Revenants in fiction
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In fantasy fiction, a revenant is a sentient creature whose desire to fulfill a special goal allows it to return from the grave as a creature vaguely resembling an intelligent zombie or jiangshi. Another possibility is that a powerful wizard returns a dead hero from the past to make him go on a quest that no living human would dare to undertake. Such a revenant may be just as intelligent as it was in life but its will is usually bound by the wizard who summons and controls it.
Merriam-Webster's definition of revenant is "one that returns after death or a long absence." In that the subject returns from death, one can easily see an association of the term with the undead in fantasy and horror fiction. On the other hand, unlike zombies, the revenant's "long absence" does imply a certain anachronism in its eventual return.
The term often implies some underlying motive of revenge prompting the return.
Examples in fiction
- The main character in Dreams of Darkness by Barry James is a revenant fighting a collective god, the Mondragoran, to prevent the apocalypse.
- In Peter Straub's Ghost Story, the female ghost is a revenant as declared by the protagonist. The revenant manifests itself throughout time and space at will and as different personalities to fulfill its mission of vengeance. In Ghost Story, the revenant manifests as Angie Maul, a young girl; and Anna Mostyn, an attractive young lady, to wreak havoc on the nephew of one of the original victims. Ann-Veronica Moore attacks the original victims and in life was known as Eva Galli.
- In Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, revenants are animalistic vampires who were violently killed by a group of vampires (rather than being turned in the traditional 3-day period).
- In the Die For Me series by Amy Plum, there are two kinds of revenants. When people die saving someone they become Bardia, who call themselves revenants, and when people die betraying someone, they become Numa. They are described as devastatingly attractive and depend on humans for their existence.
- EC Comics, in particular with their horror series such as Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear, often made use of revenant-like characters as a plot device, and in a manner consistent with the theme of an individual coming back from the grave to fulfill a specific task. Example stories which contain this theme include "The Thing From The Grave!" (Tales From The Crypt #22), "None But The Lonely Heart" (Tales From The Crypt #33), and "'Til Death" (The Vault of Horror #27), among others.
- In the Wildstorm comic series Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs Zombies, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson must deal with a zombie outbreak, which is led by Professor Moriarty who is a revenant.
- In DC Comic's current "Blackest Night" story arc, the Black Lantern Corps consists primarily of reanimated deceased superheroes and supervillains from the fictional universe of New Earth in the DC Multiverse.
- In the second book in Brandon Mull's series Fablehaven, a revenant guards an ancient magical item. It is described as a zombie-like creature with disheveled clothing and a nail sticking in its neck. In addition, it creates an intense irrational fear in all who approach it, and causes those whom it chokes to it to turn ghostly pale with white hair and in a zombie-like state with no feeling. Removing the nail from its cures all those who are affected, and kills the revenant.
- In the Girl Genius milieu, Hive Engines create Revenants by infecting normal people with Slaver Wasps. They are then bound to obey any command given by The Other. While stories say the Heterodyne Brothers are able to 'cure' the Revenant (by sucking the slaver wasp out of the person), it is commonly assumed that it is impossible to actually cure a Revenant. There are several different types of Revenant, including one which acts perfectly normally until given a command.
- In Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Shadow Moon's wife, Laura, dies in a car accident then returns as a revenant after he places a magical coin in her grave. She protects her husband from harm by killing his abductors and hopes that he will find a way to bring her fully back to life.
