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Erik

Book

Name
Erik
Role
Antagonist/Protagonist
Death
Died of a broken heart
Other Names Phantom
The Opera Ghost , The Phantom Of the Opera, The Red Death , The Mans Voice, The Angel of Music, Phantom
The Phantom of the opera silent film Actor
Lon Chaney The Phantom of the Opera (musical movie)
The Phantom of the Opera Musical Original West End Actor
Michael Crawford
The Phantom of the Opera Musical Original Broadway Actor
Michael Crawford
The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary at the Royal Albert Hall Actor
Ramin Karimloo
The Phantom of the Opera (2004 film) Actor


Erik is the titular character in Gaston Leroux's 1911 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, and Andrew Lloyd Webber's West End musical.

Character history Edit

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 is 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 morte vivant" ("the living dead"). 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. 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 a myriad of 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 Opera House.

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. In his isolation, Erik spends 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, 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 and the denizens of the Opera, we find out that his part of the bargain was to take the Persian and Raoul aboveground. He does so with the Persian, but Raoul was "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 tilts her forehead toward him, and he kisses it. Then he says he is 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 soon after, 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

PhantomEdit

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.

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.

The 1920s, the Lon Chaney, Sr. version of the film remains closest to the book in content (on the other hand it was far off from what Erik really looked like) and in the fact 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. 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.

In the 2004 film adaptation Erik's makeup was made to look much less gruesome, with his face looking more like a "sunburn", as many fans like to joke. 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 then an attempt to hide his deformities.

Performers Edit

The Phantom of the Opera has inspired countless variations and adaptions of the story. Erik or an Erik like character features in most of these.

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