The horror and dumbness of the devil’s demonic nature. How the ﬁgure of the devil is interpreted by folk narrators
In popular beliefs (influenced throughout the centuries by strong elements of Christianity, its elements, norms, and morals), the figure of the devil as the opposite pole of good is more frequently present than any other mythic creature. The devil is indeed a highly frequent fi gure in Slovene folk tales; based on these tales, it would be possible to compose an extensive register of names for the devil (deriving from pre-Christian origins, taboo-related substitute names, names composed under the infl uence of Christianity, as well as names referring to the devil’s abode or his physical and character traits); narrators refer to the devil’s varying appearance, which is multiplied by his ability to change it at will. His appearance is divided into three basic segments: anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and diabolic. The devil appears amongst people in human disguise so as not to be recognised. He usually adopts the appearance of a handsome young man, a child, an old man, an odd person, or a woman, but it is always a stranger. In his animal disguise the devil is most often associated with a (he-)goat, or with a dog, cat, snake, rabbit, etc. In these cases, the animal is usually black. The real appearance of the devil is supposed to be neither animal nor human, but a combination of the two with some added characteristics.Man is not only aware of the devil’s existence, but he also believes that the creature actively intervenes in his life, and this becomes an important factor which infl uences the organisation of man’s daily life. The devil’s basic mission is indeed to win as many human souls as possible over to his side. People have therefore developed a system of protection and ways of chasing away or exorcising the devil. In folk tales, the devil most often appears in a world of people, who do not fi t in with the accepted way of living or do no respect certain (Christian, ethic, moral) commandments (for instance greedy people, drunkards, pagans, skinfl ints, perjurers, rich people, haughty people, and suicides). However, not only the greatest sinners come into contact with the devil, but also people who want to challenge the devil, punish him, or defend themselves from his evil workings. In tales referring to such encounters, the devil is portrayed as less clever than man and victory therefore always falls to man.