Zombies: Characteristics, Description and Personality +15 Facts

Discover with us the life of the Zombies. Learn about their origins and legends, differentiate the types that you can find in an apocalypse.


Zombies, origins and myths

Zombies are all the rage in today’shorror and dystopian fiction. Their presence in bookstores and movie theaters is inescapable, so you’re probably already familiar with the basics of them. They are undead with no common sense, almost invincible and bloodthirsty.

Characteristics of Zombies

Physical Description

Zombies come in all shapes and sizes. As long as the look is scary, there’s probably a zombie to match! Early folk zombies resembled a cross between ghosts and the ones we know and love today. They had the best of both worlds: solid, physical bodies with no signs of decay. However, they were often disheveled and had unfocused eyes.

After Hollywood got hold of zombies, a series of rapid transformations began. By the 1960s, the image was dominated by a single franchise: Night of the Living Dead. For the first time, zombies began to show signs of decay and oozing wounds. Their skin was pale, with sunken eyes, and they moved stiffly and slowly, arms outstretched in front of them.


In the 1990s, video games gave these undead a makeover. Usually infected with a viral disease, they had more severe wounds than their ancestors, and their eyes glowed blue or white. They still moved slowly, but their movement was more fluid, with heads that tilted and limbs that swayed.

The early 2000s saw another reincarnation of the zombie. This time, they were rabid monsters with inflamed skin and bloodshot eyes. They moved quickly and with jerky movements, appearing to be in a state of frenzy.

The later depictions have shrunk into a skeletal form, with yellowed skin, wrinkled to expose the muscles and fibers below. Despite having the fattest wounds of all time, these are faster and stronger than ever. They can run, climb, jump and tear you limb from limb.


Zombies have always been mindless creatures without emotions or complex thoughts, but they have not always been the murderous terrors we know today. The first zombies were tragic figures.

They were bodies left behind by souls who were trapped between heaven and earth, usually as a result of a violent death such as murder or suicide. Without their souls, they had nothing to give them direction, so they were recruited to work as slaves. After slavery was outlawed, zombies needed new masters.

They were adopted by voodoo leaders, called bokors, who claimed that they themselves had created the zombies. The zombies themselves did not change much. They had no common sense, but were not particularly dangerous (unless a bokor wanted you dead).Hollywood added the bloodthirsty twist to the zombie personality, transforming them into monsters whose only master is instinct and whose strongest instinct is hunger.

Special abilities

Though not the masters of their own actions, zombies are still powerful creatures with a variety of creepy talents. Hollywood zombies live to hunt, and like any hungry predator, they have finely tuned senses that help them detect prey.


Early zombies relied on vision and hearing, just like humans, but as zombie lore evolved, many of them lost their vision and began to rely heavily on their superb sense of smell. The emergence of nocturnal zombies created a new race with a talent for seeing in the dark.

Most zombies hunt for food, but when they ravage a city, the victims who are devoured are actually the lucky ones. Victims who are bitten, but not devoured, meet a more horrible fate.

They have been exposed to the zombie contagion, and unless they are executed by their friends, they too will be transformed into mindless monsters. Because the zombies are carriers of this plague, their numbers can quickly become an apocalyptic horde.

Eliminating a single zombie is nearly impossible. You can shoot them, rip off their limbs, crush them, and they will still crawl towards you, yearning to sink their rotting teeth into your flesh. If taking down a single zombie takes that much energy, imagine being trapped in a group of four or five zombies. You’ll probably end up getting eaten or infected instead of making a dent in the zombie population.

Cultural Representation of Zombies


The first germ of zombie-lore came from Africa, where the natives of Gabon and the Congo believed in dead spirits called ndzumbi or nzambi. The original role of these spirits is unclear. Belief in these prezombies spread during the 16th century, when the Atlantic slave trade began transporting millions of Africans to the Americas.

Belief in undead spirits became common in many Central and South American countries, but the most famous of these was Haiti. After years of brutality, Haitian slaves rose up and overthrew their masters.

In 1804, they were declared the first free African republic and, unlike Africans in neighboring countries, Haitians were free to practice their own spiritual beliefs. Unfortunately, their original beliefs had become confused with other world religions in the years since they left Africa.

From this mixture, a new religion was born: Voodoo. Voodoo absorbed many ancient African ideas, including undead“zombies,” but also put a new twist on the legend by claiming that the zombies were created and controlled by voodoo priests. Haitians believed that these beings were used as personal slaves of the priests, but the Western world, quick to slander Haiti, spread the idea that anything related to voodoo must be bloody and terrifying.

Modern appearances

Night of the Living Dead opened the floodgates for movies, books and games. Today, they are some of the world’s most iconic monsters, along with vampires, werewolves, ghosts and mummies.


Naturally, they were immediate superstars in horror movies, but they also helped spawn a whole new genre of dystopian/apocalyptic fiction, offering audiences a glimpse of the spooky end of the world. Notable productions include The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, World War Z, Zombieland, Dawn of the Dead and The Horde.

As cultural metaphors

You don’t have to be a fan of horror movies or video games to be fascinated by them. Many psychologists and sociologists have used zombies as a way to track the evolution of cultural fears over time.

The latest incarnations are said to have highlighted the “us versus them” mentality. Staged in a lawless, post-apocalyptic world, these films make human-human conflicts as dangerous as human-zombie conflicts. They also introduce the idea that curing zombies and reuniting humanity is the only way to save the world.

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