Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"The Belly of the Beast" or "the Mouth of Madness"

June is now well past its prime, and the best course of action is to gather what remains and toss it to the shadows that those crawling, slithering things that dwell there can feed. That's right folks! Once again it is time for our Monster of the Month feature. As a heatwave holds Vermont in its burning grip, it seemed appropriate to explore the very depths of Hell itself! Today's Monster of the Month is the dreaded Acheron, plucked from medieval Christian mythology.

Originally, the name Acheron goes back to the days of the ancient Greeks. In the poetry of Homer, Acheron was the name of a river that flowed into the Tartarus, the Greek underworld. There are also legends that describe Acheron as a water-themed Titan, slain by Zeus in that celestial family feud. Aparently the name and it's underwordly associations endured over the subsequent centuries, travelling across Europe.

In mid-12th century Ireland, a monk named Brother Marcus wrote a supposed account of a knight named Tundale. This text, called "Visio Tnugdalus" as it was originally written in Latin, was wildly popular and may have influenced Dante's Devine Comedy. As the story goes, Tundale the knight was not an evil man, but arrogant and indulgent. For his comeuppance, he was stricken with a disease that rendered him bed-ridden and comatose. Tundale was expected to die, but awoke after three days and announced that angels had given him a tour of Hell, demanding that he tell the world what fate awaited the damned.

Hell, as described by Tundale, is not truly a place, but rather a living thing attended to by the Devil. Those who fall to Hell are lead to the monster Acheron, a giant with three gigantic throats and a mouth large enough to swallow nine thousand men. Acheron devours all who are thrown to him, and they fall into his enormous pit-like stomach. Sinners are left in torment, forever sealed in darkness as they are eternally digested amidst screeching monsters and wild animals, similarly trapped. Upon witnessesing such horror, Tundale returned to life a god-fearing, church-going man.

The name Acheron has since become a generic demonic name used in horror movies, fantasy role-playing games, and bargain-basement occultism. It has also been adopted by a truly awful Black Metal band from Florida. Who can say what crime humanity committed to deserve such a fate?

But don't take my word for it! You can read about it in a book!
-Jorge Luis Borges' superlative Book of Imaginary Beings
-A History of Hell


  1. Melvin GuilstrongAugust 1, 2009 at 7:25 PM

    Sounds as though the arrogant knight Tundale fell prey to a bad salad (possibly some datura fed to him) and went very close to the brink of death where he hallucinated or dreamt a very vad dream (a "bad trip" as we call it nowadays).

  2. Personally I think that the monk made the whole thing up in a fit of Catholic whimsy, but who can say?

  3. Personal, I believe hell is an airplane that taxis for eternity, and I'm stuck in the isle seat with two old asian women who constantly have to pee sharing the window seat next to me. Finally, I'm forced to offer tech support over the phone to geriatrics who need help using a scanner, and they start the in-flight movie early... it's Brokeback Mountain over and over and over....