Who fancies a trip to hell? – Yes, of course we can stop for snacks.
At the beginning of Dante’s ‘Inferno’, Dante finds himself in a bleak wood, where he feels lost, alone, and he meets some quite frankly unhelpful animals. And we all know, animals in the woods are usually fun things that brighten up a story (except Eeyore, obviously).
However, Virgil comes along, and offers to be his guide through the spiritual journey down to hell. Virgil is Dante’s number one favourite poet, so of course he goes a bit fan-boy on his hero. This made me wonder who I’d like to guide me?
Firstly, would it have to be someone from Limbo, where Virgil had been hanging out, seeing as he died before Christ, or could it be any dead person? Because that’s the thing, there are an awful lot of dead people to choose from. Tons of folk have died. Tons of ’em.
Firstly, it can’t be anyone cowardly. This is hell we’re talking about, so no surrendering military generals, ditto the nice and the meek, like Anne Brontë. And no one interesting but unstable, such as Virginia Woolf and Kenneth Williams. Basically, as much as I might like to meet these people, if I wouldn’t pick them to be on my team for a fight, or for a trip to IKEA, they aren’t right for the job.
The same goes for anyone who likes a drink. Some may be entertaining, large characters that I’d love to hang out with, but dealing with a drunk person is a bit like maneuvering a very heavy, vomiting toddler around car ferry, as it sails across the channel, on a rough night. That is the kind of extra stress no one needs to be dealing with on their way through hell, no matter how much I’d like to meet Jack Kerouac, Oliver Reed, or Dylan Thomas.
Elizabeth I would be good. She was very smart, could speak lots of languages, and with her bad teeth, but without her wig, it would be like being guided by a small Nosferatu in a big dress. Clever, intimidating, and capable.
However, I think if I ever find myself in a bleak wood with wolves and leopards jumping about, and I can guided through hell by someone from history, I think I’ll go with Dante himself. Even if he did like to wear a shrub on his head, at the end of the day, he’s been there before. He knows the way, and probably where the toilets are.