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Revenant Zombie

The Revenant is an older variety of zombie, originating in European folklore. They are less prone to rotting and falling apart than other zombies, in addition to normally retaining intelligence and memories of their previous lives. They are driven by a single burning purpose, most often vengeance or true love, driven by a desire so strong it can overcome even death. While conceptually very old, and the prototype from which many other undead derive, the revenant has largely faded from modern works in favor of more modern breeds of zombie, as well as the bloodsucking vampire. Often Living on Borrowed Time.

See also Ghostly Goals, Unfinished Business, Purpose Driven Immortality.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The "zombies" in Zombie Loan are more like Revenants, as they pass as human and only gradually lose their emotions.
  • Brook from One Piece, a living skeleton resurrected by the power of his devil's fruit.
  • The resurrected Number Ones in Claymore.
  • A weird heroic example occurs in Part 5 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure with Bruno Buccelatti, who accidentally ends up as a Revenant zombie thanks to some odd Stand powers and his own determination.
  • Sid Barret from Soul Eater is this, since he retains his memories and personality. Besides the Undeathly Pallor and a hole in his head that he covers with a headband, he's basically the same as a normal person.
  • The Zombfags or ZQNs of I Am A Hero, as they are technically still alive although with increased aggression and hallucination.
  • Ayumu Aikawa from Is This a Zombie? is this type of zombie, as is the first season Big Bad. They could easily pass for human, aside from not being able to go out in sunlight without their bodies rapidly dehydrating.
  • UQ Holder has introduced a character explicitly called a revenant: Santa Sasaki. Although he's a ghost rather than a reanimated corpse, he fits all other aspects of the trope (the original revenants could be spirits as well as zombies).

    Comic Books 
  • The "slashers" in Hack Slash are another rare example of a modern canon repeatedly depicting this kind of undead. Scientists researching them actually refer to them as "revenants", or "revs".
  • The Black Lantern Corps is definitely this version; they retain the powers and attitudes of the live characters, but pursue those who appeared to have "cheated" Death. In the DCU, this could mean just about everyone, but there actually are SOME distinctions.
  • Dead Girl in X-Force is fully sentient, doesn't rot, and first rose to take vengeance on the guy who murdered her. She has limited memories of her life, however, which causes her some angst.
  • The Returners from Dead Eyes Open.
  • A great many undead in the various EC Comics were revenants out to deal Karmic Death. (The others were usually Voodoo Zombies.)

  • The protagonists of the film and graphic novel series The Crow are classic revenants who are brought back to life by the title bird in order to seek justice for themselves and the people they loved. As long as the bird is alive, and as long as they remain focused on their quest for revenge and do not develop emotional ties to the living, they can heal any wound dealt them and cannot be killed. They also have the ability to cleanse others of whatever poison is in their systems, they can see through the eyes of the bird, and they have some measure of psychometric ability in regards to things that remind them of their former life and what happened to them, as well as the ability to transfer any memories they have by touch.
  • Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th, in movies between Part VI and Freddy vs. Jason, is a corpse in various stages decomposition who is driven by the need to kill.
  • Of all the zombie types listed, those from Undead or Alive more closely resemble the revenant. However, they become zombies due to the "White Man's Curse" cast on them prior to the death of Geronimo in the Wild West, they can only be killed by having their heads removed, and the curse is curable by eating the living flesh of the person who cast it.
  • Johnny Dingle from My Boyfriends Back.
  • Godzilla himself in Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack! is the re-animated corpse of the original monster driven by the souls of those who died in WWII to exact vengeance on Japan for forgetting what had happened.

