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The use of deception as a tool in both Popul Vuh and Paradise Lost is a very important aspect in both stories. Both epics main characters use trickery and deception as their primary weapon to work towards accomplishing their goals. The Hero Twins in Popul Vuh use deception and trickery to kill the gods of the underworld, who killed their father. Satan uses deception and trickery in Paradise Lost by tempting Eve with the forbidden fruit from the garden. In Popul Vuh, the twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque or “Hero-Twins” are very coy as they work to defeat their enemies and be reunited with their father and uncle.
The Hunahpu twins spent much of their time playing the Mayan ball sport. As many children their age, these boys were very boisterous. Otherwise, on much of any given day the twins were good boys and were very clever. The Lords of Death who lived beneath them became disturbed by their immense nature of play.
Since the Lords were so upset, they called the boys down to their world called the Xibalba.
The Lords of Death were very harsh to the boys and requested they endure many difficult tests, such as crossing the river full of spikes and blood while addressing each of the Gods by the correct name, “Speak, then, our names, praise us, your mother, your father. Invoke then, Huracan, Chipi-Caculha, Raxa-Caculha, the Heart of Heaven, the Heart of Earth, the Creator, the Maker, the Forefathers; speak, invoke us, adore us” (Chapter 2).
Surprising to the boys the Gods had pulled a wool over their eyes as some of the Gods were not real Gods, instead they were idols made of wood. The Gods later asked the boys to have a seat on a bench, but the bench was on fire and burnt the boys. Since the boys failed to pass the first two tests, the Gods killed them. One of the twins had twins himself with one of the Goddesses of the Mayan.
History proceeded to repeat itself as the Hero twins were also very outgoing and loud as they continued to play their ball game, “Who are they who play again over our heads and disturb us with the noise they make?” (Chapter 7). This ultimately made the Lords of Death angry again and invited the Hero twins to their world to teach them a lesson. Of course, the Lords gave the twins the same two tests to pass and as they had cleverly learned from the mistakes of their father, they passed. They made a mosquito bite the Gods in the test to have the boys sit on the bench. Those Gods that did not have a reaction to the mosquito bite were presumed to be those made of wood; “That is not a lord, it is nothing more than a wooden figure” (Chapter 8) and did not continue to address them by name. Eventually the game of ball between the Gods and the twins began, but the Gods used balls that encased sharp blades.
Since the Gods were playing the game unfairly, they refused to continue the game. The kids knew that the Gods would not like if they won, so they purposefully lost the game. The Gods did not take this defeat well and continued to put the twins in the rooms of ice, fire, and blades. Bravery led the twins out of this without a scratch. Eventually the twins won the game. The Gods were outraged and ordered the twins to plunge into a death oven, “They made then, a great bonfire, a kind of oven; the men of Xibalba made it and filled it with thick branches” (Chapter 12). The twins die and the Gods submerged their ashes into the river. This enabled the twins to take birth as Catfish. Because they were able to do so, the twins became known as the hero twins that had magical powers to make a dead person alive again. Since the Gods were so greedy, they requested that the twins perform this act on them, “Do the same with us! Sacrifice us!” (Chapter 13). The twins being clever as they were, put the Gods to sleep, ultimately to death which made them become the winners of the game. This was a difficult quest that required intelligence and extreme planning. The heroes were able to come up with a plan and succeed using their new skills. The Hero Twins use deception well as they trick the gods into thinking they are weak when really, they have a plan made to kill them and never resurrect them.
The Deception of Satan in Paradise Lost was shown that after being thrown in hell, Satan became a very powerful angel who used his powers to deceive God’s creations, Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were viewed as vulnerable creations who were easily influenced. Satan uses this to seek revenge on God. He uses his powers to make the followers of God and Eve disobey him. In this story we are shown that Satan is a heroic figure. As we continue reading, the character of Satan loses such greatness and then becomes known as a creature. Satan seeks out to possess the powers of God for himself. “But I should ill become this throne, O Peers, An this imperial sovereignty, adorned with splendor, armed with power, if aught proposed, and judged of public moment” (II. 445). Satan is in awe of the greatness that God possesses and will stop at nothing to achieve the same level of greatness he has. Although the reader can see that Satan is needed to be perceived as great and heroic, Milton shows us that there is too a sense of great suffering for Satan.
Satan explains that the more things he sees as pleasurable and in amazement, the more torture he feels within himself. He aims to make others feel the same pain that he feels, although he chose’s not to live on earth or in heaven. He states, “only in destroying I find ease to my restless thoughts,” (IX. 129). He uses this phrase to prove that he will stop at nothing to see that he gets revenge for the pain he so feels. Milton allows us to view Satan’s greatness while he is indeed in great pain and anguish. At Satan’s first meeting with the council, he addresses with a variety of options in his race for the throne. With a very prideful and stern tone, he takes on the task of deceiving Adam and Eve. This is our first encounter with deception. Gracefully he makes his followers believe that he elected himself to take on this task, when really this is what his intentions were all along.
He ensures them that he would not be a fit leader if he were to turn away the task at hand. When Satan makes his way to Earth, he is in awe of Eve and is complimenting her repeatedly calling her a “celestial beauty” (IX. 540) and a “goddess among gods” (IX. 547). It seems as if he was doing this in an attempt to soften her up before making his move at deception. He tells Eve that by eating the fruit, she will be filled with wisdom and gain a seat amongst the Gods. The fruit could leave her as wise as her maker and all she had to do was eat the fruit from the tree, “Mother of science, now I feel thy power within me clear, not only to discern things in their causes, but to trace the ways of highest agents, deemed however wise. Queen of this universe do not believe those rigid threats of death; ye shall not die: How should ye? By the fruit? It gives you life to knowledge” (IX. 680-688).
He continues to play with Eve’s mind, filling it with fantasies that he knew could never be of truth. Eve knows that this is the only tree that is forbidden, yet she falls into Satan’s deception. She eats the fruit from the tree, paving the way to sin. Satan chooses his plan of deception wisely. He chooses Eve over Adam because of her apparent weakness. He chooses the perfect time of day to real her in, as he met her at noon, and it was perfect time for lunch. As Eve was willing to listen to Satan, she heard so much of his rhetoric that her perception of life and way of thinking changed, “Fixed on the fruit she gazed, which to behold might tempt alone, and in her ears the sound Yet rung of his persuasive words, impregned with reason, to her seeming, and with truth” (IX. 735-739).
Eve quickly turned from Gods innocent creation to adhering to the deceit of Satan. Satan’s followers thought they were being given a choice within the council, but it was really an illusion. This sin would be described as fraud. During Milton’s time, this was one of the worst sins possible. Satan clearly defines himself as an epic hero in his speech to the council, after deceiving so many. He was then condemned to evil. God later turns him and his followers into snakes. Realizing that he does not have the same lust when in the skin of an animal rather than that of a heavenly figure, Satan sees the supreme abilities that God has which forces Satan to seek more revenge amongst all.
In both Popul Vuh and Paradise Lost, the main characters learn how their intelligence can be used to harness their own selfish purpose. Their use their cunning abilities, deception, and manipulation of other characters to get what they want. In Popul Vuh, the twins use their skills to take down their enemies and rescue their family from the depths of the underworld, which effectively makes them heroes. However, these similar powers can be used for evil, as we see in Paradise Lost with Satan. Satan’s agenda was much more devious than the twin heroes in Popul Vuh. He is extremely intelligent and powerful and when he concludes that he is unable to use strength and violence to achieve his vengeance, making him a devious but evil character. Both examples show how deception can be used to obtain desired results, regardless of intention.
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