Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Devils

Although notionally monotheistic, the Christian mythos not only has an anti-god, variously called Satan, Lucifer or simply the Devil, but an entire hierarchy of evil Demons mirroring the heavenly hierarchy of Angels and saints. Early Christian Fantasy made much of the notion that there had been a war in Heaven which resulted in the Devil being cast into Hell with a legion of followers. Some names applied in the Bible to the Devil – notably Beelzebub – were given by later writers to his henchmen, and the same fate overcame the Talmudic demon-king Asmodeus, who was converted into a relatively amiable figure by Alain René Le Sage (1668-1747) in Le Diable boiteux (1707). The register of minor devils was swelled by the names of the fallen angels listed in the apocryphal Book of Enoch and those of the deities – including Moloch, Baal and Astaroth – worshipped by the Hebrews' neighbours. Extensive lists can be found in Richard Bovet's Pandaemonium (1684) and Lauran Paine's The Hierarchy of Hell (1972).

Lesser devils often stand in for their master in tales of Pacts with the Devil; some – like Faust's Mephistopheles – have enjoyed long and notable literary careers. The most famous modern literary devil is the writer of The Screwtape Letters (1942) by C S Lewis. Devils are conventionally depicted by illustrators as horned and bearded manikins with goat's legs and forked tails. [BS]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.