Thousand Nights and a Night notes: Ghuls

Ghouls have their origin in the Arabic/Persian/Indian tales of Alf Laylah wa Laylah - the Thousand Nights and a Night and in their root stories. As such, Sir Richard F. Burton, ninteeth century translator of the Nights, has a fair amount to say about them in the foot notes of his translation. The male Ghul, he paints as a creature who eats human flesh:

Arab. "Ghul," here an ogre, a cannibal. I cannot but regard the "Ghul of the waste" as an embodiment of the natural fear and horror which a man feels when he fases a really dangerous desert. As regards cannibalism, Al-Islam's religion of common sense freely allows it when necessary to save life, and unlike our mawkish modern sensibility never blames those who

Alimentis talibus usi
Produxere animos.

vi. 36

[That is:

"Employing such food extend lives."

(Thanks to Tim Spaulding for the translation.)] Ghuls in the Nights are rather fearsome, and do not seem to prey on humanity mearly through necessity. Their appetite is nearly insatiable:

Allah ease thee, O King of the age even as thou hast eased me of these Ghuls, whose bellies none may fill save Allah! ix. p. 152

Even their names are fearsome, such as this one - The-Ghul-who-eateth-man-we-pray-to-Allah-for-safety.

Burton had some additional comments on the female Ghuls and the origin of the word "ghul".

The Ghulah (Fem. of Ghul) is the Heb. Lilith or Lilis: the classical Lamia; the Hindu Yogni and Dakini; the Chaldean Utug and Gigim (desert-demons) as opposed to the Mas (Hill-demon) and Telal (who steal into towns); the Ogress of out tales and the Bala yaga (Granny-witch) of Russian folk-lore. Etymologicaly "Ghul" is a calamity, a panic fear; and the monster is evidently the embodied horror of the grave and the graveyard. i. p55

Other Thousand Nights and a Night notes:
Myths and
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