The Bible, Elijah and King Ahab — is there a link?

10 10 2007

Okay, this might seem to be a little far fetched but I think it’s interesting.

In the move Chris calls Barnes “captain Ahab, the eye of our rage.” It is an allusion to Moby Dick, but in the Old Testament there is also a “bad guy” called Ahab (even if he’s a king) and his counterpart – Elijah (Elias) the prophet. 

From the source I cannot track back anymore:

QUOTE: In short: Elijah was a hero of faithfulness to God in Israel and a courageous prophet. He was an ascetic, clad in skins and a leather girdle, dwelling in mountain caves. He appeared abruptly when King Ahab executed many priests of God, and announced to him God’s vengeance and the drought. On Mt. Carmel, he overcame the priests of Baal by calling down fire from Heaven. He was persecuted by Jezebel and fled to Mt. Horeb where God consoled him, fed him with bread brought by ravens, and told him to appoint Elisha as his successor. Elijah was carried into heaven in a fiery chariot, while his mantle fell on Elisha.


From Wikipedia:

QUOTE: Elijah (Hebrew: אליהו, Eliyahu, (Christian Arab Name,مارالياس, Mar Elias); also known as Elias and Saint Elias) was a prophet in Israel in the 9th century BCE. He appears in the Hebrew Bible,Talmud, Mishnah, Christian Bible, and the Qur’an. According to the Books of Kings, Elijah raised the dead, brought fire down from the sky, and ascended into heaven on a Chariot 


And here are some quotes from Old Testament that rang a bell (even if it was a distant one)

And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him. (1 Kings, Chapter 16, 030)

And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? (1 Kings, Chapter 19,018 )

… which reminds me of Barnes accusing Elias of being the cause of problems. Of course Elias saw it in a different way:

And [Elijah] answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim. (1 Kings, Chapter 19:018 )


In the movie Barnes yells “You’re dead, Elias”, in the Bible it’s Elijah who prophesies Ahab’s death on the battlefield. And Ahab dies in a big battle. 
End of similarities.

Ah, yes, one more… a kind of: Elijah didn’t die, but was taken to the Heaven alive, Elias missed his “chariot of fire” and died, but each of them left an apprentice behind, someone who “inherited their spirit” — Elisha in the Old Testament, and Chris in Platoon. The similarity is even clearer in the script, where in the “beautiful night” scene, Elias says: “Sure, [reincarnation] goes on all the time. Maybe a piece of me’s in you now, who knows.” 

This whole connection seems to supply the clear black-and-white characterization of Barnes and Elias, which I don’t agree with, but this is another story.

What puzzled me was the fact that Elijah seems to be much more important figure in religion and culture than one could guess only by what’s written in the Old Testament. So I did a further research about Elijah the prophet “outside of the Bible”.

Wikipedia again:

“The volume of references to Elijah in folklore and tradition stands in marked contrast to that in the canon. His career is extensive, colorful, and varied. He has appeared the world over in the guise of a beggar, scholar. Many of the stories have their origins in the canon while others owe their existence entirely to the minds of their creators.”

Beggar… In Moby Dick, just before embarking Pequod Ishmael meets a beggar who warns him about the ship and captain Ahab. The name of the guy is Elijah.


“No other biblical figure, not even Moses, has enjoyed as much popularity in the Jewish folk imagination as Eliyahu Ha-Navi, Elijah the Prophet. Paradoxically, the biblical prophet of wrath and intolerance bears little resemblance to this popular Elijah, whom later legend transformed into a compassionate champion of the poor and a heralder of the Messiah.”

“John the Baptist declared Jesus to be Elijah reincarnated.”

“Elijah was characterized as peacemaker, recorder of marriages decreed in heaven, blesser of barren women, interpreter of cryptic messages in the torah and Talmud, protector of slaves, the poor and the oppressed. In legends he customarily appears disguised as a beggar or vagabond.”

“The kabbalists elaborated on the supernatural qualities of Elijah, claiming the prophet was originally an angel, created from the Tree of Life.”

Now this is interesting. As I’ve read this, first thing I thought about was the real soldier Elias was based on: Juan Angel Elias. 

And here is even more.

    “Elijah’s miraculous deeds will be better understood if we remember that he had been an angel from the very first, even before the end of his earthly career. When God was about to create man, Elijah said to Him: “Master of the world! If it be pleasing in Thine eyes, I will descend to earth, and make myself serviceable to the sons of men.” Then God changed his angel name, and later, under Ahab, He permitted him to abide among men on earth, that he might convert the world to the belief that “the Lord is God.” His mission fulfilled, God took him again into heaven, and said to him: “Be thou the guardian spirit of My children forever, and spread the belief in Me abroad in the whole world.”

