In a nutshell, Inferno is an epic poem in which Dante, the writer of the story, is forced to travel through Hell, taking an elaborate tour, with the ghost of another ancient poet for a tour guide. It’s the first of a trilogy, the Divine Comedy. In the other two parts of the Comedy, Dante must continue through the other two divine realms before he can go home—Purgatory and Heaven.
The word Comedy in the title doesn’t mean the epic poem is meant to be funny. It means it’s not a tragedy. In other words, in classical literature, the word comedy means the story has a happy ending.
That said, a lot of Inferno is very tragic. We see all kinds of sinners being tormented and tortured throughout the poem, many of whom are famous people from history or myth. But, when Inferno ends, Dante moving on to Purgatory, There is a feeling of things getting better and better with each installment. That’s why it can be called a comedy.
Before we look deeply into the characters and individual “cantos” of this poem, let’s take a broad look at Inferno with a general summary of the plot.
Inferno begins with Dante in a deep and dark valley. He doesn’t really know how he came to be there, and he just wants to get back home. But, he encounters several wild animals that block his path. The ghost of the Roman poet Virgil arrives to tell Dante that he can’t get passed the animals to get home the short way. In fact, the only way for Dante to get home is to tour Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. In fact, the Virgin Mary herself has assigned Virgil to help Dante get through the first part of his trip: Hell.
And so, these two heroes begin a journey that lasts the entire rest of the poem. They start off by travelling through Limbo, the first circle of Hell, the dwelling place where people lived before Christ and, therefore, couldn’t be saved.
In the second circle, lustful sinners are tormented by great storms. Dante meets a woman named Francesca da Rimini there, who had an affair with her husband’s brother.
In the third circle, gluttons are made to suffer under a freezing rain. They meet Ciacco, a man from Florence, just like Dante.
In the forth circle, the greedy and the wasteful push heavy wheels around in circles, eternally insulting each other along the way.
In the fifth circle, the Wrathful fight in the muddy river Styx, while the Sullen are buried forever deep below the surface of the mud.
They next reach the gates of the city of Dis, where the sinners refuse to allow Dante and Virgil to pass. An angel must be sent to repel the sinners and let them through. Once inside the city, and also the sixth circle, Dante sees Heretics trapped in fiery tombs.
In the seventh circle, the Violent are punished. Virgil explains the Dante that all the sins he’s seen so far result from a lack of self control. But violence is a second, and worse, kind of sin. And there are different kinds of violence and different kinds of fraud.
So the eighth and ninth circles are dedicated to different kinds of fraud.
They cross into the eighth circle by riding on the back of a great beast named Geryon. This circle has ten pouches, and the travelers visit each kind of fraud separately. In each pouch, a very different kind of punishment is seen. In the fifth pouch, for example, sinners are submerged in a river of boiling pitch. If they come up for a little relief from the pitch, demons with long pitchforks run to them and stab them again and again. In the ninth pouch, those that caused scandal and division are constantly cut by a demon with a sharp sword. They then heal and are cut again, for eternity.
They finally arrive to the ninth circle of hell, which is also divided into four different areas. They pass towering giants that are buried up to the waist in the ground, Nimrod from the Tower of Babel among them. In the second zone, sinners are frozen in an icy lake, with their head only sticking up above the ice. In the third zone, sinners are lain out naked on the ice to suffer, their tear having frozen over their eyes, blinding them. In the fourth and final zone, Lucifer himself is there, a giant, three-headed beast half-buried in the ice, three great traitors in his three mouths. Other sinners are completely submerged below the icy surface.
The tour of Hell over now, Dante climbs onto Virgil’s back, and the ghost climbs Lucifer’s body, emerging on the southern hemisphere of the earth. They have come to Purgatory. Virgil must go back, and Dante must continue to the next divine realm.
Inferno was written in fourteenth century Italy. Medieval Florence, Dante’s home town, has long been in political turmoil. There was fighting between the Black (those that supported the Pope) and the Whites (those that didn’t support him). Dante was not a supporter of the Pope, so when Pope Boniface VIII schemed to help the Blacks take over Florence in a military coup, Dante and his family was exiled.
That little bit of background helps to see why Dante is always criticizing Boniface and previous Popes in Inferno. There are clergy mentioned in nearly every circle of Hell. There are also many major political names mentioned, people we probably don’t know anything about. When it was necessary to know what was going on, some of these people are explained a bit in this guide.
So, Inferno was very much a story that reflected the time it was written in. It was about political vengeance. But it was also about a man who found himself far from home (in exile and having a middle-age crisis, perhaps?), trying to find purpose in his life again.
It’s a good idea to note, also, that Inferno was originally written in Italian. At a time that Italy was is such turmoil, Inferno actually help unify the Italian language. Dante used many interesting words, here, and several Italian words were actually introduced to Italian through Inferno, some of which words are still used in the modern language in Italy. This is just like how “catch a cold” and “it’s all Greek to me” are common English expressions that came from Shakespeare. In fact, we can say that Dante is Italian’s Shakespeare, both men considered among the greatest poets/writers for their language.
As we said, Dante was the Shakespeare of Italian literature, a major Italian poet of the middle ages. The Divine comedy is often considered the greatest literary work in the Italian language, it’s even considered a masterpiece of world literature.
Dante was born in Florence, Italy, around the mid-to-late 1600s. His family was part of the Whites, a political faction. During a time of political turmoil, Dante actually fought in the Battle of Campaldino.
All in all, Dante was an extraordinarily philosophical and religious man, a man that stood behind his political and moral convictions, no matter who didn’t agree with him.
There are only two major characters in Dante’s Inferno, Dante himself being one of those characters.
Dante is both the writer and the main character of Inferno. As a character, Dante has a very specific personality. He spends a lot of time, especially in the first half of the poem, crying and feeling compassion for the suffering sinners. His empathy is so strong that he rarely gets indignant with anyone, no matter how bad their sins were.
Throughout the story, though, Dante does learn to have righteous indignation for these sinners, especially as the heroes descend further and further into the depths of Hells, seeing sinners that have committed worse and worse crimes. Virgil congratulates Dante when he stops feeling sorry for the sinners all the time.
Dante the character blends with Dante that writer all throughout the poem. Dante can’t help but use metaphors and similes in every canto. His obsession with poetic description becomes stronger through the book, until each scene can’t be described plainly until Dante has compared it to two or three things. For the sake of simplicity, and the reader’s sanity, many of these colorful similes have been removed from the guide. In other words, we try and describe to you what it is, not all the things it is like.
Virgil was a famous Roman poet, and a personal hero to Dante. His ghost was assigned by the Virgin Mary and God Himself to guide Dante through hell. He does this, taking special care of the often fearful Italian poet.
Virgil spends much time protecting Dante from potential dangers, explaining to vengeful souls and demon that Dante is on a mission from God and cannot be assaulted. He also spend s a good deal of time explaining to Dante about each circle, sin, and punishment.
Because Virgil was also a poet in life, we’re not surprised to hear fancy language from him. Many of his answers are very round-about and ambiguous. Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to know what exactly he means to say, since he’s always padding his meaning with extra words.
Inferno is a very thematic poem. The story doesn’t make much sense without the major themes that are explored by the characters. Here are five major themes you can’t miss when reading Inferno.
Dante spend a lot of time in the first half of the poem showing compassion to the sinner in Hell. He cries for them, weeps over their plight, and he even faints from the sadness more than once!
What is justice in Hell? Justice here seems to mean eternal suffering, and that is a concept that Dante starts to understand as he continues his journey through Hell. He starts to get angry with, or righteously indignant towards, the sinners he meets. Virgil celebrates this change in Dante, insinuating that such a viewpoint is more like God’s perspective.
For Dante, there is little difference between God and Nature. Since God is the author of Nature, following the ways of Nature is a way of serving God. Therefore, when one goes against that which is natural, he/she is sinning against God. In Hell, there is a special zone dedicated to those that have sinned against Nature.
The idea of levels of sin is explored in Inferno. As the travelers descend deeper and deeper into the lower circles of Hell, they see the area dedicated to greater and greater sins, and the punishment for the sinners is more fierce because of that. It’s interesting that the whole idea for what sins are worse is loosely based on the writings of Aristotle, a pagan philosopher. That leads us, by the way, to another theme.
In Inferno, Christianity and Paganism are mixed. Several sinners are mentioned who are being punished for sinning against a Greek or Roman god, for example. In fact, pagan gods are seen as powerful beings, just like angels of saints. Also, Virgil, Dante’s ghostly guide in Inferno, isn’t even a Christian himself! He resides in Hell, a pagan condemned to the first circle of Hell, Limbo. It seems that Dante mixed and combines pagan myths, ideals, and beliefs with those of Christianity whenever it was convenient for him to do so.
Reputation and Fame were on the minds of many characters in this poem. Many sinners offered to help Dante or tell him things he wanted to know, if only they would become famous by being mentioned in Dante’s poem. Others wished for Dante to carry along messages to their home towns or relatives, to perhaps clear their reputation. Dante would even offer fame to some souls just to get them to talk!
Dante starts out in a kind of crisis. He says he’s strayed from his path, and he describes himself as walking in some kind of no-man’s land, a place of shadow and he’s just come out of what he calls a “night of sorrow”. He’s climbing a hill towards some source of light, but a leopard is blocking his path. After the leopard, he faces a lion, and then a wolf. At this point, he runs back down the hill, where he runs into a ghost. He cowers at the ghost, but when the ghost explains that he was once a poet from long ago, Dante isn’t so scared anymore.
