“A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” and Hospitality

One thing that struck me as I was reading “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” was the complete lack of hospitality towards the angel. Hospitality was an important value for many ancient civilizations. In a time when people lived further apart, being turned away into the wilderness could be a death sentence. As a result guests were not supposed to be turned away and there was an expectation that the guest would be treated well. The bible actually explicitly states “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” Hebrew 13:2.

This attitude was not unique to the Ancient Israelite’s. The Greeks also had similar expectations and potential rewards. The Ancient Greeks called hospitality Xenia. Xenia was a reciprocal relationship of mutual respect (perhaps even mutual recognition) between the host and guest. In many Greek myths Zeus, god of lightning and protector of travelers, would take the form of a traveler and depending on how he was treated would either punish or reward who did (or worse yet, didn’t) host him. The message was clear, you never knew which guest was Zeus so you better treat them right.

Image result for xenia greek

2 thoughts on ““A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” and Hospitality


    I thought your information about hospitality in ancient civilizations was super interesting, and it makes the villagers seem almost cruel. They are truly putting their own desires far above the well being of the angel, and not stopping to consider the angel’s or past or intentions. And as you have pointed out, an important part of so many cultures is to be a “charitable soul,” and I think the only reason the villagers provided both the angel and the spider woman with food scraps was to see how they could benefit.



    Perhaps Gabriel García Márquez wrote about the disrespectful villagers to mock how people identify with religions but don’t actually know what their religion entails. I was brought up in a Catholic household, but I had never actually heard of the bible verse that you referenced. Like the villagers, I am not actually very knowledgeable about my religion. If the villagers had a deeper understanding of their religion then maybe they would not have been as concerned about what they would get in return.


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