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Erik (The Phantom of the Opera)
The Phantom of the Opera character
Phantom
First appearance

1909 France
Created by

Gaston Leroux
Portrayed by

See "Performers"
Information
Aliases The Phantom, Opera Ghost, The Angel of Music, Red Death, The Trapdoor Lover, The Man's Voice, Le Mort Vivant
Gender Male
Occupation Maestro, Impresario, Architect, Illusionist, Ventriloquist, Contractor
Spouse(s) Unknown
Significant other(s) Christine Daaé
Nationality French

Erik is the titular character in Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera. He is also the antagonist of many film adaptations of the novel, notably the 1925 film adaptation starring Lon Chaney, Sr., and Andrew Lloyd Webber's West End musical.

Character historyEdit

In the original novel, few details are given regarding Erik's past, although there is no shortage of hints and implications throughout the book. Erik himself laments the fact that his mother was horrified by his appearance and that his father, a master mason, never saw him. It is also revealed that "Erik" was not, in fact, his birth name, but one that was given or found "by accident", as Erik himself says in the novel. In the novel, Leroux sometimes calls him "the man's voice"; Erik also refers to himself as "The Opera Ghost", "The Angel of Music", and attends a masquerade as the Red Death. Most of Erik's history is revealed by a mysterious figure, known through most of the novel as The Persian or the Daroga, who had been a local police chief in Persia and who followed Erik to Paris; some of the rest is discussed in the novel's epilogue. Erik was born in a small town outside of Rouen, France.

Born hideously deformed, he is a "subject of horror" for his family and as a result, he runs away as a young boy and falls in with a band of Gypsies, making his living as an attraction in freak shows, where he is known as "le mort vivant" ("the living death"). During his time with the tribe, Erik becomes a great illusionist, magician and ventriloquist. His reputation for these skills and his unearthly singing voice spreads quickly, and one day a fur trader mentions him to the Shah of Persia.

The Shah orders the Persian to fetch Erik and bring him to the palace.The Shah-in-Shah commissions Erik, who proves himself a gifted architect, to construct an elaborate palace, Mazenderan. The edifice is designed with so many trap doors and secret rooms that not even the slightest whisper could be considered private. The design itself carries sound to myriad hidden locations, so that one never knew who might be listening. At some point under the Shah's employment, Erik is also a political assassin, using a unique noose referred to as the Punjab Lasso.The Persian dwells on the vague horrors that existed at Mazenderan rather than going in depth into the actual circumstances involved.

The Shah, pleased with Erik's work and determined that no one else should have such a palace, orders Erik blinded. Thinking that Erik could still make another palace even without his eyesight, the Shah orders Erik's execution. It is only by the intervention of the daroga (the Persian) that Erik escapes. Erik then goes to Constantinople and is employed by its ruler, helping build certain edifices in the Yildiz-Kiosk, among other things. However, he has to leave the city for the same reason he left Mazenderan: he knows too much. He also seems to have traveled to Southeast Asia, since he claims to have learned to breathe underwater using a hollow reed from the "Tonkin pirates". By this time Erik is tired of his nomadic life and wants to "live like everybody else". For a time he works as a contractor, building "ordinary houses with ordinary bricks". He eventually bids on a contract to help with the construction of the Palais Garnier, commonly known as the Paris Opéra.

During the construction he is able to make a sort of playground for himself within the Opera House, creating trapdoors and secret passageways throughout every inch of the theatre. He even builds himself a house in the cellars of the Opera where he could live far from man's cruelty. Erik has spent twenty years composing a piece entitled Don Juan Triumphant. In one chapter after he takes Christine to his lair, she asks him to play her a piece from his masterwork. He refuses and says, "I will play you Mozart, if you like, which will only make you weep; but my Don Juan, Christine, burns." Eventually, after she has wrenched off his mask and seen his deformed face, he begins to play it. Christine says that at first it seemed to be "one great awful sob," but then became alert to its nuances and power.