The ghost turns out to be the Roman poet Virgil, a great influence for Dante. Virgil explains that the wolf (technically a she-wolf) will eat and rape him if he tries to pass her. But this wolf, which is corrupting Florence, will soon be beaten back by the heroic Greyhound. In the meantime, Virgil says that Dante must follow him through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.
Dante agrees, and the epic journey begins.
Dante and Virgil have ended up talking all day. Now the sun is setting, and Dante invokes the Muses to help him through the night. Dante also asks Virgil why he was chosen for this journey. Virgil sees that Dante is very afraid, so he explains that he (Virgil) was specifically assigned to guide Dante in order to help him with his fears. He also tells Dante the story of how he came to be with him. Here is his story:
Virgil’s soul is in Limbo when a woman comes to him and asks for his assistance in helping a friend of hers. The woman, named Beatrice, says that she is doing this out of Love for Dante. Beatrice is somehow protected, so that the horrors of Hell can’t affect her, and now she’s delivering an order that has come all the way down from the Virgin Mary herself, who is very upset about Dante’s predicament. Beatrice, because she loves Dante, also wants to help him, but she can’t because she’s a woman, so she acts Virgil to help Dante
And so, here Virgil is, ready to guide Dante along on this journey. Dante is determined to stay close to Virgil, saying, in fact, that they are bound together, with a single will. And so, the two of them Dante and Virgil’s ghost, head into Hell.
Dante and Virgil get to the Hellgate, on which there’s an inscription that says, basically, if you come in, don’t ever have any hope of coming out. The inscription also describes how Hell was made as an act of Justice and Wisdom and Love. Dante tells Virgil he doesn’t understand the inscription is trying to say, but Virgil simply tells him to be brave.
At this point, Hell seems to be a noisy place, full of strange noises, angry voices, and screaming. He asks Virgil about the screams, and the Roman poet explains that these people are those that, in life, didn’t choose either good or evil. Therefore, they are sentenced at death to go on in Limbo, a place that is neither really Heaven nor Hell. Even angels are here, those that didn’t side with either Lucifer or God in the great battle in Heaven. Virgil calls them cowardly angels. Dante asks for more explanation.
Virgil says that these sinners have no hope of anything. They envy even those in a true circle of Hell over being here in this neutral place.
Dante sees that the punishment for these neutral, cowardly souls is to be stung again and again by insects. They run around, naked, to escape, but they can’t avoid the bugs. Dante is astounded by the sheer number of souls here. He recognizes one of the people there as the one who made “the great refusal.” Scholars think this is referring to Pope Celestine V, who gave up his seat as Pope after just five months of holding the position.
There is also a huge crowd of people waiting by a large river. When Dante asks about them, Virgil tells him to be quiet and he’ll find out. The river is Acheron, one of the fiver rivers in the underworld of Greek mythology. A man with a white beard comes up to Dante and says that he can’t board the boat to cross because only the dead can cross. The man is Charon, the ferryman. Virgil insists that they be allowed across, saying that God has sent them on this journey. Charon is forced to yield, and he gives them a ride.
On the boat, Virgil explains that only true sinners cross the river to the rest of Hell. Suddenly, there is an earthquake, a tornado, and a red light! Dante loses consciousness.
Dante wakes up on the edge of the great dark valley. It’s so dark, he can’t see anything there, but one thing is sure—they’ve managed to cross the river Acheron. Virgil is there, saying they must continue now.
Dante notices that Virgil looks pale. Thinking this is from fear, he starts to mock his ghostly guide. Virgil explains that his complexion doesn’t come from fear, but from sympathy for those that are normally his neighbors. This circle of Hell is Virgil’s home—Limbo. Dante can hear the sinners sighing, though things don’t seem as bad as they are for the neutrals.
Those that live in this first circle of Hell are those that perhaps never learned about God or Christ. Perhaps they were born before the coming of Christ or they simply were not baptized at birth. They feel the constant ache that is the absence of God’s love for them. Dante asks if anyone can every leave this place and perhaps go to heaven. Virgil says that he himself saw that happen, when Christ came down and gathered up some of those from the Old Testament, like Noah, Moses, and Abraham, and take them up to Heaven.
A fire appears in the great valley, a glow coming from a kind of castle. There are also men there. Virgil introduces them as Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan, great poets of history all. Dante is excited to be included in such a group.
Inside the castle area are gardens and courtyards, filled with great heroes of Greek and Roman history, people like Hector, Aeneas, Caesar, Socrates, and Plato. After chatting with them for a time, Dante and Virgil must move on to darker regions of Hell.
Dante and Virgil now move on the second circle of Hell, which seems smaller than the first circle. There is a great crowd of people, and presiding over them is a bull-like judge named Minos. One by one, each person from the crowd steps forward to talk to Minos.
Virgil explains that Minos determines which circle of Hell each person must go to. They each tell their story, and Minos’ tail twists into curls. The more curls, the lower the circle of Hell (and the worse-off the person’s fate will be). Minos looks over at the two travelers, warning them to be careful who they trust. Virgil responds that they are under God’s protection, but Dante can tell the ghost is still scared.
They come now to a cliff. There is a giant whirlwind, and souls are being twirled around like helpless birds there. Virgil names some of the souls for Dante: Semiramis, Dido, Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Paris, Tristan, etc. These are the Lustful, the promiscuous and impulsive.
One female soul is very kind to Dante and tells her story. Her name is Francesca da Rimini, from Ravenna, Italy. He was once something like a princess, and she was forced into a political marriage to Gianciotto Malatesta. But she didn’t love Gianciotto. She fell in love with her husband’s younger brother, Paolo. She had an affair with him, only to be killed by Gianciotto when he found out. So now she is here, in the circle of the Lustful, while Gianciotto is in a deeper circle of Hell.
Dante cries at the injustice of it all and asks how it is Francesca fell in love. She says that one day she and Paolo were reading a book together, one about knight Lancelot falling love with Queen Guinevere. When, in the book, knight and queen kiss, Francesca and Paolo kissed, as well. At that point they stopped reading, distracted by each other’s passion. Paolo is here, in the whirlwind, too, and he begins to cry. Dante is so overcome by their grief that he passes out.
Dante wakes up and sees that he is surrounded by new suffering souls, so he must be in a new circle of Hell. In this circle, it’s always raining polluted water and hailstones, the circle dedicated to the Gluttonous. Because of the poisoned rain, the earth itself stinks, just like the water. The sinners continuously turn, trying in vain to keep some part of their bodies dry and clean. Cerberus, a three-headed dog, stands guard over the sinners. As Virgil and Dante approach, Virgil picks up a clump of mud and throws it a Cerberus, who eats it out of the air, showing just how gluttonous he, too, is.
The two travelers tour the circle. One sinner sits up from the mud and demands that Dante recognize him. The soul knows Dante is from Florence, so they must know each other.
Dante asks the man his name, as politely as he can. The soul says his name is Ciacco of Florence and that his sin is gluttony. Dante is moved to tears, and instead of asking about this man’s life, he asks about the future of Florence.
The soul, in very cryptic-prophecy language, talks about political strife between two forces. Both parties abandon reason and continue to struggle until one is banished, Dante included.
Dante mentions sever famous Florentines, asking where their souls are now. Ciacco answers that the poet will see them in other parts of Hell. Ciacco requests that Dante make him famous among the living. He then disappears into the mud. Virgil says that he will not resurface until Judgment Day.
Dante asks if the suffering of these sinners will get better or worse after Judgment Day. Virgil says that the suffering will be greater because these souls will be reunited with their bodies, and then both soul and body will suffer. They now turn and make their way down to the next circle of Hell. Along the way they meet someone named Plutus.
Plutus cries out to Satan, with words that no one can understand, as Dante and Virgil walk by. Even though Dante gets afraid, Virgil tells him that Plutus can’t do anything. As they pass, the demon falls down, as if lifeless.
When Plutus comes to, he compares the movement of the sinners to the waves of a whirlpool of myth. Dante sees that the sinner here are pushing heavily weighted wheels around in endless circles. The Avaricious and the Prodigal (meaning the greedy and the wasteful) are punished in this circle of Hell. When the sinners pass close to each other on their spinning wheels, they shout insults to each other. “Why do you hoard?” “Why do you squander?”
These sinners insult each other because they are so different. The greedy souls used to keep everything, hoarding like pack rats. The prodigal are reckless spenders, wasteful, and the opposite of the hoarders. So whenever they get close to each other in their endless dance of labor, they accuse the other.
Dante sees that some of the sinners have shaved heads. Wonders if they were clergy. Virgil confirms his suspicions. Dante looks through the crowd to find someone he can recognize, but Virgil explains that they are all now so filthy and dirty that their identity is hidden.
Virgil launches into this speech about how these sinners either wasted or hoarded all the Fortune given to them. Now gold cannot save them from their eternal labor. Dante interrupt Virgil with a question: what is Fortune?
Virgil explains that Fortune is God’s manager of all material things. She shifts these goods from nation to nation or from person to person, but no man and predict her movements. Men curse her, since they cannot understand her pattern, but she is deaf to their insults.
The two pilgrims move on now to a stream of black water. It leads down through some fields and drains into the swamp of Styx. This all leads the travelers to the fifth circle of Hell, where sinners viciously fight each other, rolling around in the swampy mud. Little wonder, because these sinners are the Wrathful. Virgil adds that, while the Wrathful fight eternally on top of the mud, another kind of sinner is below the sludge: the Sullen.
Because the Sullen were sullen and silent in life, they are now forced to recite hymns while buried under the mud, gurgling forever and ever.
The two travelers move on, until they find themselves at the bottom of a tower.
