Dante’s Inferno is probably the most iconic exploration into the religions concept of Hell this side of… well… Hell. Even if you haven’t actually read it, you probably know something about the descent through the nine circles with Virgil leading the way through the increasingly horrific scenes of torture, or you’ve heard the ominous phrase:
“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
This is why so many stories have payed homage to the King of Hell (yeah, he wrote about Heaven and Purgatory too, but those are less interesting). If you watch the movie 1408 carefully, you’ll see and hear subtle references to these circles of Hell, especially when he ends up frozen near the end, since Dante told us that, despite our belief that Hell is on fire, the innermost core is actually frozen solid.
Even I wrote a story with Dantean overtones, called “Lakeshore Drive,” which was supposed to be published in Arcane, but won’t be this go around… don’t worry, it’ll get published eventually so you can read it. Synopsis: During a snowstorm of apocalyptic proportions, Susannah is trapped in her car on a closed Lakeshore Drive. Unfortunately, the snow isn’t the only thing she has to worry about as her mind unravels, a terrible secret haunts her, and the city becomes a living nightmare…
Another who tackled the themes presented in Dante is the editor of Indiana Horror and Indiana Science Fiction, James Ward Kirk, in his story, “Ghosts in the Mirror” (Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine), which follows protagonist Dan Teagarden (Dan Tea-garden. Dan Tea. Dante. Get it?). Dan’s family has been butchered, his wife’s eyeless body left in his house and his children missing but for the blood and clothing.
Determined to find the culprit, Dan constructs a list of people he thinks might have done it, all exhibiting some sin like pride or avarice. Then he and his friend Virgil venture into their homes, only to discover that their families have been killed too. Dan is horrified, but Virgil tells him that sinners do not deserve their tears.
The exploration into the sinners’ homes mimicks Dante’s descent into Hell, complete with guide Virgil to show him the way. I’m sure the missing children means something as well, but I’m drawing a blank; any Dante scholars have an answer?
Anyway, it’s a short but interesting story, written in a style that reminds me of Medieval writings while still remaining in the present time, so if you’re interested in stories that utilize the Dante mythology, you can put it on your list.
The Inferno is a fascinating and detailed look at Hell, and its ideas have long been snatched up to use as themes or allusions in other works of fiction. Any other stories or movies you know use Dante’s ideas? Post them below!