Can We Beat the Devil at His Own Game?

An Analysis of the Faustian Mythos and Trends that Indicate its Conclusion in the 21st Century.

Charles Martocello

The Faustian Legend is centuries-spanning sub-genre of the Western Canon that may ultimately conclude in the 21st century. From its origins in the 16th century to modern-era stories, depictions of “Deals with the Devil” abound in literature, ballet, opera, television, music, and comics. Faustian stories permeate many genres of literature in both retellings, modernization of the German legend, and adaptations. An analysis of the Faustian Mythos reveals trends and patterns in the depiction and behavior of the character of “The Devil” and the conclusion of the deals men make with this mythological figure. Through my study of Faustian Literature I have found that adaptations of the legend depict a trend toward failure on the Devil’s part, and salvation/escape on the part of those who enter demonic deals. Through the survey of The Devil and Tom Walker set in the 18th century by Washington Irving, Oscar Wilde’s 19th century The Picture of Dorian Gray, Issac Asivmov’s Gimmicks Three of the 20th century and Musical Adaptations of the Faustian Legend by the Charlie Daniel’s Band, a centuries-wide trend is evidenced and indicates a possible end to the Faustian Mythos that has spanned centuries. As time progresses, the bargains made with The Devil exhibits wagers of increasing value to the human as well as less success on the part of The Devil.

The Faust Legend: Damnation for Knowledge

While the Faustian legend originates from Doctor Johannes Faust, a man who lived in Germany during the 15th and 16th centuries, there is no one written piece of literature that can be considered the “genuine” Faustian legend. The legend’s progenitor was publicly considered to be a magician capable of great feats who wielded God-like powers (Spiazzi 1) . He wrote on alchemy, demonology, necromancy and other archaic sciences in works such as Magia Naturalis et Innaturalis, spelling out how one can go about achieving powers beyond that of the ordinary man.

Faust was considered by contemporaries such as Phillip Melanchthon and Martin Luther, humanist philosophers and clergymen, to be a devil worshiper, imposter, and conspirator with the devil who denounced the importance of faith in God. The condemnation and accusation of Faust by his contemporaries as well as his works led the public to believe that he had conspired with the devil to achieve his magical abilities. Johannes Faust died under mysterious circumstances, and his writings continued to be a source of condemnation by and an example of demonic corruption by the Catholic Church and growing Lutheran Movement (Spiazzi 1).  Writers in subsequent decades publicized and popularized the ridiculed and disgraced doctor, through histories, stories, and poetry.  Dr. D.L. Ashliman of the University of Pittsburgh has collated twelve unique tellings of Faust’s life ranging from moderate accounts of a discredited doctor to wild tales of sorcery (Faust Legends). Writers used the ambiguity of Faust to portray him in varying ways, with harsh criticisms portraying him as a power-hungry man signing his soul to the devil for knowledge of things unknown, and lesser criticisms portraying him as a man on a quest for knowledge seduced by the devil. Many critiques of Faust were used written during the 16th and 17th centuries in addressing the debate between faith and science at the beginning of the scientific revolution (Spiazzi). The prevalence of writings, critiques, and references to the mysterious devil-worshiping doctor propelled Faust to a legendary status in which his portrayal as a man who made a deal with the devil was cemented.  

Tom Walker and the Devil: Wealth for Servitude

The legend of Faust grew in Germany and spread to the rest of Europe in the ensuing centuries. The myths were adapted to match political and philosophical arguments of the times, and injected into popular culture through ballets and operas. The American colonies were not free from the influence of this legend. The Devil and Tom Walker is clear evidence of this. Washington Irving’s short story focuses on Tom Walker, a miser who makes a deal with “black-legs” a demonic figure who inhabits an old Indian fort. 

