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Literature / Trilby

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Trilby is a novel by George Du Maurier (grandfather of Daphne Du Maurier). It was written in 1894, and is about the title character who was hypnotized by the sinister Svengali to become a famous singer, although she (Trilby) was tone-deaf.

The novel is the Trope Namer for The Svengali. The 1895 stage adaptation popularized the Trilby hat.

It inspired The Phantom of the Opera.


  • Antagonist Title: At least one film adaptation of the book was called Svengali.
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  • Beautiful Singing Voice: Played with. The titular character has a wonderful singing voice that launches her to stardom...but only when she's been hypnotized by the sinister Svengali. Free of Svengali's hypnotism, she's completely tone-deaf.
  • Beware the Mind Reader: Svengali is a manipulative and sociopathic character who uses his knowledge of hypnotism to get inside the minds of characters and force them into acts they would not otherwise commit. His prescience often borders on, and is mistaken for, mind-reading.
  • Driven to Suicide: The title character, having left her friends and supporters out of shame, contemplate throwing herself into the Seine; at the last moment she gives up and returns to her evil mentor Svengali.
  • Hypno Fool: Trilby can only sing when she's hypnotized and has no memory of her singing career when the spell is broken.
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  • Meaningful Name: Trilby (trill-be).
  • Real Women Have Curves: Played with. Trilby is initially presented as — not fat, exactly, but big and hale. In this form she is fun and sexy, but also seen as uncomfortably mannish. After she loses weight, she is described as weaker but more beautiful.
  • Shiksa Goddess: One unpleasant aspect of the novel is the fact that Svengali is an ugly anti-Semitic stereotype manipulating the beautiful Trilby.
  • The Svengali: Trope Namer. He controls Trilby completely.