Vathek Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: English translation, 1786; original French edition, 1787 as Vathek

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Gothic

Time of work: The past

Locale: Arabia

Characters DiscussedVathek

Vathek Vathek (VAH-tehk), an Arabian sultan, a man addicted to sensory pleasures who indulges in black magic. The Giaour gives him the key to the dark kingdom in response to human sacrifices. He makes Nouronihar his companion in the pleasures of this world and the world of magic. Vathek finds the secret lair of Eblis, Lord of Darkness, only to have his heart consumed by eternal flames.


Nouronihar (noh-ROHN-ih-hahr), the daughter of Emir Fakreddin. She is stolen from her betrothed by Vathek and becomes the favorite of his harem. She shares Vathek’s discovery of the lair of Eblis and also has her heart consumed by eternal flames. She turns from a sweet young woman into an addict of pleasure and depravity.


Carathis (kah-RAH-tihs), Vathek’s mother. She is a worshiper of evil and, by her live sacrifices, leads her son to black magic and its discoveries. She arrives at the lair of Eblis shortly after her son, who sees her heart burst into flame.

The Giaour

The Giaour (JAW-ur), a mysterious stranger and an emissary of the powers of evil. He brings sabers with changing inscriptions to Vathek. The inscriptions are the key to the pathway to the kingdom of darkness.


Gulchenrouz (GUHL-kehn-rowts), the betrothed of Nouronihar. He and his sweetheart are drugged and taken to a hidden retreat to save Nouronihar from Vathek.

Emir Fakreddin

Emir Fakreddin (fah-kreh-DEEN), the devout Muhammadan father of Nouronihar. He is scandalized by Vathek’s violation of the laws of hospitality.

BibliographyAlexander, Boyd. England’s Wealthiest Son: A Study of William Beckford. London: Centaur Press, 1962. Includes chapters on the origins of Vathek and its connection with the three supplemental episodes that Beckford wrote in the 1820’s, which did not appear in print until 1912.Day, William Patrick. In the Circles of Fear and Desire: A Study of Gothic Fantasy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985. One of many studies of gothic fiction that include a discussion of Vathek. Links the work to the “apocalyptic vision” of literary modernism.Frank, Frederick. “Vathek: An Arabian Tale.” In Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature, edited by Frank N. Magill. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Salem Press, 1983. A useful essay on the work, which draws interesting comparisons between Vathek and the works of Edgar Allan Poe.Mahmoud, Fatma Moussa, ed. William Beckford of Fonthill 1760-1844: Bicentenary Essays. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1972. Includes Mahmoud’s essay, “Beckford, Vathek and the Oriental Tale,” which offers a comprehensive analysis of Vathek, and Mahmoud Manzalaoui’s “Pseudo-Orientalism in Transition: The Age of Vathek,” a useful account of the work’s literary-historical context.Varma, Devendra P. “William Beckford.” In Supernatural Fiction Writers: Fantasy and Horror, edited by Everett F. Bleiler. New York: Scribner’s, 1985. A brief essay that provides information and interesting speculations about the origins of Vathek and its connections to Beckford’s own life.
Categories: Characters