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13 April 2005 @ 02:59 pm
FMA/Divine Comedy Metaphor: Past 'The Inferno'  

Warning: Spoilers for both The Divine Comedy and FMA. Also, this may get confusing because of conflicting Dantes.

I’ve been flipping through the community’s archives for several days, generally amusing myself, and have throughly enjoyed reading people’s thoughts on the series and it’s connection to outside sources and different interpretations of the themes presented throughout the series, as well as speculation to the symbolism found within the series. One item that particularly intrigued me was the idea that the story of Fullmetal Alchemist was akin to the story of The Inferno, the first half of the divine comedy. Also, the discussion of the
homonucli being opposite of what they were in life really got me thinking.

Although the idea of FMA being similar to The Inferno is a good idea in theory, I believe the series relates more to the overall Divine Comedy in which The Inferno is only one third of.   But it helps to go through the series and the poem carefully.  Let’s begin this analysis by looking at Dante’s Inferno, the first third of The Divine Comedy.

The Inferno begins with the pilgrim Dante wandering in a dark wood when he is attacked by three beasts; a panther, a lion and a she-wolf. These animals represent Lust, Pride, and Avarice.  This is significant because in the first several episodes of FMA we encounter Lust in Lior, and of course Pride in Central. However, their current motivation for being interested in Edward are unknown at this point in time to both Edward and the audience. However, the beginning of both Fullmetal Alchemist and The Inferno are similar in many ways.

 

Having Lust, and Gluttony and appear in the first part of the series is extremely significant because of the fact that in Dante’s map of hell, circles 2 , and 3 are reserved from the lustful, and the gluttonous respectively.  But what of circle one?  The first circle of Hell is reserved for Ignorance, those that lived virtuously, but didn’t believe in God. We get a good insight about ignorance during episode three, which reveals how Edward and Alphonse were raised, how attached they were to their mother, and the blind ignorance that they showed when they attempted to resurrect their mother. So far, we have The Inferno beginning during the Elric Brother’s childhood.   To me, The Inferno part of the brothers’ trials has already occurred.  We know of their sin, it’s now a matter of repenting.

So then, logically, the majority of the shows’ episodes would be not The Inferno but The Purgatorio, the second part of the Divine Comedy.
To begin the passage into Purgatory one must first cross the mouth of the Tiber River. However, before that occurs, reeds are tied around the person’s waist to symbolize humility. If we consider the beginning of the Elric Brother’s journey towards repentance and through purgatory to begin upon Ed entering the military, then traveling to Central and taking the state alchemy exam would be the “tying of the reeds” so to speak. Then begins the climb up Purgatory’s mountain, or the biggest chunk of the series if you will.

Here I would like to make two notes. The first note is from my readings of alchemical texts, in which one states:

“Alchemy is an ancient path of spiritual purification and transformation; the expansion of consciousness and the development of insight and intuition through images. Alchemy is steeped in mysticism and mystery. It presents to the initiate a system of eternal, dreamlike, esoteric symbols that have the power to alter consciousness and connect the human soul to the Divine.”

Applying the idea of The Divine Comedy and the fact that it is a spiritual journey of sorts, this begins to make even more sense. The second note is this idea that the homunculi are opposite of what they were in life. In The Purgatorio, the sinners in the mountain’s different planes are to do the opposite of what they did in life. (See this thread for information concerning the homunculi’s lives vs. how they are in the series.)

At the very end of The Purgatorio, Dante enters the mortal paradise (Eden), and then transcends his sins into another realm. (Heaven.) His guide, Virgil, disappears. It’s important to remember that Virgil has been beside Dante from The Inferno, and his departure shocks and upsets to Dante. We know what happens at the end of the series to Ed, and that Heaven is most certainly not on the other side of the gate. However, it makes you wonder who exactly is representing “Virgil” here. I would say Al, but Al is not a guide in the series, as he shares in his brother’s sin and is equally guilty. I would say Alchemy itself, as on the other side of the gate, Alchemy is not used. We also know that it was Alchemy that has guided Ed the whole way through this journey.

Very well then, we have nearly completed our metaphor. Our Inferno has already occurred, and is contained in a series of flashbacks; our Purgatorio is the series itself. So then where is Paradiso? My best guess would be the movie, as Shambala is indeed another word for “paradise”.

 
 
The Icon Alchemist: When Al criessky_dark on April 13th, 2005 12:23 pm (UTC)
very interesting *Rubs chin* I can definately see the similarities. Well done =D
I watched the stars crash in the sea.tsukitaichou on April 13th, 2005 12:30 pm (UTC)
That's really cool that you wrote all that up.

I am so unintelligent right now, so I apologize.

