A golem (sometimes pronounced Goilem), in medieval folklore and from Jewish mythology is an animated being crafted from inanimate material. The name appears to derive from the word gelem, which means 'raw material'.

The earliest stories of golems date to early Judaism. They were a creation of those who were very holy and close to God. A very holy was one who strove to approach God, and in that pursuit would gain some of God's wisdom and power. One of these powers was the creation of life. No matter how holy a person got, however, the being they created would be but a shadow of one created by God. Early on the notion developed that the main disability of the golem was its inability to speak. Having a golem servant was seen as the ultimate symbol of wisdom and holiness, and there are many tales of golems connected to prominent rabbis throughout the Middle Ages.

Other attributes of the golem were gradually added over time. In many tales the Golem is inscribed with magic or religious words that keep it animated. Writing the name of God on its forehead, (or on a clay tablet under its tongue) or writing the word Emet ('truth' in the Hebrew language) on its forehead are examples of such words. By erasing the first letter in 'Emet' to form 'Met' ('death' in Hebrew) the golem can be destroyed.

Also today the existence of a golem is portrayed as a mixed blessing. Although not overly intelligent, a golem can be made to perform simple tasks over and over. The problem is one of control or getting it to stop. Golems are used today primarily in metaphor either as brainless lunks or as entities serving man under controlled conditions but enemies in others. Similarly, it is a Yiddish slang insult for someone who is clumsy or slow.

In the late nineteenth century the golem was adopted by mainstream European society. Most notably Gustav Meyrink's 1915 novel Der Golem based on the tales of the golem created by the 16th century rabbi Judah Low ben Bezalel of Prague. This book inspired a classic set of expressionistic silent movies, Paul Wegener's Golem series, of which especially Golem: How He Came Into the World (also released as The Golem, 1920, USA 1921) is famous.

These tales saw a dramatic change, and some would argue a Christianization, of the golem. Christianity, far more than Judaism, has long had a deep concern with humanity getting too close to God. The golem thus became a creation of overambitious and overreaching mystics, who would inevitably be punished for their blasphemy, very similar to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The Golem has also been considered by some to be an early android, further divorcing it from its roots.

The word golem is also used in the Bible (Psalms 139:16) and in Talmudic literature to refer to an embryonic or incomplete substance.

Some modern references to golems

  • Feet of Clay, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett features golems. One specific golem named Dorfl is adopted into regular chronology and appears in later works.
  • The play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) by Karel Capek features a modern version of the old legend.
  • Golems have been heavily referenced by role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, and have expanded the definition from clay and stone, to iron, wood, rope, straw, and flesh amongst other substances.
  • A famous story about a type of golem is Avram Davidson's "The Golem".
  • Trevor Pinch and Harry Collins published a critical science book called "The Golem: what you should know about science" and later one called "The Golem at large: what you should know about technology".
  • An episode of "The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest", a popular animated series, centres on a rock Golem that goes on a rampage in Prague.
  • An episode of "Gargoyles", a popular animated series, centers on a clay Golem that becomes possessed by a madman.
  • Golems feature prominently in China Miéville's novel Iron Council.
  • The Golem of Prague is an important element in the plot of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon.
  • The Dutch author Harry Mulisch incorporated the Golem legend in his De Procedure ("The Procedure").
  • Golem has been chosen as the name of an ambitious project on robot evolution (http://golem03.cs-i.brandeis.edu) at Brandeis University.
  • A recently released anime, RahXephon, features remotely controlled giant fighting creatures made of clay and referred to as Dolems. It's generally assumed that Dolem is Engrish for Golem.
  • Another contemporary anime, InuYasha, features frequent golem use by the character Naraku.
  • The DC Comics series The Monolith features a golem created to fight crime in Brooklyn.
  • Science fiction author Philip K. Dick's novel "The Cosmic Puppets" featues golems animated by mysterious children in isolated Millgate, Virginia.
  • The golem is featured in a 1997 episode of The X-Files, entitled Kaddish.
  • The Golem is a short story by Jorge Luis Borges collected in Dreamtigers. It is also a poem.
  • Munich University of Applied Sciences has developed an anthropomorphic robot named Golem of Munich, it was the first robot ever with RobotML communication.
  • A team of engineers called the Golem Group built a robot truck called "Golem 1" for the DARPA Grand Challenge.
  • A golem is a major boss enemy in the computer game Vampire: The Masquerade: Redemption.
  • Golems are depicted in the computer game MMORPG Runescape.
  • Multiple types of golems are in the computer game Nethack, and when they are defeated, they crumble into their source material; a stone golem into rocks, an iron golem into chains, etc.

A common mis-association

Gollum is additionally the name of a deformed, wretched creature in J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional Middle-earth; the name however is derived not from Golem, but rather from the throaty sound the character makes, beginning with a glottal stop (a throaty, almost swallowed "g").

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Jewish mythology

Stop! The neutrality of this article is disputed.

Jewish mythology is the body of mythology of the Jewish people and Judaism as understood by some people. There are serious diverging views on this subject. There is a need for some definitions because what some people refer to as "mythology", other groups of Jews call Mysticism.

Followers of Hasidic Judaism and large portions Sephardic Jews refer to the subjects of mythology as mysticism and consider it part of the authoritative Oral Law of the Torah given by God to Moses, the Jewish prophets and Jewish sages. They would find calling their beliefs "mythology" as offensive. On the other hand the rationalist skeptics cannot fathom how any group of intelligent people can believe such "legends", yet they are still curious about them so they call their field of study "mythology". There is no way to really bridge this divide at this time.

Even for those who are convinced that there is such a thing as Jewish mythology, agree that while Judaism has a large body of both "law" AND "lore" contained in Torah (the "Five Books of Moses") and the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, or "Old Testament") as interpreted by the Midrash, this is not usually considered mythology. (The Torah and Tanakh contain writings that often serve much the same function as the mythology of other religions, telling how the Earth began, what humans are supposed to do, and various historical and legendary tales, nonetheless.)

