Created By: Prfnoff on June 13, 2013 Last Edited By: jormis29 on August 7, 2014
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The Descendants of Cain

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After Cain killed his brother, he was not killed but cursed by God and driven into exile in the land of Nod. There he took a wife (a famously Unknown Character), and at least six generations were descended from him.

Fictional depictions of Cain's descendants vary; they may inherit the wicked nature of their Biblical Bad Guy progenitor, perhaps to the point of having degenerated into hideous monsters. The mark specifically placed on Cain by God, which is associated with God's promise that sevenfold vengeance would be taken on anyone would would kill Cain, may or may not be an obvious physical feature inherited by his descendants.

Cain's descendants may have all been drowned in The Great Flood, whose survivors were all descended from the line that proceeds from Adam's other son Seth through Noah; this would necessarily limit depictions of Cain's descendants to antediluvian Biblical Times. Some believe, however, that Cain's descendants survived the Flood, and still bear the identifiable mark of their ancestor.

This trope does not apply to those descended from anyone else who has the Name of Cain.


Examples

Comic Books
  • In the DC Universe, Vandal Savage was at one point revealed to be the Biblical Cain, leading to stories in which the monster Grendel, his daughter Scandal Savage, and his indirect descendant Batwoman had to deal with the familial and mystical consequences of being, well, descendants of Cain.
  • The Hellblazer "Third Worlds" story arc has John meet with a tribe consisting of Cain's descendants, living near the entrance of the Garden of Eden in the Middle East in a state of perpetual penance. Their religious zeal leads his current girlfriend to mistake them for Islamists.

Film
  • Noah has the antagonists explicitly be the descendants of Cain. Not all of them are evil, they "merely" suffer from a near total cultural lack of the wisdom and compassion needed to use their knowledge and technology to live in harmony with nature— and each other. This has gone on since the beginning of their history, leading to ravaging the planet to the point of apocalyptic resource depletion and descent into cannibalism. Of the Cainites, only Ilah and the girl Ham finds, Na'el, were shown to be innocent, and the former was basically raised by descendants of Seth.

Literature
  • In Beowulf, it is said that the monster Grendel and his mother are descended from Cain.

Live-Action TV
  • Supernatural: In "The Song Remains the Same", Micheal says the Winchester bloodline is descended from Cain and Abel. Their descendants are the only ones who can be used as vessels by the Archangels Michael and Lucifer to manifest on Earth. However, Cain's entire backstory was changed in "First Born", where they made him a reformed demon after he slaughtered Abel for being tempted by Lucifer.
    Dean: A bloodline?
    Michael: Stretching back to Cain and Abel. It's in your blood, your father's blood, your family's blood.
    Dean: Awesome. Six degrees of Heaven Bacon.

Religion
  • The Bible names six generations of Cain's descendants. Cain begat Enoch, who begat Irad, who begat Mehujael, who begat Methusael, who begat Lamech. Lamech's wife Ada bore him Jabal the shepherd and Jubal the musician; their half-brother Tubalcain and half-sister were Lamech's sons by his other wife, Zillah. Lamech explains to his two wives how, where Cain would be avenged sevenfold, Lamech's vengeance is seventy-sevenfold.
  • The idea that Cain or his descendants were cursed with black skin dates back at least to the Middle Ages. Many Christians in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries also believed that dark-skinned people were the descendants of Ham and a wife who was descended from Cain. Thus, they attributed to black people not only the mark of Cain but the curse God placed on Ham's son Canaan that declared him "servant of servants." These common nineteenth-century belief were adopted into the Books of Abraham and Moses from the Mormon scripture Pearl of Great Price, where the Egyptians are Canaanites descended through Ham's wife and/or daughter Egyptus. The Mormon leader Brigham Young stated that Cain's mark was "the flat nose and black skin." The Church of Latter-Day Saints used the Book of Abraham to bar blacks from the priesthood until 1978, when God changed his mind about black people.

