The Lord of Darkness in Legend Is a Clever Mirror Image of Jesus Christ

I often say that the line between fantasy and horror is paper-thin, and few movies illustrate that better than Ridley Scott’s 1985 cult classic Legend. On the one hand, the story is set in a fairy-tale world inhabited by magical creatures like elves, fairies, and unicorns, but on the other hand, the film’s villains are undeniably horrific. There are repulsive goblins and an even more grotesque witch, but hands down, the biggest link this movie has with the horror genre is its main bad guy, a diabolical character known as the Lord of Darkness.

In fact, when I was a kid, I thought he was the devil, and if you’ve ever seen Legend, I’m sure you can guess why. Darkness has blood-red skin, enormous horns protruding from his head, and hooved feet, so even though he’s never explicitly called Satan, he’s clearly modeled on traditional Christian depictions of the devil.

Seriously, this character looks like he was ripped straight out of Western culture’s collective nightmares, but that’s not the only thing about him that takes inspiration from the Christian faith. Surprisingly, Darkness is also modeled after Jesus Christ. More to the point, he’s essentially an anti-Christ figure, and I mean that in a general sense. He’s not the antichrist, but he mirrors Jesus in some very interesting and unexpected ways. A few of them are easy to catch, but others are a bit subtle, so let’s take a deep dive into Legend and see what parallels we can find.

Before Time Began

Legend opens with a Star Wars-esque crawl setting up its fictional world and the story we’re about to see, and this crawl gives us some key information about the Lord of Darkness. It tells us:

Once long ago, before there was such a thing as time, the world was shrouded in darkness. Then came the splendor of light, bringing life and love into the universe, and the Lord of Darkness retreated deep into the shadows, plotting his return to power…by banishing light forever.

Even before we see a single frame of Ridley Scott’s gorgeous visuals, these opening words already set the stage for the various ways its main villain mirrors Jesus Christ. To begin, it tells us that Darkness was around “long ago, before there was such a thing as time,” even before things like light, life, and love came into the picture, and if you’re at all familiar with Christian teaching, that description should ring a bell.

The Lord of Darkness smiling

The New Testament tells us that Jesus existed “in the beginning,” before the world began, and it specifies that he was there when the world was created (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16-17). There’s even a passage that says Jesus existed “before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9), so while the parallel is admittedly not exact, it’s still tough to deny. Jesus and the Lord of Darkness are both old enough to remember a time before time, and they were both around when important elements of the world came into being.

Light and Darkness

Next, let’s look at a more subtle connection between these two figures. The opening crawl of Legend tells us that Darkness is “plotting his return to power,” and he plans to regain his throne “by banishing light forever.” Now, if you know anything about Christianity, you know that Jesus definitely isn’t supposed to plunge the world into everlasting darkness, so at first glance, it can be tough to see how Darkness’ mission parallels that of Jesus Christ.

However, if we broaden our scope a bit, it actually becomes pretty obvious. Jesus and the Lord of Darkness don’t have the same goal; rather, their goals are exact opposites of each other. Darkness wants to bring darkness to the world, but according to the Bible, Jesus came to bring light.

A goblin approaching a dark throne

For example, the Gospel of John tells us that Jesus’ light “shines in the darkness” (John 1:5), and Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, expands this metaphor even further. It tells us that after Jesus’ second coming, the world won’t need the sun or moon anymore because he will be its “lamp,” and his light will be so pervasive that “there will be no night there” (Revelation 21:23-25).

What’s more, if we take a step back and just look at Darkness’ name in Legend, we’ll see that this contrast was staring us in the face the entire time. At one point in the Bible, Jesus famously calls himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12), so once again, Darkness’ status as an anti-Christ is impossible to miss. Since both his identity and his purpose are the exact opposite of Jesus’, these two figures are basically mirror images of each other.

Son of the Father

Like I said earlier, I first watched Legend when I was a kid, and it’s been one of my favorite fantasy films ever since. However, despite decades of fandom, I only noticed the connection between Darkness and Jesus in the last few years. It had simply never dawned on me before, but on one of my recent rewatches, this third parallel jumped out at me and made me realize just how similar those two figures really are.

See, the Lord of Darkness isn’t actually the chief antagonist in this world. Rather, the ultimate villain is Darkness’ father, a mysterious character who seems to exist in some other plane or dimension. He never appears on screen, but there is a scene where we hear him speak. At one point in the movie, Darkness becomes infatuated with a young woman named Lili, but he doesn’t know what to do about his feelings. He asks his father for advice, and he gets a response in the form of a disembodied voice.

To most film fans, this relationship probably calls to mind the dynamic between Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine in the original Star Wars trilogy, but there’s a clear difference here too. Palpatine isn’t Vader’s father, so it seems that this relationship is modeled on the New Testament as well. In Christian teaching, Jesus is the Son of God, and he too has a father who never appears visibly. However, just like Darkness, Jesus does talk to his father. He prays numerous times throughout the Gospels, and there are even a few passages where God the Father speaks to him as well (for example, Luke 3:22).

Darkness crying out in pain

What’s more, there’s also a line in Legend that clearly calls to mind one of Jesus’ most famous prayers. At the end of the movie, right before Darkness is about to be banished into a black void, he cries out, “Father, protect me,” and if you know anything about the New Testament, that line might sound a bit familiar. Right after Jesus is crucified, he calls out, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), and I don’t think the resemblance between these two utterances is a coincidence.

They’re both prayers spoken to these figures’ respective fathers as they’re about to die, and like the light/darkness contrast, they’re also exact opposites. Darkness selfishly cries out for his father to save him from the people who are trying to kill him and end his reign of terror, but Jesus selflessly asks his father to save the people who are unjustly murdering him. It’s a stark but clever contrast, and it shows once again that the Lord of Darkness in Legend truly is an anti-Christ.

A Blood Sacrifice

Last but not least, we come to the element of sacrifice. As most people are aware, Jesus was crucified by the Roman authorities who controlled Palestine at that time, and we Christians believe that he offered up his death as a sacrifice to God to atone for the world’s sins and ultimately usher in the never-ending light the book of Revelation talks about.

In Legend, Darkness’ plan to stamp out the light also requires a sacrifice, but unsurprisingly, the dark lord doesn’t intend to offer up his own life. Instead, he has to eliminate the two unicorns that inhabit his world, and after his minions kill one of these majestic creatures and capture the other one, he decides to end the dominion of daylight in style. He stages an elaborate ceremony to murder the sole-surviving unicorn, and during the ceremony, he even calls the creature’s death a “sacrifice” offered to his father.

The Lord of Darkness smirking

So once again, it’s hard to deny that the Lord of Darkness really is an anti-Christ figure. Just like Jesus, he too has to offer a sacrifice to his father to achieve his goal, and these two oblations are mirror images of each other. Jesus offers his own life to rescue the human race from sin and death, but Darkness sacrifices the life of another to damn humanity (and every other living creature) to an eternity of night.

An Anti-Christ

To be fair, none of those similarities are persuasive by themselves. Any one (or even two) of them could just be a coincidence, so if we simply consider them in isolation, we might not be convinced. To see the real force of my case here, we have to take all of these parallels together, and when we do that, it becomes pretty compelling.

It’s tough to imagine that all of these points of contact between Legend and the Bible are mere happenstance, so we have no choice but to conclude that the Lord of Darkness is in fact modeled on Jesus Christ, at least in part. More specifically, he’s an anti-Christ figure, a perversion of everything Jesus stands for. He mirrors Jesus’ identity, actions, and goals in a dark way, and when we understand the character against that backdrop, his evil nature shines through all the more.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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