Throughout history, humans have sought to explain death - and to allay their fears of unknown things to come. Many ancient cultures, for example, had mythologies involving guides to the afterlife. In ancient Greece, the handsome god Thanatos, brother of the god of sleep, led the deceased to Charon, ferryman of the River Styx. Charon then ferried the deceased to Hades, the underworld, where they might experience pleasure or punishment. Among the Vikings, attractive female spirits called Valkyries selected soldiers from the battlefield and led them to the afterlife, where they would be able to fight all day and feast all night.
During the Middle Ages, a disease epidemic called the Black Plague influenced the cultural perception of death. Many people succumbed to the disease, and a morbid outlook on life became visible in art and literature. Rather than being depicted as beautiful and angelic, the personification of death was often represented as an enemy, a skeleton. Black was the color of mourning and of evil, so he wore a black cloak. He was often shown to carry a weapon - a sword, a crossbow, and eventually, a scythe. Thus, the grim reaper was born.
What is a scythe? This curved blade on the end of a wooden handle was used to harvest grass-like crops, such as wheat. This became symbolic of the grim reaper's harvest of human life. Today, grim reapers appear in the art, decorations, and costumes of celebrations of the dead, such as Halloween, the Day of the Dead, and similar celebrations throughout the world.
Would you like to draw a grim reaper? This easy, step-by-step drawing tutorial is here to help. All you will need is a pencil and a sheet of paper. You may also wish to use crayons, colored pencils, markers, or paints to shade your finished drawing.
Watch 'How to Draw the Grim Reaper' Video Tutorial
Step by Step Instructions for Drawing the Grim Reaper
1. Begin by drawing a rhombus - a four sided shape, like a square, but upturned on its corner, like a diamond. The corners should be rounded, as this shape forms the opening of the grim reaper's hood.
2. Using a series of curved lines, outline the hood. The lines should surround the rhombus, and should double back to form the wrinkled peak of the hood on one side.
3. Extend two curved lines beneath the head to outline the body.
4. Enclose the body. Use a long, straight, horizontal line for the bottom of the figure. Connect it to the body using several short, curved lines, indicating rumpled folds of the garment.
5. Draw the grim reaper's hand. Begin by enclosing the fingers, using a small oval for each. Then, use a short, curved line to outline the palm.
6. Draw a rod in the grim reaper's hand. This will form the handle to his scythe. To draw the rod, extend long, straight, parallel lines above and below the hand. Enclose each end of the rod using a short, curved line.
7. Enclose the sleeves, using two curved lines for each.
8. Use a series of curved lines to outline the grim reaper's skull-like head. Notice the bulges near the eye sockets, cheekbones, and jaw.
9. Give the grim reaper a face. Draw two curved lines to indicate the brows. Beneath each brow, enclose a half circle to form the eye. Below the eyes, draw a small triangle with a rounded top point to indicate the nose. Draw the blade of the scythe by extending two long, curved lines from the rod, allowing them to meet in a sharp point.
10. Color your character.