"Menelaus, there are some strangers come here, two men, who look like sons of Jove. What are we to do? Shall we take their horses out, or tell them to find friends elsewhere as they best can?"
Menelaus was very angry and said, "Eteoneus, son of Boethous, you never used to be a fool, but now you talk like a simpleton. Take their horses out, of course, and show the strangers in that they may have supper; you and I have stayed often enough at other people's houses before we got back here, where heaven grant that we may rest in peace henceforward."
Hospitality is sacred. The host must not harm the guest, the guest must not harm the host, and not offering in the first place is a serious affront. In Ancient Greek, hospitality was called xenia and was sacred; Zeus was called Zeus Xenios in his function as god and guarantor of hospitality and protectors of guests. This comes from the word for "stranger"; so, for that matter, does "hospitality". Another word from that root is "hostile", which helps explain why the rules are so severe.
Less popular in modern times with the rise in hotels and forms of transport that mean twenty miles is not a day's journey, and decreasing odds that you will have to fight someone who's a stranger, but Older Than Feudalism and of vast historical importance. Because it's less important nowadays, the extreme punishments dealt out to people who abuse or refuse hospitality in classic tales appear disproportionate.
May be the Good Old Ways, practiced in Arcadia and by the Noble Savage.
Tastes Like Friendship is closely related. The host/guest bond may in fact be triggered by their eating salt together.
Often explicitly invoked in No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine. Vampire Invitation is closely related, though a being bound by both rules is going to find it very difficult to hurt anyone (at least while they're at home!).
Common in Sweet Home Alabama. Frequently results in Angel Unaware. Often a result of Bedouin Rescue Service. If played up in an inappropriate setting or to a ridiculous extent, it's Stranger Safety. When a guest abuses this by extending their stay overly long, it becomes The Thing That Would Not Leave. Contrast with Food Chains where it isn't safe to eat anything. For the ultimate violation, see Nasty Party.
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This trope appears to be in strong effect in Kino's Journey, where nearly every country welcomes any travellers from the outside world as guests of honour and gives them free food, lodgings and guided tours at the drop of a hat. Apparently travellers in this world are so rare that this doesn't unduly tax their resources, but it's still amazing how many countries maintain luxurious hotels ready just in case a traveller comes along every few years and needs a place to stay.
Used in Otoyomegatari, befitting the setting. A messenger with letters for Smith came all the way from Macedonia and the villagers bicker over each other as to who he will stay with until Akunbek declares him his guest.
In one of the very oldest Robin Hood ballads, "Robin Hood and the Potter", Robin lures the sheriff to the forest, but then lets him go on the grounds that the sheriff's wife had been hospitable to him.
In PS238, Hestia, a pre-teen avatar of the same-named Greek god of the home, has the ability to totally incapacitate or worse anyone who breaks the laws of hospitality.
One Wonder Woman story, The Hiketeia, deals with Diana offering protection to a runaway girl from Gotham City. This is before the runaway is revealed as a murderer (the people she killed needed to go, though.) Eventually Batman shows up to arrest her, but not only did Wonder Woman promise her guest protection and hospitality, the guest also invoked the titular Hiketeia, a ritual that requires that Wonder Woman does not discharge her guest without the guest's consent, on pain of death from the Erinyes, who will kill her if she does so. Since Wonder Woman's life is forfeit if she surrenders the girl and Batman (unaware of this deal) is not just going to let the girl get away with murder, Wonder Woman and Batman end up fighting to the death over the situation and their conflicting morals. The girl Takes A Third Option and leaps off a bridge. Notably, Batman himself tries to invoke the Hiketeia so that Wondy wouldn't be able to stop him without breaking her oath, but she informs him that she has the right to refuse it if she chooses. It only applies once she accepts it in the first place, as she did with the girl
Sacred Hospitality is important between mythological creatures in the The Sandman universe: When Morpheus offers hospitality to his guests in Season of Mists he is physically incapable of breaking it or allow harm to any of his guests (whether he was aware they were his guests when he offered it or not), unless they reject or violate it first. Notably, hospitality has to be offered first: Lucifer nearly kills Morpheus in the first volume after having not offered any hospitality or safety to him, but when the two later meet in Season of Mists Morpheus is willing to trust Lucifer when he does give his word that no harm will befall Morpheus within the boundaries of Hell.
A 4-koma strip in Doujin comic Golden Sun Gag Battle has an enemy Mole monster offer its meal of worms to Isaac and Garet after the latter two announce that they could use a snack themselves.
In The Cat on the Dovrefell, the people beg off this, on the grounds they are being driven out of their own home, and can't offer him it. He still takes a bed there. The trolls, however, are terrible guests, and bring their own fate on themselves.
In Russian fairy tales, the hero sometimes complains, when he finds a person at home, that the person there does not offer him food and drink before questioning him — not only when he meets captive maidens, but sometimes even when he meets Baba Yaga.
In Troll 2, the father stresses the wonders of "typical country hospitality". It turns out that the country folk are actually evil goblins who want to eat our heroes.
Played for laughs in Buster Keaton's silent comedy Our Hospitality. His character accepts an invitation to dine with the family of a young woman he's met on a train, and discovers that they're involved in an ongoing blood feud with his own family (and thus him). Her father and brothers are unable to kill him while he's in their home, so as a title card wryly notes, Keaton attempts to become a "permanent guest" of theirs.
Maryada Ramanna, the 2010 Telugu remake of Our Hospitality, a houseguest discovers that his hosts are part of a rival faction.
In Straw Dogs, David finally takes a stand against a group of local toughs when they try to invade his home to abduct a man he's taken in. David fights off the invaders to protect the man, even though he knows that the man is probably a murderer.
Kingdom of Heaven dramatizes a real-life example. After Raynald slaughters a passive Muslim caravan (including Saladin's sister), Saladin swears revenge. When he eventually captures Raynald and Guy, King of Jerusalem, he offers the latter water to quench his thirst. He refuses it and passes the cup to Raynald, who eagerly drinks it. Guy was being treated as a guest of Saladin, but Raynald was not, so Raynald was not allowed to drink any of the water under Saladin's rules. Raynald knew this, and was intentionally throwing the tradition in his face.
