main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Too Dumb To Live: Myths And Religion

  • Adam and Eve. You live in a garden of paradise and pleasure free of pain, sickness and disease. God (immortal, omnipresent, omnipotent, famously short temper) tells you that there is only one rule. Don't then go and eat the fruit like a moron... The fruit bears the knowledge of Good and Evil. The only reason they didn't eat it was because God said don't do it, and they were like "Cool, whatevs." Then along come a serpent who, for whatever reason, thinks it would be just peachy-keen to go and make the humans do it anyway. He does it either by tricking the humans or flat out lying about the whole thing and getting them to defy God's will because they literally didn't know any better. So chock the snake right up there with A&E as fitting this trope, since even if they hadn't ratted him out, God still would have known who put them up to it and took away its limbs and make snakes and humans eternal enemies.
  • Arachne.
    • It's fairly well-known to the people of Greek mythology that the Olympians were extremely jealous when it came to mortals claiming to be their equals or betters. Arachne decides to boast that she's a better weaver than Athena and continues to do so despite several warnings from the goddess herself in disguise. They engage in a weaving contest. So this girl is sitting there, weaving while Athena herself is there and pissed off - and what does she do? She makes the pictures of her tapestry depict scenes of Athena's father Zeus being a womanizing scoundrel. After all of that, of course Athena has had enough and turns her into a spider.
    • In another version of the myth, Arachne really WAS a better weaver than Athena, but the goddess got so jealous she turned Arachne into a spider. Afterword, Athena felt kind of bad and decreed all spiders would share Arachne's name.
    • And in yet another version of the story, Arachne doesn't brag about her weaving progress, but she still becomes so famous that Athena comes after her in a jealous rage. Arachne hangs herself (either after being humiliated by Athena in the contest or out of shame/fear of offending the gods) and Athena turns her into a spider out of pity.
  • The Bible seems to think that this is true of people in general
    • On occasion, Jesus' apostles. Some people can't understand "I will die, and rise again in three days" or the fact that Jesus can make more food when people are hungry. Jesus scolds them for this kind of thing a few times, especially when they come and tell him in amazement that his power worked after traveling with him for years.
    • The Benjamites in Judges. Among your people are some Depraved Bisexuals who wanted to rape a guy, who was forced to give up his concubine to save himself. Said concubine gets fatally raped and abused. Said guy tells the rest of Israel about it, and when they go all What the Hell, Hero? on the Benjamites, tell the Benjamites to give up the villains or get their asses kicked... The Benjamites refuse. Then subverted when the Benjamites defeat the rest of the Israelites at least twice before they get finally defeated.
    • Samson is the Ur Example of this trope. (The "Dur" example?) The first time Delilah asks him the secret of his power, he lies to her and says he can be bound with fresh bowstrings. The next night she tries this. When it doesn't work, she asks again, and he lies to her again and says he can be bound with new ropes. The next night she tries this. When that doesn't work, she asks again, and again he lies to her and says he can be bound by weaving his hair together. Once again she tries and fails. So far so good. But the next time she asks? After she's proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that she's going to screw him over? He tells her the truth. Each of these attempts involve soldiers bursting in on cue to try to take advantage of the situation. Samson must have really been into bondage. Made worse by the fact that Samson is not supposed to be your typical big dumb brute, and is shown in at least a few instances to be rather clever.
    • The Philistines who were trying to kill him easily fall into this trope as well. Samson kills ONE THOUSAND of them with a DONKEY'S JAWBONE. You almost have to admire the last 300 or so who probably had to climb a mountain of their dead buddies just to get close enough to die.
    • Heck, most of mankind in the Book of Revelation is this, generally overlapping with Humans Are Bastards also. When God unleashes cataclysms (like turning the seas into blood, a Colony Drop in the form of a star that poisons the global water supply, and an army of fire-breathing warrior angels) that wipe out more than a quarter of the human population at once, you might want to consider giving up idol worship. If you buy the theory that John was explaining the prophecy in terms that he could understand, it may be the case that the apocalypse, horrible as it is, won't be so obviously supernatural in its trappings. Or even if non-believers realize it's supernatural, they would naturally assume it was their own gods/demons doing it. Why would they be expected to change to a foreign faith, and risk offending their own gods, in that context?
