The Hashshashin were an Islamic community in The Middle East around the time of The Crusades, who both named and codified the Assassin archetypenote , though only a few know to what extent their image has been Flanderized since then.
Originally they were an esoteric Islamic cult—usually classified as a radical offshoot of the Isma'ili sect of Shi'a Islam—founded by Hassan-i Sabbah, who was born of a Twelver Family, who had converted to Isma'ili, and then later broke off from them to form Nizariyya, an Isma'ili offshoot. They were a society of assassins operating from the mountain fortress Alamut and terrorizing the region's rulers with their attacks. Despite their fearsome reputation, the Hashshashin were said to be quite friendly towards common folk, since their killings were actually carefully targeted and planned, rather than random acts of violence.
Allegedly (according to The Travels of Marco Polo, anyway), Hashshashin recruits were drugged with hashish (the word hashishnote is the source of the name), led to a paradisical garden full of lush greenery and beautiful women (supposedly a glimpse of the Islamic paradise), and then told that only the "Old Man of the Mountain" had the means to let them return (i.e. if they died as martyrs), which resulted in their fanatical devotion. There is no historical evidence whatsoever of hashish being used for anything but medicinal purposes, and the connotation of the Assassins being drug addicts was given to them by their enemies and by polemicists who were seeking to discredit the Assassins and the Nizari. Their downfall came when one of their strikes reached the Mongols, who razed Alamut during their conquest of Persia.
In fiction, The Knights Templar are often positioned as the Rivals and Arch-Nemeses of the Hashshashin (and the two are often found alongside each other in Conspiracy Kitchen Sinks); this can be quite frustrating to people who know the region's history, since Crusaders—though not necessarily the Templars themselves—were often allies of the Shia Assassins, since they shared a common enemy (i.e. the Sunni Turkish and to a lesser extent Kurdish and Arab lords who ruled the region, including Zengi and Saladin). Compare Ninjas, the Far Eastern counterpart.
For more historical information see UsefulNotes.The Hashshashin.
References to the Hashshashin in fiction:
- In episode 14 of Kiddy Grade ("Steel/Heart"), Tweedledee infects La Muse and Donnerschlag with a virus called "hashish," which, she mentions, is the name of a drug used in ancient times to give one the willpower to kill even a member of their own family. And That's Terrible.
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: when exploring Kuze's background as a JSDF soldier in World War IV, the Hashashin are directly referenced as a derisive comparison to the soldiers in Kuze's unit, who had gotten a lot of bad press for almost effortlessly defeating a Korean insurgent group that had been weakened by a terrible winter and lack of food and was completely outmatched by the all-cyborg JSDF unit. It didn't help that a lot of the Japanese soldiers had turned to smoking hashish — the Assassins' drug of choice — to deal with the stress afterwards, only strengthening the parallels in the eyes of one reporter. It's this direct comparison which leads to Kuze going AWOL and eventually becoming the Big Bad Anti-Villain of the second season.
- Jonah Hex fights a Hashshashin brought to the Wild West as part of a Carnival of Killers during the "Six Gun War" storyline.
- DC Comics supervillain Ra's Al-Ghul leads an expy organization, the ancient League of Assassins.
- In one story of the Conan the Barbarian comic book, he ran into a cult that was an obvious Expy of the Assassins, including the Garden of Paradise.
- Part of the antagonist force in the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time movie. Curiously, Alamut is featured in the film, but it is not their main hideout.
- The origin of the term 'assassin' is discussed in John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum. John Wick then has to go out into the desert (in a matter similar to a religious quest) to meet the Elder, described as the man who 'Sits Above the High Table', a fitting descriptor for a modern interpretation of the Old Man of The Mountain. Given the mystique and implied antiquity of the High Table, they might even date back to the original Assassins. John also gets his ring finger cut off as a sign of his service to the Elder, in a Shout-Out to Assassin's Creed.
- The Destroyer series of novels, being about assassins with an ancient heritage, naturally mention the Hashshashin.
- In Foucault's Pendulum, the Templars learned from the Hashshashin during the Crusades to discover the secret of harnessing the power of telluric currents.
