‘The Fall of the House of Usher’: Every sibling is named for a Poe character

The six terrible children of Roderick Usher don’t actually feature in Edgar Allan Poe’s original story, but they’re all main characters in Mike Flanagan’s Netflix adaptation of The Fall of the House of Usher, with names tightly linked to characters created by the macabre author.

Played by many Flanagan faces you may have seen before, the Usher siblings — Frederick (Henry Thomas), Tamerlane (Samantha Sloyan), Victorine (T’Nia Miller), Napoleon (Rahul Kohli), Camille (Kate Siegel), and Prospero (Sauriyan Sapkota) — are named for characters you’ll either find in the Poe stories their episodes correspond to or other stories from his sizeable catalogue.

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While the Usher family tree is a whole Poe reference situation in itself, we’ve broken down just the Usher kids’ names and their links to the author. And of course, every name isn’t random, instead corresponding to a particular character’s countenance or…fate.

Frederick “Freddie” Usher (Henry Thomas)

Credit: Eike Schroter/Netflix

The oldest of the terrible siblings, Frederick Usher is the kiss-ass heir of the Ushers, with a name considered “as close to Roderick as you can get without a junior” according to his sister Tammy.

Frederick is named for the protagonist in Poe’s 1832 short story “Metzengerstein: A Tale in Imitation of the German”. The 18-year-old Frederick is the last of his illustrious family, the Metzengersteins, and he’s become a Baron with the death of his father, inheriting all his wealth and castles and whatnot. The Metzengersteins have beef with another wealthy family, the Berlifitzings, and there’s an ancient prophecy about them:

“A lofty name shall have a fearful fall when, as the rider over his horse, the mortality of Metzengerstein shall triumph over the immortality of Berliftzing.”

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Frederick denies causing a fire in the Berlifitzing home, which kills the head of the family, and afterward, the Metzengersteins acquire “a gigantic and fiery-colored horse” who apparently didn’t come from the Berlifitzing stables. Mystery horse, sweet deal. Well, it’s an ill-fated deal, because when Frederick’s own palace catches fire, the damn thing rides Frederick right into the flames to his death. Freddie’s namesake is as calculating, power-hungry, but ultimately inept as he is, it turns out.

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In the Netflix series, Frederick’s wife Morella (Crystal Balint) is also named for a Poe story, as is his daughter Lenore, who is named for both Poe’s 1843 poem of the same name and the lost love of the protagonist in Poe’s famous 1845 poem “The Raven”.

Tamerlane “Tammy” Usher (Samantha Sloyan)

Credit: Eike Schroter/Netflix

The face of the Usher family’s Goop-like beauty and wellness brand, Goldbug (another Poe reference to his 1843 short story), Tamerlane has a link to Poe’s first book. Tamerlane and Other Stories is a volume of poetry published anonymously by the author in 1827, and there are only 12 copies of the first editions left in the world — the New York Public Library holds two, flex. The poem “Tamerlane” itself is about a dying Turkic conqueror, whose dramatic flair for despair in the final words of the poem corresponds remarkably well with our second-oldest Usher sibling:

I reach’d my home — my home no more — / For all was flown that made it so — / I pass’d from out its mossy door, / In vacant idleness of woe.

What was there left me now? despair — / A kingdom for a broken — heart.

Victorine “Vic” Lafourcade (T’Nia Miller)

Credit: Eike Schroter/Netflix

Unscrupulous and deeply unethical R.U.E. Morgue surgeon Victorine Lafourcade doesn’t appear in Poe’s story “The Tell-Tale Heart”, the title of the episode she’s truly the beating centrepiece of, but instead, this Usher sibling takes her name from “The Premature Burial” published in 1844.

In the story, Mademoiselle Victorine Lafourcade is a “young girl of illustrious family, of wealth, and of great personal beauty” in the tale, which is a fitting parallel with our Usher sibling. In the tale, Victorine is buried alive by her abusive husband, then exhumed and resurrected by her lover. Bleak, then great!

