Personifications of Death

As we did text work on the show, we had to deal with the fact that Euripides’ Death is male, carrying a sword, winged, and grim. Holly, our Death, is only two of those things (winged and carrying a sword), but the reality is that cultures have adjusted their image of Death or the Grim Reaper for some time. Many Eastern cultures consider white the color of Death, not black. Chris, our Apollo, made a really interesting observation about his [Apollo’s] continued usage of a male pronoun for Death. It suggests that each character sees their own Death in Holly, that she appears to each one as formidable or as comforting as they imagined it.

So when Death is represented in our culture, sometimes zhe’s kind, sometimes zhe’s terrifying. Sometimes zhe’s a little bit of both.

From TV Tropes:

A complete list of all the cultural appearances of the Grim Reaper, or Death personified

From Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman

Which one is Death? Yes, the smiling chick on the right.

In the world of the Sandman, Death is one of the Endless, a family of truly timeless personifications of concepts. To quote Gaiman: “Death is the second oldest of the Endless. It is hard not to love her. She loves you after all.

Also, on the line between the Endless and gods:

It is worth bearing in mind that the Endless are not gods, for when people cease to believe in gods they cease to exist. But as long as there are people to live and dream and destroy, to desire, to despair, to delight or go mad, to live lives and affect each other, then the Endless will be there, performing their functions.

They do not care a jot whether you believe in them.

From Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal

This famous meditation on mortality set in the middle ages is the origin of the iconic image of challenging Death to chess (spoofed on The Simpsons, Six Feet Under, even in 500 Days of Summer when Tom lose a chess game to Cupid.)

The dialogue translation:

Knight: “Who are you?”
Death: “I am death.”
K: “Are you here to get me?”
D: “I have already long walked at your side.”
K: “I know that.”
D: “Are you ready?”
K: “My body is scared, but not me.”
K: “Wait a minute!”
D: “You all say that, but I leave no postponements.”
K: “You play chess, don’t you?”
D: “How do you know?”
K: “Ah, I’ve seen it on paintings and heard it in the ditties.”

From the Showtime series Dead Like Me

This comedic drama was about the daily [after]lives of Grim Reapers.

From the CW series Supernatural

(a combination of The X-Files and horror flicks.) The mythology’s great, despite the show being a little uneven.

The arrival of Death in a small American town involves flowers wilting and people clutching their chests.

Death and Dean, one of the leads, sit down for a little negotiation over some pizza. Dean’s sent to kill him and steal his ring, but he discovers that Death is “way above [his] pay grade” when Death explains that eventually he will have to reap God because even God will die. (Hear that Apollo!)

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