Making a Diorama of Dante’s Inferno

Our very own Circle of Hell
Our very own Circle of Hell

As promised in yesterday’s post, here is how we made our diorama.  I had felt a little overwhelmed right from the start of this project and as I didn’t want the children feeling the same I tried to break it down into manageable sections for them:

  • First, we brainstormed all our ideas on the white board.  I had been collecting shoe boxes in anticipation of a diorama, and sure enough, that is what they chose to do.  The children also decided to primarily utilise our Play Mobil, with T11 building some of the more peculiar characters in 3D Lego.  T11 also requested the use of paper mache and I suggested we use tissue paper for colour and modelling.
  • Second, I made up some character cards, describing some of the main characters in the inferno.  There are so many, I thought cards might be a way to prevent the children feeling overwhelmed (like I was feeling at that moment!)
  • T11 took the some of the more complex animal cards and disappeared to begin his creations:
Working on a blue print of Lucifer
Working on a blue print of Lucifer
  • Meanwhile the girls went through all our Play Mobil gathering characters and props along the way.  This process went on to a greater or lesser extent every day:
Going through the Playmobil box
Going through the Play Mobil box
  • I encouraged the children to think of one circle at a time, creating a box per circle and keeping each box as a simple representation rather than focusing on too many details and it looking messy.

From this point we simply followed Dante’s journey through the inferno.

The Forest

Dante begins his journey  in a dark wood, where he meets three beasts which almost prevent him journeying any further.  Virgil’s spirit is there to help however and gives him the courage to continue to the Gate of Hell which states ‘All who pass here should give up all hope’.  Here is our portrayal of the dark forest:

We made the trees from polyester filling which we sprayed with watered down acrylic paint and painted toilet rolls.  The beasts were playmobil figures we already owned.
We made the trees from polyester filling which we sprayed with watered down acrylic paint and painted toilet rolls. The beasts were Play Mobil figures we already owned.
We covered two Play mobil figures in red and blue felt to represent Dante and Virgil, I used crepe paper for the river and a playmobil castle door for the Gate of Hell.  We wrote on the gate the words as they were written in our translation
We covered two Play Mobil figures in red and blue felt to represent Dante and Virgil, I used crepe paper for the river and a Play Mobil castle door for the Gate of Hell. We wrote on the gate the words as they were written in our translation
And those famous words
And those famous words

The First Circle

After crossing the river, Virgil and Dante enter the first circle of hell and encounter poets such as Homer talking on the grass.  This circle houses the pagans who have not taken Christ as their saviour:

Here you can see Horace and Ovid talking on the grass
Here you can see Horace and Ovid talking on the grass

At the border of the second circle awaits Minos with a huge tail to judge each soul and point to the circle in which it is destined to spend eternity:

Minos.  The green thing is meant to be his tail!
For Minos we used a dolly and plaited her hair to create a beard of sorts.  We used some wax strips to create a crown and dressed her in kitchen roll, hopefully to give the illusion of a male giant.  The green thing is meant to be his tail!

The Second Circle

From here the two men enter into Circle Two, which punishes the sin of Lust.  Here they find Cleopatra, Helen of Troy and the famous couple Paulo and Francesca. Here each pair, who were so attached to each other in life, now find themselves bound for eternity, blown about here and there:

Here each pair, who were so attached to each other in life, now find themselves bound for eternity, blown about here and there
We dressed a male and female in some tissue paper and had them flying by double sticky taping them to the wall of the box and sticking their hands together

The Third Circle

In the Third Circle, Dante see the Gluttons being punished by languishing in their own filth.  If they try to escape they are prevented by a three-headed dog, Cerberus, who slobbers all over them:

T11 made a three headed dog out of Lego, we made some discusting looking filth from paper and filling and placed two Play Mobil men under Cerberus.  The dog's slobber was made out of yellowed polyester filling
T11 made a three-headed dog out of Lego, we made some disgusting looking filth from paper and filling and placed two Play Mobil men under Cerberus. The dog’s slobber was made out of yellowed polyester filling

And for your delectation here is a close up of the slobber, hand-made by T11:

Yuck!
Yuck!

