Does anybody know?
Because in real life all demons carry pitchforks or tridents.
Because it’s a common implement in the representations of demons, since at least the Middle Ages.
To torture the damned (by poking them).
Pitchforks are agricultural implements, and tridents are used in fishing; these demons appear to have quite mundane occupations when not torturing.
The trident is possibly a reference to Poseidon/Neptune, the Hellenistic God of the underworld (in addition to oceans & stuff.)
I was under the impression that this idea came from Dante’s Inferno.
ETA: If so, Dante probably knew that real demons carry pitchforks as don’t ask pointed out.
Dante puts the pitchfork using demons in bolgia 5 tormenting the grafters who are immersed in boiling pitch. I don’t think the pitch in pitchfork has any connection to boiling tar, I think it comes from pitch as to throw. It’s a pun in English, but I don’t know about Italian.
Poseidon is the trident wielding God of the Waters, and Hades is the God of the Underworld. Hades usually is depicted holding a scepter, but sometimes this is a bident (a two prong implement).
Some confusion occurred early in the Christian era when the character of Satan was being fleshed out. Satan combines the cloven hoofs and goat legs of the satyrs with a red and black ensemble (signifying the chthonic realms) and bearing a bident/trident. Where the pointy tail came from is difficult to say. The medieval authors who created the modern image of Satan wanted the guy to look as scary as possible, so I suppose this was artistic license.
Also, this may be of some interest: Why is Satan often shown as having goatlike features?
I always thought they were for both stabbing the damned to hurt them and for moving them about, with the demons impaling the damned with the pitchforks and flinging them onto heaps or into boiling blood or the like.
Perhaps it comes from hoarding the souls of lost men. Death reaps with his scythe and the devil hoards with the pitchfork.
A few Dutch Golden Age painters depicted demons in Hell with pitchforks. But that still doesn’t answer why this tradition arose.
Pluto - the god, not planetoid - was often depicted wielding a bident. As he was the rule of the Underworld it’s easy to see how this became conflated with demons from the Hell later on.
Incidentally demons in Japan, oni, wield kanabo. One imagines the symbolism is similar, i.e. that these entities are to be feared and can inflict harm.
ETA; In Hinduism the trademark weapon of Shiva is a trident, or trishula. As an aspect of Shiva is destruction I wonder if this had any impact on western mythology?
Artists such as Hieronymous Bosch depicted devils as monstrous combinations of many different elements. Bat wings and pointy tails may have just been elements that got standardized.
The pointy tails are supposed to be barbed tails- think Alien Queen. I think this is from Inferno, but I couldn’t give you a cite.
[quote=“Gagundathar, post:9, topic:686006”]
…the chthonic realms …[\QUOTE]
I’ve noticed in the last ten years or so that many restaurants provide only three-pronged table forks. Those places are also run by demons.
Spectre of Pithecanthropus meet Sheldon Cooper. Sheldon Cooper meet Spectre of Pithecanthropus.
**Why do cartoon demons carry pitchforks/tridents? **
Because the Democrats took all their guns!
Demons With Guns. We’re doomed.