Wednesday, October 20, 2010

31 Monsters of October, Day 20: Ghouls

Real World Origin:
Folklore (Arabian)/Literature, One Thousand and One Nights

In-Universe Description:
According to Arabian folklore, a ghoul is a creature or demon that eats human flesh, particularly the flesh of the dead. They are said to inhabit desert wastes or burial grounds and to have the power of shape-shifting.

In modern fantasy and horror, ghouls are typically undead creatures that feed on corpses, although in some stories they can also be dangerous to the living. In H.P. Lovecraft's horror, particularly in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, ghouls constitute a humanoid race, some members of which were once human but were transformed by regularly eating human bodies. Some stories depict ghouls as intelligent while they are mindless creatures in others. Although some writers have occasionally referred to zombies as ghouls, most regard the two types of creatures as separate since zombies prefer live prey and ghouls prefer corpses.

Ghouls have also appeared in science fiction. In Larry Niven's Ringworld series, hominids fulfill all major ecological niches on the Ringworld. A diminutive race of ghouls fulfills the scavenger role by consuming the flesh of all other humanoid species. These ghouls are highly intelligent, observing other humanoid's religious beliefs and rites regarding the dead, negotiating with hominids across the Ringworld, and maintaining a world-spanning culture.

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