The Mummy (novel)

The Mummy (novel)

infobox Book |
name = The Mummy or Ramses the Damned
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = First edition cover
author = Anne Rice
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Horror novel
publisher = Ballantine Books
release_date = May 6, 1989
media_type = Print (Paperback)
pages = 448 pp (first edition, paperback)
isbn = ISBN 0-345-36000-1 (first edition, paperback)
preceded_by =
followed_by =

The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned, is a stand-alone historical-horror novel by Anne Rice, first published in 1989. Taking place during the early twentieth century, it follows the collision between a British archeologist's family and a resurrected mummy.

Plot introduction

During the Edwardian Age in 1914, a wealthy shipping-magnate-turned-archaeologist, Lawrence Stratford, discovers an unusual tomb. The "mummy" inside, in its left-behind notes, claims to be the famed pharaoh Ramses II, despite the tomb's dating only to the first century B.C. (the historical Ramses II died in 1224 B.C.).

Before he can fully investigate this claim, Lawrence unexpectedly falls dead, and those around him fear he was the victim of a curse placed on the tomb. Nonetheless, the mummy and other belongings are shipped off to London, placed on temporary display in Lawrence's house before they are taken by the British Museum.

Lawrence's daughter, Julie Stratford, is the designated heir to her father's shipping company, as well as the dysfunctional family that surrounds it. Her cousin, Henry, is an alcoholic and gambling addict who has been draining the family fortune with the aid of her uncle.

Additionally, Julie is engaged to marry Alex Savarell, a viscount and son of the current Earl of Rutherford, Elliott. Although the marriage is a standard alliance between the wealthy Stratfords and an impoverished family of nobles, Alex truly loves Julie, but she is unable to return these feelings, being unusually independent for this era.

However, into this unstable situation comes the mummy, which is indeed still alive, and awakes shortly after its sarcophagus is placed in Julie's house.

Plot summary

Henry was responsible for his uncle Lawrence's death, having poisoned his coffee with one of the various poisons within the mummy's tomb. When Henry tries to poison Julie in the same manner as her father, Ramses comes back to life in attempt to kill Henry, but succeeds only in scaring the then-one-time-murderer away.

Ramses is who he claims to be in the various diarial entries. During his reign as pharaoh, he learned from a Hittite priestess the formula for an "elixir" that grants eternal life. The potion not only made him immortal, but also allows his body to regenerate from damage that would kill a normal human, such as multiple bullet wounds. He requires neither food nor drink nor sleep, only the sun's rays to maintain his life (to "sleep", he had his body moved underground, away from the sun), though he craves these things, along with certain other physical pleasures—sex, smoking, drunkenness, to name a few—in great abundance to feed his insatiable appetite.

After his awakening, Julie and Ramses are instantly attracted to each other. Ramses quickly adopts a pseudonym, "Reginald Ramsey", and claims to be an Egyptologist to throw off the accusation made by the frightened Henry that a "bloody mummy" rose from the crypt to harm him. With superhuman intelligence and the ability to learn quickly, Ramses quickly learns the English language and, with the help of an eager Julie, is given a tour of modern London and new technology that arose during the past two thousand years.

While Henry's accusations are passed off as the rantings of a drunkard, the elderly and ailing Elliott Savarell suspects that it may be the truth. He trails Ramses and comes to believe that he is who Henry claims him to be.

While Ramses takes in the modern world with an almost childlike wonder, and is likewise attracted to Julie, he nurses a deep secret. Prior to the Roman conquest of Egypt, he served as a type of immortal advisor to its kings and queens, and the last person to awake him for consultation was Cleopatra, the last ruler of Egypt. Although he served as Cleopatra's counsel (and encouraged her to romance Julius Caesar in a bid to keep the country independent), he also fell in love with her, and revealed to her the secrets of the elixir. However, Cleopatra later fell in love with Mark Antony in defiance of Ramses' advice. Upon Antony's death, Cleopatra refused the elixir and committed suicide. In his depression, Ramses gave himself the name "Ramses the Damned", and had Egyptian priests seal him away underground.

With Julie's encouragement, Ramses begins to recover. However, her family—mindful of the era's customs—constantly insists on chaperoning her, especially since Ramses is both a stranger and a foreigner. Henry is convinced Ramses is an evil monster ready to kill the entire family. Elliott, in contrast, reads Lawrence's notes and chases after Ramses to learn the secret of the elixir of immortality.

Eventually, Ramses and Julie decide to visit Egypt one last time, so that Ramses can say good-bye to his past (Julie's entire family insists on coming along as well). Although Ramses appears to be coming to terms with his past, upon visiting the Cairo Museum, he unexpectedly recognizes an unidentified mummy as being that of Cleopatra. Breaking into the museum later at night simply to see her, he impulsively pours some of the elixir onto the dead body.

