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A Chat with Satan

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"Everyone who wants to grow up, sooner or later sits down and has a chat with Satan. Or they never grow up."
Amos Maple, Down From Ten

Before the hero can achieve his destiny, he has to face himself and defeat the darkness in his own heart. Because Only the Worthy May Pass, someone has to put the hero to the test and make sure that he has the character necessary to see things through.

Enter Satan. Sometimes this is the literal Guy with the Horns and Pitchfork (or local equivalent); sometimes it's just the character's Shadow Archetype, or the Old Master. Sometimes he's a Louis Cypher, other times he actually introduces himself as Satan. Regardless, it's the character who knows the hero's dark side better than the hero himself — and is determined to make sure the hero sees it, as well.

If the hero fails this Secret Test of Character, expect things to end badly for him.

Essentially, when a supporting character talks to the hero to reveal What You Are in the Dark. Differs from a Deal with the Devil in that the Satan-figure is primarily concerned with exposing the hero's true nature (and can sometimes be akin to a Trickster Mentor, actively trying to improve the hero by getting them to see and reject their darker side); if the hero does not succumb to temptation, it doesn't mean that the tempter has failed in his mission. A type of Threshold Guardian. If the character playing "Satan" really does want to corrupt the hero, then they're The Corrupter.

In works with Jungian themes, the "Satan" figure will be played by the hero’s shadow (note that Jungian shadows on their own aren’t necessarily evil). In these cases, the shadow is trying to get the hero to accept the truths they don’t want to see for the purpose of self improvement.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Naruto plays this very straight in one example, except for one minor twist: Naruto knows his dark side even better than the "dark side" itself, and actually embraces it and comforts it. In a way, his dark side was something that he mostly outgrew as he grew up.
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Evangeline goes through this with Negi. She tells him he can either face down his true dark nature and overcome it, bending it to his will, or he can become a raging immortal demon. She thinks the latter is kind of cool.
  • In HeartCatch Pretty Cure!, Tsubomi and co must pass the test against their respective Shadow Archetype to obtain their Super Silhouette. They viciously point out the Cures' weaknesses and manage to be pretty sinister for a kid's show while doing so.
  • In Fate/Zero, Kiritsugu has a conversation with the Holy Grail itself, who reveals to him the consequences of his ideology. The revelation is what convinces him that his ideal is actually unattainable, and that the Grail must be destroyed before it sacrifices even more than Kiritsugu was willing to.
  • In the movie of Haruhi Suzumiya, Kyon is faced by a mirror image of himself (it's all mental) who basically tells him to stop being passive-aggressive about his complaining. Either flat-out say I Just Want to Be Normal and make it happen (he can), or admit that he likes the craziness and STOP WHINING. Now, granted, only the audience is privy to Kyon's unstoppable narrations, so this is Kyon's id telling him to put up or shut up.
  • This happens to Miaka in Fushigi Yuugi. She is trapped in a mirror, to watch as the mirror version of herself goes to the outside of the mirror and starts screwing things up (and cavorting with Hotohori). In order to get rid of Mirror Miaka, the real Miaka has to commit suicide. Although Miaka does not successfully kill herself, she comes awfully close. She is healed by a combination of the Nyan-Nyan's healing powers and a blood transfusion from both Tamahome and Hotohori. This is to emphasize that the Priestess does not live for herself and must put the good of the universe above her own desires and aspirations.
  • In the beginning of the prequel manga K: Stray Dog Story, Kuroh must defeat a monster of this sort in order to get his sword, Kotowari, that he carries throughout the series. Underwater, in nothing but a Fundoshi.
  • In a sense, this happens to anyone who activates a Behelit in Berserk. The Godhand member Ubik emerges and explains to them, in lurid detail, how they're inescapably evil, and how a Deal with the Devil is simply what their life has led up to all this time. Presumably, the person receiving the offer could refuse. Unfortunately, the trigger to activate the Behelit is reaching the Despair Event Horizon, so the idea of throwing everything away in exchange for what the Godhand are offering looks extremely compelling...

    Comic Books  
  • Midnight Nation: At the climax, the villain literally Satan provides one of these for David, challenging everyone from David to all of humanity to God Himself.
  • In Zander Cannon's Heck, this plays out literally: our hero, Hector "Heck" Hammerskjold, ends his latest journey into Hell with a talk with the big guy himself.