Raynald: I drink water for what it is. (drinks).
Saladin: I did not give the cup to you.
Raynald: No. My lord.
Saladin:[Brings out his sword and slashes Raynald's throat]
Referenced in Ninth Company. During their training, the Soviet soldiers are taught about the Pashtun concept on hospitality and how the locals will see nothing contradictory about hosting you in their villages and fighting you in the mountains.
Later on, one of the soldiers comes across an Afghan man while looking for supplies and the man takes him to a nearby village. Despite being on his own, no harm comes to him.
The Beast Of War is another movie about the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan that invokes the trope. The Pashtun rebels spare the life of the protagonist (a Soviet tank driver) when he appeals to their traditional code of Pashtunwali, which requires even an enemy to be given sanctuary if he asks. Though some of the rebels argue that the rules shouldn't apply to Dirty Communists who've learnt a single word of their language (nanawatai = sanctuary), the fact that he'd been left for dead by his comrades (and is willing to repair an RPG in order to blow them up in payback) is a significant factor in his defence.
Chekhov: Captain Kirk was your host. You repaid his hospitality by trying to steal his ship and murder him!
In Disney's Beauty and the Beast, the Beast's offense was not allowing a poor old woman shelter. Lumiere welcomes Maurice into the castle as a guest when he seeks shelter from the wolves, and when Belle takes his place, Lumiere declares that Belle should also be treated as a guest, rather than a prisoner.
Of course, this is a throwback to the original version of the story, where the Beast demands restitution from Beauty's father after the man violates this tradition by stealing from him after the Beast gives him food and shelter.
A variation of this occurs in the climax of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, the Bandit Chieftain plans to kill Ali Baba by posing as a merchant and asking for shelter at his house. However, when Ali Baba offers him dinner, the chieftain says he cannot eat it because he cannot eat salt, due to health concerns. The real reason is an unwritten law in the Arabian world, that says you are not allowed to eat a man's food and then kill him. (unfortunately for the villain, this makes the slave girl Morgiana suspicious, and she recognizes him; she is later able to slay him in the middle of a dance with daggers after the meal.)
The D'regs in Terry Pratchett's Discworld books have very strong laws to show hospitality to a guest for three days. In Jingo, "71-Hour Ahmed" got his name when he broke this law by killing his (murderously evil) host an hour before the three days were up; another character comments that it wouldn't have mattered so much if he had just waited the extra hour. Thing was, Ahmed knew the killer would pounce the instant Sacred Hospitality ran out (he was bound to it as well); Dangerously Genre Savvy Ahmed didn't want to give him the opportunity.
According to theDivine Comedy, betrayal of one's guest or host is such a dire sin that it not only gets you sent to the lowest level of Hell (a frozen lake), but especially egregious offenders actually go there before they die — while a demon takes over the living body.
In fact, not only is it in the lowest level, but those who betray their guests or host are said to be the second-worst kind of traitor, second only to traitors to their benefactors, worse those who betray their family or country.
The war results from a violation of xenia. Paris was a guest of Menelaus but seriously transgressed the bounds of xenia by abducting his host's wife, Helen. Therefore the Achaeans were required by duty to Zeus to avenge this transgression, which as a violation of xenia was an insult to Zeus's authority.
Two heroes meet during the battle and realize that their grandfathers had once been host and guest. So they trade armor. That way they can ensure that they do not kill each other and so infringe on the obligations of xenia.
In A Song of Ice and Fire, hospitality is such a central part of Westerosi morality that people will trust even their most deadly enemies to hold by it.
When Robb returns to Walder Frey after violating his marriage pact, Catelyn urges the importance of requesting bread and salt, since that would make Robb a guest and free from fear of reprisal during his stay. It doesn't work. In a shocking violation of Sacred Hospitality, the Freys and their secret allies slaughter their guests in what is later called the Red Wedding. Even their newfound allies are sickened by their actions and the Freys become The Friend Nobody Likes.
Illyrio shows an unusual, perhaps idiosyncratic version when a depressed Tyrion is a guest in the Free Cities: when his guest plans suicide by stealing a poison fruit, Illyrio openly offers him the fruit, reasoning that he must protect and tend to his guest... and if the guest desires to die then it's his responsibility as a gracious host to put them out of his misery.
Sacred Hospitality looms large when the Night's Watch stay at the wildling Craster's hold, due to mutual dislike. The Night's Watch is sure to present a gift during their first stay, and Mormont always defers to Craster's demands. When the Watch returns, however, a few members violate the rules by demanding better food and eventually attacking Craster. Shocked members of the Watch attack the violators, resulting in a deadly melee.
In a slight twist, the first time he's at Craster's, Jon specifically chooses to avoid accepting food from Craster or sleeping by his fire, specifically because he doesn't want to be bound by rules of hospitality to Craster, just in case.
The Tyrells poisoned Joffrey in what's been called the Purple Wedding.
In Stephen Hunt's The Court of the Air, the commodore welcomes Molly to the hospitality of their house.
In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, when the dwarves first show up, Bilbo is afraid that he doesn't have enough food, because he knows his duty: if there's not enough to go around, it's the host who must go short. (Despite the fact that he didn't even invite them.) At the end, after he has left the dwarves — both sides having assured each other that hospitality will be extended in the future — he gives the elf king a gift, because he had eaten his food while skulking about his halls.
Then the dwarves bowed low before their Gate, but words stuck in their throats. "Good-bye and good luck, wherever you fare!" said Balin at last. "If ever you visit us again, when our halls are made fair once more, then the feast shall indeed be splendid!" "If ever you are passing my way," said Bilbo, "don't wait to knock! Tea is at four; but any of you are welcome at any time!"
Referenced in The Count of Monte Cristo, where the Count is noticeably unwilling to dine at Albert's home. While he gives other excuses, the explanation is to the effect that he's familiar with the importance of hospitality in Arab tradition, and knows that it wouldn't be right to revenge himself on them if he shared their food.
