FALVEY MEMORIAL LIBRARY

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Monsters & Mythical Creatures


Flaxman_The_Furies.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">John Flaxman. The Furies. 'This is Megaera on the left: the dread/ Alecto weeps upon the right/ and lo! Tisiphone between.' Inf. IX. 46. Source: Dante Alighieri, Ichabod Charles Wright, and John Flaxman. The Divine Comedy. 5th ed. London: Bell & Daldy, 1867. Special Collections. Falvey Memorial Library.</span> Dor_furies.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. The Furies. 'Mark thou each dire Erynnis.' Inf. IX. 46. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Perugia_Griffin.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">The Griffin. Source: Dante Alighieri, and Corrado Ricci. La Divina Commedia. Milano: U. Hoepli, 1921. Volumes 1-3. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Dor_procession_with_Griffin.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. Procession with Griffin. 'Beneath a sky/ so beautiful, came four and twenty elders,/ by two and two, with flower-de-luces crown'd.' Purg. XXIX. 80-82. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Purgatory and Paradise. new ed. New York: Cassell & company, limited, 1883.</span> Botticelli_Procession_with_Griffin.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Sandro Botticelli. The Procession and the Griffin. Purg. XXXI. Source: Dante Alighieri, Sandro Botticelli, Mario Casela, Henry Francis Cary. La Divina Commedia or Divine Vision of Dante Alighieri. New York. Nonesuch Press, limited, 1928. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Botticelli_Griffin.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Sandro Botticelli. Triumph of the Church. The Griffin. Purg. XXIX. Source: Dante Alighieri, Sandro Botticelli, Mario Casela, Henry Francis Cary. La Divina Commedia or Divine Vision of Dante Alighieri. New York. Nonesuch Press, limited, 1928. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span>

 

 

The Leopard, Lion, and She-Wolf


In the Selva Oscura, the Leopard, the Lion, and the She-Wolf block the pilgrim from following the straight path and force him to retreat deeper into the Dark Wood of sin.  The beasts are so ferocious even their growls make the air tremble with fear.  There is much debate among Danteists and scholars about what the three beasts represent.  Some associate them respectively with Fraud, Violence, and Concupiscence or Envy, Pride, and Avarice.  Others believe that they have some sort of political meaning or represent the three divisions of hell.  Although it is unclear what they represent, it is obvious that they fill the pilgrim’s heart with unspeakable terror.  [1]


Siena_Lupa.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">The She-Wolf. Source: Dante Alighieri, and Corrado Ricci. La Divina Commedia. Milano: U. Hoepli, 1921. Volumes 1-3. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Pisa_La_Lonza.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">La Lonza. Source: Dante Alighieri, and Corrado Ricci. La Divina Commedia. Milano: U. Hoepli, 1921. Volumes 1-3. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Dor_lion.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. The Lion. 'A lion came, 'gainst me as it appear'd/ with his head held aloft, and hunger-mad,/ that e'en the air was fear-struck.' Inf. I. 43-45. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Perugia_Leone.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">The Lion. Source: Dante Alighieri, and Corrado Ricci. La Divina Commedia. Milano: U. Hoepli, 1921. Volumes 1-3. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Dor_panther.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. The Panther. 'Scarce the ascent/ Began, when lo! a panther nimble, light/ and covered with a speckled skin, appear'd/ Nor when it saw me vanished.' Inf. I. 32-35. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Botticelli_Selva_Osura_and_three_beasts.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Sandro Botticelli. Selva Oscura: Dante and the three Beasts. Inf. I. Source: Dante Alighieri, Sandro Botticelli, Mario Casela, Henry Francis Cary. La Divina Commedia or Divine Vision of Dante Alighieri. New York. Nonesuch Press, limited, 1928. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span>

 

 

Minos and Cerberus


Upon their arrival in hell, the damned confess their sins to a large growling beast named Minos who determines in which circle of the Inferno they will spend eternity.  The number of times he coils his tail around himself is equal to the circle of hell to which the damned soul must descend.  Dante bases Minos on the Classical Greek Mythological figure of the same name.  Minos was the Ruler of Crete, the son of Zeus and Europa, and in the Underworld, served as the judge of the dead. [2]


In classical mythology a ferocious three-headed dog named Cerberus guards the Underworld.  In the InfernoDante assigns him the role of guardian of the Gluttons in the third circle of hell.  He has red eyes, a swollen belly, and tears at the gluttons with his monstrous fangs and claws.  Dante describes him as a filthy creature with three voracious throats.  Virgil attempts to quiet the beast by throwing him large fistfuls of muck and slime that he devours with his three hungry mouths. [3]

