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Our Demons Are Different

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"We are called demons precisely because we do bad things."
Tablet, Graffiti Kingdom

Demons. Devils. Fiends. They're all over the place in storyland, but no two authors portray them in exactly the same way.

Demons in western fiction tend, by default, to be of a vaguely Abrahamic nature, most often red or black with horns, hooves, and maybe a tail. They're generally found torturing the souls of those that wind up in Hell, making deals with mortals in order to claim their souls for the pit, and are usually on the side of Evil, often opposing Angels.

Demonic names are quite a bit looser than those for Angels, though in the west, they often take inspiration from Hebrew, biblical or mythological sources, as well as the Ars Goetia.

The prospective demon has many options available for customization:

There's no doubt about it. No matter what you choose, Your Demons Are Different.

  • If the source is Japanese, and the demons are really different, the reason may be simply that, in translation, the word "demon" is being substituted for a completely different word, youkai, which really doesn't have a correlating concept in English. "Faerie creature" is probably closer when it comes to traditional function in folklore (in fact, on the occasions where "fae," etc. is translated into Japanese, the term will probably contain the same "you" as "youkai"), but "demon" sounds more likely to kick ass, despite faeries being pretty damn scary.
    • And even if they don't use youkai, Japan still has a lot of words that get translated as "demon", most of them having ma (魔), which means "demon", somewhere in them: Mazoku, Mamono, Majin, Youma, Akuma...

Specific Types:

Series which have protagonists up to Demon Slaying especially rely on this trope, as the various ways a demon can be different can often determine how a demon hunter actually operates.

Example Subpages:

Other Examples:

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    Fan Works 
  • In One Thousand Tearz Or Deth (a Harry Potter fanfic) there's a patron demon of emoness, a talking tree that sprouts legs when four emos stand in a forest.
  • Demon Spawns Series: In this series of Grojband fanfics, siblings Corey and Trina Riffin are revealed to be demons. They can alter their appearances and have their own different Elemental Powers. However, they lose all of their demon powers for the day if they come in contact with holy water. They're also the children of Satan.
    • Both siblings are half-human. While Trina takes after her father, Corey is more like his human mother Amethyst.
  • In the Pony POV Series, General-Admiral Makarov/The Shadow of Chernobull is commonly called an "Imagination Demon", though Mother Deer implied it wasn't the case but "close enough". The Shining Armor crew also apparently had a run in with a "fear demon" somewhere in Zebrafrica, but this was a largely Noodle Incident. The creatures sealed in Tartarus are quite demonic in nature, but are actually entities from a destroyed universe.
    • It turns out that Demons in this universe are Fallen Draconequi, making Discord an example of this trope.
  • Demon Penguins, from the Club Penguin Fanon have a weakness to silver, are created through a cloning machine, and have their heads explode when they die. They can also be resurrected through cheese and have retractable horns. They are usually red, and carry pitchforks which allow them to teleport.
  • Lupine Tree has Lumber Jack, a human soulnote  fused with a timberwolf tree's soul. This fusion fits within Equestria's broad definition of a demon. Once Celestia learns of this, she orders him to be observed by the Paladin Order.
  • In Thousand Shinji:
    • The Keeper of Secrets is a daemon of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, created by one of the Chaos Gods and unable to survive out of its home dimension.
    • The new Chaos Gods create new lesser daemons called Black Pharaohs, Valkyries and Reiglings. They're "fragments of their masters’ wills, creatures sent out to do their bidding, mirrors of their thoughts and emotions." They're not nice but they're not necessarily evil.
  • In The Mansionverse, emons are similar to ghosts, but were never alive in the first place, being purely ectoplasmic spirits. They take a wide variety of forms (and, indeed, are skilled shapeshifters), and are very magically powerful. Not all demons are evil, although a vast majority of them are (most of those live in the Underworld and can be summoned).
  • The Story Shuffle series: Demons appear in both series:
    • Story Shuffle: From "In the Details", a title that references the phrase, "The Devil's in the details", and deals with Laplace's Demon.
    • Story Shuffle 2: Double Masters: From "Doom Inevitable":
      the demon spread his wings.
      He was an immense and muscular figure, bipedal, though with arms that stretched past his knees. His batlike wings stretched in the night air, flapping a few times as they shook off the last bits of pitch. Four horns gleamed in the starlight, and four eyes glowed red as he took in his surroundings. He grinned, revealing a set of teeth somewhere between a shark and a paper shredder.