Tabletop Games
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade, Cain's curse was actually vampirism, so the modern (Western) vampires are all descended from him by transmission of said curse. For this reason, non-Western vampires (like the kuei-jin) refer to them as "Cainites".

Theatre
  • In Children Of Eden, Ham falls in love with Yona, a descendent of Cain.
  • The Green Pastures features some apocryphal descendants of Cain, including Cain the Sixth. Their wickedness inspires God to order The Great Flood.

Video Games

Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • June 13, 2013
    Chabal2
    One Hellblazer story has John meet with a tribe consisting of Cain's descendants, living near the entrance of the Garden of Eden in the Middle East in a state of perpetual penance (their religious zeal leads his current girlfriend to mistake them for Islamists).
  • June 13, 2013
    Chernoskill
    I'm fairly sure that the vampire's of Vampire The Masquerade are descendants of Cain, with Cain the original Uber-vampire.
  • June 13, 2013
    MrRuano
    Assassins Creed II has one glyph puzzle reveal that the Knights Templar descended from Cain, and that their symbol (The Templar Cross) was Cain's mark.
  • June 13, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    I think Descended From Cain would be a better name. The current one kinda encourages misuse (Though I'm not entirely sure how yet)
  • June 13, 2013
    Prfnoff
    You're saying the name encourages misuse, but you don't even know how it might do so?
  • June 13, 2013
    batgirl1
    ^^For what it's worth, as soon as I saw the title, I thought "Grendel". We could use both names, via a redirect. They're pretty similar in nature, anyway.

    Also, while I'm only really familiar with the one example, I think this Trope is used to establish someone as murderous and violent by nature (since they are descended from the first murderer). Is that wrong? If not, it may warrant a mention in the description.
  • June 13, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    ^^ Good point, but I think that the title is still kinda worded wrong. (It'd be A Good Name For A Rock Band, but also because I think it might imply that the trope is about the biblical descendant of Cain [as oppose to all descendants}

    ^ That could work.
  • June 13, 2013
    Koveras
    • In Vampire The Masquerade, Cain's curse was actually vampirism, so the modern (Western) vampires are all descended from him by transmission of said curse. For this reason, non-Western vampires (like the kuei-jin) refer to them as "Cainites".
  • June 15, 2013
    AgProv
    @ prfnoff: "You're saying the name encourages misuse, but you don't even know how it might do so?"

    I have a feeling there's a Real Life association here, where the Mythology has been conflated and was for many years accepted church doctrine, which in an unchallenged Christian theocracy shaped social and moral attitudes. Perhaps Morning Star 1337 was grasping for the way the story of the Sons of Noah has been used by some Christian groupings down the years to justify racism and slavery. The idea being, if only Noah's immediate family survived the Flood, where did all the widely varying races and ethnicities come from? The Biblical story in Genesis tells of an argument between Noah and his sons, and how the oldest son was blessed by God and the two younger were cursed in varying degrees. The three sons and their familes then got as far away from each other as they could - well, it's always the same when a family is forced to get together, think of Christmas or Thanksgiving - and became the fathers of all the races of the world. Genesis goes into this in some detail. The youngest son, who got the full-blooded curse, is argued by theologians to have become first father of all black people...the clincher, to some minds, is that he and all his generations were doomed be become servants and bondsmen - ie, slaves and serfs - of the righteous older son, who was self-evidently father of all the white people... this theology has been used to justify racism, slavery, inferiority of black peoples, et c, and some Christian churches like the Mormons and the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa have only just got over it and dropped it as a point of their interpretation of Christianity. As God-given doctrine, it was really handy to justify apartheid! Some Christian churches took the idea further, arguing that Noah's black-skinned son must have carried Cain's genes for him to have sinned so egregiously so soon after the Flood - that he was the vessel for re-introducing sin into the world. Therefore, Cain must also have been black...