This is also one of the reasons why he gives extravagant gifts (as well as being part of his persona and to ingratiate himself with people) - he wants to be in nobody's debt. Whenever someone tries to give him a gift, he gives them a more valuable one to even things out.
Marco Polo wrote that during his travels he came across the district of Kamul. When strangers arrived, the male head of a household would leave his own house and allow the stranger to live there as if it were his own, and as if all the females of the household were his own wives. The people of Kamul felt so strongly about this custom that when the Khan banned it, they sent a delegation to ask him to reverse his decision, which he did. Pretty lousy for the wives, though...
In C. S. Lewis's Prince Caspian, Trufflehunter, Trumpkin and Nikabrik take in Caspian when they find him unconscious outside their home. When he wakes up and they find out he's King Miraz's nephew, Nikabrik wants to kill him, but the others say that if they were going to do that they should have done it first thing; now, it would be murdering a guest.
In one novel by Alan Furst, an OSS agent in the Balkans is sheltered by a fishing village. Sometime later the villagers discover that left on the shore for them is a feast (smuggled in by the OSS of course) with a note left to them thanking them. The villagers thereupon wonder what fabulously rich refugee they had obtained the gratitude of.
In Neil Gaiman's Stardust, when one witch pledges to treat another as if she were her guest, the other takes it as a perfect promise.
In Beauty, the Beast's offense was still breaking sacred hospitality by not offering shelter. However, he has learned his lesson and treats the eponymous beauty's father as a good host should. What takes him into the prisoner bit is when the father steals a rose. He had promised to try and get one for Beauty, y'see...
This is why Talon Karrde wouldn't turn in Han Solo and Lando Calrissian when the Empire came by in Heir to the Empire.
In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, even vampires can be taken seriously with hospitality. Of course, they tend to aim for Plausible Deniability instead of just not harming their guests. It's all down to the most powerful members of the supernatural community being a few hundred years behind the times and having an Old World mentality. The various supernatural groups also have a treaty detailing diplomacy and hospitality and various other aspects of supernaturals dealing with each other. Also, hospitality means something. Any being's home has a magical barrier at the door referred to as the threshold. Crossing the threshold without being invited in means leaving a chunk of your power at the door, if they can enter at all. How much power they lose is determined by how much the dwelling is a home. Dresden's basement bachelor apartment, inhabited for not much more than ten years, doesn't have much stopping power, but a friend's home, inhabited by the same family for about a hundred years, has a hell of a kick.
Of course, being a guest of The Fair Folk has its own dangers. The Erl-King points out that, as a host, it would be within his right as a host to keep Harry as a guest for a few centuries. And since the Red Court contingent claim Harry brought them there on purpose for the Erl-king to kill them for Harry while Harry said it was an accident, the Erl-king decides the best way to deal with these conflicting claims is let the sword decide and make them battle a duel. Winner will receive the hospitality, the loser will be treated as an invader to his land. Erl-king notes that if Harry wins and the Red Court tried to save their people, it would be an insult that would draw all the Fae (Winter, Summer, and Wylde) into attacking the Red Court.
And in the event a Fae enters a home uninvited they are still bound by the laws of hospitality. They cannot leave the home in a worse place than when they arrived, hence the brownies being able to enter and clean Harry's home, provided he never speak of them. Even if the host attacks the Fae, the Fae cannot respond with hostile action. Most would simply leave the home and when the person is not inside the home any longer, respond for the previous action.
Also, certain entities, like the inhabitants of Faerie are essentially bound by their language and betrayal of the Laws of Hospitality border on conceptually impossible for them. Getting them to promise their hospitality however...
The Laws strictly bind the Faerie and all members of their Courts. We see a key instance of what happens if someone tries to break the Laws in Cold Days. Also, even when the hospitality is granted, Exact Words very heavily come into play.
In Turn Coat, Harry is hiding Morgan at his house. Pretty much every time he leaves the man there alone, Harry comes back to find Morgan about to kill someone because of some misunderstanding. Harry manages to shame him by pointing out that he would not only expect more courteous behavior from a Demon, he would get it as well.
In the Dragaera series, the Dragonlord traditions of hospitality are like this. It's a significant plot point in Jhereg, where an absconding crimelord gets himself invited to stay at the home of a powerful Dragonlord, knowing that nobody will be able to get at him there without bringing down a massive retaliation from his host.
At the beginning of Ivanhoe, Cedric the Saxon orders an old Jew admitted to his hall over the protests of his (only slightly more welcome Norman) guests, using very nearly the exact words from the Abraham example. On the other hand, none of his retainers make room for the old man to sit down.
In Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard Of Earthsea, Ged wonders about the hospitality that he had heard of in certain islands when he actually reaches them. He finds the friend, Vetch, whose initial reaction is surprise and fear, because he does not recognize him. Vetch immediately apologizes for that and has him stay in his own home.
Sacred hospitality actually appears pretty deeply ingrained in Earthsea, in both the Hardic and Kargad lands. Despite Ged's private gripe, his boat was provisioned for free on the island where people thought he might be some kind of demon, and the innkeeper who told him their island already had a wizard (who turned out to be his friend) gave him free lodging, food, and ale. Staff-carrying wizards almost never pay for such things, or for ship's passage. There is only one story where a character uses a fake staff to take advantage of this. But while hospitality to wizards is mere common sense, there are many examples in the stories of non-wizards (or wizards in disguise) getting the benefit of sacred hospitality.
In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, Father Christmas insists on the elf queen not evicting Mephisto from the table because he is his guest. Indeed, such is his hospitality that Miranda accepts a gift from one of The Fair Folk, knowing that Father Christmas would not allow it to be baneful under his roof.
In the first SPQR series novel "The King's Gambit", the murderer's violation of sacred hospitality provides Decius with the clue he needs to understand the entire underlying conspiracy.
In Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, General Tilney invites the protagonist in his house because he wants her to marry his son. One day, he suddenly throws her out with a lame excuse and sends her away in a public coach with no attending servant. (This doesn't sound so horrible today, but back then it meant deliberate insult.) The reason for all that was, he found out she wasn't as rich as he thought. His violation of Sacred Hospitality is how the reader fully sees his true colors.
How do we know that Cao Cao is a villainous individual in Romance of the Three Kingdoms? He violates Sacred Hospitality quite badly. His paranoia has him murder his hosts after he overhears them planning to kill something despite having been put up as an honoured guest. The thing in question? Their pig to provide meat for the table. His justification upon discovering his error speaks volumes about his character. "Better I betray the world than it betray me!"
Referenced in The Name of the Wind: Bast threatens the scribe, saying "You have eaten at my table," implying that this created a magical obligation between them. Since Bast is a fairy, he probably means this literally.
In Poul Anderson's "Time Patrol", two agents claim to be Woden and Thundor and to watch over the family henceforth as they leave — in an obvious nod to the many myths.
We returned a suitable answer to this affectionate Note, and after thanking her for her kind invitation, assured her that we would certainly avail ourselves of it, whenever we might have no other place to go to. Tho' certainly nothing could, to any reasonable Being, have appeared more satisfactory than so gratefull a reply to her invitation, yet I know not how it was, but she was certainly capricious enough to be displeased with our behaviour
At MacDonald's, they persuade his daughter to run off with a fortune-hunter, and then rob him.
In Robert A. Heinlein's Glory Road, Oscar is shocked to find his host's wife and daughter waiting in his bed. He politely turns them down and sends them away, not wanting to betray his host. The next morning, his party is rudely ejected from the home. When he tells Star about what happened, she is horrified. Custom in the land they are traveling is that it is insulting to refuse the sexual favors of the women of the household. Their host had been insulted that Oscar would refuse his women when they offered themselves to him.
In the Chivalric RomanceGuy of Warwick, Guy is an earl's guest when it is revealed that the earl's son died in a quarrel with a stranger — Guy. The earl, breaching hospitality, attacks him, but in his escape, Guy gives the dismounted earl his horse in return for his dinner.
In P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster story "The Ordeal of Young Tuppy", Tuppy maintains that he wishes to give a Irish water spaniel to his host's daughter merely out of gratitude for their hospitality.
In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novel The Greater Good, Cain notes the poor hospitality of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Subverted in that to their cybernetic hosts their treatment is quite respectful.
Mercedes Lackey's Firebird features the Bannik, spirit of the steam bath house, who react favorably to humble and respectful guests, so long as the the "third bath turn is given to him".
Spock's World, a Star Trek Expanded Universe novel, holds that this is one of the tenets of Vulcan society, with such rules as allowing a guest to be refreshed with water before any conversation takes place. However, such rules do not extend to neighbors (as they are seen to be competition for the scarce resources).
In Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Triumph, McCandless and Sharpe are put up by Pohlmann after they escort Simone there. When McCandless is shot and his horses stolen, he remindes Pohlmann they were his guests. Pohlmann is apolegetic and has the man killed.
Nero Wolfe is an unrepentant misanthropic recluse, but his code of honor means that he will be in every part the impeccable host if someone calls upon his hospitality. Over the course of the series, he's hosted murder suspects, witnesses and clients for dinner, invited them to view his orchids and even given them a room to sleep in over the night should they need it. As well as a matter of honour, however, it also serves a double purpose in that it enables him to keep someone who has every reason to want to run as far as they can get (such as someone suspected of or guilty of murder) right where a close eye can be kept on them.
The Uplands have an idiosyncratic version in Gifts. Guests are to be given useful work to do so that they don't feel like bums. But when you get an invite, you have to accept it at some point or give major offense, and if you're dealing with a family that has a particularly nasty gift, giving offense is a very bad idea.
In the Urban Fantasy setting of Pact, ancient laws of hospitality are enforced upon practitioners by the animist nature of the setting—if a spirit (and there are always spirits) sees a practitioner violate hospitality (attacking a guest, or attacking someone that is your guest, usually), they'll exact a toll and spread word to other spirits, which influence the world subtly against that practitioner and generally gives them bad Karma.
In NCIS: Los Angeles, Sam once was saved while operating in Afghanistan as a SEAL by villagers who offered him hospitality. Years later, when Taliban extremists seek revenge against said villagers (who had immigrated to the US), Sam points out to them that the tradition of hospitality predated the region becoming Muslim, so the Taliban agents were in the wrong in this matter (they ignore him).
Mythology and Religion
Greek mythology is full of examples. Zeus himself was patron of hospitality (as well as most other social laws), so breaking Sacred Hospitality, either by host or guest, would incur his fury.
The poor, elderly couple Baucis and Philemon received with glad hospitality two weary travelers whom their wealthier neighbors had driven off. Since these travelers were Zeus and Hermes, their neighbors' village got transformed into a lake, and them into fish, while Baucis and Philemon received their wish: that they should die at the same moment so neither of them had to live widowed. When they did die, they turned into trees, their branches forever intertwined in love.
Admetus is pretty famous for this trope, actually. He once sheltered Apollo when the latter was sentenced to spend a year as a mortal for killing (variously) Delphyne or the Cyclops. As a reward Apollo not only served as Admetus' cowherd during that time, insuring that all the cows bore twins, but later helped Admetus win the eponymous Alcestis' hand in marriage. He also convinced the Fates to allow Admetus to forgo the expected day of his death if Admetus could find someone to die in his stead. Alcestis eventually volunteered to do so, leading to the above encounter with Heracles.
King Midas, despite being greedy, was very hospitable, and this was what eventually got him in trouble. When his servants caught the old satyr Silenus drunk and passed out after trespassing on his royal grounds, Midas ordered him bathed and fed, and politely entertained him for ten days before taking him back to Dionysus in Lydia. Dionysus offered Midas his choice of whatever reward he wished for. Midas asked that whatever he might touch should be changed into gold. The god warned Midas that he had made a foolish wish, but he granted it, and as everyone familiar with the story knows, Dionysus was right.
