Ancient Horror Stories

Jul 2014
683
Messinia
Did old civilizations ( roughly 500 BC or earlier) tell horror stories like we do today? If so, are there any surviving examples of ancient horror tales? Also, what is the oldest written example of a text which could be described as a horror story?

Telling stories meant to inspire a sense of dread or fear, usually of a supernatural nature are commonplace in today's world. I was wondering if this is a modern thing or if there is evidence of scary stories told by older civilizations.

Thank you
 
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Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
Very interesting thread! It depends on what you mean by horror. I think the modern perception and emotionally charged nature of horror is a Western, post-christian phenomenon. We instinctively assume that God is just, or righteous or good, or loving - or at least a generally positive, fair and somewhat not totally unreasonable influence on the lives of human beings.

My take on it is that people like the Greeks, Romans or pre-Christian Europeans (I don't know enough about other cultures but they seem to have lots of pre-modern conceptions that are somewhere on the spectrum between weird/ horrific) certainly had things they feared, but the emotionally charged nature that monsters, or supernatural things that are so prominent in western horror stories would not make as much sense to a people with the pagan worldview, I think. They lived in what to modern human beings would be a literal horror story. Take a perfectly innocent myth from the Greek conception of the world, and talk about how chronos liked to eat his children. Or just the generally very moody and capricious nature of the Greek Gods.

To a people who's most fundamental existential beliefs do not assume that the world is entirely just, reasonable, predictable etc. ... does "Horror" in the modern meaning of the word really make sense? Or will such a people be so "de-sensitized" that they simply expect "Horror" as a natural component to existence?
 
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cachibatches

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,351
Pliny the younger told three horror stories to a friend in his letters. One gives us the stereotype of a ghost carrying around a chain like in A CHRISTMAS CAROL.
 
Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
Pliny the younger told three horror stories to a friend in his letters. One gives us the stereotype of a ghost carrying around a chain like in A CHRISTMAS CAROL.
Haha, fascinating! Those victorians...


How does he tell it, do you know? Is it more along the lines of "this is really quite unpleasant" or "hey bro, have you heard this totally wicked-cool story?". Maybe it's hard to tell.

Of course there is a bit of the later dimension in our modern understanding of horrorstories as well, and the two tend to go together somewhat.... which is also interesting.
 

specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
3,382
Australia
Good points about 'horror' NordicDemosthenes ... with that in mind I will offer up two types, that may not be horror, but 1 . is designed to scare and the other has probably the most outrageous behavior - in cultural context - that it causes shock and people being 'aghast' ... but not 'scared', as such.

1. Moon Man . A story told to children by some cultures in the Interior ( ancient stories, forgive m oderny paraphrasing )

"You kids quiten down and go to sleep and stop looking up at the Moon ! You look at the Moon, you make Moon Man angry, he come down here and chop you up ! You dont believe me ? Well I take you to a place where it happened ! Kids looking uo at the Moon all night, that Moon Man, he get angry, he come down here all angry ... ( and at this point, ih the various versions of the story the storyteller stomps around in time with hand actions and words ) and he chop chop chop chop 'em up with big knife , and their little bones are still all over the ground ! I will take you there and show you that, what the Moon Man did . Now go to sleep ! "

:eek:

2. ( Points of 'shock/horror marked * )

The formation of the star patter that we know as Scorpius

There was this young boy and he had a much older very cheeky girlfriend - big trouble . It came time for the boys initiation and the old men came and told the girl to go away - keep away, not for you, its the Law. So the Men took the boy and some others to their special place but the bad girl , she followed them hiding in the bushes * . During the part of the ceremony where the men did the circumcision, the girl watched from the bushes * . Then when they left and finally the boys fell asleep in the circle, the girl crept into the
men's initiation ground * and went into the circle *** ! She woke the boy up and said 'Show me what they did to you down there ". **!! The boy said "No, go away, get out, this is againt the Law, we will be punished bad. "

But the girl pulled his hands away and looked at the boys new circumcision * and when she saw it , she wanted to have sex with him *** right there in the boys initiation circle *********** !!! So she forced him to do it, but the boy cried out in pain and his scream awakened the elders who rushed to the circle. The girl saw them coming and tried to disengage with the boy, but due to his recent injury and the pain of having sex, now his member has swelled up and they are stuck together .

(now I will leave out the * ! as by now they are just about continual and people would be very uncomfortable, holding hands over ears , etc . - a bit like some hold their hands over their eyes in a modern horror movie )

So The girl lifted the boy up and the boy held on with his legs around her hips and his arms around her neck and they ran off, stuck together, across the desert with the three guardians after them . She ran to the end of the land where the sky meets the land and ran on up into the sky. The guardians chased them and threw throwing stick and boomerang at them and .....

