In the “King Ramses’ Curse” episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog we have three plagues — since storytelling loves The Rule Of Three — and the plagues comprise a mixture of ancient and comically modern curses.
This horror comedy for children takes inspiration from ancient holy texts such as found in the Bible and in the Quran.
In the Bible we have The Ten Biblical Plagues, also known as The Plagues of Egypt.
In the Quran there is also mention of a plague and it’s pretty similar except it happens all at once.
STORY STRUCTURE OF KING RAMSES’ CURSE
Muriel and Eustace are obliviously going on with their lives inside their house in the middle of Nowhere.
Courage sees a crime happening right outside his window but is unable to stop Eustace from getting himself involved.
To go back a bit, this episode opens with the story of the baddies. Two creatures (cats? mice?) have stolen an ancient engraved stone tablet. In a scene out of a heist movie a helicopter (or something similar) is on their trail. There’s an ominous black trail following them. We later realise this is a swarm of locusts.
In a scene out of (and possibly inspired by) Fargo (1996) the creatures bury the stone near the side of the road. They’re being terrorised by this thing following them and will come back for it later.
The camera pans to reveal that all this has happened, quite literally, outside Eustace and Muriel’s house.
We never hear from these criminals again. They are a classic case of a McGuffin in storytelling. They exist only to get the story going and then they disappear.
Courage wants to know what’s going on outside his front window. In typical pet dog fashion, he takes great interest in whatever’s going on outside while his owners go about their own day obliviously.
Eustace wants to be rich. Not because his needs are particularly great, but because he likes the power that goes along with it.
We have already seen the supernatural opponent — it appeared first as a curlicued shadow across the bonnet of the thieves’ car.
We see it more fully after Eustace decides to keep the tablet for himself.
The much weaker and more more comical opponent here is Eustace.
Courage has seen the thieves bury something so he brings it inside to show Muriel and Eustace. He also knows that there’s something fishy and scary about the tablet because etchings keep disappearing from it. A screenshot serves to foreshadow what’s going to happen in the episode, though the viewer doesn’t really have time to examine them.
It just so happens that on the TV there is a million dollar reward for the return of this ancient stone. Eustace plans to hand it in, collect his reward and buy garden chairs.
Another character turns up. In the Courage stories we often end up meeting the characters who have first appeared on TV. This man is here to collect donations for some archeological society. Donations of a million dollars mean a free tote bag. It wasn’t necessary for the plot for this guy to turn up but it fleshes out the story by adding another opportunity for interaction and also a good gag about charity culture. The other thing that happens when a character off the Bagges’ TV turns up in real life: The line between TV and reality is blurred, or perhaps it is demolished, in a metafictive sense. The audience is very aware that this is a story.
If Eustace won’t give the tablet back (and we know he won’t), the supernatural being will initiate three plagues.
- The house fills up with water. (A flood.) Courage saves the day by swimming from the attic to the basement and pulling out the plug. (The house has comically been turned into a bathtub.)
- The house fills with muzak. Again Courage saves everyone by finding the gramophone and smashing it with his baseball bat.
- A plague of locusts heads straight for the house. There’s no way Courage can stop this one.
After a battle scene in which Eustace is swinging Courage around, Courage returns the tablet to the supernatural being outside. Eustace does this, but when he thinks everything is over, and the being has run ‘out of ammo’ having used up his three plagues, he retrieves it. This time the locusts return and eat up half the house leaving it — as baddies often do throughout the series — in a completely unliveable state.
Meanwhile, another battle scene is going on in the kitchen. I assume Muriel is going on a baking frenzy as a way of coping with stress. Both Muriel and the kitchen and also the house get more and more frazzled/destroyed as the montage goes on. Muriel’s signature weapon is her rolling pin, so the oversized rolling pin is a symbol of battle.
Notice, too, that she is frying fish. I’m guessing this is a Christian symbol.
The view is through the removal of the so-called ‘fourth wall’. We don’t normally see Muriel’s kitchen from this point of view.
There is no helping Eustace, whose plans for new garden chairs have moved on to include spark plugs and other material goods.
We have a wonderful high angle shot of the house, which is now a bomb site.
Eustace — being his usual avaricious self — has refused to hand over the tablet and is now entombed somewhere in Egypt. Muriel wonders where he’s got to.