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[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/gormenghasttext_6805.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:350:Fuchsia and Steerpike, as depicted by their creator.]]
A series by Mervyn Peake made of the novels ''Titus Groan'', ''Gormenghast'', and ''Titus Alone'' and the lesser-known novella "Boy In Darkness", which [[{{Interquel}} takes place sometime before the second book]]. They are fantasy and take place in an [[TheVerse imaginary world]] but do not have any elves, dragons, magic, or PatchworkMap. They focus on [[DysfunctionJunction a group of weird and horrible people]] who live inside a [[CityInABottle huge castle with an apparently self-sustaining structure and no contact with the outside world other than a few villages, some lakes, and a mountain]].

Titus Groan, the 77th Earl of Groan, is the ruler of Gormenghast, the eponymous castle. He dreads the long life before him, a life of ruling a single building, never leaving the moth-eaten, rusted-shut, claustrophobic, crumbling halls of pointless, decaying ritual. The castle/city's other inhabitants include the MagnificentBastard NietzscheWannabe {{Antihero}} (or AntiVillain) terrorist Steerpike, Titus's sister [[BrokenBird Fuchsia]], the good Dr Prunesquallor, [[EvilChef chef Abiatha Swelter]], Titus's gloomy father [[MeaningfulName Sepulchrave]], and Titus's mother Gertrude, the original CrazyCatLady.

The novels are ''very'' gloomy, disguising their actually fairly left-handed place on the SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism. They have been described variously as [[ThisIsYourPremiseOnDrugs Dickens on acid]], an Edward Gorey drawing that goes on for a thousand pages, Kafka mainlining Yorkshire pudding and opium, and a DarkerAndEdgier Shakespeare. They are also cluttered and sprawling in a way that few major authors have managed to get away with before or since. The physical clutter of Gormenghast's sprawling castle and spiritual clutter of pointless custom and ritual are all lovingly described, sometimes at great length. In addition, there are [[BigLippedAlligatorMoment whole passages where Peake departs from the plot(s)]] to stage dialogues and visit places and characters that are not even vaguely tied to the story and are never referred to again. Think ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'' needed some ruthless editing? ''Gormenghast'' will have you reaching for the shears.

The series should have been the first three in a series which should have followed the protagonist's entire life; sadly Peake's rapidly-evolving Parkinson disease prevented this goal from being realized; the fourth novel would have been entitled ''Titus Awakes'', the first few pages of which Peake wrote while he was still physically capable of doing so, along with a list of events which would have taken place in the following volumes. The fragment was turned into a book by Peake's daughter and published in June 2011, but it only contains a few pages of Peake's actual writing.

MichaelMoorcock is a great admirer of Gormenghast, which he judges a masterpiece of fantasy and has praised vocally in several instances.

In 2000, the BBC adapted the work for the small screen as a project explicitly for the new millennium, focussing on the first two books involving Steerpike. Peake purists criticized it for being LighterAndSofter than the books.

Brian Sibley adapted the books for BBC [[{{Radio}} radio]] ''twice'' - the first time also adapting the first two books as separate plays, the second as a series, ''The History of Titus Groan'', adapting the entire trilogy.

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!!This series displays the following tropes:

