Why Koschchei the Deathless
Knows Neither Pride Nor Love

by James Branch Cabell

[Jurgen in Hell with Satan; Jurgen in Heaven with the God of Jurgen's grandmother]

Then Satan, sitting erect and bleak in his tall marble chair, explained how he, and all the domain and all the infernal hierarchies he ruled, had been created extempore by Koshchei, to humor the pride of Jurgen's forefathers. "For they were exceedingly proud of their sins. And Koshchei happened to notice Earth once upon a time, with your forefathers walking about it exultant in the enormity of their sins and the terrible punishments they expected in requital. Now Koshchei will do almost anything to humor pride, because to be proud is one of the two things that are impossible to Koshchei. So he was pleased, oh, very much pleased: and after he had had his laugh out, he created Hell extempore, and made it just such a place as your forefathers imagined it ought to be, in order to humor the pride of your forefathers."

"And why is pride impossible to Koshchei?"

"Because he made things as they are; and day and night he contemplates things as they are, having nothing else to look at. How, then, can Koshchei be proud?"

* * *

"....Koshchei will do almost anything to humor love, since love is one of the two things which are impossible to Koshchei."

"I have heard that pride is impossible to Koshchei—"

The God of Jurgen's grandmother raised His white eyebrows. "What is pride? I do not think I ever heard if it before. Assuredly it is something that does not enter here [heaven]."

"But why is love impossible to Koshchei?"

"Because Koshchei made things as they are, and day and night he contemplates things as they are. How, then, can Koshchei love anything?"


Source: Cabell, James Branch. Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. [orig. 1919]), pp. 257, 302-3.


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