Anne Bean

I make delicious words. // I make words delicious.

Tag: hell

Aw, Hell.

So Dante’s Inferno is big, and long, and I need a breath of fresh air, I dunno about any of you. I mean, we’re barely halfway through Fraud.

So I’m gonna distract us this week with Judeo-Christian afterlife imagery in popular culture, a.k.a. OMG SATAN LOL.

tumblr_mn35ho5Grn1rwkrdbo1_500The afterlife/punishment thing was not a new concept for the Christians of Dante’s day. In fact, the New Testament mentions “Tartarus” once and “Hades” about ten times, both of which often get translated to “Hell.” For those of you who don’t have the ancient gods 4-1-1, Hades is the ancient Greek god of the underworld, which was divided up into various sections where you were assigned based on your actions during life. Dante wasn’t coming up with anything particularly new there. In fact, the idea of Hell as a place where you are aware of what’s going on and are stuck there forever was tied in to the Jewish Hell, Gehenna, which comes up in the Torah and thus the Bible. Gehenna was specifically a place where the wicked were sent after death, and was based on a real place on earth.

Dante’s hell melded all those concepts with various thematic twists of his own (not to mention his enemies in hell and his patrons in heaven). The Divine Comedy, like all comedies, is a startlingly political work. That being said, Dante’s concept of Hell has profoundly influenced popular culture, down to little stuff we don’t think of. Here’s a few examples:

“There’s a special circle of hell for…”
“Seventh heaven”
“On Cloud Nine”
And so many more

Personally, I find the phrase “When Hell Freezes Over” pretty funny because the ninth circle in Dante’s hell is literally a lake of Satan’s frozen tears. Gosh.

 

Here are a couple of other notable works that have to do with hell:

Hironymous Bosch’s diptych, Paradise and Hell, 1510.

John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, 1667. This personifies Satan and demons in a concrete way that hadn’t properly been done before. Here’s a rad comparison of the structure of Dante’s and Milton’s hells.

…one, two, skip a few…

…and in the modern era, pop culture comics have had a field day with Satan and Hell imagery. There are far too many things to go into here, but a few of my favorites include:

Lucifer, the comics series by Mike Carey that’s technically a Sandman spinoff, but is amazing and glorious in its own right. Highly recommended.

Hellblazer, the epic comics series starring John Constantine, who stands between the forces of the afterlife and pretty much everything else. There was that truly mediocre movie with Keanu Reeves, who was a terrible John Constantine, and a forthcoming show that seems like it might actually be decent.

Blizzard’s Diablo series of videogames, not because I think it does anything particularly innovative with the mythology, but because it’s interesting to research where all the names of the demons came from in your actual mythology. For example: Nephilim. It’s a Jewish supernatural creature with the power of humans and angels. (And an analog for the heroic characters you play in the game.) Personally I want a Rabbinical wizard character who can raise Golems, but I realize that the hell-world of Diablo is, despite the common imagery, far removed from the various incarnations of Jewish and Christian hells.

And I have not played the “Dante’s Inferno” game, which involves a damsel-in-distress version of Beatrice instead of the reality of Beatrice, which was Dante being a creepy creeper and pining at some length over a married woman whom he then fantasized about in the Divine Comedy after writing a book-length poem about how much of an amazing goddess she was. Dante: a guy with boundary issues.

Also: this?! Yup. Dante for kiddos. Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go.

 

Next time: something approaching coherence

Spoilers: we’ll be headed back to Hell

The Divine Comedy

Let me tell you about a project I once did. I funded it with grant money, which means it must be good, right?

The original concept was grand and sweeping: A three-part graphic novel script based on Dante’s Divine Comedy (in my head I imagined all of the issues, bound together as one large and epic trade paperback with all three stories running parallel to each other). In reality I finished part one (Inferno) and drew out the first issue. Still! It’s a great concept, and I enjoy playing with it from time to time.

In the original Divine Comedy, Dante* writes himself walking through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, guided by various supernatural entities. The Dante character is quite fallible and affected by his spiritual journey and surroundings. For example, he becomes a total jerk as he descends farther into Hell, and saves face as he ascends the mountain of Purgatory.

In my version, I have a character called Annie, like to me in personality and hometown, but unlike me in family circumstance. (Somehow she sprouted a three-child catholic family. Her siblings are kind of like Jungian personality aspects of her. Don’t ask me, I just wrote it down.) I’m not the first one to think of a modernized Dante story. The illustration at the top is from a series by Sandow Birk, a radically modern translation with amazing illustrations that parody some of the original woodcuts.

The overall structure of my tale goes like this: Hell is childhood. Purgatory is young/middle adulthood. Paradise is age. Certainly as a young adult about to graduate college, I felt like I was standing at the base of Mt. Purgatory, getting ready to climb.

So I wrote what I knew: Conifer, Colorado. Childhood. Hell. I have a script for all of my version of Inferno. Who knows, I may get ’round to drawing the rest of it. I am afraid I’ll have to start over: I have the script but the drawings are in an archive in Colorado and I believe the original scans of the drawings disappeared in the Great Computer Theft of ’07. Serves me right for not backing them up, eh?

But in the meantime, I wanted to share excerpts of the research I did on Paradiso. What research, you ask? I interviewed various people over 50 about their take on the nature of Paradise, not the heavenly concept so much as the earthly one. I also asked them how their definition of success had changed since they were 20…that was a healthy thing for a 20 year old to be asking when she’d be plunged into the “real world” the next year…

So, over the rest of January, I am going to listen to and blog about these interviews. I will post selected edited transcripts as well; clearly, I’m not going to use the names of the people I interviewed, as my permission does not extend that far. Perhaps they can get names from Paradiso instead.

Until the next interview from Paradise….

*Note: Dante is one of the only literary figures who had a first and a last name, but GOES BY HIS FIRST NAME. We don’t even call Shakespeare “William”. But Dante is not “Alighieri”, he’s “Dante.” How cool is that? He’s like the Madonna of the 1300s.

A Letter.

Turns out that this blog doesn’t just update itself. 🙂

Here’s something I’m working on for my class, wherein we write everything except poetry or short stories….

***

To whom it may concern:

I write to you today, not to complain per se (because I know that actual complaint is a bit ridiculous in a place like this), but rather to make an amiable suggestion, as a client, since I am after all one of the multitudinous throng whom you serve so tirelessly. In recent years, here on Level Eight, I’ve felt a little—how shall I say it—bored, perhaps, or at least having a level of ennui that was never, I’m sure, intended by The Management. A certain type of boredom is expected in some Levels, for example the Swamp of the Wrathful and Sullen, but certainly not all the way down here. I would imagine that a sense of impending doom, awe, and of course pant-shitting terror would be more far appropriate to the milieu. My drift, Gentlemen, is this: I believe I could manage Level Eight in a far more modern and efficient way than the current staffing.

I do not wish to overstep my bounds as a client; I simply feel the need to share feedback from my customer service experience. When I was assigned to Level Eight, I had the highest hopes that I would be plunged into an eternity of soul-wrenching pain, and indeed when I first experienced the skin-blistering heat of the lakes of burning pitch, I was impressed. My enthusiasm for Level Eight began to wane when it was over six earthly days from my arrival before I got personal attention from the staffing. Even then, the staff member in question merely prodded by buttocks and spleen with a pitchfork that was only slightly rusty, causing me little lasting damage and only a brief moment of fear. This level of service correlates poorly with the heinousness of my earthly crimes. I am personally responsible for the bankruptcy of hundreds, the starving of children, the disbanding of at least a dozen families. I took people who trusted me implicitly and turned them onto their cold, broke asses. Should I not be punished accordingly? Is a slight poke on the bum what The Management thinks is fitting punishment for someone who is responsible for the suicide of three people and the alcoholism of fifteen? Sirs, to be blunt: I was saddened by the current state of the Organization, and I wish desperately for changes to be made.

Firstly, and most importantly, the current scenery needs a major update. To be frank, burning lakes of fire and demons with whips are tacky, totally stuck in the 14th century. Considering the seven centuries of technological advances since then, it’s a wonder no use of modern technology has been made: no napalm, no nuclear radiation, no fiendish ways with hairspray. Perhaps in the era of Dante an effective contra-passo punishment for political corruption might have been being prodded by demons in a burning lake of fire, but in the 21st century? Please. Some kind of literal shitstorm, or possibly a sort of re-living of the most desperate moments of those whom the clients harmed would be more appropriate, don’t you think?

Aside from the actual landscape of the Organization, I’m quite sure that the current staff is being used in a fiendishly inefficient way, if you’ll excuse the pun. From my extensive Human Resources and campaign management experience, I would be able to downsize the staffing needs of the entire Organization by 25%, freeing up essential personnel for client intake services. We could be serving million more every day, if only we could allocate the staffing resources properly. (I suppose “Human Resources” isn’t an entirely accurate term.)

Finally, I feel that the Eighth Level in particular should be restructured to incorporate all of the varieties of fraud relevant in today’s world. Street pimps are in the same ditch as the Henry VIII and Charles Ponzi. Dot-coms and corporate fraud are a whole different kettle of fish than simony and sorcery. This level of disorganization is simply unacceptable, given the long-standing reputation of the Organization. I understand that chaos is an important value to the Organization, but let us make it controlled a chaos, a streamlined chaos, all-in-all a chaotic pit of terror that best serves its ever-widening client base while meeting the Management’s mission and vision. Please consider my offer of restructuring and assistance, as I am wholly your man.

Yours sincerely,

A Concerned Soul

Dear Concerned Soul:

Consider yourself hired.

-MGMT

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