Golem as Jewish Legend and Literary Device: Background information when reading The English Monster

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The English Monster

or, The Melancholy Transactions of William Ablass

by Lloyd Shepherd

The English Monster
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  • Paperback:
    May 2012, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Beyond the Book:
Golem as Jewish Legend and Literary Device

Shepherd's English monster is a being that has no conscience, no soul. In Jewish lore such a creature is called a golem. It has the appearance of a man but is a nonhuman creation brought into being by magic. Both the concept and the word date back to the Old Testament and the Talmud (the book of Jewish law). The word is variously translated as "unformed," "imperfect" and "shapeless mass," and is often used to indicate a clumsy and brutish being. Before he was infused with a soul, the Talmud (Tractate Sanhedrin, Folio 38b) describes Adam as "kneaded into a shapeless husk" of dust - in essence, a golem.

illustration of a golem The idea of a golem, or a monster with superhuman strength that could be conjured and ordered to do one's bidding, has held certain appeal throughout history - in particular for Jews who saw such a creature as a defender against those who would persecute them. Thus in the Middle Ages when rumors held that Jews murdered Christian children, using their blood in Passover rituals, ...

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