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Who is Beelzebub in Lord of the Flies?

Jack Todhunter | Friday August 07, 2009

Categories: Prose, Lord Of The Flies, Writing, Essays, Prose Analysis, Speaking & Listening

The Task

The boys on the island busy themselves looking for a beast or demon. We are painfully aware of the irony here. There is indeed a devil on the island… or rather several and they are openly on view.

Looking closely at the action in Golding’s novel, who do you consider could be described as a demon?

Beelzebub (Hebrew בעל זבוב, with several variants) appears as the name of a god worshipped by the Philistines. In ancient contexts, there appears to have been little, if any, meaningful distinction between Beelzebub and Baal. Jewish reference to Baal was almost certainly pejorative and grew to be used among other terms for Satan. The name later appears as the name of a demon or devil, often interchanged with Beelzebul.

Ba‘al Zebûb means ’ ‘Lord of things that fly’, zebûb being a Hebrew collective noun for ‘fly’. This gives us the common translation “Lord of the Flies?. We can now see why chose this translation as the name for his novel on the demonic actions of children.

In Christianity, the name Beelzebub may appear as an alternate name for Lucifer, the fallen angel or else may appear to refer to the name of a lesser devil. As with several religions, the names of any earlier foreign or “pagan” deities often became synonymous with pejorative terms.

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