 His angel name is Sandalphon, one of the greatest and mightiest of the fiery angel host.”

more links:
The Bible source online 

PS: Does it all make sense to anyone beside me?

Discretion and Valor: Prince Hal’s Platoon

10 10 2007

from: Literature Film Quarterly,  2005  
by Keller, James R
read the entire article 

Long but really interesting essay about Platoon and its connections to Shakespeare. Finally some fresh perspective! 🙂

QUOTE: the realism of the script and film is also supplemented by Stone’s efforts to mythologize and allegorize his experience. Critics have observed the filmmaker’s literary appropriations of sources as diverse as The Iliad, Moby Dick, and The Sun Also Rises (Schechter and Semeiks 19). Moreover, I recently listened to a conference presentation in which the film was convincingly related to the medieval French epic Song of Roland.(…)

In the tradition of ferreting out the canonical sources for Stone’s script, I hope to contribute one more yet unobserved reference, this one to Shakespeare’s second Henriad and particularly to Henry the Fourth, Part I. (…)

Perhaps the most persuasive feature of the Shakespearean appropriation is the correspondence between the principal protagonists of the two works-Prince Hal and Chris Taylor. Shakespeare’s Hal has forsaken responsibility and his father’s good opinion in order to fraternize with those who are his social inferiors while drinking in an Eastcheap pub. (…)

Chris Taylor, the protagonist of Stone’s Platoon, shares Hal’s idealism and youthful exuberance. (…)

Like Shakespeare, Stone blurs the distinction between right and wrong in his portrait of America’s involvement in Southeast Asia. The chaos of the battlefield becomes a metaphor for the conflict at home as well(…) Taylor is suspended between America’s compulsion to immerse itself in war, to win by any means necessary, and the desire to demonstrate its moral superiority to its enemies. The complexity of Stone’s portrait of the conflict at home is parallel to Shakespeare’s propensity for demonstrating the respective values in contrary points of view. America despised Sgt. Barnes and embraced Sgt. Elias, yet America also knew that if it wanted to win, it needed an entire army of Sgt. Barnes’s without moral scruples and without compunction. It is upon this conflict that the machine broke down: our actions at war with our self-image. (…)

As with Prince Hal, Taylor’s education is dialectical; he must learn to negotiate the antithetical personalities of Sgts. Barnes and Elias Grodin (Willem Dafoe). Critic John Stone has recognized the director’s appropriation of the medieval morality structure in this portion of the film, the figure of everyman torn between the good and the bad angels (…)

Taylor remarks that Americans in Vietnam did not fight the Vietcong, but each other; there was a civil war within the platoon. One of the more obvious representations of the differences between the competing factions of the platoon is revealed in the way they spend their leisure time. Taylor is invited to join Elias’s group that occupies a bunker referred to as the underworld. In keeping with the allegory of location, Rhah (Francesco Quinn), whose name suggests the mythical Rhadamanth, lord of the underworld (Bates 112), presides over the festivities. (…) The heads, as they refer to themselves, are smoking pot and listening to acid rock and Motown. There is a sense of comradery and even sensuality as Elias literally and figuratively offers Taylor a “shotgun,” blowing pot smoke into the neophyte’s mouth through the barrel of a rifle (Bates 113). Later, the stoned group dances together, revealing fellowship, trust, goodwill, and abandon. The denizens of the underworld have effectively escaped from the concerns of service in Vietnam.

The parallel editing in this portion of the film next reveals the converse activities within the barracks where the remainder of the platoon pass their time. The darkness of the bunker is contrasted with the bright light in the barracks. The scene is defined by the country music that plays in the background, and the ensuing conversation between Bunny (Kevin Dillon) and Junior (Reggie Johnson) demonstrates hostility and mistrust. (…) Nearby, other members of the platoon, including Barnes, Lt. Wolfe (Mark Moses), and O’Neill (John C. McGinley), are playing cards, a fitting metaphor for their competitiveness. While the soldiers in the underworld have escaped from their concerns, the individuals in the barracks seem hyper-conscious of their predicament. (…) The scene emphasizes isolation, brooding, suspicion, and competition.

As in Stone’s Platoon, Shakespeare demonstrates the difficulty of maintaining one’s decency and composure in the face of danger, fatigue, and loss; yet while he is recognizing that “lenity” is preferable to “cruelty,” he also is acknowledging that the practical reality of war frequently requires less compassionate solutions. (…)

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