For those who look for the mythology in Judaism, they generally believe that they find it in the Talmud, Midrash literature and the later mystical works (e.g. Zohar). For them, examples of this type of mythology include the story of Lilith. However, to Orthodox Judaism's scholars of the esoteric and mysterious Kabbalah, the Zohar is one of the most Holy and Godly books, and these abstruse subjects are all legitimate sections of divine Torah within the domain of Jewish mysticism which is referred to in Hebrew as the Torah of Nistar ("The Hidden"), and so, the Lilith narrative is part of a serious spiritual interpretation of the inner meaning of the Adam and Eve and Creation narratives which are called Maaseh Breshit ("The Act of Creation") -- how God created the world ex nihilo ("out of nothingness") and the even deeper Maaseh Merkava ("The Act of the Chariot") -- meaning God's "role" in everything symbolized as "riding a chariot" through time and all the dimensions of existence.

The Jewish mythology school of thought include those who think that there are a number of stories and legends that are mythological but do not derive from sacred texts. To them for example, the concept of the golem (meaning a "dummy" or "robot", probably the source for the twisted stories of the "Frankenstein"), appears to have developed independently from Jewish religious literature and is only introduced around the 1600s. However, believers in Jewish mysticism cite examples where a golem is already mentioned much earlier in the Talmud and is in fact even given a name. The reason that the golem came to be known in the 1600s is that it was none other than the scholarly rabbinical mystic known as the Maharal of Prague Rabbi Judah Low ben Bezalel (1511-1609) who reputedly did build a golem, based on his deep knowledge of how to apply the Kabbalah and utilize the formulae of Maaseh Breshit, the "creative powers" linked to the mysteries of the first Creation. The Maharal (Rabbi Low) supposedly used his golem to fight threats against Jews due to blood libels, and when it could no longer serve its purpose he destroyed it using certain mystical incantations, and supposedly that golem is still "buried" in the main synagogue in Prague where this happened according to many people.

These tales are obviously way beyond normal rational thinking and modern western people cannot relate to such strange issues, therefore some dismiss all such "legends" or tales as mythology, whereas those who accept the importance of the same information yet put it into a different Torah believing category call it mysticism.

Terminology: Mythology versus mysticism

Whilst Jewish mythology is often a field of study for mostly secular scholars, Jewish mysticism is an inherent part of large parts of Sephardic Jews and of all Hasidic Judaism Jews as they follow the teachings of some of the greatest rabbis respected by ALL Jews. Thus, Sephardic Jews have incorporated readings from the main mystical text the Zohar into their prayers and rituals but they do view themselves as believers in mythology. All Hasidic Judaism Jews study mystical texts because the Baal Shem Tov, the father of Hasidism was a renowned mystic and Kabbalist, his ardent followers would never refer to him as a mythologist as to them he neither a teacher of myths nor teaching mythology. In Orthodox Judaism, for the most part, mysticism is part of Judaism whereas mythology is a pejorative term applied by critics of Judaism to denigrate what Orthodox Jews consider to be their faith's true teachings. Similarly, the famous Rabbi Joseph Karo, the author of the Shulkhan Arukh, which is the pillar of Jewish Law (known as halakha), was at the same time also a mystic, and he sought out the teachings of his favorite mystic of his time, Rabbi Isaac Luria. Neither of these great Jewish sages were considered to be devotees of mythology, on the contrary, they were classical rabbis who believed that Judaism incorporates within itself a whole strata of mysticism such as in the Kabbalah. Many Orthodox Jewish defenders of "mysticism" believe that Jewish mysticism has nothing to do with secular or non-religious notions of mythology. Judaism actually forbids belief in such things as Greek mythology, Roman mythology, and Norse mythology (the greatest and best known mythologies in the Western World). This prohibitive attitude is allegedly because of the mutiple deities of polytheistic religions, and what Jewish people, in general, consider to be the immoral behavior of so many of the mythological gods who Jews consider to be very far removed from the God that Jews have always worshipped, a worship rooted in the Torah and the Monotheism at its core defined by the Ten Commandments, which explicitly forbids recognizing the mythological gods. (Practicioners of Judeo-Paganism might beg to differ.) According to many observant Jews, Judaism embraces mysticism, (even though it may have its own debates about it), whereas Judaism rejects mythology of any kind.

See also

External links

Judah Loew ben Bezalel

(Redirected from Judah Low ben Bezalel)

Judah Low ben Bezalel (15251609) was a Jewish scholar and rabbi, most of his life in Prague. He is commonly referred to as the "Maharal [of Prague]" (Moreinu ha-Rav Loew, "Our Teacher and Rabbi Loew").

Within Judaism, he is known for this works on philosophy of religion and his supercommentary on Rashi's Torah commentary. Outside Judaism, he is best known for his Golem, which he created - according to the legend - to defend the Prague Ghetto from antisemitic attacks.

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Low was born in Prague to Rabbi Betzalel, whose family originated from the German town of Worms. He received his formal education in various yeshivot, rabbinical colleges.

Low was independently wealthy, probably as a result of his father's successful business enterprises. He accepted a rabbinical position in 1553 as "Landesrabbiner" of Moravia at Nikolsburg, directing community affairs but also determining which tractate of the Talmud was to be studied in the communities in that province. He also revised the community statutes on the election and taxation process. Although he retired from Moravia in 1588 at age 60, the communities still considered him an authority long after that.

One of his activities in Moravia was the rallying against slanderous slurs on legitimacy (Nadler) that were spread in the community against certain families and could ruin the finding of a marriage partner for the children of those families (shidduch). This phenomenon even affected his own family. He used one of the two yearly grand sermons (between Rosh ha-Shana and Yom Kippur 1583) to denounce the phenomenon.

He moved back to Prague in 1588, where he again accepted a rabinical position, replacing the retired Isaac Hayoth. He immediately reiterated his views on Nadler. On 23 February 1592, he had an audience with Emperor Rudolf II, which he attended together with his brother Sinai and his son-in-law Isaac Cohen; Prince Bertier was present with the emperor. The conversation seems to have been related to Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, a subject which held much fascination for the emperor.

In 1592, Low moved to Posen, where he had been elected as Chief Rabbi of Poland. In Posen he composed Netivoth Shalom and part of Derech Chaim (see below). Towards the end of his life he moved back to Prague, where he died in 1609. He is buried there.

