Three animals of the dark forest

In the picture: Waist Canto Eye, Inferno (illustrated by Gustav Dore)

And look, almost at the beginning of the sharpening,
A Waist Light and many edges,
Which was covered with stained hair.

[…] This one appears to me The lion.
It was as if he had come against me
With his head held high and with an angry appetite,
So that the wind trembles.

And one He is a wolfAll that cravings
He seemed heavy with his weakness,
And many people were already living miserable lives.

The waist, the lion and the wolf: these are the three creatures that Dante met shortly before he started his hellish journey. And it is no coincidence that the three beasts welcomed him into the realm of the dead. On the occasion of March 25, Dr. TuesdayThe National day dedicated to Dante Alighieri Let’s find out what animals there are Divine comedy Dante and their meaning.

The March 25 This is the date that scholars recognize as the beginning of the Tuscan poet’s journey into later life. In the early stages of his descent from Hell, while meeting his guide, the Latin poet Virgil, and the spirit ferryman of Souls Charon, Dante finds three animals on his way to prevent him from embarking on a journey.

There ComedyWhom the poet called “Divina” Giovanni Boccaccio And not from Dante – it’s full of animal references, existing or fantastic. As we have seen in the ancient city of Pompeii, animals have always played an important role from both perspectives. Relationships with people But also for their role in the mythology.

A suggestion that reached the Middle Ages and that gave birth bestiaries, Books, or real manuals that describe the characteristics of foxes, tigers, griffins, and chimeras without distinguishing between real and imaginary. These were texts that Dante must have known and which inspired him to choose The animals have to be placed in the circle of hell.

Hell is full of creatures that still fulfill the nightmares of many today, and to Dante which had a specific symbolic meaning: aquatic and terrestrial snakes inhabit the human body. Anger, One of the closest places to Lucifer, the monster who presides over the hell city Dis. Torture flies and wasps Laziness, I.e. those who do not take position. And then the dogs chasing squanderers and many more.

Even in heaven, there is no shortage of mention of wild animals: it is the metaphorical appearance of Mercury in the sky.Constantine’s Imperial Eagle. Symbol of empire but also Fighting between Guelph and Ghibelin.

Imperial Eagle
In the picture: Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca)

However, the most well-known animals remain the first three: the waist, the lion, and the wolf. Much has been written about these three Dante fairs and their meanings, which in some ways are still unclear.

Lonja: Mysterious cat

In the picture: Lynx

Before beginning his hellish descent, Dante finds his path blocked by three large carnivores. The poet first appeared there WaistMetaphor Lust And incontinence, that is, the tendency to bow to one’s drive. Despite the presence of teeth, the creature does not retreat, on the contrary, it is the poet who hesitates: “It got in my way so much that I was at the point of going back several times.”

According to most scholars, the coincidences coincide with European links (Link Link) This great hunter of the European forest has been almost extinct by humans since the nineteenth century, so much so that today some of the remaining specimens in Italy are located mainly in the northern jungle, between Friuli Venezia Giulia and Lombardy, where it was found. Parco dello Stelvio. At one time, however, this cat bird must have spread widely in central Italy where it was known for its sinuocity and mottled coat and who knows, even Dante himself was able to observe it closely.

A clue is given to confirm this thesis Virgil Anida: The Latin poet is actually responsible for the “scarred skin of Lynx” Fri., Goddess of love. A reference that Dante must have known very well.

However, not everyone agrees with this interpretation of the waist. For some, the creature described by Dante is very similar CheetahAnd there are also these French painters Gustav Dore Who made some of the most beautiful images of the Divine Comedy in 1861. For the proponents of this thesis, the cheetah is unequivocally indicated by two characteristics that are responsible for the waist: the densely spotted covering and the motion.

In the picture: Cheetah

Although it is unlikely that Dante saw such an animal, we do know that the cheetah, especially the Asian sub-species, was not unknown in medieval Italy for its trade with the countries of Asia. The cat, one of the world’s fastest, also appeared in numerous medieval paintings, often with a thorn in the side of foreign sovereigns.

The lion

The lion
In the picture: Leo (Panthera leo)

After Lynx / Cheetah, Dante collides with another carnivore, this time not present in the Italian ecosystem: The lionTraditional symbol Pride And the tendency to violence is much more ugly than lust. And perhaps the poet himself is much more afraid.

Today the lion is included among the “protected” species by the IUCN because its natural habitat has been steadily declining: the WWF estimates that it has disappeared from 80% of its original range.

In Dante’s story, the lion is not as steady as his waist but raises his head and moves towards him with a clear and angry appetite. The arrival of the “king of beasts” is capable of causing such panic that even the surrounding air trembles.

This psychological advice is consistent with the image of the lion (Panthera leo) proposed by medieval nobles and the metaphor of war, with which this carnivore is often associated.

The use of the lion as a symbol of war was so widespread in the Middle Ages that to some Dante commentators the lion would be a reference to the ongoing struggle between the Guelph and Ghibelin factions in Florence in 1300.

He is a wolf

The wolf
In the picture: Wolf (canis lupus)

Finally the last fair to see the poet in the dark forest He is a wolf, The most terrible. This canid is actually its symbolGreed And GreedSin defined by St. Paul as the “root of all evil.”

The wolf (Canis lupus), almost extinct from its Italian habitat, is back at the center of controversy in northern Italy today. In particular, the autonomous province of Trento has demanded its autonomy to be able to manage its presence in the region. A letter to the Ministry of Environmental Change sounds like a request for green light to kill wolves considered a threat to humans.

Even the metaphor of Dante’s she-wolf lacks historical and “institutional” dimensions. Will match the historical one Boniface VIII, Responsible for the expulsion of the corrupt pope and Dante’s party from Florence and consequently the exile of the poet. The greed for which Boniface is guilty is evident in the relentless thinness of the animal, the mention of the miser who is never satisfied with the accumulation of goods and resources.

The demonic and sinful vision of the “restless beast” forces the poet to abandon his path and take refuge where “the sun is silent”. Losing one’s way can mean dying twice for Dante’s character: the first is physically at the hands of animals, and the second is spiritually consumed by sin.

Interference only VirgilRecognized by Dante as a writer and guide, he manages to avoid the worst and allows him to begin his journey towards eternity.

Leave a Comment