Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology



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Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episodes)

by thesnowleopard (Wed Nov 14 2007 23:52:14)

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The show seems to have set up Sam and Dean in a sort of cosmic opposition. RSaM made an explicit reference to this with comparing the "good" and "bad" brother ghosts to Cain and Abel in the Book of Genesis. Abel was a herder and hunter, beloved of God. Cain, the older brother, was a "civilized" farmer. When God rejected one of Cain's sacrifices, but accepted Abel's, Cain murdered Abel in a jealous rage and tried to hide the crime. God exiled him and put a mark on him to show that no one could kill him--only God could punish him.

There are other things about them individually that indicate they may have been aligned in opposite, no so much in hostility but as to balance things out.

Sam (the most obvious, so we'll go with him first)


1. A "psykid" with special powers, including being able to see the future. Sam is well educated and blessed/cursed with the ability to see more of the universe than others. Others frequently compare his relatively higher education and apparently higher intelligence negatively to his brother.
2. Referred to as "gifted", "chosen", "talented", "smart", "sensitive", "marked", "corrupted", "cursed". Chosen or marked people, both for good and evil, can be found throughout mythology, from Cain to Rosemary's Baby. Prophets usually have stories of miracles surrounding their births or early childhoods. People who are marked in such a way often find themselves caught in a lifelong conflict between good and evil within themselves. Part of this struggle often entails giving up worldly success because their gifts make them attractive choices for success and leadership roles.
3. Chosen (and marked) by YED to do a specific task--was YED's personal favorite to do this task.
4. Brought back from the dead due to a supreme and willing sacrifice by a loved one.
5. Perceived by both Ruby and her rivals as a possible "Demon King" in Hell.
6. Only psykid to show close family ties.
7. Apparently the only survivor of the psykids, probably due to No. 6.
8. Willing to commit desperate acts, including murder, to save Dean--demon murder, anyway.

Dean
1. Offered paradise twice; turned it down both times. Dean had a near-death experience where he was referred to as a "warrior" dying a "good death" on the battlefield, indicating that had he not been brought back, he would have gone to Heaven. This would be a first for the show, where dead people, if their destination is identified, go directly to the Pit or wander as lost souls. In the djinn episode, he was also offered a "perfect" life. After a great struggle, he turned down both offers, the real and the false one. A good recent example of a warrior called back/turning away from Heaven would be Buffy in Buffy and the Vampire Slayer, who died a hero but was yanked out of Heaven by her friends because they were unable to continue on with her task.


2. Referred to as "damaged", "broken", "wounded", "screwed up", "righteous", "needy", "a serial killer", "a warrior". Wounded gods and heroes are found throughout mythology (Gilgamesh, Odin, Launcelot). They are usually warriors who have discovered wisdom through suffering and defend the weak from evil. They frequently exist on the outskirts, or outside of, the law. Such warriors are usually "touched" both mentally and physically by their suffering, which is part of why they transgress the laws of society, while having an extremely strong moral compass. They are often in direct opposition to a corrupt society.
3. Wears an amulet of protection, possibly either Egyptian or Zoroastrian in origin, that protects warriors. In Egyptian mythology, Osiris god of the Sun was murdered by his jealous brother Set, god of the underworld. Osiris' wife Isis resurrected Osiris and Osiris' son Horus revenged himself on Set. Zoroastrianism is dualistic (equally powerful good god and bad god in eternal opposition). The god of light (the sun or fire) is Ahura-Mazda; the god of darkness is Ahraman. The boys, incidentally, have fought "devas" (Zorastrian demons) and Ahura-Mazda may also be related to a Roman soldier-god of the Sun, Mithras. Significantly, this amulet was given to Dean by his "gifted" brother, after Sam correctly identified Dean as his true protector.
4. Has no worldly ambitions. Dean's goals are quite simple and unselfish, running mainly to eating, sexual encounters, gambling and protecting his brother (not in that order). This would indicate that Dean is more of a pagan than a Christian, as Christianity frowns on gluttony and lust, but pagan (and secular medieval) heroes were lauded for their fecundity and hearty appetites, as well as their generosity. Dean has the latter quality as well, gambling or giving away any windfalls that come to the brothers. His approach to life, in direct opposition to his nonexistent self-esteem, is lighthearted and full of humor that lightens the spirits of others (or goads them into action).

5. Willingly traded his soul for his brother's life. Tried to trade his soul for his father's life, but was forced to give up his dearest wish of reuniting his family to save others instead. Ultimately killed YED after expressing a willingness to let go of his family's lifelong quest for vengeance if it would keep them all safe. Only pulled the trigger in self-defense and to save his brother (mythical heroes are often connected to magical weapons, like King Arthur).

