Sunday, June 22, 2008

C L Moore's "Fruit of Knowledge" (novelette, religion): First few days of Adam, Eve, & the second woman - in the Garden of Eden

Quote from short story titled Fruit of Knowledge by C L MooreFor someone with only a vague knowledge of the story of Adam, Eve, & their apple eating in the Garden of Eden, it made a fun read. I guess someone with a Biblical background may get a bit more judgmental about this story; but I enjoyed it happily in my lack of knowledge.

Indian readers will feel some familiarity with writing style of Ashok Banker's multi-book retelling of Ramayan. Focus is on devotional interpretation of an old work, rather than more typical rational interpretation.

Story summary.

It's set in the "semi-sentient" Garden of Eden, & begins a day after Adam is created by God out of earth; there is still that naked patch of earth out of which Adam was created, though grass has began encroachments. Adam is the only human around, though Garden is teeming with life.

God ("Jehovah"), living in his heaven "up", can simply come to the edge of heavens & look down into the Garden. He had created Garden as part of a Plan; Plan's details are not provided. Throughout the story, we won't actually see Him; but we will hear His Voice.

In the middle of the Garden are two special trees: "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" & "Tree of Life". Later gives you immortality, & Adam's attempt to access it will be denied by God near end of story. Tree of the Knowledge is, of course, the familiar apple tree.

A supernatural being other than God also features in the story: Lilith, the "Queen of Air & Darkness". Even God cannot kill her, though He can punish her. This is really her story; she's the main character.

On this second day of Adam ("the first Sabbath"), Lilith has a plan of her own for the Garden. A variation of her plan will appear near end of story - through some magical means I could not follow, she can grab hold of Garden for her exclusive use by making it invisible to God. But that's much later, & it will fail because of lack of cooperation from Adam.

Anyway, Lilith has come down & taken the shape that will later be known as woman's shape. She'll become friends with Adam, & will find strange stirrings in her heart; this supposedly heartless spirit is madly in love, & is effectively Adam's original wife! It's on the "eighth day" (of Adam's life?) when she breaks bonds of her body while Adam is asleep & flies away to sky.

Her bodiless being later returns to complete her unstated mission, & finds her vacated body occupied! Looks like God created Eve in her absence from a rib of Adam, & put her in old body of Lilith's!

Here we have the age old story of jealously - one man & two women.

In the meanwhile, there has been swords fight in heaven! So "the serpent", expelled from heaven by God, makes an unwanted appearance in the Garden. Also, "In those days the serpent went upright like a man, nor was he exactly non-human in shape... He was lithe & gorgeously scaled & by any standards a supremely handsome, supremely male creature."

So Lilith & serpent will plot their revenge. Serpent intends to destroy Adam, & with it the God's plan; Lilith convinces him to instead incite Eve to eat the Fruit of Knowledge that will make God destroy her, leaving Adam for Lilith!

In the meanwhile, Lilith has met Adam & convinced him she & Eve are different. And while Adam has a sense of duty towards Eve, he still has a soft corner for Lilith.

I got a feeling that serpent was able to create strange stirrings of love for him in the heart of Eve when he convinced her to eat the fruit, & near end to "Call your first child Kayn... Cain."

In the aftermath of fruit eating, we will also see the first blame-mongering among Adam & Eve.

Eventual judgment of God, after the act of fruit eating: "Adam, Eve, ... the Garden is not for you... I made your flesh too weak, because your godhood was too strong to trust. You are not to blame for that - the fault was Mine. But ... what power did I put in you, that the very elements of fire & darkness find kinship with you? What flaw is in you, that though you are the only two human things alive, yet you cannot keep faith with one another? ... you are not yet fit for perfect knowledge or immortality. You are not yet fit for trust... now you must go beyond temptation & work your own salvation out in the sweat of your brow, in the lands beyond the Garden. Adam, I dare not trust you any longer in your kinship with the earth I shaped you from. Cursed is the ground for your sake... it shall be one with you no longer. But I promise this... in the end you shall return to it".

Lilith's punishment is also her boon: "Let my children & Adam's haunt hers to their graves, then! ... Mine are the disinherited - let them take vengeance!"

And serpent (aka "Lucifer"), while leaving now as a ground hugging creature, will extract from Eve promise of his vengeance: "Give me my vengeance too - upon the Man... Call your first child Kayn... Call him Kayn the Spear of my vengeance, for he shall set murder loose among Adam’s sons."

See also.

  1. Ted Chiang's "Hell is the Absence of God": Taking parts of Bible literally.

Collected in.

  1. "The Best of C L Moore".

Fact sheet.

First published: Unknown Fantasy Fiction, October 1940.
Rating: A