Cain and Abel

scriptures and legends
selected and edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2000-2013


  1. Cain and Abel (Genesis).

  2. The Story of the Two Sons of Adam (The Quran).

  3. Kabil and Habil (Palestine).

  4. Cain and Abel (Turkey, History of the Forty Vezirs).

  5. Cain and Abel (Turkey [Armenian]).

  6. Abel and Cain (Italy).

  7. The First Grave (Poland).

  8. Links to addtional texts.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Cain and Abel

The First Book of Moses, called Genesis

  1. And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.
  2. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
  3. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
  4. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
  5. But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
  6. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
  7. If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
  8. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
  9. And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?
  10. And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.
  11. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;
  12. When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
  13. And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.
  14. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.
  15. And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
  16. And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.
  17. And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

The Story of the Two Sons of Adam

The Quran

Recite to them the story of the two sons of Adam; truly when they offered an offering, and it was accepted from one of them, and was not accepted from the other, that one said, "I will surely kill thee;" he said, "God only accepts from those who fear. If thou dost stretch forth to me thine hand to kill me, I will not stretch forth mine hand to kill thee; verily, I fear God, the Lord of the worlds; verily, I wish that thou mayest draw upon thee my sin and thy sin, and be of the fellows of the Fire, for that is the reward of the unjust."

But his soul allowed him to slay his brother, and he slew him, and in the morning he was of those who lose. And God sent a crow to scratch in the earth and show him how he might hide his brother's shame, he said, "Alas, for me! Am I too helpless to become like this crow and hide my brother's shame?" and in the morning he was of those who did repent.

Kabil and Habil


Kabil and Habil, or Cain and Abel, with their two sisters, were the first children born to Adam and Eve. Adam, by Allah's direction, ordered Cain to marry Abel's twin sister, and that Abel should marry Cain's, for it being the common opinion that marriages ought not to take place with those very near akin, such as their own sisters, it seemed reasonable to supose that they ought to take those of the remoter degree, but this Cain refused to, because his sister was the handsomer.

Hereupon Adam told them to take their offerings to Allah, thereby referring the dispute to His determination. Cain's offering was a sheaf of the very worst of his corn, but Abel's a fat lamb of the best of his flock.

Allah having declared His acceptance of the latter in a visible manner, Cain said to his brother, "I will certainly kill you."

Abel was the stronger of the two, and would easily have prevailed against his brother, but he answered, "If you stretch forth your hand against me, to slay me, I will not stretch forth my hand against you to slay you, for I fear Allah, the Lord of all creatures."

So Cain began to consider in what way he should effect the murder, and as he was doing so, the devil appeared to him in human shape, and showed him how to do it, by crushing the head of a bird between two stones.

Cain, having committed the fratricide, became exceedingly troubled in his mind, and carried the dead body on his shoulders for a considerable time, not knowing where to conceal it, till it stank horribly. And then Allah taught him to bury it by the example of a raven, who, having killed another raven in his presence, dug a pit with his claws and beak and buried him therein.

Cain and Abel


It is related that when our mother Eve bare Cain and Abel, she bare a daughter along with each. God Most High commanded the Messenger Adam, saying, "For the sake of their offspring, give to Cain the girl born with Abel, and give to Abel the girl born with Cain." The Messenger Adam did so.

Now the girl born with Cain was exceeding fair; and Cain said, "O father, let the girl born with him be his, and let the girl born with me be mine."

Adam answered, "God Most High commanded otherwise." But Cain loved that girl exceedingly; so he went and slew Abel. Thus because of a woman was blood first shed upon the ground.

Cain and Abel

Turkey (Armenian)

One day Eve called to her Cain and Abel, who, still little children, were playing on the grass.

She held out to her firstborn her right arm, and to her second son her left, and said, "Bite them, I command you."

The elder boy bit till he drew blood, but Abel merely imprinted a long lingering kiss on his mother's arm.

Then said Eve to her husband, "Our Cain will be a wicked man."

Adam and Eve loved Abel dearly. Cain was jealous of their partiality. He wished to kill his brother, but knew not how. Satan took the form of a raven, picked a quarrel with another raven, and in Cain's presence cut his opponent's throat with a pointed black pebble. Cain picked up the stone, hid it in his girdle, proposed to his brother a walk on the mountain, and there cut his throat with the pebble. The peasants of Armenia to this day call flints "Satan's nails," and conscientiously break every pointed black one they may find.

Cain, after his crime, dared not return to his parents; the blood of his brother still adhered to his hands. In vain did he hold them all day long immersed in a neighboring spring; the stain was still there. Night came on, and, not being able to sleep, he wandered long and far, seeking a waterfall. Guided at last to one by the noise of its waters in the still night, he lay down on the bank and held his reddened hands under the cascade. There he held them, day and night, summer and winter, during a whole year, without sleep and without food, but at the end of that time they were still as crimson as on the day of the crime.

