Quebec Studies

The Devils that made 'em do it: Satanic Archetypes in North American French Folklore

Quebec Studies (1985), 3, (1), 138–147.


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 sur­ prising is the diversity of roles the devil plays: the whole sub­ 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 first­ 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 explana­ 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 frame­ 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 type—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

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Author details

van Lent, Peter