- There were a few Flashbacks featuring the Hashshashin in The Illuminatus! Trilogy.
- The Dragon from Angels & Demons is a Hashashin, though the book portrays them as crazed, chaotic assassins.
- Parodied in Discworld with the hashishim, who are "inclined to giggle, groove to interesting patterns of light and shade on their terrible knife blades and, in extreme cases, fall over."
- Vladimir Bartol's novel Alamut embraces most of the historical legends of the hashshashin, and was the main inspiration for Assassin's Creed.
- The Mongols go up against the Hashashin in the third Conqueror book; aghast by the group's cowardly and bloodthirsty ways. Genghis Khan personally kills the Old Man.
- Mack Bolan, The Executioner, fought a revitalized cult in Assassin's Code. The Assassins in this one recruited various mercenaries including Ninjas, Thugee, and a rogue Mossad agent.
- One of the Phoenix Force novels also had them, including the faked paradise. It's part of the usual KGB conspiracy, of course.
- Baudolino: One of Baudolino's True Companions managed to escape the fortress. The assassin's loyalties were secured by chaining them to the ground and feeding them haschich, when the high wore off they were told the only way to go back was to kill for the Old Man.
- This forms the backstory to the The Fraternity of the Stone by David Morrell — the eponymous Fraternity is a Church Militant originally formed in response to the Hashshashin. Their first recruit was a Middle Eastern man who had converted to Christianity.
- The Assassins were one of the lifelong obsessions of William S. Burroughs. References to them and to Hassan-i-Sabbah appear in his work frequently, beginning with the Nova Trilogy. One scene in The Wild Boys involves an assassin who has been hired as a gardener by his target, and who waits ten years before killing him.
- They appeared in both Robin of Sherwood as a dangerous sect and in the BBC's Robin Hood as an Amazon Brigade. In Robin of Sherwood, regular character Nasir is a former member of the group.
- MacGyver (1985): In "The Legend of the Holy Rose", the Brotherhood of the Hashshasin is one of the villainous groups after the Elixir of Life supposed to be stored in the Temple of the Holy Rose. They betray their partner in crime and shoot him as he is not a true believer and therefore does not deserve eternal life.
- Hawkwind's song "Hasan i Sahba" links the Hashshashin to modern Islamic fundamentalists.
- The song "Garden of Light" by Isis, a post-metal band, refers subtly to the Hashashin recruitment procedure.
- "Wine of Aluqah" by Therion. "Know that nothing's true and that everything is permitted,/So read the Old Man of the Mountain in his Book of Lies".
- The Dungeons & Dragons Al-Qadim setting has numerous "Holy Slayer" groups inspired by the Hashshashin. Adventure ALQ2 Assassin Mountain has the Everlasting, a cult that live in a mountain that are clearly based on them.
- In the wargame Infinity, Hashashin are special troops that can be fielded by the Haqqislam faction, divided into four distinct types: snipers/poisoners, close-combat specialists, stealth experts who can pretend to be an enemy unit, and explosives specialists.
- The Legend of the Five Rings CCG spin-off Legend Of The Burning Sands had a group called the Assassins in it, who excelled at killing in duels. While they were led by the "Old Man of the Mountain", most of the other characters in it were women.
- Vampire: The Masquerade has the Assamites, a vampire clan associated with the Hashshashin (a rogue Renfield of theirs in the 12th/13th centuries used the cult to help him hunt vampires). The clan is based in Alamut (albeit not the Hashshashin's Alamut) and hires themselves out as assassins.
- In Illuminati, in which players control ancient conspiracies, the Assassins are one.
- Hunter: The Vigil:
- The Ascending Ones are loosely based upon them, using magical Elixirs which work well for assassinations. In practice though they're a conglomerate of many different groups, many of whom aren't even Islamic.
- Ahl al-Jabal, an Islamic hunter compact introduced in Ancient Bloodlines, trace their origins back to the historical Hashshashin. They target both mortal and supernatural threats to humanity, preferring to avoid harming bystanders and supernatural slaves. They're also very aware of how a group of insular Muslims who train in combat and carry weapons come across after 9/11, and so keep other hunters at a distance.