 

 

Li occhi ha vermigli, la barba unta e atra,
e 'l ventre largo, e unghiate le mani;
graffia li spiriti ed iscoia ed isquatra. (Inf. XI. 16-18)

 

Rome_Cerbero.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Cerberus. Source: Dante Alighieri, and Corrado Ricci. La Divina Commedia. Milano: U. Hoepli, 1921. Volumes 1-3. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Dor_minos.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. Inferno V: Minos. 'There Minos stands.' Inf. V. 4. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Dor_Cerberous.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. Cerberus. 'Then my guide, his palm/ expanding on the ground, thence till'd with earth/ raised them, and cast it in his ravenous maw.' Inf. VI. 24-26. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span>

 

 

 The Devil


Virgil and Dante's descent into the ninth and final circle of hell is one of the most terrifying moments of the Inferno and is brilliantly captured by Botticelli, Doré, and Flaxman in their illustrations.  In this scene, Dante sees Satan, immersed in a giant lake of ice.  Brutus, Cassius, and Judas, the most notorious traitors in history, dangle from each of Lucifer's three mouths.  Brutus and Cassius plotted against, betrayed, and assassinated Julius Caesar, the ruler of the Roman Empire from 49 to 44 BC.  Judas Iscariot, a disciple of Jesus, betrayed his Savior for thirty pieces of silver. [4]

 

Toscanella_Lucifero.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Lucifer. Source: Dante Alighieri, and Corrado Ricci. La Divina Commedia. Milano: U. Hoepli, 1921. Volumes 1-3. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Flaxman_Lucifer.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">John Flaxman. Lucifer. 'Now Dis behold' Inf. XXIV. 20. Source: Dante Alighieri, Ichabod Charles Wright, and John Flaxman. The Divine Comedy. 5th ed. London: Bell & Daldy, 1867. Special Collections. Falvey Memorial Library.</span> Dor_Lucifer.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. Lucifer. 'Lo!, he exclaimed, lo! Dis; and lo! the place,/ Where thou hast need to arm thy heart with strength.' Inf. XXXIV. 20-21. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Botticelli_Lucifer.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Sandro Botticelli. Lucifer. Inf. XXIV. Source: Dante Alighieri, Sandro Botticelli, Mario Casela, Henry Francis Cary. La Divina Commedia or Divine Vision of Dante Alighieri. New York. Nonesuch Press, limited, 1928. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Pisa_Lucifero.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Lucifer. Source: Dante Alighieri, and Corrado Ricci. La Divina Commedia. Milano: U. Hoepli, 1921. Volumes 1-3. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span>

 

 

Minotaurs, Centaurs, Geryon, and Harpies


A Minotaur, or a creature half man and half bull, guards the Violent of the seventh circle of the Inferno.  The beast tries to block Dante and Virgil from entering the circle, and so Virgil taunts him.  The Minotaur goes into a rage and Dante and Virgil scurry past him. [5]  The poets make their way to a river of boiling blood in which the violent are immersed.  They see a group of Centaurs, or beasts who are half-man and half-horse, guarding the riverbank.  They shoot arrows at those attempting to rise out of the boiling water. Nessus, one of the Centaurs, guides Virgil and Dante across the river. [6]

Geryon is a winged creature representing Fraud.  He has a human face, the paws of a lion, and a long tail.  He transports Virgil and Dante into the eighth circle of the Inferno. [7]

Virgil and Dante continue in their journey and come across a strange forest guarded by half-bird, half-woman creatures called harpies.  They shriek and are perched upon trees with twisted branches.  Instead of fruit or green leaves, the trees bloom poisoned thorns.  When Dante breaks off a tiny branch from one the trees, the tree begins to bleed.  He hears a voice cry out:  "…Why do you rip me?/ Have you no sense of pity whatsoever?" [8]  The voice is Pier della Vigna, the former counselor of Frederick II of Sicily.  Pier was Fredrick’s faithful servant and was falsely accused by his political enemies of plotting against him.  In prison, Pier committed suicide and descended to the Wood of Suicides in the seventh circle of hell. [9]

 

