Author Archives: Mary Filbin

Arabian nights like Arabian Days…

Arabian Nights artwork16

It seems very clear that the demon in the story represents the King, Shahrayar, and his vow to kill his new wife each morning after the marriage so that she will not have a chance to cheat on him. The fisherman is representative of the innocent girls the king has killed and most importantly Shahrazad his current wife. The fisherman is just doing as he always has and casting his net four times, to find it full of worthless junk until he pulls a lead sealed jar of brass from the depths. When he removes the lead stopper a huge demon appears who threatens to kill the fisherman. In response the fisherman asks, “Why do you wish to kill me, I who have released you and delivered you from the bottom of the sea and brought you back to this world?’ In reply the demon tells of how he was imprisoned and the vows he made over the time of his incarceration. Starting with making Arabian Nights artworkwhomever frees him rich till finally he twisted his vow so that whoever set him free would earn the worst kind of death or get to choose their own death. Hearing this, the fisherman asked for mercy saying forgive me and you will also be forgiven, but harm me and you will also be harmed, but the demon would hear none of it so the fisherman tricked him back into the jar. Once again trapped the demon pleaded to be set free, but the fisherman refused since the demon vowed to kill him. Instead of freeing him a second time the fisherman told the story of King Yunan and the Sage Duban. In this tale King Yunun represents King Shahrayar and the Sage Duban is Shahrazad. King Yunun has a disease which none have been able to cure, just as King Shahrayar has a madness no one can counter. The Sage comes to the king with a cure and heals him, but a jealous vizier sets out to create the sages doom. The vizier is representative of Shahrayar’s brother who after his own adulterous wife was caught witnessed the King’s wife in similar acts and was the one, who set Shahrayar on the path into madness. The vizier in the story is who causes the King to question the good deeds of the Sage and who poisons the King’s mind against the sage. Within this tale there is another one of the Husband and the parrot. In this tale the husband uses the parrot to get information on his wife and when the parrot is tricked and tells of a rain storm the husband believes it has lied to him and has the bird killed only later find the parrot was telling the truth. This story also reflects the situation between King Shahrayar, his brother, their unfaithful wives, and Shahrazad. It tells of the regret the husband had of killing the faithful parrot. After this tale the vizier relates a story of a king’s son and a she ghoul which follows similar lines. Here we see the common thread of asking for forgiveness and protection, and the fear of trust. The king decides to strike of the Sage’s head even though the Sage has said, “Spare me, your majesty, and God will spare you; destroy me and God will destroy you’. This lack of trust in the Sage costs the King his life, as the theme repeats over again…do unto others as you will them to do unto you. After the retelling of these stories the Demon repents and gives a boon to the fisherman. This boon of a special hidden pool to fish in once a day brings the fisherman wealth and a mystery of the colored fish to a new king. When cooked a demon appears and talks with the fish then turns the fish to ash. This leads the king in the story on an adventure to find the answers behind the fish which leads to the tale of the enchanted king.Arabian Nights fish In this one the fish represent the citizens of Shahrayar’s kingdom and how they are trapped in his madness, and the unfaithful wife in the story represents Shahrayar who has been unjust in his treatment of his citizens. The helpful king is representative of Shahrazad; for in the story he rights the wrongs of the demon wife and kills her just as Shahrazad wishes to right the wrongs of Shahrayar and slay his madness. Like all the other tales in the 1001 Arabian Nights these are full of allegories. Each tale represents some aspect of what is going on in Shahrayar and Shahrazad’s world and the allegories in the tales are used to help heal the King and the kingdom.

Love, Death, and what lies between


1. In Yellow Woman both the Jell-o and the stolen beef are turning points in the story, which break the solemn mood. Before Silva rustlyellow womanes the beef there is a sad, mystic quality. Yellow woman finds herself part of a tale of her people, she is abducted or willingly goes with a stranger who she feels a strong pull toward and meets while walking along the river. She seems drawn back to the man each time she wants to leave, she escapes into the old folklore her Grandfather told her stories from, from the everyday monotony of life on the reservation. The whole story seems very sad and melancholy. When coming down out of the mountains with the stolen beef, Silva and Yellow Woman are approached by an aggravated rancher, the stolen beef brings excitement to the story, as she flees and the bags of meat are bumping her legs. The suspense of meeting up with the rancher, and the fear of Silva shooting the rancher, hearing the shots but never knowing what happened behind her as she rides away addjello a new dimension to the tale. Then the story goes back to the river and Yellow Woman back to her life. She is again melancholy as she watches the horse drag it’s reins as it heads back in the direction she left Silva. She takes nothing with her but her memories of the adventure. She seems lost again in the sadness as she approaches the house. Then she hears them talking of how to make Jell-o she is brought back to the present; like waking from one of the stories of Yellow Woman her Grandfather loved to tell. The memories and wishing he was still around to hear of her adventure makes her smile, as the story comes full circle.

