In The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser, the Medjai, led by Oded Fehr’s Ardeth Bay, are a group of nomadic protectors dating back to the days of the pharaohs, and they really did exist. In the movie, however, the Medjai’s history has been changed quite a bit. The Mummy depicts the group as the pharaoh’s guards and police force. the group continues to secretly protect Egypt and stop the rise of the undead mummy Imhotep. Oded Fehr’s character Ardeth Bay leads the modern incarnation of the group, eventually working with Rick O’Connell and Evelyn Carnahan to take down Imhotep after he was accidentally revived. The Medjai are identified by special tattoos, typically on their faces or wrists, that help to distinguish their resilience and duty to the order.
The Medjai were indeed an ancient organization that operated widely during their time. Their role in The Mummy has a strong historical precedent as the Medjai served as royal guards in Thebes and other important locations around Egypt. Eventually, the Medjai ceased operations sometime after 1100 BCE. Though the Medjai faded away in history after the 20th dynasty of Ancient Egypt, it’s unknown if they stopped functioning altogether or merely adopted a new name. Regardless, The Mummy revives and reinvents the group from history.
The Medjai’s Tattoos In The Mummy Explained
The Medjai’s tattoos are given to them when they turn sixteen, to officially denote their role as defenders against evil. The ceremony is also a trial, since if the Medjai show any kind of pain or discomfort, it’s considered that they brought shame upon their family. Men within the group will get tattoos over their entire body, shown with Ardeth’s face tattoos that spell out the words “underworld” and “truth” in Egyptian hieroglyphics. Women will typically only have The Mummy‘s Medjai symbol tattooed on their wrist, without receiving any of the other tattoos that men would receive. Rick O’Connell was young in The Mummy when he got his wrist tattoo from the Medjai and he never recieved the face tattoos since facial tattoos would have stood out in western countries where they aren’t as common.
Tattoos have a real history in Ancient Egypt as well. Initially thought to be worn only by women, egyptologists eventually discovered that men would wear tattoos as well. Women’s tattoos typically related to religious worship or childbirth, while men would sport tattoos attesting to powerful beasts that they had hunted. The Medjai’s symbolic tattoos that meant they were warriors for God weren’t too far off from the real history since they also denoted a key importance to the wearer’s life.
What Happened To Ardeth Bay In The Mummy Movies
After Imhotep was defeated in The Mummy, a last-minute script change had Ardeth Bay survive and continue to watch over Imhotep’s tomb. In The Mummy Returns, when a group of cultists comes looking to revive the high priest once again, Bay sets out and rejoins Rick and Evie to put a stop to it. Once again serving as the leader of the Medjai, he guides them into battle against the Scorpion King. With the combined effort of the Medjai and the O’Connells, the rise of the Scorpion King and Imhotep is stopped.
While the Medjai didn’t necessarily protect the world from an ancient undead threat in reality, their history as Egypt’s protectors is very much based in fact. Ardeth Bay is a great example of using real historical precedent to create fiction, which makes his story much more interesting as a result. The Mummy took inspiration from real history, and found a creative way to bring it to a modern setting.