While the elixir proved effective at reviving the dead—discovered in several experimental blunders by Ramses himself—as well as causing immortality, the revived Cleopatra is a raging monster. This was due to incomplete brain restoration caused when Ramses did not pour the entire vial of elixir upon her corpse. Cleopatra is revived a half-formed monstrosity, awake and conscious, yet not fully formed—parts of her face, hands, and torso are still gone—and not totally coherent. Although Ramses later repairs her body with more of the potion, she appears to be insane and kills a number of people, including Henry Stratford. It is implied that the resurrected Cleopatra has no soul—she can remember her past, but perceives it as something separate from herself.

After recovering fully from death, Cleopatra falls in love with Alex Savarell—Elliot's son who was engaged with Julie and truly loved her. In her new found devotion to the young Savarell, and her new realization of immortality, Cleopatra becomes horrified at the fact that her new love will someday die. When she realizes that Ramses will not give Alex the elixir, Cleopatra decides to murder Julie in revenge for not only that, but for Ramses allowing Mark Antony's death as well.

When she eventually gains the opportunity to kill Julie, she falters, and flees before actually doing it—her reason being that murder is wrong, and Julie cannot be held responsible for Ramses' actions. She also comes to regret the murders she committed within the recents days.

In an attempt to escape Ramses, Cleopatra "dies" when her car is hit by a train (causing a fiery explosion so hot that it "could kill even an immortal").

Ramses later gives the elixir to Julie after she attempts suicide in her grief for her loss of him, and he promises to stay with her for eternity. To thank him for his help in covering all the unusual events up, Ramses also gives the dying Elliott the elixir, and he drinks it after serious consideration of the consequences: dying miserably, or living eternally even when wishing for nothing but oblivion.

Cleopatra, without the others' knowledge, survived the crash, and awakens under the care of a British doctor in Sudan. She vows to find Ramses again someday for revenge. The novel ends with the statement that "The Adventures of Ramses the Damned Shall Continue", but no sequel has yet been published.

Major themes

Like the vampires of Rice's Vampire Chronicles, those who take the elixir become immortal, inhumanly strong, and unable to die from normal means. These individuals could even be said to be "reverse vampires" since they derive their strength from the sun, and cannot live without it. Unlike vampires, they are able to eat, drink, and function as normal humans.

However, this immortality comes with a strange price. Those who drink the potion are constantly driven to sate their senses. They constantly crave food and drink, although they need neither to survive. They have an extremely heightened libido. Moreover, their bodies continually blunt drugs that give humans pleasure. For example, Ramses constantly drinks and smokes because the "buzz" the alcohol or nicotine would normally give him fades after a few moments.

For this reason, the elixir's formula is strictly hidden by Ramses; although the ingredients are common and easily-obtained, he does not want to create too many ravenous creatures. His feud with Cleopatra began when he refused to create an "immortal army" for Mark Antony's use.

As with many Rice novels, sexuality tends to be fluid. Both Elliott and Lawrence are described as bisexual - when younger, they were lovers, but both eventually married and had children (Elliott even has sex with Cleopatra at one point). In the past, Henry had an affair with Elliott as well, but his only reason may have been a failed blackmail attempt (at the time of the novel, Henry has at least two mistresses).

As always, Rice employs considerable irony. For example, after his death, Henry's corpse ends up in a "mummy factory" (during the Egyptian craze of the early 1900s, natives often took modern corpses and made them into mummies for sale to gullible tourists). Elliott, his nemesis, gets the last laugh when a merchant tries to sell him Henry's mummy.

Allusions/references to other works

Rice credited authors of numerous turn-of-the-century "mummy" stories with her inspiration, including Arthur Conan Doyle and H. Rider Haggard. England during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries fell under a fad for Ancient Egypt, a phenomenon also known as Egyptomania; this movement created many works of fiction which Rice could draw from.

Connection to the Vampire Chronicles?

In The Vampire Lestat, both Armand and Marius make offhand references to Ramses, indicating that some older vampires are aware of his existence. Armand mistook Ramses for another ancient vampire, whereas Marius clarified that while Ramses was immortal he was not a vampire. In 1789 Marius also makes mention of at least two other male immortals who, posing as wealthy mortals, were active while Ramses was still entombed. The vampire Pandora claimed to have seen a female immortal of the same type. This could be a connection to a couple of things. One possibility is that it is an indication that others possess the knowledge of how to brew the elixir, or, Two, it could be a reference to the Taltos. Considering that The Witching Hour was published in the early 90's, it is possible that Mrs. Rice had at that time already conceived of the Taltos and decided to "sight" them for flair (this idea is complete speculation, of course).

However, "The Mummy" is not part of the Vampire Chronicles, nor do any of the characters in the book re-appear in any other of Rice's works to date.

Release details

*1989, USA, Ballantine Books (ISBN 0-345-36000-1), Pub date ? May 1989, paperback (First edition))

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