6. Saved twice from death, deliberately chosen over others who appeared on the surface just as worthy. In "Faith", the healer (who was a good man, even if his wife wasn't), chose Dean out of an entire congregation and healed him over Dean's protests, even though the girl with cancer (I forget her name) seemed more worthy. In "IMToD", John trades both his life (with no extra time) and the Colt for Dean's life, indicating that Dean's life was especially valuable to Hell. Dean was also able to make a deal in exchange for Sam, indicating both that YED had further plans for Sam and that Dean's soul was, again, was as valuable as his brother's life.

7. Saw an angel. And believed in it over his own skepticism. Also recognized when his father had been possessed (seeing hidden evil). Righteous warriors often have a second sight that allows them to perceive the truth behind lies.

8. Shows pity and empathy for some of the creatures he's hunted, especially vampires because they show strong family ties. Accepts pagan gods as gods and not demons; only hunts them if they engage in human sacrifice. Dean's main criteria for hunting supernatural beings is: do it only if they hurt or kill. If they don't, he doesn't hunt them. For example, early in his djinn dream, he speculated that the djinn might be benign, with the obvious corollary that if the djinn was benign, there would be no need to hunt it.

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Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episodes)

by MaySN (Thu Nov 15 2007 00:08:06)

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I need to know who is who in this comparison with Abel and Cain?

Secondly, a clarification.... None of these guys have ever in the history of the show seen an angel, they did see a ghost though, one who thought he was an Angel but really wasn't (Houses of tHe Holy).
DEAN: I am going to stop the BIG BAD WOLF... which is the weirdest thing I've ever said
Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by thesnowleopard (Thu Nov 15 2007 00:19:40)

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Sam saw the priest's spirit and decided that angels didn't exist, after all. Dean saw the Rube-Goldberg car accident death of the would-be rapist and was convinced that it was the work of an angel. As far as Dean was concerned, he'd seen an angel, even though the force behind the car accident death was invisible both to him and to the audience.


In the Cain and Abel reference (they do mention it in the episode), the "good" versus "bad" brother dynamic is reversed. The "good" ship captain hangs his "bad" brother, so in this case, Abel kills Cain.

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Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by MaySN (Thu Nov 15 2007 00:22:28)

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UPDATED Thu Nov 15 2007 00:29:34

Dean said the word "God" not angel. He said something along the lines of that death being the will of God.

Even though we know that Angels are the executioners of God's Will, Dean's implication apparently does not involve them.

DEAN: I am going to stop the BIG BAD WOLF... which is the weirdest thing I've ever said
Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by thesnowleopard (Thu Nov 15 2007 00:43:58)

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But the overall discussion between them was whether or not angels existed. At the beginning of the episode, Dean was staunchly refusing to believe in any kind of "higher" power that didn't come from the Pit--angels, God, Heaven, you name it. And when Sam pointed out that there was far more literature on angels than on anything they had hunted so far, Dean sarcastically pointed out that there was also literature on unicorns, but that didn't mean they existed.


The mystery of the episode was set up as to whether this was a familiar demonic/ghostly phenomenon or the work of something brand new, which Sam immediately labeled "angels". Dean was skeptical that there was any such new phenomenon and Sam was the one pushing the possibility. By the end of the episode, they had completely switched sides.
As it turned out, there were two phenomena involved. One was the familiar one of the angry spirit of the priest who was motivating people to kill. The other was the one that killed the would-be rapist right in front of Dean. Sam, who only saw the priest spirit, became disillusioned about his previous belief that they had found something new, whereas Dean, who had seen the car accident, now just as firmly believed that something new, separate from the priest's spirit, was at work, something that Sam had already labeled an "angel". And Dean believed that this something new was essentially good, which was a complete turnaround from his previous views. In effect, Dean had an epiphany.

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Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by abossal (Thu Nov 15 2007 02:12:45)

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Still, What he said was "God's will".


And OP, way to look too much into both the show and the biblical story.
Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by thesnowleopard (Thu Nov 15 2007 02:45:12)

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I'm a medieval historian and I happen to like reading about and discussing these kinds of myths and legends. It also so happens that I like the premise behind the show of doing local legends, digging up their origins, and the way that they have set up the two characters to reflect older mythical archetypes (why not? The boyz have fought ancient pagan gods, fer cryin' in the grog).


