the grim reaper

The Grim Reaper


I seem to have inadvertently created a theme, haven’t I? I wasn’t trying to go quite so morbid with the last few folklore/horror entries. Hopefully this will run its course.

The Grim Reaper, as he is most commonly portrayed today, may be the most modern of the myths that this month examines. The image of the tall, skeletal hooded figure dates only to the fifteenth century, but may be connected to an older image called the Ankou.

The Ankou is an image that originated in the Brittany region of France. The Ankou was a type of psychopomp believed to shuttle the spirits of the dead. The Ankou was sometimes said to be the spirit of the last person to die in the village. It was described as being a tall, skeletal or almost skeletal figure that drove a cart that it used to collected the spirits of the dying. However, unlike the Grim Reaper the Ankou was not seeing as being death itself but rather just an assistant.

However the image as we are familiar with it now is not limited to one historical source or image. Many pantheons and mythologies feature a similar image of a figure in robes carying a scyth or other tool for the collection of spirits. The modern image is mostly a combination of these images, pulling from older ideas to create a modern psychopomp.