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The Ghost / Literature

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Perpetually unseen characters in literature.


  • In The Ambassadors by Henry James, the mother of Chad Newsome, who guides much of the novel's action by sending her fiancé Strether to Europe, never appears in the book.
  • Regular Barkwire contributor BiGDOG can't get through one post without praising Panzer, but never provides any detail. The only image ever posted of Panzer only shows as an error symbol.
  • The Chronicles of Prydain: Arianllyn, Adaon's betrothed in The Black Cauldron. He references her repeatedly, and it's heavily implied that he loves her very much; but since he dies two-thirds of the way through the book, the reader never gets to meet her.
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  • In Breakfast at Tiffany's and its movie adaptation, it's Fred, Holly's mentally retarded brother who joined the army. In both versions, he dies: killed in action overseas in the original (set during World War Two), perished in the road accident in the adaptation.
  • In The Catcher in the Rye, Jane Gallagher is one of the few people Holden respects and admires. Thinking she might have had sex with Holden's boorish roommate sparks the fight that sets the plot in motion. Holden considers or tries to call her at various points during the novel, but never reaches her.
  • In his Confessions, St. Augustine neglects to mention his pre-conversion girlfriend even though his relationship with her is one of the greatest regrets of his life. She is never given a name, a line of dialogue, or a description outside of vague references to Augustine's sin.
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  • The eponymous character of Daddy-Long-Legs, by Jean Webster. Since almost the entire Epistolary Novel consists of protagonist Judy's letters to her unknown benefactor, this makes sense. Subverted in the end, however, when it's revealed that "Daddy" is Jervis, the man she's in love with and has written about extensively.
  • Discworld:
    • Bergholt Stuttley "Bloody Stupid" Johnson, the most infamous inventor. His works are present throughout the series, but Johnson himself never makes an appearance. It's pretty strongly implied that he's been dead for decades.
    • It's mentioned that Sybil Ramkin's father shot the man when he started to work his particular landscaping genius on their estate, although whether this is what killed him is unclear.
    • Mrs. Colon was The Ghost up to Snuff; often mentioned, but part of the joke was that she and Fred barely saw each other, and the two communicated almost exclusively through notes left about the house. Vimes at one point wondered how they managed to have kids, eventually chalking it up to some very persuasive notes.
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    • Gravid Rust is mentioned several times, and has a major role in Snuff, but is never seen.
    • Old Man Trouble, an Anthropomorphic Personification of, well, trouble, who never actually appears, but is referenced several times when discussing anthropomorphic personifications. All that is known of him is that he takes the form of a figure in a ragged coat and broad brimmed hat, those who lack both musical ability and love may find him knocking on their door, and — even by the standards of anthropomorphic personifications — he's considered a bit weird.
    • The Soul Cake Duck is the Anthropomorphic Personification of Soul Cake Tuesday and pretty much the Disc's equivalent to the Easter Bunny. However, the duck doesn't appear in any of the books, even though Susan claims to have met the Soul Cake Duck in Thief of Time.
  • Older Than Steam example besides William Shakespeare: In the novel Don Quixote, Dulcinea — or, to be more precise, the peasant woman whom Quixote apparently renames "Dulcinea" — never appears.
  • Dragaera: Show Within a Show example: In The Phoenix Guards, Paarfi compares one of his own characters to the Marquis of Havenwood, The Ghost from the in-universe play The Return of Duke Highwater.
  • In If I Go It Will Be Double by ML Lanzillotta, Laura keeps her ex-roommate (and maybe-crush) Mary. Apparently they went to a reform school together. Of course, Mary never actually shows up.
  • The Hittite king Suppiluliuma I is a constant presence throughout The Egyptian — we hear of his plans, we see his armies and what he does, but he never appears on-stage himself.
  • Emma:
    • Augusta Elton is expecting a visit from her fashionable sister Selina and her husband, and she never hesitates to mention them, but they never arrive.
