- In the Robert Bloch Hugo-winning short story The Hell-Bound Train, the main character Martin comes across a train conductor wearing a hat that was "worn a bit too high, as though there might be something sticking up on the forehead underneath it". Martin makes a deal with the Conductor, asking for the power to stop time for himself at any given moment, planning to use it when he's most happy, and the Conductor gives him this power (in the form of a watch), and in exchange, Martin must ride his train when he dies. He never finds the chance to use it and dies a very successful man. When the Conductor finally comes to pick him up, Martin decides to use the watch on the train, dooming it to keep on riding for eternity.
- Its title (and the song alluded to in the story) comes from an old and anonymous American folk song, called "The Hell-Bound Train". Bloch's protagonist apparently heard a version that was much more sympathetic to the sinners.
- In Prophecy Of The Sisters, Lia is offered a deal in which she opens the gates of hell, in a way, enabling demons to walk the earth, and as reward she herself gets to live like a queen. Everyone else ... not so much.
- If you see any story in any medium begin with "The Devil and...", it's almost certainly going to involve this trope. The originator of this convention is "The Devil and Daniel Webster" by Stephen Vincent Benet, the story that first gave us the Jury of the Damned.
- For example, a short story titled "The Devil and Simon Flagg" inverts the "ordeal" version by having the title character, a mathematician, challenge the devil to an ordeal: he must either prove or disprove Fermat's Last Theorem. The Devil doesn't make it, despite asking the best mathematicians in the universe. And despite the fact that humans found the solution meanwhile. But he does become fascinated by the problem anyway, and he and Flagg become friends of a sort, discussing possible approaches and theories.
- And Benet's story was inspired by an earlier short story called "The Devil and Tom Walker" by Washington Irving. Arguably it was also inspired by Eugene Fields' short story "Daniel and the Devil", wherein it's actually partly inverted as Daniel is a shrewd, though down on his luck (hence the deal), businessman who first cuts out the middleman (Beelzebub) and then persuades the Devil to sign a bond according to which he will get Daniel's soul after fulfilling his wishes for 24 years - and if the Devil breaks the bond, then Daniel is freed of the contract and 1001 souls can freely leave Hell to boot. In addition to this, Daniel is a decent, respectable family man who hardly gives any of the temptations the Devil offers him a thought and instead makes the Devil do all kinds of good deeds, including building a church and ensuring the election of honest politicians. Eventually the Devil can't stand it anymore - the straw that breaks the camel's back is Daniel telling him to close all saloons for Sunday - and is forced to break the bond.
- In Dis Acedia, Shroud makes one with Shade/Manah in exchange for power and information. Surprisingly the devil in question ends up befriending the other party.
- The One Ring of The Lord of the Rings has a will of its own and manipulates the wearer in order to try and get back to its master. This typically involves convincing the wearer that it will grant great power and dominion, just in order to trick the wearer into revealing its whereabouts. Hobbits are resistant to this, most notably Sam, who doesn't want world domination because he can't understand why anyone would want that and has no ambition beyond marrying his sweetheart back home and keeping a garden. In his case it just gave up.
- The Larry Niven short story "Convergent Series" deconstructs the Deal With The Devil by not only giving a purported reason why demon-summoning rarely works (and why you wouldn't hear about the successful cases), but also by ruling out each of the usual ways out of the deal one by one. The solution the protagonist chooses is unconventional, but successful: the demon had to re-appear wherever the pentagram he was bound in was drawn. The protagonist chose as his wish to stop time, and then redrew the pentagram on the demon's belly while time was frozen, causing the demon to keep endlessly re-appearing in a fruitless effort to appear inside the pentagram.
- Every single book in Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series involves one (or more) of these, both of the regular variety and the less clear-cut but constant issue of each book's protagonist having the Devil as a business colleague. Building on that, in this verse Even Evil Has Standards so it isn't a given that what the Devil wants is actually bad at every given moment, and choosing to completely avoid all contact is difficult, still leaves you open to manipulation and isn't usually wise.
- Anthony Boucher's story "Nellthu" gleefully plays with this, combined with Three Wishes. "Wealth beyond the dreams of avarice"? NOTHING is beyond the dreams of avarice, so she gets nothing. Perfect health? Sure, for a seventy year old body. But the wisher beats the game by wishing the demon to fall in love with her.
- Timm Thaler sells his laughter to baron Lefuet (which is backwards for Teufel, German for devil) in exchange for winning any bet. Later he gets his laughter back - with a bet.
- Beautifully deconstructed in Tanith Lee's short story "Sold". A woman with serious medical and financial problems calls on the devil, asking if he would really give her health, wealth, beauty, and long life in exchange for her soul. When he replies in the affirmative, she calls off the deal: all she really wanted was proof that she had a soul and that it was worth something.
- Invoked by Don Quixote in chapter XXV of the second volume, in which he and Sancho encounter a magician with a supposed clairvoyant monkey.
- Played with in one of the Khaavren Romances books. A young Morrolan agrees to serve the "Demon Goddess" Verra (although demon may not mean the same thing as it usually does) in both this life and the next in exchange for her favoritism. The played-with part is that he does this without a second thought, having no problem at all offering his soul for the future. Granted, this wouldn't mean eternal torment in the afterlife, but rather its implied something more like Valhalla, in which he will form part of an army of champions.
- Well, he already is part of an anti-Jenoine group of champions. And apparently he's Verra's soulmate as well, so she's probably less inclined to torment him than, say, Vlad.
