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Archive for November 18th, 2015

mummy cat 1

by Sam Juliano

               Death is only the beginning.      -Imhotep

At the halfway point of Karl Freund’s classic Universal horror film The Mummy it is revealed that around 3,000 years ago the high priest Imhotep, during the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep fell in love with Princess Ankh-es-en-amon, a priestess of the goddess Isis.  She came down sick and died, causing her devastated lover to enter the temple and abscond with the Scroll of Troth, subsequently breaking in to his lover’s tomb, hoping to resurrect her with its properties of eternal life.  But soldiers broke into the tomb before he could set the ritual into motion, and he is summarily sentenced to death by being buried alive for his sacrilege along with the forbidden scroll.  The subject of eternal love spanning hundreds of years is also the premise of an exquisite picture book by Marcus Ewert and Lisa Brown titled Mummy Cat.  The love in the book is between an Egyptian queen named Hat-shup-set and her cat. regarded by her more as a hero than a pet. Both are fatally stung by a scorpion, and mummified.  After hundreds of years the mummy cat awakens and looks for Hat-shup-set.  Along the way he chances upon striking paintings of the great times many years before when he stood by the side of his beloved master drawing, making music and playing jackals.

Mummy Cat, like Freund’s film features a story within a story, as the awakened cat gazes upon ornate murals of the glorious life he once led alongside his queen while roaming the tomb covered by gauze.  After a wind-swept double page spread showing a sphinx and a pyramid Ewert establishes the mise en scene:  Deep within this maze of stone/a creature wakes up, all alone./For the first time in a hundred years/he shakes off dust/He flicks his ears./From head to tail, dry strips of cloth softly russstle like a moth.  The implication is that the mummy cat awakens every one hundred years or so to seek out the love of his life.  A Cat who moves without a breath: a mummy cat/Who’s passed through Death.  The reason for his his single night return from the dead every century was to re-unite with his “loving friend” who can bring his “lonely time to an end.”  The vivid murals show the wondrous life he had, one where he posed as a miniature sphinx, clawed a miniature boat on the riverbank  and sat on the lap of his queen on a couch.  Still the lively reminders of a time long gone also included the most painful re-enactment of all – the bite from the scorpion and the quick spread of poison, culminating with the most horrific aftermath of all:  An end to dances, games and feasts/two small bodies wrapped by priests.  It is clear enough the scorpion bites were not accidents, but the result of betrayal from within. (more…)

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