Bob The Skull – Everything You Need To Know About Bob The Skull But Were Too Lazy To Google

 

Everything You Need To Know About Bob The Skull But Were Too Lazy To Google

bob-the-skull

If you are not familiar with the fictional character, Bob the Skull, from Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” series of best-selling books, what you are about to read will bring you up to speed on the character and teach you everything you need to know. I dare say, you’ll be able to carry on a conversation with a Dressie* and pass as one of us. If you’re already a fan of the “Dresden Files,” not only will this article be a good refresher for you to read and brush-up on your Bob knowledge base, but it will also help you ferret out folks who are trying to pass themselves off as fans, and therefore, cool.

Bob the Skull started his literary life as many of Butcher’s creations do—someone presented him with a challenge. Way back in the day when Butcher was unpublished and still working on pulling the pieces of the “Dresden Files” together, he realized he needed a means to explain the mechanics of magic to his readers without info-dumping. Debbie Chester, his writing teacher at the time, advised her student that by adding a character to specifically discuss the nature of magic with Harry was fine, but to be careful not to make this new character a “talking head” (a character whose sole purpose is to dispense information).


Jim Butcher is a snarky guy who apparently loves a good pun; Bob the Skull was born. Described as looking like a bleached human skull, Bob, when active and talking, has pale yellow lights that appear in the eye sockets. It takes a few books to get the character’s history, some of which is still a mystery, such as why Queen Mab is angry with him, but here it is in a nutshell:

Bob is a spirit of intellect bound to a human skull by Etienne the Enchanter during the Middle Ages in France; Etienne was burned at the stake during the Inquisition. At this time Bob was not called Bob, he was simply a tool used to assist wizards in the lab, like a talking book.

As a spirit of intellect he is unable to make moral differentiations between good and evil, as he simply dispenses knowledge; he has no control and little interest in how the knowledge he gives is applied or utilized by the wizard. Additionally, the spirit is unable to forget anything he has learned unless he is directly commanded to do so by his current “master.” This has proved to be as troublesome as doing so created Evil Bob.

Of particular note, the spirit of intellect tends to take on something of the personality of his current master; one may assume this is so he can be a better lab assistant, on some level inferring what his master’s needs are or where his train of thought is heading, thereby making him more able to fulfill their needs.

After having been created and utilized by Etienne, the skull’s next master was the very evil warlock and necromancer, Heinrich Kemmler. For about forty years the two pursued the dark arts, practicing what the warlock called “true magic,” the magic that controlled life and death. During this time, an era Bob prefers to forget, he had no personality; he did nothing but spew information when commanded to do so. The White Council considered Kemmler too dangerous a warlock to live and passed a death sentence upon him. According to the skull, Kemmler was killed by the Council first in 1890, then again near the end of World War Two, and again in 1961. The skull was with Kemmler for a significant period of time, during which the necromancer did a great deal to warp the spirit’s budding personality.

After the 1961 slaying of Kemmler the White council believed Bob was destroyed; in fact, the skull was taken by Warden Justin DuMorne. It was while the skull was under the control of DuMorne he was instructed to forget the work he did with Kemmler, as the knowledge could not be destroyed. The spirit trapped within the skull is knowledge, it’s literally the stuff he’s made of; telling him to forget something is no different than asking someone to chop off an arm.

After a sixteen year-old Harry killed his Uncle DuMorne, he picked up the skull as he made good his escape from the mansion. It was Harry who Named the intellect which resided inside the skull Bob; previous to this he was only ever called “spirit.”

As a lab assistant, Bob the Skull is able to assist Harry by answering questions about the nature of magic and how it works in addition to identifying items, recanting historical information, and divulging the components and processes to make magical potions. Naturally, knowledge comes with a price and although Bob is fairly good-natured under Harry’s control, he still demands something of a payment for his services. Most often Bob asks Harry for access to trashy romance novels, the smuttier the better, but on occasion, when Bob knows he has Harry over a barrel, he’ll ask for furlough—twenty-four hours of freedom outside the skull to do as he pleases. Harry has never given Bob completely free reign, but has let the spirit go on his jaunts with provisions, such as, no more orgies at the local sorority. Although he is not a complete pervert (some parts are missing, haha) he does know a great deal about women and relationships, mocking Harry when appropriate, saying “Harry, what you know about women, I could juggle.”

After Harry was almost killed, mostly dead for a while, Bob was taken by Doctor Waldo Butters who, unlike Harry, was not shy about using the spirits knowledge to improve his functionality and boost his magical ability. Although Butters is what I would consider a high functioning adult, as he is a medical examiner for the city, he is also something of an uber-nerd, not just a gamer but also a huge fan of polka music. Since his master is now Butters, Bob’s personality has shifted, but not a great deal. He is still cracking wise and making with the jokes, a trait Butters has himself, but he is more mature with how he goes about his humor. Since coming into Butter’s possession we have learned Bob is, as far as spirits go, attractive, appearing as a mortal man in the spirit realm. The interior space of the skull has been fully decked out with a lavishly set dining room table filled with a Thanksgiving feast. Butters, not being a wizard, is able to keep electric appliances in his home, thereby granting Bob access not only to Xbox and Netflix but also the internet.


Bob the Skull is the classical Jungian archetype of God. Bob the Skull, in spite of being a spirit, is the epitome of maleness and masculinity who when asked a question by Harry tells him what he needs to know and not necessarily what Harry wants to know. Bob can only offer advice; he will never give more information than was asked for and no matter what path Harry chooses to take, Bob will never judge, although he already knows Harry walks the Way of the Hero.

