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oaken mondream
Registered User
(11/21/02 10:24:41 pm)
the Devil with this assignment...
hello all,

I'm hoping you all might be able to help me out with an assignment for school. Basically, I have to write another Canto for Dante's _Inferno_ (well, that's just a third of it), featuring a sin that he doesn't use in it. I'm not sure if this would work, but I would like to work with the "bartering with the devils" stories in folklore and musicians in particular. I know that there are such stories, but besides "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" I can't think of any others. And he doesn't count because he won that contest. Does anyone know of any other stories that might be helpful here?

many thanks,


Unregistered User
(11/21/02 10:53:13 pm)
I think that would make a great canto. try faust and mephisopheles.

Also remember Dante wrote about the circle of hell that contained those who had received "too much love."

all best

Unregistered User
(11/22/02 6:47:57 am)
The Devil you know ...
One of the things I love about the insufferable Dante is that many of the punishments and places in his Inferno were invented for people he knew.

Personally, I would add a layer for teachers who willfully misinform their students.

Also is there a section for incessant whiners?


Laura McCaffrey
Registered User
(11/22/02 7:02:40 am)
Re: The Devil you know ...
_Favorite Folktales From Around the World_ ed. Jane Yolen, has a section of stories under the heading "Fooling the Devil." She also has great source notes in the back that could lead you in a bunch of directions.

Laura Mc

Registered User
(11/22/02 10:56:51 pm)
Re: The Devil you know ...
"The Devil and Daniel Webster"

Blues musician Robert Johnson was rumoured to have gotten his amazing musical talent (he left town an indifferent musician and returned not too long afterwards a genius) from making a deal with the Devil at a crossroads. Of course, it's very likely not a Christian devil that a black bluesman would be meeting at the crossroads; the crossroads are the especial sacred provinces of the guedes, of Baron Samedi, of Ellegua, Legbara, Elegba, Eshu. They are gods, not demons; though demons are arguably sometimes gods as well, yes? More specifically, they are not Christian and they are not embodiments of evil, though they are often terrifying.

Then there's a folk tale that always struck me because its language was so unlike other tales I'd heard from that part of the world. Of course I don't remember it, except that it has overtones of Rumpelstiltskin. There's a little black-coloured imp that comes down the chimney and tries to trick the protagonist into making dumb deals with it. It looks kind of like a cat, kind of not, and just exudes unholy glee. All I really remember is the line fragment, "...and then that twirled that's tail, and said..."

Registered User
(11/22/02 11:03:31 pm)
Niminy niminy not! (Re: The Devil you know ...)
"Niminy niminy not,
My name's Tom Tit Tot!"

Of course, there was the little black-coloured imp tale, right on the Sur La Lune site: www.surlalunefairytales.c...titot.html

And here's "The Devil and Daniel Webster:"

Registered User
(11/23/02 12:58:51 am)
In case you haven't seen it, one story of Robert Johnson and his infamous deal with the devil is told in the movie titled (da dum) Crossroads. It features several famous stars as well as one of my all time favorite guitar players, Steve Vai - who does a darn fine job of playing, well, that would be telling...

An enjoyable tale and the music isn't half bad, either!

La Reine Noire
Registered User
(11/24/02 10:06:39 am)
Okay, now you've hit my obsession topic...

Any variation on "Faust" or "Faustus." I'd recomment both Marlowe and Goethe, though the second is considerably heavier and longer than the first. Both have really entertaining Mephisto characters, who I tend to like a lot better than Faust, himself.

Lord Byron's "Manfred" deals with a similar theme, though puts a really intriguing twist on it.

Anything related to Prometheus or Daedalus/Icarus, for the "getting too close to the divine" theme.

"Paradise Lost" for the above theme, though I'm basing this entirely on people's opinions. I've yet to actually read that tome.

Shelley's "Frankenstein." Faustian in the sense that Victor effectively sells his soul to the power of creation.

Thomas Mann - "Dr Faustus." Very very good modern retelling of the legend.

And Gounod's opera is worth listening to as well. Another funny Mephisto.

Now that I think about it, a lot of the Romantic poets wrote about what one has to give up for the power of inspiration. Coleridge did it in "Kubla Khan," "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," and a little bit in "Dejection." Keats deals with it a lot, as does Percy Shelley (esp. "Alastor" and "Prometheus Unbound").

"Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde. Great book.

Filmwise, I've actually not run into many. "The Devil's Advocate," I found rather freaky at times, but it does somewhat follow the Faust storyline.

Does that help at all?


oaken mondream
Registered User
(11/26/02 10:37:31 am)
Re: Okay, now you've hit my obsession topic...
Thank you all for the information. I have a feeling that I'm going to spend my Thanksgiving break doing research, but at least it's on stuff like this. You've all been a great help.

