One of my favourite legends is the Germanic one, Faust. A scholar who is successful but dissatisfied with life, he makes a deal with the devil. Faust exchanges his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. The “deal with the devil” has also become known as the Faustian deal where a person surrenders their moral integrity to achieve
There are many different takes on the legend in books, opera, film and poetry at the very least. The puppet plays and theatre enactments were popular in Germany in the
16th Century where Faust and Mephistopheles were figures of vulgar fun. Christopher Marlowe made the play a classic in England with his “The Tragical History of Doctor
Faustus”. Goethe reworked this story some 200 years later and Faust is an intellectual who desires more than just the pleasures of meat and drink.
The overall story remains the same, Faust is very intellectual and yet bored with this. He calls on the devil, he wants more power, knowledge of magic and a way to indulge all
the pleasures and knowledge on earth. He makes a bargain, Mephistopheles will serve Faust with his magical powers. At the end of the term they will claim Faust’s soul which
will be eternally damned. The term usually appears as 24 years.
Faust makes great use of Mephistopheles during this term, during this he seduces a beautiful innocent girl called Gretchen. Her life is destroyed but her innocence brings her to the graceful Heaven. In Goethe’s reconstruction God saves him thanks to a combination of Faust’s constant striving and Gretchen’s prayers. However in the earlier tales he receives the full wrath of the Devil and is carried off to Hell.
1725 is the one that Goethe read when he was younger, the origin of the name of Faust is possibly thanks to Dr Johann Georg Faust who was a magician and alchemist. He obtained a degree from Heidelberg University in 1509. It is however possible that it comes from Gutenberg’s partner Fust, however I suspect there is no definitive way to
say yes to either.
As I am also a bit of a manga/anime fan I also feel compelled to mention that the name (and story of similar types) frequently seems to turn up in some of my favourites. In Yami
No Matsuei (Descendents of Darkeness) a version of the Tartini story where a young man makes a pact with a devil to play the “Devil’s Trill”, in their version however the young man is unwittingly part of the devil’s pact when a lense from the previous owner is transplanted and the demons contract transfers.
In Blue Exorcist Mephisto Pheles is the headmaster of a school that deals with Exorcism’s and is a rather eccentric demon, to put it mildly.
Aside from that we have the “magical Mr Mephistopheles” from Cats. And lastly, since I am actually happy to do my own art and stories, I leave you with my little projects on the
matter so far.