Demons, Monsters, and Ghosts, Oh No! Part II: The Ravenous Horde

  • The Ravager is generally the most common demon archetype found in fantasy.
  • The Ravager demon is the thug of the supernatural world, relying on brute strength and lacking in intelligence.
  • Ravager demons have their place in fiction but are generally over used or used to too little effect.
  • See the bottom of this post for details on Lantern Hollow Press’ upcoming giveaway.

In the first installment of this series I introduced some of the differences between demons as they exist in mythology and in fantasy. In this and the next few installments I would like to discuss a few archetypal demons. Now I learned my lesson with my post on villain archetypes and I’m going to discuss these one at a time. The first archetype* I want to discuss is the most commonly used, the Ravager.

This sums up the Dresden Files pretty well.

As with all excessively common archetypes the Ravager has some problems. However, while it may be generally overused, it does have a solid place in fiction. The Ravager is somewhere in between a monster and a true demon. Generally Ravager archetypes are portrayed as the brute thugs of the demon world, very powerful but lacking in cunning and intelligence. One basic example of this archetype is found in the first book of the Dresden Files, Stormfront. The toad demon which appears in this book is a classic example of the Ravager, it exists for one purpose, to destroy, and that is the only thing which enters its mind. As with any Ravager the toad demon has one, and only one, approach to dealing with a problem, smash it. If the problem can’t be smashed then it is too much for the Ravager to handle. While the toad demon in Stormfront is relatively weak some Ravagers are very powerful. In Glen Cook’s The Black Company the Limper is another Ravager archetype**. The Limper is excessively powerful, able to confront entire armies on his own multiple times through the series, but he lacks cunning. Through the course of the series the Limper displays only one reaction to any obstacle, kill it, if it cannot be killed then smash it, if it cannot be smashed then he can’t do much about it.

Ravager archetypes generally see little character growth, they are too simplistic to truly develop as characters and generally exist to get in the way. For instance in The Black Company the Limper presents an excellent obstacle to portray the company’s main strength, its cunning. Though the Limper is excessively powerful he is defeated time and again by the cleverness of the company’s soldiers.

Ravager archetypes can also serve to exhibit the great power which opposes the main characters. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring the Balrog serves to show the great power which opposes the fellowship, both in Moria and as a foreshadowing of greater threats to come. Though the Balrog is portrayed in the novel as little more than a very powerful brute its power manages to, apparently, overcome the wizard Gandalf, who is the fellowship’s own ‘man of power’. This not only provides a sense of emotional loss for the reader but also underlines the very real danger which the fellowship faces on its journey.

An amazing showdown

The difficulty with the Ravager archetype is that it has been used so often that it has become mundane to think of fantasy demons as brutes who can’t think or plan. In The Amulet of Samarkand*** the image is created that Bartimaeus, one of the two main characters, is the only demon of any real cunning in existence. While there are shown to be demons of much greater power Bartimaeus inevitably overcomes them through his intelligence and cleverness. Also in many stories, The Amulet of Samarkand being only one, Ravager demons are beholden to mortal men who have bound them, again through cunning rather than power. This use of the Ravager demon does not mesh well with mythology, as discussed in Part 1, and so gives demons on the whole the image of being little more than lackeys.

Patricia Briggs, in her novel Blood Bound, combines the Ravager archetype with the Possessor archetype (which I will discuss in a later post) to good effect. Though the demon is still portrayed as being single-minded, obsessed with killing and destruction, it is given a certain low cunning which allows it to become a very real threat. Instead of the traditional use where the Ravager is bound to its summoner in Briggs’ novel the Ravager is clever enough to have overcome its summoner and become a threat to the world, or at least the surrounding area. In my opinion this, along with Tolkien’s use of the free-willed Balrog, is a better example of the Ravager archetype than the norm.

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* Demons may sometimes be villains and villains may sometimes be demons. In this there is some overlap between the villain archetypes and the demon archetypes.

** While the Ten Who Were Taken are technically mortal sorcerers the power and persistancy they portray in the series has more in common with demons than with men. The Limper, for instance, ‘dies’ at least three times in the series (in one of his deaths he is chopped to pieces) and yet returns after each death to further harass his enemies.

***The Amulet of Samarkand, ostensibly intended for younger readers, has been challenged or banned from certain libraries.  While the novel itself shows quality writing the characters within display and, in my opinion, encourage a certain amorality which could be detrimental to younger readers.  I suggest you consider carefully before allowing children under the age of 16 access to this book and if your children are considering it as a reading option I suggest you read it before deciding whether or not to allow them access.  A review of the book which disagrees with my own opinion may be found here.