    Films — Animated 
  • In the Spanish dub of Dumbo, the Pink Elephants are implied to be this. They are referred to in the lyrics as "las ánimas del terror" ("the spirits of fear") and speculated to be "parientes de Satanás" ("relatives of Satan").

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Though not stated as such in the film itself, the title monster of The Babadook is this sort of creature.
  • Bedeviled: These are humanoid creatures from Another Dimension that can interact with ours via digital signals. They can also create constructs from thin air.
  • Belzebuth: These are fallen angels who seek nothing short of the destruction of the Messiah. They can only interact with the human world by possessing people or objects, but possess complete control over such barring an exorcism. If they're sufficiently powerful, they can destroy the soul of their host, but any human who manages to overcome them is forever immune to demonic influence.
  • Bird Box: Charlie's theory in regards to the creatures' posits them as being demons or something like it, showing people their dead relatives or worst fears and causing irresistible suicidal urges as a result. While his theory on their origin is never confirmed, it is shown that the victims are drawn to visions of past regrets, such as the woman who tried to save Malorie on the street.
  • Black Butler: These appear human, but are completely immune to harm by Earthly objects, can throw a butter knife with the strength to make it cut through bone, and can move faster than the naked eye. They can be bound to contracts to serve humans, but are simply waiting until it's met to eat their souls.
  • Bloody Mallory: There's two varieties: Common demons, a nearly Always Chaotic Evil group of humanoid beings, and super demons, fallen angels who are immensely powerful and have enslaved the common demons.
  • Ciaran the Demon Hunter: These are incorporeal beings who possess people to cause chaos. They resemble blue light and humans they've possessed have yellow eyes.
  • Dark Angel: The Ascent: Demons look pretty similar to humans, but have horns and bat wings. They marry and reproduce, running Hell on God's behalf while piously worshiping Him (yet oddly enough still can't touch any holy objects without harm).
  • Dead Before Dawn: These are dark spirits that can cause suicides and raise the dead.
  • Dead Birds: If demons is even the right term for them. They’re brought into our world by means of gruesome Human Sacrifice, and whoever is possessed receives a Nightmare Face, with a mouthful of sharp teeth and a lack of eyes.
  • Demon Hunter (2005): These come in many levels, from fallen angels at the top to pathetic wretches made of the darkness on the bottom. They are humanoid, but can sometimes be red and have tails, horns and wings. They can possess people, which is only sometimes curable, and breed with humans.
  • Demon Hunter (2016): These are gray, sharp-toothed humanoids who used to be human until Black Magic made them into what they are today. They have Super Strength and arm-blades, and can shapeshift to blend in with humanity. They can only be killed by decapitation and burial on holy ground, but will come back the second their head is removed from the grave.
  • The Demonologist: These are green-skinned horned humanoid who can manifest as a black smoke to possess humans. While they are in human vessels, they can keep them young by bathing in blood. Their blood can grant Age Without Youth.
  • Die You Zombie Bastards!: These are small, wrinkled monstrosities that love to torment people with food products.
  • Don't Kill It: These are incorporeal beings that only exist to destroy humans' lives. They can only interact with the world via possessing people, which traps the souls in utter agony, but each one has its own way of doing so. Their form when not possessing people resembles an orange, glowing orb.
  • Dust Devil: While the term "demon" is never used, the Dust Devils certainly seem demonic. They’re vicious wind spirits of human origin that have to reside in human bodies, but wish to escape into the spirit realm through use of black magic.
