Tough Travelling: Demons
Welcome intrepid adventurers to Tough Travelling with the Tough Guide to Fantasyland!
That’s right, we’ve dusted it down and brought back this feature (created by Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn, revived by our friends over on Fantasy Faction, then dragged kicking and screaming to the Hive).
It is a monthly feature in which we rack our brains for popular (and not so popular) examples of fantasy tropes.
Tough Travelling is inspired by the informative and hilarious Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones. Fellow bloggers are absolutely welcome to join in – just make your own list, publish it on your site, and then comment with the link on this article!
This month, in celebration of Wyrd and Wonder’s mini-event Spooktastic Reads, we’re checking out our favourite DEMONS:
DEMONS are less frequent on the Tour than they used to be. Most of them have followed VAMPIRES and WERE over to the Horror Tour, possibly because people evoke them more there. Nevertheless, quite a few remain and must be treated with caution or, preferably, shunned. The Management itself is quite good at shunning. It is often very hard to discover what any given Demon looks like, apart from a general impression of large size, huge fangs, staring eyes, many limbs, and an odd colour; but all accounts agree that Demons are very powerful, very MAGIC (in a nonhuman manner) and made of some substance that can squeeze through a keyhole yet not be pierced with a SWORD. This makes them difficult to deal with, even on the rare occasions when they are friendly. Demons are sometimes found batting about loose, but mostly they appear to live elsewhere entirely and must therefore be invoked by NAME (often hard to pronounce) and confined within a PENTAGRAM or MAGIC circle while they are given their orders. Tourists are advised to leave all this sort of thing to WIZARDS and never, ever attempt to bargain with a Demon themselves. The Rule is that all Demons are cheats.
A big thank you toTaya, Graeme, Nils, Beth, James, and Theo for their recommendations…
Morozko. Does he count? He counts. He is, technically, introduced to the reader as Frost, the winter demon. Totally counts. Doesn’t matter that he’s also dreamy. (It does matter.)
Guxx Unfufadoo the Dread Rhyming Demon from the Ebenezum books has a special place in my heart. With every rhyme his power grows stronger, soon that wizard will be living no longer!
From Salvatore’s Legend of Drizzt books, we have Errtu the Balor, who gets his ass handed to him by an elf and his pet cat and ends up banished to the abyss for more or less the rest of the series. He is not happy about it.
I suppose that we have to count the Balrog from old J.R.R.’s Middle Earth books, if only because they are maiar who have been corrupted or “fallen” in a very biblical way.
Crowley from Good Omens definitely needs a mention too. Oh and the Chaos Gods of the Warhammer universe. And… there are a lot more demons in the books I read than I realised…
My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix has a fantastic demon possession narrative arc. I loved this little coming of age story which was set in the 80s era – the pinnacle of horror movies. It brought back all the nostalgia for me, and I adored the two young girls’ friendship! Grady even created an 80s playlist on Spotify for us to listen to whilst reading! How cool is that?!
Shadows of Ivory by TL Greylock. I’m not going to say much here, because of spoilers, but there’s a skeleton, long buried and undisturbed. That is until our main protagonist Eska uncovers these cryptic bones. Then strange things start happening. But that’s all I’ll say!
A Time of Courage by John Gwynne – Asroth and his Kadoshim demons wreak their havoc on the Banished Lands for the last time in this finale. The whole book is an epic showdown between our heroes and these villains and I loved every page of it.
The Crow by James O’Barr – so in this graphic novel our main protagonist is the demon. Yet he’s a demon you root for as he is sent back to avenge the brutal murder of his fiancée. This is a beautifully dark tale of revenge, one that will make you question who the real evil villains are?
First and foremost the demon that jumps out to me is our Graeme’s Mol Kalath from his Witch of Empire series. He’s a big feathery bugger who, by the end of The Wounded Ones, I’d really come to love. His dialogue is always written in capitals, as he’s a seven foot demon and all, so it always sounds like HE’S SHOUTING VERY SERIOUSLY AND POLITELY. Tickled me no end.
If we’re talking about bad demons, then I’m going to give a shout out to shape-shifting mind-controlling and all-round arsehole Gawl Tegyr from D. P. Woolliscroft’s Wildfire Cycle.
I ALMOST FORGOT – Calcifer! The best of fire demons from Howl’s Moving Castle by DWJ herself. I can’t wait to re-read the books with my daughter and reacquaint myself with the original, but of course Billy Crystal’s interpretation, and bacon curse, is unforgettable.
I do like demons – possession, malevolent alien beings, alternate planes of existence – what’s not to like? For some reason, though, I couldn’t think of many examples off the top of my head, so I had to use the internet to remind me!
Demons feature centrally in two of my favourite books: Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls. The demon in the first case manifests almost as a sort of cancer, and the way they fit into the theology of the world of the five gods is really interesting. In a similar vein of demons at the heart of royal intrigue, I can also recommend Carol Berg’s Transformation.
Another of my favourite series, Matt Heppe’s The Orb, introduces demons in book three (Shadow of the Knight) and they become really important in the final two books.
If you want a more devilish demon, there’s Tanith Lee’s wonderful Night’s Master, and if you want a world completely overrun by demonic creatures, there’s Peter Newman’s bleak The Vagrant. And if you expand demons into other traditions, including djinn and daeva, then there’s a whole list of great examples – City of Brass, Realm of Ash, A Dead Djinn in Cairo…
Hey James, I came here specifically to mention Peter Newman’s demons in The Vagrant, strange creatures of “essence” that must cloak themselves in human bodies and body parts to withstand the corrosive (to them) atmosphere of the world they have invaded. In his next trilogy beginning with The Deathless, Newman again has strange demonic creations, this time bizarre creatures like Whispercage, Crowflies or the Scuttling Corpseman, denizens of an untamed wild attracted by blood and prone to making obtuse but utterly binding deals with humans, although making any deal with the wild is considered treachery to humans.
My other favourite demonic writer is Teresa Frohock, with her series about the (nearly) immortal Los Nefilim moderating a world poised between the ambitions of angels and daimons, with the angel-daimon half-breed Diago and his husband Miquel navigating family and colleague tensions as the world journeys through the Spanish Civil war and on towards the Second World War.
And my final demon Bast – enigmatic pot-man at the Waystone Inn, in the framing story of Rothfuss’s Kingkiller chronicles. One of my concerns for the series is how Bast hasn’t even appeared in the back story yet – which emphasises just how much there seems to be left for Rothfuss to do.
Next month, we’ll be looking at our favourite THIEVES in speculative fiction.
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