So, with the release of Jim Butcher’s new installment of the “Dresden Files”, “Cold Days” now available, keep all these new and useful Bob info bits at the ready. You never know when they may become useful, either in understanding the books or testing someone who claims to be a fan.

Dresden Files Artwork by Erin Allen

 

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Theresa Bane

Theresa Bane

QrT – Theresa Bane Vampirologist and one of Jim Butcher’s Asylum Inmates.
Theresa Bane
TheresaBane.net
  • Casy Dee

    Awesome! I love Bob, and the idea of how Jim Butcher has used him in the Fresden Files. Loved this bit o’ knowledge. Also doesn’t hurt that my lovely artist friend Erin’s painting is featured. 🙂

    • Casy Dee

      *Dresden

  • MaryAnne Wlody

    “Harry, what you know about women, I could juggle.” Harry may be ripe for that sort of ribbing but really, how much does Bob really know about women? How long has it been since he even had a body? I LOVE HARRY

  • Iamandur2

    I remember Evil Bob. Not Voldemort but not far off. I say give Bob his romance novels and vintage girlie magazines…as long as it keeps him on our side or at least neutral.

  • Passion4Spike

    Actually, we do know why he’s so afraid of Queen Mab, it was explained in Cold Days. But, no spoilers here…

    • Nancy A

      Yeah, he has a VERY good reason

    • Theresa Bane

      I know, but when I wrote this blog, “Cold Days” was just about to be released and I got my time-lines mixed up and mottled in my head. Good catch on your end!

  • Julie Butcher

    Love it!

  • SpikeyFan

    I would love it, if Jim Butcher would write a short story from “Bobs” perspective

  • Penny Rothkopf

    You refer to Harry’s mentor as “Uncle DuMorne.” Is there a relationship I didn’t pick up on when reading the books? I have read “Cold Days” although I am ready to do a re-read which is when I usually pick up on more subtle details and foreshadowing.

    • Uh, there are 13 novels and a collection of short stories that come before Cold Days. Try reading them – DuMorne is very much addressed. In Cold Days he was referred to when he was being beaten in the gardens.

  • A great read.I love Bob and the interaction between him and Harry is great.This is a great way to get to know a few things you may have missed as it gets very busy ,very quickly in the Dresdenverse.I ,as always,like the way you summarize large amounts of info while giving the reader the desire to research further.I hope you will tackle more of the characters who are important to the stories but who may fall by the wayside in the action.I think it would be a boon for us Dressie’s as well as those ingnorant to Harry and the ways of the Nevenever.Keep up the good work.

  • Reasb

    Hi Theresa, Great explanation of Bob. Which book or short story or TV episode explains how Bob was enchanted into his skull? I am wracking my brain and just can’t remember. Thank you so much. Reasb

  • Anna Habour

    I wonder if they will keep Bob in his skull when they make Dresden into a movie or if they will do what they did on the television show. The actor who played Bob was really good but there is just something abiout a disembodied air spirit of intellect who has a dirty mind but no corporeal means of satisfying his lechery that is awful funny.

  • wynotme307

    Bologna. Maybe I missed something, but….
    Even before ‘the dresden files’, as I recall, and there maybe one of his books later, there is a book describing that Harry Dresden was a college student. Just before summer vacation, he receives a visit from a guy complete ing his execution of a will. Harry has inherited a castle and magic kingdom in Pennsylvania. He goes to explore it, and finds Bob on the mantle of the fireplace. Bob teaches Harry the wizardry.
    I heard this book read by Marsten on XM Radio, audible Channel, many years ago, but I don’t recall the name.
    I have googled it ten ways of Sunday, and it can not be found. It was the ok before when he first encounters Mab, it is the book where he lawned of the White and Red forces (?), and the conflicts.
    Further, every hero has aside kick. Bob is Harry’s sidekick. The sidekick is the one the hero talks to, in order to provide the audience with information that is to difficult to convey in the story. Often a conflict or disagreement with the sidekick can present the reader with the questions they should be asking at that time in the book. The sidekick takes the place of the audience.

    If anyone knows the name of the book I explained above, please notify me by responding to this post.

    • First, the actor doing the narration is James Marsters, not Marsden. I an not sure what you listened or what you remember of it but I can assure you a Pennsylvania castle and kingdom magic or otherwise is not in play. Bob’s name from his mortal life was Hrothbert of Bainbridge. he is a spirit of intellect , he himself was a sorcerer and he worked for some pretty nasty wizards over the years. Harry first met Bob at age 11. Harry’s father had died, his mother died way before that. So Harry was taken in by his uncle Justin DuMorne who lived in a house outside of DesMoine , not Pennsylvania and Bob was in Justin’s possesion. Yes, Bob did tutor Harry to some measure and degree. Bob was born around 900 AD and having lived with powerful wizards/sorcerers as well as having an eidictic memory, he can be a veritable font of information. Justin was an evil wacko and he wanted to kill the White Council with Harry’s help. That is not the kind og guy Harry is. He fought his uncle and accidently killed him while defending himself. He did not want the house or pretty much anything of Justin’s but he did keep Bob.

      • wynotme307

        Where did you find this info? Please don’t tell me wiKipedia.
        As I recall, ‘Bob’ got his name because he was perched on the candle stick on the mantle when found. When Harry asked what his name was, he said call me what you wish. I’m a sprit. Since his head moved back and forth it reminded Harry of a bobble head doll.
        I would like to know where this current narrative of the begin comes from. I’m still looking for the original by James Butcher.