Demons, Monsters, and Ghosts, Oh No! Part III: Bow before the King
- The second demon archetype is the Demon God
- The demon god is similar in several ways to the power monger
- There are three questions to ask yourself when writing a demon god
- What are you demon god’s motivations?
- Why doesn’t your demon god rule all of time and existence…or at least the world?
- Why do people follow your demon god?
If you remember last time in this series I wrote about the first demon archetype, The Ravager. For this next installment I would like to talk about the second demon archetype, The Demon God. The demon god is similar in many ways to the power monger villain archetype. However instead of taking the position of a king this demon usually takes the position of a god or lord of all, or a significant portion, of evil. A power monger villain will sometimes be in service to a demon god, one of the only archetypes to which a power monger is likely to be subservient. The primary differences between a demon god and a power monger are 1) the scope of its influence and 2) the nature of its power. While a power monger may rule a nation, or even a world, a demon god is likely to rule over vast stretches of reality. Similarly a power monger will rely on others for the source of his power. He might have armies at his command. Perhaps he is the leader of a cadre of anti-heroes, or holds magical influence over hordes of evil monsters. A power monger might be a character of significant skill on his own, or he might be a broken shell of a man who gains his power by manipulating others.
On the other hand a demon god is a being of significant, even world-shaping, personal power. A demon god will probably have armies of evil beings at its beck and call. However the source of its power is not these armies but its own ability to shape the world. A demon god might be a manipulator, but manipulation is inevitably not its only source of power. Also, whereas a power monger might rely on magical or technological objects for his power, a demon god would inevitably be the source of these objects.
That being said there are several ways of approaching the creation and use of a demon god in your story. Some questions to answer are:
1. What are the demon god’s motivations?
As a being of world-shaping personal power the motives of a demon god are generally more abstract than those of lesser villains. While a power monger might want to rule a nation, or even to rule the world, a demon god generally already has the power it desires. Its motives are inevitably something else, perhaps the creation of chaos in the world, the destruction of all life, or a timeless battle between good and evil. However these have all been done multiple times. Perhaps you want to give your demon god an element of humanity, or simply something less clichéd.
For instance in the world of Avnul, where the Neshelim stories are set, many of the demon gods have set themselves up as gods because they want to be worshipped. They want followers who will love them. The demon gods in Avnul are not necessarily evil in the traditional sense (murdering, destroying, causing chaos, etc) but they are evil in the sense that they draw the peoples of the world away from their intended purpose. I don’t want to say anymore or I might ruin some future stories.
2. Why doesn’t the demon god rule all?
Traditional means of limiting a demon god’s power in the world (so as to make it possible for heroes to do their job) are 1) keeping it trapped or imprisoned somehow, 2) putting its primary home in a different reality so that they can only affect the world through their followers, 3) giving it a reasonable lack of interest in the goings on of the mundane world.
In Glen Cook’s The Black Company there are three demon gods. These are The Dominator (who is imprisoned in his barrow in the far north), Kina (who is imprisoned in Glittering Stone in the far south), and an unnamed evil (who is imprisoned in the roots of a tree god on the plain of fear). In the Demon Wars Saga by R.A. Salvatore the Demon Dactyl begins the series as a corporeal being which is imprisoned. After his body’s destruction he takes the form of a possessing spirit which guides the evil forces through the rest of the books.
In the fictional universes of Dungeons and Dragons there are many different demon gods who rule over realms and planes of their own with relatively little access to the mortal world. Lastly in the writings of H.P. Lovecraft there is a complex network of divine beings which have little to no interest in humanity. The gods and demons are beings of universal power with the ability to toy with entire planets. In the grand scheme of things Earth just isn’t that important.
3. Why do people serve the demon god?
Every demon god found in fiction has worshippers, followers, and creatures that do its bidding. One of the things which separate out those demon gods which work from those which don’t is the reasoning of their followers. The traditional answer to this question is power. When the question is asked, why do you serve the great evil so and so, many fictional characters respond with ‘because he gives me power’. Sometimes this can work, more often it falls short without further underpinning. Your demon god will be defined, in many ways, by its servants. Here we come to the same difficulty the power monger has, how do you display the demon gods evil without destroying its follower’s reasons for following it?
There is no easy answer to this problem. However a look at the philosophies of your evil characters may yield some solutions. Ask yourself about the ideals, cultures, and beliefs of your demon god’s followers. Keep in mind that most villains believe they are heroes. In the world of Avnul the Neshelim, one of the greatest evils in the world, believe themselves to be superior. They follow Sehalel because he is their god, their protector, and the one who gives them power. For the rest of the world Sehalel is a demon god, a being of immense evil. For the Neshelim he is a wonderful god who protects and provides for them.
In Steven Erikson’s world of Malaz the followers of the Crippled God see brokenness as strength. They seek to spread chaos, brokenness, and destruction in an effort to ‘make the world a better place’. They follow the Crippled God because he is the ultimate form of brokenness. When he lashes out at his followers it is viewed as a blessing because brokenness is good. In The Black Company the followers of Kina seek the end of the world. They believe that when one is killed by, or in sacrifice to, Kina that person goes directly to paradise. Therefore when Kina kills her followers they see it as the ultimate blessing, they long for this death. All of these are plausible reasons for people to follow a demon god. While their beliefs may be twisted, or even nonsensical, to outsiders the philosophical underpinnings of those beliefs allow for a confident association with their demon god.
Ultimately the demon god of your story will likely not appear very often in the actual story. This is one reason that its interactions with its followers are so important. Your demon god will likely be defined for the reader by the actions and beliefs of its followers.
Among the Neshelim
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?
Posted on February 5, 2011, in Characters, Demons, Fantasy, Tobias Mastgrave, Villains, World Creation and tagged Avnul, demon, Demon Archetype, demon god, Demon Wars Saga, Dungeons and Dragons, Fantasy Characters, Glen Cook, H.P. Lovecraft, Malaz, Power Monger, R.A. Salvatore, Sehalel, Steven Erikson, The Black Company, The Crippled God, The Neshelim, Villain Achetypes, Writing Fantasy. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.