Napoleon “Leo” Usher (Rahul Kohli)

Credit: Eike Schroter/Netflix

Dabbling in a little adultery between gaming sessions, Napoleon “Leo” Usher really clawed his way through the events of the series. Probably the most likeable of the Usher siblings, the “Xbox Gatsby” of the crew takes his name from the man himself: Napoleon Bonaparte. Well, almost.

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In Poe’s 1844 story “The Spectacles”, the protagonist’s name is Napoleon Bonaparte Froissart, but he changes his surname to Simpson, because yeah, that’s the real part of his name people might have trouble with. In the story, Napoleon thinks himself quite the stunner and therefore refuses to wear his glasses: “Being youthful and good-looking, I naturally dislike these, and have resolutely refused to employ them. I know nothing, indeed, which so disfigures the countenance of a young person, or so impresses every feature with an air of demureness, if not altogether of sanctimoniousness and of age.”

When he goes to the theatre with a pal, he hardly watches the performance, instead spending paragraphs describing a woman he finds attractive. She’s Madame Eugenie Lalande, a wealthy widow, and he decides to court and marry her. On their wedding night, he puts his damn glasses on and sees the new Mrs Simpson is actually an older lady without any teeth, and let’s just say he overreacts:

This astonishment was profound—was extreme—indeed I may say it was horrific. What, in the name of everything hideous, did this mean? Could I believe my eyes?—could I?—that was the question. Was that—was that—was that rouge? And were those—and were those—were those wrinkles, upon the visage of Eugenie Lalande? And oh! Jupiter, and every one of the gods and goddesses, little and big! what—what—what—what had become of her teeth? I dashed the spectacles violently to the ground, and, leaping to my feet, stood erect in the middle of the floor, confronting Mrs. Simpson, with my arms set a-kimbo, and grinning and foaming, but, at the same time, utterly speechless with terror and with rage.

This flair for the dramatic is probably the closest we’ll get between Napoleon Simpson and Napoleon Usher.

Camille l’Espanaye (Kate Siegel)

Credit: Eike Schroter/Netflix

Camille l’Espanaye, along with Prospero, is one of the few siblings whose name stems directly from their episode namesake. The ethically questionable PR mogul and queen of spin takes her name from Poe’s 1841 story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and the name is a direct clue to her gruesome fate.

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In summary, the story introduces one C. Auguste Dupin — Poe’s great detective and the namesake for the Netflix series’ Asst. U.S. Attorney played by Carl Lumbly — who investigates a crime scene in the fourth story of a house in Paris, in the Rue Morgue (Morgue Street, not an actual morgue), lived in by Madame L’Espanaye, and her daughter, Mademoiselle Camille L’Espanaye — both of whom have been horrendously murdered.

The cuplrit? An orangutan.

Fitting name, huh?

Prospero “Perry” Usher (Sauriyan Sapkota)

Credit: Eike Schroter/Netflix

Poor Prospero, he should never have RSVPed to his own party. The so-called “Gucci Caligula” of the bunch, the youngest Usher is named for the story that his episode is named for, “The Masque of the Red Death”, in which a masked intruder infiltrates a masquerade party of debauchery held during a plague. Prince Prospero, the protagonist described as “happy and dauntless and sagacious”, summons a thousand pals to his court and they all retire into a grand abbey, “the creation of the prince’s own eccentric yet august taste,” to avoid contagion and have an exclusive, hedonistic, privileged time.

The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballêt-dancers, there were musicians, there were cards, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the ‘Red Death.’

Like Verna, the masked intruder brings doom upon the revellers in all their “glare and glitter and piquancy and phantasm”, and Prospero and his pals succumb to the plague like everyone else.

Beyond his fated moniker, Prospero’s nickname in the show, Perry, is actually another Poe reference, this time to the author himself — when Poe enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1827, he used the name Edgar A. Perry instead.

How to watch: The Fall of the House of Usher is now streaming on Netflix.

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