Dante tells us now that he and is ghostly guide have been guided to this tower for a while, which is a lot like a lighthouse. When they get close, Dante sees another flame in the distance. Virgil tells him to look harder at that flame, and Dante recognizes that it’s a boat.
The boat, with Phlegyas, its boatman, stops where they are. Phlegyas has issues with the fact that Dante is still alive, but (like before with Charon) Virgil says they are on a mission from God and must be allowed to cross the muddy waters. Phlegyas agrees. When Dante gets on the boat, it sinks down a little, since the living must weigh more than the dead. As they pass, Dante looks over the side of the boat and asks one of the fighting, muddy, dirty sinners who he is. When the sinner doesn’t give a plain answer, Dante gets mad and curses the soul. When the filthy soul reaches out to Dante, he pushes it back into the muddy water.
This is a huge change in personality for Dante, who up till now has been weeping and fainting over the suffering of the sinners in Hell. Virgil reacts to this change by hugging and kissing Dante. Apparently Virgil is proud that, for the first time, Dante is righteously indignant toward these sinners to not sympathize with them.
After a moment, other sinners actually attack the one that Dante had pushed away, calling him Filippo Argenti (a famous politician from Florence who apparently had done something personally against the poet Dante). They start to tear Filippo apart, and he ends up even biting himself! Bizarre.
Next, Virgil explains that they are coming to the city of Dis. The city is enveloped in a red light, apparently from the eternal fires that burn within. Virgil makes it clear that, from here on out, things get much worse.
They arrive at the gates of the city, and there are a thousand enraged sinners trying to stop Dante from getting through, just because he’s alive. They threaten him with violence and spit on him. Things are bad until Virgil “makes a sign” to stop the sinners and starts talking to them. Dante is so distracted, he doesn’t even hear what Virgil says, but in the end, the sinners allow Virgil through to the gates, but not Dante. Virgil tries to talk to them again, but they just close the gate on him.
Virgil walks back to Dante and tells him not to worry. This has apparently happened before, and an angel is on his way to help them get through.
You’d think Dante would be happy an angel is stopping by, but instead he turns pale… paler than Virgil, who’s a ghost! On top of that, while Virgil tries to comfort Dante, he even starts stuttering. Dante notices that and gets even more afraid. Dante realizes the problem—he asks Virgil is anyone from Limbo (which is where Virgil is from, remember?) has even ventured this deep into Hell before. Virgil says that it has happened before, although it is rare. He explains that he once went down to the deepest parts of Hell to recover a soul for the witch Erichtho. That means Virgil has a good idea of what Hell holds.
Dante looks up at one of the Dis towers and sees something terrible—three women, covered in blood, hanging from the turrets, their hair in the form of snakes. Virgil sees what Dante is looking at and he reacts in disgust, saying that those are the Furies: Magera, Allecto, and Tisiphone. They scratch their chests with their talons and shout threats down on Dante, saying that Medusa is coming to turn him into stone. Virgil tells Dante to turn away and close his eyes. Meanwhile, Dante hears something very big coming.
Virgil tells him he can open his eyes now, and he sees the angel arriving, Heaven’s messenger, with the strength of a hurricane. Just in landing, the angel throws souls around by the thousands. He blows the gate open with a wave of his hand. With a booming voice he reproves the inhabitants of Dis for ignoring God’s will. Needless to say, Dante is awestruck.
Dante and Virgil are now free to walk into the city of Dis, a place of pain and suffering. Open tombs litter the ground, like craters, flames reaching out of each one. Sinners are inside those open grave, burning and screaming. Virgil welcomes Dante to the sixth circle of Hell, where the arch-heretics are punished. He says there are more here than Dante would think.
As the two travelers walk through the sixth real, the city of Dis, the land of the burning Heretics, Dante asks if he can look into one of the opened burning tombs and see any of the sinners inside. He wonders if any are from Florence. Virgil says that these tombs will be open until judgment day. All the burning sinners here are those that said in life that the soul dies with the body, a teaching that goes against God’s doctrine.
They are interrupted by a voice from one of the tombs. Dante is frightened, grabbing Virgil’s sleeve. The voice says that Dante has a Tuscan accent. Virgil pushes Dante over to Farinata, a sinner coming out of one of the tombs. Farinata asks Dante who his ancestors were. Dante answers, at Virgil’s prodding, and tells him everything he wants to know. Farinate frowns at the answer. Farinata was an enemy of Dante’s family, a long time ago. Dante get’s indignant and says that at least his (Dante’s) family fought back, unlike Farinata’s. Before Farinata can reply to that, another sinner come up from the burning tomb and asks where his son is. Dante must recognize the man because, after looking him over, he answers. It seems that this sinner is Cavalcante dei Canalcanti, a political ally of Dante’s family. His son is actually a close friend of Dante’s. Dante’s answer is very ambiguous, but the father gets the idea that his son is dead, and Dante doesn’t correct him.
Farinata steps up again (well, while still being half-way inside this burning tomb) and continues his conversation. He asks why Florentines are so mean to his family. Dante cites a famous battle in history as the cause of all the strife between families and political groups, but Fainata defends himself agains Dante’s charges, saying that among the enemies of Florence, the Ghibelline party, he (Farinata) alone stood up for the city, not wanting to ransack it.
Dante completely changes the subject here, asking if it’s true that the dead can see the future but not the present. Farinata says, yes, that’s true. The souls in Hell can divine the future but they have no idea what’s happening now in the world of the living.
Apparently Dante lied to Cavalcante before. His son is not dead at all. He suddenly feels bad about that and asks Farinata to tell him that his son is still alive.
Virgil now pulls Dante away from the conversation, saying they need to keep moving. Dante has more questions about who is here in this circle, but Virgil says that all his questions will be answer later.
They turn down a foul smelling valley.
The valley’s horrible smell comes from more burning tombs. The travelers seem to be running from the smell, and they come to hide behind one tomb that reads “I hold Pope Anastasius.” He was the pope that denied the divinity of Christ. Virgil says they have to stay there for a moment, so their noses can get used to the stench. Dante wants to ask some more questions to bide the time. Virgil, obviously not in the mood, yields and starts explaining more about the layout of Hell.
He talks about the seventh circle, where the Violent are punished. There are three kinds of violence, Virgil explains: violence against God and nature, violence against oneself, and violence against one’s neighbor. Each of these three kinds of violence has its own sub-circle. Those who are violent against others are in the first sub-circle. Those who are suicidal are in the second. And blasphemers and usurers, who have been violent against God or nature, are in the third ring or sub-circle.
Virgil continues with his virtual tour, talking about those that live in the eighth circle of Hell, the Fraudulent. They have “cut off the bond of love that nature forges.” They are hypocrites, flatterers, sorcerers, falsifiers, simonists, thieves, barraters, panderers, and others.
In the ninth circle, those sinners are also guilty of fraud, but especially bad and treacherous fraud.
At this point Dante seems a little confused. What about all the sinners in the previous circles? Why are some punished more harshly than others?
Virgil reproves Dante for his ignorance. He reminds Dante of the book Ethics by Aristotle. In that book, there are three kinds or categories of sin—“incontinence, malice, and mad bestiality.” Incontinence is when a sinner shows lack of self control. Malice means fraud, and Bestiality refers to violence. The least offensive of these if incontinence, which is mostly what they’ve seen so far in Hell—lust, gluttony, greed, wastefulness, wrath, and so forth.
Dante asks about usury. What does it mean to be a usurer? (Those that inhabit the third sub-ring of the seventh circle are blasphemers and usurers, remember?)
Usury is lending money and then demanding exorbitant interest rates. (Being a loan shark, basically.) Virgil explains that the work a man does is part of nature and God’s will. In other words, it’s God’s purpose that we work and get paid for that work. Usurers make money without working, but by lend money and taking advantage of others. This is against the nature of God’s creation.
Virgil say that the constellations in the sky are changing (!?), meaning they must keep moving.
Virgil and Dante descend down a very steep dank, which is so steep that it reminds Dante of a landslide. At the bottom, they see a half-man, half-bull creature—otherwise known as the Minotaur. When the creature sees the man and the ghost, it starts to bit itself.
Virgil shouts out that Dante is not an enemy of the Minotaur, not like Theseus the “Duke of Athens.” Dante is only here to see the creature suffering. For some reason, this makes the creature angrier, because it suddenly charges at them! The travelers run away, down the embankment. At the bottom, Virgil tells Dante about a landslide that happened here. When he was descending the circles of Hell, to get a soul for the witch of Erichtho (remember, Virgil said he’d done this before), he saw Christ come down and rapture good men from the Old Testament out of Hell and up to Heaven. Virgil says that, at that point, he “though the universe felt love.” That super love force cause an earthquake.
Virgil now starts to talk about the next circle, the seventh one. To get there, they must cross the river of boiling blood, known as Phlegethon. As if things can’t get any worse, herds of Centaurs (half-man, half-horse) race up and down the banks of the river, armed with bows and arrows. They surround the travelers.
Virgil demands to talk to Chiron, the head Centaur. When Chiron arrives, he has an arrow drawn and accuses Dante of being alive. (He knows this because apparently Dante, a living soul, changes the environment around him in Hell slightly.) Virgil says that, yes, Dante is alive, that they are on a quest from God, and that they require a centaur guide to help them across the river. Oh, and Dante should be allowed to ride on that guide’s back.
Chiron selects Nessus to be the guide and bodyguard for the next leg of the journey. Nessus, by the way, was a rapist and murderer in life, the centaur who raped Hercules’ wife.
