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Throughout The Chronicles of Narnia the humans are referred to as "Son of Adam" for a male, and "Daughter of Eve" for a female. I'm assuming that the characters in Narnia don't think that females only descend from a female but not a male, and males only descend from a male but not a female. I.e. technically, a male would be a son of Adam and a son of Eve; likewise, a female would be a daughter of Eve and a daughter of Adam.

If this is indeed correct, is there a reason why they always refer to males as "Son of Adam" and not "Son of Eve" or "Son of Adam and Eve"? And, similarly, is there a reason why they always refer to females as "Daughter of Eve" and not "Daughter of Adam" or "Daughter of Adam and Eve"?

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  • Probably irrelevant, but it says here that the Yazidis believe that they are descendants of Adam but not Eve, while the rest of humanity is descended from Adam and Eve. As for C. S. Lewis, I doubt that he coined the expressions "Sons of Adam" and "Daughters of Eve", and I wouldn't try to ascribe any great significance to them.
    – user14111
    Dec 13, 2018 at 0:04
  • @user14111 I thought that it might just be a general use, but a very cursory search didn’t turn up anything useful.
    – Alex
    Dec 13, 2018 at 0:13
  • I was just re-reading these recently, and Rand's answer strikes me as correct. (It is primarily stylistic/poetic, with reference to religious texts.)
    – DukeZhou
    Dec 16, 2018 at 22:14

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As well as its more literal meaning of a (direct or indirect) male descendant, the word "son" can also be used to mean "A man considered in relation to his native country or area" or "A man regarded as the product of a particular person, influence, or environment" (definitions 1.4 and 1.5 in the online Oxford Dictionary). Metaphorically, the word can be used in a metonymous way, suggesting a thematic connection. Calling someone a "son of Norfolk" makes it sound as if they somehow personify Norfolk. Calling someone a "son of < famous figure >" makes it sound as if they're made in the image of that figure.

Under this interpretation, a "son of Adam" could mean, not just a literal descendant of Adam, but someone who's made in the image of Adam - in other words, a male human, as opposed to the other citizens of Narnia. Similarly, a "daughter of Eve" would be interpreted as someone made in the image of Eve - the closest thing to the real Eve that one would be likely to find in Narnia. Talking about a "son of Eve" or a "daughter of Adam" doesn't make so much sense then.

Besides, you have to choose one pairing or the other. Poetically, it makes more sense to say "son of Adam" and "daughter of Eve" than "daughter of Adam" and "son of Eve". Why mix the genders up together when you don't have to? It just sounds aesthetically better to match them in the 'right' gender order.

See also:

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These are phrases that have been used in English since the 14th century with the following meanings:

son of Adam (also Adam’s son): a man or boy, esp. one who is weak-willed, fallible, or susceptible to temptation (with reference to Adam's part in the biblical story of the Fall of Man)

daughter of Eve (also Eve’s daughter) literary a girl or woman, esp. (with allusion to Eve's part in the biblical story of the Fall of Man) one who is weak-willed, lascivious, or susceptible to temptation.

Oxford English Dictionary.

“Son of Adam” comes from a mis-translation of Ecclesiastes 3.21 where the Hebrew is “bə-nê hā-’ā-ḏām” (of the sons of men) but the Vulgate translates this as “filiorum Adam” (of the sons of Adam):

Quis novit si spiritus filiorum Adam ascendat sursum, et si spiritus jumentorum descendat deorsum?

Who knows whether the spirit of the sons of Adam goes upwards, and whether the spirit of animals goes downwards?

There is a similar phrase in the apocryphal book of Sirach 40:1 and in both cases Wycliffe’s 1382 English translation (based on the Vulgate) used “sons of Adam”.

“Daughter of Eve” is obviously a parallel formation; the OED’s first citation is from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, where one manuscript has

And þouhe þat I þe vnworþe douhter of Eue
Be synful ȝit accept my be-leue.†

Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1380). Second Nun’s Tale, lines 62–63. British Library Lansdowne 851. In Frederick J. Furnivall (1879). The Lansdowne Ms. of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales p. 529. Oxford University Press.

† And though that I the unworthy daughter of Eve / Be sinful yet accept my belief.

Other manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales have “son of Eve” instead of “daughter”, and the scansion shows that “son” must have been the original word. But the Lansdowne scribe’s mis-correction to “daughter” shows the attraction of the form of words that matches the gender of the descendant to that of the ancestor.

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Not a definitive answer, but Google Ngrams is helpful here. The first book in the Narnia series was published in 1950, but a search reveals the phrase in fairly common use from the 1820's onward. The earliest match is in a poem, The Trial of Cain, the First Son of Adam by W. Sutcliff. There is a big an increase in the 1900's, still many years before Narnia.

"Daughter of Eve" is rarer, as you might expect (Adam and Eve's children would traditionally have been described as "belonging" to Adam, not Eve). But it's still not unheard of and was first used in the mid-1800's as the title of a novel and a Balzac short story.

There are zero results for "son of Eve" or "daughter of Adam".

So: neither phrase originated with Lewis, and as a well-read man, it is reasonable to assume he would have seen them before, elsewhere. His particular usage as a way to refer to male and female humans might be unique, but there are good reasons for his choice.

It's a great way to signal the "otherness" of the folk of Narnia compared with their human visitors which doesn't demand the reader learn an invented fantasy vocabulary. And its religious overtones suits the pro-Christian message he wanted to convey.

As for why he didn't go with "son of Eve" or "daughter of Adam": those phrases are not in familiar usage. And the gender confusion is slightly jarring for the reader.

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    You might be interested in "Son of Man as Son of Adam", an academic article about the use, religious context, and linguistic history of the phrases "son of man" and "son of Adam".
    – Rand al'Thor
    Dec 13, 2018 at 16:49
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Interesting dialogue but while the male inherits both his parents choromosomes, he only received the 'Y' from the father. For the female, she received both 'Y' from mom and pop. So 'Son of Adam' and 'Daughter of Eve' are appropriate genetic anagrams for the descendants of the first couple from Eden.

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    First off, I think you mean biological females receive "X" from both parents. However, since biology isn't so simple, chromosomes can be more complicated than that. XYY, XXY, XXYY, XXX, and more, sex-chromosome abnormalities exist. (Though that's not generally known and can be glossed over for literary purposes)
    – bobble
    Oct 28, 2021 at 2:35
  • Also, even with that addressed - this answer seems to make a good case for "son of Adam" over "son of Eve", but not sure "daughter of Eve" over "daughter of Adam"
    – bobble
    Oct 28, 2021 at 13:43
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A postscript to this exchange, since I am coming to it rather late in the day. I refer readers to Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories and in particular The Crab that Played with the Sea. Here there is a creation myth involving the Eldest Magician who calls all the beasts (including a beaver!) into being. It is watched by a man and his daughter and the Eldest Magician addresses the man as 'Son of Adam'. He does not address the daughter explicitly but she is referred to throughout the story as 'the little girl daughter'. One could argue this is tautologous since 'daughter' would have done the job but admittedly without the poetry. The Just So Stories were published in 1902, pre-dating the Chronicles of Narnia by nearly 50 years.

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  • Welcome to the site. This is interesting information, but could you edit your answer to make it more directly answer the question asked? Are you arguing that the terms "Son of Adam" and "Daughter of Eve" used in the Narnia books were in reference to the Just So Stories? Or that these terms were in common use long before C.S. Lewis - but that still leaves open the question of why these terms rather than "Son of Adam and Eve" etc.?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Mar 1, 2023 at 21:04

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