(at this point in the story , like so many of their stories ; 'freeze frame ' - the story then 'solidifies' in land or star scape, and the person points at it, in this case the stars of Scorpio )

.. there they are ! The first two stars there - thats the boy and girl together, the next two coming after them are throwing stick and boomerang, the last two are the guardians chasing them . "

Other one's are ( a local one ) old cannibal woman , a bit further north .... one legged hopping man ( he actually has two legs but he throws one over his shoulder and hops on the other ... you cant run faster than him, he will get you ! ) . Valley I live in has 'Black Snake Woman' if you go further up the valley than the scared site half way up ... for men, that is . But I dont know the details of that story.

The one in ' Ten Canoes ' seems definitely an example of an ancient 'horror story' (film based on true stories )

'The Stranger' from 22 :48 .... :eek:


[ ... and this leads to much complications, building the rest of the story in layers - a film worth watching ! }

[ I love telling stories to the indigenous At times they even get hurled into the story and hallucinate visuals, jump up and get physically involved - one time, when I was telling a story and it had a part with a fight in it, I got distracted by this guy that had jumped up and was dancing around behind me, apparently he had decided to help me fight the bad guys that he was 'seeing; in the room :D - best story listeners in the world ! ]
 
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Sep 2012
1,633
London, centre of my world
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Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
Good points about 'horror' NordicDemosthenes ... with that in mind I will offer up two types, that may not be horror, but 1 . is designed to scare and the other has probably the most outrageous behavior - in cultural context - that it causes shock and people being 'aghast' ... but not 'scared', as such.

1. Moon Man . A story told to children by some cultures in the Interior ( ancient stories, forgive m oderny paraphrasing )

"You kids quiten down and go to sleep and stop looking up at the Moon ! You look at the Moon, you make Moon Man angry, he come down here and chop you up ! You dont believe me ? Well I take you to a place where it happened ! Kids looking uo at the Moon all night, that Moon Man, he get angry, he come down here all angry ... ( and at this point, ih the various versions of the story the storyteller stomps around in time with hand actions and words ) and he chop chop chop chop 'em up with big knife , and their little bones are still all over the ground ! I will take you there and show you that, what the Moon Man did . Now go to sleep ! "

:eek:

2. ( Points of 'shock/horror marked * )

The formation of the star patter that we know as Scorpius

There was this young boy and he had a much older very cheeky girlfriend - big trouble . It came time for the boys initiation and the old men came and told the girl to go away - keep away, not for you, its the Law. So the Men took the boy and some others to their special place but the bad girl , she followed them hiding in the bushes * . During the part of the ceremony where the men did the circumcision, the girl watched from the bushes * . Then when they left and finally the boys fell asleep in the circle, the girl crept into the
men's initiation ground * and went into the circle *** ! She woke the boy up and said 'Show me what they did to you down there ". **!! The boy said "No, go away, get out, this is againt the Law, we will be punished bad. "

But the girl pulled his hands away and looked at the boys new circumcision * and when she saw it , she wanted to have sex with him *** right there in the boys initiation circle *********** !!! So she forced him to do it, but the boy cried out in pain and his scream awakened the elders who rushed to the circle. The girl saw them coming and tried to disengage with the boy, but due to his recent injury and the pain of having sex, now his member has swelled up and they are stuck together .

(now I will leave out the * ! as by now they are just about continual and people would be very uncomfortable, holding hands over ears , etc . - a bit like some hold their hands over their eyes in a modern horror movie )

So The girl lifted the boy up and the boy held on with his legs around her hips and his arms around her neck and they ran off, stuck together, across the desert with the three guardians after them . She ran to the end of the land where the sky meets the land and ran on up into the sky. The guardians chased them and threw throwing stick and boomerang at them and .....

(at this point in the story , like so many of their stories ; 'freeze frame ' - the story then 'solidifies' in land or star scape, and the person points at it, in this case the stars of Scorpio )

.. there they are ! The first two stars there - thats the boy and girl together, the next two coming after them are throwing stick and boomerang, the last two are the guardians chasing them . "

Other one's are ( a local one ) old cannibal woman , a bit further north .... one legged hopping man ( he actually has two legs but he throws one over his shoulder and hops on the other ... you cant run faster than him, he will get you ! ) . Valley I live in has 'Black Snake Woman' if you go further up the valley than the scared site half way up ... for men, that is . But I dont know the details of that story.

The one in ' Ten Canoes ' seems definitely an example of an ancient 'horror story' (film based on true stories )

'The Stranger' from 22 :48 .... :eek:


[ ... and this leads to much complications, building the rest of the story in layers - a film worth watching ! }

[ I love telling stories to the indigenous At times they even get hurled into the story and hallucinate visuals, jump up and get physically involved - one time, when I was telling a story and it had a part with a fight in it, I got distracted by this guy that had jumped up and was dancing around behind me, apparently he had decided to help me fight the bad guys that he was 'seeing; in the room :D - best story listeners in the world ! ]
Fascinating!