Crowley

aka Crawly, aka Flash Bastard

Crowley by Henry[Aziraphale] gave Crawly a worried grin.

“That was the best course, wasn’t it?”

“I’m not sure it’s actually possible for you to do evil,” said Crawly sarcastically. Aziraphale didn’t notice the tone.

“Oh, I do hope so,” he said. “I really do hope so. It’s been worrying me all afternoon.”

They watched the rain for a while.

“Funny thing is,” said Crawly, “I keep wondering whether the apple thing wasn’t the right thing to do, as well. A demon can get into real trouble, doing the right thing.” He nudged the angel. “Funny if we both got it wrong, eh? Funny if I did the good thing and you did the bad one, eh?”

“Not really,” said Aziraphale.

Crawly looked at the rain.

“No,” he said, sobering up. “I suppose not.”

— p. viii

If what Crawly — the serpent in Eden at his first appearance above, who later changes his name to Crowley because Crawly, he decides, “[is] not him” (vii) — claims is correct, then he is destined to spend the better part of his earthly existence getting into real trouble. Even from the start, it’s clear that Crowley questions the reason for… well, everything. He didn’t necessarily mean to join the ranks of Hell, either: as the list of dramatis personae informs us, he is “An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards” (ix).

Just as Crowley chooses to shed his old name, he also chooses to shed his old skin. The next time we see Crowley, he’s in human — or mostly human — form:

Crowley was currently doing a hundred and ten miles an hour somewhere east of Slough. Nothing about him looked particularly demonic, at least by classical standards. No horns, no wings. Admittedly he was listening to a ‘Best of Queen‘ tape, but no conclusions should be drawn from this because all tapes left in a car for more than about a fortnight metamorphose into ‘Best of Queen’ albums. No particularly demonic thoughts were going through his head. In fact, he was currently wondering vaguely who Moey and Chandon were.

Crowley had dark hair, and good cheekbones, and he was wearing snakeskin shoes, or at least presumably he was wearing shoes, and he could do really weird things with his tongue. And, whenever he forgot himself, he had a tendency to hiss.

He also didn’t blink much.

The car he was driving was a 1926 black Bentley, one owner from new, and that owner had been Crowley. He’d looked after it. (3)

Crowley by Julie DillonWe’re also told, at a slightly later point in the book when he finds it necessary to change form for a moment, that it’s his “favourite shape” and that he “[hates] having to do that” because he’s “afraid [he'll] forget how to change back” (63). As evidenced by his fondness for his human body (and his fondness for his car), Crowley has grown quite attached to his current state of being. Crowley’s other distinguishing feature is, as his co-worker Hastur (a Duke of Hell) observes, that he “‘wears sunglasses, even when he dunt need to'” (4). This hides “yellow eyes with slitted vertical pupils” (173).

Crowley’s home life, such as it is, involves owning a posh, pristine flat in London’s district of Mayfair, which he has decorated with white leather furniture and an overpriced home entertainment system (161). He has also populated the place with houseplants, which are “the most luxurious, verdant, and beautiful in London,” and also the “most terrified” (162). We’re told that Crowley got the idea of talking to his plants from Radio Four in the seventies, which suggests that Crowley is as fond of human news and talk media as he is as fond of television (which, we are also told, he is mostly responsible for having developed over time, particularly Welsh-language television [5]).

In the matter of Crowley’s demonic achievements on earth, only one thing is entirely certain: he doesn’t have the stomach for the sort of cruelties that, say, Duke Hastur is capable of (arson at Tadfield Manor [22]), or, more significantly, that humans are capable of (the Spanish Inquisition, the atrocities of which were enough to drive Crowley to drink for a week straight [19]). In Crowley’s opinion, humans are far better at causing each other misery than Hell is, not least because “[t]hey’ve got imagination… [a]nd electricity, of course” (19). Besides, anyone capable of classifying Hieronymus Bosch as a “weirdo” must know what he’s talking about. Hell is empty, and all the devils are here — seeking asylum, it would seem, as we later discover when Aziraphale appears.

Aziraphale, Angel of the Eastern Gate in Eden, also happens to be Crowley’s oldest (and only) friend… and enemy. They appear to have first met, or at least got to know each other, in the Garden — and it’s been a curious combination of uphill and downhill ever since. Once they discovered that, in the process of thwarting each other and just generally getting under each other’s feet, they actually have quite a lot in common, they came to a sort of Arrangement around the year 1020 (19). The terms are “very simple”:

…so simple, in fact, that it didn’t really deserve the capital letter, which it had got for simply being inexistence for so long. It was the sort of sensible arrangement that many isolated agents, working in awkward conditions a long way from their superiors, reach with their opposite number when they realize that they have far more in common with their immediate opponents than their remote allies. It meant a tacit non-interference in certain of each other’s activities. It made certain that while neither really won, also neither really lost, and both were able to demonstrate to their masters the great strides they were making against a cunning and well-informed adversary. (23)

Due to the fact that they are both “of angel stock,” they even find covering for each other on occasion a reasonable thing to do (although Aziraphale occasionally feels guilty [23]).

The Arrangement also seems to have come, over time, to define not only their working lives, but their social lives as well. Dining at the Ritz is a frequent and favorite activity for this unlikely pair (26), as is keeping the back room of Aziraphale’s bookshop well stocked with wine for the purpose of getting utterly smashed when things don’t go according to plan (29-34). While the amount of time that they’ve spent solidly in each other’s company for the past few centuries is unclear, we do know that they’ve seen each other regularly enough to have built up a reasonably close friendship, much to their chagrin, which becomes steadily more apparent as the novel progresses. Indeed, Aziraphale’s occasional need to shoo a certain “hanging-about demon” implies that Crowley must have made a fairly recent practice of bugging Aziraphale at work.

In addition, Crowley’s love of gadgets seems at least partly tied to his need to keep in touch with Aziraphale. The only person that we see him call on his car phone is, in fact, the angel (20). Both of them seem to have a fondness for Classical music and therefore keep it on hand, although imprisonment in the Bentley is very often the cause of a good Tchaikovsky tape gone bad (52).

The summary in the dust jacket has, for once, got it right in describing Crowley as “Hell’s most approachable demon.”

Edition referenced in this article: UK Gollancz hardcover (1990)
Written by Adrienne