2. Leila’s father in the story is very proud of her and her political stand when the crime of calling the political leader stupid is met with clapping and support in the assembly of the court. The support is overwhelming and he wants to let everyone know he is the father of this remarkable girl, who stood up to the active ruler. To be seen as a hero as her father, to ride the applause and praise as if it was his own. He felt he had a right to share in her heroism. Then after the judges leave to confer behind doors he hears rumors in the assembly. Severalcamera people were talking about the tortures Leila had endeared, about the rape by ten men, and the trampling of her honor and in turn her father’s honor. They speculated that he was ill and in bed because of the violation of his honor. After these remarks he wanted to hide, he did not want the recognition. He had told his daughter not to get involved with politics but had she listened. Now what was he to do that his honor was in ruins, he figured death was best for both of them. Under the type of society he is in I think he is justified in his reactions. When a child’s actions reflect back on the parents so strongly Leila’s shame is her fathers to share.

I think this is a very common way for parents to behave. How often has a family member or friend talked about the grand things their children have done as if it was their own success. I remember my grandmother being so upset when a family member got arrested because it would affect the family name in a negative way. Many families are enmeshed and all acts reflect back on the family. I remember having to ride a stranger’s horse for a flag presentation at a rodeo years ago; after the horse tried to buck me off during the performance I found out that the rodeo company used it as a bareback bronc when they needed extras. When I asked the owner why he placed me out of 14 girls on that horse his reply was “You are a Miller, I knew you could ride.’ Come to find out he was a good friend of my grandfathers many years back. Since he knew my family he just figured I could handle it, which I did. I am not sure with how the world is changing so fast that something like that would happen today. But in small towns, rural areas, and other cultures the idea that every member of the family reflects back on that family’s name is prevalent. We see it in movies all the time. The mothers trying to marry off daughters and there is always someone who is like ‘my son, you know the Doctor…would be perfect’. Or the parent figure saying something along the lines of ‘Why can’t you be like your sister, she is a Lawyer’. This idea of a child actions bringing shame or honor to the parents is not new. I believe every parent has felt it when their child fails or excels; the lows and highs of raising children. Because of this I find Leila’s father to be normal and his reactions to be fitting with the ideals of his culture and the hard path as a parent.

3. Death beyond love is very appropriate as a title. The main character is constantly thinking of his death and how soon it is coming to him. He has a terminal condition which is death to his body, when he chooses Laura as a lover over his wife it is the death of his married life, and death of his political career to scandFloralwallpaper31-680x982al. He is surrounded by death and only touched fleetingly by love. Even the country side seems to be harsh and unforgiving with his wore out cardboard displays as fleeting as life and love in the tale.   Even the paper birds take on life as he can not.   Love comes and goes but death is forever for Senator Sanchez.

The golden Cockroach – myth or man


  1. Gregor’s relationship with his family is one almost of a stranger looking in a window. He is a part of the family but almost more like an employee. He gets up and is away before the rest of the family sits down for breakfast, travels for work, and is home late. His pay is divided up for the family expenses, at first with great thanks, only later to be expected and controlled. He works and does so for the family, wants to send his sister to a conservatory for violin mastery, wants to get them out from under the thumb of the director, and hates every minute of it but feels obligated to continue till the debt is repaid. His father seems more worried about what others will think than about his son. I get the idea that they never where close and only tolerated each other. Almost like his dad saw Gregor as a nuisance even before he turned into a cockroach.  In the story he is very unhappy with his job, seems to be the only one who understands his sister’s love of music, finds his mom frail, and father almost a mystery – man of rituals and routines.


I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the story and could place myself in Gregor’s shoes easily, even as a roach. I cried when he was hurt and later when he died. As I was reading it I was relating the story to my 14 year old son, had a long discussion of if this happened to one of us how we would have reacted different, he cried as well at the death of the roach, and was shocked at the relief of the family. I guess this is what happens when the readers in the family get lost in a book. My husband just shook his head.