And so long as Cain lived, he was never able to get rid of the proof of his fratricide.

Abel and Cain


They were two brothers. Abel greatly loved Cain, but Cain did not love so much the brother Abel.

Cain had no great will to work.

Abel, however, on the contrary, was greatly disposed (si ingegnava) to labor, because he had found it profitable. He was industrious in all, and at last became a grazier (mercante di manzi.

And Cain also, being moved by jealousy (per astia), wished to become a grazier, but the wheel did not turn for him as it did for Abel.

And Cain also was a good man, and set himself contentedly to work, believing that he could become as rich as his brother, but he did not succeed in this, for which reason he became so envious of Abel that it resulted in tremendous hate, and he swore to be revenged.

Cain often visited his brother, and once said to him, "Abel, thou art rich and I am poor. Give me the half of thy wealth, since thou wishest me so well!"

Then Abel replied, "If I give thee a sum which thou thyself couldst gain by industry, thou shouldst still labor as I do, and I will give thee nothing, since, if thou wilt work as I do, thou wilt become as rich."

One day there were together Cain, Abel, and a merchant, whose name I forget. And one told that he had seen in a dream seven fat oxen and seven lean. And the merchant, who was an astrologer or wizard, explained that the seven fat oxen meant seven years of abundance, and the seven lean as many years of famine.

And so it came to pass as he foretold -- seven years of plenty and seven of famine.

And Cain, hearing this, thought, "During the seven years of plenty Abel will lay by a great store, and then I will slay him, and possess myself of all his goods, and thus I will take care of myself, and my brother will be dead."

Now, Cain greatly loved God; he was good towards God, more so than Abel, because Abel, having become rich, never spoke more unto the Lord; and Abel would gladly have become a wizard himself.

Then Cain began to think how he could slay Abel and become a merchant in his place, and so went forth to cut wood.

One day he called his brother Abel, and said to him, "Thou art so rich, while I am poor, and all my work avails me little." And with that he gave Abel a blow with a knife, and dressed himself in his garments, and took a bundle of thorns on his back, and thus clad he took Abel's place as a merchant, believing that no one would recognize him as Cain.

And while thus buying and selling he met the merchant-wizard who had foretold the seven years of famine and of abundance. And he said, "Oh, good day, Abel," to make Cain believe that he was not discovered. But the oxen who were present all began to chant in chorus:

Do not call that person Abel;
It is Cain, do you not see it?
Cain who, for the greed of money,
Treacherously slew his brother,
And then clad him in his garments.
Now, O Cain! thou wilt be summoned
Speedily unto the presence
Of the Lord, who had condemned thee
Unto death for thy great avarice.

Cain came before God.

O great God of endless mercy,
Thou who art so good and mighty,
Grant, I pray thee, grant me pardon
For the good I did while living!
Truly once, but for an instant,
I forgot myself, but deeply
I since then have long repented
That I slew my brother Abel.

But God replied:

A punishment thou shalt have because thou didst slay thy brother from a desire to become rich. Likewise thou didst meddle with witchcraft and sorceries, as did thy brother. And Abel made much money and was very rich, because he did not love God, but sorcerers. Albeit, ever good he never did evil things, and many good, wherefore God pardoned him. But thou shalt not be pardoned because thou didst imbrue thy hands in human blood, and, what is worse, in thy own brother's blood.
The punishment which I inflict is this:

The thorns which thou didst put upon thy brother are now for thee.

Thou shalt be imprisoned in the moon, and from that place shalt behold the good and the evil of all mankind.

And the bundle of thorns shall never leave thee, and every time when anyone shall conjure thee, the thorns shall sting thee cruelly. They shall draw thy blood.

And thus shalt thou be compelled to do that which shall be required of thee by the sorcerers or by conjuring, and if they ask of thee that which thou wilt not give, then the thorns shall goad thee until the sorceries shall cease.

The First Grave


Adam and Eve were standing on the bank of a brook, and before them lay the corpse of Abel, who had been killed by Cain. As they sat there, not knowing what they should do with the corpse, suddenly a little bird fell from a nearby tree. The little bird was still very young and could not fly. The fall killed it. Adam and Eve looked at the dead bird and saw that it was a raven. Soon the old raven flew by, and when he saw that his young one was dead, he scratched a hole in the ground with his feet, and laid it inside. Then he scratched the hole full and flew away. Adam and Eve observed all this and followed the raven's example. They made a hole in the earth, laid Abel's corpse in it, and covered it with earth. This was the first human grave.

Links to additional texts

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised November 3, 2013.