- Darkfriends, especially The Forsaken, from The Wheel of Time sell their Soul to Shai'tan, in exchange for immortality, power and glory if Shai'tan would win. There are at least two problems with this. First Darkfriends are hunted by the good guys and everyone on the bad guys' side has Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, so the odds of any particular bad guy surviving to the end of the series unscathed is very low. And second Shai'tan is said to actually destroy the entire world if he is set free rather than merely conquer it, so Darkfriends are really screwed.
- Except for Ishamael, who is not only knows what the Dark One's real goals are, but enough of a Nietzsche Wannabe that he feels the destruction of the universe would be best for all concerned, and joined up with the Shadow in the first place to bring this about. It turns out he was being played for a fool too. The Dark One was not capable, or willing, to grant the destruction of everything, and would have certainly tormented all of his servants forever, not granted them what they wanted. Rand realizes that the Dark One only could show lies.
- In Paradise Lost, Satan actually makes a Deal with the Devil (not himself) in order to succeed in his goals when he petitions Chaos to direct him towards Earth by promising that he will cause the world to return to Chaos after he is done. (He lied.)
- In Fredric Brown's short story "Naturally" (adapted into a short movie by Guillermo del Toro), the main character is about to flunk out of college, so he summons a demon to help him pass his Geometry final. But because he's bad at Geometry, he puts the wrong number of points on the pentagram and the demon simply steps out of it and carts him off to Hell. Sometimes Satan has it easy.
- In the Fredric Brown story "Nasty" the protagonist makes a deal with the Devil for a pair of magic swimming trunks to restore his virility. But if he takes them off or even pulls them down....
- In The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, a Psychological Horror variant of this happens. Robert Wringhim, the titular Sinner, makes one such Deal with the Devil: to prove his worthiness in Heaven, he must kill everyone whom God has supposedly consigned to eternal damnation... but ultimately it's never resolved whether Robert actually met the Devil, or it all happened in his head.
- In H. P. Lovecraft's "The Dreams in the Witch House", Nyarlathotep appears to the protagonists, offering him complete control over the ability to travel outside the angled space (effectively being able make a personal wormhole between any two locations) in exchange for signing the book of Azathoth with his blood. The protagonist refuses, but judging from what kind of beings we're dealing with, it's probably better not to know what would've happened had he accepted the deal.
- Invoked in G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown story "The Dagger with Wings", a man cites the legend of Dundee, who had sold his soul to the Devil and so could be shot only with a Silver Bullet.
- Isaac Asimov helped edit two collections of fantasy/science-fiction "short short" stories that included a few examples of this trope:
- A villain makes a deal to be reincarnated, and is brought back as his own horrifically-abused daughter. ("Give Her Hell" by Donald Wollheim.)
- A man makes a deal with what he thinks is a devil. ("Your Soul Comes C.O.D." by Mack Reynolds)
- A story which squeezes into five pages every conceivable pun based on the phrase "pact with the devil." ("If At First You Don't Succeed, To Hell With It!" by Charles Fritch) This was written when the editors of Fantasy And Science Fiction told Fritch that they were not running any more stories on this "overworked" theme. He set out to write a deal with the Devil story they would have to run, about a writer who sells himself to the Devil, and can only escape by getting his story published in a magazine...
- A poet comes to not regret selling his soul for wealth and fame, but the rest of civilized society does... ("The Devil Finds Work" by Reynolds again.)
- Asimov himself wrote a story where a man sells his soul for the rather wholesome payoff of ten years of wedded bliss with the girl he has a crush on. His is a slightly unusual deal, because at the end of the ten years he will be temporarily be given the powers of a demon and placed in a trap. If he can't escape, he will be damned for eternity; if he can escape he will become a demon for all eternity (Hell needs new ideas, and who is more evil and demonic than humankind? So at the end of his life he wakes up in a room with solid bronze walls on every side and has to escape which he does by realizing that the room is not solid in the dimension of Time and demons can travel in time, so he goes back to the moment when he signs the contract with the demon and rips it up. And wins the girl anyway.
- Subverted in the Ogden Nash poem "The Miraculous Countdown", a story about Dr. Faustus Foster, described in the poem as "a truly incompetent scientist", who in desperation after all of his efforts at a major scientific breakthrough failed spectacularly, swore that he would sell his soul to succeed. A red-robed figure popped in and made him a deal for his soul. Once accepted, Dr. Foster became a heralded and respected scientist whose discoveries were put to use for the good of mankind. The switch comes in the final stanzas;Faustus, clumsiest of men,
Had butterfingered the job again.
I told you his head was far from level,
He thought he had sold his soul to the devil
When he really sold it, for Heaven's sake,
To his guardian angel by mistake!
When geniuses of every nation
Hasten us towards obliteration
Perhaps it will take the dolts and the geese
To drag us backwards into peace.
- In the Chronicles of the Kencyrath, Gerridon made a deal with Perimal Darkling in the Backstory that involved his getting immortality for the price of destroying two-thirds of his own people and devouring their souls, which he gladly fulfills. Fast-forward three thousand years, however, and Gerridon finds himself in a bit of a bind, as he's running out of harvested souls to feed on- when that happens, old age will catch up to him and kill him. He's been offered a revised Deal, which would involve surrendering his own soul to Perimal Darkling and getting true immortality as its avatar, but as of yet has not accepted, preferring to find someone to reap more souls for him- namely, Jame, his niece.
