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TWD as Dante's "Inferno"

posted by RobtMyers on - last edited - Viewed by 293 users
While I'm no scholar and can't speak a word of Italian, I've been a fan of Dante Alighieri's "Inferno" since I first found it in a public library. I think what drew me in was one of the things I love about Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings," or Niven's "Known Space" — world building. I've read it several times, as well as several of its adaptations such as Niven and Pournelle's sci-fi take on the setting also called "Inferno."

Dante took abstract concepts like wrath, sloth, lust and so forth and turned them into actual places within a larger structure. Dante's Hell has a clear hierarchy ('lowerarchy?') of sins literally stacked on top of each other as rings around a world-sized pit, with the least evil at the top and the worst at the bottom.

So here are what seem to me some one-to-one parallels in the characters and story structure of TTG's TWD.

(Note: I'm not claiming that is the "correct" or only way to interpret the structure of the game. It's just one that's occurred to me.)

From the first Canto of the poem:
Dante said:
"When half way through the journey of our life
I found that I was in a gloomy wood,
because the path which led aright was lost.
And ah, how hard it is to say just what
this wild and rough and stubborn woodland was,
the very thought of which renews my fear!"
Lee Everett, a middle-aged man of 37, has fallen from the straight and narrow but doesn't know why (cuz the player doesn't know!). He soon finds himself lost in the woods, alone, helpless and terrified.
Dante said:
"I cannot well say how I entered it,
so full of slumber was I at the moment
when I forsook the pathway of the truth;
but after I had reached a mountain’s foot,
where that vale ended which had pierced my heart"
He tumbled down a hill in a car wreck and passed out for several days.
Dante said:
"While toward the lowland I was falling fast,
the sight of one was offered to mine eyes,
who seemed, through long continued silence, weak.
When him in that vast wilderness I saw,
“Have pity on me,” I cried out to him,
“whate’er thou be, or shade, or very man!”"
He spots a figure in the distance and calls out to them.
(The figure implies he's the spirit of a dead man, and gives hints as to who.)
The figure, Clementine, runs away.
Dante said:
“Art thou that Virgil, then, that fountain-head
which poureth forth so broad a stream of speech?”
(Note: To Dante, Virgil represents the pure light of reason and truth, but was sadly damned to Hell because he was born before Catholicism existed. Virgil normally "lives" in Limbo the uppermost circle of Hell with the other "virtuous pagans," a place which looks like a very ritzy and comfortable city. The residents' only "punishment" is being denied God's presence. And of course, they live right next door to Hell proper.)

Lee meets Clementine, a pure innocent who lives in a "castle" in her seemingly serene backyard.
Dante said:
“Behold the beast on whose account I turned;
from her protect me, O thou famous Sage,
for she makes both my veins and pulses tremble!”

(Note: Dante has been pursued through the woods by three beasts, one of them a she-wolf.)
Lee is assaulted by the babysitter.
Dante said:
Virgil: “if from this wilderness thou wouldst escape;
for this wild beast, on whose account thou criest,
alloweth none to pass along her way,
but hinders him so greatly, that she kills;
and is by nature so malign and guilty,
that never doth she sate her greedy lust,
but after food is hungrier than before."
(The above is a decent description of a zombie)

Clem then comes to Lee's aid.

I could go on mixing in quotes but then this post would be twice as long as the poem. But here are some other parallels I think are there:
  • Lee is Dante, and Clem is Virgil.

  • Lee's wife is Beatrice, Dante's great love.

  • Either the wall of Clem's back yard or the gate out of it is the infamous gate of Hell, "Abandon All Hope" and all that.

  • Shawn is Charon, the ferryman who carries souls over the river Acheron in upper Hell.

  • Hershel is Minos, judge of the damned, who has some advice for Lee.

  • Molly is the angel who is sent down to usher them into the city Dis (Crawford).

  • And finally Campman is Satan, the ultimate traitor to God, who resides in the lowest circle of Hell.
5 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • That's a bit far-fetched, don't you think?
  • Kaserkin;757346 said:
    That's a bit far-fetched, don't you think?
    What's far-fetched about people who make a living as professional fiction writers being aware of and inspired by classic works of literature?
  • That's not what I ment. The comparisons you made between TWD characters and the ones from The divine commedy are. There are some similarities, but many works have similar characters.
  • Kaserkin;757377 said:
    That's not what I ment. The comparisons you made between TWD characters and the ones from The divine commedy are. There
    are some similarities, but many works have similar characters.
    I guess you're talking about works of classical poetry more than 692 years old? Because all western literature published since 1321 has the chance to have elements of the Divine Comedy within it.

    And if you're not saying that, you must also find the idea of a new superhero being inspired by Superman to be "far-fetched" since there's a ton of other superheros out there. Even though they're all influenced by that character.
  • What I was trying to say is that many works are inspired by the Divine Commedy in a way or another in character design because they have very broad roles. The story is completly different: Lee doesn't have problems with various forms of sinners (maybe the St Johns can be considered gluttons and the bandits has wrathful or greedy?) and the Stranger isn't really a "traitor".
    A thing you must consider is that any form of art, literature or whatever is partly inspired by another.
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