Who: Thanos, Gamora, and Red Skull
Why: For Thanos to gain possession of the Soul Stone
Did Thanos have some lore, some mysterious foreknowledge about the trial at hand to gain the Soul Stone, or was he just lucky to have with him the one person he claimed to love? Who knows. Either way, when Red Skull tells him that “In order to take the stone, you must lose that which you love. A soul for a soul.” Gamora, seeing the Titan’s tears, gloats:
“All my life I dreamed of a day, a moment, when you got what you deserved. And I was always so disappointed. But now, you kill and torture and you call it mercy. The universe has judged you. You asked it for a prize and it told you ‘No.’ You failed. And do you wanna know why? Because you love nothing. No one. Really, tears?”
Red Skull knows differently and tells her, perhaps sadly, “They are not for him.” He knows why Thanos brought her – she is the sacrifice, the soul for a Soul. The Titan throws her, struggling, from the precipice and gains the Stone.
Regina, the Evil Queen from Once Upon a Time, faced a similar trial in her quest. In order to enact her terrible curse, she is told that she must “cut out the heart of the thing I love most.” That “thing” being her father (who, by the way, stood there and counseled her through. Get out!)
Anyway, back on track. While Thanos’ trial is more reminiscent of Abraham and his son, Regina’s explicitly exacts the higher price. Thanos’ trial likely is meant to be the same – what one loves the most – just without the explication.
I contend that the premise of this trial is impossible. Some have argued against Thanos’ declaration of love, agreeing with Gamora that he didn’t love her, and so she couldn’t qualify as the sacrifice. I rather contend that it is not possible to sacrifice what one loves most in pursuit of something else. Sacrifice etymology: Middle English sacrifice “the act of offering something to God or a god,” from early French sacrifice (same meaning), from Latin sacrificium “sacrifice,” from sacr-, sacer “sacred” and -ficium, from facere “to do, make.”1 While it has lost much of its religious meaning in everyday use, to truly sacrifice something is to consecrate or dedicate something towards a greater good. Regardless of the “lamb,” whether an actual object, money, or something intangible (energies or thoughts), the love of God or the desire for the goal is greater than the love of the thing sacrificed in pursuit thereof.
So in the moment that Thanos decides to throw Gamora from the cliff, in the moment that Regina decides to kill her father, they each desired the goal more than person sacrificed. That is, they each loved the goal more than the person. Regardless of the definition of “love,” and I will present my own in a later post, they usually center on one or more of the following: That which one desires, that for which one desires good, and that for which one sacrifices.
But in each definition, Thanos fails in relation to Gamora. In turn: Thanos desires the Soul Stone, the Infinity Gauntlet, and his “dusting” scheme more than Gamora; Thanos does not care for Gamora’s good, he kills her; Thanos sacrifices Gamora in order to attain the Soul Stone. Whatever concept of “love” is used, Thanos loves the stone, the gauntlet, and, ultimately, the “dusting” scheme more than Gamora. And that is also true of Regina and of all others who are put into such a scheme.
One cannot sacrifice what they love most for something else, because, by definition, they love that for which they are making the sacrifice more than the sacrifice itself.
Sorry, Thanos, no Soul Stone for you.