His name

The name "Löw" or "Loew", derived from the German Löwe, "lion" (cf. the Yiddish Leib of the same origin), is a kinnuy or substitute name for the Hebrew Judah or Yehuda, as this name - as originally the tribe of Judah - is traditionally associated with a lion. In the Book of Genesis, the patriarch Jacob refers to his son Judah as a Gur Aryeh, a "Young Lion" (Genesis 49:9) when blessing him [1] (http://bible.ort.org/books/pentd2.asp?ACTION=displaypage&BOOK=1&CHAPTER=49). In Jewish naming tradition the Hebrew name and the substitute name are often combined as a pair, as in this case. The Maharal's classic work on the Rashi commentary of the Pentateuch is called the Gur Aryeh al HaTorah, in Hebrew: "Young Lion [commenting] upon the Torah". The Maharal's tomb in Prague is decorated with a heraldic shield with a lion with two intertwined tails, alluding both to his name and to Bohemia, the arms of which has a two-tailed lion.



It is unknown how many pupils the Maharal taught in Moravia, but the main students from the Prague period include Rabbis Yomtov Lipmann Heller and David Ganz. The former promoted his teacher's program of regular Mishnah study by the masses, and composed his Tosefoth Yom Tov (a Mishnah commentary) with this goal in mind. David Ganz died young, but produced the work Tzemach David, a work of Jewish and general history, as well as writing on astronomy; both the Marahal and Ganz were in contact with Tycho Brahe, the famous astronomer.

Jewish philosophy

In the words of a modern writer, the Maharal "prevented the Balkanization of Jewish thought". His systematic and analytical approach to Jewish philosophy has made his works to Jewish philosophy what the Shulkhan Arukh is for halakha.

His works inspired the Polish branch of hasidism, as well as a more recent wave of Torah scholars originating from Lithuania, most markedly Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler. A recent authority who has roots in both traditions is Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner. Rabbi Hutner, in turn, maintains that Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (Germany, 19th century) must have been influenced by the Maharal's ideas.

Judah Low was not a champion of the Kabalah, and none of his works is devoted to it. Nevertheless, Kabbalistic ideas permeate his writings in a rational and philosophic tone. His main Kabbalistic influences appear to have been the Zohar and Sefer Yetzirah, as Lurianistic Kabbalah had not by that time reached Europe.

Although he could not reconcile himself to the investigations of Azariah di Rossi, and understood all the utterances of the Aggadah (narrative, non-legal parts of the Talmud) literally, yet he was entirely in favor of scientific research in so far as the latter did not contradict divine revelation.


Main article: Golem

The legend of his creation of a golem inspired Gustav Meyrink's 1915 novel Der Golem. Various other books have been inspired by this legend, the authenticity of which has been doubted; although the Golem motif is old, the connection between the Golem on the one hand and the Maharal and Prague on the other is known only from ca 1840. Maharal is featured in the Dutch work "De Procedure" (The procedure) by Harry Mulisch (1999), which also deals with the Golem legend.


It is claimed in some circles of Orthodox Judaism that the Maharal's lineage is from the Davidic line running all the way back to the original Judah.

John Kerry may be a descendent of Rabbi Loew, though one historian who studied the connection says that he "can't precisely prove everything."


  • Gur Aryeh (Young Lion, see above), a supercommentary on Rashi's Pentateuch commentary.
  • Netivoth Olam (Pathways of the World), a work of ethics (33 chapters).
  • Tifereth Yisrael (The Splendour of Israel), philosophical exposition on the Torah, intended for the holiday of Shavuoth
  • Gevuroth Hashem (God's Mighty Acts), for the holiday of Pesach
  • Netzach Yisrael (The Saviour of Israel), on the Tisha B'Av (an annual day of mourning) and the deliverance
  • Ner Mitzvah (The Light of the Commandment), on Channukah
  • Ohr Chadash (A New Light), on Purim
  • Derech Chaim (Way of Life), a commentary on the Mishnah tractate Avoth
  • Be'er ha-Golah (Pit of the Diaspora), an apologetic work on the Talmud, mainly responding to interpretations by the Italian scholar Azariah di Rossi (min ha-Adumim)
  • Chiddushei Aggadoth (Novellae on the Narrative portions of the Talmud), discovered in the 20th century
  • Derashoth (collected speeches)
  • Divrei Negidim, a commentary on the Seder of Pesach, published by a descendant
  • Various other works, such as his responsa and works on the Sabbath and the holidays of Sukkot, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, have not been preserved.

His works on the holidays bear titles that were inspired by the Biblical verse in I Chronicles 29:10: "To you, God, is greatness, power, splendour and shining, as on all the Heavens and the Earth, to you, God is kingship, and greatness and primacy in all." The book of "greatness" (gedula) on the Sabbath was not preserved, but the book of "power" (gevurah) is Gevurath Hashem and the book of "splendour" (netzach) is "Netzach Yisrael."


  • Adlerstein Y. Be'er Hagolah: The Classic Defense of Rabbinic Judaism Through the Profundity of the Aggadah. New York, NY: Mesorah Publications. ISBN 1578194636.


Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus is a novel by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. First published on March 11, 1818 (but more often read in the revised and corrected third edition, published in 1831), it is an early example of science fiction and steampunk. Some (led by Brian Aldiss) claim that it is the first science fiction novel. The name Frankenstein is the former name of Ząbkowice Śląskie, a city in Silesia and the historical home of the Frankenstein family. One of the members of that family met with Mary Shelley during her European trip and obviously made a deep impression on the young writer, so she decided to name a character in her novel after him.

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The novel opens with Captain Walton in a ship sailing north of the Arctic Circle. Walton's ship becomes ice-bound, and as he contemplates his isolation and paralysis, he spots a figure traveling across the ice on a dog sledge. This is Victor Frankenstein's creature. The narrative of Walton is a frame narrative that allows for the story of Victor to be related. At the same time, Walton's predicament is symbolically appropriate for Victor's tale of displaced passion and brutalism.

Curious and intelligent from a young age, Victor leaves his beloved family in Geneva, Switzerland to study science in Germany. In a moment of inspiration, Victor discovers the means by which inanimate matter can be imbued with life. (When the book was written, science had a very imperfect understanding of the difference between living and dead matter.) With great drive and fervor, he sets about constructing a creature—intended as a companion, perhaps—from various materials, including cadavers.