  • The Kandarian Demon from The Evil Dead borders on Sentient Cosmic Force of evil. It doesn't have a physical form of its own (until Ash gives it one at the end of the second movie, to better kill it), appearing as a disembodied Impending Doom P.O.V.. It can, however, inhabit numerous dead bodies at once, turning them into horrific Deadites.
  • Flesh for the Beast: These are incorporeal succubi who have their souls bound to human bodies via Human Sacrifice.
  • Ferriman in Ghost Ship is a wicked former human who became a servant of Hell because of his sins. He collects souls for his infernal masters, calling himself a "salvager". He doesn't make deals, and instead tries to tempt people into committing crimes out of the sin of Greed to damn their own souls, which he can then take "home" when he fills his quotum. He can shapeshift, recover from gunshot wounds, and mark ghosts to become his servants in death.
  • Hellbenders: These are incorporeal beings that interact with the world by possessing morally compromised humans. When they transfer bodies, they resemble a swarm of flies. They are weak to holy things, and are sent back to Hell when their host body is killed.
  • Hellbinders: These are beings who don't belong in the realm of the living, and have to possess something that does to enter. They resemble balls of light when not possessing somebody, and hop bodies as soon as their host is killed.
  • Hereditary: These are beings from Hell who seek to enter the Earth. They are incorporeal most of the time, but can take the forms of people's loved ones to torment them further, and seek to possess vulnerable people.
  • Jack-O: These are pumpkin-headed beings who act as automatons for powerful sorcerers.
  • Legend of the Red Reaper: These are white-skinned humanoids with ridged eyebrows and long hair. Their blood grants immortality at the cost of addiction, they can breed with humans, and they can only be killed by decapitation.
  • Little Evil: These are giant, flaming, skeletal monsters who are trapped in hell and can only escape via sacrificing half-demon children.
  • Nekrotronic: These are evil spirits summoned by Blood Magic, eat souls and have recently figured out how to travel through the Internet. Their true forms resemble glowing green humanoids or black smoke clouds, but they can only interact with the material world by fatally possessing a human.
  • Never Cry Werewolf: In this film, demons are Hell Hounds who can take on the forms of regular dogs. They are also weak to silver just like werewolves.
  • The Dream Demons in A Nightmare on Elm Street. They are ancient and serpentine in appearance, and hold lordship over all nightmares. They find the most evil human imaginable, who they will grant the power to turn dreams into reality. They chose Freddy Krueger, and made him immortal too.
  • The Seventh Curse: These are vicious creatures that eat human flesh and only speak in growls. They're blue, skeletal and have pure white eyes int heir base form, but have a super form that resembles a Xenomorph with bat wings.
  • The Slaughter: These are terrifying Humanoid Abominations from prehistoric times, who have magical powers and can control the dead.
  • Stitches (2001): These are manipulative fiends who wear perfect disguises made of human skin and trap souls in horrible fates via deals.
  • Tales of Halloween: These are Horned Humanoid monsters who can take more human forms and love murder. However, despite that descriptor, they aren't Always Chaotic Evil. Some are vigilantes who bring Karmic Death on the wicked.
  • The genie race in the Wishmaster series are largely merged with much of the folklore about demons. The Djinn are one of three entities made by God (the others are Angels and Humans) while demons are not stated to exist as separate beings, the wish-granting is identical to a Deal with the Devil since the Djinn's prize is the wisher's soul, and their home dimension is almost identical to Fire and Brimstone Hell, where the souls he collects are gathered to suffer eternal torture.
  • The VVitch: These are servants of Satan who take animal forms and empower witches. They can speak, and spin lies to corrupt their victims.


