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In the various versions of Fantasy Island, it is hinted that Mr. Roarke is an immortal being of some sort. His original actor, Ricardo Montalban, theorized he was a fallen Angel [and the island itself was an aspect of Purgatory]. This may have some weight, as the Devil [played by Roddy McDowell] appeared on some episodes...but he was after Roarke's soul. Roarke was also shown on occasion to use some magical powers, which varied in scope and effect, though [by his own admission] he was "powerless" to stop a fantasy once it started.

Considering the illusion-like nature of Fantasy Island, it's possible Roarke may have been a powerful wizard, or maybe even a human form of Morpheus, God of dreams.

Is there any information which hints at a more concrete answer?

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    As I saw it, (the original Montalban) Roarke's claim that he was powerless to stop a fantasy was not an admission of limitation; he had the power, he just refused to use it. He had the power to steer fantasies as they unfolded, so he could easily terminate one if he so chose. The purpose of each fantasy was to enlighten the client in some way, which would not happen if the fantasy did not come to its proper conclusion, and he was quite firm that this must happen for each and every fantasy.
    – Anthony X
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 0:04
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    I thought Mr. Roarke's true nature was left intentionally mysterious - ambiguous and unexplained. As his guests arrived in what looked on the surface to be paradise for what they (mostly) assumed to be a benign and positive experience, Roarke's hidden true nature and motive provided an aspect of danger, menace, or at least uncertainty. Any explanation of exactly who or what he is strips that away.
    – Anthony X
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 0:19
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    One episode featured a sculpture (from ancient Mesopotamia) that Roarke made when he was a child. I figure he's Cain — and not just for the obvious joke.
    – Gaultheria
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 1:21
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    i have more than once been disappointed when i discover the "real" origin story of a character. i thought Interview with the Vampire was amazing and by the end of the book, we do not know how vampires originate -- in subsequent novels, it is explained, basically magic. not too satisfying.
    – releseabe
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 17:12
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    One thing that I recall is that the show seemed to change as it went on. I do not think in the earlier episodes one would have guessed he was supernatural, nor did the "fantasies" require any magical powers. I could be wrong, it has been 40 plus years.
    – releseabe
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 11:31

6 Answers 6

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The mystery of how Mr. Roarke accomplished his fantasy fulfillment was strongly associated with the franchise's success. There were several very strong teasers and Easter eggs in the episodes however.

In the episode Elizabeth Mr. Roarke is visited by a woman from his past, and late in the show it is revealed that she died 300 years ago. He had great access to many powers, even time itself, as we saw when he sent one guest back in time to study Jack the Ripper (With Affection, Jack the Ripper; Gigolo, 1980), he came back to rescue her from death. The list of mysterious powers he has used would be quite large for this answer, but as to what exactly he was and where the powers come from, only Ricardo Montalban himself had that answer. From The Devil and Mandy Breem we know that he was in fact immortal as Mephistopheles himself reminds Roarke saying,

Thanks for the game Roarke. We will play again. We have all eternity before us!

This was in response to Mephistopheles losing a bid for the immortal souls of three island guests. We also learned that he had authority to negotiate with the Devil for souls, yet he was still bound by strict rules. This rules out the possibility that he was God himself, but clearly has authority given from God. Even after that episode people still wanted to know exactly what his character was, and he held his identity tightly until late in life. He finally revealed that his inspiration for Mr. Roarke was the idea of a fallen angel, cast out of Heaven for the sin of pride. The island was the one place his power remained, it was his purgatory and he could never leave. Tatoo was a cherub assigned to attend him:

He's not the devil… what is he? What is he? Even though the audience didn't realize what I was thinking… I decided this man was an angel who still had a little sin of pride in him… so he is in charge of purgatory, and he has his little cherub to help him.

There is nothing I could find connecting his character with any sort of magic or pagan entity, or even to one of the three named angels; Gabriel, Raphael, or Michael. In fact Mr. Roarke is actually able to command the genie Joe to undo one of the wishes the genie's master wasted, so he is not beholden to pagan magic and simply ignores those rules. It is likely the creators wanted the audience to enjoy whatever whimsical fantasy they desired with regard to his origins. In this way they could create a wide array of fantasies with no obligation to put his powers into a rigid box. Montalban himself clearly attributed his character's powers to a supreme God having dominion above all other beings.

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    Do you have a link or a source to where he revealed it? Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 11:45
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    The actor's inspiration for how he plays the character does not necessarily correlate to the creator's intentions fwiw.
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 13:25
  • It does when the creator never gives his intentions, for all we know Montalban created Mr Roarke.
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 19:09
  • Wiki says: "Roarke also seemed to have his own supernatural powers of some sort (called the 'Gift of the McNabs'...)"
    – Tom
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 1:32
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The end of the recent fantasy island movie led us to believe he was an indentured servant of some sort. I like that idea. The episodes let us know he is very old and even has well known links to other integral religious figures.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. This would be a better answer if you could quote exactly what was said in the movie so it's clear what you're drawing your inferences from.
    – DavidW
    Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 22:05
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He was sort of an immortal being perhaps an angel of some sort. If you recall, you can watch their PILOT episode on youtube. when tattoo says da plane, da plance, right after he meets mr roark and walks out the door with him. Mr. Roark says to tattoo "New people, with new problems, NEW HOPES, new fears, they are SO Mortal". That is one of the biggest hints that he is somewhat of a supernatural being.

check out 1:00 min into it.

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Note that being immortal does not necessarily mean that he was an angel without some additional evidence. In fiction there are also many examples of once-human immortals who are not intrinsically supernatural. Do you have any more support for your theory?
    – DavidW
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 20:21
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Early in the original series, it was more clear that Roark was setting up the fantasies through trickery. In Episode 1 for example, the magician who wanted to escape from an escape-proof prison had a cell-mate who was revealed to be on Roark's staff.

So at that point, the viewer could believe that Roark is merely a very wealthy man willing to spend outrageous amounts of money to set up the appearance of a fantasy being real.

Escape Recap

When he’s gone, though, Tattoo accuses Roarke of lying to Udall about his cellmate: Ipsy Dauphin was really the hotel’s master chef, and boy, are they glad to have him back! Okay, Mr. Roarke, we won’t tell if you won’t

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  • With an ephasis on "early in the original series".
    – Spencer
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 22:44
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In the episode "Let Go" from the 1998 revival, Roarke makes a promise and then says "from my lips to my ears" when the normal saying is "from my lips to God's ears," hinting at a bit of the divine. Also in that same run of the show, his assistant Ariel is implied several times to be in some way tied to the Greek pantheon of gods.

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  • Hi, welcome to the site. You could improve this answer by editing it to specify any episodes where Ariel was associated with with the Greek gods, preferably with the relevant quote/s. Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 0:14
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Whether he was a rich man willing to spend outrageous amounts or a fallen angel or a wizard or some other generic immortal probably depended on who was writing any given episode

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Can you give some details about which episodes suggested which identity, and possibly connect each aspect to certain people? Otherwise this answer doesn't really provide much more information than the existing answers.
    – DavidW
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 0:25

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