    • Frank Churchill's aunt and uncle are mentioned frequently but never seen.
    • Frank himself had been The Ghost in Highbury for several years prior to the events of the novel.
  • Harry Potter has several Ghosts (apart from the ones who haunt the school):
    • Eloise Midgen. We know that she has unfortunate acne, that Ron doesn't want to go with her to the Yule Ball, and that she's one of the first to go home in the sixth book during Voldemort's reign of terror, but we never see her. (She does appear in one of the films, however.)
    • Nicholas Flamel, from the first book. Very important to the plot, having created the eponymous MacGuffin, but never actually appears in person (until Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald).
    • Professor Aurora Sinistra, the Astronomy teacher, is mentioned but never shown, except for one brief mention of her dancing with Moody at the Yule Ball.
    • Aside from a tiny mention where she's almost concussed by Hagrid, Professor Vector, the Arithmancy Teacher, is the same.
    • Ron's Great-Auntie Muriel is this until Book 7.
    • Played straight in the books with Newt Scamander, the writer of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but averted in the filmverse with the release of the ninth movie.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is brimming full of ghosts. There's ex-president of the galaxy Yooden Vranx, acclaimed writer Oolong Colluphid, the long-lost Guide editor Lig Lury Junior, and of course, Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon VI.
  • Iggie from Judy Blume's Iggie's House is never seen in the story, as she moved away from the neighborhood sometime before the Garbers moved in. The story's protagonist, Winnie Bates, constantly tries to write her a letter, but ends up having to start over whenever some new development happens in the story. By the time the story ends, Winnie has finished writing her final version of the letter.
  • The letters that Last Dragon consists of are addressed to Esumi, a character we never meet in the story and about whom we learn very little.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • Sauron, the titular Lord of the Rings, never appears in the story's plot. Not so much in The Film of the Book. Many mistakenly believe that Sauron either has no visible form at all, or that his visible form is the Eye of Barad-dur (the films in particular encourage the latter interpretation). However, a couple of passages in the books make it clear that the Eye existed before Isildur cut the ring from Sauron's finger, and Gollum says that while he was tortured in Mordor, Sauron personally tortured him, and confirms he has a physical body. Indeed - the third film briefly shows his physical form holding his palantir.
    • Same with Radagast, whom we only knew from Gandalf's words. As with Sauron in the previous film trilogy, he is rescued from this status in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, where he appears onscreen and has a fairly prominent role.
  • In The Machineries of Empire, the Kel Command is the one to approve Jedao's usage, give Cheris her orders and keep tabs on them both, eventually sentencing them to death, but Cheris only ever interacts with one of the lesser command composites.
  • In The Maze Runner Trilogy, Chancellor Paige is never seen or interacts with anyone, only having her memoirs at the end of each book. This is averted in the movie.
  • Mistborn: The Original Trilogy:
    • Lord Hasting, a powerful noble, is never met by the main characters. He was originally going to have a one-shot appearance when Kelsier was posing as an informant, but his role was given to the much more important Straff Venture.
    • Crews Geffenry, a Mistborn and knife fighter who Kelsier frames for an assassination. He never actually appears in the story, unless he was the Mistborn aiding Lady Shan Elariel when she tried to assassinate Lord Elend Venture near the end of Mistborn: The Final Empire.
  • Nightfall (Series): Lucien. He is mentioned as one of the vampires hoping to take Vladimir’s place. The Prince seems to think he is worse that the Duchess, who is already terrifying.
  • Jasper Fforde Nursery Crime: Professor Angus MacGuffin in The Fourth Bear. He almost appears near the end, but has vanished when someone turns to introduce him - because, of course, he's just a plot device and doesn't have to actually exist.
  • Old Kingdom: In the prequel Clariel, Princess Tathiel went missing some years before. Even after she returns and takes the throne near the end, she doesn't appear in any scenes.
