Contests with the devil in literature?
February 26, 2010 11:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for names of books where people enter into a contest with the devil, and lose. Other than Faust, and The Master and Margarita, what other examples can you think of?
posted by MisterCoffeeWithAnAutomaticDrip to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Devil and Tom Walker
posted by deacon_blues at 11:57 AM on February 26, 2010


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Works_based_on_Faust

Though not on that list, The Little Mermaid is my favorite example (the original, not the Disney)
posted by brainmouse at 12:00 PM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Devil and Daniel Webster
posted by ejazen at 12:01 PM on February 26, 2010


If winning the contest becomes an option, do check out Johannes Cabal the Necromancer
posted by Palerale at 12:02 PM on February 26, 2010


The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

Wikipedia's list of deals with the devil in popular culture might be helpful
posted by sallybrown at 12:04 PM on February 26, 2010


One of my favorite movies, Phantom of the Paradise.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:05 PM on February 26, 2010


For a little twist on the idea, Klaus Mann's Mephisto.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:08 PM on February 26, 2010


For more than a little twist, and a really fun movie, The Band Wagon is a fantastic musical with the premise being a director who wants to make a "pretentious retelling of Faust."
posted by deacon_blues at 12:14 PM on February 26, 2010


I haven't read it so I don't know if it's any good but...
Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg (1978) - The movie Angel Heart was based on this book.
posted by Babblesort at 12:18 PM on February 26, 2010


Seconding Johannes Cabal. Definitely the most worthwhile reboot or different take on the concept that I've seen. I was utterly and completely engrossed by Page 3.
posted by bunnycup at 12:37 PM on February 26, 2010


For the 'tween boy sport enthusiast in your life, I remember liking On the Devil's Court when I was in junior high. I would think it's campy and dated, but it gets surprisingly good reviews on Amazon.
posted by partylarry at 12:40 PM on February 26, 2010


Isaac Asimov's The Brazen Locked Room.
posted by zamboni at 1:11 PM on February 26, 2010


I'm not sure that Danel Webster, Dorian Gray, or even Faust can be described as having lost their contests with the devil, as the OP specifies in his question.

Is losing the battle important? I mean, things didn't really turn out the way Faust planned, but I don't think you can say he lost a contest with the devil.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:30 PM on February 26, 2010


Shel Silverstein's The Devil And Billy Markham
posted by nicwolff at 1:35 PM on February 26, 2010


I'm not sure that Danel Webster, Dorian Gray, or even Faust can be described as having lost their contests with the devil

Daniel Webster definitely prevailed against the Devil, so he doesn't belong on this list.

Faust prevailed in Goethe's telling (his soul wasn't damned), but there are so many versions of that story with radically different endings that he should stay.

Dorian Gray I would probably leave just because there's no real redemption; I've always assumed that, since Dorian got what he wanted, the Devil did, too.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:56 PM on February 26, 2010


Blood Meridian, sort of.

And, IIRC, there's an interesting variation in Faulkner's The Hamlet: Flem Snopes bargains his soul in a contest with the devil; the devil wins the contest but then discovers Flem never had a soul to begin with; and Flem assumes the throne of Hell as the devil is cast down into its depths.
posted by newmoistness at 2:11 PM on February 26, 2010


Histoire du soldat, The Soldier's Tale, a contest with the Devil NOT based on Faust. A Russian folk-tale set to music by Stravinsky.
posted by Schmucko at 2:29 PM on February 26, 2010


The Howling Man
posted by timsteil at 2:43 PM on February 26, 2010


OH OH OH! GREAT book: Carter Beats the Devil
posted by vito90 at 2:54 PM on February 26, 2010


Von Chamisso's Peter Schlemiel.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 3:01 PM on February 26, 2010


Wow, thanks everybody!
posted by MisterCoffeeWithAnAutomaticDrip at 3:15 PM on February 26, 2010


James Robertson's awesome The Testament of Gideon Mack offers up some great twists on this theme. And one of its major precursors, James Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:36 PM on February 26, 2010


Just as a reference point, you might want to take a look at C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters.
posted by SLC Mom at 4:15 PM on February 26, 2010


the Devil and Homer Simpson should qualify, though the ending might seem slightly.... mmm, ambiguous on the ulimate score there
posted by Redhush at 4:47 PM on February 26, 2010


ooo, not a book though. sorry
posted by Redhush at 4:47 PM on February 26, 2010


Rosemary's Baby, kind of. Someone loses, at least...
posted by sentient at 7:37 PM on February 26, 2010


Truman Capote wrote a gem of a short story called Master Misery that might fit your theme.
posted by Paris Elk at 9:11 AM on February 27, 2010


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