“He was exceedingly surprised, having neither heard nor seen any one approach; and he was still more perplexed on observing, as well as the gathering gloom would permit, that the stranger was neither negro nor Indian. It is true he was dressed in a rude Indian garb, and had a red belt or sash swathed round his body; but his face was neither black nor copper-color, but swarthy and dingy, and begrimed with soot, as if he had been accustomed to toil among fires and forges. He had a shock of coarse black hair, that stood out from his head in all directions, and bore an axe on his shoulder.” (Irving 2)

The figure offers Tom lost Pirate treasure, in exchange for his service. Tom’s greed is extreme, but not enough at their first meeting to immediately make the deal. 

“It is said that after this commencement they had a long and earnest conversation together, as Tom returned homeward. The black man told him of great sums of money buried by Kidd the pirate under the oak-trees on the high ridge, not far from the morass… What these conditions were may be easily surmised, though Tom never disclosed them publicly. They must have been very hard, for he required time to think of them, and he was not a man to stick at trifles when money was in view.” (Irving 3)

 Tom strikes the deal with “black legs”, but rather than become a slave-trader he agrees to become a money lender on behalf of the figure who will charge high interest rates and take advantage of people wherever he goes in an attempt to gain as much wealth as possible.

“Finding Tom so squeamish on this point, he did not insist upon it, but proposed, instead, that he should turn usurer; the devil being extremely anxious for the increase of usurers, looking upon them as his peculiar people. To this no objections were made, for it was just to Tom’s taste. “You shall open a broker’s shop in Boston next month,” said the black man. “I’ll do it to-morrow, if you wish,” said Tom Walker. “You shall lend money at two per cent. a month.” “Egad, I’ll charge four!” replied Tom Walker. “You shall extort bonds, foreclose mortgages, drive the merchants to bankruptcy–” “I’ll drive them to the devil,” cried Tom Walker.” (Irving 6)

 In the years following, Tom becomes an extraordinarily wealthy man, gaining vast amounts of wealth and property due to his lending habits and cunning business practices. As he ages, he becomes more preoccupied with his soul.

“As Tom waxed old, however, he grew thoughtful. Having secured the good things of this world, he began to feel anxious about those of the next. He thought with regret of the bargain he had made with his black friend, and set his wits to work to cheat him out of the conditions. He became, therefore, all of a sudden, a violent church-goer. He prayed loudly and strenuously, as if heaven were to be taken by force of lungs. Indeed, one might always tell when he had sinned most during the week by the clamor of his Sunday devotion.” (Irving 7)

When questioned by a client about his horrible business practice he remarks “the devil take me if I have made a cent.” Tom Walker disappears, his house falls to ruin overnight, and the chests of gold he had compiled over the years turns to ash. 

The Devil and Tom Walker plays on many key elements of the Faustian Legend. Tom makes a bargain with the devil to gain wealth and in return do the devil’s work. Rather than a quest for knowledge and of things unknown Tom’s deal is centered around wealth and power. The change in subject matter fits the Colonial New England setting of the story. Tom finances many immigrants who would settle the wilds of New England and in turn gains land, wealth and power. The original quest for knowledge and sorcery would not be a seductive offer for a colonist, and so wealth and land take its place. The Faustian Mythos adapts for the era in which it set.  

Dorian Gray: Beauty for Corruption

In the 19th Century the Faustian legend takes form in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Oscar Wilde’s novel is a great deal longer than the German Legends and short story of The Devil and Tom Walker, allowing it to critique aspects of 19th century English Upper Class and Aristocracy as well retelling the Faustian legend through the title character. Dorian Gray, a non-working socialite embedded in the upper crust of London becomes seduced by the beauty of a portrait that was done of himself and desires to always remain that way. In an attempt to never feel the grasp of age and decay and to always remain as beautiful and perfect as he sees himself in the painting while living a life of decadence, skullduggery, and shame he prays to the devil. 

“‘Years ago, when I was a boy,’ said Dorian Gray, ‘you met me, devoted yourself to me, flattered me, and taught me to be vain of my good looks. One day you introduced me to a friend of yours, who explained to me the wonder of youth, and you finished a portrait of me that revealed to me the wonder of beauty. In a mad moment, that I don’t know, even now, whether I regret or not, I made a wish. Perhaps you would call it a prayer ….’ “(Wilde 204)

His desire is seemingly granted. However, the once beautiful painting reflects the state of Dorian’s soul as the figure in the portrait decays and grows ugly and more horrifying as Dorian continues to live his delinquent life. 