The Forth Circle

Circle four contains the Hoarders and Wasters.  These souls move huge boulders towards each other, and away, and then repeat:

C10 dirtied two white pom poms to look like boulders and had two Playmobil figures positioned as if pushing them
C10 dirtied two white pom poms to look like boulders and had two Play Mobil figures positioned as if pushing them

The Fifth Circle

Virgil and Dante then have Phlegyas, the boatman of the Styx, take them across the disgusting marsh into the fifth circle, where the Wrathful and Sullen are punished by being forced to languish in the foul slime:

DSC_0662

We used more sprayed polyester filling and stuck some playmobil figures underneath it.  We used a boat and a man to represent the boatman of the Styx
We used more sprayed polyester filling and stuck some Play Mobil figures underneath it. We used a boat and a man to represent the boatman of the Styx

Approaching the sixth circle, the two men come across a huge iron gate, guarded by fallen angels:

L10 cut out and painted some card silver which we attached to the boxes using double sided sticky tape.  She made some wings from black wax strips for the fallen angels
L10 cut out and painted some card silver which we attached to the boxes using double sided sticky tape. She made some wings from black wax strips for the fallen angels

The Sixth Circle

Circle Six was one of my favourite.  C10 came up with the great idea to use wiki sticks to create a head full of snakes for a Play Mobil woman to represent Medusa.  So cool:

Medusa
Medusa

Here, Heretics are punished in fiery tombs:

We used a tomb from our Egyptian set and tissue paper to create the illusion of flames and dumped a figure inside.
We used a tomb from our Egyptian set and tissue paper to create the illusion of flames and dumped a figure inside.

The Seventh Circle

We also really enjoyed making circle seven:

Showing the three separate area of Circle Seven
Showing the three separate area of Circle Seven

In the first part of Circle Seven Dante must navigate around the Phlegethon river, a river of boiling blood, where the violent against neighbours are punished:

We used a strip of tissue paper for the boiling river, placing a man inside to boil for eternity.  Two centaurs with their bows and arrows guard the sinners, preventing them from escaping from their torment
We used a strip of tissue paper for the boiling river, placing a man inside to boil for eternity. Two centaurs with their bows and arrows guard the sinners, preventing them from escaping from their torment.  We made the centaurs from some headless horses we owned (don’t ask!), taping some men to them to create the human head of the centaur

In part two of the Seventh Circle, sinners who have been violent against themselves, are punished.  They have to endure eternity being stuck in a tree and are fed upon by harpies, who cause them to bleed and their wound to pus:

Ha, loved this!  The children trapped Playmobil men in painted loo rolls adding some sprayed polyester filling to the tops to make the leaves.  They covered a mini play mobil figure in kitchen roll and placed him at the top of one of the trees and painted red blood trickling out of its mouth!
Ha, loved this! The children trapped Play Mobil men in painted loo rolls adding some sprayed polyester filling to the tops to make the leaves. They covered a mini Play Mobil figure in kitchen roll and placed him at the top of one of the trees to represent a harpie and painted red blood trickling out of its mouth!

Part three punishes sinners who are violent against God, nature and art.  These sinners are tormented on a burning, arid sandy plain:

T11 gathered sand from the garden, sieved it and popped it in the oven for good measure (!).  Again the fire was made from tissue paper and a figure placed into it
T11 gathered sand from the garden, sieved it and popped it in the oven for good measure (!). Again the fire was made from tissue paper and a figure placed into it

It is here that Dante sees the hideous monster Geryon, who serves as a “flying ferry” and carries Dante and Virgil down the cliffs to Circle Eight:

