I'm trying to recall when I first stumbled upon the original Dungeons & Dragons Doppelganger? I know that way back in 1980 I had a PC wizard snuffed out by his double in a lonely little dungeon room. The knife was wedged between the vertebrae of my character what a gusher. The Doppelganger was first introduced in Greyhawk (1975). But it was in the first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual that we were formerly introduced when my fighter Hans Gurm bit the dust at the shape shifting claws of another doppelganger. But there are far more to the mythological origins of this alien shape shifter including a deeper & far more deadlier Hellish creation by Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy.
So let's dive right into the deep end of this mysterious double with its mythological origins according to Wiki;
The concept of the Ankou, a personification of death, in Breton, Cornish, and Norman
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, How They Met Themselves, watercolor, 1864
- The Ankou is the henchman of Death (oberour ar maro) and he is also known as the grave yard watcher, they said that he protects the graveyard and the souls around it for some unknown reason and he collects the lost souls on his land. The last dead of the year, in each parish, becomes the Ankou of his parish for all of the following year. When there has been, in a year, more deaths than usual, one says about the Ankou:
- – War ma fé, heman zo eun Anko drouk. ("On my faith, this one is a nasty Ankou.")"
'Every parish in Brittany is said to have its own Ankou. In Breton tradition, the squealing of railway wheels outside one's home is supposed to be Karrigell an Ankou ("The Wheelbarrow of Ankou"). Similarly, the cry of the owl is referred to as Labous an Ankou ("The Death Bird"). The Ankou is also found on the baptismal font at La Martyre where he is shown holding a human head.
In Ireland the proverb "When the Ankou comes, he will not go away empty" relates to the legend.
The seventh album of the Spirou et Fantasio comics series, named L'Ankou, also relates to the legend'
"It is said that the Ankou is a death omen that collects the souls of the deceased. The Ankou is the last person to die in a parish during a year. The last deceased person will assume the duty of calling for the dead. They describe the Ankou as a tall, haggard figure with long white hair. It is also perceived as a skeleton with a revolving head able to see everything everywhere. The Ankou is said to drive a cart and stops at the house of someone who is about to die. It knocks on the door, this sound is sometimes heard by the living, or it could give out a mournful wail like the Irish Banshee. The Ankou has also been reported as an apparition entering the house, it takes away the dead who are then placed in the cart with the help of two ghostly companions"
In Hell there are the soul doubles of living people so evil that there are demonic soul reflections already being tortured. Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy has several examples of these. There are also such beings with reflections within the Underworld of Hades.The realm of Perdition is going to be one of the realms of these doppelgangers. They are merely a facet of the larger being of Death. The monster is another alien life form going about its existence & its presence & function can be found within the description of the thing;
"In Dungeons & Dragons, doppelgangers have long, gangly limbs despite their above-average strength and agility, and pale gray skin. Their eyes resemble those of an octopus, yellow with slitted pupils, and they have no hair on any part of their body. Their facial features appear to be half-developed. They are cunning and patient, and will wait as long as it takes for an opportunity to present itself. They have the ability to Detect Thoughts, which helps them to mimic their target almost flawlessly by imitating their mannerisms and discovering information that only their target would know. Because of this, they are feared and regarded as natural spies and assassins. " Below the surface of society there is going to a large amount of secret societies & cults because these monsters know all kinds of secrets because of their strong association with Death.
- Cults of chaos & their necromancers are going to be summoning these monsters for their secret & forbidden knowledge. They are shape shifting around the halls of power & these monsters are constantly forced to take advantage of their natural resources. There is a deep connection to the Celtic Otherworldusing one of the classic pieces of Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy as its background we find ourselves with a wholly different monster whose fangs will not be consuming my adventurers likeness anytime soon. Used carefully the Doppelganger is one of the most dangerous customers that the PC's could run into on any world. A simple monster summoning spell can in fact create destruction for a classic old school campaign.