Upon its completion, he originally plans to go to his bed (which is a coffin) and "never wake up," but by the final chapters of the novel, (during which Erik kidnapps Christine right from the stage during a performance), Erik expresses his wish to marry Christine and live a comfortable bourgeois life after his work has been completed. He has stored a massive supply of gunpowder under the Opera, and, should she refuse his offer, plans to detonate it. When she acquiesces to his desires in order to save herself, her lover Raoul (who, aided by the Persian, went looking for Christine and fell into Erik's torture chamber), and the denizens of the Opera, we find out that his part of the bargain was to take the Persian and Raoul above ground.

He does so with the Persian, but Raoul was kept "a hostage" and was "locked up comfortably, properly chained" in the dungeon under the opera. When he returns, he finds Christine waiting for him, like "a real living fiancee" and he swore she tilted her forehead toward him, and he kissed it. Then he says he was so happy that he fell at her feet, crying, and she cries with him, calling him "poor, unhappy Erik" and taking his hand. At this point, he is "just a poor dog ready to die for her" and he returns to her the ring she had lost and said that she was free to go and marry Raoul.

Erik frees Raoul and he and Christine leave. But before they do, Erik makes Christine promise that when he dies she will come back and bury him. Then she kisses Erik's forehead. Erik dies three weeks later, but not before he goes to visit the Persian and tells him everything, and promises to send him Erik's dearest possessions: the papers that Christine wrote about everything that had happened with her "Angel of Music" and some things that had belonged to her. Christine keeps her promise and returns to the Opera to bury Erik and place the plain gold band he had given her on his finger. Leroux claims that a skeleton bearing such a ring was later unearthed in the Opera cellars.

Variations of Erik's storyEdit

Phantom Edit

Many different versions of Erik's life are told through other adaptations such as films, television shows, books, and musicals. The most popular of the adapted books is the Susan Kay novel Phantom, the fictional in-depth story of Erik from the time of his birth to the end of his life at the Paris Opera House.

The novel begins on the night of Erik's birth. It is said that Erik's mother gives the task of naming her son to the priest, Father Mansart, who visits her shortly after the birth. For the most part, Kay's novel stays in context with Leroux's, but she places the highest priority on portraying the romantic aspects of Erik's life. He falls in love twice throughout the novel, but neither of these occasions truly end happily. Raoul and Christine got married with Erik's blessing.

The Phantom of ManhattanEdit

In Frederick Forsyth's literary sequel to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, The Phantom of Manhattan, Erik's history is given as being slightly different. He was born in Alsace as Erik Muhlheim, to the son of a circus carpenter, around 1866. When Erik's mother ran away when he was nine, his alcoholic father sold him to the freak show of the circus. At age sixteen, he was rescued by Antoinette Giry, who took him to live in the Opera. After the events of the musical, Madame Giry is able to secure him passage to Manhattan, where he eventually becomes rich by designing attractions for Coney Island. It is revealed that he and Christine had sex, resulting in her having a son, Gustave, who is told that he is Raoul's. After Christine's death, Pierre decides to live with Erik rather than Raoul. It is mentioned that Erik eventually moves to a secluded mansion in Connecticut where he is tended to by disfigured war veterans, so he can reveal his face without revulsion. It is mentioned that his son had four children and died in 1969, but Erik's fate is not told.

The Canary TrainerEdit

In Nicholas Meyer's novel The Canary Trainer, Sherlock Holmes develops several theories as to the Phantom's identity. His first idea is that he is an employee of the Opera; however, when the Phantom's knowledge of the Opera becomes evident, Holmes then believes that he is Charles Garnier, having faked his own death. When Garnier's corpse is identified, Holmes then theorizes that the Phantom was Edouard LaFosse, the (fictional) assistant of Garnier who designed much of the Opera's interior and who allegedly died after a building collapse. Holmes theorizes that he did not die, but was deformed and therefore took to hiding in the Opera. However, when Holmes finally confronts the Phantom, he claims that he cannot speak without his mask, as his mother forced him to wear it whenever he wished to speak as a child. Holmes therefore admits that he is not sure how true any of the theories or claims of the Phantom's identity are. The Phantom never provides a given name in the novel; he only tells Christine that his name is "Nobody" (a reference to the name Odysseus gave Polyphemus in the Odyssey).

Regardless of his identity, the Phantom in The Canary Trainer is much more unhinged and bloodthirsty than in the original novel or play. For example, when killing Madame Giry's replacement with the chandelier, he kills twenty-six others as well, just to ensure that he kills his main target.

