Liliths - Response 5

My reaction to Lilith's Brood after just reading the title was to think, "Lilith! What a terrible name for parents to give their child!" I didn't know too much about Lilith, other than that she was supposed to be the first wife of Adam, according to apocryphal texts, and that she supposedly killed children. From where I was coming from, that didn't seem like the best name for parents to give their daughter, although I was intrigued as to how the choice of name would play out in the three books. For instance Tino, upon hearing her name, remarks that it is an "unusual name loaded with bad connotations" (285). I have to agree, although it could very well be that he is just referring to the stories he as heard about Lilith Iyapo. Nonetheless, many of the stories of Lilith Iyapo have interesting parallels with various stories of Lilith. So, I it would be a good idea to read up a little more on the background of Lilith and the various stories surrounding her.

It turns out that she was much more than just the child killer and first wife of Adam that I had originally thought and that many of the earlier traits ascribed to her are clearly reflected in the character in the text. In early Sumerian texts she was a demon who would visit men in the night and have children by them. This notion of her as a child bearing demon continues into the Talmudic period where, according to Raphael Patai, she was unhappy as Adam's first wife so she fled and went to the Red Sea where she "engaged in unbridled promiscuity, and bore a demonic brood of more than one hundred a day" (Patai 296). Woah! A brood! Lilith's bearing of a demonic brood relates very well to the perception of Butler's Lilith by the resisters. Lilith herself raises the objection early in Dawn, terrified after learning how her children will no longer be human, she fears that the Oankali will "make mules of our children sterile monsters" (55). The resisters see the children as just that, monsters, the demon brood, and they perceive her children as the end of the human race. They are not human and they are the ones who are going to repopulate the planet, not the human race which the Oankali claim to have been saving. Having been previously unaware of this aspect of the story of Lilith, I thought it was very interesting that the title seems to suggest there is possibly something demonic, or at least unhuman, about her children.

Lilith is also concerned with childbirth. According to sources cited by Patai, women would recite certain incantations to protect themselves from the complications that she could cause in child birthing. In fact, it was possible for her to cause sterility. In a way resistors blamer her for much of what has happened. She is there Judas goat (245) and it is because of her, or at least can be seen to because of her, that the human race will no longer survive. The human race is now sterile without the Oankali.

There are also texts which tell of Lilith as being the wife of Samael (Patai 308). Where Adam was, at least, human, Lilith is now the wife of a demon. The Oankali in the minds of the resistors? And here again there is the fear that they might fill with world with "their demonic brood" so God takes it upon himself to castrate Samael.

The parallels with the different religious and mythological Liliths and the role of Lilith Iyapo as seen from the resistors point of view was an aspect of Dawn and Adulthood Rites that I thought was very interesting, especially not knowing much about the history of Lilith. The demonic aspect of her through history and her demonic children who threaten to fill the world, fit well with the fears of the resistors who believe that the construct children are not human and yet they will be the ones to inherit the restored Earth.

Here's the link to the article I read which does a great job tracing the changes of Lilith: