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The Tower of Babel (Hebrew: מגדל בבל Migdal Bavel Arabic: برج بابل Burj Babil), according to the Book of Genesis, was an enormous tower built in the plain of Shinar, a tower so tall it offended God.
According to the biblical account, a united humanity of the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating from the east, came to the land of Shinar, where they resolved to build a city with a tower "with its top in the heavens...lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the Earth." God came down to see what they did and said: "They are one people and have one language, and nothing will be withholden from them which they purpose to do." So God said, "Come, let us go down and confound their speech." And so God scattered them upon the face of the Earth, and confused their languages, and they left off building the city, which was called Babel "because God there confounded the language of all the Earth."(Genesis 11:5-8).
The Tower of Babel has often been associated with known structures, notably the Etemenanki, a ziggurat dedicated to Marduk by Nabopolassar (c. 610 BC). The Great Ziggurat of Babylon base was square (not round), 91 metres (300 ft) in height, but demolished by Alexander the Great before his death in an attempt to rebuild it. A Sumerian story with some similar elements is preserved in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta.
This page is for allusions and references to the legend; for the trope about ominously imposing skyscrapers in general, see The Tower. See also Curse of Babel for the language mix-up and Space Elevator for the Sci Fi version. As to whether the successful completion of one will lead to God confounding our tongues even more, stay tuned!
References in Fiction:
- The Tarot card "The Tower" (currently described at The Tower) gains its implications of overweening pride and impending disaster by reference to the Tower of Babel.
- Tower of Babel in Yu-Gi-Oh. As spell cards are played, it gains spell counters. When it has 4 or more, it collapses, dealing 3000 damage to whoever played that fourth spell.
- Metropolis: The city's ruler lives in the unsubtly-named skyscraper "New Tower of Babel". Maria's sermon/allegory of Why Metropolis Is Messed Up is a retelling of the Babel legend.
- A model of the tower is used by future One Nation Earth agents preparing for the coming one-world order and its Religion of Evil in the Apocalypse film series movie Tribulation.
- The Bible, obviously.
- Snow Crash references the Tower of Babel as part of its mythology mashup about linguistics and thought. The Tower of Babel is a metaphor for the scattering of language away from Sumerian, which was analogous to assembly binary code. It sort of makes more sense in context, but really doesn't.
- In Terry Pratchett's science fiction novel The Dark Side of the Sun, set in the distant future, the people have a legend which is a sequel to the Tower of Babel. It tells of how, in the late twentieth century, mankind once again attempted to reach heaven, and God caused them to be unable to communicate with one another by striking them with the curse of Jargon.
- C.S. Lewis was alluding to this in That Hideous Strength, the third book of the Space Trilogy. While the bad guys weren't making a big tower, they were planning to go against God's will by perverting science. The title of the novel even comes from Sir David Lindsay's Ane Dialog, describing the original Tower of Babel.
- In the short story Tower of Babylon by Ted Chiang, the tower has been built over generations to well past the moon, with people living on it their entire lives, and everyone a little nervous because God has remained silent on the issue. They finally hit a ceiling, and the protagonist ascends upward, thinking he's entering heaven... until he emerges from a cave near the base of the tower. Turns out this Earth is actually in a self-contained toroidal universe. He then realizes God had probably been laughing behind their backs the whole time.
Live Action Tv
- Castiel from Supernatural remembers when the Tower of Babel fell...all thirty-five feet of it. And it didn't fall because of divine retribution, it fell because dried dung can only be stacked so high.
- Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Journey to Babel". The Enterprise carries a group of Federation ambassadors to a planetoid named Babel. Several of the ambassadors quarrel with each other repeatedly during the trip, almost as if they were speaking different languages.
- The short comic play Babels in Arms by David Ives is about the contractors hired to build the tower. They've just brought the first giant stone in; they end up questioning the hubris of building the giant tower, to get out of moving more giant stones.
- The Bad Religion song "Skyscraper" tells the story from the perspective of the builders.
- "A Wild, Wild Party", a number in Andrew Lippa musical of The Wild Party likens the setting of a prohibition-era party to the Tower of Babel and other Biblical instances of decadence.
- According to the Demon: The Fallen lore, there was never a literal "tower", but the "Time of Babel", when Lucifer executed the last-ditch scheme to elevate humanity to godhood. Just when it was so close to success, his own lieutenants ruined it all, and the Rebellion was pretty much done for.
- Devil Survivor runs on this with Babel being the final boss and the focus of much of the story.
- In Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne, the Tower of Kagutsuchi has some damn strong vibes of this, as it not only leads to the Avatar of God Almighty himself, but is 666 floors tall.
- Golbez and the Four Fiends of Final Fantasy IV erect the Tower of Bab-il. Based in the underworld, it rises through the Earth's surface into the sky. It's powered by the stolen Crystals.
- The Tower of Babel in Illusion of Gaia. It serves as the final dungeon of the game, as well as being a point of interest and recurring element in the plot. The main character actually joined an expedition (headed by his father alongside the father of one of his friends) that was meant to "discover" and explore the Tower... which ultimately went south, leaving the protagonist with partial amnesia of the expedition and setting up the events of the game.
- The Tower of Souls from Act Raiser 2 seems to be an analogue of the Tower of Babel. Your angelic servant in the game says when speaking of it, "Master, they are devising a preposterous plan. They... they are trying to become masters themselves. They are constructing a tower to try and reach the sky castle."
- The Shinra Tower from Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, which was even based on the Story of Babel. The people from Alche City built the tower so that they could meet God, but when it wsa finished, they found out that they still had to go higher to reach heaven, so it was abandoned.
- The Tower of Babel is the last monument to be built in Doshin the Giant. Bad stuff happens immediately afterwards.
- The Tower of Babel, the final map of the second episode of Doom, is where you fight the Cyberdemon, quite possibly the toughest monster in the entire series. Quite unusually, no climbing is involved.
- The orbital elevator which goes all the way to the moon, where the last act of Mega Man X Command Mission takes place, is named Babel.
- The Quest of Ki opens with the backstory of the Babylonian Castle Saga, which implies that Druaga's tower was really the Tower of Babylim. The tower and its 60 floors were originally built in the kingdom of Babylim after it was invaded by the Sumer Empire to harness the power of the Blue Crystal Rod. The tower was destroyed by the god Anu, but Druaga resurrected it.
- Prince of Persia': The Two Thrones takes place in Babylon, with the royal palace built as an immense circular tower, slowly tapering as the tower rises. Considering that there are several wooden gantries with counterweights and ropes around the walls of the palace, it is apparently still in a state of construction, even as big as it is. The parallel with the Tower of Babel is probably intention.
- The Masons use a ceremonial 'Tower' to represent the Tower of Babel in their ceremonies.