The Angel of the OperaEdit

In Sam Siciliano's novel The Angel of the Opera, Sherlock Holmes is brought in to solve the case of the Opera Ghost, and both Erik's and Holmes's stories unfold through the eyes of Holmes's assistant, Henri Vernier. Siciliano places Holmes and Vernier at several of the crucial scenes in Erik and Christine's relationship, and draws parallels between Erik and Holmes, identifying both as men who have sociopathic tendencies, but inside whom emotions run deep. Holmes identifies/sympathizes with Erik so much that after Christine leaves him, Holmes brings him back to England. One of the first people that Erik meets on his arrival is a blind girl with a fondness for music.

Love Never DiesEdit

In Love Never Dies, the musical sequel to Webber's version, Madame Giry and Meg Giry smuggled the Phantom to Calais where he boards a freighter to America. Whilst in America, he was hired by a side show while Madame Giry and Meg worked night and day to help him buy it and later to buy and finance Phantasma. Even though it has been ten years since the previous story The Phantom is still in love with Christine and so sends her a letter inviting her to make her American singing debut. Once in America Christine realises it was the Phantom who invited her and it is revealed that she and the Phantom spent a night of passion together the night before her wedding to Raoul. The Phantom then invites Gustave, Christine's son, to his "office" in the Phantasma in which he makes the shocking discovery that Gustave could be his son. He takes off his mask in hope that Gustave will accept him but instead Gustave screams in horror.

From Gustave's scream Christine comes rushing in and sends Gustave away, the Phantom presses on Christine for the truth about Gustave's real father, which results in her telling him that he is Gustave's real father, the Phantom declares that everything he creates will go to him. Madame Giry looks on as everything she has worked for will be gone. The Phantom and Raoul come face to face and make a bet that if Christine sings she is the Phantom's and if she does not she is Raoul's and all of Raoul's debts will be wiped away.

The two of them convince her to fulfill their parts of the bets but in the end Christine sings for the Phantom and vows to stay with him. After coming off stage Christine finds that Gustave is missing and Fleck reveals that she saw Meg pulling a small figure out one of the back doors. The Phantom announces that he knows where they have gone resulting in Christine, Madame Giry and himself heading for the pier. On the pier, Meg is about to drown Gustave when she is confronted by the others. Before they can come near Meg pulls out a gun and threatens them all. During this time it is revealed that Meg worked as a prostitute to help earn money for the Phantom and her mother.

In the confusion of the Phantom trying to get the gun off Meg, Meg accidentally shoots Christine (out of frustration) and leaves her fatally wounded. The Phantom rushes over and holds Christine in his arms. Christine reveals to Gustave that the Phantom is his father and Christine's last words to the Phantom are her love for him will never die and asks for him to kiss her "one last time". She then dies in his arms. The Phantom lays the body of Christine on the sand. Gustave attempts to remove the Phantom's mask, but the Phantom shields himself from the boy. Hesitating, he drops to one knee, and Gustave removes the Phantom's mask. The two look into each other's eyes, acknowledging and accepting each other as father & son.

Erik's deformityEdit

In the Leroux novel, Erik is described as corpse-like with no nose; sunken eyes and cheeks; yellow, parchment-like skin; and only a few wisps of ink-black hair covering his head. He is often described as "a walking skeleton", and Christine graphically describes his cold hands.

Lon Chaney, Sr.'s characterization of Erik in the silent film (released in 1925) remains closest to the book in content, in that Erik's face resembles a skull with an elongated nose slit and protruding, crooked teeth. Chaney was a master make-up artist and was considered avant garde for creating and applying Erik's facial makeup design himself. It is said he kept it secret until the first day of filming. The result was allegedly so frightening to the ladies of the time, theaters showing the movie were cautioned to keep smelling salts on hand for the women who fainted in shock.

