?Is your life less than perfect? Are you unlucky in love or in your career? Wouldn’t you like to be prettier, wealthier, more exciting? Perhaps you’d like to make a wish. When you wish upon a star… you’d better make sure that star won’t return to cash in on the favor. A wish can be a beautiful expression of innocent desire or sheer temptation to gratify selfish wants. An angel or a blue fairy usually grants kind and selfless wishes, while the folks in this list show up for the selfish and ungrateful jerks. Grievous granters of wishes are the ones who return with the inexorable cruelty of college debt to fill your life with ruin and regret after your wish has been granted.
Sometimes the granter of wishes is a magical artifact, other times a being with incredible power and a desire to meddle. They come from the realms of literature, comics, and television to offer protagonists their wildest dreams on a silver platter, for a price of course. Their message is clear: be careful what you wish for because you might just get it, and after you get it, slavering hellhounds may drag your screaming, protesting body into the dark and hungry void for all eternity. Or you’ll end up a giant fish, or menaced by an annoying cartoon or something.
10) The Twisted Claw, Are You Afraid of the Dark?
This particular meeting of The Midnight Society alludes to “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs, a classic story that introduced the theme of “be careful what you wish for” to many young readers. The story involves, what else, two dumb kids who are given a magical item by a creepy old lady. The kids make wishes that backfire on them horribly, culminating in the classic wish to bring back a dead grandfather, who rolls up in a fancy car and keeps ringing the doorbell (sadly we never get to actually see zombie granddad). Both boys nearly soil themselves in fright, and rightly so, because this entire fiasco was brought about when they sprayed an old lady in the face with shaving cream. Witch or no, that’s just unmitigated dickery, and probably deserves a much worse fate than simply getting scared.
9) The D’Jinn from Fables
Robin Williams this genie ain’t. Although it’s true that you’ve never had a friend like him: one who will not only grant three wishes, but go on a wild, world-destroying rage fest if the third wish is not used to force it back into its bottle. If its master must be devoured alive, slowly and painfully, so be it. In fact, when the Arabian fables bring a d’jinn into Fabletown, it is regarded as an act of war, similar to bringing a nuke to a diplomatic meeting.
8) The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel
Fairies are cool, right? They’re called The Fair Folk and they have magical powers. Also, they can raise the dead in a pinch, which is what Lord Pole wants for his wife, and what crochety old Mr. Norrel wants to do to secure his reputation as a famous magician. So Norrel cuts a deal with a powerful member of the fair-folk known as The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair. But let’s be real, folks: fairies are bastards. This one is particularly nasty. He keeps the resurrected Lady Pole as his own personal entertainment, bringing her into the fairy realm of Lost Hope to dance all night long before putting her back into the human world, which inevitably drives her mad. The Gentleman will also grant wishes that he thinks you should make if he takes a liking to you, as loyal and competent butler Stephen Black discovered. He too ended up at Lost Hope, wearing an unwanted crown and keeping very unsavory company, all the while losing his grip on reality.
7) Dream, Sandman
Gaiman’s Sandman can be a benevolent bringer of dreams or malevolent maker of nightmares. Robert “Hob” Gadling is an example of this, a human who was granted the gift of immortality just so that Dream could have a beer with him once every hundred years and see how humans handle living forever. Another example is the Bard himself, William Shakespeare, who was granted immense talent just as long as he promised to write a few plays about dreams. The price turned out to be greater than he could imagine, however, and cost William his son Hamnet, who was taken by the Fair Folk (those bastards). Morpheus also promises Harun Al-Rashid that his wondrous, magical city of Baghdad will be preserved forever. Dream puts the city in a bottle and drops Al-Rashid himself in dreary, real-world Baghdad. Technically, he got his wish. Nice one, Morpheus.
6) Shonen Bat, Paranoia Agent
In this surreal anime, master of psychological symbolism Satoshi Kon tells the stories of different people who blame their problems on the mysterious, ubiquitous child criminal Shonen Bat (his name literally translated means “Bat Boy,” but this makes him sound too much like another one of Bruce Wayne’s ill-fated prot?g?s, so Shonen Bat it is). SPOILER ALERT: The mysterious pint-sized assailant is in fact fulfilling people’s wishes by bludgeoning them upside the head with a golden bat. Most of his victims are relieved after the attack, having been spared the immediate consequences of their actions because they were unconscious at the time. As they wish for escape while eschewing responsibility, paranoia flourishes and delusions are brought into reality. In the end, the problem can only be solved when protagonist Tsukiko Sagi stops running and faces her own demons.