Geryon, a play mobil dragon
Geryon, a Play Mobil dragon

The Eighth Circle

Circle Eight, also known as Malebolge (or evil pockets), was our least successful.  We had decided to use polystyrene cups to represent the 10 evil pits.  In the end we used three just as a representation of how they could have been.  By this point we were running out of time and steam:

Here we showed three of the evil pockets
Here we showed three of the evil pockets

The Ninth Circle

And finally we come to the worse and thank goodness the last circle.  It is here that Dante encounters the six giants guarding the icy pit of concentric circles.  The outer circles contain the Treacherous, souls who are now embedded in the icy lake, with frozen tears in their eyes.  In the central lake lies Satan in the form of a three-headed beast, half in and half out of the lake, trapped by its icy coldness.  In its mouths lie writhing Judas Iscariot, Cassius and Brutus:

T11 made Satan from the description given in the book, whilst the girls painted a couple of pizza plates an icy blue for the lake.  The giants were made simply by cutting a few cereal boxes into vaguely human shapes
T11 made Satan from the description given in the book, whilst the girls painted a couple of pizza plates an icy blue for the lake. The giants were made simply by cutting a few cereal boxes into vaguely human shapes
The whole circle
The whole circle
The icy concentric circles with the defrauders trapped with their icy tears
The icy concentric circles with the defrauders trapped with their icy tears
Lucifer with the three men assigned by Dante as being the worse sinners of all: Judas Iscariot, Cassius and Braccus
Lucifer with the three men assigned by Dante as being the worse sinners of all: Judas Iscariot, Cassius and Brutus
And in its entirety
And in its entirety

I’m not sure how we did it, and I’m certain I never want to do such a complex project again, but we did finish it and in the assigned week.  Phew.  Never again though.

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

32 comments

  1. Wow Claire! What an undertaking! But oh so creative and well done! The kids will never forget this – just reading this post and I have images burned in my mind 🙂 Love how creative and ingenious the kids were with putting it all together. And T’s Lego pieces are amazing!

  2. I can see why you thought it was a complicated project. My goodness! It must have taken you hours! You’re children will never forget it!

    1. It’s gone already. It wouldn’t stand up on its own (hence T11’s head being used as a balancing board!) and we don’t have the room to store it so it was torn down about five minutes after completion.

  3. This was an amazing project. I was doubtful when I first heard about it because I know my own limitations, but, you and your children have a (seemingly) unlimited supply of ingenuity and the interaction of one with another adds to the complexity of the ideas generated. Well done, Claire, and a special well-done to your children.

    Myra, from Winnipeg, where we have temps around 0 – 3C, but I stubbornly insist on wearing sandals.

    1. Yes, I too was doubtful. I think it one of the few hands on project that did not have my whole heart. I definitely felt out of my depth. but we did it (primarily due to the children – who somehow didn’t feel overwhelmed at all!) and I think it was worth it.

  4. wow claire brilliant!!!!
    I made a late comment about your math struggling student but it was on an old post so I repeat the information here… I’ve had 6 struggling students( my 5 plus my autistic nephew last year) here is a link from Jimmie Langley’s lenses on squidoo, she talks about living math and I enjoyed her lenses very much, hope it helps . Much love from Switzerland , you are truly a blessing Myriam
    the link: http://jimmie.squidoo.com/?q=all

  5. I almost don’t know what to say. You all are amazingly creative. This seems like such a “grown-up” topic, but you have done an fantastic job in giving your children the vision and letting them run with it. I really don’t know how you do it. Your children are blessed to have such a dedicated mom as their teacher. I am looking forward to seeing what is next.
    Blessings to you, Claire.

    1. Not another diorama, that’s for sure! Not for a looooong time! I have to admit, trying to come up with age appropriate ideas for Dante certainly keeps my brain busy. Definitely not the easiest literature to study!

  6. Wow, incredible!!! This is something my kids would definitely love but it sounds like soooo much work, so I’ll just admire yours instead. 🙂 Absolutely fantastic idea!

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