As they walk along the river’s bank, Dante sees sinners in the boiling blood, screaming. Nessus explains that these are Alexander, Dionysus, Ezzolino, and Obizzo. Virgil tells Dante to listen to Nessus, since he’s kind of an authority on this part of Hell. Later, they see another sinner, up to his neck in boiling blood. Nessus says he’s Guy de Montfort, the man that murdered Prince Henry. Apparently, Dante decides, depth of the river changes, and each sinner is put at a depth that best fits his/her sins.
They get to a part where the river is only ankle deep. This is where they cross. Nessus says that elsewhere the river gets so deep that some Tyrants of history are completely submerged, people like Attila, Pyrrhus, Sextus, Rinier of Corneto, and Rinier Pazzo.
Once they are on the other side of the river, Nessus leaves them and crosses back. Virgil and Dante continue on.
While Nessus crosses the river back to his side, the two travelers continue their mission. They start exploring the woods on this side. This forest is very different from a normal one, though. The leaves are large and black, and the branches are gnarled and knotty. These trees bear poisonous briers instead of fruit. Dante recognizes these trees from famous poems of the past. They make up the home of the Harpies, ugly and stinky inverted angels.
Virgil tells Dante that they are now in the second ring of the seventh circle.
Dante starts to hear voices all around them, moaning. Dante stops and looks around searching for where the voices are coming from. Virgil tells Dante to break a branch off one of the trees; that way he’ll figure out where the voices come from.
Dante breaks a small branch nearby and the tree cries out in pain, black blood leaking from the broken part in the branch. The tree explains that it, as well as all the trees in these woods, used to be men. It asks why Dante doesn’t show any mercy at all for a former brother.
Virgil apologizes on Dante’s behalf, since he told Dante to break the branch in the first place. He also tells the tree to relate his story to Dante.
The tree tells Dante a little about himself in life. Even though he doesn’t say so explicitly, he hints that he was Pier della Vigna, counselor to Emperor Fredrick II. He was so close to the Emperor that other envied him. They even started to say horrible things about him. As a result, he committed suicide. He still worries about his fouled reputation, and he begs Dante to help him clear his name.
Dante is dumfounded, so Virgil steps up and asks how a suicide victim comes to be a tree and if he can ever be free.
Pier says that when they are judged by Minos (remember that guy over by Limbo?), the Suicidal are flung here. Wherever they land, they become saplings. They are then tortured by the Harpies, who eat their leaves (which apparently hurts a lot).
The Suicidal miss their bodies more than most, but they can’t have them back because they gave them up willingly when they killed themselves. Even in Judgment Day (remember—most sinners will be reunited with their bodies on Judgment Day) these sinners will only have their old skins flung on top of their tree-forms.
Suddenly, Dante hears a sound, and they see two naked men running from a pack of hounds. One of the men trips and falls into a thorn bush. The hounds find him and tear him to pieces. When Dante approaches, it is the bush that weeps. The bush says that he was once from Florence. He says that Florence will never have peace, since Mars, the God or War and the previous patron of Florence, will not allow it. The bush admits that he, too, committed suicide in life.
Dante is so struck by the suffering bush (from the end of the previous Canto) that he gently gathers up the broken branches and puts them back into the bush. After that, Dante and Virgil move on to the third ring of the Seventh Circle, the one dedicated to the Violent against God.
This ring, or sub-circle, is a flat plain, very different from the woods of the previous ring. This plain is sandy like a desert, and there are flocks of sinners here, some lying down, others running around. Large flakes of fire, like snowflakes, fall from the sky, burning the sinners. They dance around (yes, Dante really calls it a kind of dance), trying to put out the fire. The ones on the ground are in the most pain, completely open to more burning flakes, not to mention the sand, which constantly burns from the falling flakes.
A large man nearby, is spread out on the ground, cursing God. Dante asks Virgil about him, and the giant overhears and decides to answer himself. The man says that God (which he calls Jove, a Roman god) can never take revenge against him, not matter what He throws down at him. The man is named Capaneus.
Virgil reprimand the giant and tells him that it’s his own fault that he’s here, suffering. Virgil explains to Dante that Capaneus is one of the seven kings that fought against Thebes. He also tells Dante to walk along the edge of the sand so he doesn’t burn his feet.
They continue to a little stream of red water, another version of Phlegethon. Virgil, seeing the stream, tells Dante a story. On the island of Crete, there was a mountain called Ida, where the goddess Rhea once hid her son, Jove, from his mean-spirited father, Saturn. On that same mountain was a giant statue made of fine metals like gold, silver, and iron. The statue (a man) faced Rome. But the statue was cracked up all over, and out of all the cracks flowed the statue’s tears. Those tears tickled down and formed the rivers of Hell: Acheron, Styx, Phlegethon, and Cocytus (all of which we’ve seen so far, except for Cocytus, which we’ll see soon enough).
Dante wants to know how these rivers exist in Hell but they aren’t known in the land of the living (which is strange if they supposedly come from that land of the living). Virgil’s answer doesn’t make sense. Hell is round he says, so since they haven’t completed the circle of circles, they’ll still see some things that are new.
Dante also asks about another underworld river of myth: Lethe. Virgil says that river is in Purgatory. Since it’s the river of forgetfulness, it helps clear away the memories of some sinners so they can be reconditioned for life Above.
And so our heroes continue along the river bank to new territory.
As the two travelers walk along the banks of the river Phlegethon, a mist rises from the river’s waters to protect them from the fire that rains down from Heaven. They encounter another group of sinners that are walking along the river in the same way. They are sodomites.
Dante recognizes one of them as his mentor, Ser Brunetto Latini. Dante begs Brunetto to stop and talk with him a while, but Brunetto says that, if he stops, he’ll be forced to wait back a hundred years and burn in the fiery rain.
The riverbank spits ahead, and the sinners must take a different path from Dante and Virgil. But they continue talking, walking along two parallel paths. Brunetto asks how Dante came to be here, still alive and all, and Dante tells him his story.
Brunetto realizes that Dante is bless to take this tour while still alive, and he seems to regret not still being alive himself to support Dante. He blames some natives that were conquered by Rome for his fate, having led him down a wrong path.
Dante asks about the other sodomites in the group, but Brunetto is reluctant to give names. He only mentions a few (one of which is a Bishop), and then finds an excuse to leave.
The Phlegethon falls into a new circle at this point, but Dante is now too distracted by three new arrivals, sinners running along the sand, just like the sodomites. They recognize Dante’s clothes and see that he’s from Florence, the same place they apparently are from. They introduce themselves, and Dante knows them as the Guelphs, the men that tried to convince the Florentines not to fight the Montaperti.
Dante is so interested in talking to them that he nearly decides to leave the safe path alongside the river. He settles with telling them how wonderful he feels about them and how he honors them in life. (They are some kind of heroes for Dante in recent history.)
One of the three sinners asks about Florence. How does the city fare? Dante doesn’t give a very optimistic answer, but they accept it and move on.
Alone now, Dante and Virgil get to the end of the river, which now becomes a raging waterfall. How will they get down?
Virgil asks Dante for the cord around his waist. Dante gives it to him, and Virgil forms it into a lasso and throws the loop down the ravine.
Something huge and amazing comes back up… (Literally, Dante leaves us hanging here.)
Virgil calls this great beast from below. Dante describes what he sees come up. A “filthy effigy of fraud,” a creature that has the face of a man, body of a serpent, two paws, matted fur hide, and a pointed tail with a poisonous tip. Dante compares the creature to a beaver, because it puts its tail in the water like a beaver.
Virgil sees some sinners sitting on the rocks nearby. He sends Dante to talk with them. Meanwhile, Virgil’s going to negotiate a ride out of the great beast.
The sinners Dante approaches are from Florence (interesting how that happens almost everywhere he goes, right?), and he recognizes their family crests, which they have on small purses that hang around their necks. They are from families that are famous for usury (being a loan shark, remember?).
One of the usurers tells Dante to leave because he’s standing in the spot reserved for a friend that is still living. Dante compares these sinners to oxen and leaves, heading back to where Virgil is. The ghost has convinced the beast to let them ride it down to the next circle. Dante, scared but determined not to show it, climbs on.
Virgil says the monster’s name is Geryon. At that, the monster takes flight, spreading its wings. He circles downward, until they lang. Once the men are off, Geryon disappears.
The travelers have now made it to the eighth Circle of Hell, which, according to Virgil, has a nickname: Malebolge (meaning “evil pushes”). Like the Seventh, the Eighth Circle is subdivided into smaller pouches.
Virgil leads Dante around, and they see a long line of naked sinners, marching as they are whipped on each side by horned demons. Dante recognizes one of the sinners. He asks the man why he is here. The man says that he pandered (pimped) his sister into doing sexual favors for a Marquis. The man (named Venedico) defends himself, saying he’s not the only one from Bologna in this circle.
As the two travelers continue, Virgil points out one man among the marching sinners: Jason of the Argonauts. He seduced Hypsipyle of Lemnos and then abandoned her (while pregnant) in order to steal the Golden Fleece.
They now cross a bridge to the next pouch. Here, flatterers are immersed in excrement. Hew scream and fight amongst themselves. Dante recognizes one of the sinners as Alessio Interminei of Lucca. Alessio admits to being a flatterer. Virgil also points out Thais, a courtesan who overly praised her lover for sex. She’s scratching herself with fingernails that are full of excrement.
Dante and Virgil continue on their tour.
Dante starts off talking about Simonists, which are clerics that sell absolution for money. Dante says they “fornicate fro gold and silver.”
This is the third pouch, where the sinners are buried upside down in rocky soil, so that only their feet stick out of the ground. While they eternally suffocate, their feet are burned with fire. Dante sees that one sinner is being burned with fire hotter than the others, so they go to that one to find out what he did. Crouching at the feet of that sinner, Dante asks about his sins in life.
The sinner mistakenly things that Dante is the next Simonist sinner that will replace him, Pope Boniface VIII. Dante corrects the man (Boniface VIII is still alive when Dante wrote this), saying who he really is. The sinner is Pop Nicholas. Dante gets angry with him, saying that his punishment is just. He even says that Rome is a whore that fornicates with kings for money. Pope Nicholas kicks his feet at this, but to no avail.
Virgil is so proud of Dante’s indignation that he picks him up and carries him to the next pouch, cradling him like a baby. They get a very steep decline, heading down into a valley.
As Dante looks down at the forth pouch in this Eighth Circle of Hell, he sees sinners there are walking around slowly, like in a religious ceremony. He realizes, at closer inspection, that their heads are on backwards. They cry, their tears rolling down their backs. Dante is so struck by this that he starts to cry too.
Virgil looks down on this reaction, not a supporter of compassion for the sinners. He starts to point some of the sinners out to Dante and detail their sins. These are Diviner, Astrologers, and Magicians. One of them is Mano, the hideous-looking witch that gave Virgil’s hometown of Mantua its name. She was a child in Thebes, Virgil says, but after her father died, she moved on, eventually settling in a marsh. Others came and decided to settle there, too, and Mantua was born.
Virgil goes on, at Dante’s urging to tell the names of more of the sinners here. But, since the moon is getting low on the horizon, Virgil says they need to move on.
The next pouch is dedicated to the Barrators (corrupt politicians). Dante’s first impression is the darkness. Virgil yells for him to be careful. Dante turns just in time to see a black demon racing towards them in the blackness. But the demon doesn’t even acknowledge them, since he’s too busy tormenting the sinner he has flung over his shoulder, a politician from Lucca.
The demon throws the politician into a river of boiling pitch and yells for his fellow demons to help him. They crowd around, poking him with their large hooks. Virgil tells Dante to stay low so as not to be spotted by the demons.
Virgil then walks right up to the demons and demands they put their weapons down. They don’t take that command too well. They are the Malebranche (evil-claws), and their leader, Malacoda (evil-tail), walks up and asks who Virgil is and why he’s here. Virgil tells them they are on assignment from God. The demons agree not to torture Dante, so Virgil calls Dante out of his hiding spot. Dante runs up to be at Virgil’s side, and the demons joke about stabbing him with their weapons until the leader silences them.
Malacoda says that the nearest bridge is broken, but he sends a team of demons to lead the travelers to the next available bridge, as long as the keep up their duties of torturing sinners along the way. The march off, Dante scared half to death, the lead demon farting loudly to signal the beginning of the trip.
Dante compares the loud fart from the previous canto to trumpets, bells, and drums. The demon guides walk with Dante and Virgil. Meanwhile, Dante scans the surface of the pitch river to see any of the sinners underneath. Backs, faces, or limbs come up every now and then, skin hoping for a moment of relief from the boiling pain. But when the demons get close, pitchforks ready to jab, they submerge again in a hurry.
One sinner stays on the surface too long and a demon snags him with his weapon. He calls the others over to help him tear the sinner to bits. Dante urges Virgil to stop the torture, so the ghost steps in and asks the sinner where he was born. The sinner answers, giving a lot more information than that. The demons stab him a few more times, but then, obviously amused, they tell Virgil to ask more questions. Virgil asks if there are any Italian sinners nearby.
The sinner (who hasn’t given his name) says that, yes, there is one, just below the pitch. He even tells the Italian’s name and volunteers to whistle for him if the demons promise to show him mercy. They agree, but, in the end, he manages to escape, diving down into the pitch. Some of the demons try and get him, but they end up stuck in the pitch, as well.
Virgil and Dante use this opportunity to slip away unnoticed, getting away from these crazy and sadistic demons.
As the two run away, Dante tells Virgil he’s afraid the demons will be angry with them for giving them the slip. He says he hears them coming and wants to hide. Virgil agrees, but as the demons get closer, Virgil realizes that won’t work. Instead, he picks Dante up and carries him, running until they get to another steep slope. Virgil slides down the slope on his rear, holding Dante like a baby. They get to the bottom just as the demons get to the top. They storm off, angry because they can’t follow into the next pouch.
This pouch of the Eighth Circle of Hell (the fifth pouch, is anyone’s counting) is dedicated to the hypocrites. Dante sees a group of sinner walking with gold cloaks, the cloaks being very heavy because they’re lined with lead.
Dante is looking for someone that he knows when one of the sinners, recognizing that Dante is Tuscan, shouts at them. Two sinners are talking about Dante as he approaches. Who is he? Is he alive? Dante tells them that he is indeed alive, and he wants to know about their punishment.
They admit that they are hypocrites, and that now they must walk eternally in this heavy clothing.
Dante then notices someone is crucified, laying out on the ground, naked. The sinners explain that this is Caiaphas, the priest that had the idea to have Jesus crucified. Now he must be here on the ground, allowing everyone that passes to walk all over him.
Dante asks if there is a way out of this pouch without going back to where the angry demons are. The sinner point him in the right direction. The bridge is broken, but it’s still passable because of all the rubble built up around it. Virgil gets upset because that means that the demons lied to them earlier.
The travelers walk off, in the direction of the half-broken bridge.
Dante and Virgil arrive at the bridge and manage to cross. They have to descend and then climb the opposite bank, because most of the bridge is broken down. At one point, Dante wants to quit and rest, but Virgil strengthens him with poetic words and they make it to the other side.
Along the way, Dante starts to talk out loud, and, to his surprise, a voice answers him. They make it to the top of the opposite bank, Dante expecting to find his mystery speaker, but it’s so dark he doesn’t see anyone. They continues, and Dante suddenly sees a valley filled with swarms of coiling snakes. In amongst the snakes are trapped sinners. The snakes do cruel things to the sinners, like binding them and biting them. When a snake bites a sinner, he/she turns to ash for a moment and then reforms to do it all over again.
Dante asks a close-by sinner who he is. The sinner gives his name. Dante seems confused about this man’s sins, so the sinner says that he stole holy relics from a church. He’s a thief. In fact, this pouch is dedicated to thieves. The sinner, named Vanni Fucci, gives a prophetic message about his home town and the political strife the will happen there.
When Fucci finishes the prophetic speech, he throws his fist up against God, a gesture of blasphemy. Dante grows indignant, and he even says now that the snakes are like his friends, especially the one snake that presently wraps itself around Fucci’s neck, as if to silence him. The snakes pull Fucci under the surfaces of the serpent swam.
Fucci is replaced by a centaur, who is also covered in snakes. In addition, he is being burned in the face and chest by a small dragon. Virgil explains why this centaur is getting such a wickedly horrible treatment. He is Cacus, a centaur that stole cattle from Hercules. Hercules beat Cacus to death.
As if on cue, Cacus is pulled beneath and three naked sinner appear in his place. Dante doesn’t pay much attention to them. He’s thinking about what Virgil said about Cacus. It seems the centaur received 100 blows from Hercules, even though he was dead with the first ten.
One of the sinners cries out, “Who are you?” No one answers, but the shouts gets Dante and Virgil’s attention. One of the sinners asks another about Ciafna.
At that Ciafna leaps out of the snake pit. But Ciafna isn’t another simple naked sinner—it’s a serpend with six legs, like a giant centipede. Ciafna attacks the man that called him, grabbing him and biting him in the face. Strangely, the man and Ciafna start to meld, exchanging colors and shapes. When they’ve melded, some hideous creature remains, not really man or snake but pieces of both.
Meanwhile, a snake pierces one of the other two sinners in the navel. He doesn’t seem to notice at all.
The snake-man blending continues. Something very weird happens. Ciafna and the sinner start to smoke. In the smoke, Dante can see their forms changing. Now Ciafna becomes a man and the man becomes a snake, which then slithers off.
Dante is so freaked out by this that his sight goes blurry. The two travelers move on.
Before we continue the narrative, Dante takes a moment to prophesy against Florence, saying that other towns will one day battle against his hometown.
Now Virgil and Dante continue on the next pouch. This is the eighth pouch of the Eighth Circle of Hell, the land of the fraudulent counselors. The actually have to craw along steep, rocky slopes to get there.
Dante sees into the pouch and notices flames moving and dancing around. He sees that each flame contains a sinner, and then the sinner moves, the flames move, too. Virgil confirms what Dante things he’s seeing. Dante asks about a double flame, and Virgil says they’re Ulysses and Diomedes, who were responsible for the Tojan horse and the ransacking of Athena’s temple, Palladium. For this reason, their punished together in a single, double-sized flame.
Dante wants to talk to them, and Virgil agrees, but with one condition—Virgil has to do the talking. They approach the double flame, and Virgil strikes up a conversation with Ulysses. Ulysses tells of his journey home from the Trojan war. He says that he and his crew sail to the ends of the known world and beyond. Eventually, they get too far, and God kills them in a windstorm. Thus Ulysses is now here.
When Ulysses finishes, Virgil lets him leave. Immediately, another burning sinner comes up, whose voice is so distorted and full of pain, that Dante can’t understand at first. Eventually, the voice improves, and the sinner is asking if he can talk to the travelers next.
The man is Italian, and he asks is his hometown region of Romagna is at war or at peace. Dante gives the sinner the bad new—Romagna is still at war. He goes into detail about the various towns in the area. In exchange for all that information, Dante wants to know who the sinner is. The sinner starts his story.