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Giveaway

Lantern Hollow Press has an upcoming giveaway.  Next week when you see a *crazy prayer request* in one of our posts follow the link provided to our Facebook page.  Copy and Paste the *crazy prayer request* into the appropriate discussion thread.  For each day you post the correct *crazy prayer request* you will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of one of our favorite books.  The submissions must be made between Monday, January 24th, 2011 and Sunday, January 30th, 2011 in order to be included in the drawing.  If your name is drawn a member of the press will contact you through Facebook in order to obtain your contact information and mail you your prize.

First Draw Prize: The Belgariad Volume 1 by David Eddings (Includes: Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, and Magician’s Gambit)

Second Draw Prize: Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson and Question Quest by Piers Anthony

Third Draw Prize: Moon Called by Patricia Briggs, The Book of Three and The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

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Among The Neshelim: My first novel, Among the Neshelim, is now available from Smashwords here, and Amazon here. Print copies are not yet available, but will be soon.

Among the Neshelim

by

Tobias Mastgrave

Understanding. One little word, and yet it means so much. We spend our lives pursuing it in one form or another. We long for it, seek it out, and break ourselves trying to find it. But it is always a rare commodity.

Chin Cao Yu, priest and scholar, has sacrificed all he held dear in its pursuit. Now he undertakes the journey of a lifetime, a journey among the mysterious Neshilim, a people of power unlike any he has seen before – all for the hope of understanding. This journey will turn upside down the world he thought he knew and challenge all of his dearly held beliefs. Has he found the ultimate truth or the ultimate lie? And what will he do with it when he learns?

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About noothergods

I hate writing these things. Ok, a little bit about me. I split my time between this world and other worlds so I'm only here about 25% to 50% of the time. Other times my body might be here (or you never know it might not) but I am off somewhere else having strange and usually pretty horrible adventures. I consider myself a scholar of Christian Theology and of Religion in general, I love learning about other people's belief systems. I think that Shinto is fascinating and I'm obsessed with the theology of sin...and with monkeys...I don't know why I'm obsessed with monkeys but I blame Gus...if you know him you'll understand that, if you don't then...well...I blame Gus. Anyway, I'm the one of the blog that needs to be censored the most so if there's anything posted that you find offensive it was probably me. I think that my brain doesn't really work the way it's supposed to but that's an issue for a whole other time. I have two degrees, a B.S. in Religion and an M.Div. in leadership. I enjoy a great many things some of which include writing (gee, what a surprise), martial arts, anything media that has a good story to tell, cooking, discussing/reading/occasionally writing about Christian theology, General theology, religious belief systems, philosophy, etc. I also enjoy reading medieval and previous magical texts and studying the history, practice, and beliefs about magic from around the world. I don't practice magic and if you want to know my personal beliefs on the subject you can email me, however the intersection of magic and religion is a very interesting topic.

Posted on January 22, 2011, in Characters, Demons, Fantasy, Tobias Mastgrave, Villains, World Creation, Writing Hints and Helps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I have a question concerning this. In the anime series Slayers, the monsters (or demons, the terms are used interchangably), have only one goal: the complete destruction of the world. That is the goal of all monsters in existence, from the lowliest of lows to the biggest demon monster god thingy. That being said, many of them are quite intelligent, developing power structures, political intrigue, and plots to overthrow each other or fill in power voids when a powerful one is slain. Do you consider these as Ravagers or something else, or perhaps a fusion of Ravagers with something else. In short, is the simple mind and shallow character a requisite part of the Ravager, or just a common characteristic?

  2. To some degree, while ravagers might be intelligent they will still be simplistic in their thinking and goals. Using Slayers as an example, there are examples of ravager demons in Slayers, usually those towards the bottom of the ladder (the frog demon she runs into in the movie is a good example of my previous comment; it shows a reasonable amount of power, creativity, and intelligence in pursuing its goal, but its goals never go further than it’s next meal). Some of them are ravagers fused with a demon god persona, or (in one case I remember) a possessing demon. Also remember that Slayers takes a very japanese view of demons/monsters/evil in general and so it is somewhat harder to fit into a western context.
    You find in some episodes demons that want to destroy the world actually helping Lena save people. So the comparisons are not exact.

    • Yes, but the demons helping people are always in it for their own ends: to manipulte those people to their own ends, to make sure X item doesn’t fall into the hands of a powerful foe, etc. At one point, a demon actually helps Lena save the world. This is only because a foreign force was destroying it and the demons wanted to destroy the world themselves, though. All in all, I think they actually did a good job of portraying the demons as a cohesive, straightforward group that are intelligent, powerful, purposed, and yet not overwhelming.

  1. Pingback: Demons, Monsters, and Ghosts, Oh No! Part 3: Bow before the King « While We're Paused

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  3. Pingback: Demons, Monsters, and Ghosts, Oh No! Part V: Making it Your Own « While We're Paused

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