    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible: In the Old Testament, demons like Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies, were the gods of other tribes in the near East. Beelzebub was a corrupted form of Ba'alzebul, or translated from Phoenician, "Lord of the Temple". Zebub means "flies" in Hebrew, so it was a kind of a Take That! to old Baal. Didn't help that at least one Baal (there were a bunch of them; not surprising since the word just means "lord" in most of the languages of the region) had a habit of divination by watching flies (hey, the Romans did it with birds...).
  • The English word Demon comes from the Greek Daimon (Latinized to Daemon), but in pre-Christian Greek Mythology the meaning was quite different. A Daimon is a spirit or minor deity that lurks in the background doing minor things gods don't want to bother with, or personifying concepts like Death, Sleep, Famine, Insanity, Piety, and Hope. Generally Cacodemons were the bad ones, and Agathodaemones were the good ones. Daimon was also used for a sort of personal guardian "fate" or soul-double that accompanied a mortal through life. Sometimes a mortal could become a Daimon. However, this was simply seen as a different form of existence, instead of a remarkable change.
    • The oldest sources have Daimon used in reference to the Gods. The Christians referred to the Greek Gods as Daimons/Demons because that is what they were actually called by their own worshippers.
    • The Greek translation of the Old Testament primarily used "daimon" to refer to two classes of malign spirit in Jewish folklore. Shedim generally are described as serpents with chicken legs that cause sickness and occasionally extort sacrifices from victims. Dybukkim are corrupted human spirits.
  • What are colloqiually referred to as 'demons', usually but not always called "悪魔 (Akuma)", in Japanese Mythology are a hodge podge of folklore Yokai, Buddhist Ashuras and the occasional malignant Kami, which is pretty different from the Christian interpretation of them as fallen angels.
  • Buddhism has the maras. The term "mara" can refer to three things, three psychological phenomenons, the Mara (as a particular very powerful semi-deva) and the race of demons ruled by Mara itself. The ten hell realms are also often portrayed as ruled by sadistic maras who torture the denizens, however should be notice that as everything in Buddhism, the maras are also living beings with a soul who would eventually die and be reborn in something else.