He intended the creature to be beautiful, but when the creature awoke, he was disgusted. Its yellow eyes, rough stitching, large size—Victor found this revolting and although the creature expressed him no harm (in fact it grinned at him), Victor ran out of the room in terror whereupon the creature disappeared. Overwork caused Victor to take ill for several months. After recovering, he received a letter from home informing him of the murder of his youngest brother William. He departed for Switzerland at once. Near Geneva, Victor sees the creature and is convinced it killed William. Upon arriving home he finds Justine, the family's maid, framed for the murder. She is convicted and executed. To recover from the ordeal, Victor goes hiking into the mountains. He meets his creation atop a glacier.

The creature is strikingly eloquent, and describes his feelings first of confusion, then rejection and hate. He explains how he learnt how to talk by studying a family through a crack in the wall. He performs in secret many kind deeds for this family, but in the end, they drive him away when they see his appearance. He gets the same response from any human who sees him. The creature confesses that it was indeed he who killed William and framed Justine, and that he did so out of revenge. But now, the creature only wants one thing; he begs Victor to create a female companion for him.

At first, Victor agrees, but later, he tears up the half-made companion in disgust. In retribution, the creature kills Henry, Victor's best friend. On Victor's wedding night, the creature kills his wife. Victor now becomes the hunter: he pursues the creature into the arctic ice, though in vain—near exhaustion, he is stranded when an iceberg breaks away, carrying him out into the ocean. At that moment, Captain Walton's ship arrives and he is rescued.

Walton assumes the narration again, describing a temporary recovery in Victor's health, allowing him to relate his extraordinary story. However Victor's health soon fails, and he dies. Finally, the creature boards the ship and finds Victor dead, and greatly laments what he has done to his maker. He vows to commit suicide, and leaves.


During the snowy summer of 1816, the "Year Without A Summer," the world was locked in in a long cold volcanic winter responsible for the deaths of millions, caused by the eruption of Tambora in 1815. In this terrible year, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley visited Lord Byron in Switzerland. After reading an anthology of German ghost stories, Byron challenged the Shelleys and his personal physician John William Polidori to each compose a story of their own. Of the four, only Polidori completed a story. Mary conceived an idea, and this was the germ of Frankenstein.

It is worth noting that Byron managed to write a fragment based on the vampire legends he heard while travelling the Balkans. Polidori used this fragment to create the novel The Vampyre (1819), which is the origin of all subsequent vampire literature. Thus, the Frankenstein and vampire themes were created from that single circumstance.


The novel is subtitled "The Modern Prometheus," and this suggests the book's major inspiration. Byron was particularly attached to the play Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus, and Percy Shelley would soon write Prometheus Unbound. In addition, Shelley's portrayal of the monster owes much to the character of Satan in John Milton's Paradise Lost. This poem was one of the most popular among young poets of the time, and Shelley even allows the monster himself to read it.

Frankenstein is in some ways allegorical, and was conceived and written during an early phase of the Industrial Revolution, at a time of dramatic change. Behind Frankenstein's experiments is the search for ultimate power or godhood: what greater power could there be than the act of creation of life? Frankenstein and his utter disregard for the human and animal remains gathered in his pursuit of power can be taken as symbolic of the rampant forces of laissez-faire capitalism extant at the time and their basic disregard for human dignity. Moreover, the creation rebels against its creator: a clear message that irresponsible uses of technologies can have unconsidered consequences.

NB. In current usage, Frankenstein is often incorrectly used to refer to Frankenstein's monster rather than to its creator. An exception to this is the 2004 film, Van Helsing in which the character is referred to by the name Frankenstein. Normally, the character is referred to simply as The Monster, Frankenstein's Monster, or The Creature. Some recent versions of the story give him the name, Viktor after his creator.

The name was probably taken from the German name of a village called Frankenstein (nowadays Ząbkowice Śląskie (http://www.zabkowice.com.pl/) in Poland), where silver and gold used to be mined and tremendous killing reek was around due to chemicals used. According to another theory the name was taken from Castle Frankenstein near Darmstadt, where a notorious alchemist named Konrad Dippel made experiments with human bodies. On her journey to Switzerland Mary Shelley stayed nearby.

Victor Frankenstein studied in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt. The medical department was famous up to the year 1800 when it was closed. Also the secret society of the "Illuminati" was founded in Ingolstadt. Shelley's husband Percy was a member of this organisation.

Film adaptations

The first film of Frankenstein was made in 1910 and produced by Thomas Edison. The "classic" film, produced by Universal Pictures in 1931, stars Boris Karloff as the monster, and was directed by James Whale. The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. Its first sequel, Bride of Frankenstein (1935), was also directed by Whale and is considered by many to contain the most spectacular laboratory scene of any of the series. Son Of Frankenstein followed in 1939. Later efforts by Universal rapidly degenerated into farce, culminating in the outright comedy Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein.

The Universal films in which The Monster appears (and the actor who played him) are:

  1. Frankenstein (1931 - Boris Karloff)
  2. Bride of Frankenstein (1935 - Karloff)
  3. Son of Frankenstein (1939 - Karloff)
  4. Ghost of Frankenstein (1942 - Lon Chaney Jr.)
  5. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943 - Bela Lugosi with stuntman Eddie Parker in some scenes including a close-up)
  6. House of Frankenstein (1944 - Glenn Strange)
  7. House of Dracula (1945 - Strange)
  8. Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948 - Strange). This film is usually referred to as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein but the title given above is its official title according to the Internet Movie Database.
  9. Van Helsing (2004 - Shuler Hensley). This film was a reinvention and reinvigoration of the famous Universal stable of monsters of the 1930s and 1940s, but not a sequel to any of the above films.

Universal also aired a televison sitcom in the 1960s on CBS titled The Munsters with Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster, the Frankenstein-like monster who was the patriarch of his family of monsters including a Dracula-like grandfather, a vampire wife, and a werewolf son. The Munsters' home at 1313 Mockingbird Lane can still be seen on the Universal Studios' backlot tour at Universal Studios in Universal City, California.