  • Zombies vs. Unicorns story "Cold Hands" has zombies most like this - something about the area makes dead people just rise from the grave sometimes, but they're fairly benign, retain some intelligence and memories, and are usually put to work doing menial labor. James especially is a Type R.
  • An unusual sci-fi version of the revenant occurs with the Reifications in Neal Asher's The Polity books, specifically The Skinner and The Voyage of Sable Keech. People who have chosen the unusual step of keeping their deceased bodies after a death which allowed some of their brain or consciousness to survive (as a mind-copy). Most people choose to have their mind copies uploaded into a new human or robotic body, whilst these guys prefer being animated with cybernetics and preserved with chemicals. May or may not have any living parts remaining. A splendid way to have undead IN SPACE.
  • The zombies of Terry Pratchett's Discworld mostly fall under this classification. They are completely sentient, and generally maintain their old personalities to every extent, but are basically powered by their will to live; a person who becomes a zombie is generally much stronger than they used to be, being unburdened by all the creakiness of their old body. (Although, if it's not properly preserved, it'll fall to bits, and many zombies are covered in stitches.) The lurching Zombie Gait is explained as being because, with their entire autonomous nervous system shut down, they have to think about every move they make and control their muscles consciously. Also, being dead, they tend to smell.
    "They appreciate gifts of cologne, perfume and other strong-smelling items—and believe me, you will want to give them these things."
    • It should be noted that zombies do not exist in great numbers in Discworld, as very few people manage to achieve the level of obsessiveness or bloody-mindedness needed to become one. They're not considered a problem by the living population, although there are prejudices. The novels have featured three zombies as main or recurring characters:
      1. Reginald Shoe, a former romantic revolutionary, who after his death in the Ankh-Morpork civil war (or rather, the last substantial one, in Night Watch, not the civil war that overthrew the last King of Ankh) thirty years prior to the present time became a mortuary worker and fervent Death Rights activist. After the events of Feet of Clay, he also became the first (and so far only) zombie recruit of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. He is a highly valued policeman, known for his calm and laconic humour. To quote Watch Commander Vimes, Reg Shoe was a man born to be dead.
      2. The wizard Windle Poons, who, after his death aged 130 years old (in Reaper Man) became a zombie due to the fact that Death was temporarily not available to take away Poons' soul. The undead Poons had more fun during the couple of days spent as a zombie than during the 100 years prior.
      3. Mr. Slant, a lawyer and president of the Guild of Lawyers. Has no discernible sense of humour. In fact, it is said that the only effect death had on Mr. Slant was that he started working through his lunch break. His will to live originates from the fact that his descendants still refuse to pay him for the case where he defended himself, lost, and was beheaded.
    • Though not a recurring character, Witches Abroad features Baron Saturday who was revived as a zombie by a local witch. Other than the method of revival, he doesn't differ from any of the other zombies in Discworld, not going about eating brains or Human flesh or what have you. (And it's stated that the ritual to create a zombie depends on the dead person co-operating.) He just happens to become the embodiment of Voodoo magic, a consciously created god, and a Captain Ersatz of our world's Baron Samedi.
    • Though in Monstrous Regiment there are the standard shuffling zombie kind in the form of former soldiers in the castle catacombs, being kept alive by the Duchess who in turn is being kept alive by all the prayers sent in her direction as opposed to the Gods. Reginald Shoe actually observes them and says that they could be rehabilitated with some effort.
      • It should be noted that Reg also says that of the perfectly ordinary dead inhabiting the graveyards. Elsewhere in the book these zombies are described as mere memories on legs.
  • Mercedes Lackey's Phoenix and Ashes offers incorporeal revenants, distinct from true ghosts in that they are so obsessed with revenge that they cannot think rationally.
  • Shadow's wife, in American Gods, is brought back as one of these after Shadow unwittingly leaves a very special gold coin in her grave during the burial. She is still decaying (slowly, thanks to the formaldehyde), but retains all her memories and love for Shadow. It gives them a chance to say goodbye and make peace with how she died (and with whom) before she dies again in a partly successful Heroic Sacrifice against Loki/Mr. World
  • In Brenna Yovanoff's debut novel The Replacement (which is about the trials of a changeling boy who was kept alive by the love of his sister and wants to stop his girlfriend's kid sibling from being sacrificed) any changeling kid who is not kept alive can become this, if you dig them up and say the right words. The Morrigan's court is populated by these, called "the blue girls", who mostly act just like normal humans—except for the fact that they died when they were only babies, and grew up. Also, they're rotting. One girl is described as having a mouth full of maggots, another has her collarbones showing. And another one likes to play with the gash on her throat—which the parents of the girl she was switched for cut there themselves at the crossroads underneath a full moon.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, this is the case for people who are resurrected with the flames of Rh'llor retain their consciousness and memories (although they seem to increasingly lose identity if resurrected more than once). They are also shown as devoted to carrying out goals they held in life, albeit in a more extreme/singleminded version than they did when alive. There's also the character known as Coldhands, who appears to be a unique example of a wight that retained humanity and also appears to have an element of the singlemindedness (he was a member of the Night's Watch in life and remains loyal to it).
  • The "hungry dead" of Graveminder by Melissa Marr seem to be mostly this type.
  • Revenant-type undeads often figure in the Sagas of Icelanders. They are basically living corpses rising from their graves, are often supernaturally strong, and can drive animals and people mad or make them sick by their mere presence. Some examples:
    • Grettir from The Saga of Grettir the Strong, fights and kills two undeads: Kár, a haugbui (barrow-guy), and Glámr, a draugr — the most vicious and aggressive kind of undead.
    • In Eyrbyggja Saga, Thorolf Twist-foot turns into a draugr after death.
    • In Laxdoela Saga, Hrapp turns into a draugr after death.
  • In Portlandtown The Hanged Man is sapient, capable of speech, and motivated by a desire to get his gun back and to kill those he feels wronged him.
  • An Army Of The Dead has, as the title suggests, a whole army of revenated undead. They only last a battle, however.

