The Beast and His Blakean Precursor

I just want to introduce to you what I believe to be the father of the Beast, as it is depicted on the cover of The Number of the Beast (1980) and the single “Run to the Hills” (1980) for example. I believe that it is William Blake’s “Red Dragon” (yes, the paintings devoted to this character inspired Thomas Harris’ eponymous novel (1981), its filmic adaptations Manhunter (1986) and Red Dragon (2002), and the spin-off series Hannibal – featuring a serial killer who takes his “inspiration” from Blake). Well, in the first case the Beast does not have the leathery wings, but he still has the strong muscular red body. In the second, however, the wings appear as thin blue lines which remind of electricity. Whereas the early version has flounders instead of the horns of Blake’s painting, this has been corrected for the new version as used as logo for the current tour. (Although the new version has been turned green – in the game it is even black and white; on stage it is grey. The Beast seems to be a chameleon of sorts).

Just like the Beast, the “Great Red Dragon” stems from the Biblical chapter “Book of Revelation” (and on one painting we see the Beast’s brother whom I have mentioned here). One of the paintings is named “The Number of the Beast is 666.” This would be a very early Blakean reference, one much older than Dickinson’s The Chemical Wedding (1998), but this does not look like a coincidence to me. Now I can never unsee that the Beast looks like a comic-like version of the “Great Red Dragon.”

To see the family resemblance click here (and tell me what you think of it).


  • Cover of Iron Maiden, The Number of the Beast, EMI, 1982.
  • Cover of Iron Maiden, “Run to the Hills,” EMI, 1982.
  • The William Blake Archive. (2017) [07/21/19]
  • Harris, Thomas, Red Dragon, Berkley, 2009.
  • Manhunter, Mann, Michael (dir.), De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, 1986.
  • Red Dragon, Rattner, Bred (dir.), Universal Pictures et. al., 2002.
  • Hannibal, Fuller, Brian (dev.), De Laurentiis Company et. al., 2013-2015.
  • “Legacy of the Beast Tour.” Wikipedia. (07/13/19) [07/21/19]
  • Dickinson, Bruce, The Chemical Wedding, Sanctuary, 1998.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s