The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The first eleven stories included in John the Balladeer were published originally in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction between 1951 and 1958, then collected in Who Fears the Devil? (1963). Other stories in the collection were first published between 1979 and 1987.

In these stories, John describes encounters with some sort of supernatural evil and how he defeated it, or at least survived when human evildoers were killed, because of his pure heart, his Christian faith, and the songs he plays on his silver-stringed guitar. (The practitioners of evil hate and fear silver.) “O Ugly Bird!” features a huge, malevolent bird created by the hoodoo man Mr. Onselm. John smites the bird with his silver-stringed guitar, killing it, and Mr. Onselm dies when the bird does. In “The Desrick on Yandro,” Mr. Yandro, a selfish rich man, is summoned to the mountain that bears his name. Various creatures that he refuses to believe in kill him. In “Vandy,” Vandy, a 280-year-old sorcerer wants to seduce a young woman. John foils him by tossing a silver quarter into the fire, summoning the sorcerer’s old adversary, George Washington. “One Other” is a sinister creature with one arm and one leg. A witch summons him to cast a love spell on John, but John scares him off with Christian music. In “Call Me from the Valley,” John uses his music to scare off an evil ghost, thus allowing the spirits of two long-dead star-crossed...

(The entire section is 575 words.)