The Relationship Between Gods And Humans In “The Luck Of The Sea And The Luck Of The Mountains” Literature Review Examples
“The Luck of the Sea and the Luck of the Mountains” is a mythological story comprised in “Kojiki”, which is considered the oldest surviving Japanese book, dating from 712 A.D. In it, prince Fire-Fade uses the help of gods in order to retrieve his brother’s fishhook and punish him for his bad temper. During his quest to retrieve the fishhook, the prince meets and marries the daughter of the Sea God, but he is forced to leave her after being pushed by curiosity to spy on her during childbirth. Prince Fire-Fade’s adventures in this story highlight role of gods in the lives of human beings and also give some clues regarding the relationship between human and gods in Japanese mythology. Although humans and gods have a very close relationship in this story and they are united by feelings, their essentially different natures drive them apart and create an unbreakable barrier between them.
In the beginning of the story, it becomes apparent that gods and humans have a very close relationship. When Fire-Fade weeps on the beach after losing his brother’s fishhook, the God of the Tides comes to ask him about it. The prince does not seem surprised or afraid at seeing the god. This shows that this encounter was not considered unusual. On the contrary, the gods and the humans seem to inhabit the same world, and often cross paths. This is because, with the help of the Tide God who shows him the way, prince Fire-Shine can reach the palace of the God of the Sea with ease. They may live in hidden places, or places that are not easily accessible to humans, but they share the same physical world.
Furthermore, this initial encounter shows that gods and humans are friendly towards each other although their relationship is not equal. Gods have more power and they are wiser than humans. In the story, the God of the Tide says, “I will give you good counsel”. Therefore, the God of the Tides appears to be a paternal figure for Fire-Fade. Later in the story, the God of the Sea acts in a similar way, receiving Fire-Fade in his family, and giving him advice on how to solve his problems with his brother, Fire-Shine. The God of the Sea instructs Fire-Fade to put his brother to a test by causing him to become impoverished for 3 years. After this time, if his brother gets angry at him and tries to attack him, he should use the tide-flowing jewel he received from the God of the Sea and drown him. He is advised to the save his brother from death only if he repents for his behavior. The Sea God therefore helps the prince to gain more authority in the relationship with his elder brother.
Even though gods are more powerful than humans, they do not disregard them. The God of the Sea gives his daughter to the prince in marriage, after honoring him with a banquet. This shows that gods have great respect for humans, and that they do not consider them too unimportant to have them in their families. The daughter of the Sea God also admires Fire-Fade and considers him beautiful. This shows that humans are not beneath gods in appearance, nor are they less worthy of admiration. However, gods have command over the forces of nature and over animals, and they have knowledge beyond the grasp of human understanding
Similarly to humans, gods also have feelings and the union between the prince and the Sea god’s daughter shows that love unites gods and humans. The God of the Tides offers his help to the prince because feels compassion for him. The daughter of the Sea God expresses feelings of love and admiration for the prince. She also feels shame and anger after he discovers her true nature, which shows that gods have a rich emotional life, like humans. Marriage can bring gods and humans together. They are able to have sexual encounters, and to produce offspring from this union. However, while marriage can drive gods and humans towards each other, there are also things that separate them.
It appears that humans cannot cope with seeing the gods’ true shape, and this drives them apart. By the end of the story, Fire-Fade’s wife gives birth to a child. However, she explains that in order to deliver their child, she must take “the shape of her native land” and she asks him not to look. She therefore seems to know that he would be disgusted by the sight. When she takes her true shape, the prince discovers that she transforms into an eight- fathom-long crocodile. This mighty animal terrifies Fire-Fade, who fleeds away at the sight. Therefore, because they are essentially inferior to gods, humans cannot comprehend, or cope with seeing the true shape of a god. At the same time however, the princess is ashamed at having been seen in the form of an animal who “crawled and writhed about”, and so, from this perspective, perhaps gods feel inferior to humans in what their aspect is concerned. Gods are monstrous beings in their true nature, their form is that of animals and they take the shape of humans in order to be able to relate to them easier, but also to enhance their appearance. On the other hand, although weak and helpless in front of the forces of nature, prince Fire-Shade is “a very beautiful young man” and he is “nobler in bearing” even than the Sea God himself.
Even though they have feelings for each other and are able to marry and produce offspring, humans and gods are essentially different, and these differences cause them to be unable to live together. In certain ways, gods are not very different from humans, because they live in the same world, they have feelings and weaknesses, and they are also able to love each other and get married. However, gods are wiser than humans and are able to punish them or help them as they please. This is because, while humans can only rule each other, gods have power over the forces of nature, and rule over the animal kingdom. Even more importantly, gods have a different nature than humans, and this essential point of divergence creates a barrier between them. Humans cannot bare seeing gods in their true nature. The fact that the princess returns to the sea, a place where the prince cannot live in, and where he cannot follow her, shows that there is a great wall between humans and gods which cannot be broken even by love. Even though they continue to love each other, as their songs at the end of the story show, they are not able to reconcile and to live together after the prince discovers the princess’s true form.
As shown in this analysis of “The Luck of the Sea and the Luck of the Mountains”, gods and humans have a strong and positive relationship in Japanese mythology, and they share certain characteristics which allow them to interact freely. Gods and humans inhabit the same world and they have feelings which allow them to understand the human experience more easily. Even though they are much stronger and wiser than humans, gods are willing to help them and give them advice. Gods also admire human appearance and respect the noble humans, treating them not as equals, but as worthy enough to welcome them in their families. Gods and humans are driven together by love, and they can marry and produce offspring. However, there is an essential difference between them, because gods have a different nature than humans, which the latter are not able to comprehend or to accept. The true shape of gods drives them apart from humans who feel terrified at seeing this transformation. Their different natures separate gods and humans like a barrier which even love cannot destroy.
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“The Luck of the Sea and the Luck of the Mountains” is a mythological story comprised in “Kojiki”, which is considered the oldest surviving Japanese book, dating from 712 A.D. […]