In Great Britain, a long-running series by Hammer Films focused on the character of Dr. Frankenstein (usually played by Peter Cushing) rather than his monsters.

The Hammer Films series (and the actor playing The Monster) consisted of:

  1. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957 - Christopher Lee)
  2. The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958 - two Monsters: Michael Gwynn and Peter Cushing)
  3. The Evil of Frankenstein (1964 - Kiwi Kingston)
  4. Frankenstein Created Woman (1967 - Susan Denberg)
  5. Frankenstein Must be Destroyed (1969 - Freddie Jones)
  6. The Horror of Frankenstein (1970 - David Prowse)
  7. Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974 - Prowse)

Peter Cushing played Dr. Frankenstein in all of the above films except for Horror of Frankenstein in which the character was played by Ralph Bates. Cushing also played a Frankenstein creation in Revenge of Frankenstein. David Prowse played two different Monsters.

A notable recent adaptation is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), directed by Kenneth Branagh. The Universal version was itself reinterpreted in the 2004 Stephen Sommer film Van Helsing.

In the fall of 2004, two separate adaptations of the Frankenstein story were broadcast on American television, one on the Hallmark Entertainment Network and another which could possibly lead to a television series on the USA Network.

Depictions of The Monster have varied widely, from mindless killing machines (as in many of the Hammer films) to the depiction of The Monster as a noble and heroic creature (closest to the Shelley version in behavior) in the recent Van Helsing.

The films have been parodied, as in Mel Brooks' comedy Young Frankenstein (1974), which borrows heavily from the first three Universal Frankenstein films, including the use of Whale's original laboratory set pieces and the technical contributions of their original creator, Kenneth Strickfaden.

In the TV show Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Frankenstein's monster is a recurring character in the segment Frankenstein Wastes A Minute of Our Time. As played by Phil Hartman, The Monster was also a popular recurring comedic character on Saturday Night Live in the early 1990s.

2004 Television Adaptations

Other Adaptations

The story of Frankenstein, or to be precise, Frankenstein's Monster, has formed the basis of many original novels over the years, some of which were considered sequels to Shelley's original work, and some of which were based more upon the character as portrayed in the Universal films. The Monster has also been the subject of many comic book adaptations, ranging from the ridiculous (a 1960s series portraying The Monster as a superhero), to more straightforward interpretations of Shelley's work, such as the early 1970s Marvel Comics series, The Monster of Frankenstein, which started out as a faithful (in spirit at least) retelling of Shelley's tale, before transferring The Monster into the present day and pitting him against James Bond-inspired evil organizations.

Frankenstein's Monster also appears in the Konami Video Game series Castlevania, numerous times, with its name being "The Monster" or "The Creature", often as a Major Boss, but sometimes as a regular enemy.

External link

The Golem of Prague
    Nifluot Maharal

adapted from ("Miracles of the Maharal", 17th Century).

Rabbi Uehuda Loew, known to the pious as the Maharal, came to Prague from Nikolsburg, Posen, in the year 5332 of the Creation (1572 C.E.) in order to become rabbi of the community there. The whole world resounded with his fame because he was deeply learned in all branches of knowledge and knew many languages, Is it any wonder that he was revered by the wise men among the Gentiles*. Even King Rudolf of Bohemia esteemed him highly. Because of thses reasons the Maharal was able to wage war successfully against the enemies of Israel who tired to besmirch Jewish honour with their false blood accusations.
After much sad experience, in the course of which these frightful slanders were fully exposed in the brilliant light of truth, King Rudolf assured Rabbi Yehuda Loew that never again would he permit any blood accusations* to be charged against the Jews in his kingdom. When the Maharal first came to Prague the blood accusation was a very common occurence there and much innocent Jewish blood was spilled because of it. Immediately on his arrival, Rabbi Yehuda Loew announced that he would fight against this unholy calumny with all his power in order to silence his enemies of his people who so tirelesly plotted for its destruction.