“Before I could answer that, I should have to see your soul.’ ‘To see my soul!’ muttered Dorian.

‘You shall see it yourself, to-night!’ he cried, seizing a lamp from the table. ‘Come: it is your own handiwork. Why shouldn’t you look at it? You can tell the world all about it afterwards, if you choose.”

“An exclamation of horror broke from Hallward’s lips as he saw in the dim light the hideous thing on the canvas leering at him. There was something in its expression that filled him with disgust and loathing. Good heavens! it was Dorian Gray’s own face that he was looking at! The horror, whatever it was, had not yet entirely marred that marvelous beauty. There was still some gold in the thinning hair and some scarlet on the sensual lips. The sodden eyes had kept something of the loveliness of their blue, the noble curves had not yet passed entirely away from chiseled nostrils and from plastic throat. Yes, it was Dorian himself.” (Wilde 197)

Driven mad by his ability to see the state of his soul Dorian begins to reform himself, seeing a small change in the painting for the good. Knowing it is possible to repent and save himself Dorian tries to destroy the painting, but is destroyed himself. 

“When they entered, they found hanging upon the wall a splendid portrait of their master as they had last seen him, in all the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty. Lying on the floor was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart. He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage. It was not till they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was.” (Wilde 249)

Upon his death the horror of the painting vanishes and is replaced on his corpse and the canvas returns to its once beautiful image. 

There is no scene depicted where Dorian, surrounded by fire and brimstone or in an Indian fort signs away his soul, but there is a clear link to Dorian making a deal with a higher power. The categorization of ages of human history can be viewed as ages of reason and ages of spectacle. Victorian England was an age of spectacle compared to the age of reason that defined the Protestant Reformation and the Scientific Revolution. Dorian’s obsession with his appearance in the upper classes cements his financial security as he is the beneficiary of the patronage of several aristocrats and pursued by several wealthy women. The spectacle of the age prevents the weakness of Faust and Tom Walker from ensnaring Dorian Gray. However, vanity is his undoing. His obsession with his appearance causes him to forsake his soul and, in an attempt to destroy the ugliness that he caused to himself, he dies. 

Gimmicks Three: Finite Prosperity for Eternal Service

Gimmicks Three is short story inspired by the Faustian legend and written by the Science Fiction author Isaac Asimov. Gimmicks Three shows the most self-awareness in regards to the Faustian Mythos, making no attempt to hide a deal with devil in mystery, folklore, or prayer. Issador Welby, the main character of the story had signed a deal for his soul ten years prior.  The story begins at the end of those ten years at the time of collection and payment. Issador sold his soul to a demon, Shapur, in exchange for ten good years of his life. 

“For the hundredth time, Wellby looked at the unbroken bronze that surrounded him on all sides. The demon had taken unholy pleasure (what other kind indeed?) in pointing out that the floor, ceiling and four walls were featureless, two-foot-thick slabs of bronze, welded seamlessly together.” (Asimov 1)

He can use all the powers of a demon to escape a room, if he can escape the room, he will become a demon and do the devil’s bidding, if not he will be damned eternally. 

“We pay you in advance,” said Shapur persuasively. “Ten years of anything you want, within reason, and then you’re a demon. You’re one of us, with a new name of demonic potency, and many privileges besides. You’ll hardly know you’re damned. And if you don’t sign, you may end up in the fire, anyway, just in the ordinary course of things. You never know. . .. Here, look at me. I’m not doing too badly. I signed up, had my ten years and here I am. Not bad.” (Asimov 1)

Welby is able to think outside of the box he has been locked in and escape judgment by traveling back through time to prevent his deal from ever being done. 

