The Devils that made 'em do it:
Satanic Archetypes in North American French Folklore
Peter van Lent
Given the important religious orientation of this ethnic
group, it is not surprising to find that the devil is a popular
character in North American French folklore. What is surÂ
prising is the diversity of roles the devil plays: the whole subÂ
ject of North American French deviltry is far more complex
than one would imagine. Also, the marked frequency with
which the devil appears raises some interesting questions.
Years of reading folktales from French-speaking North
American communities and a considerable amount of firstÂ
hand collecting of folk materials have brought a variety of
devil archetypes to my attention. It would seem important
to organize these character types and to try to find explanaÂ
tions for some of the curious anomalies which come to light.
The best way to arrange devil character types is to begin with
the most evil, aggressive role and to work from there in a frameÂ
work of decreasing malevolence. The former role types are
the most familiar to readers from their experience with the
devil in more formal literature; the less aggressive character
roles are the ones which present the more nuanced situations,
requiring more attention.
The Devil as Evil Schemer
This is the first role typeâ€”the devil as aggressive evil-doer.
In the tales which fall in this category, the humans who come
in contact with the devil are his victims. The individual him
or herself initiates no contact with Satan, but is approached
gratuitously by the devil who is, as usual, seeking to capture
human souls. The victim enters into an agreement with the