In episode 47 (12:08) of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, general Grumman's thoughts about a leadership position in Central are made audible to the viewer:

Miles: And what about the plan, sir? Aren't you going to proceed to central?

Grumman: I don't seem to have much choice. I suppose I'll just have to let Colonel Mustang have the biggest slice of Central pie.

Grumman (thinking): Bradley's current administration will still be properly functioning at this point in time. If Colonel Mustang or General Armstrong try to make their move now, every soldier in Central will be ordered to retrieve their treasonous heads. And once they're captured, I'll step in to restore order. They'll take the fall as enemies of the state, while General Grumman will heroically come riding in on a white horse. I'll let the youngsters dive head-first into danger and do all the dirty work, and then I'll take my rightful place as leader of this country without any risk.

During the bolded part of his speech above, a lamp is shown with a few insects—which appear to be moths—hovering around it. One unfortunate insect flies into the lamp and is burned to death.

An unfortunate moth is cooked to death

This seems like an odd thing to show during such a speech, which leads me to believe it might have a deeper meaning. Does this lamp scenario or the moth's death symbolize anything?

2 Answers 2


I believe this refers to the saying "like a moth to a flame".

The saying indicates that something/someone is irresistibly attractive (not necessarily as in human attraction), but that it will ultimately lead to downfall. Remember, at the end, the flame engulfs the moth, and it dies.

So, Bradley and Mustang are fighting for peace/freedom/a good future. They themselves believe that they cannot stay away from the fight, as it must be done in order to achieve their goals. Yet still, the path they take is being predicted and taken advantage of, which, in the eyes of Grumman, will lead to their downfall.

So, the metaphor with the moth is used in a perfectly valid manner.


I don't know if this story was the basis of the appearance of the moth but I know a story about it from our country Philippines. I don't know if this story is already known around the world but it was a story told by the mother of our national hero Jose Rizal.

It was Jose Rizal's Mother who told him about the story of the moth. One night, her mother noticed that Rizal was not paying anymore attention to what she is saying. As she was staring at Rizal, he then was staring at the moth flying around the lamp. She then told Rizal about the story related to it.

There was a Mother and son Moth flying around the light of a candle. The Mother moth told her son not to go near the light because that was a fire and it could kill him easily. The son agreed. But he thought to himself that his mother was selfish because she doesn't want him to experience the kind of warmth that the light had given her. Then the son moth flew nearer. Soon, the wind blew the light of the candle and it reached the wings of the son moth and he died.

Rizal's mother told him that if the son moth only listened to what his Mother said, then he wouldn't be killed by that fire. (source)

The relevance I can see between the quote and the symbolism of the moth is (if this story was really the basis of the symbolism), probably, Grumman was comparing himself to the mother moth and the soldiers to the son moth who didn't listen to him so they'll be like that moth who'll burn themselves.

Note: This is purely based on my opinion.

  • Well, but them diving into the "lamp" first doesn't mean he'll succeed to do so later on. I guess that makes sense though :) Jun 3, 2013 at 15:33
  • @MadaraUchiha, an upvote then? ;P
    – xjshiya
    Jun 4, 2013 at 3:15

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