A to Z Challenge Folklore

Ghastly Ghouls #folklore #AtoZChallenge

G is for Ghoul

Learn more about the challenge here.

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the A to Z Challenge here.

I probably first encountered this monster in one of the many horror/supernatural movies and shows I consumed in my teens/early twenties.

Folklore

Persian Folklore by Ella C. Sykes [1901]

It is but a step from these legends to the ghouls, divs, jinns, and afreets, in which all Persians, even those who are well educated, have a firm belief.

The Ghoul haunts lonely places, and its aim is to lure travellers from their path and then devour them. Its real form is monstrous beyond words, and it indulges in blood¬ curdling yells and shrieks; but it has the power of assuming any shape it pleases, and often appears in the guise of a camel or mule, or even in that of its intended victim’s relatives or friends. Both Rustum and Isfundiyar had repeated combats with these appalling creatures, which now specially haunt the “Valley of the Angel of Death,” not far from Room. They are supposed to be the at¬ tendants of Azrael, or Death, and feast on the departed. Persians say that a true believer, who utters the name of the Prophet in all sincerity, can never be harmed by a ghoul; but all the same, no one will run the risk of going into a graveyard or of wandering among ruins if he can possibly avoid it. A Persian gentleman of my acquaintance con¬ fessed to being afraid of these horrible chimeras, but said that in my company he would venture into the most deserted ruin, because he knew that no ghoul would appear were an European present. The reason he gave was that these Persian bogies only revealed themselves to those who believed in them.

Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper

Ghul

In pre-Islamic Arab legends, the ghul was usually a spirit or demon in female form who abducted or killed lone travellers in desert areas after terrifying them with her ability to swivel her head completely around. The traveller’s sole defence was to strike one, and only one, mighty blow with a sword to sever the ghul’s head.

Ghoul

The Anglicized “ghoul”, from the Arabic ghul, in Western tradition describes a sinister, formless being haunting graveyards to prey on the flesh of corpses.

*More can be read in the book.

Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore by Theresa Bane

Ghul (Gool)

In Muslim folklore there is a female vampiric demon known as a ghul which eats only the flesh of the dead. It breaks into the graves of those properly buried and feeds off their corpses. If it cannot find an easy meal in a graveyard, it shape-shifts into a beautiful woman in order to trick male travelers into thinking it is a prostitute. Then, once alone with a man, she kills him.

*More can be read in the book.

Further Reading:

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

From Persian folklore, ghouls enjoy human flesh. Sometimes they shapeshift into camels or mules to lure their prey, or even beautiful women. They frequent lonely places, such as graveyards and ruins. Though they have no qualm killing to eat, they prefer easy pickings by opening graves and devouring the flesh within. A ghoul can be destroyed by striking a single blow with a sword and severing its head.

Ghoul. Image credit

Ghouls in Modern Culture

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

At the same time, a band called Vyxn arrives at the Bronze and plays for four nights straight. Vyxn is made up of four girls who appear to be not quite human, especially when they seem to be turning all the males at the Bronze into slobbering idiots and bending them to their will. 

It is later discovered that Vyxn is comprised of a group of ghouls that can seduce men (and it is hinted vampires) at will through their voice.

Learn more here.

Harry Potter book series by JK Rowling

…in wizarding families the ghoul often becomes a talking point or even a family pet.“— Newt Scamander on the roles ghouls play in wizarding homes[src]

ghoul was a magical beast that resembled a slimy, buck-toothed ogre.[1]

They tended to live in the attics or barns of wizards and witches. Relatively harmless creatures, they were seen as merely nuisances for all the noise they made. They were relatively dimwitted and survived by eating bugs and other household pests. At most, they would groan and throw objects at other objects or people, although some could be convinced to be more bloodthirsty and angry and as such dangerous.

Learn more here.

Percy Jackson book series by Rick Riordan

An Eurynomos. Image credit

Eurynomos (plural: Eurynomoi) is a spirit of rotting corpses and is a flesh eating monster originating in the Underworld. Usually travelling in pairs, they are a species loved by Hades.

Learn more here.

There are ghouls in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. (My Review)

One grave in every graveyard belongs to ghouls. Wander any graveyard long enough and you will find it – waterstained and bulging, with cracked or broken stone, scraggly grass or rank weeds about it, and a feeling, when you reach it, of abandonment. It may be colder than the other gravestones, and the name on the stone is all too often impossible to read. If there is a statue on the grave it will be headless or so scabbed with fungus and lichens as to look like a fungus itself. If one grave in a graveyard looks like a target for petty vandals, that is the ghoul-gate. If the grave makes you want to be somewhere else, that is the ghoul-gate.
Down the street and up the hill came the Duke of Westminster, the Honorable Archibald Fitzhugh, and the Bishop of Bath and Wells, slipping and bounding from shadow to shadow, lean and leathery, all sinews and cartilage, wearing raggedy clothes all a-tatter, and they bounded and loped and skulked, leapfrogging over dustbins, keeping to the dark side of hedges. They were small, like full-size people who had shrunk in the sun.

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman

Ghouls in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Ghouls

Demons that eat corpses. Love to eat Vampires.
Red-brown slimy creature with vague humanoid form and glowing yellow orbs for eyes – orange slit for pupil.
Fear of fire and the sun. Live underground like moles.
Hunt vampires and search for human corpses.
Mortal enemies: None known.

Ghoul translated to Afrikaans: Lykverslinder.

See this fae in action in my writing:

Unseen (Faery Tales #2)

Cold crept over Anja as slimy brown monsters appeared in the twilight and devoured the corpses.

‘No!’

‘Are you mad?’ the rabbit hissed. ‘They might prefer corpses, but on a night like tonight, they might make an exception and eat us!’

Anja shivered and stood back against a tree. The ghouls fought over the bodies. The Veil became like a window: the souls trapped on the other side banging on it to get back to their bodies.

‘We should get moving. If the Veil isn’t restored by midnight…’ the rabbit hopped off without finishing the thought.

Unseen (Faery Tales #2) by Ronel Janse van Vuuren

Remember that you can request all of my books from your local library!

Where did you hear about ghouls for the first time? Any ghoul folklore you’d like to share? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

You can now support my time in producing folklore posts (researching, writing and everything else involved) by buying me a coffee. This can be a once-off thing, or you can buy me coffee again in the future at your discretion.

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No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

10 thoughts on “Ghastly Ghouls #folklore #AtoZChallenge”

  1. Ghouls give me nightmares. I have a daughter who loves reading or watching anything ghoul. Just passing through the room when she’s got some ghoul show on gives me nightmares. Needless to say, I haven’t read any ghouly books. 🙂

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