to be depicted or mummified in that position. Female rulers had to do with a 'semi-Osiris position', which saw only their left arm folded over their chest.

It isn't clear whether in the Monster High universe mummies still possess their organs, which were often removed and stored in jars during the mummification process in the real world. If Cleo does not have her brain anymore, which was in real-life often destroyed because the Ancient Egyptians didn't think it had a purpose, her friendship with Ghoulia could be a play on that, since both mummies and zombies are associated with brains. Also in relation to Monster High mummy anatomy, there is a medical situation called mummingitis that supposedly only affects mummies. It is a pun on meningitis, but presumably is a completely different disease. It's a dream of Ghoulia's to one day find a cure for it.[12]


  • Ricky may be an ice mummy.
  • The Nefertiti bust was the inspiration for the iconic hairdo of the Bride in Bride of Frankenstein.
  • The throne name of Ramses II is Usermaatre Setepenre, which in Ancient Greek sources is transliterated into Ozymandias. Percy Bysshe Shelley, the husband of Mary Shelley and the person who encouraged her to turn Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus into a true novel, was inspired by the reputation of Ramses II to write the sonnet Ozymandias, which is about the notion that even the greatest of might is temporarily. Both novel and sonnet were published in 1818.
  • In her Nekrocon diary, Ghoulia Yelps states that it is her dream to acquire a time machine and visit the Library of Alexandria. The Library of Alexandria was built and maintained by the Ptolemaic dynasty, of which Cleopatra VII was a member.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Cleo de Nile's 'School's Out' diary
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Cleo de Nile's 'Basic' diary
  3. Cleo de Nile's profile
  4. Cleo de Nile's Facebook profile
  5. "Miss Infearmation"
  6. August 12, 2011 entry on Facebook
  7. Nefera de Nile's 'Campus Stroll' diary
  8. "Idol Threat"
  9. Nefera de Nile's profile
  10. "Why We Fright"
  11. "Hyde and Shriek"
  12. "Why Do Ghouls Fall in Love?"

External links

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