He was a soldier at first, but he later became a friar of the Franciscan order. He repented of his sins, which included stabbing quite a few people in the back. As a friar, he is suddenly in a very hard situation. Pope Bonaface VIII is warring against quite a few Christian families, because those people question Bonaface’s legitimacy as Pope. The soldier-turned-friar is being asked by his parishioners if it is okay in God’s eyes to fight against those families and defend the Pope. Bonaface tells the friar that if he counsels the people to fight against those families, all his sins as soldier will be absolved.
The friar takes the bait and gives the people permission to fight. So when that friar dies, a demon takes his soul right out of Saint Francis’ hands and takes him to Hell. Minos judged him a false counselor, and here he is.
After hearing this, the travels leave, crossing the bridge to the next pouch.
This is the ninth pouch, and here Dante sees so much suffering and blood that he can’t very well describe all of it. He says it like all the carnage of five different battles put together. One sinner they pass has been cut completely open. As they walk by, the sinner actually reaches up and opens himself wider, for them to see inside. The sinner says his name is Mohammed, and his friend, a sinner nearby with his face cut in half, is Ali.
They are all sowers of dissension here. This ninth pouch is dedicated to the bringers of scandal and schism.
Because all the sinners here do things that divide people, they are now all being cut in half. The sinners walk in a huge circle. When they get to a waiting demon, slices them in half. As they walk around, blood and gore falls out of their bodies. But be the time they complete the circle, they are healed, only to complete the cycle again.
Mohammed asks why Dante isn’t cut in half like everyone else. Virgil tells him that Dante is alive and that he’s touring Hell. All the sinners hear this and start paying attention, obviously interested in Dante’s unique situation. One of the sinners, a man with his throat slit like a second smile, asks Dante to carry a message back to his hometown. Dante agrees, as long as the sinner can point out another famous sinner to him.
Dante is shown Curio, a man that convinced Caesar to betray his friend Pompey and invade Rome. That invasion started a civil war, so now Curio’s tongue has been cut in half. He can’t speak anymore.
Another sinner, named Mosca, has his hands cut off. He tells of his sins. Dante says that Mosca’s treachery lead to death for his family. Mosca runs away, screaming.
Next comes Bertran the Born, the man that turned Prince Henry against his father, Kind Henry II. His head had been removed, and he carries it around like a lantern. He has to hold it up so he can speak to Dante. Because he divided father and son against each other, he now must carry his head.
After seeing all these cut-up people, Dante says his eyes are drunk with tears. Virgil tells him to man up and keep going. They have to cross this massive pouch and time is running short. Virgil keeps walking, forcing Dante to keep up. Dante really started crying when he saw a member of his own family, but Virgil tells him to keep going and forget about all that.
We learn that, while Bertran the Born was talking, Dante’s relative was standing atop the bridge, yelling curses at Dante. When he realized he was being ignored, he walked away, pouting. Dante knows this man, and feels sorry for him, because he apparently died violently in a family feud.
They make it to the bridge of the tenth pouch, the realm of the Falsifiers of Metals. Dante is impacted most by the sounds, so much so that he puts his hands over his ears.
There is screaming everywhere. Everyone here is afflicted with some horrible disease. Dante sees two sinners attacking each other with claws. Virgil walks up to them and asks them if there are any Italians around. Of course, these two men are Italian, and they want to know about Dante. Virgil gives them the same speech we probably have memorized by now: Dante is alive, and they are on a mission from God to tour Hell, etc.
Dante asks about them. One sinner says that he lied to a Bishop by telling he could make him fly. When that promise didn’t turn out possible, the Bishop got angry, started investigating the sinner, and discovered that he practiced alchemy. The sinner was burned at the stake, and Minos sent him here.
This sinner, named Griffolino, is Sienese, so Dante makes fun of Sienese people. Another sinner comes up and joins in the taunting, naming more Sienese that deserve ridicule. At the end, though, this new sinner, Capocchino, turns out to be Sienese himself!
I appears the this tenth pouch is not just for makers of false gold (alchemists) but also for counterfeiters of all kinds—of persons, of coins, even of words.
Capocchino still stand before Dante and Virgil, until two more sinners, vicious in nature, attack the sinners from the last canto. One actually bites Capocchino in the neck! Griffolino, the alchemist from the last canto, says that this vicious creature is Gianni Schicchi, a man that impersonated someone else so he could “inherit” his late friend’s best horse. The other vicious, attacking sinner is a woman, named Myrrha, a princess to fell in love with her father and pretended to be someone else so she could have sex with him.
Dante sees another man that’s been twisted into the shape of a lute, and his face and skin are rotting off. This sinner calls himself Master Adam. Master Adam’s punishment is that he constantly thirsts for water. But his greatest desire is that of finding Guido II, the man that first convinced him to start counterfeiting coins.
Master Adam also introduces two more sinners nearby: Potiphar’s wife (who falsely accused Joseph of raping her) and Sinon of the Greeks (who tricked the Trojans into taking the Tojan horse into their city). Sinon strikes Master Adam in his bloated belly for talking about him. Adam attacks back with a slap in the face. Before long, the two are fighting and insulting each other.
Dante watches until Virgil comes and pulls him away. Dante apologizes for being so entertained by the insulting sinners. Virgil tells him he is forgiven.
And then they both fall asleep.
Dante spends some time talking about Virgil’s tongue, saying it has great power to hurt or to heal.
Now the travelers decide to move on the ninth and final circle of Hell, although the darkness is so thick, they can’t see where they’re going to climb that steep bank. They have to depend on their sense of hearing to get around. A deafening sound continues to echo around them, like from some kind of horn.
As they climb, Dante can make out hundreds of high towers in the distance. He wonders if it’s a city, and he asks Virgil about it. Virgil at first basically tells him to wait and see, but then he goes ahead and explains a little. He says that those aren’t towers at all, but giants that are so amazingly tall that they look like towers.
Welcome to the final circle of Hell. Dante becomes afraid, and his fear builds the closer he gets to this final realm. As he sees more of one of these giants, he sees them as hideous and supernaturally huge. They are embedded into the ground from the waist down, forced to stay in one place.
One giant babble some nonsense in Italian and Virgil silences him. The ghost explains that this giant is Nimrod, the king of Babylon, the man that masterminded the building of the tower of Babel. That is why speaking gibberish is part of Nimrod’s punishment. And, because Nimrod’s actions cause the division of all mankind, he deserves to be in this final Circle of Hell.
The next giant they see is in restraints. This, Virgil says, is Ephialtes, a man who challenged the gods and lost. Because he took up arms against gods, he is now forever restrained.
Dante asks about another giant that challenged the gods—Briareus. Virgil says they’ll see much more soon enough. Ephialtes causes a small earthquake as he tries to free himself from his bonds.
Until now, Dante and Virgil have been seeing all this from the top of the bank. Now, the travelers continue on to Antaeus, another giant, who is willing to help them get down below. He carries them down to the ground.
They are now at the ground level of the Ninth Realm.
Words fail Dante when he tries to describe the horrors of the deepest parts of Hell. He calls his language childish and small, and he invokes the Muses for help.
As Dante is lowered to the ground level of the Ninth Circle, a voice tells him to watch his step, lest he might step on the heads of his brothers. He looks down to see a frozen lake, the surface of which looking more like glass than ice. Buried in this ice up to their chins are sinners, so that only their heads clear the surface, their teeth chattering. They keep their head bent down, cursing the cold the whole time.
Dante sees two heads that are very close together, so he asks them who they are. They are so close that their hair is tangled together. They bend their necks to look up at Dante, but they have been crying and their tears have frozen their faces, their mouths stuck shut. They can’t speak; they only knock their head together.
Another sinner speaks up, identifying the sinners as the Bisezio brothers. They killed each other over politics. The speak continues to identify several more sinners down in the ice, and then he identifies himself as Comiscione dei Pazzi, a Ghibelline that killed a relative for political power.
Dante and Virgil move on. There are thousands of sinner’s heads sticking up from the ice, all around. While they are walking, Dante kicks a sinner right in the face. The sinner curses Dante, and the poet stops to clear things up.
Dante asks the man who he is, but the sinner keeps complaining instead of answering the question. He asks if Dante is alive, and Dante says that, yes, he is alive and he can make the sinner famous in the world of the living.
The sinner doesn’t care about any of that; he just wants to be left alone. Dante gets mad and starts pulling on the man’s hair, but he refuses to answer any questions. Then Dante actually does start pulling out the sinner’s hair in handfuls, the sinner screaming all the while. Finally a nearby sinner-head yell for “Bocca” to be quiet. Now that he has the sinner’s name, Dante wants to know more, but Bocca is only interested in declaring the sins of others around him.
The travelers move on, until Dante sees two sinners that are buried close together, but they are positioned in such a way that one is actually up against and eating the head of the other. Dante asks what sin they have committed to be in such a position.
The biting sinner raises his mouth from his neighbor’s bleeding head, wipes his mouth on the same neighbor’s hair, and starts talking. His name is Count Ugolino, and his poor neighbor/snack is Archbishop Ruggieri. Ugolino says that Ruggieri tricked Ugolino and then killed him. He decides to start at the beginning.
Ugolino, as magistrate of Pisa, has to make hard decisions, including giving up some of Pisa’s fortresses to neighboring cities. Since these cities were hostile to Pisa, many thought of this as a betrayal. Because of the hot political climate, Ugolino is eventually exiled out of the city, until the Archbishop invites him back in… only to betray him.
Ugolino ends up locked in a tower with his sons. When food stops coming. Ugolino is forced to watch as his own sons die. Then, Ugolino hints to the fact that he ate his own dead children! Just telling the story drives the count crazy, so that he starts biting on his neighbor’s head again.