  • Margaret, the mother of Alison in Alan Garner's The Owl Service. Many of the events pan out as the characters try desperately to keep her happy, but she never appears in the book. Similarly occurs in the TV series, to the extent that you see parts of her clothing and even hear her play piano in the same room, but never actually hear or see her.
  • In Pinkie Pie and the Rockin' Ponypalooza Party!, Pinkie's third sister, Maud Pie, is only mentioned (and not by name). She's running the rock farm while her relatives are visiting Ponyville.
  • Redwall: There are many characters mentioned from long ago that never appeared. "King Mortspear" "The First Reguba" "Almost all the Badger Lords/Ladies before Stonepaw" whom if Brian Jacques hadn't passed away, they may have likely got a chance for a story. But then again, he seemed to have made it clear he was finished with prequels.
  • Safehold: Despite the importance of the Kingdom of Dohlar, and various people from it, to the series' plot, the nation's ruler, King Rahnyld III, never once appears on page. This fits with his being described at one point as a man who never wanted to be king. Hell, he doesn't even appear when Earl Thirsk stages a coup in book 9 and persuades him to abdicate in favour of his son.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events has a wide backstory and several characters are only ever referred to. The most notable example is probably R., the Duchess of Winnipeg.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Howland Reed of Greywater Watch is a longtime friend of Eddard Stark, and is mentioned a number of times throughout the story, but he has yet to appear himself. He's the only surviving member of Eddard's group of men who went to the Tower of Joy, making him the only person who might know what promise Eddard made to his dead sister, Lyanna.
    • Willas Tyrell, heir to Highgarden, brother to Loras, Garlan and Margaery, friend to Oberyn Martell, Gentleman and a Scholar, the hero of Sansa Stark’s dreams, if only for a short while… has yet to make an appearance.
    • Stannis Baratheon is discussed frequently in the first book, with some arguing that he is Robert's heir, but he does not appear in the series until the second book.
  • Inversion in Thursday Next: First Among Sequels: Jenny never appears because she's actually a mindworm implanted in the first-person narrator's mind. This was revealed when her family explained it to her to stop her freaking out over an abandoned Jenny - only to have the mindworm blank out her memory of the conversation afterwards.
  • Erzo Gwyn-Raven from the Tower and the Hive series. The youngest of the Rowan and Jeff Raven's kids, he's only ever mentioned in passing or in context to events that happened off screen.
  • Silver's unnamed wife in Treasure Island. All we know is that she's "a woman of colour" and is trusted with Silver's finances while he's on the Hispanola (specifically, to sell everything, clear the account, and meet up with him somewhere).
  • Prismia is only mentioned in a flashback and does not make any sort of present day appearance in Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell.
  • Not really literature, but who exactly is Uncle John of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader? He's referenced countless times in the series. It's not the person on the back of the books either, they've pointed out multiple times his name is Larry Kelp and he's merely a technician for the Bathroom Readers Institute.
    • Uncle John just seems to be an alias for whatever persona happens to be convenient for the remarks prefacing an article—in the article on microwaves it makes comments about how he once swore he'd never have anything to do with the device, but now he thanks the appliance gods every time he pulls a pizza out of the freezer to keep the kids from killing each other.
    • Uncle John might be humorist John Javna, who was one of the co-creators of the series and who contributes to every book, but Javna nor the BRI have ever confirmed it's supposed to be him.
  • What The Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror: Played for comedy with Nicky, John's on-again, off-again girlfriend. Dave describes her as pure evil and says that the reason she hasn't shown up in any of his previous books is because he tries to avoid even talking about her. It's subverted in the end, when she actually does shows up at the very end and seems perfectly normal.
  • The Witchlands: Ragnor the Raider King is the Big Bad of the series, and his lackeys often discuss him and busy themselves making life harder for the heroes in his name, but the man himself doesn't appear or even send a letter to someone on-page until Bloodwitch. He also plays a role in the prequel Sightwitch, as the Rook King's general.


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