Erik is the titular character in Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera. He is also the antagonist of many film adaptations of the novel, notably the 1925 film adaptation starring Lon Chaney, Sr., and Andrew Lloyd Webber's West End musical.
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 as the Red Death.
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.
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