  • Deconstructing Harry: This depiction of Satan is modeled in-universe after a guy who is dating the main character's ex-girlfriend. He's Affably Evil, and his office in Hell even has air conditioning.
  • The Lord of the Rings
    • Sméagol in The Two Towers talks to his alter-ego Gollum and must choose between his loyalty to Frodo and his lust for the Ring.
    • In at least two deleted scenes for The Return of the King, Aragorn speaks with Sauron. The first time with the Palantír to taunt the Dark Lord with the fact that he now has the Sword of Elendil to which Sauron responds by showing him an image of Arwen dying to break his resolve. The second was an intended battle between the two at the Gates of Mordor. Sauron would have greeted Aragorn by saying "Hail Aragorn, Son of Kings." The second scene was replaced by the Eye of Sauron staring at Aragorn and showing him something... Aragorn replies by charging the gate.
  • In Serenity, after the death of Shepherd Book, Malcolm Reynolds has a conversation with the Operative who is hunting him. The Operative confronts Mal with the fact that he caused the destruction with his Refusal of the Call. The conversation convinces Mal to put aside his apathy and go on the offensive.
  • In The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter plays the Satan to Agent Starling throughout the film. He repeatedly forces her to examine her inner motivations and desires.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Empire Strikes Back:
      • Yoda plays this role for Luke when Luke discovers that Han and Leia will be captured by the Empire. Luke must choose whether or not to "honor what they fight for" by staying to finish his training, knowing that it might mean sacrificing Han and Leia. Luke instead chooses to follow his own reckless impulses and confronts Vader before he is ready. As a result, he loses a hand and has to be rescued by Leia, who has escaped through other means. As they group is escaping, R2-D2, who had come with Luke from Dagobah, manages to finally get the Falcon's hyperdrive working.
      • As far as confronting his inner darkness goes, Luke's experience in the cave counts as well. He attacks the vision of Vader and strikes him down, only to find his own face beneath the helmet; foreshadowing the danger of his reckless choices (like rushing into conflict) and the dilemma he'll face in the next film when he has to confront Vader without giving into the Dark Side (lest he become him).
    • In Return of the Jedi, the Emperor tries to seduce Luke into joining the Dark Side by confronting him with the darkness inside himself. Luke, in turn, plays an inverted Satan for Darth Vader, confronting him with his own hidden goodness.
  • In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Victor tries repeatedly to persuade Logan to embrace his bestial nature.
  • The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc: Dustin Hoffman plays Joan's conscience made flesh as she awaits execution by the English. He questions her belief in her "vision" and debates with her the righteousness of her mission.
  • In The Dark Knight the Joker tries this one with Harvey Dent and convinced him to go batshit crazy. He tries it on Batman as well but finally admits that he truly is incorruptible.
  • In Wholly Moses!, Herschel encounters Satan (John Ritter) after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah - the later rolling his eyes at the former's freak out at meeting him.
    Herschel: (after learning the Devil used to be an angel) How did you become The Devil?
    Satan: It was very simple. God comes over to me, and says "Try this on." (indicates amateurish Halloween Devil costume, shrugs)
    Herschel: Hm.