Ixion broke hospitality rules in the most amazingly stupid ways. He invited his family over for a feast, including Deioneus, the father of his recently-wed wife, Dia. To get back at Deioneus for taking his livestock as "payment" for Dia, Ixion pushed him into a flaming bed and was exiled for the kinslaying/hospitality breach. Then Zeus, feeling sorry for the guy (after all, as far as hospitality breaches go, being forced to pay an excessive bride-price is at least comprehensible), invited him up to hang out with the rest of the gods; they figured he was a terrible host, but this time he's a guest and his hosts are gods, he'll have some sense, right? WRONG. They didn't count on Ixion being stone cold crazy. Let's see what happened next, folks:
During the feast, he felt up Hera in front of everyone. He wasn't even slick about it. He was trying, because he didn't have the balls to do it openly, but he was kind of a screwup and kept being way too obvious about it. And he was still staring at her and breathing way too hard.
So Zeus decided to test his guest; he formed up some clouds into a Hera-shaped sexdoll and floated it by Ixion's room at night. Ixion raped it. Let that sink in for a moment. Ixion was willing to rape Zeus's wife, in Zeus's house, when Zeus put up his exiled ass out of the kindness of his godly heart. Ixion would have done that to the King of the Gods; clearly, this was a man who had passed the Moral Event Horizon some time ago. Needless to say, the next few moments of Ixion's life were electrifying. You could say it was a rather shocking affair. You could almost sayZeus smote him with a thunderbolt, even.
And so, Ixion was thrown into Tartarus, chained to a wheel, set on fire and left to burn for all eternity. The Hera sexdoll gave birth to the Centaurs. And, ladies and gentlemen, this is why you do not abuse the hospitality of the Greek gods.
Tantalus. For some reason, the Olympians liked him enough to attend one of his banquets. When he noticed that his larder wasn't fully stocked with enough meat to prepare the feast, he decided to supplement it with his own son Pelops. This revolted the Olympiansnote Except, in some stories, Demeter, who was so worked up about missing Persephone that she ate a bit of Pelops' shoulder; it was replaced with a magical bit of ivory who revived the boy but decided to give Tantalus a chance to redeem himself as their guest. What did Tantalus do? He stole their ambrosia, shared it with his mortal friends, and blabbed the secrets of the gods. Tantalus stole the food of the gods and bragged about it. His punishment was just as nasty as Ixion's. Since Tantalus' crimes were food related he was condemned to eternal starvation and thirst in Tartarus. He was chained to a tree laden with ripe fruit while waist deep in fresh water, with the nasty catch that the tree branches would lift the fruit out of his reach and the water would recede whenever he tried to take a sip. Thus the origin of the word "tantalize".
Tantalus' bit with Pelops leads to a whole chain of curses—many of them involving parents killing children or the other way around—that end up defining a good chunk of Greek Myth, including the breach of hospitality that started the Trojan War. On one hand, Pelops, as King of Pisa (the one in the Peloponnese), curses Laios, the King of Thebes, after a particularly severe breach of hospitality: Laios raped and abducted Chrysippus—Pelops' son—while a guest in Pisa, leading Pelops to cry, "May your own son kill you, Theban!" This curse is what leads to that famous bit with Laios getting killed and his son marrying his wife, which in turn leads to the Seven Against Thebes, regarded as a warm-up to the Trojan War. In the meantime, Pelops' other son Atreus became King of Mycenae—a very good gig—but his other brother Thyestes makes the mistake of seducing Mrs. Atreus while a guest in the Mycenae royal palace. Atreus finds out and in revenge serves up Thyestes' sons and tricks him (Thyestes) into eating them. Thystes then curses Atreus, whose sons are Menelaus and Agamemnon, whose tale is partly recorded above. Of course, then you get into the interesting story of how Agamemnon gets killed by his wife (who was seeing Thyestes' son Aegisthus after the Iphigenia story), who then gets killed by her son Orestes and daughter Electra, the former of whom goes mad until absolved by an Athenian court (and creating the presumption of innocence in the Athenian justice system, if Aeschylus' Oresteia is to be believed).
The reason the Trojan War started was not only because Paris stole Menelaus' wife (and because all of Helen's other suitors had made an oath to help her husband defend her, if it came to it — the oath was how Odysseus had prevented a huge war among all the kings of Greece when she first came of age) — but because Paris was Menelaus' guest when he did so. The fact that he was visiting Menelaus' kingdom was, in fact, the only reason he ever met Helen. The other kings showed up because of their oath — but it's likely that the war would never have continued for so long if Paris hadn't broken the laws of hospitality at the same time he made off with Helen.
Odysseus's conflict with Polyphemus. After eating some of the cyclops's cheese, Odysseus insists that they wait for him to return and offer him wine as a gift. However, Polyphemus violates hospitality by eating some of Odysseus' men (believing himself not to be subject to Zeus because he was a son of Poseidon). Figuring the rules of hospitality didn't apply anymore, Odysseus gets Polyphemus drunk and blinds him.
The reason why Odysseus slaughters the suitors in his home rather than just kick them out is because they had violated the rules of hospitality by refusing to leave when her wife had asked. In fact, the gods demand that he kill them.
There's an incredible irony here, intentional or not. The whole reason Odysseus had been put through hell and took so long to get home to his wife was because Poseidon, Polyphemus' father, sought revenge for his son being blinded after Polyphemus asked him to make Odysseus' life as miserable as possibly, despite the fact that Polyphemus had violated a divine law himself. Yet, Odysseus himself honored this law on one important turning point of the story and inflicted punishment on those who violated it in another. So does this prove that Odysseus is more honorable than a god who does not respect a law that he and his fellows put in place? Like many stories involving the Greek gods' interactions with mortals, yes.
There are many cases in Norse Mythology of people offering hospitality. Apparently in their culture it was a great insult to imply that someone was a bad host. Also, going incognito by calling oneself just "Gestr" was acceptable. Odin did it occasionally.
