As a writer and fan of Horror Fiction, I sometimes wonder where this genre came from and where the idea of writing such horrible things began. There are various theories of when and where these types of stories started. Some say it all started with the Romans -which seems logical as they certainly proved to be good at staging violence and death (just think of the gladiators and the Roman Circus). Was it Apuleuis, Seneca or Vergil? Horrifying scenes can also be found in many old books, including the Bible. For some reason, people have always seemed to be fascinated by the dark and cruel.
Yet, there was one particular book I came across as I searched through the prehistory of the Gothic genre: Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Dante Alighieri’s masterpiece, which is gaining new fame these days thanks to Dan Browns latest bestseller “Inferno”, takes its readers on a tour through hell. Dante’s s scenic details of the nine circles of hell and their varying terrors and tortures easily compete with modern Horror fiction.
Hell is still the homeland of dark literature. It’s the place where vampires, werewolves and zombies come from. If the protagonists of a horror story don’t come from hell, they certainly go through hell in the course of the horrible events they are forced to experience.
So, what is hell? Is it the meeting point of all the malevolence in this world? Is it like a caldron where all evils, imaginable and unimaginable brew? Is it the torture chamber ruled by the dark master, known by many names including Lucifer, Satan?
Is hell the exile where we are sent to be punished for all our misdoings?
Whatever hell really is, or however you imagine it, it has been part of human belief for over four thousand years. It has existed since the beginning, whether in the dark realms of death in the ancient Egyptian and Persian empires or as the anti-heaven of Christianity
– hell is still the most horrible place to find yourself.