Several movies based on the novel also vary the deformities (or in the case of Dario Argento's film, the lack thereof, where Erik was a normal, handsome man raised by rats). In Universal's 1943 adaptation, a poor musician tries to publish his music, and then wrongly accuses the publisher of trying to steal his music. The Phantom character then murders the publisher by strangulation and tries to retrieve his music, only to have his face burned by having etching acid thrown in his face by the publisher's female assistant. The rock opera Phantom of the Paradise has Winslow (the Erik character) get his head caught in a record-press and Robert Englund's horror-version has him selling his soul to Satan and having his face mutilated as a result (this version also has a gruesome variation on the mask, in which Erik is sewing flesh to his face)

In Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical adaptation (taking a tip from Universal's 1943 spin on the story), only half of Erik's face is deformed (thus the famous half-mask often associated with Erik's appearance.) His show was originally planned to have a full mask and full facial disfigurement, but when the director, Hal Prince, realized that it would make expression onstage very difficult, they halved the mask. The logo featuring a full mask was publicized before the change. The deformity in the musical includes a gash on the right side of his partly balding head with exposed skull tissue, an elongated right nostril, a missing right eyebrow, deformed lips, different coloured eyes, and several red spots that appear to be scabs on the right cheek. The lyrics in the Phantom's final scene in his lair have sometimes been interpreted to mean that the deformities affect his ability to engage in intercourse since having been questioned by Christine if she had been taken to become "Prey for [his] lust of flesh?" he responds "That fate, which condemns me to wallow in blood/Has also denied me the joys of the flesh." However this has been clarified; the line instead refers to the Phantom's lack of sexual experience as a result of his face. His ability to engage in intercourse is further demonstrated in the sequel to Lloyd-Webber's show, Love Never Dies, in which it is revealed that the Phantom and Christine had sex the night before her wedding, resulting in her pregnancy. It originally took roughly four hours per performance to put the prosthetics on in the original London productions. On Broadway, it was cut to roughly three. More than one Phantom has described make-up disasters onstage. Michael Crawford recounts a story where he pulled away from the kiss at the end only to see that "[his] lower lip was now hanging off Sarah [Brightman]'s face!". To cover the flub, he pulled her back for another kiss and "took back the lips" and kept that side of his head turned away from the audience.

In the 2004 film adaptation, Erik's makeup was made to look much less gruesome. Film Critic Roger Ebert commented that he thought Gerard Butler was made to be too good-looking for the film, and that his masks were more of a fashion accessory than an attempt to hide his deformities.

PerformersEdit

ChaneyPhantomoftheOpera

Lon Chaney, Sr. as Erik, The Phantom, in Universal's 1925 silent film version of The Phantom of the Opera.

FilmEdit

TelevisionEdit

TheatreEdit

Andrew Lloyd Webber musicalEdit

See main list: The Phantom of the Opera

AlbumEdit

Universal Monster RebootEdit

Popular cultureEdit

  • The Phantom appears in the Big Bad Beetleborgs episode "Phantom of Hillhurst." This version is shown to have supernatural powers, was friends with Christine Daaé (until she moved away) and was also an old friend of Flabber. After the Paris Opera House had burned down, the Phantom stays at Hillhurst until it is rebuilt. While working on his musical, the Phantom recognizes Jo's singing voice to be similar to Christine and claims her to be one. The Phantom manages to kidnap and mind-control Jo to help create his musical. When Flabber fails to stop Phantom, he calls in Drew and Roland for help. What stopped the Phantom was Flabber managing to reunite the Phantom with Christine. Both Phantom and Christine left as Phantom removes the spell from Jo.
  • The Phantom appears in the Robot Chicken episode "Cannot Be Erased, So Sorry." He plays some music on the organ.
  • In "Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter", the character Salem is a reference to Erik.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the Phantom appearance is the member of Les Hommes Mystérieux, an analogue of the League led by Fantômas.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Wedding", it is mentioned by Miss Hoover to Principal Skinner that Martin Prince perished in a boiler explosion, which then cuts to underneath the school, where Martin is alive, wearing a half mask as he plays music on a synthesiser.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Something Smells", SpongeBob plays dramatic music on an organ while wearing a cape, only to turn around and reveal his mask to be Groucho glasses.
  • In the episode Roller Coaster the Musical of Phineas and Ferb, Phineas is seen in a gondola with Ferb wearing a black cape and white mask in a stone tunnel during the song, Hey, Ferb!
  • In the movie Gremlins 2, one gremlin spashes acid in anothers face, causing the other to wear a mask like the Phantom.
  • The American metal band Iced Earth has a song called "The Phantom Opera Ghost".

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