We all love Aunt Teleute, but she's probably not the first female anthropomorphic personification of Death (methinks "The Death of Captain Marvel" came long before Vertigo, and an obscure "Uranella" before even that, not even to mention the Brazil "Monica's Gang").

You see I'm a comic fan, and possibly you don't count this as literature. What are your contenders for the first occurence of a female Death in written literature? I neither accept medieval Pestilence (although this might have been a driving factor for gender change) nor Death goddesses from mythology (there are many of them, but they are not really anthropomorphic personifications - feel free to convince me otherwise. For example the dudes and dudettes that Utgard-Loki sics on the Aesir to troll them, Fire and Old Age - those are mythological anthropomorphic personifications for me - but Hel isn't one).

  • On this site, we certainly do count comics as literature. From the tour: "We interpret ‘literature’ in a broad sense, including written, spoken and sung works, in all genres, languages and forms: poetry, plays, stories, novels, lyrics, comic books, essays, belles-lettres, and so on." With this in mind, do you want to restrict your question to written literature, or open it to all forms of what we count as literature, including oral traditions, comics, etc.?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 8:37
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    Needs to be more precise. There are as you say lots of death goddesses and ancient personifications, as well as deities, monsters, and other figures associated more loosely with the underworld or death. What characteristics do you require (e.g. collecting souls, carrying a scythe). For instance, the ancient Greek Atropos has some characteristics similar to later representations of death, in terms of measuring out lives and snipping threads.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 9:13
  • @StuartF: Point taken. Although I'd still would file Atropos under Fate. Otherwise it would be a good example: is the cause of death, but not the agent; no connection to afterlife notions. (I just checked the TV Tropes entries "Grim Reaper" and "Anthromorpic Personification" - too broad with what I have in mind. But I can't nail it down at the moment.) Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 7:25
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    ‘ We all love Aunt Teleute’ Do we? Who is she?
    – Spagirl
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 8:54
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    I’m still no wiser. What does ‘Death of the Endless’ mean?
    – Spagirl
    Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 20:37

1 Answer 1


In St. Francis' Cantico delle Creature, composed in the 1220's (that makes it one of the earliest texts in Italian literature) he praises God for the things he created, among them Sora nostra morte, our Sister Death. Maybe you know that in Latin and descending Romance languages the grammatical gender of the word "death" (mors, morte, muerte...) is feminine, and so all personifications of death are bound to be female.

  • So does Slav language. (Indeed, the children film "Perinbaba" has a prime example, in Slav tradition she can turn into a fair maiden - and does, to avoid getting a deserved beat-up by the hero :-) That she kinda oversteps her bounds (deaths that wouldn't have happened otherwise lest she intervened personally) might still exclude her from what I have in mind. Your example, though, is a prime contender and will be accepted unless someone comes up with a convincing earlier one. Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 7:36

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