“It’s this contract of yours that I’m concerned about. If you’re not an ordinary damned soul, very well, it’s part of the game. But you must be at least one of us, one of the cadre; it’s what you were paid for, and if I don’t deliver you down below, I will be in enormous trouble.””

“To be sure, as I had moved back in time, my memory of what was becoming the future faded out, but not, apparently, quite entirely. As you pushed the contract at me, I felt uneasy. I didn’t quite remember the future, but I felt uneasy. So, I didn’t sign. I turned you down flat.”” (Asimov 2)

Gimmicks Three plays most on the mythological aspect of the Faustian legend, referencing the meta-narrative or idea of the legend more directly than Tom Walker and the Devil or Dorian gray. Gimmicks Three directly uses the common knowledge of what a Faustian story or deal with the devil is and uses that knowledge to build a story where a possible reversal of the deal can occur adding more philosophical nuance than any other interpretation of the legend. 

Each of the protagonists of the three stories discussed sell their souls for various reasons: profit; vanity; prosperity. For years these men go on living wonderful lives where they achieve and have everything that they can hope for. As time draws on each of them begin to think about the choice that they made. Tom Walker beings to think about his soul and the consequences of his actions, Dorian Gray realizes the damage he caused himself through his painting and is unable to bear the horror of his soul, but Welby doesn’t fully realize his imminent damnation until the time of collection on the deal he made. Gimmicks Three adds nuance to the essentially tried and true format of the Faustian legend. Man sells his soul to achieve the desire of a darker part of himself:  Dr Faust and his thirst for knowledge; Tom Walker and his greed; Dorian Gray and his vanity. The Characters cause their undoing and either serve to be examples of the inherent evil of mankind or are tragic symbols of the corruptibility of the human soul. 

In Gimmicks Three, Welby escapes his contract by manipulating time, preventing the deal from happening after he learns from the demon he sold his soul to that everything he was promised could have been attained if he had just worked hard and that demon deals don’t give you anything more than what you will achieve in your normal life. 

“At least,” said Wellby, with a sorrowful attempt at philosophy, “I’ll have ten happy years to look back on. Surely that’s a consolation, even for a damned soul in hell.”

“Not at all,” said the demon. “Hell would not be hell, if you were allowed consolations. Everything anyone gains on Earth by pacts with the devil, as in your case (or my own, for that matter), is exactly what one might have gained without such a pact if one had worked industriously and in full trust in-uh-Above. That is what makes all such bargains so truly demonic.” And the demon laughed with a kind of cheerful howl.

Wellby said indignantly, “You mean my wife would have returned to me even if I had never signed your contract.”

“She might have,” said Shapur. “Whatever happens is the will of-uh- Above, you know. We ourselves can do nothing to alter that.”” (Asimov 3)

Dealmakers regretting making deals when the time comes to pay for the deal is a commonality in life, the cost of ones soul in each era fits the gift the devil “gave,”  The Devil and Tom Walker, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Gimmicks Three span three centuries and other Faustian legends abounding in our culture show that regret signing away one’s soul for gain during life is simply a matter of course. Preventing the deal, is the only escape in these tales, yet attempts are always made to back out by Faustian Characters. 

The Inflation of Demonic Deals

When analyzing the deals that are made with the devil in Faustian adaptations, one can see that the offerings of the devil become more and more extravagant. Faust desires knowledge, which allows him to become a wizard/magician. Tom Walker desires wealth, and he is given lost pirate gold. Dorian gray desires to be untouched by age and decay, and is given that. Welby desires prosperity and receives success in work, life, and love. As the centuries go by, the devil puts more and more at stake in his deals, and the humans who make the deals become closer and closer to escaping them. The Devil only claims Tom Walker when Tom claims “The Devil take me if I’ve made a cent.” It stands to reason he could have lived on if he did no’t say that. Dorian Gray dies when he tries to destroy the painting of himself that he sold his soul over. It stands to reason he could have lived on if he did not do that. And after ten years Wellby is given an opportunity to escape his damnation and become a demon at the end. He actually escapes his deal with the devil by “thinking outside of the box”. The narrative of the Faustian legend changes over the centuries. Why? Could it be that with each century humanity is edging closer to beating the devil at his own game?

