A demon of myth and legend, Mephistopheles was created in the 1500’s as part of the story of Faust, a demon who happened to be passing by the home of a scholar with ambitions greater than he had means of achieving. Mephistopheles walked by his home as Faust prepared to summon demons to help him learn achieve his dreams and decided to stop him, offering his services for a time in exchange for Faust’s soul to suffer in eternal damnation. The original writing was hugely inspirational and caused many others over the centuries since to write their own versions of the story the most popular of which is the play Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe which provided visual accent to the story.
Mephistopheles, or Mephisto as he is called in the 1587 German pamphlet that first featured the story, is not mentioned in any other works before this ‘Historia von D. Johann Fausten’, and so it is fairly safe to assume that he is a villain created specifically for this particular story. He is described as a demon that is fairly human in appearance, except for the one writing in which he appears as a woman named Margaretta, with a pointed beard and slanted eyebrows. He is pale with delicate yet somehow menacing features. Most interestingly is the way Mephistopheles is described as hating his life and his job as a demon. He is charged with collecting souls and delivering them to hell but throughout the story he just seems flat out unimpressed with his life, or any life for that matter. Rather than leap at the chance to collect Faust’s soul, he warns him away from the ‘Faustian’ bargain of trading his soul to a devil.
Perhaps most interestingly, Mephistopheles doesn’t care so much that he’s made Faust’s slave for twenty-four years; in the eyes of eternity twenty-four years is nothing. However he does seem to resent being forced to go with Faust to explore all the wonders of the world and to gain all its knowledge. He frequently acts as a ‘downer’ to glorious experiences, at one point even wondering why there should even be beautiful and glorious things in the world when in the end they all would perish “wretchedly” and so it was better that they never be started or born or experienced in the first place. Throughout the whole of their twenty-four year relationship Mephisto follows through on all his promises, bringing Faust everything he asks for, taking him on amazing journeys and giving him all the knowledge that can be learned. Faust is so enraptured with it all that he proclaims at one point that if he had as many souls as there were stars in the sky he would give each and every one of them over to Mephistopheles and condemn them all to damnation because of how wonderful he felt the demon had been.
Sadly, however, many people have forgotten this newly formed demon and instead only seem to remember the human that sold his soul. It is, after all, a ‘Faustian’ bargain and not a Mephistophelian bargain to give up your soul for the sake of knowledge, power or wealth.