     Professional Wrestling 

    Visual Novels 
  • In The Second Reproduction, the demons are a powerful race with pointy ears and magical powers. All of them also have red eyes and really long lifespans.
  • SHUFFLE! has a demon race, and a god race. It basically means they're capable of magic, and they have long ears. Demons have longer ears than gods.

    Web Original 
  • In The Antithesis, Demons only differ from angels by their phenotypes of black wings and dark hair. They live in the same world, but exist on lower layers of a planet that encapsulates Heaven and Hell, called "The Atrium". They do not possess the evil characteristics of the Judeo-Christian religion, but are actually a population of humanoid-looking beings, and their society contains moralistic values, political hierarchies (the highest being Lucifer, their leader/Military Commander/President, the second highest being the Archdemons) that formulate their Parliament, known as the "Obsidian Court". They are characterized with eccentric personalities, and their culture is embellished in art, literature, and theater.
  • In Demonic Symphony the demons are the embodiments of emotional energy projected on the world
    • In theory this means that there should be demons for other strong emotions such as love, but this isn't really touched on during the book.
  • Dreamscape: Keela was a Demon of Human Origin who made a Deal with the Devil to become one.
    • Kaila is a demon from the Unworld as well. Unlike Keela, she was always a demon. And also unlike Keela, she is evil.
    • Vladmare is a demon swordsman who IS the sword.
  • DSBT InsaniT: Psycho Man calls himself a 'demon lord' and a 'master of the forces of darkness'.
  • Hazbin Hotel and Helluva Boss are set primarily in Hell, so a good majority of the characters are demons. In this setting, demons are either born that way or transformed from sinners, but otherwise appear in almost every form imaginable, from weird abominations to anthropomorphic animals to normal(ish) humans.
  • How to Hero recommends setting traps with peanut butter if you're looking to catch a demon.
  • In the online novel John Dies at the End, the demons turn out to be extradimensional genetically engineered bioweapons created by an insane organic supercomputer from an Alternate History. Somehow, they are still affected by crosses, prayers and the Bible.
  • Limyaael has a checklist of what to consider when creating demons.
  • Word of God says that the Mortasheen equivalent to demons are The Devilbirds, birds that have been psychically charged with certain emotions and must eat said emotions for sustenance, tending to do it in the most horrifying ways possible.
  • In Pact, demons are Always Chaotic Evil beings of entropy. Each one appears to be a unique entity, and they are divided into seven choirs based on their abilities. The most powerful of these choirs, the Choir of Dark, are straight-up Eldritch Abominations that simply erase things, sometimes even from memory.
  • In The Questport Chronicles, many of the demons are said to be demon transformers who can take on any appearance they wish.
  • The Grimm from RWBY are monstrous Living Shadow creatures who are stated to have no souls and are attracted to the negative emotions of humans. Their motivations are unknown beyond Kill All Humans, and so to are their origins. The finale of Volume 3 shows that there exists an intelligent humanoid one, named Salem - and she seems to know Ozpin.
  • The Salvation War has several different variants of demon. They are fallen angels, distorted by their environment. They invade 21th century Earth as part of the apocalypse. It doesn't work. That said, even the angels and, by extension, God/Yahweh and his brother, Satan are more akin to Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, with all their magic explained through various levels of EM field telepathy and generating of massive bursts of electricity, not to mention "body not built for flying" able to do so through internal sacs of gas that give enough buoyancy for their wings to lift... But tend to catch on fire or explode when damaged too much.
  • On the online Spec Evo project A Scientific Fantasy, demons are a family of giant lemurs.
  • In Soon, I Will Rule The World! this trope is invoked here and parodied here involving our world's demons taken from the Ars Goetia.
  • In Tales of MU demons need to feed from humans to survive, and they have a craving for human flesh well beyond said need... and most of the rest is hearsay. They do have a strong association with fire, and have been shown to possess humans and tempt them. The story also has another class of creatures called "yokai" who in Fanon sometimes fall prey to the translation problem mention above.
  • In Void Domain, demons are eternal beings from Hell, also known as the Void. On a surface glance, the Void is anything but. Domains provide anything a demon could ever want. It creates the opposite problem. There's nothing to work for. Nothing to live for. And yet, dying leads to something much worse. A demon's death sends them to a place that lives up to the name until they can claw their way back to their domain.
  • Whateley Universe: There are several types of Angels, Devils and Squid, and the extent to which Infernal demons (of which both Christian and Buddhist forms appears) and Mythos Beings differ isn't entirely clear; there is some indication that they all started out the same, but over time some became more adapted to this universe and began to take forms and behaviors similar to the native inhabitants. Even being 'evil' isn't universal; Mythos Beings are shown as either being Above Good and Evil and/or having a Blue-and-Orange Morality which has nothing in common with human morality - indeed, some demons (e.g., Carmilla, Thulia, and to a lesser degree, Gothmog) are notably nicer people than many of the mortals in the series, and even Nyarlathotep is shown as more put-upon than malevolent.
    • The one place they do get specific is in the difference between 'demons' and 'devils': a demon is from a Hell, and their form on Earth is only a projection into our universe; a devil is a spiritual predator from this reality, and exists wholly in the here and now. In practical terms, this means you can banish a demon, but you can't kill it (on Earth, at least), whereas you can't banish a devil (it has nowhere else to go) but you can destroy it permanently.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing Adventures of the Living Corpse: These are normal beings who just happen to look like everything humans fear. While they're made of things like darkness and decay, they're not Always Chaotic Evil, with even their king being kind and helpful. They take many forms, such as a Winged Humanoid, a green imp, or a ball of red light.
