“Visions of Hell: Dark Souls cultural heritage”

“It’s hard to place a finger on the most recognizable reference to Gustave Doré’s incredible illustrations in the Dark Souls series. The artist, who in a short 50 year life span produced over 100,000 pieces, and illustrated many of the great works of world literature, haunts many a crooked corner of Lordran, Drangleic, and Lothric. Flicking through his illustrations for Dante Alighieri’s great masterwork The Divine Comedy (1320), it is impossible not to be reminded of the landscapes and demons of Dark Souls. On top of a sheer rock wall we see a clutch of figures, huddled like the Deacons of the Dark. In a shallow pool lie piles of corpses, twisted into an inseparable mess, like the horrible sights that await in the drained ruins of New Londo. The great king Nimrod chained, now a giant and no longer a man, echoes the lost ruler of Drangleic. It is no surprise that it is the first book of The Divine Comedy, Inferno, depicting Dante’s journey through hell, that brings us these images. Doré’s bleak, stony, and understated depictions of Satan’s kingdom so strongly contrasted with decades of medieval hellfire that had gone before. They are powerfully mythic images, ones that have been reached for again and again by artists in search of the power of the dark.

“Though iconic now, the success of Inferno was never assured. Many of Doré’s supporters called it too ambitious and too expensive a project, and so, in 1861, driven by his passion for the source material he funded its publication himself. His risk paid off, and the volume and its subsequent sister volumes Purgatorio and Paradiso, depicting purgatory and Heaven respectively, became his most notable works. A critic at the time of its publication wrote that the illustrations were so powerful that both Dante and Doré must have been ‘communicating by occult and solemn conversations the secret of this Hell plowed by their souls, traveled, explored by them in every sense.’ This plumbing of the depths of despair in search of beauty is the true thematic link between these illustrations and Dark Souls art. Like the monsters of Kuniyoshi, in Doré we don’t just see the aesthetic roots of Dark Souls, we see its themes—the concepts of loss, despair, and the allure of the occult sketched out in chiaroscuro black-and-white.” [. . .]    –Gareth Damian Martin, Kill Screen, May 11, 2016.

Dante’s millions

“As I write, the London world championship is tied at 3½-3½, after seven games. In striving to move ahead, the challenger, Fabiano Caruana, has been the victim of the awesome mathematics of chess. According to the statisticians there are more possible moves in chess games than there are atoms in the observable universe. Ten to the power of 70 is the official estimate. As someone with a good Italian name and ancestry, Fabiano may be familiar with Dante’s Paradiso. In Canto 28 the poet writes: ‘Ed eran tante, che ‘l numero loro, Piu che ‘l doppiar de li scacchi s’inmilla.’ In other words, the number of angels or intelligences in the heavens far exceeds the immense number created by placing a piece of corn on the first square of the chessboard and doubling each time until square 64 is reached. The number of grains on this square alone will be 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 and the total number of grains on the chessboard will be 36,893,488,147,419,103,231.” […]    –Raymond Keene, The Spectator, November 24, 2018

The Darkside of the Dice: Dante’s Inferno

“Most of us here at Bleeding Cool play tabletop roleplaying games, and as such, we’ve had our share of epic triumphs and tragedies.

“Tales of our adventures span many games from Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, GURPS, Shadowrun to Pathfinder. On this edition of The Darkside of the Dice, we present to you Dante’s Inferno.

Dante’s Inferno– I was in a Pathfinder campaign called Wrath of the Righteous with a few friends of mine I knew from college and we had an unexpected party wipe, from within.” […]    –Tom Chang, BleedingCool, January 13, 2019

Dante’s Inferno: The Game (2015 visual novel game)

Contributor Savannah Mikus comments, “Dante’s Inferno – The Game. An anime style visual novel game. This game was created by ‘LIAR’ a group of four students: Vee, Lightneng, Saphire, and R. The game was posted online on Ren’Py Games for the public on June 3, 2015.”

The creators describe their game as follows: “Based off the classic, Dante’s Inferno by Dante Alighieri, a group of four classmates created a visual novel in a modern setting for the story to provide easier understanding of the book. It is for-fun adventure we did for class, but since we put so much work into it, we decided to post it to the public too!” — Ren’Py Games

See Ren’Py Games for more information and/or to download the game.

Contributed by Savannah Mikus (Florida State University, 2020)

Go To Hell! The Game

“Whoever thought that telling someone to ‘Go to Hell!’ would be a compliment? Gather your friends and family together for a devilish dash through the fiery pits of Dante’s Inferno! Compete with your loved ones to be the first to make your way through all seven deadly sins and go to Hell. It includes one gameboard, one die, four game pieces and 20 Hell Cards! Just don’t get sent to Heaven unless you have the Get Out of Heaven Free card. It’s a race to the bottom that’s so much fun, it’s sinful!”    —Archie McPhee, 2018.

You can buy Go To Hell! The Game on Archie McPhee’s website.

Contributed by Austin Wilkes, Florida State University, 2017

The Binding of Isaac, Rebirth (2014)

“Within the video game The Binding of Isaac, Satan is located in the 9th level of the game; Hell is described as ‘cold’ if the player dies on this level (both mirroring Inferno).”    –Anonymous Contributor

The Binding of Isaac, Rebirth is a 2014 video game published by Nicalis, an American publisher based out of Santa Ana, California.

You can check out more from Nicalis on their website, and you can buy The Binding of Isaac on Steam and on Humble.

Passione Playing Cards: Avernum, Dite, Cocito

Stefano Protino led the team at Passione Playing Cards in their three-part Inferno-based playing card series. The series began with Avernum in 2015, and was followed up by two more decks, called “Inferno Dite” and “Inferno Cocito,” which were funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2017. Both images below are from the Avernum deck.

Avernum-Passione-Playing-Cards-Hearts-Dante-Inferno

Avernum-Passione-Playing-Cards-Dante-Inferno

Tim Dedopulos, “Dante’s Infernal Puzzle Collection” (2013)

91tu0J59qyL“Abandon all hope, all ye who enter here… Dante’s Infernal Puzzle Collection is a superb, original book filled with riddles, conundrums and brainteasers inspired by the epic poem the ‘Divine Comedy’. The reader must pit their wits against Satan himself on their quest to make it through all nine circles of Hell to Paradise! More than 100 extremely challenging puzzles are included, all themed and illustrated with superb line art, making this book all you need to get to puzzle Paradise…”    —Amazon

Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game

Yu-Gi-Oh!

In 2014, the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise released a set of trading cards called “Duelist Alliance.” The set featured characters from The Divine Comedy, including Dante (“Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss“), Virgil (“Virgil, Rock Star of the Burning Abyss“), and Malebranche demons like Graff (“Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss“).

Contributed by Ramiro Castillo, University of Texas at Austin, ’17

Dante’s Inferno Bicycle Playing Card Deck

Bicycle Dante's Inferno“The Inferno is a customized 56 card black and metallic ink playing card deck printed by USPCC and inspired by Dante Alighieri’s literary classic The Divine Comedy.

“Three months in the making, each of the Jacks, Queens, and Kings represents a major figure from The Inferno.

“Each completely original character was designed as a modern interpretation that is true to the text and framed after the most famous ‘Inferno’ Illustrations created by renowned artist Gustave Dore in the 19th Century.  Staying true to that vision, we have created images utilizing he original Dore plates for our backgrounds.”    —Bicycle Inferno Kickstarter

View images of some of the cards here.

Contributed by Iris McComb (Bowdoin College ’14)