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Charon

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Charon (aka the Ferryman, the Boatman and sometimes Death) is a grim and silent ghoul who carries the dead across the River Styx, River of Death,and the Poisoned Lake in Kolyma. Known as Father Death in some of Daventry's legends he is an entity that comes to take souls and cause death. In the Dimension of Death he takes on a incorporeal form, and ferries those across the River of Death in his ghostly boat.

BackgroundEdit


There is a personage named Charon whose job it is to ferry souls of the dead across the river Styx to Hades (as he did in the time of the ancient Greeks). He was thought of as a silent, shrouded old man. In time, the image became synonymous with Death.[1] Charon has a scythe for reaping the souls of the dead, but doesn't carry it all the time[2] It has been whispered that to see his face is to look into the Abyss.

He is the silent guardian of the River Styx (and other deadly waterways), and will ferry any man living or dead, across the Styx to Hades or Realm of the Dead or the Poisoned Lake...for a price. [3]In the Dimension of Death he and his boat take on a non-corporeal form which can only ferry the spirits of the dead across the River of Death. Hades lies beneath the Dark Forest in Serenia, and it is believed that the forest is so thick, dark, and daunting that Death itself is said to have gotten lost inside of it.[4] It is said that Graham accompanied Death to Count Dracula's castle across the lake[5]

The shrouded, ghoul has been known servant and ally to Dracula and ferry the Prince of the Night and those who pay a price across the Poisoned Lake. Death ferried King Graham across the water, after the king donned the black cloak and the ruby ring, tricking the ghoul into thinking he was Dracula.[6] After Graham had killed Dracula, and received the last of the Magical Keys and the Tiara, the ghoul ferried him back across the lake. Some claim the grim boatman is death itself.

When Graham had been weakened by his heart attack, Father Death hovered near his bed.[7] The royal physicians could do nothing to help him. Rosella worried that he would take Graham's life if she didn't save her father in time.

He later gave Alexander passage across the river Styx in the Underworld of the Realm of the Dead for the price of two old coins.

Connor encountered him at the edge of the City of the Dead in the Dimension of Death near the River of Death. He inquired of the boatman if he could seek passage across the river in the boatman's boat, but was told that only souls of the deceased could embark thus. A living physical man could not use his incorporeal boat, but that he could seek out the Bridge of Life to cross the river.

Connor wondered where the souls were for transport. The boatman told him that the Azriel was imprisoned, and that all was chaos and that the land bleeds. Connor acknowledged the foul pools of blood he had seen in the land. The Sacred Heart had been wounded, and that the Deliverer must heal it.

Connor then asked him about the Deliverer, the mortal One who wouldn't be judged above all others. Connor then mentioned he sought to heal the Sacred Heart, and wondered if he might be the Deliverer that the boatman mentioned. The boatman then told him that the heart of the deliverer wouldst be judged on the scales of justice. Equilibrium must be restored. That he must attain perfect balance against the Feather of Truth. Connor said he sought to do so.

Connor then asked him about the where to find the Feather of Truth. The boatman told him to seek the hall or respite, and to judge the skulls on the left. Then he gave Connor a riddle that would help him find the river.

Then he asked where to find the bridge of life. The boatman told him it spanned the River of Death and that he should follow the river to the east. Connor told him he would go.

Personality and traitsEdit

The boatman is a frightening character, a spooky, ghostly and skeletal ferryman; his hands little more than claws grip a long pole or scythe, and his face is often completely hidden inside of his hood.[8] The shade is often silent, and when he speaks its often cryptically. The apparition's stony silence, like death, grips the dusk.[9] Charon is unmoved by music. It has been long since he has had a good laugh, and tickling him would probably only make him mad. He often stands in his boat as he is the eternal ferryman of the dead. Charon's boat is one of his few companions and is apparently sentient in its own right. Charon does not let travelers without fare loiter on the shores of his river; and will knock them over into the river if they wait too long and he is ready to cross.

Within the bounds of the Realm of the Dead and within Dimension of Death the phantom boatman appears to defer allegiance to Samhain and Azriel, who are the Lords of Death in those realms (and are also known as Death). But he appears to defer allegiance to Count Dracula in Kolyma as well (although the Prince of the Night does not appear to be a personification of death as well).

TitlesEdit

  • Charon the Ferryman
  • The Ferryman
  • Ferryman of the Styx
  • Boatman
  • Father Death
  • Death

Behind the scenesEdit

Charon was a brother of Thanatos (the actual Greek personification of of Death) in Greek Mythology; and was the ferryman of both the rivers Styx and the Acheron of Hades. Although Charon has often been associated with death in medieval legend originally that was the position of his brother (who also quite often portrayed as a grim reaper).

In order to pay Charon's toll across the river, ancient Greeks buried their dead with coins covering their eyes.

