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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Flight of the Phoenix
The Mummy Chronicles Book IV
Written by Dave Wolverton

Page numbers come from the first edition paperback, October 2001

When the Medjai learn of a phoenix egg found by Bedouin traders, Alex is one of three young acolytes who are sent on a mission to retrieve it and prove they are ready to become Medjai.


A summary of the story can be found at The Mummy Chronology here.


Didja Know?


The Mummy Chronicles is a series of four young readers books about Alex O'Connell, set during 1937-38 when he was 12 years old.


Didja Notice?


Page 1 states that high summer has now engulfed Egypt. This would suggest that the story is set in July 1938 (high summer in the northern hemisphere). If this is true, then it would follow that Alex's birthday is sometime in July because he is already 12 in July 1937 in Revenge of the Scorpion King, we know that The Mummy Chronicles Book III (Curse of the Nile) takes place in later 1937 or early 1938, and he has not yet turned 13 here.


Page 1 mentions the Bedouin caravans of the Sahara. The Bedouin are an Arab ethnic group, formerly mostly desert nomadic tribes, now mostly settled. At the time of this story there would still have been numerous Bedouin tribes roaming the Sahara desert of Egypt.


On page 4, Alex sees that the old woman in the cave has an enormous bronze bow and he wonders if it might be the bow of Odysseus. This is a reference to the bow carried by the legendary Greek king and warrior whose tale is told in Homer's The Odyssey.


Alex also sees on page 4, a gorgeous silver goblet which he imagines could be the Holy Grail itself. The Holy Grail is the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper.


On page 6, Alex reveals that his parents, Rick and Evie, are on a belated honeymoon for a week. "Belated" doesn't begin to describe it if they're taking their honeymoon 12+ years later! I guess they never resumed their original honeymoon when it was interrupted in "Valley of the Gods". Or maybe Alex meant to say "second honeymoon".


Also on page 6, the old woman grabs a knot of greasewood from the fire. As far as I have been able to determine, greasewood, a deciduous shrub, is known only in western North America, so it seems unlikely she would be burning it in Egypt.


Alex makes reference to flying serpents met by Moses' people in the desert on page 10. This is from the Numbers chapter of the Old Testament, in which Moses' people were said to have been bitten by flying serpents and Moses healed them in some manner with his brass rod in the form of a serpent.


On page 10, the old woman makes reference to the flying serpents as phoenix birds, draktferions, or dragons. Most mythological accounts of the phoenix do not describe it as a serpent, merely as a type of bird, who could arise anew from it's own ashes (or that it gave rise to its offspring in this manner). The phoenix is not normally said to be able to breathe fire as described by the old woman on page 11. The old woman describes "draktferions" as the Greek term for the Phoenix, but I have not been able to confirm such a word.


Alex's musing on page 12 about the amulet of Osiris he once held and was witness to its powers, is a reference to events in Curse of the Nile.


On page 16, Rachel tells Alex that her father has gone to the Congo on business. In the time period of this story, "the Congo" most likely is a reference to the Belgian Congo (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo), a nation in central Africa.


On page 18, Matt sings a camp song about Twiddly Frog and Twaddly Duck. I've been unable to uncover any songs with those specific names, but it may refer to a Boy or Girl Scout campfire song, many of which mention such animals as frogs and ducks.


On page 20, Baraba makes reference to the sunbird. Sunbirds are a family of birds (Nectariniidae) found in Africa, Asia, and Australia.


On page 22, Matt sings "Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight". This is a reference to the 1844 song "Buffalo Gals" by John Hodges.


On page 28, Alex recalls his last experience swimming in the Nile when he was almost eaten by crocodiles. This is another reference to Curse of the Nile.


Also on page 28, Alex takes sips of water from the Nile to assuage his thirst as he swims towards the Bedouin camp. I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be drinking directly from the Nile without treating it to sterilization first! In Curse of the Nile, Alex's parents and the ship's captain were worried about him catching swamp fever after his dunk in the Nile (possibly leptospirosis, which can be caught from contact with water that has been contaminated with animal urine).


On page 30, Alex pulls an ancient silver Medjai's dagger given to him by Ardeth Bay. He received the gift in Revenge of the Scorpion King.


On page 34, Alex cuts a slit in the floor of the Bedouin tent and digs the sand below away to make a place for himself to hide in. But where did he put the sand he dug out of the hole? Wouldn't it be seen one way or another?


On page 47, Ismael comforts a dying Bedouin with a prayer from the Koran. The Koran, of course, is the chief holy book of Islam.


Page 49 reveals that Ismael's father was one of the Medjai who died fighting the Anubis warriors of the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns.


Page 55 makes mention of Rachel's presence during the battle with the Scorpion King and when Anthony and Cleopatra set sail for heaven. These are references to the events of Revenge of the Scorpion King and Heart of the Pharaoh.


On page 57, Ismael tells his friends that they are in the Wadi in Hajar, the Vale of Stones. "Wadi" is Arabic for "valley". As far as I can determine, Hajar, the Vale of Stones is a fictional location in Egypt.


On page 66, Matt makes mention of Ali Baba. This was the protagonist of the story "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" from the Arabic story collection One Thousand and One Nights, believed to have originated around the 8th Century AD.


On page 69, one of the slaves in the robbers' dungeon refers to Alex as "Saiyid" as he begs to be freed. "Saiyid" is an Arabic term of respect, implying a descendancy from Muhammad, the founder of Islam.


Unanswered Questions


What happened to the phoenix who hatched in this story? It flew off into the desert, seemingly not to be seen again. 


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