  1. In the beginning the family relies on Gregor for everything. He is the bread winner and reason behind where they live and such. Responsibility is almost his alone, while the others just relax and do as they wish. Once he is a cockroach and can no longer work, the family is in dismay and have to look out for themselves for the first time in five years. They try to feed and take care of Gregor but in truth no one wants to be around him as a roach and they fear him or what he might do.     No one thinks of him as a being of reason anymore and rely on their own ideas, never even trying to communicate with Gregor. The family finds strength within each other and themselves. As Gregor declines in health he is easy to forget, shut away and avoided. They become to busy with life to think much of what is best for a roach/son/brother; to the point of wishing him gone. After he is dead it a relief to the family, the shame is gone of having a roach as a part of the family and the fear is also gone. Throughout the ordeal they had to pull together and support each other, get to know each other instead of being just a group of strangers in the same family. In the end they are a stronger family because of the great sacrifice of Gregor. His death brought them together in ways his life never could have.


  1. Akhmatova’s poem is universal so it is a good political protest of the horrors, suffering, and about the victims of war and/or oppression. It has a generalization about it that places the reader in her shoes of lover, mother, or wife. Even though it has specifics about a certain time the basic idea can be fostered to other wars and the despair felt. Because so many can relate to the words, I not sure it would ever lose its influence. Just as the actions of Stalin lives in history, this other side of the fence view also lives. The prisoners’ stories and their loved ones story is part of the history and shall live on through the ages. You feel the anxiety of these seemingly useless acts. You feel the fear of the populace, and you understand the hopelessness of the persecuted. It could be about any war, régime control, or tyrannical government. Even with the purges over and Stalin dead it still speaks out about the oppression and what the families went through during that time. Its influence is lasting if only as a reminder of a harsh reality many experienced.



  1. I think of it as a call to change yourself from being just a viewer of life to actually living it and expressing yourself. A call to find the vitality in beautiful works and find the passion in yourself. If mere stone can seem to have such life in it then shouldn’t we being alive also posses this great vibrant life! Find your passion and let it shine, find your beauty and show it, change; start living as you want and full of life instead of in the shadows.

Women – at the heart of it all.

1. I found Felicite to be a simple minded servant, who without education had no preconceived ideas, and the imagination of a child. She lived in a simple way, understanding life as she has seen on the farm, experiencing the cruelty of humanity, the loftiness of the wealthy, and finding pleasure in everyday life. Felicite has a routine and odd sense of right and wrong seeming to tend toward duty above feelings. In her room she kept mementos of events and people in her life, these where her greatest treasures, from religious to personal items — each having its own personal symbol. LouLou a parrot given to her took on both a religious and personal part in her imagination and reality. Simple like a child she would ‘see’ herself in another’s shoes as if she experienced special events like Virginie’s conformation as her own. Felicite had a big heart if a simple mind. Even knowing her nephew used her kindness to his and his families benefit she loved him deeply. She loved Madam and her children as her own, and she loved that darn parrot.

loulouMadam Aubain was very different from Felicite. She was upper-class and very cold on the surface. Mme. Aubain was always seen as appropriate and no matter the feelings, did what she thought was proper like sending both children away to school. She made social calls and held some at her home, in every respect a lady even after losing her husband and downsizing to the town house.

Flaubert wrote the tale to be a saint’s story mirroring the suffering, trials, and beatific vision of known legends. In his own way he shows us a world of a simple minded servant by just being herself; finding religion in her own way. Felicite overcomes the trials and comes to understand the Holy Spirit and God in the only way she can by relating them to familiar icons in her life like the parrot. Flaubert takes the tale of a saint and brings it down to earth, embodied in the common daily life of his time.

2.Baudelaire et la fee verte I will be honest; I did not understand much of Baudelaire’s work. It seemed very dark and twisted in his views at times then other lines pure pleasure. He seemed to love the idea of women and outward beauty but also hold a deep hate for the same body. He reviled in vices and expected all men to do the same and share like experiences. The imagery is vivid, bright, and grotesque at times. I think ‘Pairs Spleen’ defines the man — a person who has never found his place in the world always searching, never to be at peace, never to belong to this world.
3.silencing-women Rama and Sita represented dharma, always striving toward being honorable and fulfilling duty whether with each other or those of their world. Chidam and Chandara are more self serving. Chidam tells a lie to save his brother which endangers his wife. Chandara agrees to say she killed her sister in law but nothing more and out of spite dooms herself. In a way I can see her saying “Fine, I will play your game but you will pay the price of this foolishness. As your ‘dutiful’ wife I shall obey’, knowing full well it will cost her everything. She is a stubborn and proud woman, willing to teach her husband a lesson at the cost of her life. Both never looking at the larger picture, both only self concerned. Neither one being truly honorable as Rama or Sita would have been in such a situation. They show us a more human way of reacting instead of an idealistic approach.

