A subtrope of Knowledge Broker
, the Keeper of Forbidden Knowledge is a being, organization, or even an Eldritch Abomination
that contains and sometimes
trades information considered either dangerous, blasphemous, epically ground breaking, or any combination of the three. Naturally however, this knowledge comes at a price that makes the trope akin to the Deal with the Devil
, and generally leads to disaster for any party involved and then some.
Regarding what form the forbidden knowledge takes, a Tome of Eldritch Lore
is almost expected to the exception. However, sometimes the knowledge can come in the form of a living creature, memory, or (in a more modern setting) a large selection of files on a super computer. Whatever form the knowledge comes in, it usually (but not always) feels like Sealed Evil in a Can
The Keeper itself is typically something ancient, menacing, or powerful enough that no one can simply ask
for the information it has without paying a price. Sometimes the Keeper is a title passed down by an order however, and this is generally the oldest or most intelligent of the conspiracy's agents.
Finally, the Keeper usually lives in an isolated or hazardous area of the society or region it lives in, a better way to test would be knowledge seekers of their worth and capability to become puppets for the Keeper's whims, sometimes turning said keeper into a Chess Master
The general moral of stories that revolve around this trope is usually that somethings are best left not being known, or that with knowledge comes power, and with power that holds no compassion comes the damning corruption most Keepers of Forbidden Knowledge hope to inspire.
Compare the much more benevolent Ancient Keeper
See also Things Man Was Not Meant to Know
, specifically The Dark Arts
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Anime and Manga
- The eponymous Index of A Certain Magical Index: a girl with perfect memory who memorized 103,000 grimoires and therefore has an almost complete knowledge of all magic, including the forbidden stuff. She has some kind of immunity to the usual mind destroying effects reading those grimoires has, which is why the organization she belongs to had her read them: easy access to all the knowledge they wanted. Unusually for the trope, she's a 14 year old girl rather than some ancient creature.
- Boom! Studios' Fall of Cthulhu story introduces the Harlot, an obscene Eldritch horror who parodies a burlesque madame. She offers incredible and unspeakable knowledge, but in return the student becomes her property kept inside a wicker box. The Harlot is depicted as a rival and opponent of Nyarlathotep.
- Nyarlathotep from H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos is characterized like this in most of his original appearances. Both in The Haunter of the Dark and The Dreams in the Witch-House he is a gatekeeper to secrets beyond human ken, and must be appeased with human sacrifices in order to relinquish some of this knowledge, and in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath he protects the Gods of the Earth from any mortal molestation. In his original appearance in the prose-poem Nyarlathotep he instead grants humanity information in abundance as a figure of science, leading to the entire world Going Mad From The Revelation.
- The Doctor Who New Adventures novels have the Library of St John the Beheaded, which collects and stores forbidden texts (both in the sense of banned-by-the-mundane-authorities and in the sense of Knowledge For Which The World Is Not Ready). It's definitely got the isolated or hazardous location part of the trope down pat; on Earth, it was hidden away in The City Narrows, and in The Future it will be located on an asteroid. In principle, it's an aversion of the usual some-things-man-should-not-know corollary: the founder believed that all knowledge is useful if handled carefully, and potential researchers are vetted very carefully before being offered access to the collection. (The Doctor, of course, holds the first ticket the Library ever issued.) In practice, though, pretty much every time it's appeared in a story it's because somebody's found a way to use information from the Library to cause trouble.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, the ancient demon named Dagon (a reference to H.P. Lovecraft) lives within the Abyss, but holds a vast array of information due to his age and intellect, to the point he's become the shadow ruler behind the Prince of Demons' (Demogorgon) entire war stratagem and survival.
- The Pillar Of Skulls in Planescape: Torment is one.
- Hermaeus Mora from The Elder Scrolls games both acquires and is forbidden knowledge (and impossible knowledge — one of the descriptions of him paints him as formed from detritus concepts ejected from reality).
- In League of Legends Nasus holds knowledge of the magic of life and death, although he does teach it to people who are judged worthy by his brother Renekton. The number of people who weren't worthy and wanted the power eventually drove Renekton insane and he started slaughtering first them, then everyone.
- killer7: Christopher Mills knows that Garcian's the main personality, not Harman, and also knows that the government is controlled by the Secretary of Education. This gets him killed.
- The Secret World has a fairly benign example in the form of the mysterious half-magic half-mechanical Bees; native to the Hollow Earth, they not only grant the player character his/her magical powers at the start of the game, they also provide nuggets of ancient knowledge that they've been collecting over the eons in the form of the lore entries you track down. Of course, given that the only way anyone can access the Bees' "education protocol" is by actually being touched by the bees, the main price for all this forbidden knowledge involves having your entire life turned upside-down in much the same way the player character's was. The other price is actually having to track down each fragment of lore.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, in the Good or Neutral Karma ending of Old World Blues, the Courier becomes the new guardian of the Big Empty, releasing technology to help the people of the Mojave Wasteland on an as-needed basis.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, Darth Thanaton is the member of the Dark Council who controls the Sphere of Ancient Knowledge. That is, until the Sith Inquisitor defeats him and inherits his place on the Council.
- In Star Control 3, the Captain somewhat becomes this. After learning the True Name of the Eternal Ones, he can share this knowledge with the Daktaklakpak, causing them to self-destruct.
- In Sarab, the Hubs are the only places science may be learned and they are very exclusive.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender brings us Wan Shi Tong, He Who Knows Ten-Thousand Things, a spirit in the form of a giant owl who seeks to collect all information in the universe. He once had it all in display in a library for all to see, but eventually realised how humans used this information to hurt and kill others, and decided all knowledge should be forbidden.
- Parodied in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy a giant worm girl was forced to guard the "secrets of the universe". She then lured hundreds of kids into finding it, the secret was there was no secret. When Mindy found it, she now has to take her place in guarding the secret, while the worm is free.