%% ZeroContextExample entries are not allowed on wiki pages. All such entries have been commented out. Add context to the entries before uncommenting them.
[[caption-width-right:350:Fuchsia and Steerpike, as depicted by their creator.]]

''Gormenghast'' is the name of a series of stories by Mervyn Peake. They are fantasy novels which take place in a ConstructedWorld but is notable for eschewing the supernatural and the menagerie of beings associated with Creator/LewisCarroll and Creator/JRRTolkien. The novels revolve around a series of [[DysfunctionJunction grotesque and idiosyncratic characters]] who live inside a [[CityInABottle huge castle with surrounding huts]] which appears to be cut off from the rest of the world.

The three books concern Titus Groan, the 77th Earl of Groan. 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 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.

Series entries in publication order:

# ''Titus Groan'' (1946) -- The first novel introduces the Gormenghast castle, environs, and the plots concern the changes brought in the staid world of the court of the Earl of Groan with the birth of Titus Groan, and the arrival of Steerpike. Steerpike starts as an underling to Chef Abiatha Swelter but after getting lost in the castle, embarks on a picaresque adventures that raise his profile.
# ''Gormenghast'' (1950) -- The second novel more or less continues where ''Titus Groan'' leaves off, showing the Earl as a Young Man bored with the life of the castle, his school lessons and fascinated with an androgynous creature who lives in the wild. Steerpike likewise, continues his ascent and lust for power in parallel to Titus.
# ''Boy in Darkness'' (1956) -- A novella that is generally considered to [[{{Interquel}} take place sometime before the second book]], set in the same world but is more or less a standalone with no references to the events and characters of the series. It concerns a boy (Young Titus presumably) wandering of the grounds where he encounters malevolent men, and then tries to escape their clutches.
# ''Titus Alone'' (1959) -- The third novel radically departs from the setting and situations of the previous books, and features Titus visiting a modern city with automobiles, factories, and other amenities. An entirely new set of characters, chiefly Muzzlehatch, Cheetah and Juno, as well as the denizens of the Under River form the focus of the bulk of what is the shortest of three published books.

It is important to note that Mervyn Peake intended the series to be a sequence of books, and ''not'' a trilogy. It is often called the "Gormenghast Trilogy" but this is a publisher's and critic's convention and not intended by the author. Only the first two novels constitute a single two-part story, and Peake intended the later series to be standalone. He also intended Titus Groan to be the central hook of the series and not Castle Gormenghast as it has come to be understood by critics. 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.

In 2000, the BBC adapted the work for the small screen as a project explicitly for the new millennium, focusing on the first two books involving Steerpike. 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.

!!This series displays the following tropes:

* AdaptationalAttractiveness: Both played straight ''and'' inverted with Steerpike in the TV series. The books (and Peake's own illustrations) depict Steerpike as skinny and very creepy-looking, whereas in the series, he looks perfectly handsome and debonair. On the other hand, after [[spoiler:being badly burnt while murdering Barquentine, the series has him looking hideous, while the books describe his facial scarring as giving him a striking appearance that Fuchsia even seems to find attractive.]]
* AdaptationalHeroism: To a certain extent in the 2000 miniseries. While Steerpike's actions are still evil and are not glossed over, they're partly motivated by his love for and desire to attain Fuchsia; in the books he cared nothing for her and was only using her for his own ends.
* AffablyEvil: Steerpike can be charming and witty in a twisted way, notably to Fuchsia -- but it's all manipulation.
* 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, ''Titus Groan,'' the first book, does not significantly feature Titus as a character, as he's a very young child.
* ArtifactTitle: Peake never quite conceived the series in terms of a trilogy or franchise, but it's generally called the Gormenghast series, and Gormenghast is the setting of the first two books alone, while the third one doesn't take place in Gormenghast at all.
* 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.
* BigGood: Countess Gertrude in the second book. [[spoiler:She protects the people of Gormenghast, oversees disaster relief and personally commands the hunt to capture the unmasked murderer Steerpike]].
* BrilliantButLazy: Surprisingly, the Countess Gertrude; she actually has what's described as a 'brilliant brain', but it only wakes up on rare occasions - such as when Gormenghast is threatened.
* CastFullOfCrazy: The gloomy, suffocating athmosphere of the castle and the pointless, repetitive rituals unmistakably take their toll on the people of Gormenghast. Most of them live in their own little fantasy world, and those who don't are busy exploiting and abusing the others around them.
* 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 or ignored, 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's interest in her is purely sexual, she responds by trying to drive him insane.
* DroppedABridgeOnHim: [[spoiler:Fuschia and the Thing]] both die due to seemingly arbitrary acts of happenstance.
* 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, and 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.
* EverythingMakesAMushroom: When Muzzlehatch messes up the chemicals at the factory to explode, it does so in a huge cloud that stains the sky orange, clearly referring to nuclear weapons.
* EvilAlbino: Steerpike is described in terms reminiscent of albinism - pale skin, red eyes - but it is not clear that he is actually an 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.
* FeralChild: "The Thing" [[spoiler:the child of Keda, Titus's wet-nurse and foster sister, is abandoned in the wild on account of her illegitimacy. Titus is fascinated with her because she represents the freedom and adventure and being closer to nature. It's averted when they finally meet since the girl cannot speak, cannot understand human speech and behaves like an animal and ultimately gets struck by lightning]].
* 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
* GoodWeaponEvilWeapon: AxCrazy [[EvilChef Swelter]] wields a huge meat cleaver, in contrast to Flay's [[HeroesPreferSwords sword]].
* 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
* HoistByHisOwnPetard: Just when it seems that Steerpike is going to achieve his goals by seducing Fuchsia and getting rid of Titus, [[spoiler: he ruins all his efforts by returning to the room where the bodies of the Twins are, meaning Flay, Prunesquallor and Titus can follow him and find out about his crimes.]]
* 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 in the flooded, cobweb covered attic.]]
* JudgeJuryAndExecutioner: The Masters of Ritual--Sourdust, Barquentine, and [[spoiler:Steerpike]].
* KillThemAll: By the end of the second book, [[spoiler: only Titus, Countess Gertrude, Prunesquallor, Irma and Bellgrove are left alive out of the original main cast.]]
* LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters: ''Fifty-five'' prominent characters and many more bit parts.
* LoonyLaws: Gormenghast has so many strange laws and rituals that by the time someone has become its Earl they are probably quite insane themselves. So the laws and rituals become more insane. Gormenghast is the CrapsackWorld logical extreme of this trope.
* LoveMartyr: Fuchsia, the romantic BrokenBird who is manipulated into loving Steerpike, [[spoiler: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]].
* NeverFoundTheBody: An in-universe example. Due to being [[spoiler:eaten alive by owls, Sepulchrave]] is never actually presumed dead.
%%* NobleSavage: [[{{Deconstruction}} Deconstructed]] with the Bright Carvers. Please add context before un-commenting
* OceanPunk: [[spoiler:The sequence in the second book where the entire land floods and the Bright Carvers and Mud Dwellers take refuge inside Castle Gormenghast, sees the flood rising so high, that the many towers and spires of the castle become islands and in order to move from one part to the other, they need to create boats. Since the trees from which they need the wood to build the boats is buried in the flood, they use the wood from the castle interiors, wooden beams and supports and since the Bright Carvers are obsessed with making things beautiful, they are decorated by sculptures from the castle]].
* 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. His introduction in the second book flat out states that his cardinal virtue is 'an undamaged brain'.
** Titus is perhaps the only one in the whole of Gormenghast to see just how pointless and soul crushing society inside the castle is, and to try and get out before it destroys him.
%%** 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.
* OminousOwl: In ''Titus Groan'', Lord Sepulchrave [[spoiler: is driven mad by the destruction of his library, starts believing he is "The Death Owl", and [[DrivenToSuicide eventually commits suicide]] by allowing himself to be eaten by owls.]]
* 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).
* ProperLady: Countess Gertrude, the mother of Titus and Fuchsia, and de-facto head of the house becomes this in the second book, cold, aloof and committed to duty. [[spoiler:She also opens the castle to provide refuge to the Mud Dwellers and Bright Carvers and administrates the entire disaster relief efforts]].
* PurpleEyes: Titus's unusually coloured eyes are remarked upon even on the day of his birth.
* PuttingOnTheReich: In the 2000 mini series, once Steerpike takes over, the Master Secretary's office suddenly boasts 1930s file cabinets, type writers and electric lamps, signifying Steerpike's evil influence.
** The palace guards wear UsefulNotes/WorldWarI-era German pickelhauben, with Soviet-style telogreikas dyed in German feldgrau.
* RedEyesTakeWarning: Steerpike's eyes are red in colour, contributing to his ambiguous status as an EvilAlbino.
* RisingWaterRisingTension: Book Two sees the usurper Steerpike rising to higher levels in the castle-state\'s hierarchy. As he makes his final bid to overthrow the Groan family and become ruler, torrential unrelenting rain begins and the castle is flooded. The action of the book happens on two levels. As the lower levels of the castle are progressively swamped by floodwaters, its inhabitants struggle for survival, moving themselves and their possessions to higher and higher levels. This adds to the claustrophobic menace of the situation. The flooding becomes a metaphor for cleansing, both of an ancient civilisation strangling in its own history, and of the need to destroy a cancer in the social body - Steerpike. The water rises to menacing levels, and the Princess Fuchsia dies a lonely death by drowning; Titus Groan, the legitimate heir to Ghormenghast, seeks out and kills Steerpike at the point where the floodwaters rise to their highest. Symbolically, after Steerpike's death, the rain stops and the flood recedes.
%%* 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.
* SecondaryCharacterTitle: In the first book, Titus Groan is the title character but he's an infant, and the main characters are Steerpike and Mr. Flay.
* ShirtlessScene: Steerpike, [[WalkingShirtlessScene constantly]]. 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
* TwoPartTrilogy: As noted by Michael Moorcock, Peake saw the series as a Saga more than a single long story. ''Titus Groan'' and ''Gormenghast'' is largely a single extended story with a complete beginning-middle-and-end, a common cast of regulars and single setting. ''Titus Alone'' was intended by Peake to start a new story in the saga and is essentially a separate tale, while ''Boy in Darkness'' is similar in style and scope but not really fitting into the series canonically.
* 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?]]