Datne moves on the next area. Here, the sinners are not buried in the ice. Instead, they’re laid out flat on top of it. Their tears have quick frozen over their eyes, like a visor. Even Dante feels cold and numb. But then Dante feels a wind against his skin. He asks Virgil where it came from, and Virgil says he’ll see soon enough.
Dante stops to talk to a sinner, offering to peel of his frozen tear visor if he’ll give some info about his sins. The man says that he, Fra Alberigo, had some family members over to his house, only to have them assassinated. Dante suddenly gets an idea and asks Alberigo if he’s dead yet.
Alberigo says he doesn’t know. Apparently in his region people can be dragged down to Hell even when they haven’t died yet!
Dante doesn’t believe it, until he’s shown a sinner that he knows is still alive up in the world of the living. Alberigo gives the explanation: apparently when you sin so deeply, like killing your guests, your soul is brought here while your body is inhabited by a demon up there.
Dante is so upset by these things that he refuses to clean off the ice visor from Alberigo, since he’s so corrupt that he can be sent to Hell before even dying.
“Vexilla Regis prodeunt inferni” are the opening words of this last Canto. It’s Latin, meaning “the banner of the King of Hell draw near.”
Virgil is the one that spoke these words. He then tells Dante to be on the lookout for Lucifer himself. Dante looks hard and sees what he first thinks is a windmill in the distance.
As they continue walking, Dante sees that the sinners here are completely submerged in ice, their strangely positioned forms visible beneath the glassy surface. There is also a strong wind all around.
Now Dante sees that Lucifer, who is bigger than any of the giants. He is huge and hideous, so much so that Dante wonders how he could have been beautiful ever.
Lucifer has three heads—a red one, a yellow one, and a black one. Each head has it’s own powerful wings, which are collectively causing the powerful wind. Lucifer is crying out of all six eyes (two for each head). In each of his three mouths, Lucifer has a sinner: Judas (who betrayed Jesus), and Brutus and Cassius (who betrayed Caesar).
Virgil says that the tour is finally over; it’s time to leave. To get out of here, Dante climbs up on Virgil’s back. Virgil then starts climbing on Lucifer’s legs. When they pass his privates, Virgil puts Dante down for a minute. When Dante looks around, everything is upside down! Virgil takes Dante down (up?) and then explains. When they passed Lucifer’s privates, gravity reversed itself. They are now under Jerusalem, where Christ died.
Apparently, now they are in the southern hemisphere, which is mainly water because, when Lucifer was cast down to Hell, he fell by way of the southern hemisphere.
Dante realizes they in a cave, the river Lethe is nearby. They come out to see the stars in the sky.
They are out of Hell, and the journey is over. And with that, the story is Inferno is over.
Elend works to find a way to convince the assembly to name him king again, while Vin wants to tell him her theory about Demoux. Tindwyle gets upset with Sazed when she finds out that he helped write part of the laws Elend put into place a year ago. Vin leaves the group and finds Zane, who immediately attacks her. She thinks he wants to spar, like before, but the fight becomes aggressive and Vin must fight him to survive. Zane tells her that he was ordered to kill her and that this attack was a warning. There are also many refugees coming from the koloss army, on their way to seek refuge in Luthadel. After giving his two warnings, Zane leaves.
Vin tries on another custom-made dress. Tindwyl tells her that Elend has nearly learned as much as he can from her; he’ll now have to learn to be a good leader through experience. Elend prepares his armored escort and carriage to go and see Cett. Breeze decides not to go, since he and Cett have history, which would only make the situation worse. When Elend and Vin actually enter the keep Cett is staying in and talk to the man, they discover just how sincere he is. He doesn’t want his daughter back, trusting that Elend will take good care of her. Cett wants Elend to step down from the election for king, and in return he won’t have Elend killed when he is made king. They also talk about the fact that no atium was found in all of Luthadel. Finally, Cett dismisses the two.
Sazed wanders through warehouse full of refugees from the koloss attacks, trying to help and health where he can. Tindwyl comes in and talks to him. She wants to see what he’s found–the rubbings he’s been transcribing. Meanwhile, Breeze has been listening in on the conversation, soothing both people in a way that would make them more friendly to each other. He walks among the refugees, trying to sooth away bad emotions and make them feel better. Elend and Ham come in, and Elend wants to make sure all the people have the clothes they need. Later, Breeze goes into the keep and has a secret meeting with Clubs. Though they always seem to hate each other, they drink together and talk; they’ve struck up a strange companionship. Allrianne walks in and tries to steal Breeze away. Vin, watching from outside, discovers that Allrianne is a rioter, since she was rioting Breeze’s emotions. She and OreSeur then go to find Demoux, still certain that he is the kandra spy. They find him in a little meeting of the church of the Survivor. He can’t be a spy, Vin decides. Then who is?
Sazed and Tindwyl sit together in the study, pouring over the rubbings, searching their metalminds for any references to the deepness or Hero of Ages. It’s morning, meaning they’ve been at it all night long. Tindwyl knows the course of actions Sazed takes is different from what the keepers want, but she is willing to stay with him and study these things further. Meanwhile, Elend and Ham walk along the wall. Ham comments that Elend looks more kingly than ever. As they walk, Elend announces that he has an idea to help Luthadel’s situation.
Vin, Elend, and the rest of the crew arrive early for the day of the election for king. Before the voting begins, Vin, trying to figure out what Elend has up his sleeve, discovers that he has joined the church of the Savior, in an effort to curry votes from the skaa members of the assembly. Suddenly, a groups of allomancers attack Elend and Cett. Vin manages to fight off the men, getting badly hurt in the process. After the fighting, the vote is moved to a more secure location, and the assembly members each announce their vote. Surprisingly, Penrod, a nobleman from the assembly is chosen the new king. Elend hands over his crown and leaves.
Straff Venture is angry that Zane sent a group of his allomancers to their deaths while Vin still lives. Zane promises that he has a plan to take care of her. Meanwhile, Straff meets with Penrod, the new king of Luthadel. Penrod is planning to give Luthadel to Straff, opening the gates to him and handing over the kingship. Straff, on the other hand, doesn’t want to enter the city while Vin still lives. Later, Zane tells Straff that he has been poisoned again. Zane leaves, and Straff is forced to ride hard back into the camp so his mistress can make him another antidote tea.
Vin awakes to see that Elend is with her. He tells her that he is not king, and he reports that OreSeur, who was badly hurt in the fight, is currently digesting a new set of bones. Vin feels that Elend is now scared of her somehow because of the way she fought those allomancers. Vin goes back to sleep, and awakes to find Zane there. He accuses her, saying that she could have killed those attackers easily had she not been so distracted with protecting Elend and other innocents. Later, OreSeur visits Vin, in another dog’s body. They talk more about the Contract that binds all kandra. Vin uses brass and duralumin to push strongly on OreSeur’s emotions. Even though he at first does not react at all, with enough force, Vin hurts him very badly, and she felt like she were controlling him for a moment. She apologizes for hurting OreSeur, and he leaves to get some rest. Vin promise to never tell anyone what she’s discovered about kandra.
Sazed and Tindwyl continue to talk about the things they are learning. Something doesn’t make sense about the rubbings, written by Kwaan. It seems that Kwaan did not trust Alendi, but he also knew Alendi was a good man. But if Kwaan knew Alendi was good, why did he have his nephew, Rashek, to mislead or even kill Alendi? Elend comes in and asks for advice. After a discussion, he decides that being king isn’t about a title, but about doing something to help others. He returns to his closet and retrieves the white suite, the one made for a king.
Elend is hard at work, helping the people. He’s sending men out to dismantle the wooden parts of keeps and houses to use as firewood. The many refugees are cold and hungry, and he wants to help them. Someone comes with news that one of the gates under the river has been broken. That is how someone has been getting into the city and poisoning the wells. Also, other reports say that an Inquisitor is lurking about the city. Elend decides to go out and talk to Jastes, with the koloss army, himself. He rides out and meets Jastes, unable to make any kind of deal. On the way out, Elend manages to fight and kill one smaller koloss, earning the sword and pouch as his own. He looks into the pouch and discovers how Jastes is controlling the koloss. He’s paying them.
Vin sees Elend, now returned from his meet with the koloss army, inured and resting. Zanes comes and says that Cett was the one that planed the attack at the voting ceremony. Vin gets angry and decides to attack Cett. Zane and Vin attack the keep that Cett has been staying at in Luthadel. Together, they kill guards and hazekillers. Fueled by rage, Vin kills quickly, working her way to Cett’s room. She realizes that Zane is using atium, while she has none, and yet she’s killing just as easily as he is. They finally get to Cett’s room, where he is with his son. Vin fights them at first, but when she discovers that neither of them is an allomancer and that Cett doesn’t have a single allomancer with him, she leaves them behind, injured and scared.
The crew sees that Cett’s army is now leaving, a result of Vin’s attack on his keep the night before. Elend does not know why Vin attacked Cett like that. Some in the crew think she’s crazy, but Elend just sees her as determined. They also discover that the “coins” Jastes has been using to control the koloss are fake, wooden coins painted gold. Elend goes to find Vin, who is hiding in the city. He finds her with OreSeur’s help. She says she must leave Luthadel and go north, to Terris. Elend says he trust her to do the right thing. They have one large bead of atium, and Vin gives it to OreSeur to hold for her.
