A grotesque and sinister pig of a man, Swelter runs the kitchens in Gormenghast with such tyrannical fervor it's no wonder that lowly minion Steerpike is desperate to escape. Swelter's ongoing battle with Flay provides an opportunity for Steerpike's break for freedom.
"Swelter is a monstrous figure," says actor Richard Griffiths, whose previous incarnation as Detective Inspector Henry Crabbe in the BBC's culinary detective series Pie in the Sky also found him in the kitchen. "A monster like Idi Amin," he continues, "who on the one hand is laughably comic and worthy of any derisory thing you could imagine, but on the other hand, if you are under his control, you could die at any second."
Like many other members of the cast, Griffiths already knew and loved the Gormenghast books. "When I first came across Gormenghast, I was a teenager. I had been tipped the wink by somebody else that was into interesting books," he remembers. "It was a kind of secret book."
Griffiths will appear (with Gormenghast costar Fiona Shaw) in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as Harry's uncle, Vernon Dursley.
In Peake's words:
Abiatha Swelter, who wades in a slug-like illness of fat through the humid ground mists of the Great Kitchen. From bowls as big as baths, there rises and drifts like a miasmic tide the all but palpable odor of the day's bellytimber. The arrogance of this fat head exudes itself like an evil sweat.
-- Gormenghast, Chapter 1
|Steerpike | Groan | Gertrude | Titus | Fuchsia | Flay
Swelter | Nannie | Barquentine | Clarice + Cora
Dr. Prunesquallor | Irma Prunesquallor | Bellgrove
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