One day, King Rudolf sent his carriage to fetch the Maharal for an audience with him. They talked together for a whole hour but what was said during their meeting nobody knows to this day.
The Maharal returned home in a gay mood. He told his intimates: "I have already half destroyed the filthy myth of the blood accusation! With G-d's help I hope soon to wash away entirely this hideous stain from our innocent people."
And the Maharal's hope was soon fulfilled. To his joy, and to the joy of all the Jews of Bohemia, the King issued ten days later announcing that no one, beside the particular individuals charged in a blood accusation, had to stand trial. Prior to that all the Jews were collectively charged with the alleged crime. Furthemore, that the individual accused could not be condemned unless there was positive prood of his guilt in the crime. The King also ordered that, during any trial on such a charge, the Rabbi of Prague had to be present. Nor could the verdict be valid unless the King himself countersigned the judge's sentence.
One would have thought that the King's decree would put an end to the shameless slander that the Jews had a custom which required them to use Christian blood in the baking of Passover matzot. But the enemies of Israel were endlessly resourceful that way. All that it required for a Christian who wish to destroy a Jew was stealthily to plant a dead child in his house and the hue and cry of the blood accusation was on again. Only in rare cases was it possible for the Jew to extricate himself from the fine meshes of the net his enemies entangled him in.
There was one man in the kingdom of Bohemia of whom the Maharal stood in great dread. This was the priest Thaddeus. He was not only an implacable enemy of the Jews but a clever sorcerer besides. He was determined to carry on a war to the death against the Maharal. The Maharal too girded himself for battle against this enemy.
One night, the Maharal called upon Heaven to answer him in a dream how best he could wage successful war against his enemy Thaddeus. And the answer came to him in the alphabetically arranged words of the *Cabala: "Create a Golem out of clay who will destroy all the enemies of Israel!"
The Maharal knew that in the Hebrew words of this formula there were stored enough mystical secrets by means of whose powers he could create a Golem. He then confided his secret to Isaac ben Shimshon ha-Cohen, his son-in -law, and to his principle disciple, Jacob ben Chayyim ha-Levi. He told them that he would require their help because they were born under the constellation of Fire and Water respectively; the Maharal himself was born under the constellation of Air. To the making of the Golem all the four elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth were necessary*. He then cautioned the two against revealing his plans to anyone and instructed them that, during the next seven days, they were to purify their bodies and souls with ablutions, fasting, prayer and austerities.
It was on the second day of the month of Adar in the year 5340 of Creation (1580 C.E.) that the momentous event took place. At four in the morning the three made their way out of the city to the Moldau. There, on the clay bank of the river, they moulded the figure of a man three ells in length. They fashioned for him hands and feet and a head, and drew his features in clear human relief.
Having done this, the three stationed themselves at the feet of the prostrate Golem. The Maharal then ordered Isaac ben Shimshon ha-Cohen to encircle the figure seven times from right to left. He also revealed to him the cabalistic incantations he was to pronounce while doing so.
No sooner had the Maharal's son-in-law completed his task when the Golem began to glow like fire. Then the Maharal asked Jacob ben Chayyim ha-Levi to do the same circling, but he instructed him to utter different cabalistic formulae and to encircle the figure from left to right. As soon as he was through, the fire in the Golem was quenched and a cloud of steam arose from its body. When it cleared, they saw that hair had grown from its head and that nails had appeared on its figures and toes.
Next, the Maharal himself began to circle around the Golem seven times. Then with one voice, all three recited the Scriptural passage from Genesis II,7: "And he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."*
Immediately, the Golem opened his eyes and looked at the three men wonderingly.
"Get up on your feet!" commanded the Maharal.
The Golem stood up and they dressed him in clothes they had brought with them, clothes they were fitting for a shammes in the House of Judgement. You must obey me no matter what I tell you to do, even should I ask you to jump into fire and water!
Although the Golem could not speak, for thenpower of speech is G-d's alone to give, he, nonetheless, understood what the Maharal said to him. He had a remarkable sense of hearing and could detect sounds from a very great distance.
To his two disciples the Maharal said that he had named the Golem Joseph beacuse he had implanted in him the spirit of Joseph Shida, he who was half-man and half-demon, and who had saved the sages of the Talmud from many trials and dangers.
When the Maharal came home he told his wife, Perele the Rebbitzen, pointing to the Golem, that he had met the poor unfortunate, plainly a mute idiot) on the street, and that he felt very sorry for him, and so he brought him home with him.
"He will serve me as shammes in the House of Judgement," he said.
At the same time the Maharal forbade anyone to give the Golem any menial tasks to perform for he had not created him for that.
and so the Golem sat always in a corner of the House of Judgement, with expressionless face cupped in his hands, just like a clay Golem who has no thought in his head. Becuase he behaved like a mute idiot, people began to call him derisively "Yossele Golem". Others called him "Dumb Yossele".*

The Golem in Literature, Film, and Stage
An article by Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 1985, 1992, 1994, 1996, 2002 by Mark R. Leeper
An Introduction

Back when I was ten or eleven years old I used to get monster movie bubble gum cards. They usually had familiar stills from monster movies. One, however, puzzled me a bit. It looked like a human-shaped furnace with glowing eyes and a disproportionately big fist. It was labeled simply "The Golem." There was no explanation as to what the Golem was. Since I usually recognized what was on these cards, I filed in the back of my mind that there is something called a "Golem" that I wanted to know more about. It didn't occur to me to look in a dictionary any more than it would to look up "Godzilla." Dictionaries never have the really interesting words!

Golem Trading Card

A month or so later my parents were going to a Yiddish play put on at the Jewish Community Center. It was called "The Golem," and was written by H. Leivick. Now I knew darn well that my mother did not go to plays about monsters that looked like human-shaped furnaces with glowing eyes and disproportionately big fists. She saw Bride of Frankenstein when she was growing up and decided on the spot that any story with a monster was stupid. It had to be just a co-incidence of name, right? Well, my parents came back from the play and told me I would have liked the story..."it was weird." It was about a rabbi who made a man out of clay. At this point I realized that the bubble gum card and the play were somehow related, and even more surprising, this monster was somehow a Jewish monster.

I did some research into golems and discovered that they are indeed creatures of Jewish folklore that have been the subject of monster movies. (Incidentally, there turned out to be one other traditional Jewish monster, a dybbuk. It is a possessing spirit, not too unlike the one in The Exorcist.)

There are apparently several golem stories in Jewish folklore, but I have found nothing but fleeting references to any golem legend other than "The Golem of Prague."

The story is set in Prague in the 16th Century. The Jewish community is threatened by blood-libels-claims that they were murdering Christian children and using their blood to make matzo. (Actually, Jewish law strictly forbids the consumption of any blood at all.) A Christian who murdered a child and planted it in a Jew's house could report the Jew. The Jew would be executed and his property would be split between the Christian who reported him and the government. Clearly the ghetto needed a very good watchman.

Rabbi Judah Loew used information from the Kabalah-the central book of Jewish mysticism-to learn the formula by which God first made man out of clay, and with the help of two other pious men built a man out of clay and brought him to life. The final step of this process was to place God's secret name on a parchment and place it in the forehead of the Golem.

Loew's Golem was between seven-and-a-half and nine feet tall and had tremendous strength, but had a very placid and passive disposition when not under orders to act otherwise. He also lacked the one faculty that only God can give, the power of speech. Because this giant was passive and mute, people in the ghetto assumed he was half-witted and the word "golem" has also come to mean "idiot."

One story about the early days of this Golem was probably inspired by "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." The Golem was told to fetch water, but was not told how much. The result was a minor flood. This tendency to do what he was told to do, not what he was expected to do, has endeared the golem story to computer people like Norbert Wiener. It may also be part of the basis of Asimov's robot stories.

At night the Golem guarded the ghetto, catching all would-be libelists red-handed. He single-handedly ended the possibility of successfully blood-libeling the Jewish community. Loew then got the Emperor to end the practice of letting blood-libelers profit from their actions. When the Golem was no longer needed, Loew removed the parchment, returning the Golem to being a statue, and the statue was laid to rest in the attic of the synagogue.

A popular variation on the story has the Golem rebel and become an uncontrolled monster before being stopped and returned to clay. It has been speculated that Mary Shelley patterned Frankenstein on this story.

