Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Worldbuilding A to Z: D is for Duat

Duat is the name of the Egyptian underworld. This is the place where the dead go to be judged in the Weighing of the Heart ceremony and the region they must travel through to get to the Egyptian version of heaven, the Field of Reeds. It was also the place that Re had to travel through in the sun barque during the twelve hours of the night and where he was nightly attacked by the serpent Apep.

The interesting thing about Duat is that it has a geography similar to the world the Egyptians knew. The landscape of Duat was painstakingly described in the text Amduat or "That Which Is In the Afterworld". The Book of Two Ways also contains a map of Duat. Duat had many normal geographic features such as rivers, islands, fields, lakes, mounds and caverns as well as more fantastic elements like lakes of fire, walls of iron and trees of turquoise. It was full of supernatural creatures and spirits who often guarded the many gates that the deceased had to go through and threatened them along the way. The Book of the Dead is essentially a guide book full of all the knowledge and spells a person needed to know to navigate Duat.

Duat is full of potential as a fantasy landscape and it will have a prominent place in my story. To that end I've been studying the Amduat so that I can make my recreation as true to the Egyptian version as possible. Because honestly, it's just awesome. But I'll also have the opportunity to flesh out what is known with my own imagination to create an epic adventure for my characters as they travel in Duat. My main four characters will be making one long journey through Duat and back into the living world towards the beginning of my story and at least two of them will be making a return to Duat towards the end. I'm not going to tell you their purpose or even how it is possible for them to go to the underworld and survive. You'll just have to wait until I finish. ;)

Tomorrow: Education and knowledge in my fantasy world of Akhet.


  1. The real world and its myths, legends and heroes are the root of much of what we think of as fantasy these days - as you've pointed out here before I'm sure, and likely far more knowledgeably than I could. Given this, it should be no surprise at all Duat seems to fit the genre, but it is still, at least for me. The ideas feel very fresh, and even the simple phrase "walls of iron and trees of turquoise" is an evocative one.

  2. I love these posts- super informative! Wasn't the Duat in The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan? I read it when it first came out so now it's all fuzzy. I enjoyed the book though!


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