In his subterranean den, Satan, the beast, crunches the bones of sinners. The fallen Angel Lucifer, wreaking havoc on the existing order.
The trickster Mephistopheles makes deals with unsuspecting humans. These three devils are all based on Satan, an angelic member of God’s court who torments Job in the Book of Job in the Old Testament.
But, unlike all of these literary demons, the Bible’s Satan was a minor figure with no detail regarding his actions or appearance.
So, with so many different ways, how did he become the ultimate antagonist? In the New Testament, Satan is seen enticing Jesus, possessing people with devils, and then emerging as a giant dragon who is thrown into hell.
This illustration inspired mediaeval artists and writers to create a scaled, shaggy-furred creature with overgrown toenails.
The devil appears as an upright lizard in Michael Pacher’s painting of St. Augustine and the Devil, with a second miniature face glinting on his back and.
The “Inferno,” written by Italian poet Dante Alighieri, is the epitome of these monstrous Satans.
Dante’s Satan is a three-headed, bat-winged behemoth who feasts on sinners, encased in the ninth circle of hell.
But he’s also a sympathy figure, helpless as the panicked beating of his wings encases him in ice even more.
The protagonist of the poem escapes hell by clambering over Satan’s body, and he feels both horror and sympathy for the trapped beast, leading the reader to imagine the agony of evil.
By the Renaissance, the demon had begun to take on a more human appearance. Artists modelled him after Pan, the Greek god of the wild, with cloven hooves and curling horns.
In his masterpiece “Paradise Lost,” published in 1667, English poet John Milton portrayed the devil as Lucifer, an angel who revolted against God because he thought he was too strong.
When this charismatic rebel is cast out of heaven, he transforms into Satan and announces that he would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven.
Many representations of Lucifer as an ambiguous character, rather than a strictly evil one, have been influenced by Milton’s interpretation.
The Romantics of the 1800s saw Milton’s Lucifer as a hero who defied higher authority in search of vital truths, with tragic consequences.
Meanwhile, we see what happens when the devil comes to Earth in the German legend of Doctor Faust, which dates from the 16th century.
A disgruntled scholar, Faust, sells his soul to the devil in return for eternal pleasure.
Faust seizes women, power, and money with the aid of the devil’s messenger Mephistopheles—only to perish in the everlasting fires of hell. Mephistopheles is depicted in various ways in later versions of the storey.
A pessimistic Doctor Faustus is able to make a bargain with Mephistopheles, according to Christopher Marlowe’s account.
Mephistopheles dupes Faust into a heinous bargain in Johann Wolfgang van Goethe’s edition. A Faustian bargain today refers to a transaction in which credibility is sacrificed for short-term benefit.
Mephistopheles appeared in red tights and a cape in a production of Goethe’s play.
This version of the devil was often portrayed as a charming trickster, who wore a red suit and paraded through comic books, advertisements, and film.
These three depictions of the devil are just the tip of the iceberg: the devil continues to haunt the public imagination to this day, luring artists of all kinds to create fresh and fantastical visions of him.