Demogorgon

Demogorgon

[dee-muh-gawr-guhn, dem-uh-]
Demogorgon, although often ascribed to Greek mythology, is actually attributed to a Christian scholar ca 350-400 CE, imagined as the name of a pagan god or demon, associated with the underworld and envisaged as a powerful primordial being, whose very name had been taboo.

Derivation and history

Demogorgon is first mentioned by a Christian scholiast of ca 350-400 CE, who was writing glossary annotations into the margins of Statius's Thebaid. This gloss is attributed to an otherwise unknown 'Placidius Lactantius' in the manuscripts and in the earliest printed editions of Statius' works (Venice, 1483 and 1494); as a result, the writer has been misidentified with Lucius Caelius Firmianus Lactantius and other Christian authors by enthusiastic modern demonologists. The name is introduced in a discussion of book IV line 516 of the Thebais, which mentions 'the supreme being of the threefold world' (triplicis mundi summum); in a mystical passage which seems to show Jewish influence (it mentions Moses and Isaiah), the author says of Statius, Dicit deum Demogorgona summum ('He is speaking of the Demogorgon, the supreme god', or perhaps 'He is speaking of a god, the supreme Demogorgon'). Prior to this, there is no mention of the supposed "Demogorgon" anywhere by any writer, pagan or Christian.

In the Early Middle Ages, Demogorgon is mentioned in the tenth-century Adnotationes super Lucanum, a series of short notes to Lucan's Pharsalia that are included in the Commenta Bernensia, the "Berne Scholia on Lucan". By the late Middle Ages, the reality of a primordial "Demogorgon" was so well fixed in the European imagination that "Demogorgon's son Pan" became a bizarre variant reading for "Hermes' son Pan" in one manuscript tradition of Boccaccio's Genealogia Deorum gentilium ("Genealogies of the Gods":1.3-4 and 2.1), misreading a line in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

After Boccaccio Demogorgon is mentioned as a "primal" god in quite a few Renaissance texts, and impressively glossed "Demon-Gorgon," i.e., "Terror-Demon" or "God of the Earth." Seznec, for instance, now spots in Demogorgon an allusion to the Demiurge ("Craftsman" or "Maker") of Plato's Timaeus. For a remarkable early text actually identifying Ovid's Demiurge (1/1, here) as "sovereign Demogorgon," see the paraphrase of Metamorphoses I in Abraham France, The third part of the Countesse of Pembrokes Yuychurch (London, 1592), sig. A2v.

Obscure etymology

The origins of the name Demogorgon are uncertain, partly because the figure itself was of imaginary coinage. Various theories suggest that the name is derived from the Greek words daemon ('spirit' given the Christian connotations of 'demon' in the early Middle Ages)— or, less likely demos ('people')— and Gorgon or gorgos ('grim'). Another, less accepted theory claims that it is derived from a variation of 'demiurge'. The early Christian obsession with Satan and the vivid inhabitants of Hell are of Persian origin, while the magical context in which such imaginings thrive was Egyptian and Syrian.

In literature

Demogorgon was taken up by Christian writers as a demon of Hell:
"Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name
Of Demogorgon."
John Milton, Paradise Lost II. 966.
Note, however, Milton does not refer to the inhabitants of Hell itself, but of an unformed region where Chaos rules with Night. In Milton's epic poem Satan passes through this region while traveling from Hell to Earth.

Demogorgon's name was earlier invoked by Faustus in Scene III of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (1590) when the eponymous Doctor summons Mephistopheles with a Latin incantation.

According to Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, Demogorgon has a splendid temple palace in the Himalaya mountains where every five years the fates and genii are all summoned to appear before him and give an account of their actions. They travel through the air in various strange conveyances, and it is no easy matter to distinguish between their convention and a Witches' Sabbath. When elements of Ariosto's poem supplied Philippe Quinault's libretto for Jean-Baptiste Lully's opera Roland, performed at Versailles, 8 January 1685, Demogorgon was king of the fairies and master of ceremonies. Demorgogon is also mentioned in the Book II of the epic poema El Bernardo written in Mexico by Bernardo de Balbuenain the 17th. century and published in Spain 1624. The passage tells how the fairy Alcina visits Demorgogon in his infernal palace.

Aquí Demogorgon está sentado
en su banco fatal, cuyo decreto
de las supremas causas es guardado
por inviolable y celestial preceto.
Las parcas y su estambre delicado
a cuyo huso el mundo está sujeto,
la fea muerte y el vivir lúcido
y el negro lago del oscuro olvido
(Libro II, estrofa 19)

Edmund Spenser mentioned him briefly in The Faerie Queene:

A bold bad man, that dar'd to call by name
Great Gorgon, Prince of darknesse and dead night,
At which Cocytus quakes, and Styx is put to flight. (Canto I, stanza 37)

In Moby-Dick, Starbuck describes the white whale as Ahab's demogorgon.

Demogorgon is also a character in Percy Bysshe Shelley's Prometheus Unbound. In this lyrical drama, Demogorgon is the offspring of Jupiter and Thetis who eventually dethrones Jupiter. It is never mentioned whether Demogorgon is male or female and it is instead portrayed as a dark, shapeless spirit. The theory of Demogorgon's name originating from Greek "demos" and "gorgos" is possibly at work in this text as an allusion to a politically active and revolutionary populace. Shelley's allusions to the French Revolution further support this.

He is also the protagonist of an opera by Vincenzo Righini (1786) with a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte.

Demogorgon is the title of a poem by Álvaro de Campos, in which the writer is afraid of becoming mad by learning the true nature and unveiling the mystery of life.

Demogorgon also appears in the book Olympos by Dan Simmons, where it is also described as a dark and shapeless mass. It is portrayed as being neither good nor evil, but all-knowing.

Demogorgon is the title of a 1987 horror novel by English author Brian Lumley. In this it is a demon manifesting Satan's reproductive power and is used by the anti-christ on earth as a herald and weapon.

Demogorgon also appears in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Poem "Limbo" written in 1799

Demogorgon is mentioned in Hunter S. Thompson's novel "The Rum Diary", by the character Moberg:

"'Lotterman thinks I'm a Demogorgon,' he would say. 'You know what that is? Look it up - no wonder he doesn't like me.'"

Popular Culture

In the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, Demogorgon is considered Prince of Demons, though this title doesn't grant him absolute authority. In the computer game NetHack, Demogorgon is considered the most difficult monster.

Demogorgon also appears as the final enemy of the Commodore 64 game Forbidden Forest and its sequel, Beyond the Forbidden Forest.

Demogorgon Is also shown in the game Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal. He is found in the bottom floor in Watcher's Keep. He is considered the strongest monster in the game.

Demogorgons appear as enemies in Progress Quest, though often with various prefixes and suffixes to denote how strong they are.

Notes

References

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