  • The Brothers Karamazov: Ivan Karamazov dreams one of these. Doubly perturbing for him, as he's a committed skeptic.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry has these little chit-chats with alarming regularity. His "inner voice"note , Lea, Lasciel, Nicodemus...
  • In the Betsy the Vampire Queen series by Mary Janice Davidson, Lucifer (in the form of a woman) pops by to have a little chat with Betsy. Lucifer says she looks forward to working with Betsy and please keep an eye on her daughter until she's ready to claim her destiny. Betsy defies her, and she asks if Betsy won't reconsider for a pair of thousand-dollar, one-of-a-kind, mint condition, truly fabulous shoes. Betsy hesitates - and Lucifer smirks, her point made.
  • Satan: His Psychotherapy and Cure by the Unfortunate Dr. Kassler, JSPS consists largely of backstory and this trope.
  • Part of the test Gerald has to face in Witches Incorperated (Rogue Agent book 2 by K.E. Mills) to become a Janitor involves a chat with the very dead villain of the first book.
  • In one of the later Animorphs books, Crayak offers to give Rachel all the power she needs to defeat the Yeerks if she agrees to serve him. This forces Rachel to confront the fact that she's been steadily turning into a Blood Knight over the course of the series.
  • In The Neverending Story Atreyu has to pass through a mirror gate and face his true self. So does Bastian, the kid reading the book. The latter doesn't take it well.
  • In H. P. Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath the protagonist Randolph Carter meets Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos on top of the titular fortress of gods, in the shape of a handsome youth. In this case Carter fails to pass the temptation of the easy path, and almost meets his doom, before finding a loophole in Nyarlathotep's own boasting.
  • Much of Anne Rice's novel Memnoch the Devil is devoted to Lestat hearing the titular character (who claims to be the devil) retelling (and showing) his own story starting with the creation of the angels and ending with Memnoch turning Sheol into Hell in order to get souls to repent (although that makes Hell sound more like Purgatory) and prove God wrong (i.e. that only those who truly love Him get to be in Heaven).
  • In Doctor Faustus, composer Adrian Leverkühn has a lengthy debate/conversation/bargaining session with what he takes to be the Devil ... though the novel leaves us free to interpret it as an hallucination.
  • In the Robert Louis Stevenson short story "Markheim" (link), the title character kills a shopkeeper to rob him. A stranger walks into the shop, claiming to be aware of all of Markheim's life, past and future, and lets him know that he can get away scot-free if he takes care to kill the shopkeeper's maid too. Markheim, still believing he is not a bad man but merely a victim of circumstances, gets into an argument about the nature of good and evil with the stranger who he is certain is Satan. He eventually has a Heel Realization and turns himself in, deciding that if he can't redeem his life he can at least try to redeem his soul. The stranger is distinctly pleased with this outcome.
  • In Fevre Dream, a vampire story set in the antebellum South, Damon Julian has a chat with Abner Marsh halfway through, where he tears Abner's morality to shreds. Most notably, he justifies his right to kill any human he pleases by pointing out that he's a member of the superior species, and so he has unlimited rights over the inferior species. Marsh admits that the logic is right - and becomes an abolitionist.
  • Oathbringer (third book of The Stormlight Archive): Dalinar has a few of these with Odium, culminating in Odium attempting a Breaking Speech to get Dalinar to be his Champion, and getting an epic "No More Holding Back" Speech in return.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Children of Húrin: Húrin is captured and dragged in chains before Morgoth, Middle-Earth's literal Satan, who demands the location of the hidden elven city of Gondolin. Húrin tells him to go back to Hell, and Morgoth finds out that his captive cannot be bribed, tricked, tortured or threatened into betraying the Elves.
    • Beren and Lúthien: Beren, Finrod and his ten warriors are captured and thrown into Sauron's dungeons, wherein the Dark Lord tries to torture information out of them. Every one of Finrod's men answers to Sauron's "Will you tell me what I want to know or I'll feed you to my wolves?" with a "I hope your mutt chokes on my bones", choosing death over betraying their beloved king.
    • The Fall Of Numenor: After being brought to Númenor as a "prisoner", Sauron quickly uses his manipulation skills to become the king's chief advisor. Ar-Pharazôn, who was already a greedy slavist overlord who usurped the throne by forcing his cousin to marry him, becomes even worse after listening to Sauron's lies and manipulations.
  • In The Belgariad, as Garion is journeying toward his final battle with the evil god Torak, he has a dream in which Torak offers to warp reality so that the two of them and Garion's loved ones can be one big happy family, rather than having to be in conflict. Garion quickly realizes that Torak's idea of an idyllic life would actually be horrific, and delivers a Shut Up, Hannibal! speech that puts Torak at an emotional disadvantage.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Ashes to Ashes (2008), Gene Hunt doesn't so much as have a chat with Satan as get audited by Satan, in the form of D&C officer Jim Keats. Apparently, Gene runs this corner of Purgatory (for God, we think), and Keats and his side are kind of pissed that Gene keeps changing the rules. Keats gets in a Reason You Suck Speech against Gene in his opening episode, and they continue to have face-offs whenever Keats wants to remind Gene that Gene isn't fooling him.
  • In a show as old as Doctor Who, this has definitely happened a few times. In the Classic Series 'Trial of a Time Lord', the Doctor faces his evil future self, and has to resist the temptation of the power the Valeyard has. More recently, the series five episode "Amy's Choice" has the Doctor and his companions trapped in two dream worlds by a manifestation of his darker impulses.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Lorien plays this role for Sheridan, while he's dead, forcing him to confront the fact that his life, noble as it might be, is being wasted by living by the expectations of others.
    • Another example occurs earlier in the series, when Delenn and Sheridan are being tested by the Inquisitor.
    • G'Kar plays this role for Londo in "The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari".
    • Morden ends up playing this role for Delenn and Vir. He was trying to be The Corrupter, but Delenn blew him off, and Vir, well, he gave Morden an answer to his offer that Morden didn't like. note 
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003):
    • Head Six sometimes encourages Baltar toward goodness and sometimes tempts him toward evil, but she usually helps him to come to some important revelation about himself.
    • Leoben plays this role for Starbuck several times during the series, most dramatically when she is assigned to interrogate him in "Flesh and Bone".
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Being Mirror Characters, Sauron comes to know Galadriel better than anyone and uses this to his advantage to convince Galadriel to become his queen and heal together Middle-Earth. He deconstructs her whole being so well that she would have accepted his offer had he gave her any answer other than not seeing any difference to her question if he means "heal or rule".
    Sauron: All others look on you with doubt... I alone can see your greatness. I alone can see your light.
    Galadriel: You would make me a tyrant.
    Sauron: I would make you a queen. Fair as the sea and the sun. Stronger than the foundations of the earth.
    Galadriel: And you... my king? The Dark Lord?
    Sauron: No, not dark, not with you at my side. You told me once that we were brought together for a purpose... this is it. You bind me to the light, and I bind you to power. Together we can save this Middle-earth.
  • Lost: In his flashbacks, Richard Alpert is tempted by the Man in Black/Smoke Monster, who tells him he must kill "the devil," Jacob, if he wants to see his dead wife again. He ultimately refuses and sides with Jacob.
  • Supernatural:
    • In season 5, Lucifer has talks like this with both Sam and Castiel, but they both resist his seductive nature. In both cases, these talks are mixed with The Corrupter, as he wants the characters to acknowledge their inner darkness in order to eventually come to his side. He's perfectly willing to wait.
      Lucifer: I think it'll happen soon, within six months. And I think it'll happen in Detroit.
    • Also in season five, Dean has a similar encounter with Death, sans the corrupting factor.
    • This sort of thing plays out again in season 11, again mixed with corrupting influence as Lucifer tries to convince Sam to become his vessel again so he can combat the Darkness, only for Sam to turn him down — and Castiel to agree.. It's more of an Enemy Mine situation than previous instances, and Lucifer's actual goal is much less provoking What You Are in the Dark than simply getting what he wants. But it does force each character to confront their self-worth and reveals a stark contrast between their psychological states: Sam feels hopeful and confident in himself and his family and proudly tells Lucifer that they'll deal with the latest Apocalypse without him, whereas Castiel is depressed and broken, and having just come from witnessing the power of their adversary first-hand, decides Lucifer will be more useful in the coming fight than himself.
  • Touched by an Angel: After the angel Monica witnesses a horrific bombing which killed dozens of people, she has a crisis of Faith in God and His Wisdom. She leaves her friends and walks to the desert where Satan pulls up in a car and offers her a ride. He tempts her, talks with her about the freedom humans have, the joys they will know no angel can ever know, and tries to get her to fall fully.