    I might add this as a footnote or a warning about how this trope can be and has been abused over the centuries?
  • June 18, 2013
    aurora369
    Real Life: John McCain, whose surname can be literally translated as "Descendant of Cain".
  • June 18, 2013
    LordGro
    ^ What would be the purpose of that? Of course, we can copy the phone book and make a list of real-life people named McCain, but where's the punchline? This trope is about descendants of that Cain, not of random people called Cain and it's doubly-not about people called McCain. (Sorry if that sounds rather grumpy, but we have enough trouble with bad real-life examples.)

    @AgProv: You write "Some Christian churches took the idea [of "Ham's Curse"] further, arguing that Noah's black-skinned son must have carried Cain's genes...". If you can verify that this is both factual and a belief held by more than irrelevant splinter groups, then it might be worth mentioning it. But principally, the Curse of Ham is not the same as the Curse (?) of Cain; the mere fact that the concepts are vaguely similar does not make it part of this trope.
  • July 8, 2013
    Prfnoff
    @AgProv, LordGro: From what I've read, the church most associated with this doctrine (in which the Hamites also bear the Curse of Cain because Ham's wife is descended from Cain) is actually the Mormon church, though it partly repudiated it in 1978.
  • April 27, 2014
    Earnest
    • Noah has the antagonists explicitly be the descendants of Cain. Not all of them are evil, they "merely" suffer from a near total cultural lack of the wisdom and compassion needed to use their knowledge and technology to live in harmony with nature— and each other. This has gone on since the beginning of their history, leading to ravaging the planet to the point of apocalyptic resource depletion and descent into cannibalism. Of the Cainites, only Ilah and the girl Ham finds (her name escapes me) were shown to be innocent, and the former was basically raised by descendants of Seth.
  • April 27, 2014
    DAN004
    Related to Name Of Cain?

    Description should mention that "this only counts descendants of THAT Cain".
  • April 27, 2014
    zarpaulus
    I thought Grendel was Cain's son, and his mother was Cain's monstrous wife.
  • April 29, 2014
    Arivne
    • Capitalized the title.
    • Added blank line(s) for readability.
  • April 29, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Comic Books
    • In the DC Universe, Vandal Savage was at one point revealed to be the Biblical Cain, leading to stories in which the monster Grendel, his daughter Scandal Savage, and his indirect descendant Batwoman had to deal with the familial and mystical consequences of being, well, descendants of Cain.
  • April 30, 2014
    RossN
    The innocent Cainite girl Ham tried to save in the 2014 Noah film was named Na'el and she was portrayed by American actress Madison Davenport.
  • April 30, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Theatre
  • May 31, 2014
    Morgenthaler
    I'm not sure if this is an example: In Supernatural, the Winchester bloodline is descended from the Biblical Cain. Cain's descendants are the only ones who can be used as vessels by the Archangels Michael and Lucifer to manifest on Earth. However, Cain's entire backstory was changed later on, where they made him a reformed demon after he slaughtered Abel for being tempted by Lucifer.
  • June 6, 2014
    captainsandwich
    IIRC Haman was descended from some group the jews didn't like. Amalek? Canaanite? maybe descended from Ishmael. I don't remember.
  • June 7, 2014
    DAN004
    Launch?
  • August 5, 2014
    jormis29
    Bump
  • August 6, 2014
    LordGro
    The obligatory Beowulf quote (lines 107-114):
    For the killing of Abel
    the Eternal Lord had exacted a price:
    Cain got no good from committing that murder
    because the Almighty made him anathema
    and out of the curse of his exile there sprang
    ogres and elves and evil phantoms
    and the giants too who strove with God
    time and again until He gave them their reward.
    Though maybe a bit too long for the page quote.
  • August 6, 2014
    DAN004
    Not sure if prfnoff is still there.
  • August 7, 2014
    StarSword
    Literature:
    • In the Sabina Kane series the vampires believe that they are descended from a love affair between Cain and Lilith. All vampires are redheads, which is a relic of the Mark of Cain.
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