THE GRIM REAPER
Real Name: Thanatos
Occupation: God of death, psychopomp, vizier to Hades
Legal Status: Citizen of Tartarus
Identity: The general populace of Earth is unaware of the existence of the Grim Reaper except as a mythological deity.
Other Aliases: Orcus (Roman name), Februus (Etruscan name), Celesta (female identity), Death, Mr. Death, The Spirit of Death, Mr. Best, et al
Place of Birth:
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Erebus (father), Nyx (mother), Aether, Hypnos, Charon, Keres, Moros, Momus, Oizys, Philotes, Geres, Lomos, Phonos (brothers), Hemera, Nemesis, Apate, Ponos, Lethe, Algea, Usmine, Mache, Androtasia, Neucea, Pseudea, Amphillogea, Dysnomia, Ate, Horcos (sisters), Pasithea (sister-in-law), Morpheus (nephew)
Group Affiliations: The Gods of Olympus
Base of Operations: Mobile, sometimes Hades
First Appearance: (historical) The Twilight Zone TV Series, Episode: "One For The Angels," (recent) Hercules - The Legendary Journeys TV Series, Episode: "Highway to Hades"
History: Thanatos is a member of an extra-dimensional race of beings later identified with the Titans and the Olympians, but his existence actually predates both their generations. Predating the Olympians themselves, Thanatos is the son of the primeval abstract deities known as Erebus and Nyx who were said to have been born out of Chaos, although later accounts claim they were children of the Titans Ophion and Eurynome. The Olympians later overthrew the Titans for control of Olympus and dominion of Earth, and although Thanatos was not counted among them, he followed their bidding as the god of death.
Thanatos became vizier to Hades, god of the dead, who took control of Tartarus, and was often sent after certain mortals who had wronged or displeased the gods in order to escort them into the underworld. When Sisyphus, the King of Corinth, earned the wrath of Zeus, Zeus ordered that Sisyphus be punished within Tartarus, and Hades sent Thanatos to claim the deceitful king. According to one account, Thanatos reportedly appeared to Sisyphus as a beautiful young woman named Celesta, but instead of deceiving him, he was taken captive by the wily king and bound in chains. During his imprisonment, the spirits of the dead were left to wander the earth, and Hades had to barter for the release of his vizier to restore the balance of life and death. Sometime afterward, Thanatos wrestled with Hercules over the soul of Queen Alcestis of Pherae. Alcestis had given her life in exchange for her husband, King Admetus, that he might live, but Hercules defeated the death-god that both Alcestis and Admetus could remain on Earth for a few years longer.
Over the years, Thanatos used several forms and guises in order to escort the spirits or shades of the dead to their respective afterlife. In most forms, he takes on the appearance of a handsome non-assuming young man or a beautiful young woman where needed. During the Dark Ages, he was often pictured as a grim skeleton in tattered robes carrying a scythe, especially during times of plague, called the Grim Reaper, but he is actually a harmless and peaceful entity of great compassion devoted to making the end of mortal life as peaceful as possible. He has been deceived and waylaid on occasion, but eventually, death becomes inevitable.
In the modern age, Thanatos has been fictionalized and exploited to some extent in modern literature and cinema. When Charles Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol" in 1843, he based his Ghost of Christmas-Yet-To-Come upon Thanatos as a portent of death.
Thanatos is not the only being given the duty of escorting the
spirits of mortals to their next plane of existence. Every religion and culture
has their own portent of death ranging from Namtar of the Mesopotamians to
Samael, the Hebrew spirit of death. It is not known how many such beings exist
in the universe, but given the concept that death is omnipresent, it is possible
that one or maybe some of these beings have the ability to appear at multiple
places at will.
Height: Variable, usually 5' 10"
Weight: Variable, usually 345 lbs.
Eyes: Variable, usually Blue
Hair: Variable, usually Black
Unusual Physical Features: Thanatos often takes the
appearance of a skeleton. He is also left-handed.
Strength Level: Thanatos possesses superhuman strength enabling him to lift (press) around 25 tons under optimal conditions.
Known Superhuman Powers: Thanatos possesses the conventional physical attributes of the Olympian gods. Like all Olympians, he is immortal: he has not aged since reaching adulthood and cannot die by any conventional means. He is immune to all Earthly diseases and is resistant to conventional injury. If he were somehow wounded, his godly life force would enable him to recover with superhuman speed. It would take an injury of such magnitude that it dispersed a major portion of his bodily molecules to cause him a physical death. Even then, it might be possible for a god of significant power, such as Zeus, Poseidon and Apollo or for a number of Olympian gods of equal power working together to revive him. Thanatos also possesses superhuman strength and his Olympian metabolism provides him with far greater than human endurance in all physical activities. (Olympian flesh and bone is about three times as dense as similar human tissue, contributing to the Olympians' superhuman strength and weight.)
Thanatos has several powers which are mystical in nature and
devoted to the procurement and escorting of the astral spirits or
"shades" of mortal beings. He can sense where death, the cessation of
life has occurred at a biological level, and appear in a state that is
intangible, invisible and ethereal to all but the spirit of the person who has
died. However, if life can be restored to the subject, that person can lose all
sensation or experience of his existence. Thanatos can move between levels of
existence, such as from earth, to the afterlife ("heaven") or to any
of a variety of underworld which can hold the shades of mortals. Some
individuals are immune to his presence and tend to become earthbound spirits or
"ghosts," capable of traversing from earth through portals of light to
the next world. Thanatos can also change his appearance, usually a form that is
comforting to the person who has died. Contrary to belief, Thanatos is not
capable of causing death; he cannot induce death in a living thing, but he can
touch the astral spirit within the physical form, causing it to shudder. He can
also see and sense spirits around him on the mortal plane.
Weapons: In his role as the Grim Reaper, Thanatos sometimes carries a scythe, but it is not a true weapon but a symbol of his "reaping" of souls.
Comments: Thanatos has not been seen in the Marvel or DC universes. This bio largely describes his activity in both "The Twilight Zone" and "Hercules - The Legendary Journeys."
In one account, Thanatos as Celesta is erroneously called the sister of Hades, but this may have actually been a homage than a relationship.
Other gods of death include Hela (Norse), Seth (Egyptian),
Namtar (Mesopotamian), Kali (Hindu), Anpao (Celtic), Marzana (Slavic) and Kalma
Clarifications: Thanatos is not to be confused with:
Last updated: 10/05/07
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