|Author||L. J. Smith|
|Published on|| 1994 (first published) |
2010 (republished as omnibus edition)
|Published by|| Pocket Books (1994 edition) |
Simon Pulse (2010 edition)
The Hunter is the first book in The Forbidden Game trilogy, written by the author L. J. Smith. Originally published in 1994, it introduces the character of Jenny Thornton, a teenager girl loved and pursued by Julian, a supernatural, ancient and malevolent entity who attempts to use manipulation and a series of life-threatening games to make Jenny his bride forever. Hoping to save herself and her friends, particularly her boyfriend Tom, Jenny battles Julian in order to secure their freedom and safety, as well as her own.
"He sold her the Game, and Jenny Thornton walked out mesmerized by Julian, the gorgeous cyber-punk with electric blue eyes and frost-white hair. When she and her friends open the plain white box at her boyfriend Tom's birthday party, she chills to the warning: 'Entering the Shadow World can be deadly. Do so at your own risk.' Spellbound, they piece together the cardboard Victorian house and decorate the rooms with their darkest nightmares. Suddenly the game is real'! They're in the house of horrors, running from the Shadow Man - Julian himself, who forces them to confront their worst nightmares or be lost in a private hell. It's Julian's game, and Jenny is the prize he's stalked for years. He'll do anything to win her as she bargains desperately for her body - and soul . . .".
Due to several last minute emergencies and a cold-snap preventing a pool party she had originally planned, the seventeen year old Jenny Thornton, described as a lovely girl with golden, "honey" colored hair and green eyes, is seeking to purchase a game for her boyfriend, Tom Locke's, birthday. Due to her desire for secrecy so that her friends will not be aware of her problem, she seeks the game in an unsavory part of town. Sure enough, Jenny is soon being followed by two unknown young men (P.C. and Slug, though they are unnamed until the second book). Luckily, she is able to locate a partially hidden game store in a mural-decorated wall and hides inside. Appropriately, the store is called "More Games".
However, despite it operating as a temporary haven, Jenny is disturbed by the interior of the store, noting that even the angle of sunlight coming through a window is wrong, and that many of the games present are both antique and greatly unusual. Here, she is met by the then-unnamed Julian, whose striking and strange beauty startles Jenny. When questioned, Julian begins showing her several ancient games, including a Tibetan one of tigers stalking goats, but Jenny declines; unnerved by Julian, she seeks to leave, but the boy entices her with his words and soon withdraws a blank "glossy" box, stating that this is what Jenny is seeking.
Jenny reacts with doubt, yet the box itself is mysteriously tempting. Julian, having second thoughts about selling her the game, asks her reasons for purchasing it. Angered, Jenny launches into a defense of her boyfriend, whom she loves, yet even before she finished Julian allows her to have the game. Entranced by the box, Jenny buys it and departs. As she leaves, in response to Jenny's "See you later", Julian ominously states "At nine".
Once outside, however, Jenny is still followed by Slug and P.C. Frightened, she attempts to throw the box at them, but the pair of them are mysteriously terrified of the game and flee, saving Jenny.
Upon returning home with the game, Jenny is surprised and grateful to discover that her two best friends, Deidre "Dee" Eliade and Audrey Myers, have realized her crisis and come to help with the party. One after another, the other guests arrive: Audrey's boyfriend Michael Cohen, Jenny's cousin Zach Taylor, and another friend, Summer Parker-Pearson. Tom is the last to arrive; Jenny attempts to talk to him about the game, but Tom carelessly brushes off her concerns. Audrey also observes to Jenny that Tom might be getting too comfortable with her and mildly taking advantage, although Jenny chooses to ignore this.
Against Jenny's better judgment, at the party she, Tom and their friends open and assemble the game, which resembles a small haunted house. The objective of the game is to have the paper doll pieces representing each player get to a turret at the top of the miniature structure. However, the main obstacle to the players will be nightmares: each must face their worst personal nightmare in order to progress. There are also the added danger of the Creeper (an enormous snake), the Lurker (a large wolf) and the Shadow Man, an entity akin to the Sandman, who brings nightmares rather than dreams and sleep. With mounting horror, Jenny notices that the piece for the Shadow Man is a perfect image of Julian.
In spite of her misgivings, as Tom and the others insist on playing, Jenny acquiesces, though she experiences brief moments of unspoken anger with her boyfriend and, when required to draw out her worst nightmare, Jenny leaves the paper given to her blank, as she herself has a recurring nightmare that she truly would rather forget, since it was based on something real that occurred when she was a child.
After swearing a required oath that they all believe the game to be real, and that they can be harmed and die from it, Jenny and the others begin, but the messages on the games playing cards quickly become more and more disturbing until, at nine (as noted by Jenny), the group is knocked unconscious by a powerful, unearthly wind.
The group awakens later inside the parlor of the miniature house, which has now become real. Once the teens regroup, Julian appears and introduces himself, explaining that the game has now come to life and, as they had made the oath, they must now try reaching the turret by dawn to escape the house and Julian himself, who will keep them if they do not escape in time. When questioned about the point of the game, Julian only looks toward Jenny, commenting that every game has a prize. Correctly interpreting Julian's intent, Tom furiously launches himself at the other boy, only to be stopped short as Julian unleashes unseen rats on him, Tom's own personal nightmare. As his hysteria mounts and Jenny tries to help him, Tom and the others vanish, leaving Jenny alone with Julian.
Julian confesses his love for Jenny, and informs her that she is the "main player" of the game; it is up to her to lead her friends through their nightmares and out of the game by dawn, and the game itself is a sporting chance for Jenny to get away from Julian. Tom is additionally being held at the top of the house, under Julian's "special attention". He offers her the chance to surrender before the game even fully begins but, upon his assurance that he will be the winner, Jenny refuses his propositions. Julian then informs Jenny that one of her friends may not survive the game, but to mitigate this, he gives her a riddle to solve. If she can give him the answer, he will allow one of her friends to live. So saying, he points out a chiming, unseen clock for Jenny to keep time with, and vanishes.
Jenny tries to find another way out of the house but, upon looking out a window, she sees "a landscape of elemental terror"; an icy yet hellish landscape with unspeakable forms and figures. Reeling back, Jenny then proceeds to make her way through the house.
She first encounters Dee, attempting to shut a door in which Dee claims is a monster. The two managed to close it, and suddenly discover a new door in the hall, which they proceed to open. It leads into a replica of Dee's bedroom; the door vanishes once they enter yet, as the two attempt to gather themselves and Jenny tries to question what Dee's nightmare was, they are dazzled by brilliant white light shining through the window, whichrenders them unconscious.
Upon awakening, Jenny and Dee find themselves aboard a spaceship, surrounded by small, unnatural-looking aliens, who use special lights to paralyze them while the aliens subject them to examination. The aliens use instruments on the girls while they are immobilized, most of which are hurtful. Jenny soon begins to realize that the lights paralyzing them will brighten and dim depending on movement, and when one light is brighter over Dee, the light over Jenny is significantly dimmer.
As the aliens attempt to inject Dee's abdomen with an enormous syringe, Jenny begins trying to move off of her examination table to distract and stop the aliens, even though she knows if she tumbles off she might break her nose or arm, having no control over her limbs. Julian then appears in the dream as a blue-eyed alien who prevents Jenny from falling off of the table, though he does not speak to her. Surprised by Jenny's distraction, the aliens leave the girls be and attempt to give Jenny and Dee a sedative, but both spit it out as the aliens depart the room. With the lights now much dimmer, using what movement they can, both girls manages to fall off their tables and get away from the lights, which restores their full movement. They escape the nightmare by leaping out the spacecraft from an airplane door, the only door that appears. The pair end up in the hallway again as the door to Dee's nightmare shuts behind them, both girls deducing that once inside a nightmare they must locate a door to escape it.
They proceed on, Dee and Jenny splitting up to locate other doors, the two realizing that aspects of the house, such as the hall's creepy decor and the airplane door were influenced by their subconscious fears and memories. In the hallway by herself, Jenny encounters Julian, who, ignoring Jenny's questions about his presence in Dee's nightmare, manages to convince Jenny to let him touch her hair. He nearly steers her into kissing him, but she resists Julian's attempt at the last second, telling him to stop; he complies, reaffirming his love for her. When asked why he cannot simply just abduct her, Julian has no response, leading Jenny to realize that Julian cannot do so without her consent. She brazenly gloats over this fact, but Julian quickly reminds her that now, as they are in his world, he can do as he wishes to any of them at any time, even kill them. He again disappears, leaving Jenny stunned by her mistake.
