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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

enik1138
-at-popapostle-dot-com
Revenge of the Scorpion King
The Mummy Chronicles Book I
Written by Dave Wolverton

Page numbers come from the first edition paperback, April 2001

A treasure hunter working for the Nazis brings the Scorpion King back from the dead.

 

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. Heart of the Pharaoh is stated to open on Halloween of 1937 (October 31) and to take place about three months after this story, most likely placing this story in July.

 

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

 

Didja Notice?

 

The prologue opens in the desert oasis of Ahm Shere, which first appeared in The Mummy Returns; it is the home of the Temple of Anubis, where the Scorpion King is held, awaiting an undead resurrection.

 

Arising from the dead once again, the Scorpion King pulls the Spear of Osiris from his chest. Rick O'Connell thrust the spear into him (for the time-being) in The Mummy Returns.

 

Page 2 describes the Scorpion King's skull as being exposed, but he seemed to have a full skin-and-flesh covered head in The Mummy Returns.

 

Page 3 reveals that many men have entered the pyramid in Ahm Shere over the millennia, but none had made it out alive until the O'Connell party in The Mummy Returns.

 

Chapter 1 opens south of Aswan. Aswan is a city in southern Egypt on the east bank of the Nile.

 

Page 6 reveals that Alex has had a recurring dream, for the past four years, of running from the approaching dawn into the Temple of Anubis with the Bracelet of Anubis on his wrist, to escape the prophecy of death for he who wears it. He lived this scene in The Mummy Returns.

 

Page 8 reveals that Alex is now 12 years old. This goes in hand with his having been 8 years old in The Mummy Returns (1933), as described in that film (even though Rick and Evie only first met in 1926 (in The Mummy), so the boy should be 1 year younger in both cases).

 

The four novels of The Mummy Chronicles seem to suggest that the O'Connells are currently living in Egypt, rather than London, England as seen in The Mummy Returns. Page 8 reveals that Rick and Evie often leave Alex in the care of Ardeth Bay when they are away and the Medjai has begun training the boy to be a Medjai himself when he becomes an adult.

 

Page 9 reveals that Rick and Evie are in England for three weeks as she presents a paper to the Bembridge scholars.

 

Page 9 also reveals that Ardeth has sent Alex on his Mushwar Wa, the lone walk, a solo trek through the desert that is one of the many rites of passage for those in training to be Medjai. As far as I can find, the Mushwar Wa trial of endurance was made up for the story, not based on an historical precedent.

 

Page 10 uses the word "suffragis" for Egyptian servants of the Germans. Possibly the word is Egyptian, but I've been unable to confirm it.

 

On page 14, the tomb raiders salute a German Kommandant and bark, "Heil Hitler!" This is "Hail Hitler!" in German and was often spoken as part of the Nazi salute during Adolf Hitler's reign over Germany from 1933-1944.

 

On page 17, Alex reflects that Ardeth told him that most Egyptian mummies were actually slaves in life. This is largely true, most of the mummies found in royal Egyptian tombs were the servants of the royal person.

 

Also on page 17, Alex tries to remember the last word of a spell taught to him by Ardeth meant to put mummies to sleep. Alex's struggle to remember the last word is a touchback to similar scenes in The Mummy (by Jonathan) and The Mummy Returns (by Alex himself) when reading from the Book of the Dead.

 

Trying to remember the last word of the spell, Alex wishes he had his Budge's Dictionary of Ancient Egyptian. This is likely a reference to Sir E.A. Wallis Budge (1857-1934), an Egyptologist who wrote many books on ancient Egypt and the deciphering of hieroglyphics, though none with the title of Dictionary of Ancient Egyptian as far as I can find.

 

On page 20, a German cries "Ein saboteur!" This is German for "A saboteur!"

 

Page 21 describes Alex's camel, Stinkwad, as being hobbled nearby. "Hobble", in this case, means to tie a short length of rope between the legs of an animal to prevent free motion.

 

The book seems to hint that German tomb robber Zorin Ungricht has mystically sacrificed his soul at some time in the past.

 

Two of the Nazis appearing in the book are called only Commandant R. and General H. Possibly these are meant to be references to Lt. Colonel (at the time) Erwin Rommel and Reichsführer-SS (leader of the German secret police) Heinrich Himmler. Why author Wolverton chose not use full names is a mystery.

 

Alex and Rachel ride out from Aswan in the evening and reach the valley of Ahm Shere near dawn. This would suggest that Ahm Shere is located only about a 12-hour camel ride from Aswan.

 

Page 30 mentions the ankh, the ancient Egyptian symbol of eternal life. This was an actual ancient Egyptian symbol.

 

Page 30 also describes the great Sphinx of Giza as being referred to as Abu el Hol in Arabic (Father of Terror). This is true.

 

Page 31 describes the headquarters of the French Foreign Legion as being in the city of Sidi Bel Abbès, Algeria. This was true at the time. Since 1962, the Legion has been headquartered in Aubagne, France.

 

Menaced by a cobra on page 34, Alex whispers "mer-segrit", which is described as an ancient Egyptian greeting for soothing a cobra. This is a reference to an Egyptian serpent-headed goddess called Mer-segrit, who was also described as a lover of silence.

