Hannibal the television series focuses on the relationship between a psychopath and the investigator he was originally supposed to help. He is a cannibal and a killer. In the third season of the show, he ends up on the run from the authorities he used to be helping. Hannibal is sinister, but he was created based on a real human being.
Hannibal Lector was first introduced to the world by Thomas Harris in his 1981 book Red Dragon. Famous Authors notes that Harris’s experience as a crime reporter gave him insight to criminal minds and how the investigation process works. They claim that the author’s love of research contributed to his second book taking years to complete. Harris created the fictional character, Lecter, which would lead to three other books, five films, and the television series.
Lecter is a talented psychiatrist who begins his journey tasked to help FBI agents deal with their own emotional issues while tracking down a serial killer. Unbeknownst to them, the doctor is actually a psychopath himself. He is a cannibal, killing and eating his victims. Throughout the book series, Lecter eventually gets caught and ends up helping investigators on other cases.
An article in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin details how psychopaths can have an extremely high sense of self and a charm that, on first meeting them, can seem very appealing. Most people are drawn to this person in the beginning. The authors claim that psychopaths generally get their satisfaction from preying on people’s perceived weaknesses and making them suffer. They note there is scientific proof that psychopaths do not experience normal human emotions such as guilt or empathy.
Harris’ experiences as a crime reporter gave him more than just story lines for his work according to The Daily Mail. This work gave him the title character that would change the course of his career forever. The newspaper recounts how as a young journalist Harris worked at a prison in Monterrey, Mexico. He was interviewing a murderous mental patient.
The report that while working on this case Harris sought out a doctor who treated his prisoner for a wound. Thus, Harris was introduced to Alfredo Balli Trevino, the real sinister human Hannibal is based on. According to The Daily Mail, Balli Trevino was a prisoner himself at the time.
They explain that Balli Trevino killed his lover in a crime of passion. However, the article notes that the doctor then cut the body into tiny pieces and buried it so that it would not be found. Furthermore, The Daily Mail tells how after Harris’ interviews with the guards he learned about the evilness of Balli Trevino and how he disfigured his prison patients.
Harris’ comments on the doctor’s demeanor are also relayed in The Daily Mail article. This helped influence Harris when creating Lecter. Harris explains the importance of having a character that understood how other criminal minds work. This aspect of the character, to Harris, would be most beneficial in The Silence of the Lambs.
Thanks to Harris the character Lecter has been around for over 30 years. According to The Guardian, the books and movies featuring the character have made Harris millions of dollars. This indicates to some scholars that audiences are attracted to this darkness. In the same article, a friend of Harris’ comments on how it must feel to live with the dark thoughts of a character or story constantly on your mind.
Hannibal is currently in its third season and airs on NBC Thursdays at 10:00 PM Eastern Time. The theme of Hannibal is Harris’s creation based on a real-life sinister human being.
By Megan Hellmann
Famous Authors-Thomas Harris
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin-The Corporate Psychopath
The Daily Mail-Revealed: The Mexican Doctor Who Chopped Up His Gay Lover and was the Inspiration for Fictional Cannibal Hannibal Lecter
The Guardian- Creator of a Monstrous Hit
Photo Courtesy of Mandy Jansen’s Flickr Page- Creative Commons License
Photo Courtesy of Tabercil’s Flickr Page- Creative Commons License