You think that Kripke invented this stuff? Of course not. Nor would he claim to have done so. And I bet if you asked him about it, he'd tell you where he read it all. Look in the trivia section of this site and you'll see how much thought he gave to just the amulet that Dean wears.
Writers don't write fiction about stuff that bores them. If they're writing fiction under a deadline, you can bet that they are writing about themes and characters that absolutely fascinate them. Otherwise, they'd never make their deadlines in time. Shows that work, that get fans that love them, have rich mythologies behind them. Maybe not well-thought-out mythologies ("Highlander" comes to mind), but rich ones. In fact, one of the cool things about the show, imho, is how well Kripke has kept his mythology together. And I'm also impressed by the speed at which the overall storyline has progressed. A lot of shows would have kept us hanging on finding, let alone defeating, YED for five or six seasons. Instead, Kripke has wrapped up his major storyline in two seasons and kicked things to the next level. I like that. I don't like being kept dangling because the writers are afraid to go out on a limb and just tell the story in the length of time that it needs rather than stretching it out forever or making it fit into 40 minutes.
I don't think it's any more OTT to look at the sources behind the stories, and pick out where they might be going, than it is to obsess endlessly about Bela and Ruby and the actresses who played them. I also don't think it's OTT to talk about a major recent change in the way the characters perceive their universe and where *that* might be going.
But if you don't think this is an appropriate topic for the forum, you can always just ignore it to death. That works for most threads, you know. Very few last longer than a few days on an IMDB board with this much activity.

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Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by donilou2 (Thu Nov 15 2007 08:47:51)

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Snowleopard, you are all kinds of awesome and are providing some much needed discussion that doesn't revolve around the length of Sam's hair!!Thankyou so much for some thought provoking information.


I've been waiting for some serious brotherly conflict since "Nightmare" when Dean shot Sam that very telling look in the final scene of the show.

Dean knows, or at the very least suspects more that he's ever said, and I think, in spite of what he's already done, he's still going to have to "save" Sam. He's managed to preserve the body, but so far the soul is still in peril and sadly, I don't think he fully realizes that yet.

The fact that Dean knows "evil" exists, that he's seen it with his own eyes means he must therefore acknowledge the existance of "good" on some level as well,which he did in "HOTH" and I think in this show,the embodiment of good is Dean himself. He is there, and so far has been unassailable, to keep Sam on the straight and narrow.

Why else would everything he confronts be so eager to tear him down? By enforcing his sense of worthlessness, they are keeping that goodness at bay, but in the end, if Sam goes dark, Dean will have no choice but to let it out and set things straight once and for all.

At least I hope that's what's in store, that goodness will prevail, Sam will resist the call of evil with Dean's help and all will be well.I couldn't stand a sad ending here.
Illegitimati non carborundum
Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episodes)

by ruttlesRevenge (Thu Nov 15 2007 11:18:04)

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Is Sam Cain and Dean Abel?


Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episodes)

by Jshinkoku-1 (Thu Nov 15 2007 11:58:01)

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Followed the OP setup for a while till Dean saw an Angel.


Dean didnt see an angel in that episode. He said it was a spirit. At the end of the episode he wasnt sure what he saw happen to the other driver but he thought it might have been God's Will.
Supernatural

Dean:Can I kill her?

Sam: ....... Not in public.

Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by dysfunctional06 (Thu Nov 15 2007 15:33:01)

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very interesting, you're a historian!!!! cool, I want to specialise in Third Reich Germany, but its covered a lot nowadays and don't know if i can get in Uni, so eh...we'll see
to get back to topic, i like the biblical references. You're points a thorough, good analysis
Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by thesnowleopard (Fri Nov 16 2007 04:39:58)

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very interesting, you're a historian!!!! cool, I want to specialise in Third Reich Germany, but its covered a lot nowadays and don't know if i can get in Uni, so eh...we'll see


Yippur. PhD, published and everything. I publish SF, Fantasy and Horror, too.


It's true that The Third Reich is one of the more well-trodden areas of history, but there are probably still corners to explore. When you do a PhD, you need to *really love* your subject (because you're gonna be doing it for a loooonng time). It also helps a lot of you can pick something that hasn't been covered much and/or find a neglected group of sources. With fairly recent history like the Third Reich, unusual, non-print sources like oral histories, film, radio or even television would exist that haven't been explored much. Of course, starting in university, you'd begin with very general history and even by your Masters degree, concentrate in something pretty broad like Russian History or Classics. It's not until your PhD that you'd really need to worry about whether or not you were painting yourself into a corner with the Third Reich.
So, I'd say, just go for it for now and see what happens.

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Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by thesnowleopard (Fri Nov 16 2007 05:31:44)

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Snowleopard, you are all kinds of awesome and are providing some much needed discussion that doesn't revolve around the length of Sam's hair!!Thankyou so much for some thought provoking information.


LOL! You're welcome. Not that I have anything against discussions of Sam's hair. I enjoy those, too. But somebody was complaining about the proliferation of anti-Bela/Ruby threads on the board and that the focus seemed to be going off the boys. The former didn't bother me, but I thought that the latter was a good point. So, I thought, "Well, okay, I'll try starting a thread just about the boys." Worst thing that happened would be that it would get ignored to death and c'est la vie.

I've been waiting for some serious brotherly conflict since "Nightmare" when Dean shot Sam that very telling look in the final scene of the show.