But.
Doesn't Avarice usually mean Greed, not Envy? O_o
Megmegkips on April 13th, 2005 12:32 pm (UTC)
From what I've read, avarice is so open to interpretation it can be pretty much anything. Contradictions galore.
I watched the stars crash in the sea.tsukitaichou on April 13th, 2005 12:53 pm (UTC)
O_o;
Huh.
That's so weird.
chrononuriko on April 13th, 2005 12:55 pm (UTC)
It's not. Avarice is always Greed...look it up in the dictionary even~

I've never heard it in the context of envy until now.
Megmegkips on April 13th, 2005 01:01 pm (UTC)
Edited, thanks for the information.
chrononuriko on April 13th, 2005 01:51 pm (UTC)
Well, if a book told you it might be true.

It's just I've never heard of it in any other context, and the dictionary definition of the word tends to be a synonym for Greed more than anything else...

Was the book that said that The Divine Comedy itself?
The Glass Swordsannask on April 13th, 2005 01:23 pm (UTC)
very interesting.....

keep up with this and see what develops as time goes on. this is interesting to think about.
(Deleted comment)
Megmegkips on April 13th, 2005 02:07 pm (UTC)
I'd definatly suggest finishing the triology, as they're all quite good. Anyway, I agree. It most likely wasn't intentional, but it is open to interpretation.

I think the reason Alchemists are in Circle 8 (Bolgia 10, by the way) is what Scar states in the series, that they distort things from their original state that God created them. Admittedly, the idea of Christianity isn't touched upon but Ishbal is extremely similar to Muslism doctrine/culture.
corinn on April 13th, 2005 07:15 pm (UTC)
I looked up some Ishbal stuff...

Article on biblical King David
Saul... dies in a battle with the Philistines. David... assumes power of Judah, and establishes himself as king with Hebron as his capital. David would still face some years of fighting with Ishbal, Saul's sole surviving son. ...Ishbal is murdered by his own courtiers, leaving David with no contenders for his kingship.

Reiterated in this article as:
After Saul died, David was asked to assume the kingship over the tribe of Judah. The other tribes... followed Saul's son, Ishbaal, and for seven years there was war between Ishbaal's army, led by Abner, and David's soldiers, led by Joab. After a quarrel with Ishbal, Abner pledged his loyalty to David. He was, however, murdered by Joab and Ishbaal was assasinated. The tribes of Israel then claimed David as king. (2 Samuel 1:1 - 5:5).

The specific biblical passage is 2 Samuel 4, and the part I find interesting is:
5 Now the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, set out, and about the heat of the day they came to the house of Ishbaal, while he was taking his noonday rest. 6They came inside the house as though to take wheat, and they struck him in the stomach; then Rechab and his brother Baanah escaped. 7Now they had come into the house while he was lying on his couch in his bedchamber; they attacked him, killed him, and beheaded him. Then they took his head and traveled by way of the Arabah all night long. 8They brought the head of Ishbaal to David at Hebron and said to the king, "Here is the head of Ishbaal, son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life; the LORD has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring."
9 David answered Rechab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, "As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity, 10when the one who told me, 'See, Saul is dead,' thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him at Ziklag--this was the reward I gave him for his news. 11How much more then, when wicked men have killed a righteous man on his bed in his own house! And now shall I not require his blood at your hand, and destroy you from the earth?" 12So David commanded the young men, and they killed them; they cut off their hands and feet, and hung their bodies beside the pool at Hebron. But the head of Ishbaal they took and buried in the tomb of Abner at Hebron.


All of which is intriguing. How long was the Ishbal War? Also, the Amestris military moved on Ishbal in their own temples and such (according to Martel), totally unprovoked [parallel: "they had come into the house while he was... in his bedchamber"]. When the Special Forces returned from their successful mission [paralell: "said to the king, 'Here is the head of Ishbaal... your enemy..."], they were scorned and either killed or used as experimental chimera projects [parallel: "So David commanded... and they killed them; they cut off their hands and feet, and hung their bodies..."].

I make no claim to be very familiar with the Bible, so I could be waaay off here... but it seems to me that:
David = King Bradley
Hebron = Central
Ishbaal = Ishbal
Rechab and Baanah = Amestris Military SpecOps Unit (Martel & co.)
I have no clue if David's motives for having the assassins killed was just or not, or if he is like Bradley, who postures as a righteous leader who is saddened by the "accidental firing on an innocent" that started the Ishbal War. Whatever. I can't put it into words, but my brain sees a connection.

ALSO! This article from 2003 mentions a town called Ishbal and a situation in the Middle East circa 1970s which reminds me of the Ishbal problems in FMA-- especially the story of major problems started when young protesters are killed. It's a parallel for the falsified story about how Juliet Douglas killing a child starting the war.

