Saturday, September 1, 2007

Comparative Storytelling III: Fight Like a Farmer

Welcome to part three of a (for the time being) four-part series of rants highlighting the commonalities of three supposedly different storytelling traditions. Be sure to check out the previous two entries: "Comparative Storytelling I" and "Comparative Storytelling II: Jupiter's Lament."


Eve gave birth to a son, whom she and Adam named Cain. Soon after, she gave birth to a second son, named Abel. Cain became a farmer, while Abel became a nomadic sheepherder. After a dispute between the two brothers concerning God’s favor, in which God accepted Abel’s offering of his flock over Cain’s fruit, Cain murdered Abel. God soon confronted Cain of his crime, but showed mercy on the farmer. Cain then built a city called Enoch, named after his son.

Romulus and Remus, twin sons of the god of war Mars (Ares), were left for dead and their mother buried alive for breaking her priestly vow of celibacy. (Thanks, Ares!) Surviving the wild, the twins were nursed by a she-wolf. Later, a shepherd named Faustulus took the boys home and raised them as his own.

When the twins reached adulthood, they started to build a city together. After a dispute between the two brothers concerning the favor of the gods, Romulus murdered Remus. Romulus suffered no consequence for his crime; instead Romulus completed the city called Rome, named in his own honor.

According to Daniel Quinn’s novels (and nonfiction, so I’m told), the singular tribe of totalitarian agriculturalists – farmers – needed more land to grow more crops. They spread their culture, often by force, to their nomadic and foraging neighbors. The culture of Cain the Farmer gave their brother – and father – cultures a “choice”: (1) be assimilated, or (2) be annihilated, since their way, totalitarian agriculture, was the one correct way to live. True to form, the totalitarian agriculturalists either assimilated or annihilated most of the cultures of nomadic sheepherder Abel and forager Adam. And with the flourishing of totalitarian agriculture, cities were built, then city-states, then nations and vast empires…

To this day, most of humanity ultimately belongs to Cain’s culture and only a few scattered tribes and peoples hunt, gather, and live in the hands of the gods.

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