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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

enik1138
-at-popapostle-dot-com
The Mummy: Heart of the Pharaoh Heart of the Pharaoh
The Mummy Chronicles Book II
Written by Dave Wolverton

Page numbers come from the first edition paperback, June 2001

Winston Churchill brings a mission to the O'Connells involving the lost tomb of Cleopatra.

 

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

 

Didja Know?

 

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

 

This story takes place in 1937, about four years after the events of The Mummy Returns.

 

Didja Notice?

 

The prologue is said to take place in 31 BC, with the Roman General Octavio desecrating the tomb of the recently deceased Cleopatra. However, since the years of BC numbering go in reverse order, Cleopatra would not have been dead yet at this time! She and her husband committed suicide after the Battle of Actium in 30 BC.

 

There were many queens of Egypt named Cleopatra. The most famous one, and the one who is the focus of this story, was Cleopatra VII, the last pharaoh of Egypt. After her death, Egypt became a Roman province from 30 BC-641 AD. It is true, as stated in the story, that the site of Cleopatra's tomb is unknown.

 

The Roman general Octavio seen in the prologue is more commonly known as Octavius or Octavian before being given the title of Augustus ("the revered one") by the Roman Senate in 27 BC, when he became the first Emperor of the Roman Empire, ending the Roman Republic.

 

Page 3 describes Octavio's men as lighting Egyptian torches made of papyrus dipped in beeswax. This is a real method of making torches.

 

Page 3 introduces Mark Anthony. This was a real world figure (more commonly known as Mark Antony), a Roman general and politician who became the lover of Cleopatra of Egypt.

 

On page 4, Octavio's spy points to some hieroglyphs of owls and eyes in Cleopatra's tomb as a curse written on the walls. Owls were considered a symbol of night and death in ancient Egypt and the eye the symbol of Horus, one of the major gods (the son of Osiris and Isis).

 

On page 5, the cobra ornamentation on Cleopatra's coffin, known as a Uraeus, comes to life and spits fire at Octavio's spy, who is attempting to steal the treasure from the tomb. The Uraeus was worn by Egyptian pharaohs to protect them from evil and it was supposed that the mystical cobra would stream fire at approaching evil.

 

On page 6, Octavio burns the 80-foot ship in Cleopatra's tomb. The Egyptians believed the dead needed a boat to cross a great river (analogous to the living world's Nile) and would place one (though usually just a small model) in the tomb.

 

Page 7 indicates it is Allhallows Eve. This is another name for Halloween, indicating Winston Churchill's visit to the O'Connell home in London took place on October 31, 1937.

 

Pages 7-8 indicate that Evie has taken a job teaching Egyptology at Bembridge (she accepted the job in Revenge of the Scorpion King). The only thing is, Bembridge School is located on the Isle of Wight, a hundred miles or so from London. So how does she make her daily commute? Perhaps in the Mummy universe, Bembridge has an extension in London as well.

 

On page 9, Winston Churchill from Parliament pays a visit to the O'Connell home. Churchill (1874-1965) is a real world historical figure. In 1937 he was a member of Parliament for Epping, UK Parliamentary constituency. He went on to be the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom two separate times, 1940-1945 and 1951-1955. During his first term as PM, he was known for his inspirational leadership of the country through WWII.

 

Page 10 reveals that the O'Connell house is 300 years old. It's not revealed if this is the same house they lived in in The Mummy Returns.

 

On page 10, Alex tells Churchill he recognized his face from the Sunday News. This was a real world newspaper in the UK that was published under various names from 1842-1960. It was officially known as the Sunday News from 1924-1929, being the Sunday Graphic in 1937 when this story takes place.

 

Churchill and Alex discuss their concern with the recent treaty between Hitler and Mussolini. These are references to Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany 1934-1945, and Benito Mussolini, fascist dictator of Italy 1925-1945. The treaty referenced here must be the unofficial 1936 agreement between the two countries of a Rome-Berlin Axis; it didn't become official until the Pact of Steel in 1939.

 

On page 11, Alex seems to indicate his belief that essentially all pharaohnic tombs are guarded by spells.

