A zombie is a mythological undead bodily revenant shaped through the reanimation of a cadaver. They are very common and seen mostly in fantasy and horror genres. Today we will try to know history of zombies and how zombies came into literary world and world of movies. The term ‘zombie’ comes from Haitian folklore possible during the 17th century, in which it is a corpse reanimated utilizing several processes, most regularly magic like voodoo. Zombies are widely featured in Haitian rural folklore as dead bodies that are physically revitalized with the act of necromancy of a witch or a sorcerer.

Amy Wilentz has written that the present concept of zombie was highly influenced by Haitian slavery. Voodoo priests used the zombification fear to discourage the slaves from taking their own lives. But the media depiction of the process of reanimation does not display magic but rather the scientific ways such as parasites, carriers, mental diseases, radiation, pathogens, vectors, etc.

History of Zombies: How Zombies Came into Literary World and World of Movies
History of Zombies: How Zombies Came into Literary World and World of Movies

In 1819, the English word ‘zombie’ was first recorded as ‘zombi’, by poet Robert Southey. According to Oxford Dictionary, the word is originated from West Africa and compared to Kongo words number or zumbi (fetish), nzambi (god), mvumbi (corpse that holds on to soul), and nvumbi (body without a soul).

The Magic Island was published in the year 1929 by W. B. Seabrook is one of the first books that introduced the voodoo concept to Western culture. The elucidation of zombies is drawn hugely from the film Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero, which was partially inspired by a novel named I Am Legend written by Richard Matheson. Romero directed two other movies based on zombies named Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. The variety waned for several years after zombie films named Dawn of the Dead and Michael Jackson’s music video Thriller. According to Linda Troost’s, The Undead Eighteenth Century ‘zombies’ occurred in literature around 1697 and were defined with terms such as ghosts and spirits. They appeared during the same time as Dracula and Frankenstein, with the release of White Zombie in the year 1932. With the improvement in technology, the appearance of zombies on-screen became more realistic and gruesome.

History of Zombies: How Zombies Came into Literary World and World of Movies
History of Zombies: How Zombies Came into Literary World and World of Movies

1980 onwards there were dozens of films based on zombies, including the popular Scooby-Doo, even he fought with zombies in Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, released in the year 1998. Then the 2013 release of the Brad Pitt movie World War Z, made the zombie apocalypse popular and took it to a different level.

According to Angela Becerra Vidergar, the perception of mankind changed a lot after the incident of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and human beings could imagine or fictionalize death on a mass scale and the concept of survival of the fittest, which is the central and most common theme among the narratives based on zombies.

The modern concept of zombie is zombie apocalypse – the collapse of a society that results in a zombie outbreak that tends to spread rapidly. In a zombie apocalypse, a global rise of zombies intimidating to human life involves sin a general attack of civilization. The people attacked by zombies become zombies themselves. The possible reason for the outbreak and spreading could be the zombie virus which affects them in a way that they start behaving in a distorted and destructive manner. This outbreak later involves military and governmental organizations leading to the collapse of society and nation and the survivors scavenge for food and supplies to last long in a ruined nation.

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