Sazed and Tindwyl compare notes, studying the rubbing and other references they’ve managed to find. Tindwyl admits that she doesn’t believe in these prophecies, her interest in them being purely academic. Sazed, on the other hand, thinks Vin might actually be the next Hero of the Ages. While they talk, they discover that someone–or something–has torn a piece from one of the transcription pages. Vin comes in, while they try to figure out at what point were they both gone or occupied to not have seen an intruder going through their things. Vin asks Sazed how she can know if she’s in love. They talk about trust. After Vin leaves, Elend comes in and starts asking similar questions. Elend thinks he and Vin are too different to make a couple, but Sazed says that, to him, they are more alike than they think. After Elend leaves, Sazed realizes that Luthadel is going to fall soon; he needs to get both Elend and Vin out of the city before that happens.
Sazed calls a meeting with the members of the crew: Dockson, Breeze, Ham, and Clubs. He doesn’t invite Elend, Vin, or Spook. They talk about how the city is sure to fall. Straff apparently is in no hurry to take Luthadel. Instead, he’ll back off and let the koloss attack the city first. The koloss will win and enter the city, pillaging as they go. Then, with the koloss weakened and tired from the fight, Venture will ride in like a hero and save the city, defeating the koloss and taking Luthadel for himself. Sazed says that Elend and Vin need to get out of the city before these things happen. He wants Spook and Tindwyl to go with them. The rest of the group will have to stay and fight and die. Meanwhile, Vin feels she must follow the drumming she hears all the time. In Straff’s camp, Zane is attacked by his father’s men. He defeats them, but spares his father. He leaves, saying that tonight he will take Vin with him and leave Luthadel. He tells Straff that he should wait for the koloss to attack and then take the city.
Vin is in her room with OreSeur when Zane visits. He wants her to come with him, but she says she can’t because she doesn’t want to leave Elend. When Zane sees that she won’t go, he attacks her. They fight. When Zane starts to burn atium, Vin asks OreSeur for the large bead, a bead Zan had given her before. OreSeur doesn’t respond to her command. Vin discovers that OreSeur is not OreSeur. He is TenSoon, Zane’s kandra. Of course! There was no other spy. The bones they found were TenSoon’s and he had killed OreSeur! Zane corners Vin, but Vin uses a massive soothing to take control of OreSeur/TenSoon and attack Zane from behind. She then cuts the bead of atium fro TenSoon. But this is another trick. The bead is lead, with only a thin layer of atium. Soon, Vin is left helpless against a Mistborn killer with atium. Vin decides that Zane can see what she’s about to do, or, rather, what she plans on doing. If she attacks without thinking, though, she can, see in Zane’s reaction what she is going to do, only to change it at the last possible second. The trick works, and Vin defeats Zane. After Zane dies, she thanks OreSeur/TenSoon for helping her win. His contract is void, and he must return to his people. Vin goes to find Elend.
Elend is in his study when Vin comes in, bloody from her fight with Zane. She tells him that she killed him. He calls for Sazed, who comes to help with the wounds. While she is there, on the ground, she asks Sazed if he knows any wedding ceremonies. Of course, he knows hundreds. Vin asks which one is the shortest, and Sazed recalls one that only requires a declaration of love between the bride and groom before an ordained witness. Vin and Elend both say that they love each other, and Sazed declares them married. The wounds are clean, and Sazed sends Vin to get some rest. He also gives them a fake map to find the Well of Ascension. If the couple follows the map, they’ll be gone from Luthadel for a long time.
Elend and Vin prepare to ride out of the city. Tindwyl decides to stay in Luthadel. Spooks gets ready to go, and Allrianne will ride out, at Breeze’s insistence. So the four of them ride out, Vin quickly having to fight pursuers from Straff’s army. Once they are free, Allrianne breaks off to find her father’s army. Meanwhile, some of the crew watch as the escape, now sure of their own coming doom. Straff Venture hears of the escapes, but he has problems of his own now. He’s getting sick, which he knows is the result of poisoning from his son, Zane. He sends for his mistress, Amaranta, to fix him an antidote, but he discovers that she isn’t preparing what she normally does. She is actually killing, as she has for a long time. There never was any poison. Zane never tried to kill his father. But Amaranta, in her constant fixing of teas for Straff, has been causing him to become addicted to a rare drug. Without that drug, Straff will die. Straff, in a rage, kills Amaranta and then swallows as much powder from her medicine cabnet as he can, hoping to accidentally swallow some of the drug he needs before he loses consciousness.
Allrianne has made her way to her father’s camp, with the help of some bandits she’s tamed with her rioting. Her father, Cett, is not happy to see her. She convinces him to go back and join the winning party in the battle that is to come, although Cett promises that will likely be Straff. Meanwhile, Elend wakes up on the third morning out of Luthadel. He and Vin share a tent now, and he finds himself surprisingly comfortable on the hard ground, with Vin next to him. They get up and prepare the fire. It’s just the three of them: Elend, Vin, and Spook. Meanwhile Straff wakes up in bed. His men have taken care of him, and they’ve isolated the plant he needs to stay alive. When he hears that Vin and Elend have left the city, the men ask if they should attack now. Straff says no; they should pull back and wait for the koloss. Sazed meets with the others to plan a strategy for when the koloss attack. They plan to have a group of men at each gate. Saze and Tindwyl get a little time together, but then the warning drums begin to beat.
Vin is thinking about how the mist is staying later and later every day, instead of just disappearing with dawn, when she feels the pulsing of the mist spirit coming from Elend’s tent. She runs in, just in time to see the outline of that spirit lift some kind of knife to attack Elend, who is sleeping on the ground. She attacks the spirit and it disappears. Elend wakes up and never knows what was happening. She leaves Elend to sleep a little more and goes out to speak with Spook. He thinks someone is following them. Meanwhile, Sazed and the crew get ready, since it looks like the Koloss are about to attack. Men are at each gate, with one crewmember there to help. Straff sees that the koloss are attacking, but he tells his men to wait. Vin and Elend attack the camp of people that have been following them. It turns out to be Jastes. He’s lost control of the koloss, so he just left them. Elend kills Jastes because of his crimes against Luthadel. Vin discovers that the drumming sounds are getting softer, meaning the well is to the south, in Luthadel, and not in the Terris mountains.
Breeze works at his assigned gate, soothing soldiers by the dozen, helping them to be brave and fight well. The koloss pound at the door, while men atop the wall rain arrows down on the attackers. The koloss throw rocks up in return, smashing archers. Meanwhile, Vin runs towards Luthadel, burning pewter. She knows she will run out of pewter long before reaching Luthadel, and she wonders if the effect will kill her. But still she keeps running. Breeze and Clubs talk while the koloss continue to beat the gate. They blame themselves for being stupid enough to be in this mess, and they blame Kelsier for getting them into such responsibilities. Just then, the gates burst open. Meanwhile, Sazed gets word that Breeze’s gate had fallen. He doesn’t think he can really help. He notices that there is a crowd of skaa standing behind the defense force. When Sazed confronts them, telling them that they should flee to safety inside the city, the skaa answer that they are there to witness the fall of the koloss at the hands of Vin, who they are sure will return and make her appearance at Sazed’s gate. Then the gate breaks. Sazed musters his stored strength, growing in size, and faces the lead koloss, shouting for the men to fight. Vin, half collapsing and out of pewter, reaching a small village. At first she thinks to ask for pewter, but then she remembers how she used to travel with Kelsier on a path of metal bars in the ground. She asks for horseshoes, using them to “walk” by leaping, placing horseshoes ahead of her and pulling the ones behind to place further. In this way, she uses the horseshoes like stilts to help her travel in the air.
Outside Luthadel, Straff Venture sees that the koloss have now broken into the city gates. His men are ready to attack the koloss from the rear, but Straff decides to wait longer. Sazed, fighting the koloss, realizes that they need to get the gate closed again in order to survive. Using strength and weight, he manages to fight off the koloss and get the gate closed again. While getting a little break, a messenger comes and says that Tindwyl’s gate fell over an hour ago. Meanwhile, Clubs and Breeze are attacked and forced to run. Clubs is killed, while Breeze hides in a building. Dockson contemplates the root of their failure. He attacks a koloss, only to be cut down. Straff decides not to swoop in a save the city while the koloss are weak. Instead, he’d rather wait for the koloss to kill everyone and burn the city. Then Straff will move in. Meanwhile, Sazed fights on, wondering what happened to Tindwyl. He feels he is going to die, but then Vin arrives and starts killing koloss. Breeze is found by Ham and some others. They want to try to escape.
Vin continues killing koloss, several at a time. Sazed, outside Lord Penrod’s keep, begs the newly appointed king to go with them as they try to escape. Penrod insists on staying inside his keep. Vin continues to fight the koloss, but now she is almost completely out of pewter, steel, and almost every other metal. In desperation, to save some skaa from certain death, she super-soothes them, like she’d done to TenSoon, controlling the koloss with her mind. Sazed is standing outside Penrod’s keep when Vin walks up with koloss in tow. She orders Penrod to gather his men and put out the fires in Luthadel. Vin will take care of the koloss throughout the city. Later, Sazed finds Tindwyl’s dead body among the slain soldiers. He feels that all the faith, all the religions, he has always treasured is now useless. His life, he believes, has been a sham.
Straff wakes up and takes a sample of the drug he needs to stay alive. He gathers his men, expecting to be able to take the city now. But the koloss come out with the remaining soldiers of Luthadel. Vin jumps from among the koloss, sailing through the sky with a giant sword, cleaving Straff and his horse in half on impact. Allrianne watches these events from her father’s camp. She charges after them to help Luthadel’s army, forcing her father and his men to ride after her. Straff’s army surrenders, and Janarle, Straff’s general, is named the new Lord of the Venture army. Janarle, Penrod, and Cett all swear loyalty to Elend as their Emperor. Vin, needing rest, leaves Sazed in charge of the Empire until Elend can return to Luthadel.