And the Mountains Echoed

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The Div Symbol Icon

In the fairy tale Saboor tells his children, an evil demon—a div—orders a farmer, Baba Ayub, to sacrifice one of his children. Baba Ayub is then forced to make the agonizing choice to give away his favorite son, Qais. In a sense, the div symbolizes the cruel, uncaring universe—the thing that forces human beings to make difficult choices, some of which are impossible to live with. If the “universe” in And the Mountains Echoed is a character, it is a volatile, cruel, unpredictable, and ultimately indifferent character—and the presence of the div is the first sign that this is the case.

The Div Quotes in And the Mountains Echoed

The And the Mountains Echoed quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Div. 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."

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The Div Symbol Timeline in And the Mountains Echoed

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Div 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
Baba Ayub’s fortunes change for the worse one day when a div, an evil monster, comes to his village. The div kills and eats anyone who dares... (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... (full context)
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
After the div takes Qais from the village, there is a forty-day mourning period. Everyone prepares food for... (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. After many weeks of climbing and... (full context)
Time, Memory, Forgetting, and Art Theme Icon
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
The div tells Baba Ayub that he will gladly duel with him. Before the duel, however, the... (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, Qais is provided with a... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Time, Memory, Forgetting, and Art Theme Icon
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...favorite child again. On the other, he recognizes that Qais’s life is better in the div’s home—Qais would surely be less happy in the village. After a long time, Baba Ayub... (full context)
Time, Memory, Forgetting, and Art Theme Icon
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...where he finds his wife and family waiting for him. Baba Ayub drinks from the div’s bottle, and immediately forgets about his visit to the div. He forgets that he saw... (full context)
Chapter 2
Time, Memory, Forgetting, and Art Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Power and Wealth Theme Icon
...them before their trip—the story about the farmer who sacrifices his favorite child to the div. (full context)
Chapter 3
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Time, Memory, Forgetting, and Art Theme Icon
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...family’s house. Saboor liked to entertain his friends by telling them stories about heroes and divs. One day while she is at a market with her mother, Parwana sees a beautiful... (full context)