4. ‘When you are Old’ by Yeats stirred memories for me. I understand it was written about Yeats love for Maud and her rejection of him. His fame when her career was diminishing and the regret of what could have been. But for me it turned around and was more of a man who was dashing in youth, and lost the love of his life after a long time together, to finally sleep as to hide from the memories and loss. I can see an old man thumbing a favorite book thinking of days gone by. Glancing at a faded portrait on the side table and recalling times of his youth. Mumbling softly to no one but a memory and placing his hand open on the arm of the chair as if to hold her hand again. Memories of life and love written on his face just like the pages of a book. Finally to doze off and let the dreams hide the pain in the stars.


Who is behind the mask?



  1. Tartuffe is not against religion but about hypocrisy and the corruption of religion. A man of kind heart and gullible mind takes in a hermit who seems to be one of true blind faith. During church services the homeless man prays loudly, is outlandishly humble, and seems so ever pious. The wealthy benefactor, Orgon, thinks Tartuffe is heaven sent and is blind to the contrary actions of his words. Orgon goes as far as denouncing his son, calling his wife a liar and paying her little concern, breaking a marriage contract and promise to his daughter then trying to marry her off to the scoundrel, and almost forfeiting his entire estate because of the faith he put in Tartuffe’s words. Orgon is so taken in by the charlatan he will not head words of wisdom from his brother in law, wife, children, or staff. Tartuffe uses Orgon’s want to be more holy and need for salvation against him. He uses religion as a tool to get what he wants.


This is not a new idea. I can see why at the time many in the religious field tried to censor Moliere’s play. Even though the play is not ani-religion it warns people to be weary of being taken in by pretty words. The church was very wealthy and many cases got that way by asking for money for God, tithing, donations, so it saw this play as an attack against some of its more silver tongued parish leaders.


Hypocrisy is the act of a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.  You can find this type of behavior in all walks of life, but those in the church who posses this fault seem most appalling. I think because of this Moliere chose a religious man to be Tartuffe, it is the most shocking and evil choice for a scoundrel and is one of the more likely types the common man might be taken in by. Comedies of the time centered on one fault of man and took it to an extreme; Moliere did such with great style but paid a high price.


  1. I am not sure you can call the devil a heroic figure; he seems to be a scared, angry, defiant child more to me. He does follow the hero’s journey a little from being forced out on his quest, fighting the call and pull, going through a transform, to finally accepting what he becomes bringing hopelessness to humanity. Hugo paints a drastically different picture of Satan than Dante. Hugo’s Lucifer is more like God and can create things from words, even in his fall from grace; though I am not sure he meant to be anything more than defiant. But in being so his rage was made real and stood in defiance to God. He is prideful, scared, and seen as a thing we can pity. It is a tragedy, his fall from grace because of his defiant nature to the end. Unlike the unmoving cursed being Dante traversed, Hugo makes Satan more human like and we share in his despair as never before. Lucifer is a lesson of how pride, rage, and resentment can change an angel into the devil.broke-heart-lost-love-red-favim-com-132308

3.   In the poem by Heine, ‘A young man loves a maiden’, he paints a sad picture of love not returned and the heartbreak of this situation. It is said to be a story old yet new with each lover in this plight like a new verse to an old song. In Leopardi’s ‘To Sylvia’ is another loss of a loved one. He paints a picture of a lovely friend who dies to soon.     Though from different perspectives and situations comes the same outcome of a broken heart and loss.



Fear, Hair, and Flowers?