- In Vale of the Vole, Esk watches a play about a man who summons a demon and makes a contract with it to obtain wealth, women, etc... but the contract contained a phrase that read "The demon will not attempt to harm the person signing the contract", and a drop of wax just happened to fall so that the word "not" was obscured... (Most demons in this setting aren't near this vicious, but on the one hand the elaborate "force the demon to give you everything" contract was the man's idea and given the usual format to demonic powers it's even worse for the demon than he thinks, and on the other this is actually being used to make a point about the playwrights.)
- In "The Bottle Imp" by Robert Louis Stevenson, the eponymous bottled imp can grant as many wishes as is desired, but if you possess it at your time of death, you lose your soul. In order to get rid of it, it must be sold at a loss to you.The main character's wife buys the bottle from him, for next to nothing, and manages to sell it at a tiny loss to a drunken old sailor who's quite sure he's bound for Hell anyway and wants the imp to provide him with liquor for the rest of his days.
- In R. A. Lafferty's "Bright Coins in Never-Ending Stream" the protagonist sells his soul for a pocketbook that will allow him to draw out, well, bright coins in a never-ending stream. Originally, they are twenty-dollar gold pieces, and as time goes by the denominations get smaller and smaller, but part of the deal is that once he gets down to pennies he is immortal, unless he chooses to die. Trouble is, by the time he gets down to pennies he is an old, old man and the penny isn't worth very much at all... did I mention he can only draw out the pennies one by one? And by the time he is down to nickels, he already has rheumatism? Eventually, the government demonetizes the penny because it costs more to manufacture than it is actually worth, and the protagonist is reduced to melting down his pennies for scrap metal at five cents a pound... He ends the story sleeping in a "seldom-flooded storm sewer", his fingers scabbed and bleeding, pulling out pennies all day long, talking to wildlife and dreaming about the day that, if he holds out long enough, he may be able to sell his pennies as valuable antiques. But hey, at least he's managed to avoid going to Hell. Right?
- Ivan Krylov has a fable about a purse you can also draw coins from... the catch being, you cannot spend a single one until you get rid of the purse. Cue Death by Materialism.
- In Brian Jacques' book Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales, the story "The Lies of Henry Mawdsley" is about a ten-year-old boy who sells his soul in order to become the world's most believable liar for one week so he can get out of schoolwork. When "nice Mister Nick Lucifer" tries to claim his soul at the end of the week, Henry is saved by the Archangel Gabriel, who demonstrates that Henry is an undiagnosed dyslexic, therefore the contract is not valid because Henry lied about being able to read and understand it.
- The character Sinner in the Nightside book Hex and the City sold his soul for true love. Upon his death, he was told that his "true love" was actually a demonic succubus by the name of Pretty Poison, who had been roped into the job by Satan and spent ten years pretending to love him. Sinner didn't care, as from his point of view he was truly in love, and his refusal to give up resulted in Satan kicking him out of Hell because he was ruining the atmosphere. Pretty Poison got curious and followed him up, and eventually got her angelic status back by sacrificing herself to save him - demons in the Nightside universe, if killed on Earth, lose all their power and become regular damned souls. And in the Nightside, demons and angels can't be entirely unkillable.
- In the novel Ascending of The League of Peoples Verse, Oar is offered a deal by a Sufficiently Advanced Alien called the Pollisand, who pulls out all the stops in presenting it as a Deal With The Devil scenario, complete with fire, brimstone, classical allusions, the works. Subverted; Oar takes the deal and the Pollisand gives her exactly what he promised, with no apparent negative consequences whatsoever.
- In I, Lucifer the titular character mentions that the actual contracts are symbolic and that the act of signing them is all that matters. It's worth noting if you're not specific on the means of which Lucifer has to go about completing his end of the deal, he will screw your dumbass over.
- In The Guardians (Meljean Brook), demonic bargains can be cancelled by either party before one side is filled. After that, if the other party doesn't fulfill their side, they are damned to the field of frozen faces. Demons don't bargain for literal souls, although they often ask for something that will drive the human to damnation such as betraying a friend or murdering an innocent.
- In Lonely Werewolf Girl human Perky Goth Moonglow sells her right to pursue any romantic feelings for Daniel to Malveria in return for the demon bringing an Only Mostly Dead character back to life.
- Harry has been offered a few of these in The Dresden Files, in a couple cases by actual Fallen Angels. In Changes, he decides to take one, and chooses Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness as the least evil option. Though probably more evil, Lasciel would at least have an exit strategy - he personally knows someone who accepted a similar deal and gave it up without harm. While the only way he sees out of being the Winter Knight is a prolonged, painful death. Harry already had an exit plan that involved taking out a hit on himself and having his apprentice erase the memory of said hit. That being said, Mab was still a safer choice than Lasciel as Mab is not an inherently evil being, whereas the Denarians are. Mab is more of a callously neutral force whose purpose - which Harry learns later - isn't to hurt or malign humans. Though she enjoys it.
- Averted in The Lesser Key of Solomon. The conjurer uses the fact that they are human (thus made in the image of God and under his protection) to get the demons to do what they want, rather than trade their soul.
- Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, kind of. He got the lovely deal of having to kill Dumbledore in exchange for Lord Voldemort not murdering Draco's parents.