Dean knows, or at the very least suspects more that he's ever said, and I think, in spite of what he's already done, he's still going to have to "save" Sam. He's managed to preserve the body, but so far the soul is still in peril and sadly, I don't think he fully realizes that yet.

I think that Sam's soul is in definite peril, but again, heroes with serious dark sides are not uncommon in mythology (I'll readily admit to being a fan of Xena when that show was on, specifically because she was a dark hero). Dark heroes are fun because they are unpredictable, but also because, when they choose good, they are the better for it because they had to struggle.
The Hindu warrior goddess Durga is one of the most heroic figures in mythology. But her dark aspect is the goddess of death and change, Kali. Ooops. Durga/Kali's consort, Shiva, one part of the triple god that dominates Hinduism, also has equally violent bright and dark aspects. Shiva is the god of both creation and destruction. The fact that Sam probably has a little demon in him does not automatically mean that he is damned. It just means that he has a lot of internal struggle ahead of him. Dean's internal struggle is of a different kind. It is no less serious or potentially deadly, but it complements Sam's and allows Dean the strength to help Sam keep good.
Essentially, Dean is immune to Sam's temptations, but Sam is also immune to Dean's intense and corrosive self-hatred. They are stronger together than apart. Like Castor and Pollux. One twin was immortal and one was mortal. When the mortal one died, though, the immortal one was inconsolable. It didn't matter to him that his brother wasn't a god; what mattered was that they were brothers.
I think that Sam will do anything, kill anyone, commit any crime, to save his brother. Christianity notes that "God is love", which is cool, but in a recent Brit series "Jekyll", a character perceptively noted that, "Love is a psychopath."
The fact that Dean knows "evil" exists, that he's seen it with his own eyes means he must therefore acknowledge the existance of "good" on some level as well,which he did in "HOTH" and I think in this show,the embodiment of good is Dean himself. He is there, and so far has been unassailable, to keep Sam on the straight and narrow.

Yeah, that's pretty much what I was trying to get at with the whole angel thing. Did Dean see an angel? Did he even believe that he saw an angel? I don't know. But he saw *something* new to him and he did not believe that it was evil.


The "monster" episodes usually focus on one type of creature, which is mentioned in the title. The focus of HOTH is angels. We're given an ambiguous take on them. Sam proves that an angry spirit has motivated the supposedly "divinely inspired" murderers in the ep to kill other people. So, it seems that the case is closed and it's just more of the same-old, same-old. But then Dean sees something that he can't explain, that he identifies to Sam as possibly a good spirit or even God. He doesn't go any further, most likely because Sam has gone from a believer to a skeptic, and Dean is not about to push a semantic issue.
And that something not only acted in a way that prevented an evil act and meted out punishment, but also deliberately delayed the process until Dean could witness its actions. It essentially showed itself to Dean. No one else near the scene was aware of what he saw, even though it occurred right in the middle of an intersection. Only Dean was singled out as a witness. For now, I think we can call this something an "angel". Whether it will turn out to be a real angel, as in a messenger from God, remains to be seen. It could all be a demonic trick, though I'd rather it not be. Everything being a demonic trick gets a bit old after a while.
But the main importance of the episode is that it opened Dean's eyes to the possibility that just as his universe had personified evil, it might also have personified good. Previously, he had only believed in the fragile good within human beings, but firmly believed in evil outside of humans, personified in demons and monsters and the like. But now, he's had his eyes opened up to personified good--a superpowerful personified good that is apparently undefeatable. That's a big change in his cosmology.
We've known for some time on the show that personified evil forces have deliberately chosen and placed Sam from birth for purposes that remain unclear. What if a personified good force also chose and placed Dean? What if Dean is still alive, still protecting his brother in *spite* of the Pit and not because of some arcane, twisted agenda?
I don't want to see Dean with wings or playing a harp or any such cheesy nonsense. I like the realism of this show, that these really disturbing things could be happening in an alleyway just around the corner of our world. But I'd like to see the writers tackle God in the same way that they've tackled the Devil. And it looks as though they are going that route with Dean. It makes sense. Too much unrelieved, cackling evil would get a bit dull.

Why else would everything he confronts be so eager to tear him down? By enforcing his sense of worthlessness, they are keeping that goodness at bay, but in the end, if Sam goes dark, Dean will have no choice but to let it out and set things straight once and for all.


I think the demons are afraid of Dean and of what might happen once he actually gets down to Hell (didn't he tell Meg that if she'd killed his father, he'd personally go down to Hell and clean the place out? He sounded like he meant it). You don't show that level of consistent contempt for someone unless, deep down, you are really afraid that someday, if you ever let up, they're going to get it together and tear you apart. The demons' abuse of Dean is almost like a magical spell that they start reciting to subdue him whenever he's around (and it's only partially successful, anyway).



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