- Amy MacKinnon
9 Famous Fictional Characters Who Are Actually Devils in Disguise
When a real demon appears as a character in a fictional story then you pretty much know what that character will do—at least you do if you know what the author believes about demons. Once you know that, you can pretty much know what’s going to happen or what that character will do, because it’s now a one-dimensional character in the story.
If instead the author uses a character that is not a demon, but has certain facets to its personality or the actions that are shown in the story, then that character is a symbol for a demon without being an actual demon. Sometimes that's really hard to spot, especially if you're not used to looking for that in a story.
In this blog post, I’ve specifically chosen characters that can be seen within the story as a symbol of the devil. I'm leaving aside the issue of stories which have Eastern philosophies and religions as their foundation and which have types of characters that are translated into English as demons or daemons since that would take us too far in a different direction.
If an author has an actual demon in a story, it’s very difficult to get across to the reader what a demon is actually like without compromising some aspects that we know about demons. If the character ends up as a blatant or simplistic portrayal of the demon, then it also means that the reader can easily guess exactly what is going to happen in the story based on what that reader knows about the author’s beliefs about God, angels, and demons. This increases the potential for reducing the character to a very simplistic role and loses the potential for the depth to the story.
That's why characters who symbolically represent the devil are better characters and make for a better story. I've chosen a mix of the two for this post so that it's easier to see the differences when you compare and contrast them.
Spoiler Alert: I do give away the endings of these stories!
List of Topics and Stories:
The White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
Mr. Hyde from (The) Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Edward Cullen in the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer (in process)
Some characteristics associated with the devil:
Adversary (Satan)—the angel Lucifer chose to reject God and set himself against God, so he chose to be an adversary of God. Jesus tells Peter to “get behind me, satan” because at that moment, Peter’s plea to Jesus to avoid facing death in Jerusalem would also have meant that His mission to fulfill the promise from Genesis 3 would have been subverted and there would be no salvation.
Chaos and disorder—when God created the world (Genesis 1) there was order, with the Fall, there is now disorder which can devolve into chaos. We also experience this in our individual lives both externally and internally
Liar or Deceiver—he deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden when he tempted her to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 2-3; Jn 8:44)
Lucifer—this word means “Light bearer” because this is who he was created to be, and he rejected that role when he rejected God
Murderer— Originally, human beings were not going to suffer or die. It was through Satan’s successful attempt to get Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit that death entered the world for human beings (Gen 2-3; Jn 8:44)
Tempter and Accuser—these go together, because he first tempts us to sin by making something look appealing, and then he accuses us by reminding us of our guilt after we give in to that sin and tries to get us to think that God can’t forgive us
The White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
I’m starting with this one because it’s much easier to see that the White Witch is the villain in this story. It’s also obvious to adults that Aslan is the Christ figure.
She's named Jadis in The Magician's Nephew, but that book was written and published after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In LWW, she's not even given a name, just a reference to the type of being she is.
She’s not a human being because she’s not a “son of Adam” or “daughter of Eve.” She’s not a fallen angel or a demon, either; she’s a witch.
So if she’s not a fallen angel, how can she be a devil? It’s because she chooses to reject Aslan who is the Christ figure in the story, so she’s an anti-Christ. She also wages war against him and gathers those opposed to him to fight in the battle against Aslan in a pre-figurement to the final battle between heaven and earth.
At her castle, she’s turned those who oppose her into stone statues. They’re essentially in a graveyard, or in the place of the dead. That means that the queen’s castle is the place of the dead, until Aslan “resurrects” them. He brings them into new life by breathing on them, or by sending out the Holy Spirit who renews them and brings them out of Sheol (the place of the dead).
Even Peter and Edmund aren’t able to defeat Jadis. When the queen is destroyed, it is only Aslan who is able to destroy her.
Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty
For some background on this character in the story, we’ll look at the influence from mythology as well as the scriptures! The same is true for characters in many stories, but in this post I'm only going to mention the reference to mythology for this character since the focus here isn’t on mythology.
Greco-Roman Mythology roots
Eris, the goddess of discord, isn’t as well known as other gods and goddesses, but she is the one who got the ball (or apple) rolling which started the Trojan War.
The reason for her actions started with a wedding. All of the gods and goddesses on Mt. Olympus were invited to a wedding except for her. Not surprisingly, she noticed that she was the only one left on Mt. Olympus. She went to the wedding anyway, and brought discord and death. She’s the one who tossed the golden apple into the midst of the goddesses present and said, “To the fairest.” Of course, the goddesses immediately began to fight over it because the intention was to cause discord! Zeus appointed a human man, Paris, as the judge over which of the goddesses was truly the fairest. In return he was given Helen of Troy and the Trojan War began.
It’s the role of Eris in being the only one who wasn’t invited to the celebration, but shows up anyway and causes discord, suffering, and death, that is incorporated into the role of the angry, bad fairy in different versions of Sleeping Beauty. She's the only one out of all of the fairies who doesn't receive an invitation to the party (for various reasons, depending on the version of the story) for the new princess.
