AWESOME-tober-fest 2016: The Ring of Thoth (1890) – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Here we are! Day 1 of AWESOME-tober-fest! Welcome to my daily celebration of all things spooky. As you can tell, my theme this month is “mummies”! So I’ll be looking at books, comics, movies and TV shows that feature mummies. It should be a lot of fun. Today, we’ll start with a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
In 1890, Cornhill Magazine published a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle short story called The Ring of Thoth.
While this story has a mummy in it, it isn’t technically a “mummy story” like you’d expect. However, it has elements in the story that will clearly influence mummy movies in the many years to come afterwards.
The story is about an Egyptology student who falls asleep in The Louve and winds up locked in overnight and witnesses a bizarre sight. The overnight caretaker unwraps one of the mummies from the collection, embraces and kisses it, then rummages through some of the jewelry in the Egyptian collection clearly looking for something. The student is discovered in hiding and the strange looking caretaker reveals his story about living in ancient Egypt, discovering a long living chemical serum and losing the love of his life to a plague.
This story is short, obviously, and very concise with much of the backstory filled in by exposition from the museum’s overnight caretaker. However, the way the story is written you feel a sense of wonder at the caretaker’s tale as well as a sense of urgency at what he plans to do that very evening. These two things make the story breeze by. It’s also interesting and it keeps you reading along with its fantastical story ideas. Plus, as I mentioned, there are elements within the story that have clearly influenced many successor mummy movies but also the original Karloff Mummy movie.
First of all, the strange looking caretaker, Sosra, is described as being a very tanned and overly wrinkled person. Someone with much wisdom and experience in his eyes. From the description, I immediately got an image of Karloff in his Ardath Bey disguise from The Mummy. There’s even a scene in which Sosra threatens the protagonist with a knife, much like in the picture below.
Second, the trinket that Sosra is looking for is the title bearing The Ring of Thoth. Thoth is the God of Knowledge in ancient Egyptian culture. His name would be used in countless mummy movies, however, this story would be one of the first. Universal’s The Mummy used it as well in describing, not a ring, but a scroll.
Like I said, while this story doesn’t necessarily involve a reanimated mummy it does carry several things that would influence mummy stories and movies in the years to come. Including a story Doyle would write just two years later called Lot 249.
Overall, this is a really enjoyable, short read. The timeline is very compact and you feel like there is some urgency in the main characters. It keeps the action moving along despite that the majority of the story involves backstory exposition. This is definitely a recommend.
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.