* AffablyEvil: Steerpike can be charming and witty in a twisted way, notably to Fuchsia -- but it's all manipulation.
* AManIsNotAVirgin: Averted with Prunesquallor, who is a fifty-something virgin and probably the single most BadAss character in the novels (a BadassBookworm, no less!). ManlyTears are shed in many scenes involving him.
* AmbiguouslyGay: Prunesquallor:
** His vocal disgust with Steerpike's naked chest (demonstrated on ''two'' separate occasions!) is a little ''too much'' protest. Also, in TheSeries , he is played by StraightGay actor John Sessions...
** Relatively early on in TheSeries, Steerpike flirts with him, presumably to gain an advantage in the arm of his schemes that he needs Prunesquallor for; Prunesquallor responds by calling him a clever little monster, but ends up complying with Steerpike anyway; the implication is more that the flirting wasn't an attempt at seduction as much as a threat that Steerpike could out him.
* AmbitionIsEvil: Although Gormenghast is a world of social immobility taken to truly ridiculous extremes, Steerpike's particular methods of bringing himself up in the world quickly veer away from the sympathetic.
* AnyoneCanDie: Major characters, including some of the hero's friends and family, die abruptly and grotesquely -- usually thanks to Steerpike.
* AppropriatedTitle: The intended focus of the series was Titus Groan, title character of the first book, not Gormenghast, the childhood home that he departed from two books into [[AuthorExistenceFailure what should have been]] a longer series. Ironically, the Titus Groan, the first book, does not significantly feature Titus as a character, as he's a very young child.
* AssholeVictim:
** Most people in Gormenghast are complete and utter tools. Steerpike kills a lot of people. Do the math.
** AxCrazy Swelter might also count -- except that he's not exactly a victim, as he dies in an equal fight of sorts with someone he was trying to kill.
* CobwebJungle: The attic in which [[spoiler:Flay and Swelter fight]].
* ConsummateLiar: Steerpike is possibly the only character in literature who ''never'' makes a ''single'' unambiguously truthful statement.
* CoolChair: Cora and Clarice desperately want a pair of thrones back that they once possessed when they were young. They don't want 'the throne' in the sense of ruling the kingdom, they just want the furniture.
* CrapsackWorld: Gormenghast. In quite an original way- full of pointless rituals that must never be broken, at the expense of everybody's sanity and lives.
* CrazyCatLady: Gertrude. She also likes birds.
* CreepyTwins: Cora and Clarice. Although "grotesque" twins would be more accurate.
* CringeComedy: The way the characters behave in the books qualifies as this, though this is played UpToEleven in the television miniseries.
* CrystalSpiresAndTogas: [[spoiler:the world outside Gormenghast]].
* DeadlyDecadentCourt: Probably the only thing that stops more people in Gormenghast from killing each other is the stultifying tradition. It's deadly for the ''soul''.
* DisproportionateRetribution: When Cheeta discovers that Titus' interest in her is purely sexual, she responds by trying to drive him insane.
* DrivenToSuicide: [[spoiler:Sepulchrave is destroyed when his library is burnt down thanks to Steerpike, and eventually sacrifices himself to the owls. Which all fits Steerpike's nihilistic, improvisational plotting]].
* EarnYourHappyEnding: Lots of people die, Gormenghast is devastated by floods -- but in the end, [[spoiler:Titus kills Steerpike and escapes the castle]]. It's a dark and twisted happiness, mind you.
* EvilAlbino: Steerpike is described in terms reminiscent of albinism, but it is not clear that he is actually albino (his vision appears to be unimpaired, for example).
* EvilChef: Swelter, the castle's chief cook, exercised ruthless control over the kitchens and hatches several plots against his enemies. He is hinted to be cannibalistic.
* FatBastard: Swelter, the EvilChef in charge of the castle's kitchens, is morbidly obese, but still surprisingly physically capable.
* FisherKing: Sepulchrave. All the Earls have this potential, and it seems like Titus is the only one ''aware'' of the curse of being captain aboard the sinking ship that is Gormenghast.
* {{Foil}}: Steerpike serves as one to Titus. In many respects they're NotSoDifferent; both are rebelling against the established order, but they go about it in very different ways.
* FriendToAllLivingThings: Rather oddly, the Countess. Her cats follow her everywhere, a female goat flat out runs to her to be milked, she keeps plenty of birds...really, she gets on with animals ''much'' better than she does with people.
* FromNobodyToNightmare: Steerpike, climbing the ladder from kitchen-boy to near-supreme power, making this very much an InvokedTrope.
%% * FutureImperfect: Please add context before un-commenting
* AHeroIsBorn: The first book begins on the day of Titus's birth and follows the events surrounding his infancy. Instead of going on with a TimeSkip, the first book ends before our protagonist is even old enough to speak.
%% * HeroicBSOD: Fuchsia, then Titus. They are not unrelated... Please add context before un-commenting
* ImAHumanitarian: It's implied that Swelter, the EvilChef, is capable of ... pretty much anything, including cannibalism.
