According to the Biblical story of Genesis, the first humans, Adam and Eve, lived in a paradise on earth known as the Garden of Eden. Life was pleasant and easy; they did not know death nor did they have to toil for their food. But they had been commanded by God not to taste the forbidden fruit that grew on the Tree of Knowledge.
One day, a talking serpent, which tradition identifies with Satan, tempted Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. Eve then induced her husband Adam to also taste the fruit, thus breaking what was then God's only commandment. Although many people take this story literally, it is of course an allegory: by attaining knowledge, the first humans left the metaphorical childhood behind and became aware of and capable of good and evil. It is an explanation of how innocence was lost and an attempt to justify why humans suffer and die on this world, despite believing in a benevolent deity.
In this woodcut, Eve is shown being tempted by the serpent. Note that the serpent has a woman's face in accordance with the medieval and renaissance belief that the serpent - contrary to current belief - was in fact female. This embellishment to the Genesis legend seems to have misogynistic overtones. Not only was Eve, a woman, the first human to break God' commandment, but she was also led astray by a female, though of the snakey variety. Thus, women or females, of whatever species, are portrayed as the ultimate temptresses.
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