Monday, March 25, 2013

Villain of the Month: Cain

In considering classic villains, it only seems appropriate to look back to the first human villain of the Judeo-Christian tradition on which so much of western literature is based. Cain (Qayin). The slayer of Abel (Hevel). 

While there are many additional sources and resources (who hasn’t written about this tale that comprises only eight verses of the KJV Bible? Certainly not Steinbeck, Baudelaire, Shakespeare, Blake, Dante, or so so many others), today I’ll stick to the Koren Jerusalem Bible translation of the stories in honor of Passover.

In case you’ve somehow missed the story, a recap: essentially Hevel was a “tiller of sheep” and Qayin was a “tiller of ground” and when Qayin brought his offering of “the fruit of the ground” and Hevel brought his offering of “the firstlings of the flock and of the fat parts thereof” to the Lord, the Lord did not give equal responses. “…the Lord had respect to Hevel and to his offering: but to Qayin and to his offering he had not respect.” The response from Qayin? Then from Lord again? “Qayin was very angry, and his face fell. And the Lord said to Qayin, why art thou angry? And why art thou crestfallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin crouches at the door, and to thee shall be his desire. Yet thou mayest rule over him.” Interesting exchange. So what does Qayin do? “And Qayin talked with Hevel, his brother…” Let me repeat that line. 

“And Qayin talked with Hevel, his brother” 

I’m just going to throw this out there, but I think that all great sibling rivalry, or even all great jealousy stories, are stories that flesh out and modernize that conversation between the two brothers. What happened? Aren’t we curious? 

Aren’t we even more curious when immediately after that line (really—there is nothing else) in the same sentence even, “and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Qayin rose up against Hevel his brother, and slew him.” The end. Murder done. 

Showcasing some serious psychopathic tendencies (see previous posts on sociopaths), when asked where his brother is, Cain utters the classic line “I know not: am I my brother’s keeper?” I can just see an old-time Nancy Grace replaying a clip of that line over and over the way we’ve repeated the refrain over and over for thousands of years. We’ve always been horrified at sociopathic tendencies.

We’ve also always been drawn to them. 

So my Passover challenge to you (if you choose to accept it) is to quickly write out that conversation. What did one brother say to the other? How did Cain approach him? What is a compelling source of Cain's anger? Hints at backstory? What was Abel’s first response? Was he condescending? Entitled? Kind? I have a feeling that it might make for some interesting layering for anyone writing a Jealousy or Sibling Rivalry tale…

PS If you do happen to complete the challenge, I’d love to read anything anyone’s willing to share (either via email to or posted in comments, and if you manage to knock my socks off, I just might send you chocolate from a favorite chocolatier.) ☺

PPS Winner of the "Win a Teen Reader Contest" Will be announced tomorrow!!!!!!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting challenge. I'll have to accept your challenge one day soon. I have four boys, so I'm sure I can think of something!