- In Faction Paradox stories, there is a rather odd group of Energy Beings called the Celestis. They appear to be gods and demons of myth, and live in a fortress of pure meaning called Mictlan. They are not actually gods or demons. They are Homeworld agents who have undergone a process that transforms their physical bodies into Memetic Mutations, making them indestructible but dependent upon mortals continually thinking about said memes so they won't drift into oblivion. They work rather simply: they visit low-level planets where people are less likely to come up with some ingenious stratagem to overcome them, and there they will offer their services: they will grant you your heart's desire, with certain limitations (no godhood for ya, sorry) and upon death they have complete rights to seize your soul, drag it to Mictlan's dungeons, and set it into their wonderful machines so you have absolutely no choice but to continually think of the Celestis, until the End of Time itself. Have fun.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born", the curse stems from one of these.They tell how the first queen of our line had traffic with a fiend of darkness and bore him a daughter who lives in foul legendry to this day. And thereafter in each century a girl baby was born into the Askhaurian dynasty, with a scarlet half-moon between her breasts, that signified her destiny.
- Subverted in Stephen King's short story "Fair Extension" from Full Dark, No Stars, in which a terminal cancer patient runs into a man named George Elvid who offers to cure his cancer in return for cash since, as the story then goes on to demonstrate, human souls have become pretty worthless in the 21st century.
- Played straight by Stephen King's novel Needful Things where everyone is offered the one item they want most in return for a small favor. Of course all those mostly harmless little pranks lead to the town pretty much tearing themselves apart and theres very little doubt whats in that bag the shopkeeper attempts to leave with. Bonus points could probably be given for the fact that these things are only seen or felt as the real thing by the maker of the specific pact and to everyone else are just random bits of garbage.
- Defied in The Screwtape Letters, which is about the workings and tactics of demons. Screwtape mentions that Hell's official policy now frowns on Faustian bargains, as they confirm the existence of the supernatural and thus undermine Hell's atheism campaign.
- In the Left Behind series, the signing of the covenant that would allow the Global Community seven years of licensed use of Chaim Rosenzweig's synthetic fertilizer formula for Israel's peace with other nations was seen as the very thing that starts the seven-year Tribulation period.
- Peter Schlemiel in the eponymous story by Adelbert von Chamisso sells his shadow to a mysterious man in a gray coat in exchange for a magic purse that supplies endless amounts of gold pieces. The shadowless protagonist becomes a social outcast, despite spreading extravagant amounts of money around; his love interest rejects him when she discovers his secret. Exactly one year after the original deal, as promised, the man in the gray coat returns with an offer to sell Peter him back his shadow and restore his good name so he can save his love interest from marrying his wealthy but no-good rival, on the condition that he merely supply his signature on a document written in his own blood. He stubbornly refuses to bargain away his soul, and ultimately banishes the devil by throwing away the purse.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has Stannis Baratheon, oldest brother of the dead King Robert Baratheon, apparently make one with Melisandre, a Red Priestess of R'hllorism to help him get the Iron Throne he regards as rightfully his. Played with, in that Melisandre believes Stannis to be The Messiah of her religion and is right about there being a threat to the world, the Others are gathering in the northernmost part of Westeros and threaten all life. Stannis does do some dark things, Melisandre using her powers to conjure a shadow assassin who kills Stannis' brother Renly Baratheon. Played with, in that Renly was an arrogant and sleazy figure who planned to usurp the throne and kill Stannis basically out of vanity and by virtue of having a larger army. It's also implied Stannis might not be aware exactly how Renly died.
- The Tattered Prince, Leader of a Sellsword Company the Windblown, has devil-like connotations. When Quentyn makes a deal with him he has to descend into a lower-level area, the Tattered Prince twisting the truth continually, and admitting he's a rogue. Quentyn's plan ends up backfiring on him... when he is burnt to death by a dragon he hoped to tame, having gained the help of the Tattered Prince in getting to the dragons.
- Special Circumstances: Not the Devil, but David Krake does make a deal with a demon for the purpose of becoming a famous bestselling author.
- The Hound of the Baskervilles has as a backstory the legend of a man who promised his soul to the devil if only he'll catch the girl who escaped his clutches. He does catch up with the girl, only to discover that: 1) she is dead from the strain of running away and 2) the devil has absolutely no reason to delay with taking what was promised. Cue a demon - the titular hound, that is - to rip out the guy's throat.
- In "By These Presents", by Henry Kuttner, a man sells his soul to the devil in exchange for immortality and invulnerability unless he commits suicide. The devil, however, takes as security a part of his soul - some part of the subconscious. The man, however, fails to achieve happiness, decides it's the taken part which prevents it, and demands the devil return it. The devil does. The catch is, the part taken was the man's conscience, and the return was followed by a gun to the temple some ten seconds after it was reintegrated.
- Chichikov from Dead Souls definitely invokes this with the whole "buying people's 'souls'" thing and he's a lot like the "devil as small time bureaucrat"/The Devil Is a Loser portrayal in works like "The Devil and Daniel Webster" and The Brothers Karamazov (both post-date this novel, but probably draw from the same idea). In fact, both Chichikov and Scratch store their souls in a box- the only difference is that Chichikov's are metaphorical.
- The miller in Krabat did one. As a price, he has to sacrifice one of his students/apprentices each year - or will lose his soul himself. And sometimes at night, the boys will have to do an extra shift - as Krabat finds out, to grind bones and teeth, presumably human ones.
