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Dawn (Xenogenesis, #1)
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2014 Reads > Dawn: The Name "Lilith" in Jewish Mythology (Spoilers)

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Barak Raguan (shiningheart) | 40 comments Spoilers for the trade.

Hi all!
So I'm no expert on Jewish mythology, but I thought it might interest some of you to know that the choice of the name "Lilith" for the protagonist in Dawn was an allusion to the character of Lilith in Jewish mythology.
According to a popular Jewish myth, God had originally created both man and woman - Adam and Lilith. They were supposed to procreate and populate the earth. Lilith, however, didn't like Adam, and refused to couple with him. Defying God, she decided to mate with the king of demons, and gave birth to thousands of demon-spawn, known forevermore as the "children of Lilith" (bnei-Lilith).
When Adam complained that Lilith had refused to mate with him and had abandoned him, God decided to try anew, and created Eve from one of Adam's ribs, in hope that a woman created from Adam's flesh (not to mention one that is created after him), would prove more compliant and compatible to Adam.
In recent years, the myth of Lilith has been rediscovered and given a feminist interpretation as a woman who defies a patriarchal God, and insists on choosing her own mate rather than being simply a brooding mare for Adam.

For a more in depth analysis, see the paper I referenced earlier in the post, "Dialogic Origins and Alien Identities in Butler’s XENOGENESIS" by Cathy Peppers (1995).


terpkristin | 4186 comments Wow, I never knew that, a woman before Eve in any religious writing/myth. Thanks for sharing the info/link!


message 3: by Micah (new)

Micah (onemorebaker) | 1071 comments That Lilith she was CRAZY!!! The mythological Lilith also featured very heavily in one of the seasons of true blood where the vampires all trip out like they are on LSD when they drink Lilliths blood. It was weird. Like most True Blood was.


Michele | 1154 comments They say Lilith insisted on being on top during sex and Adam wasn't having any of that, thank you very much! So she left him and went off to find a better lover. And birthed a bunch of monster demon things. Girl power!


Barak Raguan (shiningheart) | 40 comments terpkristin wrote: "Wow, I never knew that, a woman before Eve in any religious writing/myth. Thanks for sharing the info/link!"

The Jewish scholars used the story of Lilith to explain why there are two accounts of the creation of women in the bible. If you read Genesis, it first says that man and woman were created together, and in the second account, Eve is created from Adam's rib. In order to explain this Lilith was cast as the original woman, created alongside Adam.


message 6: by Daran (new)

Daran | 599 comments Similar to the Echidna -mother of monsters in Greek mythology. A handy way of populating a world with all manner of creatures.

Though I believe Butler is using the more modern, feminist, interpretation of Lilith.


Barak Raguan (shiningheart) | 40 comments Daran wrote: Though I believe Butler is using the more modern, feminist, interpre..."

Why so? Butler's Lilith is also a "Mother of Demons", in the sense that she is being asked to give birth to hybrid human-Oankali offspring.
The feminist, rebellious interpretation of Lilith (i.e. the modern interpretation), also stresses the independence and agency of Lilith to choose how and with whom she'll have sex. Butler's Lilith, on the other hand, is denied this agency.


message 8: by David (new)

David (dbigwood) Lilith does come from The Bible. In Genesis God fashions man and woman from mud. Then a few verses later God creates woman from Adam's rib. It seems God has created two different women. The stories of Lilith, her refusal to copulate with Adam, being the mother of deamons all arise from these two creation stories.


Rob  (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments Though the scriptural placement of Lilith is extremely unsatisfying as it doesn't explain why there are two entire contradictory accounts.

Anyway yeah Lilith's name seemed a pretty straightforward way of shouting "she's a strong woman! But also....maybe evil! Maybe..... The mother of DEMONS?!"


Amita (metalphoenix) "They say Lilith insisted on being on top during sex and Adam wasn't having any of that, thank you very much!"

A bit off topic, but to that point: Iron & Wine - Evening on the Ground (Lilith's Song)

Lyric: "You will never make me learn to lay beneath the mountain, cause I'll only lie down by the waterside at night" - Adam being the mountain. Or the Oankali, maybe.

The song was definitely on my mental soundtrack for this book, too. "Evening on the ground and there is no one else around, so you will blame me..." Sounds about right.

Back on topic, I definitely think Lilith was aptly named, in both the misjudged, independent woman and mother of demons versions of the story. Though, I lean more toward the first analysis myself.


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