-jill (who's off to check out books at the library before her flight home)

Registered User
(11/26/02 4:02:55 pm)
Re: Okay, now you've hit my obsession topic...
Filmwise, there's "Phantom of the Paradise," a delightfully cheesy and grim rock opera starring Paul "just an old-fashioned love song" Williams as the Devil.

Unregistered User
(11/27/02 5:11:05 am)
Bluegrass devil
Try "Brother where art thou" with George Clooney. Excellent mythological stuff, and the lead Guitarist sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for guitar genius. (Also features sirens that change heroes into frogs.)

Registered User
(11/27/02 8:02:07 am)
Also try...
... "the Ninth Gate," which is a less than brilliant adaptation of a wonderful book (_The Club Dumas_), but which is fairly interesting if taken solely on its own merits. It poses difficult questions about why we sell our souls, and how (and, as it has a subtext of bibliomania, it might strike a chord ... I know that it did for me).

Registered User
(11/27/02 10:21:34 am)
Other variants
If you want a truly warped approach to the Dr. Faustus template, John Kessel's novelette/play, "Faustfeathers" conflates Faust brilliantly with Marx Brothers movies.

Michael Armstrong some years back published a story in F&SF, too, titled something like "The Really, Truly, Last Deal with the Devil Story."

I agree with Helen about "The Club Dumas." A terrific novel. I didn't see anything of the deep questions in the resulting film, however. Seemed to me everything of merit in the novel--that is, all the ambiguities--had been pretty thoroughly stripped out.

But Deal with the Devil stories abounded in the 50s and 60s. A few are in The Playboy Fantasy and Science Fiction readers, which you can still find around in used book stores. Stories by John Collier, Ray Russell, Charles Beaumont, and others.

Judith Berman
Registered User
(11/27/02 7:02:07 pm)
the devil and music
Robert Johnson also shows up in Sherman Alexei's novel RESERVATION BLUES. (He is the writer of the movie SMOKE SIGNALS and author of the collection on whichit was based -- THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO FISTFIGHT IN HEAVEN, both highly recommended.)

No one's mentioned THE MASTER AND MARGARITA, have they?

I have a recollection that there is a sort of microgenre of British Isles ballads where a pure and clever child bests the devil by answering riddles. I'm certain I once heard one of these in which "I gave my love a cherry" was the riddle posed. Another faceoff-with-the-devil ballad has a repeated line "said the child as he stood. He stood and he stood..." My sister had the record, and I could ultimately inquire its name of her, but maybe someone here has more immediate information.

Jane Yolen
Unregistered User
(11/28/02 4:10:35 am)
False Knight
Ah yes--the False Knight on the Road. I retell a version of that in my upcoming collection, MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD: Folktale for Strong Young Boys. In the nots I say this about my retelling:

One of the oldest of the English ballads collected by Sir Francis James Child in the 1880s, this is #3 in his great multi-volumed tome, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads.

                ‘O whare are ye gaun?’
                Quo the fause knicht upon the road:
                I’m gaun to scule,’
                Quo the wee boy, and still he stude. . .

is one of the Scottish versions. However, there are not a whole lot of variants of this particular story. A few made their way to America with the Scots Irish immigration, mainly centered in Virginia and New England. Printed versions in America could be found early in The Only True Mother Goose Melodies and The American Songster.

The idea of the ballad, Childs explains, is “that the devil will carry off the wee boy if he can nonplus him. . .but. . .the boy always gets the last word.” In fact stories in which a fiend/devil/demon is thwarted by a smart answer is quite common in folklore.

        As I was working on the story, it became clear to me that for modern sensibilities, the boy is in serious trouble—not from a devil, but “stranger danger” as we call it these days. So thinking about John Gacy, a modern day mass murderer who worked sometimes as a clown at children’s parties, I wrote this quasi horror-story version of the old ballad about how a boy outfoxes and outwits the man/demon. As a grandmother and a grand-aunt, too, I was glad to help him escape.


Yellow McMaggie
Registered User
(11/28/02 8:01:18 am)
Devil's Sooty Brother
There is a tale in the Grimms' collection, tale no. 100, titled the Devil's Sooty Brother. I don't know if this is really relevant to what you are looking for, but a discharged soldier works as the devil's servant in hell for 7 years, in which he is not allowed to wash himself, comb his hair, trim his nails, wipe his eyes and so on. In hell, he had to do the devil's dirty work (literally) by cleaning, sweeping and tending the fires under the kettles in which the damned souls were sitting. He wasn't supposed to look in the kettles, but he couldn't resist the temptation. However, he was not punished, because he was more or less a good little worker and because he followed the devils orders both in hell for the seven years and then by wandering the world telling anyone who asked that he came from hell and that he was the devil's sooty brother. As a reward he did not have to forfeit his life to the devil and he became a rich man and wandered the world playing the music that he had learned from the devil in hell.


Edited by: Yellow McMaggie at: 11/28/02 8:01:50 am

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