    • The Egyptian army when pursuing Moses. You're pursuing a guy that brought several plagues upon your nation and a column of fire prevents you from pursuing while the sea splits for this guy and his people. So you follow them into the sea bed?
    • Satan. While the Bibles portrayal of God and Satan don't exactly match current understandings (the Book of Job shows Satan and God having a seemingly-friendly bet), the modern Christian understanding of God is an all-powerful, all-knowing creator of all things. Satan, on the other hand, is an angel who decided to try to take on God. Apparently, Satan thought he could outsmart someone who knew what he was going to do before he did, or out-muscle someone who could do literally anything.
    • Really, if one takes the interpretation of God as all-powerful and all-knowing, this causes anyone who opposes God knowing this about Him to fit squarely in this category. Of course, it also makes even the slightest mistake on Gods part look like this as well, as even the smallest failure is inexcusable for someone who knows literally everything.
    • Lot's wife. Like the story of Orpheus below, how hard is it to understand the command 'Do not look back'?
    • Numbers 25: God has just told the Israelites that those who have been sexually immoral with the heathens must be put to death. So in comes some guy with a pagan woman right before the whole damn assembly...
  • Surprisingly common in Greek Mythology despite the well-known tendency of the Olympian gods to punish severely any slight real or imaginary. A few of the more prominent ones are: Orpheus goes to the underworld to rescue his wife Eurydice. Hades allows him to leave with her on one condition: that he stay in front of her and not turn around until they reach the upper world. What does Orpheus do? Turn around, of course, just as they were about to reach the surface, losing her forever. Although in some versions he is already out, she isn't and he either didn't take that into account or didn't understand that they both needed to be out.
  • In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the title character travels for days to find the gods and attain eternal life; after failing the test the gods give him (he isn't able to stay awake for a week after a long journey), one of them takes pity on him and gives him a plant that grants eternal youth. It's understandable that Gilgamesh doesn't want to use it right away, since for all he knows it could kill him, and he wants to try it on someone else first. What's not understandable is that Gilgamesh leaves it on the ground to go take a bath, and lets a snake steal it from him. You, sir, are an idiot. Some translators are fairer on Gilgamesh - other versions have the snake come up out of nowhere and steal it.
    • To be fair to poor Gilgamesh, "take a bath" means "jump into a river", probably not the safest place to take a flower.
  • Also in Greek Mythology:
    • Jason near the end of the quest for the Golden Fleece. So here he has Medea, the beautiful black sorceress who had fallen so madly in love with him thanks to Cupid's arrow, that she helps him steal her father's most prized possession and kills her own brother to make a diversion so Jason can escape. So everything's going pretty good for a while, and they have two children together. Then what does Jason do? He goes up to Medea and tells her that he's dumping her for some native woman, despite the fact that they have kids, he still owes her, and she has nowhere else to go. Naturally, Medea takes revenge. (You can read the details in Euripides)
    • Jason double so since his patron goddess was Hera, goddess of marriage. Thanks to this action and oaths broken to the other Olympians Jason loses everything and spends the rest of his life as a wandering beggar dying when a piece of his old ship the Argo falls on him when he is sitting under it.
  • One thing that nearly all Greek tragic heroes have in common is their tendency to fly in the face of several generations' worth of evidence that whining to oracles is never a good idea. Oracles almost invariably tell people something they don't like, or something that is extremely cryptic, or both. Death almost always ensues.
    • Examples who try to avoid their fate include Acrisius, Oedipus and his father Laius, and Priam and Hecuba when Paris is born.
    • The sole exception is Zeus who when forewarned that any sons by Metis or Thetis would be mightier than their father was able to take steps to eliminate the threat. In the former he ate her so she couldn't have any more children and the latter he married off to a mortal.
