The supernatural creature known as the ifrit* (عفريت) arises out of the rich tapestry of Middle Eastern lore and history. An ifrit is a type of infernal Jinn. The Ifrit is able to generate fire, and withstand smoke and flames.
Traditionally an Ifrit had wings, but more recent incarnations are known for their horns and claws. The Ifrit is known to be formidable and cunning, making it a dangerous enemy.
The Ifrit is best known for its connection to elemental fire. It is able to create and manipulate fire, transform into a flaming being, and absorb fire. The Ifrit is also known to have shapeshifting and teleportation abilities. It has enhanced strength and speed. Ordinary weapons have no effect on the Ifrit, but magic can be used to kill, capture, and enslave one.
In Islamic tradition, humans were created from clay and angels made of light, while the jinn were borne of smokeless flame. Like humans and other jinn, Ifrit have free will. As with jinn, an Ifrit could have a good or evil nature, but they’re often known to be malevolent creatures.
The Ifrit lives underground and may haunt ruins. In traditional Middle Eastern culture, Ifrits developed a structured society comprising tribes and clans led by a king. In modern cultures, an Ifrit is often born among human communities, where their connection to fire and their independent personalities can make it difficult for them to fit in. An ifrit may be male or female. These supernatural creatures tend to intermarry, though they may also marry humans.
In some narratives, ‘Ifrit’ is used interchangeably with the terms ‘genie’ or ‘jinn,’ but in most stories the Ifrit is described as a kind of jinn with malicious intent and fire-generating powers.
In the supernatural series True Blood, an Ifrit appears in the Season 5 episode “We’ll Meet Again.” The Ifrit hunts down members of a platoon after the soldiers were cursed for massacring innocent civilians in Iraq. The Ifrit appeared out of the flames of the dead bodies the soldiers burned after the massacre.
In both role-playing and video games, Ifrit characters abound. In Dungeons & Dragons, the Efreet are powerful creatures from the Elemental Plane of Fire. An Ifrit can be called upon for magical assistance in the video game Final Fantasy. Other video games with ifrits/efreets include Devil May Cry, Kirby’s Dream Land 2, Sonic and the Secret Rings, Exile III, Heroes of Might and Magic, and Tales of Symphonia. The online game Mainogi also has an Ifrit character.
Modern books that have Ifrit characters include Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, the Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare, and the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine. In the preface to Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë comments that Heathcliff was a “child neither of the Lascar nor gipsy, but a man’s shape animated by demon life—a Ghoul—an Afreet.” In Stephen King’s novel Christine, it’s suggested that an Afreet was created when a death occurred in the car, which then came to inhabit the vehicle.
Tales of the Ifrit can be traced back many centuries. If you’re interested in learning more about the Ifrit through traditional Arabian tales, One Thousand and One Nights includes several stories about the Ifrit, including “The Tale of the Porter and the Three Young Girls” and “The Fisherman and the Jinni.”
*Ifrit is also spelled efreet, afreet, afrit, afrite, while convention Arabic spellings are, ifrit (male), ifritah (femaie), and afarit (plural).