Harry Potter fans will be familiar with the creatures known as Inferi: re-animated corpses who slavishly obey whoever raised them back to (relative) life. So, they're basically zombies, right?
Well, not according to J.K. Rowling, who wrote about her slimy cadaverous creations recently on Pottermore...
Inferi are NOT Zombies, says J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling admits that Inferi and zombies are similar, but claims that they are still different in vital ways:
Inferi have much in common with zombies, which are mentioned as separate creatures within Harry’s world. I have several good reasons for not wishing to call the guardians of the locket Horcrux ‘zombies.’
Reason 1: Differing mythological traditions
The Inferi of Harry Potter's world stem from a different area of folkloric tradition. J.K. Rowling points out that 'zombies are not part of British folklore, but associated with myths of Haiti and parts of Africa.' While she has drawn upon many traditions in the creation of her magical world, JKR has made important distinctions between her creatures and pre-existent legends.
Reason 2: Inferi keep the Horcrux situation simple
Some stories from the zombie tradition involve a deeper connection between the reanimated corpse and the soul of the magician who raised them. JKR felt that this would clash with her Horcrux storyline, which already used the premise of soul-splitting to create dark magic:
While zombies of the Vodou tradition can be nothing more than reanimated corpses, a separate but related tradition has it that the sorcerer uses part of their souls to sustain himself. This conflicted with my Horcrux story, and I did not wish to suggest that Voldemort had any more use for his Inferi than as guards of his Horcrux.
So Zombies and Inferi are similar, but different
Personally, I always thought of them as different takes on a similar but multitudinous folkloric idea, kind of like the way that Twilight has vampires and Buffy has vampires, but the two types are very, very different in how they're created, killed and related to the world around them.
The last word, however, must go to J.K. Rowling, who notes:
To me, a zombie will always mean Michael Jackson in a bright red bomber jacket.
Do you think that zombies and inferi are the same thing?