- In Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, Evil Sorcerer Pryrates makes a deal with the undead Storm King to summon him back into Osten Ard. The interesting part is that he doesn't sell his own soul, but that of his king, Unwitting Pawn Elias. For his own part, Pryrates hopes to come out of the deal with the knowledge of Things Man Was Not Meant to Know... and to pull a Starscream on the Storm King once the summoning is complete. Unfortunately for him, Evil Is Not a Toy.
- Such a deal is discussed in "The Cambist and Lord Iron". It's worth mentioning that the deal is essentially the reverse of the traditional one. Lord Iron isn't looking to sell his soul; he's looking to buy it back.
- The short story collection Just an Ordinary Day by Shirley Jackson includes two variations on the theme:
- In "The Smoking Room", the Devil appears to a wily college girl and her roommate. After discovering that the Devil Never Learned to Read, the girls quickly draw up a contract they insist is more legally binding, convince the Devil to give them several million dollars and passing grades in calculus, then have him sign it. Only then they reveal that, amid the legalese, the contract actually states that the Devil has agreed to grant their wishes and give them his soul—for a dollar.
- "Devil of a Tale" sets the same theme in medieval times, with a much darker outcome.
- Devilish has a character that makes a deal with the Devil, or rather, one of his minions.
- The main character of the novel Crawling Chaos Blues is a failing blues musician who resorts to trying to make the same deal as the above mentioned Robert Johnson, only instead of the devil, he makes a deal with someone that's arguably worse (the title gives it away).
- In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, Catarina made one for her own soul's, and her brother's. She was less able to deliver than she had thought.
- Towards the end of The Monk when Ambrosio finds himself in way over his head, Matilda tells him if he will give his soul to Satan, he can be saved from the angry mob. Ambrosio accepts.
- In Dark Future novel Comeback Tour, the version of Elvis that appears as a protagonist is revealed to have previously come close to this, due to his manager being funded / controlled by the series Big Bad, Elder Seth.
- In Robert Westall's Futuretrack Five the Glaswegian gangster, Blocky, is very heavily implied to have done just this; having come to the point of suicide and then being mysteriously inspired to paint a weird and loathsome painting after seeing a demonic face appear in the mirror. Everything's gone just fine for him thereafter.
- In The Bible, Satan tempts Jesus by offering him all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for just a little worship. Of course, Jesus (having Incorruptible Pure Pureness) doesn't take the bait, but that still makes this Older Than Feudalism.
- Wyrm, the main villain of The Book of the Dun Cow, preys on the old rooster Senex's insecurities and desire for respect to tempt him into fathering Wyrm's son, who turns out to be an Eldritch Abomination which doesn't hesitate to kill its host parent.
- In Donna Jo Napoli's Zel, a barren woman sells her soul to devils for control over plants that will enable her to get a daughter and she plans to persuade said daughter to do the same with the devils so that they can be together forever.
- Septimus Heap:
- Flyte: Simon Heap with DomDaniel about the ExtraOrdinary Apprenticeship.
- Queste: Merrin Meredith with Tertius Fume about a Thing and sending Septimus onto the Queste.
- Syren: Joe Grub, later Theodophilus Fortitude Fry, with Tertius Fume about gold.
- In A Bad Spell in Yurt, newly-arrived Royal Wizard Daimbert spends most of the book trying to figure out what the evil influence in the castle is, and eventually works out that it's a demon who made a deal with a not-very-bright noble lady: her soul for the appearance of youth. Daimbert eventually manages to get her off the hook through a Heroic Sacrifice that only a literal miracle saves him from.
- A bit later on in the series, we see the contrasting attitudes between school-taught wizards (who are given a Scare 'Em Straight literal-demonstration of summoning and have closer ties to the Church) and the older generation. Who instead avoid these deals out of the belief that while demons do hold power outside of that any mortal can attain, they will only use that power for themselves alone. In other words, you can't buy with your soul anything you couldn't get for yourself without the deal - making one doesn't admit just your damnation but your incompetence. (This is neither clearly confirmed nor denied in the series.)
- In a later book in the series, Daimbert's young daughter negotiates with a demon summoned by another, not realizing the seriousness of her actions. Fortunately for her, the man who summoned it chooses to offer up his soul immediately in exchange for the demon relinquishing his claim on her. Unfortunately, the demon would much rather have her soul, especially once that demon knows whose daughter she is, but there's still enough leeway it can't quite avoid further dealing.
- Subverted in China Miéville's Perdido Street Station, in which the leaders of the city of New Crobuzon are so desperate to rid themselves of a particularly nasty breed of monsters that they plead with Hell itself for assistance... and Hell refuses. Out of fear.
- In John Dickson Carr's The Devil in Velvet, the book opens with the protagonist selling his soul to the Devil to travel back in time. The Devil keeps up his end of the bargain, but (of course) has a few jokers of his own to play.
- Legacy of the Dragokin: Mordak makes Kalak the following deal: give me control of your body and you will live long enough to see your son again.
- In the Honor Harrington series, it's mentioned that State Sec analysts half suggest the titular heroine has been in position to ruin the People's Republic of Haven plans by pure coincidence, while the other half suggest this trope as an explanation for her so regularly winding up in just the right place to cause the PRH problems.
- In Brimstone Angels, the heroine Farideh kicks off the plot when she makes a Deal with the Devil, specifically, a devil named Lorcan in order to acquire magical powers note . Lorcan himself turns out to be a fairly decent fellow, by devil standards (meaning that he's manipulative, controlling, obsessive, and borderline-sociopathic, but he's not needlessly sadistic and is actually somewhat fond of Farideh)- the real problem is that plenty of other devils, including Lorcan's much more frightening relatives, would be more than happy to poach her from him, seeing as she actually turns out to be a member of a bloodline with ties to Asmodeus himself, making her quite the coveted prize in hell indeed.