  1. Niccolo-Machiavelli-Love-QuotesMachiavelli had a very dark ideal of politics and those who rule. It was better to be feared than loved, and you see this in the reality of politics today. Even though he was talking of princes, wars, and the common man the under lying thread of his ideals shines in the light of today’s political circus. How often have you heard someone say they fear what the government might do, or that they feel helpless when faced with authority? How often have you heard a kid say, ‘Act normal there’s a cop’? Why do so many honest people fear those in power? Why do they fear those people they elected to represent them? You see it in ads on the television for help if the IRS is harassing you, as if the government is the bad guy. Fear is a strong emotion and used in propaganda everyday to keep the masses in order and under control. The fear of aging, the fear of poverty, the fear of being different, and the list is endless.  Like a surgeon, Machiavelli created his ideal ruler, cutting to the core of the vices and virtues and leaving only the ones which would serve for the betterment of the polis, not the betterment of the man. As he states “…masses are always impressed by the superficial appearance of things…’, and this rings true today. To me it seems his ideals and contrasting realities apply today as easily as they did in his own time.
  2.  hair-mainRapunzel comes to mind when thinking of long hair. It was her hair that saved her and gave her, her own happily ever after. In fact most folktales and fairy tales feature the girl with long locks. It is a sign of womanhood and beauty. The movie Yentl is similar to the Sister Juana and her passion for learning. It is story of a Jewish girl who cuts her hair, removes her womanhood, to enter religious training reserved for males in the disguise of a boy. Godiva clothed only in her long tresses astride a white horse also comes to mind. The image of a woman in all her glory with hair shining. It is power, it is a veil to hide behind, and it is magic to the poet and lover alike. Cultures around the world celebrate long hair and many to show respect or mourning shear the head or cut the long locks. In some cultures the women cover the hair or wear wigs to hide their hair so not to tempt men. Their hair is to be seen only by family or husbands as a treasured good.  To shave your head can mean to remove what makes you a woman, to remove the temptation it causes to protect against the sin of vanity or protect others from sinning for want of you, or to show respect. But women are not alone in the symbolic value of hair, one just need to remember Samson and what pleasure and pain his great hair caused. Hair retains it great symbolic references because it is universal to all cultures and times. For as long as there are human’s heads will be covered in wondrous hair to fill the imagination with new symbols and meanings for the cultures to come.
  3.   music flower tattoo (2)It can be assigned in figurative terms that the ‘flower’ is the captives either brought back as a prize of great worth or left dead and of no use, and the ‘song’ as the dance of war the sacrifice of the prisoners to the Gods. The more flowers you have, the greater warrior you are and the bigger the sacrifice to the Gods.

Love stories – Once upon a heart….


  1. Griselda in the tenth story of the tenth day is being tested by her husband, Gualtieri, so that he may find her adaptable to his way of living and suited to his temperament. Being unable to judge one’s character based on her parents he relies alone on her actions. On the day he chooses to marry her in her father’s presence he asks her a few certain questions: 1) If he were to marry her would she always try to please him? 2) Would she never be upset by anything he said or did? 3) Would she obey him, and so forth. All of this, she agreed to and they were married. Gualtieri was still suspicious and wanted proof of her promises so he devised the testing. His testing is very sever but through it all Griselda sticks to her original promises. In the end he sees she is true and honest and able to keep her word even in circumstances most would break under.   Patience was   a virtue he sought in Griselda and one he found.


  1. The tales in both the Decameron and The Thousand and One Nights are told for a purpose. In the later the tales show a side of humanity and change the beliefs of the King, where as in the former they started out as tales for entertainment to escape the present and they end up showing sides to humanity as well.  In each case they accomplish the purpose that they intended; the King has a change of heart, and the group forgets the horrors of the plague and can escape into the worlds of imagination for a short time. The relationship between the tales and the teller is very important. In The Thousand and One Nights the teller puts herself in the position of sacrifice and it is her skills as a bard that saves her from certain death. Because of her understanding and skillful tales she is able to convey a new truth to the King. If she had not been his wife and the teller of the tales the outcome would not have been achieved. It is different for the Decameron, in that the tales let the teller share their view on the world around them and most importantly how they view love without any risk to their life, plus the tales are for entertainment and pleasure. The stories are about how each person relates to the world around them, making them all important.


  1. The Nightingale is a symbol of the love the wife can never have. She dreams and wants to be free like the bird, to do more than gaze at her would be lover and talk to him through the walls. She finds herself in an arranged marriage to a man who cares not for her as a woman but only as property. When asked why she spends so many nights beside the window she tells her husband it is because of the bird and the pleasure she gets from it.     Out of spite he traps and kills the bird throwing the broken body at his wife. The stain it created on her chest is representative of the broken heart she has knowing she can now not stand by the window and gaze upon her would be lover. It is an end to her affair, and the would be lover has the broken corpse of the nightingale placed in a decorative vessel he carried with him as a memory of a long lost lover and what they could never have.