She and Dee then locate Audrey and proceed through another door, which leads into a nocturnal forest; before entering Audrey speculates that Julian might be Nordic. The auburn haired girl quickly recognizes the woods they have entered as the legendary Black Forest of Germany, where many of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales took place. In a clearing, the three girls find a party of young men around a fire; when discovered, the youths welcome them and offer them refreshments, awed by Dee's dark skin and Jenny's hair; Audrey notes that the boys compare Jenny to the lovely Norse goddess Sif. However, translating their Germanic speech, to her horror Audrey realizes that they are going to be offered as sacrifices to the dokkalfar - the subterranean dark elves of Norse myth. The girls are then forced down a hole in the ground, where they are found by the grotesquely beautiful and partially deformed elves, whom they deduce is bringing them to their ruler, the legendary Erlking, a spirit of the forest who kidnaps young women and children, especially as the race of elves is entirely male. While moving, Jenny finally solves Julian's riddle: the answer is a kiss. Relieved, Jenny decides to use the answer to save Tom.
Audrey and Dee are separated from Jenny, the latter of whom is taken before the Erlking - who turns out to be Julian, now dressed in beautiful white leather and sapphires. Jenny confronts him about the riddle, telling him the answer, but Julian points out that she must actually give him the answer to save one of her comrades, which infuriates Jenny. As an apology, he offers her a rose perfectly crafted from silver, which Jenny accepts, absently brushing it against her face. He tells her the reason she's been able to go into dangerous areas alone or hold stray animals without harm is due to his protection over the years, startling Jenny, who cannot fathom that he had been watching over her for that long. However, as he takes her hand and touches her cheek, Jenny realizes that Julian can touch any part of her that has touched something from him, such as the silver rose. Angered at the deception, Jenny tries to break away from him. After Julian vows to have her regardless of what he has to subject her to, Jenny hears Audrey screaming and, promising never to give in to Julian or his trickery, she rushes away to her friends, dropping the rose.
Jenny finds her way to Audrey and Dee, who are being attacked by draugar - mythic undead monsters akin to zombies. Dee remains behind to fight them back as the door appears, allowing Jenny and the hysterical Audrey to escape the nightmare. Both Audrey and Jenny, after some moments, begin weeping, believing their third friend dead, but soon after Dee rushes through the door, gleeful after being able to fight at last. The two girls, Dee and Audrey, briefly reconcile, and the trio continues on their way as the unseen clock chimes midnight. Jenny briefly falters, thinking of accepting Julian's proposal to spare her friends, but Dee and Audrey vehemently discourage the idea. Audrey additionally tells the others of the nine worlds in Norse Mythology, and her thought that Julian might be a resident of one of those worlds, particularly Niflheim, the world of ice, connected to the Nordic underworld of Hel. Creatures of Niflheim are destructive, and are bound by a rune to prevent escape from their world into the other eight.
After comforting Audrey, the girls find Michael, who claims that he has been pacing in front of a door in the hall until they arrived. Opening the door, the group finds a replica of the hallway they are in, but once they go through, despite Dee's efforts, the door closes and locks behind them. When nothing happens, for a while Michael chats with the girls, and the others reply to Jenny's query of why Julian wants her: they tell Jenny that it is because of her sweet, kind and good nature. Adding to the theories of what Julian might be, Michael believes the young man to be a demon.
However, as time passes, they all begin to experience itching, and Jenny discovers a green growth on her arm. All of them now notice that they each have growth, and that every growth is some kind of plant; Michael is worse off with his skin growing several plant leaves at once. He goes into a brief hysteria, insisting that they be pulled out, but the plant is fused to Michael's skin with roots, and pulling on them causes him to bleed.
Dee is forced to place Michael into a choke hold as his hysteria grows, but he is calmed by Audrey, who admonishes, and then kisses him. Once soothed, Michael realizes that they can use the candles in the hallway to set fire to the plants growing on them; he asks Dee to get the candle for him, as by now he has literally become rooted to the spot. This tactic works, fully destroying all of the plants when they are burned at the roots, Audrey comforting Michael as the fire burns the plants away. By clearing away Michael's skin, the others are released of their own plant growths.
The door of the hallway opens, allowing them out, where they find the illustration of Michael's worst nightmare, but with one difference: Michael's drawing of himself growing plant parts shows him without a head. He explains how his nightmare had been inspired by a story he'd read in third grade, of a girl so filthy plants were growing on her, but Jenny calls Michael brave for dealing with his fears. As they exit, an escalator appears, taken from Michael's mind and fear of escalators, allowing them to go higher up into the house.
The quartet enters a mirror-filled hallway, locating a mirrored door with a bright blue light, and finding Summer nearby it. Summer attempts to tell them her nightmare directly, "a messy room", but the others do not believe her until actually entering the door and seeing an actual messy room. They begin trying to clean their way through, tossing items into a closet in order to locate the door. However, as they progress, the mess becomes more and more unsanitary and disgusting, filled with objects more likely found in "a dump" rather than anyone's room, including dead animals, decomposing food and maggots.
Summer reveals more of her nightmare to the group, which terrifies them into moving through the garbage more rapidly to find the door and get out. Eventually, in correspondence with Summer's description, oversized insects, including cockroaches the size of human feet, begin emerging into the room. Frantically, the group digs through the trash until finally locating the door, though it is barred by the garbage pile. Soon, earthquake tremors begin causing the room to quake and buckle. Jenny and the others clear the way to the door, but Summer is trapped when an enormous, mutated column of fungus emerges before the girl and begins howling. Terrified and despite Jenny's screams for her to come with them, Summer flees back into the room, followed by the army of mutated bugs and fungi. Jenny tries to go back in to save her, but the room quickly collapses, caving in on itself, and Dee is forced to drag Jenny out with the others. Unlike Audrey's nightmare when Dee was still inside, this time the door fades completely, leading the others to believe in horror that Summer is now dead. The revelation causes Jenny to go into shock, numb over being unable to protect Summer.
Dee, Audrey and Michael go to find something for Jenny to comfort her and bring her out of her shock. However, while the others are gone, Jenny finds another mirrored door and enters, finding Zach inside a replica of his garage studio. She tries to warn Zach about the nightmare, but he fails to heed her. Emotionally distraught, Jenny then seeks comfort from her cousin, but she is suddenly unnerved by Zach's subtly romantic actions towards her. Against Jenny's better instincts, the two passionately kiss, though she ultimately realizes that the boy with her is not Zach, but Julian, disguised as her cousin and imitating him perfectly as part of a ruse to finally touch and kiss her.
Despite her initial shock, Jenny quickly remembers Summer's death and furiously rejects Julian, though he defends Summer's end by reminding Jenny that, like the others, she had agreed to the terms of the game. He insists that life is unfair and cruel, and only the strong can survive and dictated the rules. Although she acknowledges the truth of this, and that she might die as Summer had, Jenny will not give in. When Jenny insists that she has now grown to hate him, the angered Julian unleashes a swarm of bees on her, something Jenny greatly fears, to force her to surrender to him. The swarm lands on her body and weighs her down to the point of causing Jenny to collapse, which would trigger a mass stinging. Despite her fear, Jenny still refuses to say yes to Julian and, when she does fall, he and the bees vanish, leaving her unharmed.
Awakening inside the false garage, Jenny finds another door within, situated on a paper backdrop. Entering, she finds herself in a dark, futuristic room resembling space, with colored lamps and some of Zach's artwork throughout. She locates Zach beneath a blue lamp, all the while noticing the other lamps keep blinking, but Zach assumes the game is all a delusion of his, thinking he has gone mad. Jenny fortunately manages to convince him that the game is real, prompting Zach to move as an unseen figure begins to fire crossbow bolts at them.
