The Invisible God in The Ancient Magus Bride

The Ancient Magus Bride dwells in a place of religion and myth, making countless allusions to creatures from the realm of legend and those with more concrete origins, with Elias and Chise moving in and out of the world of fairies, dragons, and spriggan as easily as they do the church. I commented previously on how strongly Elias’ initial appearance, as Chise’s purchaser, resembled that of Christ redeeming his people, freeing them from their chains, and the marriage between Christ and his bride, the church.

Episode eight of the series, however, delves into Old Testament territory, and perhaps unlike that initial allusion, this one is purposeful. Ulysse, the fairy/dog that rescues Chise and then accompanies her, requests to become her familiar. During their ceremony, Chise must rename him, and she chooses “Ruth,” a name that at first seems terribly unfitting—but in context of who Ruth was and who this Ruth will be, is as perfect as could be.

Ruth / Ruth

The Book of Ruth tells the story of the eponymous heroine, who leaves her homeland of Moab to follow her former mother-in-law, Naomi, as she returns to her home of Bethlehem. Because of Ruth’s dedication to Naomi and the strength of her character, the two are ultimately lifted out of their precarious and cursed position, not only to rise for themselves, but to become integral to God’s plan of redemption.

Years earlier, Naomi had moved to Moab with her husband, Ehimelech. By all accounts, it looks as if they adopted Moabite culture, giving their sons Canaanite names and marrying them to Moabite women, following their own wisdom rather than the ways of God. Ehimelech even sold their traditional family land in Israel—there was no turning back for them.

Except that now Naomi had no choice but to turn back. Ehimelech died, and so did Naomi’s sons, leaving her behind along with her daughters-in-law. They cry out to Naomi that they will stay with her, but she replies that she has nothing for them, that they should return to their families. One of them does, but Ruth refuses to turn away. She will not leave Naomi behind.

Ulysse is similarly devoted to Chise, and indeed often appears as the animal most associated with loyalty, a dog, which he once was in life. Like Ruth, Ulysse once had a bond, expected to be permanent, with another—but Ruth’s husband died, and so did Ulysse’s “sister,” Isabel. But Ulysse sees glimpses of his sister in Chise, in their shared trait of red hair and green eyes, and after connecting with her and learning about her pain and her past, decides he will dedicate his life to her now.

Ruth, too, knows Naomi’s pain—she shared in it. And likewise, though she had no rational reason to, Ruth decides to cling to Naomi, who as a widow without land is now very vulnerable. Ulysse knows, also, that Chise is destined to die, and as her familiar, he will die, too—but he commits his life to her anyway. Chise’s suffering will be his own.

Chise / Naomi

Chise is less like Naomi than Ruth (and to be plain, their attitudes would perhaps fit the allusions better if they were switched), but there are more similarities here than being the receiver of devotion. They mostly have to do with Chise’s past.

At this point, we aren’t yet privy to her backstory, but we know enough to understand that Chise was in utter despair, so much so that she sells herself off into slavery. Her mother wanted to be rid of her and those around Chise saw her as cursed. And in fact, a curse does surround her—Ruth mentions as much.

Naomi is in utter despair as well. Her husband has died, and tragically, both of her sons as well. Now, without men to protect her, a necessity in the time of the judges, she is destitute and must return to Judea as a beggar to the gossip and condemnation of her former neighbors and friends. Her depression is so great, in fact, that Naomi tells those around her to call her by a new name, Mara, which means “bitter.”

Redemption

There’s one more connection to Naomi, tenuous but one that’s important, nonetheless. The Book of Ruth is ultimately a story about redemption. Boaz, the family’s kinsman-redeemer, has the ability to take over the land formerly belonging to Naomi and to marry Ruth; he eventually does so, and redeems that family. Ruth, herself, is redeemed “spiritually” by leaving her home and her gods and turning to Jehovah. The people of Israel, and later, Christians, are redeemed through Ruth and Boaz, the great-grandparents of David, and the ancestors of Christ.

But the most personal redemption story of all (aside from the connection to us individually) is of Naomi. Bitter, distraught, disgraced, and likely angry at God, she is rescued in the most unlikely of ways. As she turns away from God, he is working all the while to redeem her through one who loves her so mightily (…your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons…”).

Chise, too, is powerless and at the brink of death and, if sold to the wrong seller, destined for something far worse (think of the vile creature that was created from Ulysse’s sister, Isabel). But like Naomi, she is redeemed by one who loves her, one who calls her the bride. Chise is saved by Elias, who rescues her and givers her new life—her redemption is that of us all.

2 thoughts on “The Invisible God in The Ancient Magus Bride

    1. It’s a really interesting story, one that owes as much to mythology in the west as it does to Japanese culture. I had actually dropped it because of a lack of time, but at the insistence of a friend, picked it back up and blazed through the first season over several nights.

      Like

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