- In Thomas Mann's novel Doctor Faustus, a young composer sells his soul in exchange for decades of musical genius ... if that's how you care to look at it.
- Thomas Mann's son Klaus Mann wrote a similar novel, Mephisto, about a German actor who sells out his principles to gain favor with the Nazi Party. The protagonist is a thinly veiled Gustaf Grundgens, Mann's brother-in-law.
- In The Count of Monte Cristo Dantes, in character as The Count of Monte Cristo tells an enemy (de Villefort) that he made a deal with the devil, sacrificing his soul for the chance to become a divine agent of providence. The exact nature of this story is left ambiguous. It is possible that Dantes' damaged mind genuinely thought that he made a deal with Satan, but it's more likely that Dantes was messing with de Villefort.
- In Robert Aspirin's Myth Adventures series the trope comes from distorted tales of Deveels, interdimensional merchants.
- In The Incarnate Trilogy's second book, Asunder, it's revealed that the people made a deal with Jaran to let him feast on newsouls in exchange for reincarnating them after death.
- The Book of Lost Things: Any deal with the Crooked Man.
- In Coda, After his capture, Anthem is given the best musical equipment the Corp has... to produce tracks that will control everyone.
- In Pinocchio, the title hero, along with Lampwick and a group of other bad boys in effect sell their souls to the Little Coachman in exchange for a time of unlicensed pleasure at Toyland, only to end up being cursed into becoming donkeys to slave away for their rest of their short and unhappy lives.
- Martha makes one with Miss Jackson towards the end of Clocks that Don't Tick. After she begs the Bosses to 'resurrect' Gary using their technology, Miss Jackson agrees to do so, but only on the condition that Jeff and Dawn are kept alive to be tortured day and night indefinitely. For obvious reasons, the deal was hard for her to agree with in the first place. It's made even worse by the fact that the 'Gary' they brought back isn't really Gary at all.
- In Pact, gaining supernatural power almost always requires dealing with some supernatural creature, or Other. The bargains can range from agreeing to keep the bound form of a ghost in a place of warmth, to agreeing to fight monsters for the rest of your life, to giving up the ability to swear, and the Others that give powers are similarly varied. The actual devils in the setting, notably, tend to keep their word fairly well if the practitioner that bargains with them is careful enough not to give them an opening, so while all power comes with a price, it doesn't always have to be you that pays it.
- Raise Some Hell: The entire story starts with Oliver landing in a school that trains you to make a contract with the Devil for your soul, in exchange for control of a demon of your own— until you die.
- Trademaster is the "Devil" in Messenger who offers steep prices for the selfish desires of the villagers. For example, it's implied Ramon's mother traded away her children's health for something as insipid as a Gaming Machine, while Mentor trades away his "true self" in order to become young and handsome (and a jerk) in order to romance Stocktender's widow.
- This continues in Son, where Claire trades away her youth in order for Trademaster to show her where Gabriel is (which nearly causes Gabriel to not realize she's his mother). It's also brutally defied with Einar, who was too proud to make a trade; Trademaster chops off half his foot for refusing his offer and throws Einar back down the cliff to the village.
- The Rogue King has a rather tame version of trading his shadow for wings.
- In the Daniel Faust series, Demons of the Venerable Order of Bargainers turn this into an art form, and are basically Hell's rock stars. As far as Daniel himself goes, several demons poke fun at his surname and explain that they wouldn't trade for his soul even if he wanted to: he's spoiled goods.
- Mrs. H, the wicked stepmother in Six-Gun Snow White, is implied to have made some kind of deal with dark powers in order to escape her own childhood abuse.
- The Shattered Twilight story The Farmer's Wife opens with a woman summoning some kind of demon to bargain with it for her son's life; it's yet to be revealed exactly what she offered in return.
- The Damnation Game sets it up but subverts it. Marty thinks that Mamoulian might be the Devil and Whitehouse does credit Mamoulian to some extent with his business successes, but Mamoulian, who isn't a demon but a human with powers and immortality, doesn't want Whitehouse's soul, as such. He genuinely only wanted an apprentice and a friend. After Whitehouse's betrayal, Mamoulian now only wants Whitehouse to die with him.
- Never actually happens in Discworld, but arguably it would be safer than some of the deals with other beings that are made.
- The Gates of Sleep: Reginald Chamberten made a formal pact with His Infernal Majesty sometime in his backstory. It backfires on him at the end, when he uses his current lover as a Human Sacrifice, calls up a demon, orders it to kill Dr. Pike ... and the demon basically says "sorry, that's not in the contract, see you later".
- Implied in Dora Wilk Series, as Viola is rumoured in-universe to have made a deal with something to guarantee her Nigh-Invulnerability. The drawback seems to be mounting insanity.
- Masquerade of the Red Death: Technically the Children of Dreadful Night haven't made a deal with a devil/demon, but their bargain with the extradimensional Sheddim is close enough for this trope. Especially since if the protagonists don't move fast enough, that little side effect that the Sheddim didn't bother to mention is going to backfire big time.
- In Demon Road by Derek Landy, many deals quite literally take place with the devil. Amber is forced to make a deal with the Shining Demon in order to find a way she can escape her parents wrath. She is tasked with finding the man who once escaped the Shining Demon but she is tricked and a time constraint is forced upon her at the last second. Fail to bring in the man within 500 hours and her soul is forfeit.
