Trope Talk: Faustian Bargains

Trope Talk: Faustian Bargains

Nothing bad every came from a deal with the devil! Let’s talk about how that stellar business decision can play out, and maybe even examine why a very specific variant of this story has slowly slid out of fashion…

MUSIC: “Scheming Weasel” Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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46 Responses

  1. The Last says:

    Nothing like a deal with the devil for a good story

    • Broomer52 says:

      It’s a classic easy setup for a story that the plot device is Biblical.

      I’m reminded of a killer line in a Christian movie (the movie itself was pretty meh and I never liked movies of any type that feel like they’re lecturing you) when an asshole business man is talking to his senile grandmother bringing up how she kept her faith and this is what she has meanwhile he walked away from it and he’s better off than most anyone. In a moment of clarity she says “Sometimes people don’t realize they’re in a cage until the door closes” (translation: it’s great right now but when you die theirs no taking it back)

    • LPK675 says:

      *Looks over at One More Day*
      Doesn’t always make for a good story.

    • Tho Nguyen says:

      Literally the first 5 seasons of supernatural

    • AlSidre says:

      Your divorce lawyer has entered rhe chat

    • DISTurbedwaffle918 says:

      My favorite ones are where the devil gets his shit kicked in anyway. Just really cathartic imo

  2. Justin Wahlne says:

    My favorite part is when Red implicitly calls Light Yagami a “short-sighted goober.” 😂🤣

    • Tempest Goddess of The Sea and Mischief says:


    • Polyman says:

      He was smart until the writer realized the story actually needed to end.

    • Sara Vinci says:

      ​@Polyman I don’t think he was, at least not in the way it was intended this in the video. The Light Yagami before the death note would have been rejected killing police man etc.

    • Daneward Locke says:

      @Polyman Him being smart and short-sighted (and a goober) aren’t mutually exclusive; the entire plot started because Light’s ego was too big for him to not fall into an extremely obvious trap L placed for him, and he lost most or all of his “battles” with L (until he basically got outside help L couldn’t possibly foresee coming to end things for him) for the same reason, in addition to him not being as smart as he thought he was. Also his idea for how to make a “better” world was really terrible.

  3. 3393matthew says:

    “Get struck by a pop fly in the outfield and wake up with super powers” is absolutely going to be the backstory for my next dnd character

  4. L P says:

    As a Jewish born and raised person, that tangent about the Jewish take on arguments made me burst out laughing in the middle of a shop

    • Frank West says:

      Reminds me of a Shabbat dinner discussion I had with my family.
      I told made a joke about how Jews could never get along and even if you took two with the same opinion on a topic and put them in a room together, they would end up arguing about it somehow.
      This turned into a 10 minute argument about how litigious we were, with one brother and my mom on my side, one brother neutral and my dad opposing the idea

    • Meili Yinhua says:

      To be honest, when she mentioned the Jewish role of satan I was like “that makes so much more sense!”
      My first big theological questions that led me to leave the christian church had to do with the conception of satan making no sense to me

    • L P says:

      @Meili Yinhua i assume you ment leave and made a typo?

    • Meili Yinhua says:

      @L P yes, sorry

    • L P says:

      @Frank West we have several jokes about it (but I’m secular so never did the big shabbat stuff and barely do holidays)
      If there is a Jewish on a desert island they will build 2 synagogues, one to use and one to never use.
      In Israel we have so many political parties, we have 3 parties for every 2 people, the me party, the you party, and the us party (well that just the outcome of the election system where everyone vote to a list, and at the end all the votes from everyone are counted and seats in the parliament equivalent are divided by % of vote from the national vote, so it’s very supportive of small parties as a system as you only need like 5% of the national vote to get in, so no votes wasted voting for smaller parties, leading to over 40 options for each election)

  5. Brandon Hart Ritchie says:

    Describing Azula and Ozais relationship as a Faustian covenant is weird and hilariously accurate. Bravo.

  6. Herbert Unkraut says:

    Goethe’s version of the Faust story has the surprisingly unique twist of turning the deal into more of a bet: “if you manage to make me happy, you get my soul”. I don’t think too many stories actually take that route, but it allows for quite a lot of cases in the “outsmarting the devil” category.