Often the gods find themselves forced to put up with a troublemaker because they had already offered him (or her) their hospitality. The most well-known example is found in the Poetic Edda poem "Lokasenna" ("Loki's Quarrel"), where the gods attend a feast in Aegir's hall and Loki exploits the rule of hospitality by insulting every single one of them repeatedly, because he knows they can't resort to violence against him without breaking the law of hospitality. At the end, however, the trope is subverted when Thor arrives late to the feast and threatens to hit Loki with his hammer — and Loki leaves, because he knows that Thor is the only one there who actually will hit him.
Indeed, the first and oldest half of Hávamál, one of the few gnomic Norse texts, is almost entirely dedicated to explaining why and how one should be a good host.
There is an Arab story of a burglar who entered the Sultan's palace and stole a bag. On opening it up he found it contained salt. As salt is a symbol of hospitality, there was no honorable thing to do but bring it back and leave it. When the guards guessed what had happened, the Sultan ordered that the city be searched. When the thief was found, the Sultan showered him with riches because he had risked his life for Sacred Hospitality.
A similar story has it that a burglar is about finished when he finds a small box with what he thinks is sugar. When he tastes it and realizes it is salt, he puts everything back.
Shows fairly often in The Arabian Nights. For example, in "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves", a dinner guest at Ali Baba's house says that he is unable to eat anything with salt in; his excuse is a dietary restriction, but actually he's the bandit chief, come in disguise to kill Ali Baba, and if he eats salt while he's a guest, he has "shared salt" with his host and is bound by the laws of hospitality. Ali Baba, suspecting nothing, orders food to be prepared without salt, but this makes his wise slave girl curious and leads to her unmasking the bandit.
Sacred Hospitality killed the great hero Cuchulainn. One of his geases prevented him from ever turning down hospitality; another forbade him from eating dog's flesh. When he stayed with an enemy (for reasons that made sense at the time), dinner that night was dog. The next day, stripped of his strength, Cuchulainn was killed in battle.
More happily, Abram also has occasion to entertain the very same angels, who show up to tell him that, after some decades of trying, he and Sarai are finally going to have a kid.
Jael, Heber's wife, subverted this. Hard. The Philistine general Sisera was fleeing after having been defeated by Deborah and her general Baraq, and Jael offered to shelter and hide him in her tent. After he was asleep, she drove a tent peg through his skull.
Found several times in the New Testament, as well. The most well-known example would be the Good Samaritan. There's also a passage in Matthew 10 where Jesus is sending his disciples out for their first hands-on missionary training. He tells them to take nothing with them but the clothes on their backs. Any house that welcomes them is to be blessed, but for anyone who doesn't receive them "it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city." (The hospitality laws of the Jews were spelled out in Exodus, and were really important.)
Before the above (at least, found before the Luke telling of it), when He was on His way to Jerusalem, He sent messengers ahead to Samaria to prepare a place for Him, but they wouldn't receive Him because of His destination. James and John asked if He wanted them to command fire to come down and burn them up. (Jesus thought they were overreacting, and they just went to another village.)
LeVayan Satanism believes in a very one-sided version of this. The third Satanic rule of the earth is "When in another's lair, show them respect or else do not go there." While the fourth is "If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat them cruelly and without mercy."
In Indian mythology, Yama arrived home to find that a man had been awaiting his arrival for three days. In atonement for this lack of hospitality, he granted the man three boons.
Both Aslan and Vilani in Traveller have their own hospitality codes.
Some variation of the Aslan code come even before kin ties. One Aslan was praised for killing his brother in battle rather then turn against his host.
One of the three main customs (the others being Covenant and the Law of the Duel) holding the society of demons together in Infernum. Being a race almost entirely composed of Neutral Evil individuals, there's naturally a lot of wrangling over the fine details, such as whether hospitality extends solely to a demon's fortress or to anywhere on a demon's estates. In general, though, so long as a demon remembers to request hospitality (refusal of such a request reflects badly on the host-demon and its whole House), and makes no effort to attack its host, it is perfectly safe while in that fortress. Should either individual attack the other, though, the wronged party is free to do whatever they like to the assailant, and the host is only forbidden from enchanting or injuring their guest- they can otherwise make them as uncomfortable and/or unwelcome as they desire.
In Mage: The Awakening one of the most important of the Great Rights of mage society is the Right of Hospitality where a mage who requests sanctuary and protection is required to be given it, usually in the wake of an attack or paradox, or because the mage is far from home. Most protocols regarding this Right require the mage to (at the very least) keep them for at least a week, protect them from any possible threat, provide them with shelter and enough food to survive off of, and having any serious wounds tended to; most mages are likely to go beyond these limited requirements. Failure to properly honor Hospitality is often regarded as extreme enough to act as a preface to declaring war.
In Changeling: The Lost, granting hospitality and sanctuary to any Changeling who enters your dwelling for twenty-four hours is mandatory. Unlike most mandatory things in Changeling, however, this one can be denied- it's not magically enforced, but it's plain bad form not to. After all, you're all on the same side. Most of the time.
In Vampire: The Masquerade, this is one of the core traditions of the Camarilla, who expect all visiting vampires to announce their presence in the domain they are visiting, and behaving themselves properly while they are there. Surprisingly, this practise is upped by the older members of one of the core clans of the Sabbat, the Tzimisce, who are extremely strict about hospitality rules, both as a matter of conduct towards the guest, and as a sign of respect towards the host from the guest. This practise is on the other hand lost on some of the younger members of the clan.
GURPS: Arabian Nights has the disadvantage "Code of Honor: Arabian," which has as its main departure from other Codes of Honor the emphasis on Sacred Hospitality; a character with the disadvantage must conduct himself properly as a guest and shelter others the best he can when they need it.
One geas you can take on yourself as a Scion of the Irish gods requires you to obey the laws of hospitality as a host. A separate one demands that you always accept such offers from others. If you break the latter, the only way to restore it is to live entirely on the kindness of others for a period of time depending on how seriously you swore it.