    Myth and Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • Book of Genesis: In Genesis 3, the serpent tempts Eve with the knowledge of good and evil.
    • The Four Gospels: In Matthew 4, Mark 1 and Luke 4, Jesus goes into the wilderness and is tempted by Satan. The devil presents him with three successive challenges, appealing to his appetite (turn this stone into bread), his vanity (jump off the temple so people will see God catch you), and his sense of his own destiny (worship me and I will give you all the kingdoms of the world). Jesus refuses each of the tests, thus proving that he is worthy to begin his ministry.
  • In Buddhism, the last barrier to enlightenment that Siddhartha Gautama faced was Mara, the Anthropomorphic Personification of temptation. Less demon and more trickster, Buddha simply touched the Earth to remind him that there was still dirt under his feet and ignored the hallucinations of women that he sent him.

  • As Lucifer is a character in This Is War, this happens pretty often.

  • The verse drama Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot focuses on Archbishop Thomas Becket in the days leading up to his murder. In the first act, he is visited by "tempters" who plead with him to give up his feud with the King of England. The first tempts him with hedonistic pleasures, the second with a restoration of his former authority, the third with political power. He rejects them all, but the fourth tempter surprises Becket by asking him to seek out martyrdom, and be glorified as a saint long after his death. Becket has to reconcile his moral stance with his own selfish desire to be justified in the hereafter. (In most productions, the fourth tempter is presented as being separate, more enticing than the first three, and possibly the Devil in disguise.)

