Who Is Khonshu In Moon Knight? The God Explained

Moon Knight, one of Marvel's most fascinating characters, has finally entered the MCU. Marc Spector is not only unique among his comic book colleagues but is also unlike any other hero currently a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is a man constantly at war with himself. His mind is fractured, with several distinct personalities having emerged, though whether that stems from dissociative identity disorder or brain damage from a cruel god depends on what comics you read. It seems the Disney+ show will attribute it to the former, which is the more common explanation. The god Marc fights for is the same god responsible for shattering his psyche.

Left alone to die in the desert one day, Marc's life would've ended had he not been laid at the feet of the idol of Khonshu. When the god offered him a way to survive, what choice did Marc have but to accept? In surrendering himself to Khonshu, Marc's life was no longer his own. Every aspect of him was offered up in service to the vengeful god, who refuses to let him go. Even if Marc dies, Khonshu will just resurrect his champion. 

So, who is this god who restored Marc's life while also stealing it from him forever? Let's talk about Khonshu.

God of the moon

Much in the same way that Marvel has pulled from sources such as Norse Mythology or Christianity to create certain characters, Khonshu stems from the Egyptian deity Khons (also spelled Chons or Khonsu). While the Marvel version of Khonshu was created by Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz in "Moon Knight" #1 in 1980, the creators were definitely pulling from stories about the Egyptian god of the moon and time. He was part of a triad, son to Amun and Mut. His name is generally thought to mean "to travel," likely referencing his journey across the sky. It was believed he could influence fertility not only in people, but also in their livestock, and he was tied to healing as well. In fact, he was considered such a protector of the people, that it wasn't uncommon for children to be named after him. During certain times, he was worshipped as a compassionate god. However, other time periods saw the deity as far more frightening and violent. He was a god who consumed other gods, even described as "Khonsu who lives on hearts."

This interpretation of the god seems far closer to the Khonshu of Marvel Comics, an Egyptian god with four aspects: Pathfinder, Embracer, Defender, and the Watcher of Overnight Travelers, as well as a secret aspect, The One Who Lives on Hearts. In Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey's brief but great run on "Moon Knight" Vol. 7, Marc's psychologist posits that it's these aspects of the god that have sprouted up in his mind, irreparably damaging his brain as it struggles to make sense of the foreign presence within. 

Khonshu is described not only as the God of the Moon, but also as the God of Vengeance (of course), and Shepherd of the Lost. He's not all vengeance all the time, either. The god also protects those who travel at night. Existing in an extra-dimensional realm and therefore unable to crossover to the Earthly plane, Khonshu needs an avatar to carry out his will. That's where Moon Knight, also known as the Fist of Khonshu, comes in. Marc Spector is not the first to carry this mantle.

Friend or foe?

While Moon Knight certainly has enemies, the greatest battle he has to fight often takes place within his own mind. He is Khonshu's avatar, fighting on behalf of the god, even when the two are estranged. Khonshu is Marc's savior, as well as the source of his power. However, in many ways, the god is also Marc's enemy, antagonizing him within his own mind and often making it difficult for him to separate fact from fiction.

Marc's mental health issues haven't always been handled well in the comics, and different writers have chosen various explanations for his behavior. In fact, certain comics have even questioned whether Marc is tied to Khonshu at all or if his connection to the god is all in his head. One near-constant aspect of a hero whose characterization has been somewhat inconsistent is Marc's inner struggle. Regardless of whether Khonshu is a figment of Marc's imagination, he wholeheartedly believes he fights on behalf of the god. He may be driven by vengeance, but it is not his own. Real or not — and it's generally portrayed as though he is — Khonshu is always pulling Marc's strings.

It's not that Khonshu has never been there for Marc, but typically, the god is an antagonist that he cannot escape. Khonshu is a presence that often taunts him and has forced him to do terrible things. Whether Marc has DID or has suffered severe trauma to his brain, Khonshu is the reason he's never been able to truly take control of his own life. Thanks to the events of the excellent "Moon Knight" Vol. 8 from Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood, he was able to finally break free from the god, at least for a time. More recently, Khonshu was imprisoned in Asgard after trying to take over the world — though it's unlikely that will last. Marc may have finally fully rejected his god, but he's still chosen to continue the fight of his own volition. Read all about it in the stellar current run from Jed MacKay and Alessandro Cappuccio.

In the Disney+ "Moon Knight" series Khonshu is voiced by none other than F. Murray Abraham. We'll have to wait and see what the MCU's iteration of the god will be like as "Moon Knight" unfolds. Hopefully, he'll be kinder to Mark than he is in the comics, but it seems doubtful.

"Moon Knight" is now streaming on Disney+.