In Scion: Ragnarok we're told the Aesir hold this to be true as well. Even the Titans Jord and Ran threw a feast for the Aesir where the only trouble came from (surprise surprise) Loki. A scion of the Aesir is expected to provide hospitality for his family and can in turn expect the same in their parent's homes. Of course, their divine hosts might imply that a good guest wouldn't mind helping his host out with a little problem (read: very dangerous quest)
In a short story written for Warcraft The Roleplaying Game, a group of soldiers find refuge in a peasant's home in post-fall Lordaeron. Having been fighting the Scourge for days, they are grateful for the hot food and beverage the peasant offers. Unfortunately, the peasant is actually a Scourge agent who was using hospitality to fish out information about troop movements. Once the soldiers let slip some details the peasant kills them.
The Al-Qadim setting for Dungeons & Dragons, which is based on the Arabian Nights, mentions the Arabic examples from under Mythology and Literature while discussing the salt code, and encourages Zakhayan characters to be equally diligent in following it.
In Exalted, the Autocthonian city of Kamak takes this very seriously. Kamak is located in a very cold region, where exposure to the elements may mean death. Therefore, a Kamaki is expected to share her home and food with whoever asks. (This law does have limits, though. A person who abuses the hospitality rule to invade the home of an enemy is severely punished.)
In Die Walküre, Hunding finds his wife sheltering a man he's been pursuing, and, presumably having learned from the mistakes in Mythology above, lets him stay freely before trying to kill him in the morning, stating "Heilig ist mein Herd, heilig sei mir mein Gast" ("My hearth is holy, let my guest be holy to me too"). Siegmund betrays Hunding's hospitality by running off with Hunding's wife (Siegmund's long-lost sister). Wotan is cool with the incest, but the goddess Fricka as protector of marriage demands that Wotan punish Siegmund with death.
Not much is revealed about normal humans in Gensokyo, but All There in the Manual backstory states that the number one rule in regards to meeting someone you don't know is be polite. Because they just might be one of the incredibly powerful Youkai that live there. (Even Yuuka is stated to go easy on people who are polite.)
In Dwarf Fortress Adventure Mode, villagers never lock their door or refuse to let adventurers stay the night unless said adventurer has committed some crime against their civilization (though food isn't provided). This is because anyone who stays out at night alone is murdered by swarms of bogeymen.
In Fallout: New Vegas, New Canaan, a mormon settlement, is wiped out by a violation of Sacred Hospitality by the guest, Salt-Upon-Wounds, and his White Legs tribe.
Invoked in Rumors of War: in Chapter 6, Elysia is taken to meet the father of a young woman she's been helping and when the scene gets tense, the two trade insults. Meteon, the father, balks at Elysia's rudeness and she points out that they're not in his house. It goes downhill from there. In a later chapter, we find out that Elysia is a priest of Hestia, so for her, Sacred Hospitality is SeriousBusiness.
Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki has Norse gods Thor, Loki, and Hermod asking to stay at Yuuki's house for an indefinite period. Valkyries Otsana and Shebi use this as justification for barging into some random Japanese guy's apartment. All five resort to terror when the hosts try to turn them down.
In one episode of Ducktales, a Con Artist leprechaun steals Scrooge's money, and to save face, he invites Scrooge and his nephews to "his" castle in Ireland. Only problem is, the castle isn't his, and the other leprechauns don't like him or trespassers. However, after the Leprechaun King finds out that the guy did invite Scrooge and his family, he decides they can't throw them in the snake pit, as they first intend to do. Instead he decides to throw a big party for them (seeing as leprechauns will apparently use any excuse to throw a party, no-one else objects).
Invoked by Tarrlok from The Legend of Korra when he walks in on Tenzin and his family (and Korra) eating dinner. When questioned by Tenzin, he reminds him that Airbenders would never turn down a guest in need of food or shelter. So Tenzin gives in, earning him a disapproving glare from his wife.
The main charge against the Clan Campbell-led British army over the Glencoe Massacre was the betrayal of the MacDonalds' hospitality by the billeted soldiers; a much- later inquiry found the Commander guilty of "Murder Under Trust". The two clans have been at each other's throats ever since, to the point where there are still pubs in traditional MacDonald country that forbid Campbells from drinking there.
One of the traditions of the Passover seder is to leave an extra place setting (sometimes complete with food) on the table in case you're called upon to provide Sacred Hospitality to returning prophet Elijah.
Hospitality is an important part of Slavic tradition when receiving guests. During a traditional Polish Christmas, a seat at the table is left open, in case there is anyone who needs a place to stay (it's also believed that nobody should be alone on Christmas). Bread and salt is also an important symbol.
This is a common attitude amongst Western and Southern Asian peoples, especially in the Islamic world. There's a saying that goes something like "every guest is a gift from God", and this treatment is extended to everyone welcomed into the home, even enemies.
One symbol symbol of hospitality is eating bread and salt
In Islamic cultures:
In many Arab societies that someone asking for a favor from a friend will say "we've eaten bread and salt together" as a way of indicating that he/she really needs it.
Hospitality has long been recognized as a key part of Arab identity. This is likely on account of Arab culture's desert heritage: as nomadic herders, they needed to know that they could count on hospitality if they were in dire straits, and as settled merchants, hospitality was good for business (and also useful when traversing the trackless wastes with large amounts of valuable cargo).
A soldier from the Haganah told a story of escaping captivity, and running smack into an Arab commander. He handed her a piece of bread and told her to eat it; when she did so, he said "Now you are under my protection," and he fulfilled his word.
A reporter during the Kosovo conflict once stayed at an Islamic home. One of the people living there was treated as well as he was, and at first he considered him a relative of the owners. However, he also overheard this stranger being given ominous warnings that if he'd leave the house, he'd be killed...by the father. When the reporter asked for more details, he learned that this man was a guest in their house fifteen years before, and during a dispute killed the eldest son of the family. Under the peculiar local interpretation of custom and Sharia, he is punishable by death, but since he was a guest, he was still to be treated with respect. As such, he'd been living with this family quite happily since, and the family had gotten used to his presence to the point where many of them begged that he never leave, for his own sake.