    Live Action TV 
  • Kai from Lexx is essentially this, but with a few modifications.
  • Owen Harper is killed in series 2 of Torchwood and is zombified the next episode. He's perfectly normal other than the fact most of his bodily systems no longer function.
  • A Revenant appears in the Supernatural season two episode "Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things". She is reanimated by an ancient Greek spell, exactly as she was in life with the exception of superhuman strength, virtual immunity to physical damage and a single-minded focus on punishing her boyfriend and the woman with which he was cheating on her.
  • In the Young Blades episode "Coat of Arms," a member of a secret society steals a magical artifact from a dead knight. The energy from another of the society's magical artifacts resurrects the knight. He doesn't seem to be intelligent or conscious, but can sense where his artifact is and will do anything to retrieve it.
  • The "Homecoming" episode of Masters of Horror is about dead US soldiers rising from their graves to vote the Straw Conservatives out of office.
  • Ghost Whisperer had "step-ins", souls who posses very recently dead bodies, usually out of love. The problem is if the transfer's successful the soul loses its memories and, not knowing why its doing things like stalking strangers, eventually goes insane and commits suicide. For example, a guy who possessed a badly damaged corpse whose "owner" really didn't appreciate being body-jacked (this was before step-ins were properly explained), a guy who entered a man's body to reunite with his girlfriend but didn't remember why he kept stalking her, and main character Melinda's husband, who eventually regained his memories after a near-death experience. The explanation was provided by the ghost of an insane asylum's doctor who talked to living patients while they were having electroshock therapy in order to drive them more insane and become step-ins themselves because he wanted to find a way to become one without losing his memories.
  • In the Tales from the Crypt episode "Doctor of Horror", a mad doctor steals the soul of his assistant who comes back from the dead for revenge.
  • The Jossverse occasionally depicted this type of zombie, most overtly in the Angel episode "Provider". The undead Juvenile Delinquents in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Zeppo" were raised by Voodoo rituals, but acted like this version.
  • French drama series Les Revenants (obviously) revolves around said revenants and their return to a "normal" life.
  • The zombies (or Partially Deceased Syndrome Sufferers) of In The Flesh start out fairly conventional when they rose from the grave, albeit with rather more intelligence than the classic Hollywood zombie. After capture, treatment with appropriate drugs and rehabilitation, they are practically human, except for the not needing to eat, not healing properly and not ageing thing.

  • The title character of Warren Zevon's song "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner". Roland was the leader of a mercenary team who was murdered by one of his comrades (A man named Van Owen) at the direction of the CIA. Roland (Whose head is apparently entirely missing after this incident) tracks Van Owen to a bar in Mombasa, Kenya where Van Owen was confronted and killed. Roland continues on afterwards, apparently continuing to take up causes as a mercenary.
  • In Sound Horizon's "Märchen", the eponymous man is brought back into the world to enact revenge. He can't exactly remember who he's supposed to be enacting revenge against, so he just goes about granting the opportunity for revenge to whatever wronged soul is seeking it. One of these souls also becomes a revenant, returning to the landlady who cut out her liver to take it back (or, more accurately, get a replacement).
  • Insane Clown Posse has a song called "12" which features a man who was given the death penalty coming Back from the Dead and using supernatural powers to seek vengeance on the jury which convicted him. He is most certainly Living on Borrowed Time, and grows weaker with each kill he makes as another one of "The Spirits" leaves his body and as the sunrise approaches. By the time he's reached his last victim, he's falling apart and shuffling along more like a Romero-esque zombie. Another song by the Clowns features this type of undead. The song is a Halloween-themed tune titled "Mr. Rotten Treats" and is an homage to the A Nightmare on Elm Street films.
  • Creature Feature 's song "one foot in the grave" is hinted to be about a zombie of this particular persuasion who's only still walking because heaven won't take him, hell won't take him, and death doesn't want him. It goes out of it's way to point out that he(or possibly she) is suffering immeasurably as a result.
  • "Drink With The Living Dead" by Ghoul Town deals with a revenant who must, each night, challenge someone to out drink or duel him before he can finally die. As the latter is far from a good idea, the protagonist must do what it says in the title.


