Mythical Creatures Series
Death is often given the name Grim Reaper. It is also given the name of the Angel of Death or Devil of Death or the angel of dark and light stemming from the Bible (refers to “Abaddon” (The Destroyer), an Angel whose true identity is a mystery).
What is it?
Grim Reaper is death, and many cultures / religions has a different version of it.
In Ancient Greece, he was not represented as evil, but as a young man with a beard and wings, and saw death as inevitable. His job is to escort the dead to the underworld,Hades. He then hands the dead over to Charon, who mans the boat that carries them over the river Acheron, which separates the land of the living from the land of the dead.
In Celtic folklore, the Ankou is the spirit of the last person that died within the community and appears as a tall, haggard figure with a wide hat and long white hair or a skeleton with a revolving head who sees everybody everywhere. The Ankou drives a deathly wagon or cart with a creaking axle. The cart or wagon is piled high with corpses and a stop at a cabin means instant death for those inside.
In Norway, the personification of Death because of the Black Plague is an old woman known by the name of Pesta, meaning “plague hag”. She wore a black hood. She would go into a town carrying either a rake or a broom. If she brought the rake, some people would survive the plague, if she brought the broom however, everyone would die.
Odin, who was considered the god in Norse paganism, was considered the leader of souls. His assistants, Valkyries (who are the intermediaries between God and humans), escorted the dead warriors to their rightful place, a hall in heaven. In Germanic folklore Odin, who rode on a nightmarish horse and wielded a spear had all the characteristics of the ones associated with the Grim Reaper. Some historians also claim that Odin who was also called Grimnir led to the conceptualization of the Grim Reaper. Source: Buzzle.com
Lithuanians named Death Giltinė, deriving from word gelti (“to sting”). Giltinė was viewed as an old, ugly woman with a long blue nose and a deadly poisonous tongue. The legend tells that Giltinė was young, pretty and communicative until she was trapped in a coffin for seven years. The goddess of death was a sister of the goddess of life and destiny, Laima, symbolizing the relationship between beginning and end.
In Hindu scriptures, the lord of death is called Yama, or Yamaraj (literally “the lord of death”). Yamaraj rides a black buffalo and carries a rope lasso to carry thesoul back to his abode, called “Yamalok”(the world of Yama – or the Underworld of the dead).
In Chinese mythology, Yanlou is the god of death and the ruler of Di Yu (hell or the underworld).
In Japanese mythology and in the Kojiki, after giving birth to the fire god Hinokagutsuchi, the goddess Izanami dies from wounds from his fire and enters the perpetual night realm called Yomi-no-kuni (the underworld) that the gods retire to and to which Izanagi, her husband, traveled in a failed attempt to reclaim her. He discovers his wife as not-so beautiful anymore, and, following a brief argument afterwards, she promises him she will take a thousand lives every day, signifying her position as the goddess of death.
The memitim are a type of angel from biblical lore associated with the mediation over the lives of the dying. The name is derived from the Hebrew word mĕmītǐmand refers to angels that brought about the destruction of those whom the guardian angels no longer protected. While there may be some debate among religious scholars regarding the exact nature of the memitim, it is generally accepted that, as described in the Book of Job 33:22, they are killers of some sort.
In Christianity Death is, either as a metaphor, a personification or an actual being, referenced occasionally in the New Testament, even though it can be debated whether these texts are discussing death as a being or as a concept. Christians widely understand these references to Death to mean the death not just of the physical body, but also the death of Hope – of permanent separation from God, usually understood to be in Hell.
In Islam, the concept of death is viewed as a celebratory event as opposed to one to be dreaded. It is the passage of the everlasting soul into a closer dimension to its creator that is seen as a point of joy, rather than misery, obvious mortal grief and sadness notwithstanding.
In some cases, the Grim Reaper is able to cause someone’s death, which have lead to other stories of it being able to be bribed, tricked or outwitted in order to save one’s life.
He would show up in dreams standing over the sleeper’s body and the sleeper would not be able to move. He / she who had seen the reaper in their dreams would then die of a heart attack.
The grim reaper is the most well known figures when it comes to appearance – believed to be seen wearing a dark robe and scythe.
Appearances in Culture (thousands more than what is listed below)
- One of the most iconic portrayals is that of the 1957 film The Seventh Seal, by director Ingmar Bergman. In the collective scene, a medieval knight (Max Von Sydow) returning from a crusade plays a game of chess with Death (Bengt Ekerot), with the knight’s life depending upon the outcome of the game. American film critic Roger Ebert remarked that this image “[is] so perfect it has survived countless parodies.”
- In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series of novels, the character of Death appears in almost every one of the series’ thirty-nine books. Donal Clarke of the Irish Times called Death the most famous of Pratchett’s characters and said that this version is “somewhat less fearsome than the version of the character in, say, Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.” Terry Pratchett expands upon the idea that Death has, over time, taken on the traits of humanity, even to the point of having emotions and meddling in human affairs.
- An atypical personification of Death appears in The Sandman, a series of comic books written by Neil Gaiman, in which Death, one of the Endless, is depicted as a youthful and upbeat woman whose image and attire change to match with the human styles of the times but is usually in a simple goth-like shirt and trousers and always wears an ankh around her neck. She takes mortal form one day every century to live and die.
- Death is featured in The Storyteller episode “The Soldier and Death” performed by Alistair Fullarton.
- Grim with his two masters in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy.
- The Grim Reaper comes out as one of the main characters in The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy voiced by Greg Eagles in a Jamaican accent. It is revealed that after losing a bet due to Mandy sabotaging his limbo moves in a limbo contest (which would have determined the soul of Mandy’s sick hamster), he was forced to be best friends with Billy and Mandy. Because of them, he now can not work at his job when they need him.
- In the Final Destination film series, Death is the antagonistic protagonist. Although Death is never directly seen, its presence is indicated by “hints” such as shadows, gusts of wind, sudden drops in temperature or death-related imagery, words or songs.
- In Family Guy, the Grim Reaper (formally called “Death”) is a recurring character usually seen as a running gag throughout the show. He is voiced by Norm Macdonald in the first appearance and by Adam Carolla in later appearances.
- The Grim Reaper comes out in The Sims, The Sims 2, and The Sims 3.
- Death appears as a boss in Dante’s Inferno voiced by Richard Moll and Dee Bradley Baker.
- Death also appears in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as a servant of Dracula.
- Death also appears in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows both book and movie in a short story called The Tale of the Three Brothers.
- Death’s origin and purpose is explored in the novel Grim Awakening
Did you know? The Grim Reaper (also known as “Death”) was once and still may be believed to have come from the Greek God, Thanatos.
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