24 October 2011
Your Promises Sound Like Lies
It’s that feeling, the one that we’ve all felt where you know in your gut that something is wrong. Imagine waking up, feeling that universal feeling, then realizing your spouse is gone. You don’t know where or why, but you have to assume they’re dead. Recently I was privileged to read “The Djinn Who Lived Between Night and Day,” where a similar situation happened to an unnamed man. His children had died the night before, and he woke up the next morning to find his wife was gone. The theme of “The Djinn Who Lived Between Night and Day” is that sometimes, lies are better than the truth. This theme is portrayed when the Djinns Tayab and Al-faq appears and lies to the wife, the husband, and the villagers. Despite these benefits many still believe the lies were wrong.
The first victim of Tayab’s lies was the wife. The story starts out with the seven children of a married couple dying. The woman, whose name is not given, nearly goes mad with grief. As it is said in the story; “I heard shrieks more terrible than all the rest. There a woman was tearing at her clothes, pulling out her hair. Her husband tried to hold her hands at her sides. He was crying, too, but not like her. His face was wet, but he was silent. Her arms and his were bloodied where she had scratched them. And her keening! Oh, I have seldom heard grief like hers” (Djinn 1). A genie named Tayab decides to take advantage of her grief, and goes to her in the middle of night as she lays awake in bed and tells her that if she follows his instructions, he will bring her children back to life. His instructions were: “Get up. Go out. Walk west. Go until you can go no farther. I will give you a sign that your children have returned, but you must stay there by the sea, alone, with nothing. You must never speak again. You must never seek your children, for if you find one then all seven must die” (Djinn 2). They were cruel commands, nevertheless though the woman followed them. Tayab lied to her, made her believe her children were alive, and although it was false, it made her happy. Though she could never go anywhere else or speak again, she was content because she believed her children were brought back from the dead. So even though lies are thought wrong, the woman lived a happier life living in her ignorance.
A similar thing happened to the woman’s husband, this time from a genie named Al-faq. He gave the man the same instructions, except the direction in which to walk. Al-faq told the man: “Get up. Walk south. Walk until you can go no farther. I will give you a sign that your wife and children have returned to life, but you must stay there by the sea, alone, with nothing. You must never speak again. You must never seek the ones you love, for if you find one, then all eight must die” (Djinn 4). Once again, though the man had everything taken from him, he was happier believing in a lie than knowing the truth, for it says in the passage: “The man nodded again and smiled wearily. He made a gesture of gratitude, of blessing” (Djinn 4). Though it left him with nothing, the man was serene believing in the lies rather than knowing his loved ones were actually dead.
Finally, the villagers are deceived and in some way lied to as well. The man and woman are living by two different oceans, silent and alone but satisfied thinking their family is alive, even if they can’t be with them. The people in the nearest village by both oceans believe they are holy people, and care for them because of this belief. As stated about the woman in the story, “Villagers by the sea found her. They bring her food. They think she is a holy woman.” The same thing happened to the man. The two are, of course, not holy people, but the villagers still care for them because they believe they are saintly. Though it is a lie, it is a good thing, because it is keeping the man and woman alive. Had the villagers not believed this fabrication, the couple would both be dead. It was lies that kept them alive and happy, rather than living unhappily in the reality of their situations.
Despite all the positive reasons why the lie was beneficial, some might say that the lies also took everything from them. For the man and woman, they both lived in caves by the sea, with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and they cannot speak ever again. However, anyone could have everything they’ve ever wanted and not be fully satisfied. Material possessions are not always necessary for happiness. In the passage the genie even admitted his lie, telling the woman to go home, but she refused. She was happier being alone in a cave by the sea with nothing, believing her children alive, rather than living in a house with more luxurious things, knowing her children were dead.
Do you have someone you love or like very much; a boyfriend or girlfriend, maybe a spouse? Not knowing the outcome either way, would you rather think them dead or alive? In his case, the man chose to believe the lie told to him that his wife was alive, for he was happier thinking so. Lies are not always good, but they are not always bad either. In this situation, lies were a very good thing. Lies can sometimes be beneficial, such as in “The Djinn Who Lived Between Night and Day,” when the two Djinns lie to the wife, the husband, and the villagers.