I’ve been reading a collection of the classic tales of Solomon Kane by Robert E. Howard, and I’ve noticed just how dated these stories are. Don’t get me wrong, they are well written and quite entertaining. But what I’m referring to in this instance is whenever Solomon Kane faces the other-worldly creatures in these tales they’re usually described as something from hell, or like Satan himself. Though there are a lot of creepy things that Solomon Kane faces, and Howard does a good job of describing how horrific the creatures are, it doesn’t scare me like the readers who read them around the time the stories were published. These stories were written in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. This was before television and horror movies desensitized people; a time where dark, supernatural things, especially the Devil, were something feared whenever thought of.
Dante Alighieri’s 14TH century allegorical poem, Inferno (better known as Dante’s Inferno), depicted Satan trapped in the middle of Hell, waist-deep in ice, giant, with three faces, gnawing on traitorous men like Brutus, Cassius and Judas Iscariot. In John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, Satan is the defier against God, rebelling and taking a third of the angels with him and warring against the heavenly host. He is the deceiver of mankind.
It seems like in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, mediums of all sorts used Satan as the image of absolute fear and evil. He was in literature, horror films, and Rock/Heavy Metal music. I remember being a kid in the 80’s and Satan seemed to be everywhere in the movies, in music, and in the news (Satanic crimes and murders). Now, it seems like all that started to fade out in the late 90’s, and the fearful image of Satan has been swept under the rug; and no one recalls much of it anymore, except to say, “Remember when?”
In fantasy fiction, many villainous characters have been inspired by Satan. Those who have not read past The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings may think that Sauron is the Satan figure in Tolkien’s creation. But when you read his other works, like The Silmarillion, you find out about the one who Sauron was seduced by, and who Sauron served. That is Morgoth, who was Melkor before he turned to darkness. Morgoth, like Satan, was the most powerful of his kind, but wanted to do things his way and rebelled against the creator, Eru, and brought darkness to creation. After Morgoth was defeated and cast into the outer void, Sauron imitated his master, thus continuing the likeness of Morgoth.
In C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, Jadis, the White Witch, rebels against her sister, refusing to submit to her and wanting the throne for herself. She later usurps the throne of Narnia and plunges the world into a dark winter for 100 years. She has minions of all types of evil creatures. All traitors belong to her, and as we see in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, she means to take Edmund’s life (since he was declared a traitor), but Aslan (the Christ-figure in the books) chooses to die on his behalf. The White Witch leads the “crucifixion” (so to speak) of Aslan, with all her minions; just like Satan had his way with Jesus on the day of his crucifixion.
Even The Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan have the Dark One, also known as Shai'tan, which is Arabic for adversary, which is the same meaning for Satan. In Jordan’s series, Shai’tan, the Dark One, is known as the “opponent of the Creator’; and was bound by the Creator at the moment of creation.
Things get twisted around in Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels trilogy; a dark fantasy where the character, Saetan, the High Lord of Hell, is the good guy, as well as those who dwell in Hell. In this world, Darkness is the power of right; basically good and evil is reversed.
Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series is basically about mortal people becoming immortal incarnations of Death, Time, Fate, War, Nature, Evil and Good (Satan is the incarnation of Evil). The first five books simply deal with Satan using and tricking these newly turned immortal incarnations for his own evil purposes, and these incarnations fight against him. By book six another mortal assumes the incarnation of Evil (Satan), but he actually has a good side, and the evil things that Satan has done in the past begins to become rationalized and seen to be for some greater purpose.
More recently, Sara Douglass’ novel, The Devil’s Diadem, is set in 12TH century England where there is a mysterious plague sweeping the land, and it is later found out that imps from hell and the devil himself are sending the plague in search for a stolen artifact.
In closing, Satan has been used and imitated in fantasy fiction and allegory for generations, and it appears that his likeness is diminishing more and more in the genre; save for a few elements in urban fantasy, which deals more with demons in different fictional representations. The more you look at it, the dark lord imitation of Satan is becoming yesterday’s element in the genre, as Satan and Satan-like characters no longer scare us or have us biting our nails in suspense, because it’s been used and told and retold so many times. More and more villains in the genre are simply appearing as the dark side of man, or just an opposing force. Satan isn’t scary anymore. But the ancient telling of this being, fallen from grace, through the Bible, and reinterpreted through the mythologies of many civilizations and stories up to today, is epic in scale. It is the source of the retelling of the clash between good and evil, which drives the majority of the genre.