Looking historically at Faustian stories and analyzing the role of Christianity and in turn Satan, the devil, etc. reveals that as Christianity rose and fell the devil’s scope of power adjusts. In the 16th century, when Science was just beginning to take its modern shape the devil could offer magic, knowledge of the supernatural, and information on the unknown, knowledge held only by the church. After the scientific revolution, this offer would have been severely devalued as access to this realm of knowledge had expanded greatly and was no longer religiously-based power . There would be no reason for the “magic” of Satan in the face of the Experimental Method that was bringing reality to things a hundred years prior would be considered occult, magical, or religiously motivated. In the 18th century, when gold and land drove waves and waves of settlers to the United States, the devil could offer that for a man’s soul. However, the colonization of the United States steals that power from the devil. The gold of South America isn’t found in the North and the land is settled extensively. Men find gold in the mountains of California and Alaska, eating up the land as they travel West to find it. The United States is settled, and the devil loses the wealth he promised Tom Walker. In the 20th century, beauty and spectacle are valued in England. The sun never setting on the British Empire allows it citizens to become concerned with beauty and longevity, the perfection of its people. The World Wars brought an end to that reality. The British Empire disappears and the immortality that the citizenry believe was attainable fades with it. The devil loses another bargaining chip. In the mid-20th century in the wake of the World Wars prosperity, the return of a lover, success in business are promised and revealed to be nothing but what could already have happened had you worked for it, and in this case the signer of the contract escapes his deal. As the edges of the map are filled in, as the gaps in our knowledge are cleared, we are not finding monsters out in the mist. The deals become riskier for the devil, and the stakes are raised. The late 20th century and early 21st century provide even higher stakes for the devil. 

The Late 20th Century: Cementation of Victory

In 1972, Marvel Comics released the first issue of comic books to feature the new superhero Ghost Rider. The Ghost Rider was a man who sold his soul to the devil. The first Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze sold his soul to Mefisto (the devil of the Marvel Comics Universe) in exchange for saving his father’s life. (Ghost Rider 1)Owning Blaze’s soul, the devil forces him to go on adventures, quests, etc. capturing rogue demons, taking the souls of men who are in his debt, and other supernatural exploits. The Ghost Rider, in many of his depictions, retains his humanity and is an anti-hero, who in some depictions actually manages to topple and overthrow his ruler, or escape his bondage. (Ghost Rider 1)Depictions vary as the authors of the comic changes, however even if a man can escape as the devil servant, there is always another Ghost Rider. In order to ensure Johnny Blaze and his successors the devil often promises to save the life of the protagonist’s loved ones. This fits in line with the century long inflation that follows the deals in Faustian stories, and similarly, it becomes more and more possible for the escape of these deals. 

The Faustian Legend has been a popular subject for forms of media other than literature, and the discussion of the perpetuation of the mythos is in no way limited to literature alone. Operas, ballets, and classical arrangements add to the Faustian Mythos in every century.  However, X Y Z and other pieces are more in line with retellings of the legends rather than the adaptations I have previously discussed. In 1979, the Charlie Daniels Band released their song The Devil Went Down to Georgia. The song was the Charlie Daniels Band’s most famous song and can be viewed as musical adaptation of Faustian elements similar to the literary works previously discussed. The opening line depicts the devil is a sorry state, behind on his quota for souls. 

“The devil went down to Georgia

He was looking for a soul to steal

And he was in a bind

‘Cause he was way behind

And was willing to make a deal”

 He strikes a deal with a boy named Johnny. In a contest to see who is the better fiddle player the devil wagers his golden fiddle, while Johnny wagers his soul. 

“Now you play a pretty good fiddle boy

But give the devil his due

I’ll bet a fiddle of gold against your soul

‘Cause I think I’m better than you””

In a musically fantastic battle that drove the band to a popularity they had never seen before Johnny beats the devil and a band of demons with his superior skills. 

