Monsters with Letters/Runes/Symbols on them

edited March 2011 in Story Games
Good evening. I need a little brainstorming help.

I vaguely recall stories about a monster that was "powered" by some sort of letter/rune/symbol on its body. On its forehead, perhaps?

Can anyone remember such a creature? What story or culture is it from?

(I'm not thinking about golems, which have words inside. This was on the outside.)

Thanks for any help!


  • Hi. I think you may be referring to the Chinese "Jiang Shi," which usually translates to zombie (as in "Plants vs. Zombies"), but traditionally has some differences from the western zombie. The one you're thinking of, I suspect, is that sometimes such dead bodies can be animated if a sorcerer pastes a paper with some magic words onto their forehead. This isn't the only way of creating a Jiang Shi, but it's the most immediately recognizable one. Apparently sometimes a person can rise from the grave if they just have a bad attitude, if an animal jumps over their corpse, or various other reasons.

    Also Jiang Shi are known as "Chinese hopping zombies" because they can hop! Which is pretty cool -- somehow more frightening, and sillier at the same time.

    Here's a link to a google image search for Jiang Shi. That should help you recognize if this is it or not.
  • The Golem is usually represented with the word "emet", "truth" on his forehead. By erasing the silent alef over the unwritten vowel "eh", it becomes "mat", "dead".


  • There's a wonderful Ted Chiang story which makes heavy use of and extends the golem idea. Anything by Ted Chiang is worth reading anyway.
  • For some reason a world where golems and jiang shi are in constant silent struggle seems really appealing...
  • @David: Joshua speaks true, the original golem of the jewish legend has letters on the forehead. Only the golems in Pratchett's discworld have them inside their head, I think.
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