|Public Domain photo|
The personification of Death in this form has been around since the 15th century. In some cases, the Grim Reaper could actually cause the victim's death. For the most part, however, the Grim Reaper came to reap a person's soul and drag them into the afterlife.
The Grim Reaper has been depicted in many other forms too. In the television series, American Horror Story; Asylum, Death was represented as a dark angel. Played by the beautiful actress Francis Conroy, Death seals the deal with a kiss. In Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics, Death is personified as a goth female dressed in casual clothes. She wears a silver ankh on a chain around her neck, and has a marking similar to the Eye of Horus around her right eye. In the television series Supernatural, Death (personified by the brilliant actor Julian Richings) is a father to many reapers, who act as his minions. In my novel BETWEEN, Death is the spirit of an individual (who has committed suicide, in this case) assigned to a living person during the course of their lifetime. When it's time for that person to die, the Death Spirit steps in to take them where they need to go.
These Death forms are similar in that they appear human. Why? Because death is a scary concept for most. In appearing as a human-like entity, there is the small chance of being able to bargain for one's life. I have yet to see Death in the form of a toothbrush or a crayon. Maybe a fluffy white kitten. One with a wide-eyed stare who doesn't give a damn about your pleas. Hmm...