 

Page 34 reveals that Jonathan had sold the giant diamond he stole from the top of the Temple of Anubis in The Mummy Returns to a wealthy couple in Oxford, England. The end of the movie had hinted that Jonathan and Izzy would be co-owners of the diamond, but no mention is made here of whether Izzy received any profit from the sale.

 

Page 37 describes the army of mummies as carrying ancient bronze swords. This would be correct since the Scorpion King existed during the Bronze Age, before known civilizations had learned to smelt iron for making tools and weapons.

 

On page 43, a mummy threatens to rip out Alex's living guts and feed them to the Eater of Souls. This is a reference to the ancient Egyptian female demon Ammit, who had a body that was made up of crocodile, lion, and hippopotamus. In Egyptian theology, when a person died, their heart was weighed by Anubis for purity and if it was found wanting, it would be fed to Ammit, denying the person's soul the completion of the journey to Osiris and immortality.

 

Alex finds that he can somehow understand the language of the underworld on page 43 (and through the rest of the book). It's never explained how this happened and this page seems to indicate that even Alex himself does not know.

 

Pages 58-59 refer to a desert area called Desh-ret, described as "the red lands". This seems to be a general term used to describe the deserts of the Sahara.

 

This book reveals that Ardeth has taught Alex several spells that prove useful in summoning help or thwarting mystical menaces. Why have we never seen Ardeth use them himself in any of the stories of the Mummy series?

 

On page 64, Commandant R. shouts, "Angriff! Angriff!" This is German for "Attack!"

 

On page 65, the pygmy zombie called Foot Rot insults Alex by calling him a "nasty little dung beetle." Normally, this wouldn't seem to be an appropriate epithet from an ancient Egyptian since they worshipped the dung beetle as a symbol of the death and rebirth of the human soul. However, since Egypt is not known to have ever had native pygmies, the pygmies of Ahm Shere were probably slaves brought from other places on the African continent where, presumably, the dung beetle was not looked upon with such favor.

 

On page 74, Alex recalls a story told him by his mother about how people in the Victorian era of England (1837-1901) would often unwrap mummies at Christmas to search for antique trinkets on the bodies. This is true and the practice did not necessarily have to be at Christmas; they would hold special unwrapping parties at any time of year.

 

Page 78 describes Alex and Rachel riding into the Ramlat el Kebir, the Great Sea of Sand. I've not been able to find a real world reference to Ramlat el Kebir, but there is the Gilf El Kebir region west of Aswan that is referred to as the Great Sea of Sand. "Ramlat el Kebir" essentially means "Sand Barrier" in Arabic.

 

On page 97, Alex comments to Rachel that the museum that his mother worked at for years was swarming with mummies. This is a reference to the mummy fight at the British Museum in The Mummy Returns.

 

On page 101, the mummies are calling out, "Heru, Heru!" This is probably a reference to Heru-ur, Horus the Elder. Horus was the god of the sky and of protection; he was the son of the original Egyptian gods, Osiris and Isis.

 

Page 104 describes a room in the Temple of Anubis containing a sacrificial altar as the Holy of Holies. The term "Holy of Holies" is borrowed from the Old Testament and originally refers to a room in a Jewish temple which was said to hold the Ark of the Covenant. The term has since been borrowed by writers to refer to a Most Holy Place in various other religions.

 

On page 107, General H.'s soul is captured in two canopic jars in the form of two black cobras that slither from his nose during the soul-sacrifice ceremony. I've been unable to confirm whether cobras were considered symbolic of human souls in ancient Egyptian theology or if it was simply made up by the author as a creepy way for a Nazi to dispense with his soul. If General H. is intended to be Heinrich Himmler as speculated above, then it would imply that Himmler fought WWII and lived the rest of his life without a soul.

 

On page 109, General H. shouts "Sieg Heil!" This is German for "Hail Victory!"

 

On page 113, the Scorpion King's deadly tail stinger is said to be oozing green venom. I've been unable to confirm the actual color of scorpion venom.

 

On page 114, Alex hears a Medjai shout, "Allah yisallihmak!" "Allah" is Arabic for "God", but I've been unable to translate "yisallihmak".

 

On page 117, General H. shouts, "Meine seele!" This is German for "My soul!"

 

On page 121, Ardeth reveals that some evils never die and the Scorpion King is one of them.

 

On page 124, Ardeth gives Alex his dagger, which he claims once belonged to Saladin himself. Saladin (1137-1193) was a Muslim sultan who ruled Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Kurdistan, Hejaz, and Yemen from 1174–1193.

 

On page 127, Rick says he was worried that Alex would be bored to death staying with Ardeth while they were gone and Ardeth replies, "You underestimate me, O'Connell. Have you forgotten our two adventures together?" The novelist is obviously counting only The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, but there is also the third adventure "Valley of the Gods".

 

Page 127 reveals that Evie has been offered a teaching position by the Bembridge scholars and the family is moving back to London.

 

Page 129 reveals that Alex has never wanted to live anywhere but in Egypt.

 

Page 130 reveals that Alex possesses a piece of crumbling stone from the Scorpion King's temple. 

 

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