The reference to Father Death hovering over Graham's bed, and the physicians not being able to cure the king is a reference to the fairy tale Godfather Death (or Father Death). In the story he was the classic personage of Death in Grimm's Fairy Tales.[10]

In the story the 13th son of a man becomes the godson of Death. Death took the boy into the woods when he became of age promising him he would become a famous physician. Whenever the physician went to a patient Death would come along, if Death hovered at the head of the bed, the physician would administer a special herb from the forest which would cure the sick person. If death hovered at the foot of the bed, any treatment would be useless and they would soon die. When the physician goes to see the King of all lands who was suffering from a grave illness that no other could cure, he noticed immediately that Death was standing at the foot of the bed. The physician felt pity for the king, and decides to trick Death. The physician then turns the King in his bed so that Death stands over the head. He then gives the King the herb to eat. This heals the King and speeds his recovery. This angered death but he was forgiven (but the second time the physician attempted it he died).

Death as a servant of Dracula is is a concept made popular in the Castlevania series of video games. It would seem the idea transferred over to KQ games as well. KQ2 predates the first Castlevania but the first edition of the Companion was published after the first few Castlevania games.

Characters inspired by the Charon figure include the ghoul Boatman of the poisoned lake in KQ2. As is the Boatman in KQ8. In fact KQC suggests that the boatman in KQ2 may even be Charon. It is possible that the Boatman/Ferryman in KQ8 is also the same character (known as the Reaper in the files). Father Death also roughly based on a mix of the traditional medieval grim reaper, Death. Perhaps intended to be the same personification of Death in the series as well.

Charon can be found in the Underworld of the Isle of the Dead in KQ6. The information from the KQC would imply that the boatman's identity is Charon thus suggesting that the character appears in two games. In the KQ7 Authorized Guide is referred to as 'Death' which also ties him to Charon.[11] The Ferryman in KQ8 also has much of the same background; he ferry's the dead across the River of Death (aka River Styx) although he is using a ethereal boat in the Dimension of Death. Thus the River Styx appears to connect between Hades, the Realm of the Dead, and the Dimension of Death. So it is possible that this character actually appears in three games.

In general, the spooky ferryman is a common theme in many adventure games, always inspired by the Charon. One such appearance (although comical one) is in Monkey Island 3.

Other personifications  of death appear in the KQ lore based on other mythologies including Samhain (roughly based on a pseudo-Celtic myth created in the romantic era), Azriel based on the Angel of Death of the Azrael, and reference to Arawn ruler of the Welsh underworld. The grim reaper style Death is able to travel about, while Samhain is bound to his throne. Azriel while not bound to his throne, it would seem is probably too busy to ever leave his realm (he does not reap souls but souls come to him).

In KQ6Edit

In the CD version, the narrator pronounces the name Charon with a SH. In Greek the CH should actually be pronounced like a K. In fact the pronunciation is similar to NASA's pronunciation for Pluto's moon Charon, based on the pronunciation and name given to the moon by James W. Christy, who intentionally pronounced it that way, in honor of his wife 'Charlene'.

In KQ2Edit

It is possible to pay passage to cross the lake, with one of the Sapphire Jewels.[12] There is an extra "beckon" animation if you give him one of the treasures.

You only need to wear the cloak to get across free, however, wearing the cloak and the ring gives a more detailed description, and offers a background nod to Dracula himself.

In the KQ2 Hintbook this character is referred to as the "shrouded ghoul".

A traditional image of Death as a grim reaper appears in KQ2 manual, in a section discussing King Edward's spirit returning to speak to King Graham.

The character is usually described as a 'ghoul', 'shrouded ghoul', 'frightening ghoul', or 'fiend', 'shrouded fiend', 'silent fiend', 'spooky fiend' in the game. When interacting with it 'fiend', 'man' or 'ghoul' work.

The game does not understand 'boatman', 'ferryman',  'death', or 'charon' (it is the KQ2 hintbook, King's Quest Companion, or KQ7 Authorized guide that gives the character those names or titles).

In KQ8Edit

In KQ4Edit

The medieval concept of death is mentioned through the reference to the fairy tale Godfather Death.

In King's Quest Companion & KQ7 Authorized GuideEdit

The Boatman in KQ2 is referred to as the Boatman and also suggested to be Charon, or Death. Charon later appears in the third edition in the KQ6 chapter.


ReferencesEdit

  1. KQC2E, pg
  2. Narrator (KQ6): "Though he's not carrying it at the moment, Charon's scythe is perfectly functional."
  3. The King's Quest Companion, 2nd Edition
  4. KQC, 2nd Edition, pg 52
  5. KQ7AG, pg; "...and accompany Death to Count Dracula's castle so he can stake out a certain coffin."
  6. The shrouded ghoul looks at the ruby ring on your finger and the black cloak around your neck. He motions for you to enter the boat, which you do. You must have fooled him into thinking you were someone else."
  7. KQ4
  8. Narrator (KQ2):""
  9. KQC2E, pg
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godfather_Death
  11. KQ7AG, pg; "...and accompany Death to Count Dracula's castle so he can stake out a certain coffin."
  12. Narrator: The shrouded ghoul takes your treasure. Silently he gestures towards the boat."

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