Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hercules and the Books of the Dead


It seems that H.P. Lovecraft has usurped his fellow Weird Tales scribe, Robert E. Howard, as the focus of my blog this month. I suppose since Halloween is nigh, this is fitting. I was doing a little research on Lovecraft's fearful book, the Necronomicon and one of the articles I read mentioned that the book had made an appearance in an episode of Hercules the Legendary Journeys during the sixth and last season of the show. Fanboy that I am, I at once wondered if it were 'historically' possible, given the continuities of the Hercules TV show and the Cthulhu Mythos, that this crossover could have occurred.
I couldn't recall the episode, but I have the entire series on DVD and I'd been meaning to dig out season six, which also features a crossover between Herc and Dracula. so last night I watched Hercules season six, episode six, City of the Dead.
In this one, Herc and his sidekick Iolaus travel to Egypt as Ambassadors for Greece. They find Queen Nefertiti feeling the weight of her crown as her son and daughter plot against her. Herc, of course, foils the original plot and so Nefertiti's son Ramses attempts to seize the throne by using the sorcerous powers of the Necronomicon, which is hidden away inside the City of the Dead across the Nile.
The episode doesn't make it clear if the Necronomicon is Lovecraft's imaginary tome or simply a handy name for an Egyptian Book of the Dead, (There were more than one) so that wasn't much help. However, we know that producers Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert were familiar with the Lovecraft version because they used the book in the Evil Dead films.
When in doubt, go to the history books. Nefertiti was the wife or chief consort of the Egyptian prince Akhenaten. The couple are famous for converting Egypt to the worship of a single god. The dates of Akhenaten's reign are apparently debatable, but it was probably somewhere between 1350 and 1356 BC, depending on which Egyptologist you ask. Also debatable is that Nefertiti ruled as queen for a short while after her husband's death. The Hercules episode takes this as a fact.
Okay so let's say this episode takes place in 1357 BC. Where does that leave the Necronomicon? According to the ultimate authority, Mr. Lovecraft himself, the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred authored the book, originally know as the Al Azif circa 700 A.D. (Alhazred died in 738 A.D. torn to shreds and devoured by some invisible creature in front of many witnesses.) So from a strictly historical sense, the Necronomicon used in the Hercules episode could not have been Alhazred's evil book. Sorry Herc.

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