- The title character of Eric intends to make a deal with the devil; however due to some infernal politics by a demon prince wanting to oust the boss, he ends up making a deal with Rincewind instead. It works out better than anyone expected; not so much Did You Just Scam Cthulhu? as Did You Just Inadvertently Take Advantage of Nyarlathotep Scamming Cthulhu?
- Draconian Symphony abounds with them. The plot kicks off with Draco sparing Lascivus's life in exchange for help tracking down his insane mother. Then Lascivus saves his life, and he has to repay that debt to Hell. Vengai-Ra made a deal for knowledge of science, and an unknown person made a deal to get Ko out of the city he'd been displaced into.
- In Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, deals with fairies are often this. Mr. Norrell makes one at the beginning of the book to gain political influence by resurrecting a politician's fiancee, but due to the fairy's taking advantage of a loophole in the wording of the deal, it has the side effect of causing her to apparently go insane. He spends the rest of the novel trying to both hide what he's done and prevent anyone else from doing something similar.
- The Crimson Shadow: Greensparrow and his wizard minions made deals with various demonic monsters for power.
- In Cruel Beauty, humans can make bargains with the demonic Gentle Lord. Everyone knows that making a bargain is a terrible idea and never ends well, but a good number of people are still desperate and/or hubristic enough to believe that they can somehow get the better end of a bargain for the Gentle Lord to keep constantly making them. Nyx's father made a bargain with him for his barren wife to have two healthy daughters which was fulfilled... at the cost of his wife's life and the additional cost of one of his daughters having to marry the Gentle Lord. There's also a man who makes a bargain with the Lord to kill the man married to the woman he loves so that he can be with her in spite of Nyx desperately trying to warn him against doing so; he's willing to accept the explicit costs of losing his eyesight and accepting a "gift" his beloved will give him that she got from her first husband but he doesn't realize that the latter cost, which he assumes is a child, is actually smallpox she contracted that will kill him.
- In Void City, demons will offer deals to wizards and vampires for more power, and to deceased mortals for a second chance at life. Many of characters in the series have taken such offers: Magbidion made a deal for power that he wants Eric to help him out of, Phillipus made deals to ascend to higher vampiric rank, and Rachel made a deal to escape Hell and come back from the dead.
- The Malazan Book of the Fallen has the Crippled God, who usually offers the people that come to him what they wish for, but he always takes something in return:
- When the artisan Munug comes to the Crippled God for aid in Memories of Ice, he is cured of several painful tumors between his legs, but gets paralyzed from the waist down afterwards.
- In Midnight Tides, Rhulad Sengar receives a weapon from the Crippled God that makes him much, much stronger the longer he uses it and effectively hands him the rule over his people and a position as emperor on a silver platter, but in turn Rhulad has to suffer through many a death and subsequent resurrection, which does absolutely nothing good for his sanity.
- The Spirit Thief: the Master of the Dead Mountain offers Nico a burst of power needed to save her friend from dying, but gains more power to possess her in return.
- In Animorphs, The Drode — the faithful lackey of Crayak — tried to sell Rachel this deal: kill her cousin, Jake.The Drode: If you ever find yourself desperate, Rachel. At the end. In need. Remember this: your cousin's life is your passport to salvation in the arms of Crayak.
- This crops up more than once in the series: Crayak really, really, really hates Jake for screwing his plans over and over, to the point that Crayak have had made multiple attempts on Jake's life (and succeeded once... only for Loophole Abuse to bring Jake back, of course). And likewise, Crayak absolutely loves Rachel — his "favorite" Animorph.
- Jake's cousin, Rachel, repeatedly turned down the deal out of stubborn loyalty to Jake. And then on the final mission, Jake sent Rachel on a suicide mission to assassinate Tom. Tom, who is Jake's brother. Tom, who is Rachel's cousin. Now, look at the Drode's words: "Your cousin's life..." Rachel successfully killed her cousin Tom, and died immediately afterwards. And that's the last we hear of Rachel.
- The Hearts We Sold takes place in a world where humans can make deals with demons: one body part in exchange for one wish. Most demons ask for limbs, but the Agathodaemon asks for Dee's heart. However, unlike most deals, this one isn't forever — it's more like a lease, than anything. The deal is that as long as the Agathodaemon has her heart, Dee will work for him, in exchange for tuition money. At the end of two years, she gets her heart back, and is free to go. Due to Loophole Abuse, Dee is able to get out of her contract early, but the Agathodaemon accepts this gracefully, and lets her go.
- The YA novel Soul Enchilada revolves around the protagonist Bug finding out that not only did her grandfather sell his soul for a car (it is, she admits, one hell of a Cool Car), he managed to worm his way out of payment after he died... and he put up her soul as collateral. Bug's about as thrilled with this as you can imagine.
- The Stormlight Archive:
- The Nightwatcher grants those who seek her out both a boon and a curse. The boon is what she thinks the supplicant deserves, and the curse is something that she decides. Lift visited her before and asked to stay the same while the world changed around her. Lift intended to never grow up, but received some strange blessings instead (such as restoring Stormlight from food instead of Highstorms), along with an undisclosed curse. Only one person was perfectly happy with his visit; he got a heap of good cloth to sell in a famine in exchange for seeing the world upside down, which he quickly got used to.
