Post by Greg Goss Post by Lawrence Watt-Evans Post by Don Bruder
Further, King has *NEVER*, in any of his published works, used overtly
"satanic" stuff - not even as window-dressing. Evil? Yes. Absolutely.
Supernatural? All the time. But satanic? *NEVER*. He doesn't even really
nod in the general direction of the satanic - Closer would be to say
that he avoids the concept the same way you'd avoid trying to kiss the
blade of a running lawnmower. Not even his two most-recurring "big bad
evils", "The Crimson King" and Randall Flagg, are satanic - just evil.
I took the bad guy in _Needful Things_ to be satanic. It's been long
enough since I read it that I can't defend that position, though.
"Alan forces Gaunt back and grabs his valise, which contains the souls
of his customers."
Seems pretty clear to me.
Except that's never actually *SAID* in the book. Idunno who it was typed
up the wiki entry, but what's there is their interpretation - it's a
boiled-down "This is sure what it sounds like" summary of the events,
not the actual text. Is the Valise full of souls? We never *REALLY* find
out. Is it hinted that's what's in there? *BIGTIME*. Is it *EXPLICITLY
SAID*? Nope. Is it hinted at, then left for the reader to decide?
Here we go... transcribed from the audiobook version, as read by King
himself - blame any typos and/or blown punctuation on me...
Let's see... Sheriff Pangborn is facing off against Gaunt after popping
the top on the "Tasty Munch Nuts" can with the fake snake that turns
real for a moment, then snatching the "hyena skin valise with its
hideously respiring sides" from Gaunt. Some chatter ensues, Alan makes
some shadow-critters in the headlights, the dialogue picks up:
"You're lucky I'm cutting you loose," Alan went on, "but, what would I
charge you with, come to that? Theft of souls may be covered in the
legal code Brigham and Rose(1) deal with, but I don't think I'd find it
in mine. Still, I'd advise you to go while you still can."
"Give me my bag!"
Alan stared at him, trying to look unbelieving and contemptuous
<elide some scene description and dialog that boils down to "You lose,
(Gaunt, continuing to speak)
"All right, you win." He began to turn away. Alan relaxed slightly.
"I'll go..." He turned back, quick as a snake himself, so quick he made
Alan look slow. His face had changed again. Its human aspect was
entirely gone. It was the face of a demon now, with long, deeply scored
cheeks and drooping eyes that blazed with orange fire. "But not without
my property!" he screamed, and leaped for the bag. Somewhere, close by,
or a thousand miles away, Polly shrieked "Look out Alan!" But there was
no time to look out. The demon, smelling like a mixture of sulphur and
fried shoe leather, was upon him. There was only time to act, or time to
<elide Alan pulling the old paper flowers trick and beating back Gaunt
with an assist from Polly and the power of "The White">
(Alan, standing over the valise)
"and I'm telling you for the last time that you're going, without this."
"They'll die without me," the Gaunt-thing moaned. Now its hands hung
between its legs, long claws clicked and clittered in the scattered
debris which lay in the street. "Every single one of them will die
without me, like plants without water in the desert. Is that what you
want? Is it?"
Polly was with Alan then, pressed against his side. "Yes," she said
coldly. "Better that they die here and now, if that's what has to
happen, than that they go with you and live. They - We - did some lousy
things, but that price is much too high." The Gaunt-thing hissed and
shook its claws at them. Alan picked up the bag and backed slowly into
the street with Polly by his side. He raised the fountain of
light-flowers so that they cast an amazing, revolving glow upon Mr.
Gaunt and his Tucker Talisman. He pulled air into his chest. More air
than his body had ever contained before, it seemed, and when he spoke,
the words roared from him in a vast voice which was not his own.
"Go hence, demon! You are cast out of this place!"
The Gaunt-thing screamed as if burned by scalding water...
<end of what I've got the energy to transcribe>
(1) Brigham and Rose are the town's two feuding preachers - One
catholic, one baptist. I forget which was which - not that it actualy
matters for this - The point is that "maybe preachers can say there's a
crime going on, but I'd never be able to arrest you for anything on the
What I take away from this is pretty straightforward: 1) The valise
*SEEMS* to have "souls" in it. But that seeming is never *REALLY*
confirmed - just hinted at, then left there for the reader to draw their
own conclusion. 2) Gaunt isn't satan, but a demon of some sort that
never truly gets specified. King is real good at that... he does the
same sort of thing over and over in his works - Point at "Object X" and
say "It looks like it's a <FITB>", but never actually comes right out
and says "It really *IS* a <FITB>", just hints around it, then leaves
the reader to decide. He did something similar in Cujo - without ever
actually coming right out and saying so, he hinted over and over that
Cujo wasn't just a St. Bernard with rabies, but was possessed by the
spirit of <I forget the name right now and it's too late for me to
bother chasing it up - a former Castle Rock cop who was exposed as a
serial killer by Johnny Smith (main character of The Dead Zone) - I
think the first name was Frank, but don't hold me to that.>
Similarly, in The Shining, he never actually comes right out and says
that Jack Torrance is possessed by one or more evil spirits that haunt
the Overlook Hotel - but he dances around and around the concept,
pointing and snickering and hinting like crazy, without ever actually
outright saying that's the case. In Needful Things, he does the same
thing with Gaunt - He dances right up to the edge of saying "Gaunt is
ol' Splitfoot hisself!" over and over again, without actually saying so,
and leaves the reader to decide if he really is - or isn't...
In the end, he leaves Gaunt wide open to be either satan, a demon, or
something else entirely. Whatever he *REALLY* is, there's one thing we
come away knowing he's *NOT*: Human. In the same way, we never *REALLY*
know that it's a bag full of souls from the book's text - We get a whole
bunch of hints that this is PROBABLY what's in the valise, but no
definitive word. King is wonderfully ambiguous that way, both here in
Needful Things, and in MANY other places in his catalog. It's one of the
things that make him so good at what he does - He points and implies and
hints, but in the end, leaves the reader to decide for himself if that's
*REALLY* what's going on.
If the door is baroque don't be Haydn. Come around Bach and jiggle the Handel.