The Golem has appeared several times on the screen, though only once in an English-language film. The first cinematic appearance was in Der Golem (1914) with Paul Wegener in the title role. The story deals with the modern discovery and re-animation of the Golem. This is apparently a lost film.  Wegener returned to the role in a second German film, also called Der Golem (1920). This film is loosely based on "The Golem of Prague." The Jews are portrayed as being weird magicians who live in a strange expressionistic ghetto. In fact, the early parts of the film seems to presage the anti-Semitism that was soon to engulf Germany. The images of the Jewish community are not all that different looking than those of propaganda films of the following years.

golem2 golem3 golem4

One of the most interesting touches of the film is the subplot of Prince Florian. The beautiful Prince Florian wants to save the rabbi's daughter from the destruction that is to come to the Jews. However, Florian is so unctuous and disgusting that when he is killed by the Golem, the viewer is more relieved than shocked, and perhaps that is just what was intended. In any case, the Golem is able to avert destruction of the Jewish community. Then the Golem's own love for the rabbi's daughter is denied and he becomes a dangerous monster only to be destroyed by a child's hand. The rabbi then praises God for twice saving the Jews of the ghetto.

Wegener may have also made a lesser known German film, The Golem and the Dancer, in 1917. The actual existence of this film has never been established. A French-Czech film called The Golem was made in 1935. Harry Baur starred in the story which was done much in the style of a Universal horror film. The story deals with another tyrannical attempt to destroy Jews. Through much of the film, the rediscovered Golem remains chained in a tyrant's dungeon. Just when things are at their blackest, the Golem comes to life and destroys everything, once again saving the Jews.

A number of Czech comedies have been about the Golem, including The Golem and the Emperor's Baker (1951). In this, the Golem ends up as an oven for the baker.

The only English-language Golem film I know of is a British cheapie called It! (1967) with Roddy McDowell. A psychotic museum curator who lives with the corpse of his mother acquires the Golem of Prague and uses it for his own purposes. In the end, the Golem survives a nuclear blast that kills his master and he quietly walks into the sea.

[See attachments for additional information on the Golem in plays and film.]

This article will cover all those books about the Golem that I wanted to read for years and never got around to. This article was a good excuse. So here goes.

The Golem by Gustav Meyrink
(Dover, 1976 (1928), $4.50)

This is not actually a tale of the supernatural, in spite of the title, though at time the strange things that happen border on the supernatural and the events are all overshadowed by the legend of the golem.

Athanasius Pernath is a Christian living in the Jewish quarter of Prague. He is interested in the golem legends, particularly the Golem of Prague, but as someone comments, everyone seems to be talking about the golem. Pernath's own personality seems to parallel that of the golem-he seems to have little will of his own other than that of altruism. Much of the book is really just observation of the inhabitants of the Ghetto until Pernath becomes embroiled in a crime that another has committed.

This is not light reading any more that Camus's Stranger is.

It has a plot but more important is the character's introspection, the truths the character is learning about himself and the characters around him. Time and again Pernath returns to the legend of the golem in his thoughts as his life patterns itself after the golem's.

He is used my many of the characters, some well-meaning but needing help, others selfish, and his wish to set things right is his only reward. In essence he is a human golem.

Meyrink found writing the novel almost as bewildering as it is for the reader to read it or the character to live it.

Somewhere towards the middle (Bleiler says in the introduction to the Dover edition), Meyrink lost track of the multiplicity of his characters and needed a friend to graph them out geometrically on a chess board before he could proceed.

The result is not one, but many stories intertwined, which adds to the difficulty in reading the novel, but also gives a number of views of the Jewish Ghetto in pre-World-War-II Prague.

This is not an entertaining novel, but it is worthwhile to read.

The Golem by H. Leivick
(in The Dybbuk and Other Great Yiddish Plays, Bantam, 1966, $1.25)

This is one of the most famous plays of Yiddish theater. H. Leivick (actually Leivick Halper) re-tells once again the story of the Golem of Prague, but in more obscure and symbolic terms. To be frank, the play probably requires a closer reading than I was willing to give it (if not actually seeing a production).

It is a long play, written in verse, that requires study and an investment of time rather than the quick reading I gave it, so these comments should be taken as first impressions.

Certain concessions had to be made to dramatic style.

The primary concession was that this Golem speaks. A mute character in a stage drama would be little more than a mime, and Leivick wanted to get into the character of the man-made man. That he certainly does, more successfully than any other version of the story I know of.

In spite of the Golem's stature, he is troubled and fearful. In following the rabbi's orders, he is usually as fearful as any normal human would be.

He is reluctant to go into dark caves at the rabbi's bidding.

He is stigmatized and lonely.

Much of what is happening in the play is going on on a symbolic and metaphysical plane.

Dark figures, never explained, appear and carry on abstract conversations. I think that the style of the play can be exemplified by stage directions like "the brightness of invisibility begins to glow around him." Even the stage directions are obscure! I will leave this play for others to interpret.

The Golem of Prague by Gershon Winkler
(Judaica Press, 1980, $9.95)

Winkler's book is in two parts: an introduction and the story itself. The story does not start until page 75, so the introduction is a major part of the book and deserves separate comment. Part of the reason is not what the introduction says about golems but because of what it says about Winkler.

In Winkler's description of his occupation, he says that he "teach[es] Torah weekly on Long Island, primarily to young Jewish adults with minimal Jewish knowledge and identity, and he has also been helping young Jews return from 'Hebrew-Christian' and Far Eastern movements."

He begins his introduction with an attack on what he calls "sciencism." The latter is apparently a belief, fostered by scientific reasoning, that leads one to be skeptical of the existence of God and miracles. As an example, he says, "For more than fifty years, the museum's exhibition of a stooped, ape-like man helped many people in our culture to overcome their guilt over the rejection of G-d and the idea of Creation... In 1958, the Congress of Zoology in London declared that the 'Neanderthal Man' was really nothing more than the remains of a modern-type man, affected by age and arthritis... Nevertheless, these scientific errors were never expressed to the subsequent generations of school children. Such a public revelation would have been outright 'heretical.' It would have destroyed the absolute authority of science and left humanity with no alternative explanation for the phenomenon of existence but G-d."

