Skeleton (undead)

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Animated skeletons in The Dance of Death (1493), a woodcut by Michael Wolgemut, from the Liber chronicarum by Hartmann Schedel.
A CG art skeleton, as commonly found in modern fantasy-theme games

A skeleton is a type of physically manifested undead often found in fantasy, gothic and horror fiction, and mythical art. Most are human skeletons, but they can also be from any creature or race found on Earth or in the fantasy world.

Myth and folklore[edit]

Animated human skeletons have been used as a personification of death in Western culture since the Middle Ages. The Grim Reaper is often depicted as a hooded skeleton holding a scythe (and occasionally an hourglass), which has been attributed to Hans Holbein the Younger (1538). Death as one of the biblical horsemen of the Apocalypse has been depicted as a skeleton riding a horse. The Triumph of Death is a 1562 painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder depicting an army of skeletons raiding a town and slaughtering everyone.

Figurines and images of skeletons doing routine things are common in Mexico's Day of the Dead celebration, where skulls symbolize life and their familiar circumstances invite levity.

"The Boy Who Wanted the Willies" is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale in which a boy named Hans joins a circle of dancing skeletons. Mekurabe are rolling skulls with eyeballs who menace Taira no Kiyomori in Japanese folklore.

Modern fiction[edit]

The animated skeleton features in some Gothic fiction. One example is in the short story "Thurnley Abbey" (1908) by Perceval Landon, originally published in his collection Raw Edges. It is reprinted in many modern anthologies, such as The 2nd Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories and The Penguin Book of Horror Stories.

They have also been used and portrayed in fantasy role-playing games or adventure games such as Dungeons and Dragons and Minecraft. The basic animated skeleton is usually a low-level form of undead, and considered suitable for use against novice players.

Undead skeletons have been portrayed in fantasy films such as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), Army of Darkness (1992), and Corpse Bride (2005).