5) Coily the Spring Sprite, “A Case of Spring Fever” from MST3K
Noooooo springs! Arguably, Coily could be considered the most malevolent granter of wishes on this list, for not only does he grant wishes obviously not meant to be taken literally, but he keeps reminding you of the lesson you’re supposed to be learning from a spring-less existence, popping up to laugh in your face as things that need springs no longer function. He’s a crappy animation meant to promote springs of all things, and that is just about the stupidest form of genie ever conceived (including “Kazaam”). Also, note that Coily is a “Spring Sprite,” which means we can add him to the growing number of jerk-bastard faeries on this list. But who cares about springs anyway? Our sentiments echo Crow’s when he says, “No springs? I don’t care, there’s still butter and meatloaf!”
4) The Childlike Empress, The Neverending Story
In Michael Ende’s novel, the Childlike Empress is called “The Golden-Eyed Commander of Wishes.” She gives Bastian AURYN, a medallion with the power to make his wishes come true, warning him that for every wish he makes, he looses a memory. This goes pretty much how you’d expect from a young boy suddenly bestowed with magical powers: he wishes and wishes and wishes until he ends up wandering on the outer reaches of Fantastica, trying to blindly recover memories in the dark Mines of Memory. Power gained at the loss of self is not true power at all, and the more Bastian loses his memories and identity, the easier it is for him to be manipulated. A notable moment is when the evil enchantress Xayide convinces Bastian to become a dictator, taking over the Ivory Tower and subjugating its inhabitants. So our hero basically becomes a villain until Atreyu and company invade the Ivory Tower and kick his tyrannical butt out of there. It’s enough to make us wonder why Ms. Commander of Wishes handed out AURYN to begin with, and if the salvation of her realm was worth the destruction (followed by restoration, of course) of Bastian’s own self.
If regret had a name, it would be Mephisto. Ever since Doctor Faustus became bored of his scholarly life and decided that summoning demons would be a grand lark, Mephisto just can’t keep his hooves out of humankind’s business. Why doesn’t anyone ever just say “no” to Mephisto? (Perhaps we should start a “Say No to Mephisto” Campaign in 2666.) This guy doesn’t even try to hide the fact that he’s pretty much Satan and your soul or iconic romantic partner of many years is doomed, doomed, DOOMED should you agree to his terms. He provides the ultimate lesson about the long-term price we humans pay for immediate gratification. And apparently he hates fans of Spider-Man continuity most of all. But what else can we expect from the Father of Lies and Retcons?
2) Mr. Cooger and Mr. Dark, Something Wicked This Way Comes
Welcome to Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, where anything is possible. Are you a boy, impatient to become a grown-up? Take a few spins on the carousel to age a few years. Are you an adult, feeling old and run down? Ride the opposite way to become young again (it plays the funeral march, backwards or forward). Just don’t be surprised when you end up a deformed circus freak, traveling forever as the servant of Mr. Dark. Definitely the nastier of the two, Dark isn’t above keeping his own business partner Mr. Cooger trapped in the form of Mr. Electrico, an old, corpse-like creature that runs on electricity. A lightening rod salesman breaks into the Most Beautiful Woman in the World exhibit and winds up transformed into a grotesque dwarf. It is unknown exactly how Mr. Dark is able to do what he does. Maybe it’s his slithering tattoos, maybe he’s a devil of some sort, but one thing is for certain: Mr. Dark is absolutely evil and invested in damning folks through giving them what they think they want.
1) The Hood House and Family, The Thief of Always
If Clive Barker’s Cenobites from “Hellraiser” are dark granters of wishes for adults, then Hood and his family of freaks are the twisted tempters who doom the souls of children. Rictus, Jive, and Marr are an impressive brood of bogeymen who work together to ensnare young Harvey Swick with special gifts and powers. Rictus throws the sales pitch, Jive literally does a song and dance, and Marr can mold flesh like clay. (Carna, the odd sibling out, just hangs out with her rows of teeth and dozens of tongues, waiting for children to wander off where they shouldn’t go.) At first, Mr. Hood’s Holiday House seems a heaven for children: each room has delightful objects to satisfy every desire. Every day at the Hood House begins with Christmas and ends with Halloween. Hood and family earned the number one slot on this list because enduring a slow, painful transformation into a soul-less fish is quite a foul fate for any child to suffer. Harvey ingeniously uses Hood’s ability to grant wishes against him, wishing for more and more impossible things until the evil magician’s power is drained.