* IncendiaryExponent: Steerpike seems to do a lot of important things while on fire [[spoiler:as does Muzzlehatch]].
* InterestingSituationDuel [[spoiler:Flay and Swelter have it out on the flooded, cobweb covered attic.]]
* JudgeJuryAndExecutioner: The Masters of Ritual--Sourdust, Barquentine, and [[spoiler:Steerpike]].
* LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters: Fifty-five prominent characters and many more bit parts.
* LoveMartyr: Fuchsia, the romantic BrokenBird who is manipulated into loving Steerpike, dies when the truth about her love is revealed.
* MorallyAmbiguousDoctorate: ZigZagged. Dr Alfred Prunesquallor is used by Steerpike, but he's still probably the most genuinely ''good'' character in the entire series.
* MrsRobinson: Irma Prunesquallor, [[spoiler: plus Juno in ''Titus Alone'' with rather more success]].
%%* NobleSavage: [[{{Deconstruction}} Deconstructed]] with the Bright Carvers. Please add context before un-commenting
* OldMaid: Avoiding becoming an OldMaid is the motivation of Irma Prunesquallor. She marries an eighty-six year old man out of desperation, meeting him after holding a party with no women invited, wherein the only invitees were hopelessly pathetic professors of the castle's school.
* OnlySaneMan:
%%** Prunesquallor. Please add context before un-commenting
%%** Bellgrove is sane, but lazy. Please add context before un-commenting
** Rottcodd because he manages to ignore the events of ''Titus Groan'', lazing off in his hammock.
* TheOphelia: [[spoiler: Fuchsia, after her hardships take their toll on her.]]
* ThePowerOfHate: What nearly gives [[spoiler:Barquentine]] the edge over his killer. Where someone else might be motivated by self-preservation, he's gripped by a bloody-minded loathing of a heretic and traitor which is so unexpected it shocks the attacker.
* PragmaticAdaptation: The 2000 serial adaptation, ''Gormenghast'', which covered the first two novels, altered some plot and character elements (particularly the circumstances surrounding [[spoiler:Fuchsia's]] death).
* PurpleEyes: Titus' unusually coloured eyes are remarked upon even on the day of his birth.
* RedEyesTakeWarning: Steerpike's eyes are red in colour, contributing to his ambiguous status as an EvilAlbino.
%%* RoaringRampageOfRevenge:
%% ** Steerpike's actions, in a crazy-awesome BatmanGambit. Please add context before un-commenting
%% ** Swelter's plans. Please add context before un-commenting
* RoyallyScrewedUp: The Earls of Groan have ruled Gormenghast for centuries in a self-sustaining Kafkaesque bureaucracy, and as a family have acquired a large number of eccentricities over the years.
* SceneryGorn: Much of the exquisitely detailed description of the dusty, decaying castle of Gormenghast.
* SceneryPorn: The wilderness surrounding Gormenghast.
* ShirtlessScene: Steerpike, [[WalkingShirtlessScene constantly]]. [[FetishFuel He's soaking wet every time,]] and despite the fact that he's canonically stated to be unattractive, [[EatingTheEyeCandy copious amounts of eye candy still get eaten by any female character present.]] [[RunningGag Any female character...]] [[AmbiguouslyGay and Prunesquallor.]]
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism: Idealistic, although the gloominess disguises this ''very'' well.
* TheSociopath: As Steerpike frequently observes, part of his manipulation of people involves having to fake such things as empathy, love, basically any human quality beyond personal ambition. Everyone he meets is just a tool he wants to learn how to use to his benefit.
* SpaceAmish: The world outside Gormenghast [[spoiler:has RaygunGothic technology and a CrystalSpiresAndTogas feel.]]
* StrangerInAFamiliarLand: Titus, when he [[spoiler:returns to Gormenghast at the end of ''Titus Alone'']].
* StrawNihilist:
** Steerpike just wants power for himself, and if he can't have, he'll take as many people as possible down with him. There is no attempt to humanise him in any way, and his seeming philosophy is all excuses for his sociopathy.
** The Philosopher leads a small cult of existentialist professors [[spoiler: who only see the errors in his theories after he has been immolated]].
%%* StuffBlowingUp: The end of ''Titus Alone''. Please add context before un-commenting
* StuffedInTheFridge: [[spoiler:Fuschia and the Thing]] die in order to further Titus's story.
* SympatheticMurderer: Steerpike, [[spoiler: before he murders the twins]].
* TakingYouWithMe: [[spoiler:Barquentine]] attempts this, but [[spoiler:doesn't quite succeed. He does leave Steerpike burnt and with a severely rattled ego, though]].
* ThatRemindsMeOfASong: Peake was never shy about inserting his nonsense poems into the narrative, usually apropos of nothing.
%% * TheVamp: Cheeta. Please add context before un-commenting
* UpperClassTwit: Almost every character except Steerpike and Swelter, who aren't upper class. Gormenghast was written as a parody of English society.
* VillainProtagonist: The devious Steerpike serves as the primary viewpoint character in the first two books, despite not being the title character.
* WhatHappenedToTheMouse: Who was the person who knocked on Fuschia's door, [[spoiler:causing her to slip off the windowsill and fall to her death?]]
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