Me and Dante – a learning experiance

dantes inferno

  1. Dante was at a critical point in his life when he found himself traversing Hell. He had strayed from the straight and narrow path of his Christian beliefs and was heading toward the fires and brimstone after the loss of his beloved Beatrice. Several times in the poem Dante is told he will find himself in Hell when his time comes. This future is one which scares him, he is shown the consequences of actions and I believe has a chance to change. Within the nine circles of the inferno, Dante, witnesses the punishment of God, from the first circle of limbo to the ninth of treachery. He experiences a wide range of tortures brought about by each sufferer’s choices in life. Dante has pity for those who suffer and often in the beginning is overwhelmed by the circumstances of the lost souls. His guide Virgil helps Dante to understand pity and the righteousness of the punishments. Dante learns about each sin and the punishments as well as the reasons behind them. Dante also learns not to pity the souls who are receiving God’s justice and to hold them to a higher moral standard, one which he also must hold himself too. During the poem Dante is referred to as a pilgrim. By definition a pilgrim is a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons; this seems to define Dante perfectly.     He is on a journey which will teach him about sin and himself, finally to point him toward the moral path of God.

Dante to me represents all humans. More often than not we must experience the bad in order to know the good. How can we appreciate the glory of Heaven and grace of God if we have never seen the justice of God and Hell in all its gore and flames? At some point in every life we are pilgrims, trying to find ourselves and our place in the bigger picture. Everyone I know has gone through their own personal Hell; some are still there. But most have come out the other side a better person, with more empathy for the path of others. Virgil as the voice of reason and the teacher helps Dante reach the point in his journey that he can come out the other side a better person with a clearer vision of the Christian path.

From Hades he Came

I was inspired by the graphic details of each circle in the inferno. In the second circle — Lust, it brought about images of whirlwind romances. Lovers forever caught in the gusts of their passion. In the eighth circle — Fraud, where flattery is punished by living in excrement, I found it fitting that those who piled it so deep you need a shovel to get out, find themselves in the pile of filth deep as that which flowed from their mouths. Unlike Dante in his compassion and pity for the sinners, I found myself intrigued more than empathic with the sinners. I learned I have little compassion for sinners as portrayed by Dante. Like a scientist I would love to examine what made the sinners tick and how the punishments tortured them.

I had to take the MMPI test (or as I like to call it — The how nuts are you test) for medical reasons several years back and in receiving the results the doctor said I was a hard person and a total witch; though he actually used the ‘B’ word to describe me. This reading and introspection brought back memories of that day and others when people have commented on my outlook as being harsh. I am a brutally honest person who does not sugar coat my opinions or sacrifice my values for another’s feelings. I personally found it hard to relate to the emotions Dante was experiencing to the suffering of those in Hell. Growing up on a ranch I experienced life and death and the consequences of actions daily. Choices made have an immediate impact in several daily decisions. Working with animals and equipment if you do not take the proper precautions or safety seriously it can cost you limb or life. I have always rode for the brand and lived by my word. My husband calls me naive because I expect others to stand behind their words also and to be true. I found the price paid by the sinners to be just and fitting, you do the crime you pay the time.  I know I am not perfect and my way is not the only one. My outlook is very different than Dante’s where as he can relate to the sinners the whole time I was thinking   “now you shouldn’t have done that should you, see where you ended up’.


Dante came out of the inferno with a clear understanding of all the levels of sin and the justice handed down from God. It showed him the right path and brought back his moral standard. It was a reminder to me that it is good to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see their side of the story so that we can share a greater view, whether you agree with them or not. It is not my place to judge. As it was not Dante’s place to change Hell only to experience and learn from his travel.

Talking animals, Jinns, and Hell- what more can we ask for?

