And the Mountains Echoed

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Baba Ayub Character Analysis

A character in the story Saboor tells his children, Baba Ayub is a simple farmer forced to make an impossible choice: he must sacrifice one of his own children to appease an evil creature, the div. Baba Ayub’s capacity to make agonizing decisions—and then live with these decisions—establishes memory, interconnectedness, and time as some of the most important themes of the novel.

Baba Ayub Quotes in And the Mountains Echoed

The And the Mountains Echoed quotes below are all either spoken by Baba Ayub or refer to Baba Ayub . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Riverhead Books edition of And the Mountains Echoed published in 2014.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Your son does not remember you, the div continued. This is his life now, and you saw for yourself his happiness. He is provided here with the finest food and clothes, with friendship and affection. He receives tutoring in the arts and languages and in the sciences, and in the ways of wisdom and charity. He wants for nothing. Someday, when he is a man, he may choose to leave, and he shall be free to do so. I suspect he will touch many lives with his kindness and bring happiness to those trapped in sorrow.

Related Characters: Baba Ayub (speaker), The div (speaker), Qais
Related Symbols: The Div
Page Number: 11-12
Explanation and Analysis:

In the first chapter of the novel, an unnamed man (later revealed as Saboor, the father of Abdullah and Pari) tells a fairy tale about a loving father whose favorite child, Qais, is stolen away by a demon called a div. The father, Baba Ayub, goes to find Qais, only to see that Qais has magically forgotten his old life and now lives with luxuries and education that Baba Ayub never could have provided for him. Baba Ayub then faces an impossible choice: he can either be selfish and reclaim his child (in which case Qais will live a poor, threadbare life), or he can allow Qais to continue living with the div (in which case Qais will be well-fed, well-educated, and have a wonderful life). In short, Baba Ayub must choose between his own happiness and the happiness of his child.

Right away, the novel draws a contrast between one's own happiness and that of other people. The essence of being a thinking human being, it's implied, is having to make such a choice. In each of the successive stories in the book, the characters will face a moral dilemma comparable with the one Baba Ayub deals with in this passage—most notably Saboor himself, who has the opportunity to give one of his children (Pari) a "better" life, and decides to do so. The question lingers, however—is Qais really "better off" without his true father? Can wealth and education replace the bond of family?

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“You are a cruel beast,” Baba Ayub said.
When you have lived as long as I have, the div replied, you find that cruelty and benevolence are but shades of the same color.

Related Characters: Baba Ayub (speaker), The div (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Div
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

Baba Ayub has been given an impossible choice: he can either allow his kidnapped son, Qais, to continue living a luxurious life with his kidnapper, the Div, or he can reclaim his child. Baba Ayub faces the tremendous stress of choosing between his own happiness and that of his child--a choice that's too great for any human being to make without pain.

As Baba Ayub puts it, the div is cruel simply for making him choose at all. The div's reply--that cruelty and kindness are just two sides of the same coin--suggests something universal about the story of Baba Ayub. In life, it's suggested, humans are often forced to make impossible moral choices--choices for which there's no perfect solution. In this case, as Baba Ayub implies, it may be that "ignorance is bliss."

He didn’t understand why he should hear such a noise, alone in the dark, all the sheep and goats sleeping. Sometimes he told himself he had heard no such thing, and sometimes he was so convinced to the contrary that he called out into the darkness, “Is someone out there? Who is there? Show yourself.” But no reply ever came. Baba Ayub didn’t understand. Just as he didn’t understand why a wave of something, something like the tail end of a sad dream, always swept through him whenever he heard the jingling, surprising him each time like an unexpected gust of wind. But then it passed, as all things do. It passed.

Related Characters: Baba Ayub (speaker), Qais
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final part of the first short story in the book, Baba Ayub--who's chosen to allow his beloved son to continue living with his kidnapper, the div--is an old man. Baba Ayub has been haunted by his choice--as a result, the div has blessed Baba Ayub with the gift of forgetfulness. Baba Ayub doesn't remember having to choose to abandon his son. And yet he continues to hear the faint sound of a bell--the sound that his son would make when he played with his friends. In short, the sound of the bell reminds Baba Ayub of something he used to know, but he can't remember exactly what this was.

The story's teller insists that all things pass--in other words, Baba Ayub eventually forgets about his son. In a broader sense, the story could symbolize the way that all memories fade away over time. But as we'll see, the successive stories in the book interrogate the theory that "all things pass." The characters forget many things, whether intentionally or not--and to differing degrees of success. Thus, the story of Baba Ayub foreshadows the themes of memory and forgetting that haunt the entire novel.

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Baba Ayub Character Timeline in And the Mountains Echoed

The timeline below shows where the character Baba Ayub appears in And the Mountains Echoed. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...“Once upon a time,” he says, in a magical age, there was a farmer named Baba Ayub . Baba Ayub lived in a village called Maidan Sabz, and worked extremely hard to... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Baba Ayub ’s fortunes change for the worse one day when a div, an evil monster, comes... (full context)
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
One night, the div knocks at the house of Baba Ayub . Baba and his family are horrified—they know that one of them will be eaten... (full context)
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...takes Qais from the village, there is a forty-day mourning period. Everyone prepares food for Baba Ayub , telling him that they feel sorry for him. Baba Ayub begins to neglect his... (full context)
Time, Memory, Forgetting, and Art Theme Icon
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Baba Ayub decides to seek out the div and kill it as revenge for it taking Qais.... (full context)
Time, Memory, Forgetting, and Art Theme Icon
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
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The div tells Baba Ayub that he will gladly duel with him. Before the duel, however, the div suggests that... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Time, Memory, Forgetting, and Art Theme Icon
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Baba Ayub can’t understand what the div is telling him. The div explains that in his fortress,... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Time, Memory, Forgetting, and Art Theme Icon
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Baba Ayub thinks for a long time. On one hand, he’s desperate to see his favorite child... (full context)
Time, Memory, Forgetting, and Art Theme Icon
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
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After many days of travel, Baba Ayub returns to his home, where he finds his wife and family waiting for him. Baba... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Time, Memory, Forgetting, and Art Theme Icon
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
In the years following Baba Ayub ’s return to the village, his fortunes turn yet again, and he becomes a hugely... (full context)