Death of the Firstborn Egyptians

The most recently-completed scene from my feature-in-progress Seder-Masochism.

written, directed, designed, animated, produced, etc. by Nina Paley
music from “Spider Suite” by The Duke of Uke and His Novelty Orchestra
sound effects by Greg Sextro


Based on Exodus 12:
21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover.
22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.
23 For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.
24 And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.
25 And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the Lord will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.
26 And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?
27 That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.
28 And the children of Israel went away, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.
29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.
30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.


LYRICS by David King, aka Duke of Uke:

DEATH: Falling stars you wished upon
are cinders now and now they’re gone
their residue festoons my fetid field.
Unfeeling husks of lovers past
the shells are all that ever last
I’ve taken everything that they concealed.
Whoever told you life was fair?
Look around you, everywhere
the cruelty of nature is displayed!
Why the scorn?
Why the surprise?
Everything that’s born must die
and it isn’t I who made the world that way.

What wicked little twist of fate
placed you her upon my plate
Here, where no one hears your cries?
Where was your god to steer you through
Perhaps your god’s forsaken you
Otherwise why lead you here to die?

BA (spirit of the dead): I, I know the way how
I’ll melt away now
I know the way.
I’m feeling bliss now
Dissolved to mist how
strangely I go
Now I finally know

DEATH: It’s merely moments now,
moments now until
your feeble flesh bends to my will
and it will
so rest your weary head.
There’ll be no pain,
no pain at all
as everything you are dissolves
Your fate resolved
upon my silky thread.

BA: I, I know the way how
I’ll melt away now
I know the way.
I’m feeling bliss now
Dissolved to mist how
strangely I go
Now I finally know


Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

14 thoughts on “Death of the Firstborn Egyptians”

  1. You’ve got several broken links, probably because you failed to stick “http://” in front:

    The Duke of Uke and His Novelty Orchestra tians/

    Greg Sextro

    Duke of Uke

  2. Wow, Nina. This is amazing! So haunting, and stirring, even through the humor. Masterfully timed too. Beautiful work, really. I am SOO excited for the completed film. Sita was a great work, but Seder-Masochism is shaping up to be even richer and more sublime. Keep up the inspiring dedication. I really can’t say enough good things. I’m going to watch it again now.

  3. Really great stuff. The animation together with the music creates a beautiful and wonderful effect. I love Sita Sings the Blues, and I love Passover, so yes, I’m over-excited about this work!

  4. I loved Sita, but this… I have watched it about 20 times already. And I discovered it yesterday. God, how I wished I could take your to Cuba and show your movies there! Having no power SUCKS. I’m depressed…

  5. I watched “This land is mine” a little while ago. That’s part of this new movie too, isn’t? Fucking brilliant. This is going to be a good one, I can tell. Lots of ashé for you, Nina. May all the gods of Ancient Egypt be with you.

    Hey, have you read a book called “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman? You’ll love it. And I know he would love your stuff. Somebody should introduce you two. He’s living in NY right now, I think, with his wife Amanda Palmer.

  6. Like half the people here, it seems, I just watched Sita Sings the Blues. This video is wonderful. You made a fantastic choice of music for this video. I’m not about to read through’s Terms of Use (at least not tonight; and, strangely, I do tend to read Terms of Use pages), but I’m guessing you had to ask The Duke of Uke and His Novelty Orchestra for song permission?

    With this current paragraph’s observations, I have a heavy feeling that I’m in a miniscule minority. So, you said you finished this part of the movie, so does that mean you won’t, cannot, or /can/ go back and edit this? At about 3:23, with the coffin forming around the killed man’s skeleton, I’m distracted every time I watch this by how quickly one of the ribs fades. The first time I watched, I noticed it only in my peripheral vision and thought the bone just popped out of existence, so I rewound and saw that it did indeed fade, though at a rapid pace. And every time after that I watch this video, naturally focusing on the skull, it still feels like the rib’s just popping away.

    So, I was wondering if you could slow down the fading. There are other people dying and coffins appearing around them later in this video, but they’re in the background and rather small, so it’s unnoticeable. (I don’t know if it would stay that way on a large screen, like theater-sized. Think BIG, now!)

    On a different note, with the guy running that we follow for a while, the one running by dying oxen and people, I felt a stronger feeling of dread than I expected to feel when I saw Death (Angel of Death?) pick him up. Really nice job leading up to that moment.

    …Yeah. This is amazing. Is this some sort of vector art animation? This is high quality.

    And, you know what, I’m really sorry if this comment sounds stiff or stodgy; I feel nervous that you might actually /read/ this but feel stupid thinking you won’t. I’ve got mad respect for you! So, please, excuse any strange word choices or sentences; I’ve reread this comment many times and rewritten many parts of it several times, too. Anyway, thanks so much for sharing your work. This is the first blog I’ve bookmarked in a LONG time.

  7. My friends and I are great fans of your work, Nina, I’ve introduced many of my friends to your work and they all love it! For us Indians, Sita sings the blues was a totally different yet just interpretation of the Ramayan. Keep up the good work!

  8. Revisiting. This so absolutely genius. I just searched for the original Spider Web. The fact that this was an exchange between a spider an its pray and you transformed it into this other awesome thing simply blows my mind.

  9. Hey Nina, I really love this animation (I contacted you years ago to get the track from Sita Singe the Blues and the translation – doubt you remember me)

    I’m an Ancient Egypt fan, I love the Gods – though the Ba are flying and they are holding that symbol while flying, I can’t seem to find it, what does the symbol mean?

    Thank you for reading!

    – Kay

  10. I like how you made Death look up breifly during the singers pause in “Rest your weary… head”

  11. Is it okay if I draw death and maybe edit the picture on photoshop? Your work is realy good and it inspired me to do something artistic. I’ll give you full credit.

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