“The devil bowed his head Because he knew that he’d been beat

And he laid that golden fiddle On the ground at Johnny’s feet

Johnny said, “Devil, just come on backIf you ever wanna try again

I done told you once You son-of-a-bitch I’m the best that’s ever been!””

The devil fails to win Johnny’s soul, losing the bet. The Faustian legend seems overturned. The devil wagers fame, against Johnny, and his own golden fiddle. The inflation of the devil’s offer to fame shows that not knowledge, not wealth, not success and prosperity, not even the souls of loved ones, but fame at beating the devil are the stakes that he is driven to in order to capture a man’s soul. Following the trend of Faustian stories throughout the centuries the man in the deal wins completely over the devil. Is the Faustian legend over? Have we beaten the devil at his own game? Has revolution, expansion, and societal development stripped the once almighty challenger of his ability to steal men’s souls? 

Mythology and Scripture: The True Nature of the Devil

The discussion of the impact of the Devil went down to Georgia would not be complete without mention of its sequel and discussion of its place within the Faustian Mythos. In 1992, Charlie Daniels released a sequel to The Devil Went Down to Georgia titled The Devil Comes Back to Georgia. It features a rematch of the Devil and Johnny playing once again to decide who is the better Fiddler. 

“Been ten long years since the Devil laid his fiddle at Johnny’s feet 

And it burned inside his mind the way he suffered that defeat 

In the darkest pits of Hell the Devil hatched an evil plan 

To temp the fiddle player, For he’s just a mortal man “

Johnny accepts the devil’s request for a rematch, but the contest is never shown; the song reveals only the setup to the duel. 

“The Devil grabbed the golden fiddle out of Johnny’s hand and said 

Boy I’m the fiddle player underground and I walk along the land.”

The devil reclaims his golden fiddle, forcing Johnny to use the bow he used ten years earlier. As Johnny and the devil tune their bows, they taunt one another. 

“The Devil/Narrator: 

Johnny are you practicing or will your hands grow cold?

 The Devil walks the land and plays a fiddle made of gold 

 Can you hear the babe a cryin’? 

  Will he ever know the Devil wants his daddy’s very soul? 


Well you get your fiddle Devil if you think that you can win 

I beat you once you old dog and I’ll whip your butt again”

The song ends as the battle begins. There has never been another song in this series and so the results of the contest are left ambiguous. Many listeners of the song in The Devil Went Down to Georgia believed that the devil was the rightful victor of the duel. However, when interviewed on the subject Charlie Daniels responded:

“The Devil’s just blowing smoke. If you listen to that, there’s just a bunch of noise. There’s no melody to it, there’s no nothing, it’s just a bunch of noise. Just confusion and stuff. And of course, Johnny’s saying something: You can’t beat the Devil without the Lord. I didn’t have that in the song, but I should have. (The Devil Went Down to Georgia) 

Johnny was the rightful victor of the first duel and the results of the second duel were likely left ambiguous in response to public opinion. However, the result of the second duel isn’t necessary. Not only is the image of two master fiddle players locked into musical combat a fantastic and awe-inspiring image, Johnny has already lost to the devil. At the beginning of their second conflict the devil begins with:

“”The sin of pride,” the devil cried is what will do you in.”

And Johnny responds with:

“”I thought we had this settled, I’m the best there’s ever been.””

From that point on the results of the duel do not matter. In this story there is no deal, no wager, no bet. The lack of a wager with the Devil excludes this piece from being a Faustian Story, although it is part of the mythos. The importance of this song’s inclusion in the mythos is in how it shows the strengths and weaknesses of the Devil. In this rematch there is no wager, as the temporal trend would show that the devil will lose. However The Devil wins, because he causes Johnny to commit one of the deadliest sins, Pride. Punishment for pride was damnation as early as Dante’s Inferno and Christian doctrine in the modern day still considers pride a deadly sin, and humility Godly. Johnny dooms himself by falling into the devil’s greatest strength, temptation.