Upon taking shelter behind a wall, Jenny and Zach finally see the figure: a cyber-punk inspired, helmet-wearing futuristic hunter. The two flee back to the door as the Cyber Hunter shatters the lamps one by one. The Hunter manages to corner them as they discover the door has vanished, prompting Jenny to realize that Zach must actually see the Cyber Hunter's face to escape the nightmare. Fearfully, learning of Summer's death, Zach does so, but sees nothing beneath the mask, which in turn causes the armored figure to collapse to the floor, a completely empty shell. They leave, but Zach insists on keeping the rock he had found by the blue lamp, and when asked will not reveal the reason behind his particular nightmare and fear of being insane.
Jenny's Nightmare and Julian's OriginsEdit
Zach compares the mirrored hall to a funhouse he and Jenny once visited as children, prompting her to realize the hall is taken from Zach's subconscious; she also recalls the encounter with the fake Zach in the garage, and is unnerved, trying to actively forget her feelings then. They decide to seek the others, Zach and Jenny using crayons to mark their way as they separate. However, Jenny soon comes to a dead end, with a blank scrap of paper nearby. She deduces that this is where her nightmare has to be; Julian, dressed as the Cyber Hunter, confirms this when he appears, insisting that unless she experiences her nightmare, the group cannot progress. He also states that he's been watching her every single day of her life since she was a child, which again startles her, as she now knows he means it. Julian adds that her appearance doesn't matter, as he loves her, and asks if she hadn't really known he'd always been there. Jenny tries to deny it, but remembers shapes in the darkness over the years, and a constant feeling of being watched. However, she has discovered new strength to resist him, and defying his offered help, draws her nightmare as she can remember it, which causes a door to appear for her. Entering, she finds herself inside her grandfather's basement, where she witnesses a phantom of her five year old self also entering and looking around the room. The younger Jenny seeks her grandfather, and wanders around the basement, where she knows she's not allowed to go. Jenny continues watching the younger image, realizing if she doesn't try to force it, she will remember what really happened that day. With the younger Jenny, the elder reads the books on her grandfather's shelves, noticing they are spellbooks and esoteric lore, as well as seeing objects of protection all over the room. However, seeing runes written down by her grandfather, Jenny comes to the horrified realization that he had in fact been a "sorcerer". Jenny reels from the information, but, remember all her friends had gone through, she gathers herself and prepares to face the worst of her nightmare.
Faced with this new knowledge, Jenny steers herself to a previously concealed closet door behind a bookcase, a dark "rust" colored mark, the rune Nauthiz carved into it, the rune of confinement. The phantom Jenny is standing before it, debating whether or not to open it, yet as she reaches for it, the image vanishes. Jenny herself completes the action, opening the door. Inside are only "ice and shadows", in which menacing eyes are interspersed. She recognizes one pair of the malevolent irids as being "an indescribably beautiful blue", as the eyes begin to leave the closet and come towards her: the Shadow Men and Julian's brethren.
At this moment, Jenny's grandfather appears and tries to order the Shadow Men back into the closet, but to no avail. The Shadow Men speak to him, insisting that they now have a "claim" to Jenny by her releasing them, and they demand the child as their due payment. When her grandfather refuses, they tell him they will "take" her, although the blue-eyed Shadow Man, implied to be Julian, protests, instead wanting to "keep her", as he wants her for himself, though the other Shadow Men don't understand his meaning. When her grandfather still resists, the Shadow Men propose someone take Jenny's place as their tribute; again, Julian protests, insisting on having her as his own. After a moment, her grandfather agrees to go with them in her place. This prompts Jenny to run after him, trying to hold him back from being dragged into the closet, but she fails, and he is taken as the Shadow Men vanish. Jenny loses consciousness.
"All I Refuse and Thee I Chuse"Edit
Jenny awakens, numb, in a puddle of water as Dee, Zach, Audrey and Michael arrive. They try to comfort Jenny, and Zach, correctly assuming Jenny's nightmare had to do with their grandfather, informs her that when they had found the five-year old Jenny, they had assumed her grandfather had tried to harm her, explaining the cuts and blood on her arms and legs. Horrified, Jenny defends her grandfather, and blames herself for his death at the hands of the Shadow Men. She reveals to the others that Julian and his fellows had been trapped by her grandfather in the closet, seeking to use them for his own benefit. She also has uncovered the truth of Julian's name: it is taken from the word djinn, an ancient name for genies.
The group unites under this revelation, and together climb the stairs to the door that has appeared at the top of the basement. Going through first, Jenny recognizes the turret: it is the More Games store. She sees Tom, chained to an antique clock, and looking as though he'd been tormented, though he tries to smile for Jenny. Tom reveals that his nightmare had been rats, touched by a childhood incident when his brother's pet rat had eaten Tom's pet turtle. She then notices in terror bloody marks and bruises, acquired when Tom, seeing Jenny in danger throughout the game via a mirror provided by Julian, had tried to struggle free from the shackles.
However, when they finally notice the door leading to freedom, they find it blocked by the Creeper and Lurker. Julian also appears, revealing that they have in fact been playing the Tibetan tigers and goats game all along, and while he states that the door is there, in a last move against them, he has no intention of letting the group get to the door. Dee attempts to fight back, but Julian is too quick, easily overpowering her. Faced with no other option, Jenny finally agrees to remain with Julian permanently, so long as he allows the others to leave.
Disbelieving, Julian dismisses her claim, but, startled by her willingness, slowly becomes drawn to Jenny's words. He at first allows everyone but Tom to leave, intending to keep him as a "hostage", but Jenny acts nonchalant, stating it does not matter to her if Tom remains or not, though she tells Julian it isn't necessary. To his shock, she points out that maybe he hadn't needed to go through all of this pretense and trickery, possibly even just coming to her directly and simply asking; this approach had never even entered Julian's mind. Appealing to his pride, Jenny convinces Julian to believe her, and he offers to conduct a promise ceremony, similar to marriage, which will bind Jenny to him forever.
Charmed, but still hesitant, Julian gives her a ring, inscribed with the words "All I refuse and thee I chuse", a special posey ring which binds the wearer permanently when coupled with a specific vow and a kiss. Jenny agrees and speaks the vow, kissing Julian to seal it in spite of the pain of her friends and the outrage of Zach, who tries to attack Julian and is repelled by an unseen barrier. Julian is still astonished that Jenny would want to stay, although he is overjoyed with her decision, convinced of her affection and commenting that she has changed before the two depart, going to her grandfather's basement below after he orders the Creeper and Lurker to leave, warning the group to go quickly before the door shuts.
Julian and Jenny sit together on the couch, Julian tentatively asking if she is afraid and confirming that he is the youngest of the Shadow Men. However, his vulnerability quickly changes to anger at Tom, whom he resents for taking advantage of Jenny's innocence and good will. However, Jenny is amused, believing Julian is jealous, though he responds that even so nobody can take her from him now, vowing to protect her. As the clock strikes six, Jenny breaks away from him and asks about her nightmare; Julian reveals that her fear had been remembering opening the closet, and that once she had the exit of the nightmare had appeared. Following her into the closet, he also tells Jenny that her grandfather had imprisoned them for his own wants, "power, knowledge - the easy way. A free ride". She apologizes for her grandfather and kisses Julian. However, as they part, Jenny quickly leaps from the closet and slams the door, shouting out the name of the rune Nauthiz, leaving Julian trapped inside the closet once again
Jenny races back to the turret and spurs everyone into leaving, Tom having to shove the shocked Zach through the door. Everyone dives through, Jenny and Tom going last, holding hands. The group loses consciousness, awakening again as morning dawns over Jenny's home. Although they initially want to believe it was all a dream, they quickly dismiss the idea when they realize Summer is not with them, and that the playing piece dolls and nightmare papers are missing. In addition, dispelling all doubts, Jenny still has the promise ring on her hand.
Jenny then crushes the paper house into the game box as the others quietly rejoice in their freedom, additionally placing the ring and the dolls of Julian, the Creeper and Lurker inside as well, duct-taping the box shut. Dee then proceeds to call the police about Summer's disappearance, although Jenny insists that they tell the truth about it.
Tom then shows Jenny his true nightmare, having saved the paper: losing Jenny herself. He declares his love for her, but as Jenny also tells him she loves him, the pair who had followed her outside the More Games store, Slug and P.C., break in and steal the game from them. However, Jenny is not disturbed by the loss, assuming the game was completely designed to trap her and convinced it would work for no other. Besides, Jenny reasons that they would have barely any chance of entering the ruined house, then finding and releasing Julian from the closet. Tom confirms Jenny's thought and embraces her.
The book ends as Slug and P.C., also enticed by the game to the point of following Jenny home to get it, open the box and begin to play.
Notes and TriviaEdit
- Runes were part of a magical Scandinavian alphabet, the Elder Futhark, with each letter representing a force of nature or magic. Some letters of Germanic and English language are derived from these (examples being Berkana, which is shaped like an angular "B", and Fehu, which resembles the letter "F"). They were often used in spellcasting as well as to cast curses or create magical protective wards. Blood was often used to activate the latent power of the runes carved. The rune used to bring Julian's game to life is the rune Uruz, which represents power and raw strength.
- Julian references the Greek myth of Persephone to demonstrate his being lenient in letting Jenny fight for her freedom rather than just making her his personal beloved. In the myth, Persephone is a young goddess and the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the harvests. A beautiful girl, she is wooed by many gods, but Demeter, to protect her daughter, hides her away. Unfortunately, Persephone's uncle Hades, the god of the underworld, sees her and falls in love. He asks Zeus, the king of the gods, for advice, but Zeus only tells Hades to kidnap Persephone and force her to be his wife. Hades follows this counsel and lures Persephone to a clearing, where he emerges from the earth and grabs her, dragging her to his kingdom and forcing her to marry him. For nine days, Persephone, traumatized by the event, refuses to eat, wanting to go home. Additionally, on Earth, when Demeter learns of what happened, she causes a worldwide famine, determined to let the world starve until she gets her daughter back; the first winter. Zeus, regretting his actions, sends for Persephone to be returned, but Hades forces Persephone to eat a pomegranate before she goes, since anyone who eats the food of the Underworld is doomed to stay. Learning this, Zeus rules that Persephone will spend half the year with her new husband, and half with her mother; this is the origin of the four seasons, as Persephone spends the fall and winter with Hades, and spring and summer with Demeter.
- The Black Forest, which is Audrey's personal fear, is an actual place in Germany, and, as Audrey states, was the inspiration for many of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.
- In Norse myth, there were two types of elves: the light elves (Ljosalfar) and dark elves (Dokkalfar or Svartalfar). Each had their own type of world (Alfheimr and Svartalfheimr, respectively), and were known for crafting wondrous magical objects for gods and heroes. They could also be bribed with sacrifices, human or animal, to obtain their favor, which is that the young men had intended to do with Jenny, Audrey and Dee.
- In Germanic legend, the Erlking, or Erlkönig (Elf King) is a spirit of the woods, who is notorious for taking the souls of human beings wandering the forest, particularly the souls of children. The Erlking is also a possible allegory for sudden death. This figure is known famously in the eponymous Goethe poem and the subsequent composition by Shubert, in which a father races through the woods on horseback to protect his son from the creature. However, just as the father clears the woods, he looks down and realizes that his son is now dead, his soul taken by the Erlking.
- The book Michael refers to that inspired his particular nightmare in The Hunter is in fact the children's book Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, written by Betty McDonald. Within is a chapter known as "The Radish Cure", depicting a little girl who, refusing to bathe, is subjected to a "cure" in which Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle tells the girl's parents to plant radishes on their daughter's filthy skin to spur her into wanting a bath.
- Near the end of The Hunter, Julian refers to himself as "Loki". This might actually be true, judging from Julian's possible status as a Nordic jotun or hrimthurs (frost giant), as the mythical Loki was in fact a giant. The Creeper and the Lurker might also be a reference to Loki's monstrous children: the Jormungander (World Serpent) and Fenrir the wolf respectively.
- Interestingly, Jenny is at one point compared to the Norse goddess of crops, Sif, the wife of the god Thor, who was known for having beautiful hair made of solid gold. She acquired her unusual hair due to the god Loki, who, on impulse, had once cut off all of Sif's real hair as she slept. Amusingly, Julian mentions that he is actually Loki.
- The rune Nauthiz is said to represent containment in the book. This is fitting, as another interpretation for the rune traditionally is Need, or being constrained by something necessary.