    • Professor Lakitax says:


    • Amy Cox says:

      Enemies to lovers, 300k words, WIP on AO3. The story ends with the devil character saying that they want change the terms of their deal. They no longer want the deal maker’s soul, they want their heart/hand in marriage. The deal maker takes a moment to clarify that the devil wants their love as opposed to a part of their body, then tearfully accepts the new deal

    • Kallisti Ravenhurst says:

      @Amy Cox “But you earned my soul? What about the deal?”
      “I think it fits better with you”

    • Sophia Ro says:

      Yeah I think it’s an aspect most people overlook that. Also that it’s actually not really about Faust wanting power – but happiness. That’s the condition of his bargain. If he actually says a moment is so fulfilling he wished it lasted he loses his soul.

    • edi says:

      There’s another concept that was highly unusual for it’s time: Faust realises that Mephisto doesn’t think like humans and thus can’t comprehend them! That’s why he made the bet in the first place!

  7. DuAdurnaEldrvarya says:

    Fun fact: devils in dungeons and dragons – being lawful evil – can actually be sued if they don’t hold their end of the deal.

    • CoolGreen Bug says:

      But to do that you must pay a cost that no being in the universe is willing to pay,
      calling on the help of the DnD version of the minions

    • DuAdurnaEldrvarya says:

      @CoolGreen Bug Who is that?

    • Joen Deo says:

      ​@DuAdurnaEldrvaryamodrons I believe

    • Paul Gibbon says:

      Another little detail I like is that there’s a fiend who will sometimes make bargains with no downside whatsoever. The warlock gets what they asked for with no word twisting or hidden costs, and the price is something utterly trivial, that doesn’t turn out to be a crippling loss later on. They provide such good publicity for other people considering the same bargain!

    • The Horned King says:

      @CoolGreen Bug I have never heard about that. But I have heard that you will be provided with a lawyer, an erinyes, who will actually do their best to defend you.

  8. Kore says:

    Meg from Hercules is an example of a character who bargained to save a loved one.

    • Mind Crystals says:

      What I find interesting is that what we see in the movie is the aftermath of that bargain. Hades held up his side of the deal, and even if Meg’s bf didn’t ditch her for another woman, she would still be stuck serving him with apparently no termination date.

  9. Ella C says:

    I have waited for literal years for this trope talk. I can die happy now.

    …Or I *could* die happy, if I hadn’t sold my soul eight months ago in exchange for a box of cake mix. :/

  10. Calsalitra says:

    The TF2 comics (Naked and the Dead specifically) have probably my favorite example of outsmarting the Devil, not just once but twice! The Medic made a deal with the devil at some point in exchange for his soul. When the Medic dies the Devil is ready to collect, but comments that the Medic had been such a monster after the deal was struck that he probably would have gone to Hell anyway, so the Devil actually gave him free crap. When the Devil tries to collect the Medic uses a loophole, since the Devil requires *majority* ownership of the Medics soul to collect, and he’s surgically grafted 8 additional souls to his own. This leaves the Devil with only 1/9th ownership, so he can’t do anything. Instead of going to Heaven Medic negotiates for more time on Earth using flattery and bartering, by immediately trading one of his souls for the Devils pen.

    • 2qup2 says:

      treating your soul like shares of a company is my favorite concept than nobody ever uses

    • Timmir00 says:

      I want to say John Constantine did something similar in his comics where he had actually sold his soul to a number of different entities that if he dies, it would cause a literal war in hell over who gets his soul, so they actively go out of their way to keep him alive.

    • Accelleratii Incredibus says:

      @Timmir00 That sounds like what would happen to the last Dovakiin. Every playthrough of Skyrim, I make deals with over a half dozen Daedra who all want to put me in their specific afterlife. I’d place my bets on Hermaeus Mora winning the fight though.

    • Dadycoool says:

      @Accelleratii Incredibus Pretty sure Akatosh has first dibs on all Dovakiin, though, so it’s really more of a “Ah, but you see, what I was promising was never mine to bargain away and was never going to be yours. So therefore, you gain nothing from any bargain with me.” when the Dovakiin dies.

    • Accelleratii Incredibus says:

      @Dadycoool That’s fair. Though, Hermaeus Mora does definitely have the power to hold almost anyone in Apocrypha as long as he wants, as shown with Miraak. So like… I’m willing to bet the Dovahkiin has a chance of getting stuck there for a while until Hermaeus Mora stops finding them useful or a god steps in to get them out.

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