Hey, y’all! So today I get to flex my academic muscles: We’re talking about literary criticism. Hand, meet Glove. *cracks knuckles*
Black Clover episode 13 was one of my favorites of the entire season of this series (and yes, I note the irony in that it’s the episode that gives the main character the least screen time). Spoilers from here on out.
In this installment, the nun who raised Yuno and Asta is kidnapped. Yuno searches for her and tracks her and her kidnappers to a cave… which is also the bony mouth of an ancient demon’s skull. He defeats the kidnappers and rescues Sister with the help of his fellow knights, Klaus and Mimosa.
I’ve often thought that the demon, with its three eyes, seems like a symbolic perversion of the Christian Trinity. One of the side effects of studying literature for a decade is that you see similarities between stories all over the place. As soon as I saw Yuno enter the cave, I thought, “It’s the Harrowing of Hell!” The Harrowing of Hell refers to the time when Jesus, in Christian mythology, visited Hell after his death and rescued the souls of good people who had been trapped there. I mean, just look at the parallels: You’ve got a guy with a cross…
… who enters the underworld…
… associated with demons…
… to rescue someone he loves…
… from someone who keeps her bound and threatens to harm her.
Add to this that Sister’s nun’s habit is clearly modeled on that of Catholic nuns, the bad guy uses fire (like mythological depictions of the devil), and then there’s the message of repentance, and I start to wonder whether the similarities are merely coincidental.
But the really interesting parallel for me is between this episode and Dante’s Divine Comedy. The medieval Italian poet writes about his journey through Hell, and scholars generally agree that he intentionally modeled his account on the Harrowing of Hell. Dante’s basic premise seems to be that one has to go through Hell to achieve salvation (which for him is identical to the full perfection of the human person). The difference between Dante and the damned souls who dwell in the underworld is that while they stay in Hell, Dante passes through it.
When you’re going through Hell, just keep on going, Dante seems to say.
Dante also describes Hell as a giant mouth. Remind you of anything?
And when he finally sees the devil at the end of his hellish trip, he portrays the latter as having three faces, in a symbolic perversion of the Trinity:
Oh, what a wonder it appeared to me
when I perceived three faces on his head.
The first, in front, was red in color.
Another two he had, each joined with this,
above the midpoint of each shoulder,
and all the three united at the crest.
Out of six eyes he wept and his three chins
dripped tears and drooled blood-red saliva.
Dante’s Satan is himself trapped in a sheet of ice. Those who go into the underworld and stay there are the bad guys, whether in Dante’s poem (sinners and demons) or Black Clover (kidnappers). It’s the ones who go in and return who are the heroes.
When you’re going through Hell, keep on going.