“De odöda” (also available in English as “The Undead”) is a new book by Johan Egerkrans, and can be considered a sequel of sorts to “Nordiska väsen” (called “Vaesen” in English), reviewed by me elsewhere on this blog. Weirdly, “De odöda” is promoted as a children´s book in Sweden, which it definitely isn´t. I do have a faint memory that the work was originally released on Halloween, but I could be wrong there.
I think the English title speaks for itself, but since you really want to know: “De odöda” is a book featuring a (perhaps) representative sample of undead and mostly vampiric creatures from folklore around the world. At the very least, we *hope* it´s folklore! It´s not really a comprehensive encyclopedia, but more of a coffee table book – albeit a somewhat unusual one – or even an artistic project. The weird and colorful illustrations were apparently also made by Johan Egerkrans. An interesting bibliography is included for those who want to follow the leads further.
Undead creatures included in this volume include strigoi, dhampir (so that´s where the idea of Van Helsing comes from), strix, nachzehrer, craqueuhhe (yes, that one), homunculus, golem, rusalka (think “mermaid with an attitude”…and appetite), zombie, windigo and the non-vampiric and frankly comic nuppeppo. With a few exceptions, all these creatures are likely to suck your blood, drain your qi or quite simply eat you without further ado. Many are obviously personifications of natural forces or creatures invented to scare the living from murdering their neighbor. Some can be controlled by witches or indeed *are* witches. While most Hollywood films get it all wrong when introducing vampires or zombies, a few pop culture stereotypes actually derive from folklore, such as the garlic, the silver bullet, or the pole through the heart.
One piece of information in “The Undead” was new to me: the politically correct claim that zombies were invented by White French slave-owners on Haiti to keep the slaves in control, rather than by superstitious Black slaves. Hmmm… Can anyone confirm this?
My personal favorite in this genre is John Michael Greer´s inimitable magnum opus “Monsters: A Field Guide to Magical Beings”, but I admit that this work was at least somewhat entertaining. Besides, I decided not to read it on Halloween but instead wait for the night between December 23 and December 24 before I perused it, presumably protected by Gabriel against any vampiric intermezzos…
Recommended (if you´re an adult).