- Edgedancer: When Lift needs to absorb all the information in a massive library, she grudgingly agrees to let her Voidbringer, Wyndle, consume a human soul in exchange for the task. Except Wyndle isn't a Voidbringer, couldn't consume human souls even if he wanted to, and just plain can't do what she's asking.Lift: All right. Maybe I can get you one soul. Perhaps a tax collector... 'cept they ain't human. Would they work? Or would you need, like, three of them to make up one normal person's soul?
Wyndle: Mistress! I'm not bargaining!
Lift: Come on. Everyone knows Voidbringers like a good deal. Does it have to be someone important? Or can it be some dumb guy nobody likes?
Wyndle: I don't eat souls! I'm not trying to haggle with you! I'm stating facts. I can't read all the information in that archive! Why can't you just see that—
Lift: Oh, calm your tentacles.
- In the third book, this turns out to be Taravangian's ultimate plan. He will make a deal with Odium so that Odium will spare his kingdom, and then conquer the entire world so that it is all his kingdom. Odium sees straight through the ruse and only agrees to spare any citizen of his capital city, and anyone married to a citizen.
- Mostly inverted in The Mortal Instruments. If mundanes summon a demon, he will kill or enslave the mundanes rather than make a pact with them. But there are also excetions like Mortmain in The Infernal Devices.
- The deal with the Sea Witch still occurs in Andersen's original version of The Little Mermaid. It comes off as even more cruel and painful and ultimately ends up screwing the mermaid even harder than it does in Disney's adaptation, but unlike Ursula, the original Sea Witch does not actively screw the mermaid over or use the contract to advance her own goals, instead she comes off as more of a neutral figure and it's easier to buy that her magic genuinely requires the recipient to make such sacrifices as a price for the power received, as opposed to the spell being expressly designed to screw the recipient over.
- In the Chaos Gods series, Ki made a deal with the Fallen Chaos god Tavk to serve him in exchange for him saving the lives of her parents. Tavk is not a well-regarded god, as the majority of his followers are insane, blood-crazed killers, and he delights in giving Ki missions which are pointless, ridiculous, or seemingly impossible.
- In Guardian Cats and the Lost Books of Alexandria, Professor Leo Chin sells his soul for help accessing the legendary Book of Motion.
- The Quorum features an update for The '80s — why sell your own soul to the devil when you can sell someone else? Three up-and-coming young men make a deal with Humanoid Abomination Corrupt Corporate Executive Derek Leech for worldly success in return for extracting an annual quota of misery out of their absent fourth friend. (Leech makes a point of saying that, in this materialistic age, human souls have no value.) The catch, which they fail to spot before it's too late, is that inevitably something's going to happen to their victim that renders it impossible to keep harvesting misery from him — at which point, it turns out, the contract ends, all the suffering they've inflicted rebounds on them, and Leech gets a triple harvest of misery to use for his own purposes.
- A surprisingly benign version occurs in The Master and Margarita: the titular Margarita makes a deal with Woland to be his queen at the ball of the damned in return for one wish. Once her part is fulfilled, instead of asking for what she really wants (to be reunited with her lover), Margarita asks for mercy for one of the damned souls she met at the ball. That impresses Woland, and he points out a loophole: Margarita was the one to release that damned soul, not him. Since Woland technically didn't do anything, Margarita still had her wish.
- The Elder Empire: Kelarac is one of the easiest Great Elders to deal with: Just throw something valuable into the sea and call out in desperation. There is no guarantee he'll answer, but if he does, he'll offer you a seemingly fair deal for what you want. While he will, inevitably, screw you over in the end, he is the least dangerous of the Great Elders, and would prefer that humanity remain mostly free.Kelarac: I like this world, former Watchman. Slaves do not bargain. Free men do. And they bring such treasures.
- In The Croning this is speciality of the Humanoid Abominations known as the Children of the Old Leech. They can grant you quite a few things, and even fulfil some wishes otherwise thought impossible. All it costs is a child. Preferably one of your own, or just one related to you. The Children even freely admit that it is indeed a highly unfair price, and they strictly speaking don't actually need it. They just find that human babies always makes for a highly tasty meal, even if they have long since evolved beyond needing sustenance to sustain themselves, and they also take sadistic glee in seeing a hapless human agonize over whether to make the choice or not. In the end, the main character, Don Miller, agrees to such a deal too, in exchange for the safety of his daughter and him and Michelle gaining immortality.
- In Card Force Infection, Yuu made a deal with some sort of supernatural entity to bring Naota Back from the Dead after a car crash. The cost is that the two can't be around each other very long.
- The Disney Chills series' major theme is that making deals with Disney villains is a very bad thing and can only end in pain, with each book focusing on a particular Disney villain and how children's deals with them end poorly.
- October Daye: The Luidaeg, AKA the Sea Witch, is a very old and very powerful Fae. She can make deals, but she charges a terrible price in exchange. Subverted in that it turns out that she's under a gaes to always help anyone who makes a bargain with her, she charges high prices to try to discourage people from making what she sees as extremely foolish bargains.
- The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue: Addie and Henry both make deals with the same devil. The titular character wishes for eternal life and freedom from responsibility; the latter wishes to appeal to everybody. Neither goes well.
- Magic By The Numbers: Wizardry averts this due to the Law of Dichotomy. You can't deal with a demon, you have to overpower it by force of will or become its slave. There is no middle ground.
- The Barbarian and the Sorceress: Barnabus made a pact with the entity who he'll bring into the world in return for more power.
Deal With The Devil / Literature