  1. Shahrayar’s madness is hard to comprehend in today’s society, let alone imagine the number of innocent girls he had put to death. In a male ran society where women are seen as chattel or property and something to be mastered and owned I can understand his shock and anger of being played a fool. The wife’s loyalty and obedience are seen as a given, never to be questioned. I think it is not only his ego but the shame of not being able to control your household, in case his women that made him so ruthless. Nowhere does he talk about love or heartache, just the loss of honor and in his eyes manhood. How dare something he owns give itself to another? Shahrayar never really knowing women and having really selfish examples, (his wife, concubines, and the demon’s girl) does the only thing he can think of to stop the cycle and still have the joys of a woman in his bed. He is trying to prove to the world that no other woman can make a fool of him. I also think he truly believes women are deceitful creatures full of empty words and driven by cardinal desires. What he did does make sense to me because I can see his side of the coin. That does not mean I agree with it, in fact I think he went overboard. Personally I would have put the Lady to death, whipped then sold off the other offenders, and found a new wife figuring they saw what happened to the last group so loyalty should be better if not repeat the process till they figure it out. Sadly, I do not see his as a special case. Male egos in a macho society can be frail. When your standing is based on how manly you are, to possess the most beautiful women that only you can touch and see is a huge pride point. You hear about abuse all the time. In many places there are no women’s rights, and abuse is common. The only thing that makes his case the slightest bit special is that he was in such a high place of power that no one could stop him or rein him in. His word was law, for no one was higher than the king. Throughout history there have been many rulers that took their own agendas to the extreme. Hitler is one of the most famous, the atrocities and deaths his rule caused make Shahrayar’s madness look like child’s play.

  1. The animals in both the vizier’s and Shahrazad’s story have important roles. In the tale of the Ox and the Donkey there is an honored, well kept donkey and a dutiful Ox. The donkey thinking it was cleaver came up with a plan for the Ox to get better treatment. The Ox follows the Donkey’s advise and in fact gets a day off, but the Donkey ends up having to do the Ox’s work and is treated the same as the Ox by the plowman. After the day of hard labor the Donkey tricks the Ox back into his original position.     The vizier used this analogy to try and persuade his daughter from her course of action. Shahrazad is represented by the Donkey, she thinks she has a plan to better the kingdom and stop the daily murder of the king’s wife. Her father thinks she is being foolish as the Donkey and will pay for her interference. 1001The Ox represents the girls the King marries then kills the next day. The vizier thinks Shahrazad will only give the girls a day’s break then the cycle will continue. Since she continues to insist in trying he tells her of another lesson the Merchant learned from the animals. In this tale the Merchant’s wife stubbornly insists that he tell her what made him laugh even though it will cause his death. As they are preparing for his funeral rites he over hears a conversation between the Dog and the Rooster. The Rooster call’s the Merchant a fool for not being able to control his woman, and tells how he would have handles the situation. So the Merchant beats his wife into submission and gets to live. In this story it shows that men have the right to beat or even kill their women if they are not obedient. Even though he threatens his daughter with such treatment she is not deterred from the goal she has set.

In Shahrazad’s tales for the King, the animals take on a different tone. They are more in the background but play an important part. The wrong doer instead of being beat or put to death is transformed and serves penance as an animal. In this case as a deer, two black dogs, and a mule. All three stories are wonderful and set up the groundwork for the last which is most important. The tale on the eighth night is really about the king and his first wife who he caught with a black slave. In the story the man is changed then transformed back to his original shape by the shop owner’s daughter (representing the vizier’s daughter). Shahrazad is teaching the King there are good women in the world.

The animals in both the vizier and his daughter’s tales reflect the views of the society. It is clear how the male role is set up to the extreme and foremost as seen by the men. Women should do they say and never question or disobey a man. The feminine role is more subtle and seeks justice for women. It also demonstrates that there are several kinds of women, unlike how men are seen as only macho.

  1. I believe for Dante they were just. This story is about how he sees Hell. Those who denied life after death are found in tombs or coffins, which are a fitting end because that is where they said they would be. danteDead and buried following their teachings in life of you live you die and that is it. I find this idea very sad for I know several who hold the same thoughts and I would hate to see them reduced to this level of Hell. A boiling river of blood for those who commit violence crimes against God, themselves, or thy neighbor. The depth they are at is based on the severity of the crime and centaurs keep them in place yielding arrows. Again it seems fitting for the crimes committed. Next we encounter the suicides whom are now bushes and trees which bleed and are caused pain when leaves or branches are broken. They will never know what it is like to have a body again because they forfeited it when they took their own lives. Again I can see where this is just. Life is a treasure we should not throw away no matter how bad it may seem. Lastly we come to the burning sands with flakes of fire raining down where lying flat on their backs are the blasphemers, crouching are the Usurers, and running aimlessly are the Sodomites; and a river of boiling blood flows through it. If Hell is fire and brimstone then I like what awaits the evil man and can see it as just. The penalties listed here do fit the crimes and the era of Dante’s Comedy. It is not what I believe Hell to be like, but the picture he paints is full of all the biblical and theatrical embodiment of what burning in Hell for eternity could be.  Reading his account of the tortures is enough to make a sinner a saint to avoid the fire.

