Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pleased With Our Sacrifice

Abel: The Sky-Father speaks! He is pleased with our sacrifice.
But my brother's, he rejects.
Cain: What are you talking about? I didn't offer a sacrifice.
Abel: Brother, he takes what he wishes. Who are you, or I, to stay him?
Cain: Guy was a piece of work, all right. But he was a showman.
Always gave the people what they wanted.
A little sex and violence. A little drama.
- The Unwritten #35
by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

Have you ever heard a version of the story of Cain and Abel where Abel is the villain and Cain is the protagonist? Because I have. And it was pretty awesome.

In this issue of The Unwritten, we get a retelling of the story from Genesis 4. But Carey and Gross get rather creative with this version. The biblical narrative is brief and vague (for example, it never bothers to explain why Cain's offering was rejected), highlighting only the main beats of the story. Lots of room in between remains for interpretation. The creators have some fun with it and use the gaps in the story to completely twist the story.

Here, near the beginning of human history, Cain is a solitary farmer that wishes to be alone. His brother, however, is a charismatic and bombastic leader urging his fellow early humans to join him in worshiping his "Sky-Father" god. Abel essentially coerces Cain to come watch him make his offering on a hill. While there, Abel's lackeys set fire to Cain's fields, ensuring the farmer offers some sort of sacrifice. Cain, understandably upset by this, proceeds to bludgeon his brother with a rock.

It's wonderfully enjoyable to read and entices one to go back and read the Genesis account to see how well this could fit in the gaps and flesh out the narrative. If nothing else, it is a fun exercise in storytelling. Also interesting, the names "Cain" and "Abel" are never mentioned in the story. There is no direct mention of where the story comes from. But the mythology of Cain and Abel is so ingrained in our cultural history that Carey and Gross never need to state their names for readers to know what their story is alluding to.

Man, stories are great.

And this kind of makes me want to take other stories from the Bible and see if I can retell them by switching the protagonists and antagonists around. Would that be wrong? Yeah, that might be wrong. But it sounds fun!

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