  • When We Dead Awaken by Henrik Ibsen closes in on this trope. Irene, former model for the protagonist Arnold Rubek, shows herself in a white attire, staring at Rubek with "empty, expressionless eyes", and is constantly followed by a nun. She stresses that she has been dead for quite a long time, but has an errand to Rubek, whom she also reckons as "dead". Even the title of the play spills into this territory. It is, however, unclear whether she is actually dead, or just clinically insane.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Another unusual version of revenants is the Harrowed from Deadlands. They are re-animated by demons, who are capable of possessing them when it's least needed and wreaking havoc. Most times, however, the Harrowed are normal revenants with the same souls and personalities they had in life (only angstier).
    • One can create a Revenant with powerful magic in the New World of Darkness; external forces can also construct one. A Revenant has certain supernatural powers, but their Virtue and Vice are replaced with Passions, which they must act on each day or eventually the power holding them to this world will dissipate. Otherwise, they're effectively mortal. Their antecedents were the Risen of the oWOD's Wraith The Oblivion; in order to become one, a wraith had to strike a deal with their Shadow, which would enable them to climb back into their corpse and pursue whatever goals brought them back to the lands of the living.
  • The trading card game Magic The Gathering features, among others, an interesting example in Jarad vod Savo, the guildmaster of the Golgari Swarm. After being killed, Jarad forced himself back to life through a combination of necromancy and sheer force of will, all in order to save his son from a demon-god called Rakdos. Having successfully saved his son, Jarad can now be seen in the card art for Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord. This troper enjoys pointing out the art of a roaring zombie sorcerer on his card to friends and mentioning that, in canon, the character is a loving father and on amicable terms with his ex-wife.
  • Heroes of Shadow has Revenants as a player character race, dead people brought back to the mortal realm to serve the will of the Raven Queen. Revenants also feature in the Ravenloft setting, and have had entries in the various Monster Manuals.
  • Pathfinder also has revenants - undead who seek out their murderers. They're fairly underpowered.
  • In the Rules Cyclopedia version of Dungeons & Dragons, the literal "revenant" monster is actually an evil spirit possessing a corpse; it's immune to low-level spells and even low-powered magical weapons, has a save-or-die poisonous touch to go with its claw/claw/bite routine and some spell-like abilities including finger of death and animate dead (which it likes to use in combination), can summon 1d4 spectres to its aid once per night, and for it's perhaps strangest ability may about once per encounter suddenly jump up to sixty feet. All in all dangerous, but despite the name not so obviously an example of this trope...although, since the writeup is silent on where the spirit actually comes from and what its motivations might be, it could like many other intelligent undead in the game be turned into one if desired.