- Following the Monks and Mystics DLC, the Hashshashin have become a secret society for Shia Muslims in Crusader Kings 2. Membership makes getting help assassinating enemies much easier than normal, particularly if you become leader, while also giving you the chance to use Hashish for a random good (or bad) outcome.
- The Gothic series features a blatant expy of them called the Hashishin, whose weapons are assassin style blades (and often coated with poison). Of course, they are also blatant stereotypes of classic Arabians in that they are very into economics as Serious Business, not to mention a rather cliche habit of giving people Overly Long Nicknames.
- The Assassin's Creed series posits that the Hashshashin order seen in the first game was simply one part of the Crusades-era incarnation of a secret society of professional killers who have existed throughout human history, whose primary goal has been to use their skills and methods to preserve peace and protect the innocent from those who would abuse power, which allows the series to cover virtually any era of recorded human history. Their primary enemy are The Knights Templar, another secret society with similar reach, but with wildly different ideals. It turns out that the Assassins are the descendants of Adam and Eve, who were a pair of humans who were Half Human Hybrids created by the First Civilization and who were immune to the effects of the Pieces of Eden, allowing them to lead a rebellion against their masters.
- Bad Guys in Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader.
- Lost Souls MUD features the Nizari, a hybrid of the Hashashin and the Thuggee. This Is Wrong on So Many Levels.
- Fate Series: One of the standard classes of Heroic Spirit is directly called Assassin, and in almost all of the Holy Grail Wars (at least originally) the Assassin figure was none other than Hassan-i Sabbah, one of the most famous leaders of the historical Hashshashin. (More precisely, it was one of the leaders of the order who in Fate continuity all bear the title of Hassan).
- The original Fate/stay night features Hassan of the Cursed Arm who ascended to the title by grafting the arm of an evil spirit onto his body, which allows him to cast a curse that creates a replacement of his target's heart which he can then crush to destroy the real heart or he can flat-out eat his victim's heart after replacing it with the fake. In Fate/Grand Order, it is revealed that he originally lived during the time of the Crusades.
- The prequel Fate/Zero also features another Hassan-i Sabbah, dubbed "the Hundred-Faced Hassan" and is noted to be the last person to have ever taken up the name. This entity manifests as multiple separate bodies with different skills/purposes.
- Another Alternate Universe prequel, Fate/Prototype: Fragments of Sky Silver features another Hassan, named "Hassan of Serenity," who is a female Hassan who exclusively specializes in poisons.
- Fate/strange fake has two examples:
- False Assassin, also known as No Name Assassin and Beautiful Assassin, was a member of the Hashshashin who aspired to become Hassan-i Sabbah. She was passed over for Hundred-Faced Hassan, both because she was a religious zealot, and because, while she could copy the assassination techniques of previous Hassans, she could not come up with an original technique of her own. As a Servant, her Noble Phantasm, Zabaniya: Phantasmal Pedigree, allows her to copy the techniques of the 18 previous Hassans, except for Hundred-Faced Hassan's.
- True Assassin is a proper Hassan-i Sabbah. He has the power of a Shadow Walker.
- Fate/Grand Order introduces the First Hassan, the original Old Man of the Mountain who far exceeds the capabilities of all of his successors and can even kill ideas or bestow the concept of death upon undying beings.
- Broken Sword featured a mysterious murderer who turned out to be a Hashshashin trying to foil the plot of the Knights Templar villains. To quote two of those villains:
"Don't call that Syrian maniac the Hashshashin, he's just an assassin plain and simple."
"That's not what he believes. He actually thinks..."
- In Medieval II: Total War, Islamic factions can build Hashshashin Guilds in settlements where large numbers of spies and assassins are being recruited. Doing so improves the effectiveness of spies and assassins recruited there subsequently, as well as allowing the faction to produce specialized Hashshashin infanty units, which serve as small, elite heavy infantry capable of ambushing on the battlefield.
- Sadler, protagonist of Telenet Japan's XZR (or Exile) series, is a Syrian assassin.