Monster Monday: Ghoul

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Ghoul.

Illustration by Anne Anderson of the Story Sidi Nouman from One Thousand and One Nights
Illustration by Anne Anderson of the Story Sidi Nouman from One Thousand and One Nights

A ghoul is a creature originating Arabian folklore, but it appears in stories from Persian and Turkish folklore as well. It is associated with empty, uninhabited places such as graveyards, wastelands, and abandoned buildings. In some stories, it is an undead creature that eats the flesh of recent corpses. In others it is a shapeshifting demon that lures people away, kills, and devours them. Then it takes the shape of the last person it consumes. It will eat the recently dead if no live prey is available. Unlike many modern interpretations, these ghouls are usually depicted as having intelligence.

The word ghoul comes from the Arabic word ghūl, which simply means “demon.”

One of the earliest surviving references to a ghoul occurs in One Thousand and One Nights in the story of Sidi Nouman, in which the title character’s treacherous wife sneaks out of their home one night to confer with a ghoul.

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