    Video Games 
  • Revenant is a game where you play as one of these the whole time.
  • The Forsaken in World of Warcraft are basically revenants with some ghoul aspects. High ranking members of the Scourge (Liches, Death Knights and the like) mostly fit as well, as they retain a large amount of their personality and individuality.
  • Lord Raptor from Darkstalkers.
  • Brandon Heat/Beyond the Grave of Gungrave was raised from the dead via a special reanimation process (Necro-Rise/Necrolyzation), a process that revives the dead as zombie-like beings (which throws a bit of Artificial Zombie in the mix). Seeks revenge on his killer and the syndicate that betrayed him. Possesses a powerful self-healing ability, at the cost of losing almost all emotion and memory of his mortal life. The difference between him and other people brought back this way is that he retains a sense of self and will of his own. He can't spread his condition to others, and doesn't require food. However he needs complete transfusions of his rare blood type or else his body rots and falls to pieces. Interestingly, this issue, in the anime, is on PURPOSE...there is a better way to use Necro-Rise...
  • Zombies in the Shantae series can stay intelligent by drinking coffee. Case in point: Shantae's "ally" Rottytops, who is more or less a green human with a fondness for brains. She and her brothers are considered "bad news" around Sequin Land. Rottytops is quite fond of Shantae (although whether it's for her brains or morale is up to the player) and will help her on occasion.
  • The 'Puppets' of Thief: Deadly Shadows qualify as revenant types mainly because they were brought back to life by the sheer malevolent will of the Shalebridge Cradle and because, when not chasing down and killing intruders, they mindlessly repeat the same actions they performed in life (an obsessive compulsive painter continuously straightens and restraightens paintings) or wander areas relevant to their habits (i.e. the cannibal haunts the dining hall, the arsonist hangs around near the fireplace etc)
  • The lorn from Rift, who are basically Ascended Gone Horribly Wrong.
  • The Dragon Age series has Revenants as recurring boss-level enemies: dead bodies of evil people possessed by powerful demons of pride or desire after their death. Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening additionally plays with it, giving us a (benevolent) Spirit of Justice trapped in the decaying body of a Grey Warden named Kristoff, technically making him a zombie of this type.
  • Nanashi in Duel Savior Destiny is referred to as a zombie girl, but she's really closer to this. She reanimated herself and when undead in this series raise themselves it's because of some sort of Ghostly Goals. Unfortunately for her, Nanashi has no clear memories so she can't recall if she really does have any goals like that. She doesn't. She's not undead at all, she's actually a homunculus created via alchemy.
  • Caleb from Blood returns from the dead as a revenant to seek revenge against the Cabal for betraying him.
  • The Unsent in Final Fantasy X are a heavy-duty version. They're dead people who are driven to complete a task or take care of their unfinished business. Many who die violently in Spira end up going insane and becoming fiends, but an Unsent retains their human form and sentience through sheer force of will and nothing short of completing their task or a Summoner's ritual will send them to the afterlife.
  • With the minor variation that he did it to himself to be able to keep on doing the single burning purpose, Aesliip (a draugr) of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: Bloodmoon is pretty much this (including the intelligence, which is good for him, seeing as he's a mage).
  • Doom has Revenants that the manual states are demons rebuilt and rearmed with a homing missile launcher (the appearance and pain sounds imply Revenants are specifically derived from dead Imps), and while they may not have the best AI they certainly retain their original "single burning purpose": kill that pesky space marine! The Zombies themselves also fit this trope more than the typical zombie, being reanimated by demonic possesion (and smart enough to use weapons).
  • The titular zombie in the Flash game Sonny is an interesting variation. While he's sentient, he has no memory of his past. He does meet a few others (Veradux and Felicity) who apparently have the same condition as he (and probably don't have the memory loss). There are also other conventional zombies, and then there's the Mega Corp. that is tasked on terminating them and do not give a damn that they are different.
  • You play as one in Dark Souls, and most of the characters you meet are similarly Undead. In this case it's a curse that gave them undeath, not a driving purpose, although it has been implied that a strong sense of purpose can stave off the process of Hollowing (which causes the Undead to lose its mind and become uncontrollably violent).

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Stalker from Tasakeru. Resulted from the parasitic fusion of a baby Giant Spider to an (unlawfully) executed rapist.
  • Black Lantern Spoony from The Spoony Experiment is this. His goal is to devour the hearts of all the other Spoony-based characters (but especially the clone that runs the show now) so he can feel whole again.
  • JourneyQuest features Carrow, a cleric that becomes undead after a botched resurrection spell. Having retained most of his personality and memories, he fits in this category. He has still serious trouble with his state, though, since his god is seriously antagonistic to undead.

    Western Animation 
  • Zombies on Ugly Americans are still the same people the were in life – same thoughts, feelings, and memories – just more prone to having bits fall off.
  • The Zombies are revealed to be this in Paranorman.
  • The zombies from Corpse Bride fall into this category, since they retain memories of their past lives, are as intelligent as the living, and don't appear to rot (if they do, the process is gradual enough to not notice). However, they don't follow the "driven by a purpose" aspect since, when one dies, they're instantly sent to the Land of the Dead instead of coming back to life in the Land of the Living. The only one who follows the "driven by a purpose" aspect is Emily, the titular Corpse Bride, who was murdered on the night she was to elope with her lover, and made a vow to wait until her true love came to accept her hand in marriage.

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alternative title(s): Revenant
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