Where the devil plays the mind

The devil in the fairy tale

In Christianity, the devil is the epitome of evil and is presented as an independent supernatural being that is not under the direct rule of God. According to this concept, the devil is a "fallen angel" who, along with his followers, rebelled against God. He was defeated by Archangel Michael and his angels and then thrown from heaven to earth as a punishment ("Fall from Hell", see also Dragon), where he now walks among people and sows discord.

The Christian idea of ​​the devil also means that people can call on him and make a pact to help him. Other names of the devil include Antichrist, Beelzebub, Lucifer, and Satan; in addition there are paraphrases such as "the incarnate," Gottseibeiuns "and" hell prince ". These are used to avoid having to call the devil by name. Because the mention of his name is regarded by some as synonymous with calling on the devil (literally: "When one speaks of the devil ...").

Devil's pact and witch madness

In the Middle Ages, the devil was imagined as an animal (toad, cat, dog, wolf, bear) or a hybrid (dragon, upright figure with horns, hooves, tail). The doctrine of the Devil's Pact, which was widespread in the Middle Ages, had a great influence on the witchcraft of the late Middle Ages and early modern times. The figure of the devil, but above all the motif of the devil's pact, was and is taken up again and again in literature.

In fairy tales and legends, too, the pact with the devil is an important motif, which here is mostly reduced to a simple form: the devil offers the fairy tale hero money and goods if he gives him his soul for it. Typically, the poor who made the pact out of necessity (often a discharged soldier) can outsmart the devil in the end (fairy tale of the stupid devil). Sometimes a demonic being in fairy tales is not explicitly named as a devil, but rather a little gray man is mentioned; however, the circumstances suggest that this figure stands for evil or even the devil. A well-known example is the Rumpelstiltskin, who appears to be cunning to get the child of the future queen under his control. But then it is stupid to blurt out its name in its anticipation of the young soul.

In wavering fairy tales, the devil often appears as a threatening figure with which a rich, stingy or hypocritical person is tricked. Another group of fairy tales is about the visit of the fairy tale hero in hell, in which the devil is also portrayed as evil but stupid. Witches and evil wizards are also to be seen as embodiments of evil (devils). In the art fairy tale, the devil appears as a more complex figure, which accordingly demands more from the hero (e.g. Peter Schlemihl's wondrous story, A. v. Chamisso; The Elixirs of the Devil, E.T.A. Hoffmann).

Selection of devil tales

Devil's Pact (fairy tales of stupid devils)

Soldier and devil

Swan fairy tale with the devil

Visit to the devil