 

On page 14, Alex comments that it could take up to three months for the Egyptian priests to complete the process of mummification on a body. This is true, the time needed being due largely to the drying process of the body while covered with natron, a type of salt.

 

On page 15, Alex pulls out and reads the ancient, rotted tag on the mummy of Irani brought to the house by Churchill; the lettering on the tag is described as "...Coptic characters, a shorthand version of Egyptian hieroglyphics." But the Coptic alphabet was actually based mostly on the Greek alphabet and was not introduced until around 300 AD, long after the mummification of Irani with her queen, Cleopatra. Most likely the author meant hieratic writing, a sort of cursive version of hieroglyphs which was used by the priest class.

 

On page 19, the German archaeologist Zorin Ungricht returns, having previously appeared in Revenge of the Scorpion King.

 

Churchill's dialog on page 20 is different than what appears on the teaser page at the beginning of the book. In the teaser of this scene, he says, "The heart should be beside the mummy, right?" In the actual scene on page 20, he says, "...the heart should be inside the mummy, right?" The second instance makes more sense, as the Egyptians left the heart inside the body, not beside it, for mummification as it was believed to be the seat of the soul.

 

On page 23, Rick rushes into the house and, seeing Irani, says, "Not again! I hate mummies!" This is a callback to a couple of similar lines he speaks in The Mummy Returns.

 

Also on page 23, Evie is crushed at the shattering of her vase, which she says had graced the court of Ramses II and survived the ten plagues of Egypt. Ramses II was an Egyptian pharaoh from about 1303-1213 BC and is often regarded as the greatest of the pharaohs. The ten plagues is a reference to the Biblical Ten Plagues, which have not been proven to have actually occurred historically, at least not within a short period of time.

 

Page 24 reveals that Rick has had a previous, untold encounter with Ungricht at the Temple of the Monkey just outside of Calcutta which has left him with a ragged line of gunshot-wound scars on his belly. Calcutta is the capital city of the Indian state of West Bengal. The Temple of the Monkey appears to be a fictional site invented by the author; it would be fun to someday learn the details of this adventure!

 

On page 25, Churchill tells the O'Connells that the Prime Minister of Egypt has given him approval to send in a small team to stop the looters sent to the country by Mussolini. At the time of this story, 1937, the Prime Minister of Egypt was Mustafa el-Nahhas Pasha, who ruled from May 1936 to December 1937.

 

Page 30 reveals that the English ambassador to Egypt is Lord Harrill, whose son, Matt, is Alex's best friend. In the real world, the ambassador was Sir Miles Lampson in 1937.

 

Page 30 describes muezzins calling the faithful to prayer. A muezzin is a chosen person at an Islamic mosque who has the duty of calling out to its adherents at prayer time.

 

On pages 32-33, Alex and his mother discuss the history of Cleopatra and how Octavio ordered all of her monuments knocked down, her name chiseled off of every piece of stone, and made it illegal to even speak her name. I've been unable to determine if this is factual.

 

Page 34 describes a man wearing a kaffiyeh. A kaffiyeh is the traditional Arab headdress.

 

Alex uses the greeting, "Salaam," on page 34. This is the traditional Arabic greeting meaning "peace".

 

On page 38, Alex and Matt observe Embassy Row in Cairo. The term "Embassy Row" is used to describe the area of a city that hosts foreign embassies and other diplomatic institutions. In Cairo, this area is more commonly known as Garden City, an affluent district.

 

Page 39 mentions the president of Egypt having spoken to Lord Harrill. But in 1937, Egypt had only a Prime Minister. The country's first president was elected in 1953. Presumably young Matt is referring to the Prime Minister.

 

Page 39 reveals that it has been only three months since the events of Revenge of the Scorpion King.

 

On page 49, Matt takes down a picture of King George from the wall of his family's parlor in order to reveal three holes in the wall he uses for spying on the goings-on in his father's office. Presumably the King George mentioned here is George VI (1895-1952), who was King of the United Kingdom in 1937.

