“There is nothing new under the sun” is a quote from the Bible’s Ecclesiastes. From the ancient tales of the Egyptians and Greeks to the ghost stories of the British Isles, the horror genre has always drawn inspiration from the mythical creatures and supernatural beings of our collective imagination. But how did these tales of terror evolve into the modern horror we know today?
The origins of horror can be traced back to the oral tradition of storytelling. In a recent episode, Mahnke explains that “folktales and myths have always been a way for people to make sense of the world around them, to explain the inexplicable, and to warn of the dangers that lurk in the shadows” (Mahnke). These tales, passed down from generation to generation, served as a way to caution people about the perils of the unknown and to instill a sense of caution and caution in the face of danger.
One of the earliest examples of a horror story can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where tales of the god Anubis, the protector of the dead, were told to instill fear in the hearts of the living. In Greek mythology, tales of the monster Medusa and the vengeful spirits of the underworld were used to keep people in line.
As the world changed and society evolved, so too did the horror genre. With the advent of the printing press and the rise of literacy, horror stories began to be recorded in written form, allowing a wider audience to experience the thrills and chills of the supernatural.
The first horror novel, “The Castle of Otranto,” was published in 1764 by Horace Walpole, and marked the beginning of a new era in horror literature. This novel is considered the first gothic novel, a genre that would heavily influence the horror genre. The castle of Otranto tells the story of a cursed castle and the family that lives within it, plagued by supernatural events and tragedies.
The gothic genre was a response to the Enlightenment, a time of reason and scientific advancement, and was meant to evoke emotion and a sense of mystery. The castle of Otranto and other gothic novels were meant to challenge the rational and scientific worldview of the Enlightenment and instead offer a world filled with supernatural and unknowable horrors.
But it’s not just the written word that has shaped the horror genre. Film has played a significant role in its evolution as well. From the early days of cinema, horror films have been a popular form of entertainment, with classics like “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” captivating audiences with their gothic themes and eerie atmosphere.
As the horror genre has evolved, it has taken on many different forms, from the slasher films of the ‘70s and ‘80s to the psychological thrillers of the ‘90s and 2000s. Today, the horror genre continues to thrive, with popular franchises like “The Conjuring” and “The Walking Dead” bringing a new generation of fans into the fold.
So the next time you curl up with a good horror book or sit down to watch a scary movie, remember that you’re part of a long and storied tradition, one that has been captivating audiences for centuries. Whether it’s the ancient myths of Egypt or the modern thrills of “The Conjuring,” the horror genre will continue to evolve and terrify us in new and exciting ways.
Mahnke, Aaron. “Lore” podcast, episode 18. “Lore of Horror.” Lore Podcast, 17 May 2016, www.lorepodcast.com/episodes/lore-of-horror.
“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cabinet_of_Dr._Caligari.
“The Castle of Otranto.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Castle_of_Otranto.
Photo Credits: Vanitas Still Life by Pieter Claesz