  • In Castlevania (2017), they serve as Dracula's mooks in Season 1 and are occasionally referred to as "goblins". They are savage, winged beasts with dark humanoid bodies and wolf-like faces with some of them having extra eyes like Blue Eyes.
  • In Disenchantment, are small, black, one-eyed creatures from Hell in the form of living shadows. By their nature, demons desire to spread evil and chaos wherever they go; however they are not pure evil, as Luci (one of the main protagonists of the show) is shown to be capable of feeling genuine love and empathy for his friends, even if he prefers to hide it under a meaner exterior.
  • In Gravity Falls, Bill Cipher is referred to as a demon. He doesn't look very scary, he's just a flat triangle with an eye in the middle, but he has the power to enter people's dreams and can cause a lot of damage. He can also possess a person's body if they agree to it (willingly or otherwise). He's more dangerous than he first seems, however: Bill's ultimate goal is to escape the Nightmare Realm into the mortal world. When he manages this in the Grand Finale, he gains Reality Warper powers and turns Gravity Falls into his personal World of Chaos.
  • A number of demon and demon-like characters appear in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) and its sister series She-Ra: Princess of Power, but the most prominent one was probably Hordak's little sidekick Imp. Another one that shows up repeatedly is Slaughty, who resembles as red baboon with huge bat wings. He's most notable for an episode where, after a bit of deal making, he tries to deliver He-Man himself to his master, the fiery Spirit of Evil. Backfires spectacularly when it turns out Good Hurts Evil and He-Man is Incorruptible Pure Pureness. It should be noted that Slaughty is actually old enough to have been active on Eternia during the time humans and dragons were friends, prior to the founding of Greyskull.
  • Demons make up the majority of the primary rogues gallery in Jackie Chan Adventures, primarily inspired by those found in Chinese mythology. The second season featured a family of Demon Sorcerers as its Big Bad Duumvirate, with one of them, Shendu, being the overall Big Bad of the show. The fourth season featured Japanese Oni as its villains.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes is set in a version of Hell called Miseryville, so almost everyone on the show is some kind of demon. For the most part, they seem to have no special powers and are human in all but appearance — which can be pretty much any form imaginable.
  • In the Rankin-Bass version of The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, we have the Wind Demons. We only see one (the Commander), but he looks like a cross between a bat and a mosquito, tends to cause bursts of wind before he speaks, and while not malicious, is the most vocal detractor toward Claus being made immortal.
  • In The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, quite a few supernatural beings are referred to as "demons". Not all of them are evil; in fact, many are quite decent folks.
  • The demonic creatures from Neighbors from Hell are basically as neurotic as the humans of the show's setting.
  • The demons in "Pluto's Judgement Day" are all portrayed as a jury of demonic cats.
  • Demons also appear in The Real Ghostbusters and its sequel series Extreme Ghostbusters. In the first they are intelligent beings akin to the Judeo-Christian stereotype, and in one episode the Ghostbusters went to hell (which is shown to be like an office) after a demon hires them to deal with a humiliating wish he has to grant; the disappearing of every chicken on Earth. In Extreme demons are more Chaotic Evil.
  • Samurai Jack features a wide variety of demons in its universe: first and foremost, the main villain Aku is an unearthly and unholy being spawned from primordial darkness, resembles a cross between a oni and Nyarlatothep and he has ruled over Earth for thousands of years since ancient times. Besides him, we have lesser demons spawned from the Pit of Hate such as Demongo and Aku's non-robotic foot-soldiers; the Celtic Demons who are revealed to be actually robots and finally, the Minions of Set, a trio of divine Egyptian demons that are pretty much invulnerable to any weapon including the hero's sword which was Forged by the Gods. It takes an actual Egyptian god being summoned in order to destroy them permanently.
  • Demons appear in several episodes of Star vs. the Forces of Evil, with the most prominent being Tom Lucitor, their prince and Star's ex-boyfriend. They have their own kingdom in Mewni's Underworld and come in a variety of appearances, but typically seem to lean towards Dark Is Not Evil. Magic High Commission members Hekapoo and Lekmet also resemble demons, but have no connection with Tom and his kind, being incredibly powerful magical entities, though the latter is described as an "angel goat demon".
  • The Legions of Hell in Teen Titans' fourth season are mainly composed of floating, mute fire-creatures. A similar but scaled-up version with legs was summoned three seasons prior. But Trigon is even bigger, has blood-red skin instead of solid flame, antlers, and four eyes — basically Diablo with mutton chops instead of a tail. Raven, his half-demon spawn, has grey skin, purple eyes and indigo hair.
  • In Ugly Americans, demons are not Always Chaotic Evil but never good-aligned (though they have some rather sinister practices by our standards), resemble the usual red (or pink for females) humanoids with horns, and also have Bizarre Alien Biology like giving birth through the top of their skulls and lactating fire when in heat.
  • On Wishfart, demons are the chief inhabitants of The Underworld (which is ruled by a demon known only as The King of the Underworld) asides from the spirits of the dead. All of them appear pretty much as variations on the classic Horned Humanoid, but otherwise vary in colour, size, and additional traits.


King and the Boiling Isles

King gives a lecture on the demons of the Boiling Isles to Luz.

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