The following is based on the Gaston Leroux novel, where the character originally appeared.
In the original novel, few details are given regarding Erik's past, although there is no shortage of hints and implications throughout the book. Erik himself laments the fact that his mother was horrified by his appearance and that his father, a master mason, never saw him. It is also revealed that "Erik" was not, in fact, his birth name, but one that was given or found "by accident", as Erik himself says in the novel. In the novel, Leroux sometimes calls him "the man's voice;" Erik also refers to himself as "The Opera Ghost," "The Angel of Music" and attends a masquerade ball as the Red Death from Edgar Allan Poe's short story.
Most of Erik's history is revealed by a mysterious figure, known through most of the novel as The Persian, or the Daroga, who had been a local police chief in Persia and who followed Erik to Paris; some of the rest is discussed in the novel's epilogue.
Erik is born in a small town outside of Rouen, France. Born hideously deformed, he is a "subject of horror" for his family and as a result, he runs away as a young boy and falls in with a band of Gypsies, making his living as an attraction in freak shows, where he is known as "Le Mort Vivant" (the living dead). During his time with the tribe, Erik becomes a great illusionist, magician and ventriloquist. His reputation for these skills and his unearthly singing voice spreads quickly, and one day a fur trader mentions him to the Shah of Persia. The Shah orders the Persian to fetch Erik and bring him to the palace.
The Shah-in-Shah commissions Erik, who proves himself a gifted architect, to construct an elaborate palace. The edifice is designed with so many trap doors and secret rooms that not even the slightest whisper could be considered private. The design itself carries sound to a myriad of hidden locations, so that one never knew who might be listening. At some point under the Shah's employment, Erik is also a political assassin, using a unique noose referred to as the Punjab Lasso.
The Persian dwells on the vague horrors that existed at Mazenderan rather than going in depth into the actual circumstances involved. The Shah, pleased with Erik's work and determined that no one else should have such a palace, orders Erik blinded. Thinking that Erik could still make another palace even without his eyesight, the Shah orders Erik's execution. It is only by the intervention of the Daroga (the Persian) that Erik escapes.
Erik then goes to Constantinople and is employed by its ruler, helping build certain edifices in the Yildiz-Kiosk, among other things. However, he has to leave the city for the same reason he left Mazenderan: he knows too much. He also seems to have traveled to Southeast Asia, since he claims to have learned to breathe underwater using a hollow reed from the "Tonkin pirates."
By this time Erik is tired of his nomadic life and wants to "live like everybody else". For a time he works as a contractor, building "ordinary houses with ordinary bricks". He eventually bids on a contract to help with the construction of the Palais Garnier, commonly known as the Paris Opera House. Eventually his magical and musical nature takes over, and he builds a secret home for himself in the cellars.
Falling in love with Christine Daae, he poses now as the Angel of Music, and she becomes his protege.
In his isolation, Erik spends 20 years composing a piece entitled "Don Juan Triumphant." In one chapter after he takes Christine to his lair, she asks him to play her a piece from his masterwork. He refuses and says, "I will play you Mozart, if you like, which will only make you weep; but my Don Juan, Christine, burns." Eventually, after she has wrenched off his mask and saw his deformed face, he begins to play it. Christine says that at first it seemed to be "one great awful sob," but then became alert to its nuances and power. Upon its completion, he originally plans to go to his bed (which is a coffin) and "never wake up," but by the final chapters of the novel, Erik expresses his wish to marry Christine and live a comfortable bourgeois life after his work has been completed. He has stored a massive supply of gunpowder under the Opera, and, should she refuse his offer, plans to detonate it. When she acquiesces to his desires in order to save herself, her lover Raoul and the denizens of the Opera, he relents and allows her to leave with Raoul, content that she has let herself be kissed on the forehead once by him. Erik dies shortly thereafter, and Christine returns to the Opera to place a plain gold band he had given her on his finger. Leroux claims that a skeleton bearing such a ring was later unearthed in the Opera cellars.
Appearances in other mediaEdit
The Phantom of the Opera (Andrew Lloyd Webber Musical)Edit
In Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1986 stage musical, Phantom of the Opera, Erik is only known as 'the Phantom', 'the Opera Ghost', 'the Angel of Music', or 'OG'. His name is never given. The character was originally going to be played by Steve Harley but was later replaced by Gerard Butler.
In the 25th anniversary of the production, Erik was played by Ramin Karimloo. In the Broadway anniversary, he was played by Hugh Parano.
Phantom of the Opera (1925 film)Edit
Lon Chaney's critically acclaimed role as The Phantom would be the first of many Phantoms to grace the screen. His character is shown as deeply demented and his "love" for Christine is completely an obsession. Like the book and every version to follow, The Phantom is a haunting shadow that the entire company fears and gossips about. As Christine grows fond of another, his murderous jealousy is ignited. Lon Chaney's character is stated to be an escaped psychopath. In the end, The Phantom dies after kidnapping Christine and the entire company comes after him.
Phantom of the Opera (1943 film)Edit
In this film, Claude Rains plays the violinist Erique Claudin, who was quite normal until he strangled a music publisher for stealing his music and acid was thrown in his face.
Phantom of the Opera (1990 TV Miniseries) Edit
Through the miniseries the Phantom, played by Charles Dance, in notably kinder and more humanized that in the other versions. His disfigurement covers his whole face however in never seen by the audience.
Phantom of the Opera (2004 film)Edit
In this film, based on the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, the Phantom's disfigurement covers half his face, and is a birth defect (faithful to Leroux's novel). He was played by Gerard Butler.