Dharma and Life

ramayana21. Heroes come in many shapes, sizes, and economic backgrounds with Rama being no exception. Rama is described in the head note as being the perfect man, in other words that he follows ‘dharma’ the code of righteousness and the moral law. I found that this makes him just as interesting as other heroes because like so many others he has a set code which he lives by. This code or the claim that he is perfect does not exclude him from having emotions, thoughts of despair, love, and honor even in the face of adversity. What this claim does is set up a guide of how a man should be like Rama, to be able to put oneself above petty emotions and only seek the betterment of society as a whole (forego your ego), and act out of honor.

Rama’s perfection is not innate or completely intrinsic. In Aranya 65-66, Laksmana reminds Rama that his nature cannot desert him and say “pray, do not go against your nature’, when Rama wants to pick up his weapons and act out of anger at the despair of loosing Sita. Laksmana beseeches Rama to regain his composure, even though it is natural for grief to hide wisdom, he reminds Rama of the type of man he truly is. The anguish Rama goes through at the loss of Sita gives the reader a way to connect to the hero, to have empathy with the God Visnu in his human form as Rama. It shows the reader that if a god can have such conflicts it is okay for a mere human to also have doubts as long as the person is able to find the balance of dharma, rein in emotions and act out of righteousness. Rama’s mother, Kausalya, is also affected by emotion and wants to stay with her son in Ayodhya 24-25. In this case it is Rama who reminds her of dharma and her responsibilities as a woman and wife. Just like Rama she accepts her situation and does what is right and holds to honor.


The Hindu beliefs are strong in the Ramayana. Each aspect of man and woman are represented in their higher forms. The form each believer is to achieve and work toward through reincarnation. Every character is seen to let ego rule if only for a short while. Sita is overwhelmed with desire for the deer, Laksmana wants to overthrow his father’s will about the hermitage of Rama, Surpankakha the demoness and her brother Ravana are consumed by lust and act out such desires, it is as if all passions are found in the tale. For every passion represented there is a response that enlightens the reader to the honorable path. For the Hindu the Ramayana is like a self help book, showing the way to higher reincarnation and truths. Every human faces trials and this inspires Hindus to seek dharma in all circumstances.


  1. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Arjuna is a warrior who does not want to battle his kin and believes he will lose honor if he chooses to fight. Arjuna is sick with pity at the sight of kinsmen gathered for war; he sees no good in killing others. He thinks evil will haunt him if they are to draw bows against each other and the families will be of destruction, overwhelmed with chaos bringing about the annihilation of order. In Madea, she sees herself as the more kindly of deaths for her children. She sees them as already being chosen for death, and finds the task both fearful but a necessary evil. (verse 1210-1220) Madea chooses to arm her heart in steel, and do the unthinkable because she sees no other way. The children were the ones to present the poisoned gifts to the new wife of Jason which condemned then to death, even though they were innocent, not aware of the murder they would bring about. Madea struggles with the love of her children (verse 1045) and what she must do, just as Arjuna struggles with the choice he must make.


Arjuna in the third teaching asks Krishna if he thinks understanding is more powerful than action why does he still urge Arjuna to fight. Krishna states that a man cannot escape action by not acting. Action should be performed as sacrifice. It is sinful not to act, because each person has a part to play and a standard to set. Act with dharma, for nothing is obtained without action. Krishna tells Arjuna to be a man of discipline (a yogi) for others to follow. This code toward violence is different than in Madea or the Iliad. Here the idea is to follow your path toward enlightenment and lead others on their path as each is reincarnated, infinite and undying of soul. In the other works they worked toward honor of self or revenge; not toward a higher purpose – the betterment of the soul. For one’s soul to learn it must experience all passions in life (lives) to reach the highest level, this includes violence. Krishna taught Arjuna if he acted out of righteousness then there was no evil being done. Sometimes bad things happen to bring about the good and shine light on the path of wisdom and truth. The idea of honor and doing acts you question are found in many tales, folklore, and religious text; in most cases it is a test of the character’s moral code and willingness to put aside their own desires for what is asked of them. Not all heroes are up to this challenge for honor, righteousness, and discipline take many sacrifices to achieve.