Dor_Virgil_confronts_devils_in_Dis.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. Virgil confronts devils in Dis. 'I could not hear what terms he offer'd them,/ But they conferred not long.' Inf. VIII. 110-111. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Dor_Dante_Virgil_and_Minotaur.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. The Minotaur. 'And there/ at point of the disparted ridge lay stretch'd/ the infamy of Crete, detested brood/ of the feign'd heifer.' Inf. XII. 11-14. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Ascoli_Centaur.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Centaur. Source: Dante Alighieri, and Corrado Ricci. La Divina Commedia. Milano: U. Hoepli, 1921. Volumes 1-3. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Assisi_Centaur.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Centaur. Source: Dante Alighieri, and Corrado Ricci. La Divina Commedia. Milano: U. Hoepli, 1921. Volumes 1-3. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Dor_Centaurs_shoot_arrows.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. Centaurs shooting arrows at the Damned. 'We to those beasts that rapid strode along,/ draw near.' Inf. XII. 73-74. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Dor_centaurs.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. Centaurs. 'One cried from far: Say, to what pain ye come/ Condemn'd who down this steep have jouney'd.' Inf. XII. 58-59. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Flaxman_Encounter_with_Centaurs.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">John Flaxman. Encounter with the Centaurs. 'While three advanced dividing from the band/ with bows and winged arrows first obtained.' Inf. XII. 49. Source: Dante Alighieri, Ichabod Charles Wright, and John Flaxman. The Divine Comedy. 5th ed. London: Bell & Daldy, 1867. Special Collections. Falvey Memorial Library.</span> Dor_Geryon.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. Geryon. 'Now terror I conceived at the steep plunge.' Inf. XVII. 117. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Botticelli_the_violent_and_geryon.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Sandro Botticelli. The Violent: Seventh Circle of hell. Virgil and Dante ride on Geryon's back. Inf. XVII. Source: Dante Alighieri, Sandro Botticelli, Mario Casela, Henry Francis Cary. La Divina Commedia or Divine Vision of Dante Alighieri. New York. Nonesuch Press, limited, 1928. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Dor_arrival_of_geryon.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. The Arrival of Geryon. 'Forthwith that image vile of Fraud appear'd.' Inf. XVII. 7. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Flaxman_Gerion.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">John Flaxman. Gerion. 'How did the void appal: / For nought except the dreaded beast was there.' Inf. XVII. 113. Source: Dante Alighieri, Ichabod Charles Wright, and John Flaxman. The Divine Comedy. 5th ed. London: Bell & Daldy, 1867. Special Collections. Falvey Memorial Library.</span> Dor_the_suicides.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. Harpies in the Wood of Suicides. 'Here the brute Harpies make their nest.' Inf. XIII. 11. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span>

 

 

 

 

Gallery of Monsters and Mythical Creatures

Dor_Virgil_confronts_devils_in_Dis.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. Virgil confronts devils in Dis. 'I could not hear what terms he offer'd them,/ But they conferred not long.' Inf. VIII. 110-111. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Flaxman_Demons_in_Malebolge.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">John Flaxman. The Demons in Malebolge. 'His shoulder proudly rising and acute/ was laden with a miserable shade.' Inf. XXI. 34. Source: Dante Alighieri, Ichabod Charles Wright, and John Flaxman. The Divine Comedy. 5th ed. London: Bell & Daldy, 1867. Special Collections. Falvey Memorial Library.</span> Dor_Giant_Antaeus_lowers_Vigil_and_Dante.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. The Giant Antaeus lowers Virgil and Dante. 'Yet in the abyss,/ That Lucifer with Judas low ingulfs/ Lightly he placed us.' Inf. XXXI. 133-135. . Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Dor_Giants.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. Giants. 'This proud one/ Would of his strength against almight Jove/ Make trial.' Inf. XXXI. 82-84. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Dor_devils_fighting2.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. Devils Fighting. 'But the other proved/ A goshawk able to rend well his foe/ And in the boiling lake both fell.' Inf. XXII. 137-139. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span> Dor_devils_fighting.jpg<br/><span style="font-size: 70%;">Gustave Doré. Devils Fighting. 'In pursuit/ He therefore sped, exclaiming, Though art caught.' Inf. XXII. 125-126. Source: Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and Gustave Doré. Inferno. New Edition. New York. P.F. Collier, limited, 1883. Falvey Memorial Library. Special Collections.</span>

References

1.  Selva Oscura.  Inf.  I-II.

2.  Minos.  Inf. V.

3.  Cerberus.  Inf.  VI. 

4.  Lucifer.  Inf.  XXXIII-XXXIV.

5.  Minotaurs.  Inf.  XII.

6.  Centaurs.  Inf.  XII.

7.  Geryon.  Inf.  XVII.

8.  Citation.  Inf.  XIII. 35-36.  Dante Alighieri, and Mark Musa. Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.

9.  Harpies and the Wood of Suicides.  Inf.  XIII.

10.  Raffa, Guy P. The Complete Danteworlds: A Reader's Guide to the Divine Comedy. Chicago ; London: University  of Chicago Press, 2009.