What Do Zombies Really Eat?

A closer reading of the literature proves the menu for your next zombie gathering is more complicated than just "brains."


In the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, Ishtar, the goddess of love and war, threatens to start a zombie apocalypse: raising the dead to eat the living. It’s the oldest reference to zombies in the world. It makes no mention of brains in particular.


Nachzehrer by Flibertyjibbeth on DeviantArt

Some say the Nachzehrer from German mythology is actually a vampire, but blood is not on its menu. Instead, after rising from the grave, the ghoul eats its own flesh. As the Nachzehrer feasts, its living relatives become sick.


Draugr by Rametic on DeviantArt

The Draugr was the undead gym rat of Norse mythology. The rotting corpse roamed the countryside and swelled to enormous sizes to show off its strength. It passed the time haunting people and, we assume, eating whey protein by the fistful.


Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of Tarzan, also wrote a sci-fi serial that features zombies ... in space. In Lost on Venus, a mad scientist named Skor steals blood from the living and uses it to revive the dead, who do his bidding. Brains weren’t part of their undead repertoire.


(Image credit: Flickr user OpenThreads)

According to the world’s most gullible 12th-century historian, William of Newburgh, undead revenants terrorized medieval Europeans for decades. They were nicer across the pond. On All Souls’ Day, the Cochiti Pueblo people would leave corn, beans, peas, and watermelons in church for them.


Pop culture’s first true zombies didn’t eat brains. The script for Night of the Living Dead simply says they eat flesh. “I’ve never had a zombie eat a brain!” director George Romero told Vanity Fair in 2010. “I don’t know where that comes from. Who says zombies eat brains?”


The article above by Sean Hutchinson appeared in the Scatterbrain section of the November 2015 issue of mental_floss magazine. It is reprinted here with permission.

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