In order to qualify The Devil as Master of Temptation, the religious texts from which the Devil discussed must be examined. The first supposed act by the devil in Jewish and Christian Mythology is the temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden. Tempting Eve with knowledge of the tree of good and evil, causes the expulsion of the first man and woman from the Garden of Eden. Later the Satan figure emerges in the book of Job. Scholarship remains divided on the true identity of the Satan whose name translates from Archaic Hebrew into “the challenger”, but one school of thought equates the Satan to the devil. In Job, the Satan, or Challenger, convinces God to test the faith of one of his most beloved servants. God agrees to this challenge. 

“Then Satan answered the Lord, “Is it for nothing that Job fears God? Have you not made a hedge around him and his household and all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock have increased in the land.  But extend your hand and strike everything he has, and he will no doubt curse you to your face!” (King James Bible, Job 1.7-11)

Job questions God for the misery the Satan has heaped upon him. God then shows Job the vastness of the Universe. While one possible interpretation of this wisdom book is to teach a healthy fear of God, whatever the interpretation the Satan was correct, Job Challenges God and demands an explanation for his suffering. 

“Indeed, my eyes have seen all this, my ears have heard and understood it. What you know, I know also; I am not inferior to you! But I wish to speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case  with God.” (King James Bible, Job 13.1-4)

In the Christian New Testament, Satan (equated to the modern Christian idea of the devil) tempts Jesus in the desert when he is fasting before entering the holy temple for Passover.

“Again the devil took him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And said to him, All these will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down, and worship me.  Then said Jesus unto him, Avoid Satan. For it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (King James Bible, Matthew 4.8-10)

Jesus resists the challenges of Satan, showing a strength in God that Job did not have. Neither the book of Job nor the Christian New Testament are Faustian tales; the Devil makes no deal with Job, and Jesus refuses all offers, fulfilling his role as a tempter and challenger. 

Implications of the End of the Faustian Mythos

This survey of the Faustian Mythos shows that the Devil is a master challenger, but not a master bargainer. Tracking Faustian Literature reveals a trend of increasingly costly wagers, and increasingly lower success rates for the Devil. Human society’s development can account for the reduction of The Devil’s supposed power and influence in human life through modernization, scientific revolution, and secularization of culture, leading to a change and perhaps end of the Faustian legend in the 21st century. Each of the pieces discussed showcase a primary desire of that century’s culture in what the devil offers. As technology, wealth, and science become more prevalent and common through the development and secularization of Western Society, the Devil seemingly loses more and more power. The desire of Western Society to improve, evolve, and change for the better indicates resistance to a mythological idealization of wish fulfillment. This may indicate humanity’s defeat of the mythological Satan, but does not combat the philosophical foundation of the character, which is to challenge the morality of society. The 21st century is yet to receive a unique story that adds to the Faustian mythos. Perhaps increasing secularization and detachment from mythology will forever end this genre of literature and media, whereas stories of temptation, which have been present in humanity since its origin and have not seen a decline in production, will continue. The implications of this supposition can be viewed as either a sign of positive development on the part of Western Society, or as an arrogant indication that Western Society is ignoring its weaknesses to be tempted by power, knowledge, and weakness. We may be able to beat the devil at his own games, but the future will show if we are able to beat the devil.  

Sources Used:

“Faust Legends.” Edited by Dee L Ashliman, Faust Legends, University of Pittsburgh, 17 Feb. 2010,

Asimov, Issac. The Complete Stories . Vol. 1, Broadway Books, 1990.


“Ghost Rider (Johhnt Blaze): Comics” Marvel Comics, 2019

Irving, Washington. “The Devil and Tom Walker.”, 2004,

“Job King James Version (KJV).” King James Bible Online , 2019,

“Matthew King James Version (KJV).” King James Bible Online, 2019,

Spiazzi, Marina. “The Myth of Faust.” Web Quipo Frankenstein, 2001,

“The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Songfacts,

Wilde, Oscar. “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”, Planet PDF, 2011,