Revenants in film and television
- The 1973 Clint Eastwood Western High Plains Drifter involves a revenant; Eastwood plays the role of Marshal Jim Duncan, a man killed by the Carlin brothers in the town of Lago, Arizona, while investigating if the town was mining on government land. The plot consists of a "Stranger" riding into town on the day the Carlin brothers are due to be released from prison. The Stranger offers to protect the town's inhabitants from the Carlin brothers. As it happens, the townsfolk had hired the brothers to kill Marshal Duncan, then arrested the Carlins afterwards for a set-up gold robbery. In exchange for his protection, the town agrees to provide anything The Stranger wants, in which he indulges. The next day, the gunslingers arrive and attack the town without resistance; The Stranger is nowhere to be found. After dark, The Stranger comes back into Lago and kills the gunslingers while parts of the town burn. The next day, as The Stranger leaves the partially ruined town, he stops by Boot Hill, where Mordicai, the only person he befriended -- a dwarf he named as Sheriff and Mayor as part of his payment -- is carving "James Duncan" on the Marshal's grave. He says to The Stranger that he doesn't know The Stranger's name, to which Eastwood replies, "Yes, you do," before heading out across the plains.
- While never referred to as such, in the later Friday the 13th films, Jason Voorhees fits the description of a revenant.
- Similarly, the Creepshow character Nathan Grantham, a miserly old man who returns from the grave to seek revenge on the relatives who murdered him, can best be described as a revenant, although he is not given any specific title in his undead state during the course of the story. Creepshow is inspired directly by the various EC Comics horror series, being a tribute to them.
- The character of Eric in James O'Barr's The Crow is brought back from the dead to avenge his own murder, as well as the murder of his betrothed.
- In the animated series Teen Titans, Slade (known as Deathstroke in the DC comic) is revived by the demon Trigon to be used as the harbinger of the coming apocalypse. Slade, however, diverges from his typically villainous path and uses this new-found life to become an antihero and help annihilate Trigon.
- In the 2011 reboot of Thundercats, Pumyra is killed during the fall of Thundera and brought back as a Revenant by Mumm-Ra to serve as a spy and lover.
- EC-inspired revenant characters also appear in the 2007 horror film Trick 'r Treat in the segment The School Bus Massacre Revisited. Though the undead children in the story appear to devour their victims like modern zombies, the retention of their personalities, urban legend surrounding their creation, and the displayed ability of one to speak directly to his killer mark them as revenants.
- Les Revenants (in the US They Came Back, in the UK The Returned) is a 2004 French zombie film about the reaction of the inhabitants of a French town after the spontaneous return of 70 million deceased people who, unlike typical zombies, present as cognitively conscious and healthy, having not suffered any biological damage. The revenants, however, are not unlike children, having to relearn how to talk and remember.
- In Sheldon Wilson's 2004 indie sleeper hit Shallow Ground all the action in the film centers around a bloodsoaked revenant (portrayed by Rocky Marquette). This Bloody Boy is in fact an amalgamation of several murder victims of one crazed killer who was never caught.
- Les Revenants (international title The Returned) is a French supernatural drama television series loosely adapted from the 2004 film of the same name, consisting of an initial season of eight episodes. It focuses on the return of four core characters -- Camille, Simon, "Victor," and Serge -- who attempt to resume their lives in a remote French city located near a lake. The series was renewed for a second season, which aired in the fall of 2015.
Revenants in video games and gaming
- The classic first-person shooter Doom II introduced a new enemy type called 'Revenant', which was portrayed as a large demonic skeleton, reanimated through the use of cybernetic armor, equipped with two shoulder cannons that fired both regular and homing rocket missiles.
- In the Warcraft universe, revenants are minor elemental creatures who once served as foot soldiers for the malefic Old Gods when the world was young.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, the Warden may come across several revenants during their journey. There are eleven in the game, discounting DLC. All are incredibly dangerous, easily killing the Warden and his companions if they are not careful.
- In Dragon's Dogma, the playable character is an Arisen. The Arisen is a person whose heart is taken by a dragon, and must go on a journey to battle the dragon to get it back. Arisen can only be killed in battle. Given the circumstances of becoming an Arisen, and tasked with a goal after "death," the Arisen may be considered a revenant.
- Hack/Slash is a popular horror comic that features Revenants. They are usually referred to as Slashers, and many of them are undead and monstrous beings who return from the grave, usually for revenge.
- In the Legacy of Kain series, Raziel served the purpose of a revenant. He was murdered by Kain in the prologue of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, but was subsequently brought back by the Elder God as a soul-devouring wraith to avenge himself, while simultaneously tasked to fulfill the designs of the God.
- Soul Calibur 3 features a Revenant clad in a musketeer's outfit wielding two wave blades as a playable character. He is sometimes encountered in various characters' Tales of Souls mode.
- In Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness, revenants can be found at night.
- After the events of Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, John Marston is dead, and in Escalera, Seth is shown stealing the ancient mask, causing the dead, including John, to return as undead. As John was buried with Holy Water, he returns as a revenant with a man's soul, allowing the player to still play as him.
- In the video game Final Fantasy XI, revenants appear as a powerful deformed spirit found in the depths of cave systems.
- Commander Shepard (the protagonist of the Mass Effect trilogy) has a signature weapon, the M-76 Revenant Light Machine Gun. The Revenant's name is also a symbolic reference to Shepard, a soldier brought back to life by Cerberus' Project Lazarus to protect humanity.
- In Counter-Strike Online, Revenant appear as a boss that uses the fire skill in Zombie Scenario season 2. He can throw fireballs, dash, summon firestorms and heal.
- In the online game Ultima Online, the revenant is a creature that can be summoned by a necromancer character to attack a specified target. It is also a creature that spawns occasionally in the dungeon Khaldun.
- In the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, the revenant is a powerful undead creature strongly resembling a zombie, a far less powerful undead creature, at first glance.
- Scorpion, from Mortal Kombat, qualified as a revenant. He returned from the dead prior to the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament to avenge his death at the hands of the elder Sub-Zero, who would become a revenant after Scorpion took his revenge.
- In the online game City of Heroes, references are made in one story to 'The Revenant Hero Project'. This program inspired the enemies called Paragon Protectors, who exist within the villain group of Crey Industries. This project consisted of the harvesting of DNA from deceased heroes and the recording of their memories and personalities from life. A new body would be grown using the supplied genetic material and implanted with the memories of the past person, albeit with some minor adjustments to make that person subservient to Crey. This is the culmination of years of Crey research into cloning and memory implantation; they intended to keep the hero population in check by creating heroes of their own. They are in their own way bringing the dead back to life for the fulfillment of a task.
- In Cinematix Studios action roleplaying game Revenant, the protagonist, Locke D'Averam, is brought back from the dead by the wizard Sardok in order to save the island of Ahkulion from a mysterious sect, known as the children of the change; and to save the daughter of feudal lord Tendrick, whom the cultists had kidnapped.
- In the online game RuneScape, revenants are the powerful undead spirits of warriors who died during the God Wars.
- Revenants are some of the most powerful boss-level enemies in the role-playing game Dragon Age: Origins. They are highly resistant to almost all attacks, can strike multiple characters at once and possess some semblance of telekinetic power. These revenants are described in-game as corpses possessed by powerful demons.
- In Yasuhiro Nightow's video game/anime series Gungrave, the protagonist, Brandon Heat, is betrayed and murdered by his best friend, Harry McDowell. Heat returns as a revenant, re-animated through a complicated procedure called "necro-rise." The revenant's name is "Beyond The Grave," and while he is sentient, he seldom speaks as he embarks on a mission of vengeance against McDowell's Millenion Crime Syndicate. In the second installment of the video game franchise (Gungrave: Overdose), Jyuji Kabane is introduced as another revenant protagonist who joins forces with Heat. Jyuji was dead once, but re-animated by the Corisione crime family to be experimented on. After the experiments, Jyuji was injected with the series' apocalyptic drug, Seed, and left for dead. However, the blinded Jyuji uses a mysterious form of meditation to keep himself alive as he seeks revenge on The Corisiones.
- Guild Wars 2 has a playable class called Revenant.