Similarly, out of besa (a very strong code of honour including hospitality rules), Muslim Albanians saved over 2,000 fleeing Jews during the Holocaust, passing them off (and treating them) as members of their own families, sometimes at the risk of their own lives.
It used to be known for the poorer Bedouin to stay off the travel routes. If a guest arrived they would of course be obliged to give him a good greeting to make sure to keep Sacred Hospitality. So the only thing to do was to make sure very few guests arrived. Sort of a compromise between Honor and Reason.
Related to this, there is in Arab culture the legend of the pre-Islamic Bedouin Christian poet Hatim al-Ta'iy, who killed his only possession—a she-goat—to feed some travelers who happened to stumble upon his tent. To this day, karam Hatim (the generosity of Hatim) is a fairly common (if somewhat high-class) expression for being very generous to one's guests.
Characteristic of the Benedictine monastic order, in fact one of their founding rules states that they should "always treat every visitor as if he was Jesus himself", because he might well be. They do have some liberty to decide how pleasant the visitors' stay will end up being, though.
Flora Macdonald the Scottish Noblewoman who rescued Bonnie Prince Charlie.
In the Church of Satan, the concept of Domain is mentioned as extremely important - if you are in someone else's Domain, you will show them proper respect or leave, and expect that they will return the favour in your Domain. On the other hand, it specifically says in the Satanic Bible that if your guests disrespect you, then you should destroy them. The sacred hospitality is two-sided: the guest has a code of behaviour as well as the host, and if one breaks it, the other isn't obligated to go along, either.
Among some Plains Indians, it was standard for men to even let their guests sleep with their wives.
During the war in Afghanistan:
US Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was injured in a firefight with the Taliban and limped his way to a nearby Afghan village. Luckily for him, this particular village was bound by tribal custom to defend visitors to the death, and they protected Luttrell from Taliban reprisals until he could be rescued.
Less fortunately, the Pushtun tribal code prevented Mullah Omar from allowing the Saudis to extradite Osama bin Laden in The Nineties. When a US official called him to help, Omar said that he had offered the man his protection and so could do nothing. The US official replied that Bin Laden was like a guest who was shooting at the neighbours from the host's windows. Ultimately, of course, he hit something important, and NATO blew the house to smithereens, to continue the metaphor.
In a more inspirational example, some aid workers came to an Afghan village to provide services. When Taliban troops came to kidnap said aid workers, the villagers fought tooth and nail to protect them, eventually driving the Taliban off. When asked why they had fought so hard against a superior foe, they replied that since the workers were there to help the village, the villagers were obligated to help them.
During the Crusades, it was not unusual for the Crusaders and the Arabs to sit down to meals together, in observance of Sacred Hospitality. The legend goes that Saladin was very demanding that his people observe these rules, such much that when one of his most trusted men attacked Saladin's guests, Saladin himself killed him and apologized profusely for the offense.
Anthropologists can trace this tradition back to gift economies, where people with a surplus had to give their neighbors, otherwise resentment and jealousy would rip apart the pre-cash society. So it worked out like this:
Somebody with too much bronze: "Oh man, everyone's giving me the stink eye. I gotta get rid of this excess."
Somebody with not enough bronze: "Hey, your pile of bronze is looking great."
Somebody with too much bronze: "Oh this? It's nothing, please take some." (forces bronze into neighbor's hands)
Later that day: "Hey, that pile of baskets is looking great." And so on...
Just about every society takes the rules of Sacred Hospitalityseriously, even in the Modern Age. While societies with more modern infrastructure may be asked to observe it less often than in the past, violating these often unspoken rules is a major social offense. Some have the rule that you are not required to let them in your home, but if you do, then you better observe these rules, as should the invitee.
In the medieval era there was a huge list of strict rules around this. They were actually vitally necessary as any kind of travel (especially if it was a huge entourage) took a lot of time and the only options were to board up with someone or bed down on the side of the road. If you broke the rules of hospitality on either end you could face barred doors the next time you knocked. Some of the rules even persist today, like "Taking It Outside". Way back when, it was entirely possible for two people who were feuding to wind up staying at the same man's house. It would be rude to start fighting within his walls, possibly damaging his property, so if they started butting heads they had to walk outside of the walls before swords were drawn.
A couple of curious examples were the relation between a noble and a high-class prisoner of war or hostage. While the latter was there by force, the laws of war and diplomacy dictated that they treat each other as host and guest. Often this would extend to the guest fighting in the hosts army and several famous warlords won their spurs as a hostage in a foreign court. The system of honorable hostage exchange was an obvious tool of family dominated politics and became obsolete with it. However some traces of Sacred Hospitality toward prisoners of war remained as late as World War II, an example of which was General Montgomery's controversial act of inviting a captured German general to dinner (albeit Winston Churchill said, "my sympathies are entirely with the German" for having to dine with Montgomery).
In Pre-Revolution America some smaller Colonial settlements had a custom of leaving one or more candles burning in the window as a sign that one's home was open to wandering travelers. There was no rule that said you had to give room and board to a traveler, though you would face social stigma if you had the extra room and refused to offer it. Supposedly the number of candles in the window symbolized what kind of welcome the house was willing to offer. One candle meant "you can spend the night in the barn", two candles meant "we have an extra bed", and three candles meant "we have an extra bed and hot food". (A popular joke has it that a fourth candle, especially one shining from an upstairs window, signified that the farmer's daughter would sleep with you.) This practice started to peter out during the lead-up to the American Revolution, when the political loyalties of travelers became a cause for concern. Harboring a Loyalist in a Patriot-friendly village (or vice-versa) could cause your neighbors to turn on you.
The old Celtic celebration that would later go on to be commercialized into Halloween was an extension of Sacred Hospitality, where people would go from home to home and receive food from their neighbors, failure to satisfy at least one group would be allowance for some pretty harsh (some myths say deadly) pranks and tricks. Since the purpose of the holiday was to scare or appease The Fair Folk, the tricks were something annoyed Fae would be prone to do if they got snubbed, so it served as a warning to the inhospitable family that they were endangering the entire township by being so stingy.