In The Green Mile movie, it has been told that John Coffey has no history and he just appears from nowhere and seen crying with two dead girls, with no priors. I haven't read the novels by Stephen King, but is it the same description given in there too, the same talk between Paul Edgecombe and Coffey's lawyer? What is the origin of John Coffey's abilities and body scars, and what was his life like before his arrest?

I think the movie lacked the explanation about the scars if not the origin of magical healing powers, as if we assume that he was an angel and was dropped on earth by God, then magical powers of healing were provided to him by God but still why would God put him on earth with the scars?

  • Voted to reopen - I think it's answerable now. – Omegacron Jul 31 '15 at 17:58
  • @Omegacron - Agreed. Much better. +1 from me. Now, to find OP an answer :-) – Valorum Jul 31 '15 at 18:04
  • Related, not dupe; What do the flies represent? – Valorum Jul 31 '15 at 18:10
  • There is no answer to this question. Ultimately, it doesn't matter, either. – Race Bannon Aug 1 '15 at 19:19

TL;DR: We are never told anything exact, but the protagonist seems to believe that John Coffey has been wandering around the South for years, surviving on odd jobs & healing people.

WHAT is John Coffey: Nature & Ability

Like many of Stephen King's works, we are never given a definitive answer as to WHAT John Coffey is or how his abilities work exactly. The book never states that he is an angel, though he IS referred to as "a gift from God". It would seem that what he removes from a person - the black smoke and insects - is the "evil" from their body. In some cases, this is simply illness, but in other cases it's more. The warden's wife, for example, seems to have been

possessed by multiple demons, all of which John inhaled and later put into Percy.

In addition to his healing ability, Coffey could also know a person's true nature simply by touching them. This ability is demonstrated with both Percy AND Wharton (an inmate). Coffey also alludes to it when he tells the protagonist that he knows what a good man he is although they just met.

WHO is John Coffey: Scars & Past History

As for his previous history and scars, there is speculation among the guards that he was heavily abused when he was a child. Several references are made to how the scars resemble whip-marks and criss-cross his skin all over. The conversation you cite in the film doesn't exist, but a similar one occurs between two guards:

"Have you seen the scars on him?" Hammersmith asked abruptly. He was still watching his kids, who couldn't quite bring themselves to abandon the pleasures of the swing - not even for oatmeal-raisin cookies.

"Yes." But I was surprised he had.

He saw my reaction and laughed. "The defense attorney's one big victory was getting Coffey to take off his shirt and show those scars to the jury. The prosecutor, George Peterson, objected like hell, but the judge allowed it. Old George could have saved, his breath - juries around these parts don't buy all that psychology crap about how people who've been mistreated just can't help themselves. They believe people can help themselves. It's a point of view I have a lot of sympathy for - but those scars were pretty ghastly, just the same. Notice anything about them, Edgecombe?"

I had seen the man naked in the shower, and I'd noticed, all right; I knew just what he was talking about.

"They're all broken up. Latticed, almost."

"You know what that means?"

"Somebody whopped the living hell out of him when he was a kid," I said. "Before he grew."

This would seem to indicate that he was beaten & abused as a child. Seeing as how the protagonist

lived to be over 104 years old after being healed by Coffey, yet only appeared 80,

it's entirely possible that Coffey is far older than he looks. And Coffey himself states that some of the scars are so old, even he can't remember where they came from. If we were to speculate, we could even hypothesize that Coffey was a former slave, which would make him about 80 years old in 1934. Regardless, the protagonist was able to track down rumors all over the South (and going back several years) of a large black man doing odd jobs in towns, only to disappear later after some tragedy or when someone was miraculously healed of illness.

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    +1 Though I'm pretty sure the warden's wife simply had a brain tumor. Any magic weaponization of said cancer is caused by Coffey. – Andres F. Aug 1 '15 at 5:01
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    I always got the impression that the idea was that the scars indicated that he grew up in slavery, glad to see I'm not the only one. – Broklynite Aug 1 '15 at 9:07
  • @AndresF. - you may be right, but it seemed to be more. The protagonist even says outright that he thought it might be demonic possession, and she recoiled "like a leech from salt" as soon as she laid eyes on Coffey. The entire scene played out almost exactly like something from The Exorcist. – Omegacron Aug 3 '15 at 15:15

John coffey. Jc. Jesus Christ. A healer wrongly persecuted and misunderstood. Brutus, the bad guy Billy the kid represented the devil. The guards speaking amongst each other knowing they had no choice but to execute him and knowing God was going to punish them. Jc knowing it was coming and forgiving them. There are alot of similarities to the bible. But that could be mere coincidence.

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  • So John Coffey is really Jesus reincarnated? – phantom42 Aug 5 '16 at 12:22
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    If you look hard enough you will find a way to tie every story back to the bible. I give King more credit than to take such a typical, unoriginal path. Even though he often throws fanatic religious characters in his stories, he himself is not particularly "religious" and fences on the side of believing in God, but not religion. Answers like this are just cliche now. – Kai Qing Apr 7 '17 at 16:48

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