That's my random tangent for today! Discuss.
corinn on April 13th, 2005 07:22 pm (UTC)
Also found this on a random forum:

Alchemist = Technology
Human Transmutation = Clone
Centeral City/State Alchemist = United States
Ishbala = Other less advanced country
Experiments with Alchemy = Experiments with mice and other animals etc.
Philosopher's Stone -> Apocalypse
Technology (can also) -> Apocalypse


I think "Alchemist = Technology" should be "Alchemy = Technology/Science; Alchemist = Scientist." And "Ishbal = Middle Eastern countries." Just thought it was a bit relevant to my last comment.

Even though the whole subject is a crazy offshoot tangent... >.>;;;;
Megmegkips on April 14th, 2005 03:51 am (UTC)
Your bibical interpretation seems right by my account. I don't claim to be familar with the bible either, although I'm a major theology geek.

From that passage I can definatly see the similiarities mentions. The bit about Bradley pretending to be a righteous leader also fits in line.
corinn on April 13th, 2005 03:40 pm (UTC)
At the very end of The Purgatorio, Dante enters the mortal paradise (Eden), and then transcends his sins into another realm. (Heaven.) His guide, Virgil, disappears. Please remember that Virgil has been beside Dante from The Inferno, and the leaving is shocking to Dante.

Could Virgil not be represented by Hohenheim? Whether you look at fma!Dante or Edard!as!a!Dante!figure, Hoho-papa's abrupt abandonment of each left both in a lurch-- both were left in furious hurt and heartbreak because of his leaving.


Megmegkips on April 13th, 2005 03:45 pm (UTC)
While this is true, Hohenheim leaves before the boys begin their journey, before their "Inferno" if you will. In the D.C., Virgil leaves at the end of the Purgatorio, as Dante enters Eden. The reason that would conflict is because Hohenheim is on the other side of the gate/Eden. The idea's good though.
corinn on April 13th, 2005 06:11 pm (UTC)
You could say, however, that each subject-- Dante and Edward-- started their journey/Inferno with Hoho-papa's departure. Their journeys would not have happened had he stayed. Instead, he passively guided each to begin their journey. Each takes a different path-- one strives toward good and overcoming sin, while the other is consumed by bitterness and sin.
Megmegkips on April 14th, 2005 03:47 am (UTC)
Hmm. This is true, and you make a good point. My only problem is that the D.C., Virgil meets Dante quickly through Beatrice (who would most likely be represented by Trisha.) And remember than Virgil guides Dante through Hell and Purgatory.
Kallielkalliel on June 21st, 2006 12:05 am (UTC)
Having just finished reading the Divine Comedy myself, I find this especially intruiging. And yes, I realise that the post I'm commenting on right now was made over a year ago. Apologies for any confusion. O_o

I am particularly enthralled because you referenced Purgatorio and Paradiso as well (which, for some reason, are often left out). ♥

I was wondering if you would allow me to archive this on my (yet unconstructed) website. Full credits would be given to you as the author, obviously.

Feel free to withold your answer until the website is up and running, so that you may see what type of environment your article would be presented in. We would love to have you.

Thank you for your time!
Meg: Theology: Jesus = Human Sacrificemegkips on June 21st, 2006 12:11 am (UTC)
As one who encourages geekiness to the nth degree, I would be honoured and flattered if you placed this on your website, as long as you gave me credit under the pen name of Shoeless Wanderer. (Which is my net name for...everything.)

No confusion, and it's always bugged me that Purgatorio and Paradisio are often left out as well. Mind, the language in Inferno is the most vivid, where as the language in Paradisio is the most stark (because God is so hard to describe).

If you'd like to talk more about this and trade ideas off of each other, feel free to IM me on LayOffTehGoober.
Meg: Python: Ex-Parrot!megkips on June 21st, 2006 12:31 am (UTC)
Also, I'd like to go over and edit a few things in this essay, if you don't mind. Also, if you'tr trying to contrust a FMA website full of this sort of thing, I have a few links that I could share with you.
Kallielkalliel on June 21st, 2006 02:10 am (UTC)
I would love to take you up on the AIM offer as soon as I get a block of time to do it in. (My AIM is kalliel511; I've added you so I can see when you're online. =D)

As for editting, of course I don't mind. You're doing me a great coutresy by letting me host it. And I would love some links. I've been searching through fullmetal_info endlessly, it seems. O_o
Meg: Boondocks: Huey Looking Outside with a Gmegkips on June 21st, 2006 10:42 am (UTC)
Ok, awesome, added you as well.

I'll edit it tonight and get it to you...somehow. (I'll probably just shove it on my site and make life easier for everyone.)

As for other links, I found this essay about what would happen if FMA was put under a Jewish interpretation instead of the traditional and more common place Christian one to be really fascinating. I'm also rather fond of weddings in Xing, although it is a bit more of a comedy sort of thing.