Deals with the Devil in popular culture

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The idea of making a deal with the Devil has appeared many times in works of popular culture.

The theme enjoyed a large run of popularity in the twentieth century. At one point Anthony Boucher, editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, "reported that fully 50 percent of his unsolicited submissions consisted of deal-with-the-Devil stories or "formalities of the hereafter", which as often as not involved the Devil".[1]

In print[edit]

  • In many variants of the Aarne-Thompson type 361, of which Bearskin is an instance, the hero escapes, but the devil still comes off the better: the heroine's sisters have killed themselves, and he has gained two souls instead of one.
  • The story of Theophilus of Adana, a saint who made a deal with the devil, predates the Faust legend and is a likely partial inspiration.
  • The compact between human hubris and diabolical intelligence raises the old tale to its cultural peak in Goethe's Faust.

Other works depicting deals with the Devil include:

In film[edit]

  • Faust (1926): Faust makes a pact with the devil to save the town from plague. Directed by F.W. Murnau, starring Gösta Ekman and Camilla Horn.
  • The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)
  • Doctor Faustus (1967): a film based on Christopher Marlowe's The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, starring Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Andreas Teuber.
  • Bedazzled (1967): In this film, the main character exchanges his soul for seven wishes, each which leads to disaster, only for him to escape the deal when the Devil spares him out of pity.
  • Rosemary's Baby (1968): Guy Woodhouse offers his wife to the devil for wealth and success.
  • The Mephisto Waltz (1971), people transferring their personalities from one body to another with Satan's help, each such change "paid for" by committing a murder.
  • Poor Devil (1973), a TV movie comedy about a bumbling minor devil (Sammy Davis Jr.) trying to get the soul of bumbling human (Jack Klugman) on orders of Lucifer (Christopher Lee).
  • Belladonna (1973), a film inspired by 19th century perceptions of medieval witchcraft, centres on a woman's pact with the Devil
  • Phantom of the Paradise (1974): Swan makes a pact with the devil to remain youthful forever and photos will age and fester in his place.
  • The Devil and Max Devlin (1981): A crooked landlord, now deceased and in hell, is offered redemption by the devil if he succeeds in getting three others to forfeit their souls in exchange for his own.
  • Oh, God! You Devil (1984): A struggling musician makes a deal with the devil and finds out that fame and groupies are not worth the consequences.
  • The Transformers: The Movie (1986): Megatron makes a deal with Cybertron's version of the devil, named Unicron, in order to continue his "destiny" of galactic conquest, but in turn becomes his unwilling minion.
  • Crossroads (1986): A young man attempts to investigate Robert Johnson's legend.
  • Little Shop of Horrors (1986): Audrey II offers Seymour riches and women in return for human sacrifice.
  • Angel Heart (1987): The Devil tries to claim the soul he was promised by a man whose attempt to escape his deal resulted in him losing his memory.
  • The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie (1989): The Toxic Avenger made a deal with the Devil in order to get money for the eye operation for his blind girl friend, Claire.
  • Faust (1994): Mixed live-action and animation, directed by Czech surrealist Jan Švankmajer.
  • The Day of the Beast (1995)
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 (1996): The film's secondary antagonist Carface sells his soul in exchange for Gabriel's Horn. In the film the devil is depicted as a Hellcat named Red (voiced by George Hearn)
  • The Devil's Advocate (1997): A Florida attorney begins working for a law firm that is run by the Devil.
  • Spawn (1997): A military soldier/assassin sells his soul to a demon warlord named Malebolgia to become his eternal servant and leader of his army in Armageddon, in order to return to Earth to see his beloved fiancée, Wanda Blake.
  • H-E Double Hockey Sticks (1999): A devil-in-training convinces a rising hockey star to sell him his soul for the Stanley Cup.
  • Bedazzled (2000), a remake of the aforementioned 1967 original, the main character making a different set of wishes that end when he uses his seventh and final wish to make an unselfish wish that negates his contract.
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000): A trio of chain gang escapees in Depression-era Mississippi encounter a black youth named Tommy Johnson, who claims to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for being able to play the guitar.
  • Faust: Love of the Damned (2000): A man sells his soul in order to get revenge on his girlfriend's killers.
  • Pact with the Devil (2001)
  • Constantine (2004): Having informed Satan of his son's attempted coup of Hell, Constantine asks Satan to repay their debt by releasing Isabel, the twin sister of Constantine's ally Angela.
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005): In the metaphorical sense of the term, Anakin Skywalker pledges himself to the teachings of Darth Sidious, in that sense damning himself to get what he wants and becoming Darth Vader in return.
  • Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006)
  • Ghost Rider (2007): A young stunt rider sells his soul to the inter-dimensional demon Mephisto to cure his father's cancer. As with Faust, the demon takes liberties with his end of the bargain, his father surviving his cancer only to die in an accident.
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009): Doctor Parnassus, a prominent storyteller, made a deal with the Devil that would allow him to keep telling his stories, unaware that the world would move past its interest in his narrative style.
  • Heartless (2009): Jamie Morgan makes a devil's deal with Pappa B to have his birth marks removed and to live a normal life, in return he is suddenly informed that the terms of the deal can change whenever Pappa B wishes it.

In music[edit]

In television[edit]

  • ABC's television series 666 Park Avenue portrays many pacts resembling deals with the Devil, including a violinist paying for talent with his soul and a man forced to murder adversaries of the titular apartment building in return for his wife's return from the grave.
  • In the Fox series Brimstone, Ezekiel Stone (a police detective who has been killed and sent to Hell for murdering his wife's rapist) makes a deal with The Devil to recapture escaped sinners from Hell in return for which he will be allowed a second chance at life.
  • The Collector, about a former monk who sold his soul to the Devil in the 14th century.
  • Multiple episodes of The Twilight Zone involved sales of character's souls to the devil or to demons.
  • The Alice Cooper episode of The Muppet Show featured a plot in which Alice Cooper attempts to sell the Muppets a contract that promises "fabulous riches and worldwide fame" on behalf of the devil. Several characters consider the offer, while Gonzo fervently pursues the deal. Ultimately, he becomes frustrated at not being able to find a pen to sign away his soul.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Devil's Due", an alien planet's population had made an agreement with the devil, whereby their world's problems would be solved and they would have peace and prosperity for a thousand years, in exchange for their servitude at the end of that time; when that time runs out, a being appears claiming to be the Devil, but the Enterprise crew are able to prove that she is an impostor using technology to create the deception.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror IV", Homer makes a pact with the devil (who turned out to be Ned Flanders' "true" form) for a donut. He ends up keeping his soul as he had already given it to Marge in a love letter written at their wedding where he promised her his soul in exchange for her hand in marriage.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Bart Sells His Soul", Bart sells his soul to Milhouse for $5 when he believes that it is worthless by writing down "BART SIMPSON'S SOUL" on a piece of his church's stationery. He has a change of heart after he experiences abnormal changes in his everyday life, and spends the episode searching for it. Milhouse had sold the soul to the Comic Book Guy, who in turn sold it to Lisa, who bought it to return to Bart. When it is returned, he eats the paper to have his soul return to him.
  • The television series G vs E featured several people who made deals with the forces of evil. These people were known collectively as "Faustians".
  • The television series Supernatural features Crossroad Demons, who make deals with individuals who summon them by burying a box containing key items at crossroads in exchange for their souls; in the episode "In My Time of Dying", John Winchester makes a pact with the Yellow-Eyed Demon (Azazel)- who subsequently is implied to have contacted a Crossroad Demon- to bring his son, Dean, out of a coma which he has no hope of recovering from. In the later episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2", Dean makes a similar deal to save his brother Sam, where he will go to Hell a year after making the deal, but he escapes from Hell after four months when an angel drags him out. Other characters are seen making deals throughout the series, ranging from wishing to improve their professional careers to wishing for those they love to live, with the Winchesters' interest in saving them varying depending on the nature of the deal (They typically work to save those who made deals to benefit others rather than themselves).
  • In Metalocalypse episode "Bluesklok", the band is told to make a deal with the devil to get blues-playing skill.
  • The television series Reaper is about a young man, Sam Oliver, whose parents sold his soul to the Devil to save the father from a serious illness (Although, in their defence, they attempted to abstain from conception to prevent Satan receiving anything). He must work as Satan's bounty hunter, or his mother's soul is forfeit.
  • In the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the primary villain was the mayor of Sunnydale, who had ascended to power as the mayor in preparation for either ascending to immortal demonic status himself or losing his power and soul, after founding the town 100 years previously as a place for demons to feed.
  • In the Charmed episode "Soul Survivor", Paige discovers a businessman who sells his soul to a demon in exchange for success, and tries to rescue him; the first season episode "The Wedding from Hell" sees a rich woman forced to deal with the consequences of a deal she made two decades ago when a powerful demon seeks to marry her eldest son and conceive a demonic child.
  • In the Futurama episode "Hell is Other Robots", Bender is sent to Robot Hell for his sins. Fry and Leela enter Robot Hell to save him, where The Robot Devil tells them that the only way to win back Bender's soul is to beat him in a musical contest using a solid gold fiddle (in accordance to "The Fairness in Hell Act of 2275"). The terms of the pact were similar to the song The Devil Went Down to Georgia. In another Futurama episode "The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings", Fry makes a deal with the Robot Devil so that Fry can play the holophonor and show his love for Leela. The Robot devil asks for nothing in return, apparently just hoping to use the deal as an excuse to torment an innocent robot. When his penchant for random torment (and, ironically, his penchant for irony) leads to his own hands being given to Fry, the Robot Devil makes a deal with Bender that causes him to deafen Leela, then a deal with Leela to give back her hearing in exchange for her hand in marriage as she wants to hear Fry's Opera about her, all in a ploy to get his own hands back as he threatens to take her to Hell. Bender remarks in this episode that "you may have to make a metaphorical deal with the devil, and by devil, I mean Robot Devil, and by metaphorical, I mean get your coat." The later episode "Calculon 2.0" sees Fry and Bender make another deal with the Robot Devil to resurrect Calculon, their favourite actor, but the Robot Devil deliberately lets them win the deal as he is annoyed at Calculon's overly-dramatic nature.
  • In The Monkees episode, "The Devil and Peter Tork", Peter finds himself inadvertently trading his soul with a pawn shop proprietor, who's really Mr. S. Zero who has come to purchase another soul, for the ability to play the harp. The other Monkees had to engage in a court battle to save Peter's soul and convince Zero that Peter doesn't need Zero's magic to play the harp. To prove this, Zero took his magic away from Peter and made the harp appear. With the urging of his bandmates, Peter went to the harp and played "I Wanna Be Free" to save his soul and send Zero back to Hell empty-handed.
  • In Derren Brown's television series Trick or Treat, prior to choosing a card, the participants must sign a Faustian Contract, which lets Derren do anything he pleases.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX anime series, Professor Viper makes a deal with Yubel's severed arm to revive his deceased foster son.
  • The Devil and Daniel Mouse, a Halloween special based on the Washington Irving short story.
  • In the Tokusatsu series Kamen Rider Kiva, Otoya Kurenai was rumored to sold his soul to the devil in creating the Bloody Rose violin. At the start of the series' 17th episode, Niccolò Paganini is referenced in the opening scenes.
  • In "Kuroshitsuji" Ciel Phantomhive makes a Faustian contract with a demon, making the demon his obdient servant for a life period in exchange for his soul after death, what would indoubtably come after his final wish (and the original reason for making the contract in the first place) would be fulfilled.
  • In Strange Frequency, a young wannabee musician (James Marsters) makes a deal with a rather handsome devil (Roger Daltrey) to become famous.
  • During Super Bowl XLVII Mercedes-Benz featured a commercial, whereby a young man sees a billboard for the new Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class and is approached by the Devil, offering him one if he signs the contract. After various scenes showing the fame and fortune promised, he sees the billboard being finished with the offering price, and declines the offer. The commercial featured The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil".

In games[edit]

  • In Grim Grimoire, the devil's contracts are a recurring theme in the game's story. It is first used when character Bartido Ballentyne sells his soul to the devil teacher Advocat in exchange for Lillet Blan's safety, however time reverts five days and the contract no longer exists because the event has technically not taken place yet. The next time it is used by Lillet herself in exchange for use of the grimoire "Lemegaton", and while she keeps the Lemegaton going back in time, the event is removed from history. It is used one more time by Lillet in exchange for a single wish from Grimlet, a powerful devil, but Grimlet is forced back to hell after refusing to do what Lillet commands, worshiping god. The contract is destroyed, and she banishes Grimlet as she had intended.
  • In the Tekken series, Kazuya Mishima makes a deal with the Devil in order to obtain enough power to defeat his ruthless father, Heihachi. This deal has dire consequences, as it strips Kazuya of all the good within him, gives him a Devil Gene, and passes a Devil Gene onto his son, Jin Kazama, whose influence with the Devil has made him into the main antagonist of Tekken 6.
  • In Doom 3, Dr. Betruger made a deal with the forces of Hell for supernatural power and command of the demons in an attempt to conquer the world.
  • In the Deception video games, Faustian bargains are a recurring theme. The character Allura inadvertently agrees to a deal with the demon Malphas by allowing her to create powerful traps to kill her enemies in exchange for devouring the victim's soul.
  • In the Soul series, Siegfried Schtauffen made a deal with the demonic sword Soul Edge for power and the ability to avenge his father's death, resulting in Soul Edge possessing him and turning him into the dark knight Nightmare. One of Siegfried's weapons is named Faust in reference to this story element.
  • A similar concept of a pact with the devil was featured in the game The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The antagonist of the game, Zant, makes a pact with Ganon (the series' equivalent to Satan) for power and authority to conquer the Twilight Realm and Hyrule. This was mutually beneficial for both parties so that they both become rulers of said realms.
  • In the video game Bayonetta, the main character Bayonetta signed a pact with the demoness named Madama Butterfly which grants her immense abilities including weaving her hair through magic to summon powerful demons to fight her enemies. In the history of the game, it is stated all Umbra Witches traded their souls to demons via a diabolical pact
  • In Devil Maker:Tokyo, an anime-inspired role-playing card battle adventure for iOS and Android, players make a deal with devils to discover deep and dark dungeons full of wicked.
  • In Guacamelee!, it is revealed that the primary antagonist Carlos Calaca dealt with the devil to win a horse race. He was claimed moments after his victory. In vengeance, Calaca made another deal- this time a cock fight and with the help of a witch turns the devil into a rooster.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Darrell Schweitzer, "The Devil" in S. T. Joshi, ed., Icons of Horror and the Supernatural: an Encyclopedia of our Worst Nightmares (Greenwood, 2007), (p. 161-186) ISBN 0313337810
  2. ^ Wells Chamberlin, "Jacques Cazotte" in Supernatural Fiction Writers, edited by E. F. Bleiler. New York: Scribner's, 1985, ISBN 0-684-17808-7 (pp.29-35).
  3. ^ Franz Rottensteiner, The Fantasy Book:an illustrated history from Dracula to Tolkien. Collier Books, 1978, (pp. 20-21). ISBN 0020535600
  4. ^ Robert Hogan, "Mervyn Wall", in Bleiler, Supernatural Fiction Writers: Fantasy and Horror. New York: Scribner's, 1985. (pp.645-650) ISBN 0-684-17808-7 .

See also[edit]