In most versions of this fairy tale, the character is identified as one of the fairies or wise women, and none of them are named. It’s in the 1959 animated Disney version where the one fairy who isn't invited to the party is given the name, “Maleficent.”
In Matthew 6:13, the word at end of the Lord's Prayer is often translated as "deliver us from evil," but it can also be translated as “deliver us from the evil one (or evil being).”
In Latin, that word is malo. It's used 4 times in Genesis 3; twice as malum (evil or bad), and twice as maledictus (curse, or evil speaking/word).
So the name Maleficent means "evil one" or "evil being."
When Disney made that version of Sleeping Beauty they knew what that name meant. Even though she doesn’t turn into a dragon in the fairy tales (so far as I could find), having her transform into a dragon at the end of the movie where she’s completely defeated by a prince (Genesis 3:14-15; Revelation 12) is part of the reason that her character is a symbol for a demon. She’s named for the type of being she is, and the role that she plays in the story by Disney (the later movies with Angelina Jolie completely distort this idea).
Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Sauron isn't an actual demon* in the story, but he does symbolize one. He's the adversary, the destroyer, and he wants to rule over all of Middle Earth.
In order to do that, he tries to conquer everyone by force by subjugating them to his will, which was his intention when he created the “one ring.”
He created that magic ring in Mount Doom, which is a volcano. The lava and fires from the volcano
Mount Doom is the origin of Sauron's ring, and it's where the ring is destroyed. Since he placed his will into the ring (fairy tale trope!) that the ring has power over those who use it when they give the consent of their own will to use it as a source of power.
Even before giving that consent, the will of Sauron is trying to draw the wearer of the ring, and those around that person, to become subject to his will so that he can rule over them. Since Sauron has chosen (an act of the will) to align himself with evil, all of those subject to him are also consenting to evil.
This is what the devil tries to do with each of us, because by giving our consent, we are agreeing to participate in evil and turn against God. We are then intentionally choosing to be an adversary of God by going against His will.
When Peter tells Jesus not to go to die, Jesus calls him, "satan" (Mt 16:21-23) because at that moment Peter's will is in opposition to the will of God. He later repents, so he doesn't remain an adversary.
*Sauron worships another being, Morgoth, who is also a devil/demon figure, but just as Gandalf is not an angel—even though his character has some things in common with an angel—Sauron is a different type of being as well. He’s not an angelic being so he’s not even a fallen angel.
Mr. Hyde from (The) Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
R.L. Stevenson created the two characters by dividing a human being into two parts: Dr. Jekyll is the intellect and will, while Mr. Hyde is the passions.
The passions aren’t evil in and of themselves; they are the engine that drives us to take action. It’s when they overrule the intellect and will that we make bad or erratic choices. When we continually give in to them, we develop that as a habit and our choices are based on whatever we want at that moment instead of what is truly good.
Dr. Jekyll is not just giving in to desires but deliberately choosing to reject what he knows to be good and allowing his passions to rule him, initially by using a potion. That potion results in a split within him that creates another personality, and this new personality acts on all of the evil impulses that Dr. Jekyll previously kept under control.
As a result, these two personalities are fighting for dominance within one body, which is also a metaphor for the battle for good versus evil.
Dr. Jekyll is the character who is very gentle and kind, but weak-minded. His weakness ends in his giving in to his desires which then lead him to evil because Mr. Hyde takes over.
Mr. Hyde is the devil character because he doesn’t just give in to evil, he refuses to repent and revels in evil.
Side note: Stan Lee's character, The Incredible Hulk, was inspired by this story.
Voldemort in the Harry Potter series
A lot of the imagery that J.K. Rowling uses for Voldemort is based on the Fall in Genesis 2-3, and the promise of the savior in Genesis 3:15. Once you see this, you can’t “unsee” it in the story.
Early in the first book in the series, on his cousin Dudley’s birthday, Harry goes with the Dursleys (in the book, Dudley has a friend go as well) to the zoo. When they enter the reptile house, Harry begins talking to a snake—who also speaks to Harry. Dudley notices and comes over and shoves Harry who falls to the floor; then the side of the glass cage disappears. Dudley falls into the cage and the snake escapes. Rowling describes the snake as “nipping playfully” at the heels of the people in the reptile house exhibit.
In the beginning of the first book Rowling has:
A talking snake
2 people who fall
A snake “wounding” people’s heels
This is almost straight out of the account in Genesis 3:15, which is also known as the “protoevangelion,” or the first mention of the promise of the Savior that God will send to heal the rift between God and man.
If this is what Rowling intended to incorporate into her story, then what we should expect to see at the end is a male child born to a very special woman in unusual circumstances, and in some way “crushes the head of the serpent” by killing an actual serpent or something that symbolizes a serpent.
Rowling shows this in two ways:
Nagini and Neville
Voldemort and Harry
Nagini is an actual snake (I’m ignoring the Fantastic Creatures films for now), and Neville literally cuts off the head of that snake with a sword.
Voldemort is the snake/man who refuses to repent even when facing his own death. Harry offers him mercy and a chance to repent, but he refuses. While refusing, and through his own actions and arrogance, he brings death upon himself and the destruction of his “body” of followers—the Death Eaters. Once Voldemort is dead, his followers either run away or are destroyed.
In this story, both Neville and Harry are types of saviors, while Voldemort and his favorite pet snake (Nagini) are symbols of the devil.
Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
You can definitely see some aspects of this in the movie versions, but in the book, Austen shows how he tattles on the tenants of Lady Catherine de Burgh. She's his benefactor, and he completely sucks up to her. The role of a cleric in Christianity is partly to guide everyone in knowing who God is, but also to remind even the most powerful people in a society that they will have to answer to God when they go before Him for their final judgment.
Instead, Mr. Collins is constantly bowing down to Lady Catherine. Instead of acting as a spiritual guide towards her tenants, he takes advantage of his position as a cleric and the tenants open up to him. He uses that information to tattle to her so that he can remain in a position of favor with her.
Austen’s father was a clergyman, and in other stories she portrays clergymen in a more favorable light. Her point isn’t that all members of the clergy are evil, but that just because a man is a member of the clergy he’s not automatically a saint.
Rumpelstiltskin, the Brothers Grimm
Rumpelstiltskin says that he's no demon in the story and he's not, but he symbolizes a demon because he's a trickster and a deceiver (see https://www.grimmstories.com/en/grimm_fairy-tales/rumpelstiltskin for the story).
Rumpelstiltskin helps the miller’s daughter to complete the impossible tasks given to her but demands her first-born child in return. He intentionally withholds the possibility of her learning his name so that he can have her first-born son. That’s part of the trickster character.
Rumpelstiltskin gives her three chances to guess his name, and with each chance he gives her three guesses.
On the first try, the names she guesses are the traditional names of the three kings/Wise Men who came to visit the Christ child:
The second set of guesses are names of servants:
(They’re odd names, but that’s what they are in the story! )
The third set of guesses are the conventional names for heroes in folk tales:
And when he tells her those are not his names, her very last guess is his real name.
Rumpelstiltskin is not a king as the wise men were, he’s not a servant as described in Isaiah, and he’s not a hero.
In the story, he rejects an association with each of those roles, and he’s still trying to steal the son of the king.
So he rejects any association with being a legitimate king, a wise man, a servant, or a hero, all of which are associated with Christ.
However, he is someone who would try to take a child away from his parents forever. It’s especially grievous because that child was born to be a king, so it's both an attempt to rule over the kingdom as the false-father of the true son of the king (the prince), and a rejection of Christ as King.
He’s rejected any association of himself with symbols of Christ, and intends to destroy the life of an innocent child while ruling in the place of the legitimate king. Even though he's not an actual demon, he's placed himself in opposition to each of these roles of Christ and this is why he's a symbol of the devil as deceiver and adversary.
Bradley Headstone in Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens
Creepiest. Teacher. Ever!
Our Mutual Friend is the last story that Dickens completed before he died. It's not as well-known as some of his other novels, but I definitely recommend reading it if you're not familiar with it!
The character of Bradly Headstone is really interesting, because he's truly creepy even from the beginning, but he's also a teacher. Dickens was known for addressing the problems of poverty and education in his stories, and that's definitely part of the reason that he wrote Mr. Headstone as a devil character.
There are a LOT of problems from the beginning with Mr. Headstone:
He has an extremely inappropriate relationship with his student, Charley Hexam
He uses Charley to get close to Charley’s sister, Lizzie
He becomes obsessed with Lizzie and stalks her
He tries to kill Eugene Wrayburn, the man that Lizzie loves
Dickens loves to give symbolic names to his characters, and gave Mr. Headstone a name representing death for a reason. Bradley Headstone does try to kill other characters, including his apparent rival, but it’s even more than that: he’s also someone who destroys others while presenting an appearance of goodness to the world.
Bradley Headstone is focused solely on his own desires and would end up destroying Lizzie, even while claiming that he loves her. He brings the presence of death with him everywhere he goes: as a teacher he corrupts the innocent students who are under his care, and tries to kill both Eugene Wrayburn and Rogue Riderhood (who also has his own evil motivations).
Lizzie is his opposite; she is very virtuous and almost angelic in her beauty, it’s both of these qualities that draw the attention of her two suitors.
Eugene Wrayburn encounters death when Mr. Headstone tries to kill him, but then recovers and rises again as a new man. In the end he chooses goodness over evil and marries Lizzie.
The choice between goodness and evil is ultimately the choice between life and death (Dt 30:19):
I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live