 

Page 52 reveals that (for purposes of this story) the lost tomb of Cleopatra is located at approximately 29.95 degrees east by 28.2 degrees north and Alex says that is only about 100 miles away from where he is at (Cairo). Actually, those coordinates are about 158 miles away (west of Cairo). Evie goes on to say that the location is near "Al W_h_t al Bar_yah". This is probably meant to be the oasis of El-Wahat el-Bahariya, which is sort of near those coordinates, though why the author has chosen to hide part of the name (as he did with two historical Nazi officers in the previous volume of The Mummy Chronicles, Revenge of the Scorpion King) is unknown. Maybe he wants the young target audience of these books to look up the topics on their own?

 

On page 63, Alex decides to take Izzy's zeppelin to the site of Cleopatra's tomb. He does not appear in this story but, Izzy and his zeppelin played an important role in The Mummy Returns.

 

On page 83, Izzy's zeppelin is destroyed.

 

Page 88 describes the uniforms of Italian soldiers as being a drab gray in color. This was true of the Italian army at the time.

 

On page 91, Rachel mentions reading Shakespeare's play about Cleopatra and Mark Anthony. This would be Antony and Cleopatra, written by the Bard sometime between 1603 and 1607.

 

On page 93, Alex claims that after her suicide by asp bite while in the custody of Octavio, Egyptian priests stole Cleopatra's body and brought it to her hidden tomb. I've been unable to confirm that this is historically accurate.

 

Cleopatra, being of Macedonian descent, is stated to have had a Greek-style tomb instead of an Egyptian one on page 94 and that its treasure room would be located near the top, unlike the underground rooms of Egyptian ones. I've been unable to confirm these aspects of Greek tomb-building or whether Cleopatra was necessarily entombed in one. Cleopatra was of Macedonian descent though.

 

Page 94 describes Cleopatra's tomb as having a gold frieze of Hercules fighting a seven-headed serpent. Hercules was the Roman name for the Greek hero/demigod Heracles, who was said to have defeated such a beast (called a Hydra), though the story often tells of it having nine heads. This was borrowed from earlier mythology of the Sumerian god Ninurta.

 

Page 96 describes Cleopatra's tomb has having statues of the Egyptian gods Isis, Anubis, and Hathor. Anubis we've already covered in previous Mummy studies. Isis was the wife of Osiris and mother of Horus and was the goddess of magic, motherhood, and fertility. Hathor was a cow goddess of love, beauty, and music.

 

Page 101 describes, among the treasures of Cleopatra's tomb, combs of fish bones covered in gold. I've been unable to confirm the historical use of fish bones as combs. 

 

On page 101, Alex reads a curse inscribed on the tomb that states, "...may the crocodile-headed goddess gnaw upon their hearts of greed." The crocodile-headed goddess is presumably the Egyptian female demon Ammit, who had a body that was made up of crocodile, lion, and hippopotamus.
  Ammit (Image by Jeff Dahl from Wikipedia)

 

Page 113 describes Mark Anthony as having been more than just a king, he was worshipped as a god. I'm not sure this is entirely true but, as the consort of the pharaoh, Cleopatra, he might have been seen as such.

 

   On page 122, the resurrected Mark Anthony tells Alex that the curse on the tomb ensures that Mussolini will die a miserable death. This is essentially true. Mussolini was captured on the run near the end of WWII and executed the next day; several shots to the chest did not kill him immediately. After his death, his body was hung upside-down in Milan and it was stoned by civilians.

   Alex also muses on the great harm Hitler and Mussolini might cause before their deaths; this is a foreshadowing of their coming roles in WWII.

 

Having now run afoul of Zorin Ungricht twice in as many adventures, Alex resolves that next time he won't get away. This is a foreshadowing of Ungricht's fate after their next meeting in Curse of the Nile.

 

On page 129, Churchill tells Alex to never give in. This is a retroactive reference to a 1941 speech given by Churchill at Harrow School in London (which he had attended as a boy) in which he was quoted as saying, "Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." 

 

Unanswered Questions

 

Did the O'Connell's pay for or replace Izzy's zeppelin after Alex's theft of it led to its destruction? 

 

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