  • Some baddies from the Grimm Fairy Tales definitely qualify. Just take the Goose Maid: The King asks the imposter what would be the fair punishment for someone who commits identity theft and generic bastardness on a princess, and she doesn't recognize her own story and suggests to strip the perpetrator naked, put him into a barrel with sharp nails and roll him from the hill into the river. Her wish is granted. (Averted in most TV versions, of course)
  • Ixion was similar to Laomedon. First he murdered his father-in-law instead of paying the bride price. He was cursed with madness and force to live in the wilderness. Zeus himself, in a rare example of exceeding generosity, purified Ixion of his madness and even brought him up to Olympus. Ixion, in violation of Sacred Hospitality, tried to sleep with Hera. Zeus killed him with a thunderbolt and in the underworld has him tied to a burning wheel for all eternity.
  • Joukahainen in The Kalevala. He challenges Väinämöinen, the greatest sage of the epos, on one-on-one bespelling matchup. Väinämöinen bespells him into marsh. He is saved from death by drowning only by promising his sister to wife for Väinämöinen.
  • King Laomedon of Troy refused to pay the sea god Poseidon for building the walls of Troy. Poseidon sent a sea monster to terrorize the city. Heracles agreed to slay it for payment. Laomedon refused him and Heracles returned years later, sacked Troy, killed Laomedon and nearly his entire family. This chain of events was a major contributing factor in the Trojan War.
  • King Midas. There is no way that everything you touch turning to gold could go wrong. No sir, none at all. Oh, look, your daughter wants a hug! Really, it seems to be inherited, since this was some time after Midas gained the golden touch and his daughter has no excuse for forgetting that. Then again, the girl was supposed to be eight or so in the stories that include her
  • In Norse Mythology, pretty much everyone who listens to, bets with or upsets Loki is way too dumb to live. And then they blame him for their own idiocy, which just makes him more upset. Eventually this causes the end of the world.
  • The terminal stupidity of Odysseus' crew in The Odyssey is so blatant that one guy who tried to help them get home is convinced that the gods are responsible for it, since no one could possibly be that dumb. For context, this guy was Aeolus the master of the four winds. He gave Odysseus a bag containing the winds that he used to get back to Ithaca. Right when they were in sight of Ithaca's coastline, Odysseus' crew opened the bag while he slept, thinking Aeolus had given Odysseus a bag of gold that he was hoarding from the crew. The out of control winds blew the ship all the way back to Aeolus' island. Aeolus refused to help them again, believing this was a sign that the gods had it in for them.
    • For such a "wise" man, Odysseus himself wasn't much better. Not only did he piss off Poseidon despite knowing very well how stupid it is to piss off the Gods and thus get the entire ordeal started to begin with, he continues to defiantly oppose Poseidon instead of apologizing at any point during the Odyssey, stab out the eye of Poseidon's Cyclops son and let it know who he was, delaying his return even further, and the above incident could have been avoided if Odysseus had simply told his crew Aeolus' bag's true nature at any point.
      • To be fair though, Odysseus had to blind Polyphemus to save his life (Polyphemus had eaten several of his men and wouldn't let the rest of them out).
  • The Pardoner's Tale is about three drunking buddies who see their friend is dead, and decide to go out and find death so they can kill him. Three guesses as to what happens...
  • In the Talmud, the Sages establish the standards of evidence for the death penalty to include two kosher witnesses (i.e., male Orthodox Jews) who have to verbally warn the perpetrator that what he's about to do carries the death penalty, and the perpetrator has to verbally answer that yes, he knows, and he's going to do it anyway. At that point, anyone who actually gets executed probably deserves to be removed from the gene pool. Or be committing Suicide by State.
  • There's the story of Theseus and Pirithous. Theseus and his friend Pirithous decide that it would be a great idea to marry daughters of Zeus. Theseus chose Helen, whilst Pirithous chose Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld. Apparently, the best plan they could come up with for kidnapping Persephone was waltzing into the underworld and asking her godly husband Hades if they could take her. Long story short, Hades trapped them both and tortured them. Theseus was eventually freed by Heracles. Pirithous never left. Double stupid since Persephone came above ground half the year.
MusicToo Dumb to LiveOral Tradition

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy