In Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein, what's the name of Dr. Frankenstein's assistant?
And the answer: He doesn't have an assistant.
It's true: In the original novel, Dr. Frankenstein doesn't have an assistant. The hunchbacked assistant named Igor, and later Fritz, was introduced in the series of Frankenstein films in the 1930s.
Although it began from a contest to write the best ghost story, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a work forever immortalized in Western fiction. At just 18 years old, two years after running away with poet Percy B. Shelley, Mary Shelley found herself in the Swiss Alps during the "year without a summer." Following the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815, climate abnormalities struck the beautiful Lake Geneva and most other regions of the Northern Hemisphere, creating unfavorable conditions with cold weather and gloomy skies. Forced inside, it was there that Mary, Percy, and Lord Byron embarked on a seemingly-silly contest for the best ghost story of the group, and it was there that Frankenstein was born.
At first, Shelley was struck with writer's block. She couldn't seem to put her fears on the page, and rightly so – Shelley had suffered from the death of her firstborn just days before she began to write. However, an idea visited her in a dream. In the 1831 edition to Frankenstein, she wrote:
“I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life. … He sleeps; but he is awakened; he opens his eyes; behold, the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains, and looking on him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes.”
And so, Frankenstein's monster was born. Yet, upon its anonymous release two years later, critics found the story unnerving and odd. It took some convincing for publishers and the public, but as Gothic novels were all the rage, the story soon after took off. Mary Shelley soon rereleased it under her name, cementing her place in the history of science fiction and horror fiction forever.
Learn more about Frankenstein and Mary Shelley here.