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dead Inside: A Mage who wants to achieve immortality must cut away their Shadow and then either rejoin it or destroy it. The Shadow can provide this chat, and the Mage can reconcile with it as one path to immortality... but most just try to kill the Shadow instead, because they think it'll be easier than swallowing their own pride. (And given how prideful most Mages are...)
  • Mage: The Awakening:
    • It's either this trope or kicking your inner Satan out of your person. This trope is the preferred way since the latter will cause the inner Satan to wreak havoc in the world.
    • Similarly, Imperium requires you to overcome your inner sin. The relevant splatbook gives a wizardly mentor as an example: the mentor's Satan is his stubborn refusal to acknowledge that other people's methods are probably as good as his, which has cost the life of at least one prospective mage.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy:
  • In Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Link must defeat his own shadow, later named Dark Link, in order to obtain the third Triforce piece and awaken Princess Zelda. (However, given Link's status as the world's most legendary Heroic Mime, there's no actual "chatting" involved.)
  • EarthBound (1994) has, as the boss of Magicant, "Ness's Nightmare", which looks exactly like the Mani-Mani statue and rather like the Devil.
  • Mass Effect: Saren counts if you go Renegade, since that's how he operated.
  • In Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, this role is played by an angel. The Solar reveals the player character things about themselves and their destiny bit by bit, and their (the player's) verbal reactions affect a Karma Meter that determines whether, at the end, they become a god of goodness instead of a God of Evil if they choose divinity. Her goal is ostensibly to make the PC understand themselves, but they could go through the whole thing missing the point.
  • Done with Reverse Psychology in Persona 4. You really should listen to your Shadow Archetype when it's telling the truth that you don't want to hear.
  • Before Persona 4, Persona 2 did it. If you think the darkness has nothing to say to you, Nyarlathotep will be very happy to prove you wrong.
  • A bizarre twist on this occurs in Persona 5: Futaba Sakura is so screwed up that her Shadow represents her repressed positive traits; notably, her will to live, what remains of her self-esteem, and her love for her dead mother. As a result, her personal chat with Satan boils down to "Satan" telling her that she's a good person, that she isn't a murderer, and that her mother really did care about her. If Futaba hadn't listened, Shadow Futaba would have taken the same route as any other Shadow self and killed her.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Lucifer, naturally. As primary apologist for the Chaos Faction, he often confronts the characters (and player) about how actions taken for the Greater Good still come at a human cost. This is most prominent in the second Raidou Kuzunoha game, where he repeatedly spells out your alignment on the Order-Neutral-Chaos axis before giving you some Brutal Honesty about what you actually accomplished. While he's always got an agenda, he's frustratingly spot-on and never actually lies. note  That said, Chaos isn't "good"; usually, it's just more honest about its predatory side than Law.
  • Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow: Soma's clash with what is the source of Dracula's (and thus, his own) power in the finale.
  • Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones: After defeating the Vizier, the Prince must face his dark alter-ego in order to regain control of his own body. However, confronting the Dark Prince is not the way to go. The Prince must, instead, walk away. Subverted due to the fact that nothing will happen if you will fight him - you should know this already.
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • While seeking the Urn of Sacred Ashes, the Warden (regardless of his/her origin) will be confronted by the Guardian, a spirit protecting the Urn. The Guardian will pose a personal question relating to the Warden's origin, questioning whether or not the Warden believes he or she failed their friends or family. The Guardian poses similar harsh questions to the Warden's companions. Except Dog.
    • In the Mage Origin, you find out the Rite of Passage for mages, the Harrowing, involves sending you to the Fade to face a demon- if you lose, or even take too long, some say, you will be killed. Once there, you meet someone who calls himself Mouse, and he appeals to your fears by calling this "throwing young mages to the demons", and offers to help you to find the demon designated to you, in the meanwhile gaining your sympathy. He turns out to have been the very demon you were sent to fight, although luckily, seeing through his facade by pointing out the demon you fought was surprisingly easy to defeat and asking "Why do I have the feeling HE wasn't the one I was supposed to have fought?" when Mouse wants you to take him to the real world is enough and he leaves you alone, although pointing out that "true tests... never end."
  • In the Kingdom Hearts series, Xehanort and his various incarnations do this with various characters, from Ansem, Seeker of Darkness tempting Riku throughout the series to give in to the darkness, to Master Xehanort using the Balance Between Good and Evil to convince Terra to join him against his master Eraqus.

    Western Animation  
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Nightmare Moon does this to Rainbow Dash when she's off alone, attempting to tempt her into forsaking her friends for the chance to live her dream. Rainbow Dash is quick to refuse and help her friends.
    • Reformed, but Not Tamed past villain Discord is tempted by Tirek with We Can Rule Together by appealing to his dislike of having to hold back. He takes the bait. Predictably, Tirek screws him over.