Winkler has a section on "Making Golems" in his introduction. He rambles for sixteen pages on a few Golem legends and references to the ineffable name of God. On the actual subject of the section, he has only the following helpful words to say: "It is not within the scope of this overview to discuss the mystical mechanics of The Book of Formation and how to use it to make golems. Readers are advised to study day-to-day Judaism first, before investigating its profound mystical dimensions. After many years of having mastered the down-to-earth aspects of the Torah, on both the practical and intellectual level, one can then examine books like Derech HaShem... which discusses the interactive relationships of the natural and supernatural, and the role of the Divine Names." If that was all he had to say on the subject, it is not clear why he tried to tantalize the reader by having an extensive section promising to tell more.

The introduction also includes a picture labeled "Monument to the Maharal's [Loew's] Golem standing at the entrance of the old Jewish sector of Prague." No further explanation is given. This would be an impressive sight if it were not obviously a picture of a knight in Teutonic armor. Anyone who recognizes German armor would not be taken in by this fraud perpetrated by a man trying to convince us of the superiority of his religious views.

In short, I am less than impressed with the introduction.

As Winkler gets into the main text of the story, he editorializes less but there is still a strong undercurrent of didactic lecturing in his writing. The story of the Golem of Prague is broken into short stories extolling the values of a good Jewish education and traditional Jewish values. The real common thread of these stories is Rabbi Judah Loevy (a.k.a. Loew). In many of the stories the Golem itself is the most minor of characters. The stories are really about the mystical wisdom and power of the rabbi.

In these stories we see no end of evils caused by not giving a Jew a proper Jewish education or by a young Jewish woman marrying a Christian. The vehemence with which the Christians want to convert Jews verges on the incredible. In one story, the Duke wants so much to win one Jewish woman to Christianity that he is willing to marry his only son to her. The two do indeed fall into love, but the bride-to-be decides she cannot betray her family. Eventually the two marry, but only after the Duke's son converts to Judaism.

In this version of the story, the Golem is much less monstrous and apparently indistinguishable from a flesh-and-blood human. Yet as the story requires, he seems to have strange magical powers. In one story he can see a soul hovering over a grave; in another he has an amulet of invisibility. The stories start to lose interest as the Golem has too many powers, all bestowed on him by Rabbi Loevy.

Oddly enough, the only character of real interest is the arch-villain Father Thaddeus. From "the green church," as it is called, he hatches plot after plot against the Jews. By turns he is charming and then vicious and ruthless-whatever is called for in his anti-Semitic plots. The depth of his hatred is never fully gauged by the reader until he cold-bloodedly murders a young (Christian) child in order to frame the Jews for ritual murder. After Thaddeus dies, the stories have a marked drop in quality. Rabbi Loevy himself is the paragon of Jewish learning and knowledge. In investigating crimes, his first question is always the one that leads to the solution. Paragons make very dull characters, and since his thought processes are arrived at only through religious knowledge far beyond that of the reader, he never becomes a comprehensible character.

Winkler clearly looses steam in his story-telling in the second half of his tale, but the first half is worth reading far more than the introduction or the second half.

The Sword of the Golem by Abraham Rothberg
(Bantam, 1970, $1.25)

Of the various re-tellings of the story of the Golem of Prague, this is certainly the most readable and the most enjoyable, though perhaps not the most faithful to its source material.

The Golem in this version is, for the first time, a believable three-dimensional character. He doesn't just walk, he talks, he feels, he loves, he hates, and if pushed far enough, he kills. Instead of being broken into short stories of threats against individuals in the Jewish community, this novel is one continual threat and eventually a riot against the Jews. The Golem in all this is not a protective angel sent by Rabbi Low (the spelling in this version) who is just an extension of the Rabbi. The Golem sympathizes with the Jewish community and considers himself to be Jewish, but he has free will and his own reasons for doing what he does.

Another reason this is the most enjoyable version is that for once even the anti-Jewish Christians are portrayed as more than just thugs. There is more than one debate between Rabbi Low and Brother Thaddeus, the chief instigator of the anti-Semitism. Of course, to the reader it is clear that Thaddeus loses the debate, but his reasons for what Thaddeus does come much clearer in any other version. One could almost stretch it to the point that Thaddeus is a sympathetic character. He at least believes that his hatred of the Jews is well-founded in Catholic doctrine and his arguments for anti-Semitism do come out of a twisted idealism, rather than just selfishness as other versions of the story indicate.

This 1970 novel is dedicated "most of all to the great Leivick, who breathed new life into the Golem's clay." But I feel I can recommend the book more highly than the play. In fact, this (which was the last major Golem work I read) is the most satisfying and the only one I recommend as a novel.

The Red Magician by Lisa Goldstein
(Pocket, 1983, $2.95)

Of late we have seen fantasy novels set in a number of historical cultures. It is a pleasant change from having them all set in Celtic Britain, Medieval Europe, or some never-never land. Classical China, for example, was used in Hughart's Bridge of Birds. Australian Aboriginal mythology is the basis of Patricia Wrightson's trilogy The Ice Is Coming, The Dark Bright Water, and The Journey Behind the Wind. Goldstein sets her story in the Jewish villages of Eastern Europe, just before, during, and after the Holocaust. The story is of a mystical rabbi who really can work miracles and of a traveling magician who has foreseen the future and arrives with warnings of what is to come. A conflict begins between the two that will go on for years. We see the story from the viewpoint of Kicsi, a young girl infatuated with Voros, the magician.

The Red Magician is too short and simple to be considered an adult fantasy, but it is more sophisticated than most juveniles. Goldstein has a feel for Jewish folklore and life in the Eastern European Jewish communities. The Red Magician is a fantasy that will be quickly forgotten. It will probably be read mostly by Jewish fantasy readers. (I think that Bridge of Birds will be read by a much higher proportion of non-Chinese.) It is a simple but well-written story that should not disappoint most of its readers. Rate it +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. Oh, and as for a golem, there is one but it is only a minor plot element.

The Tribe by Bari Wood
(Signet, 1984, $2.95)

This was the first that I read of the works reviewed here. It gave me the idea for this article. When I was growing up, I wanted to write a horror novel about a golem. I had a whole story plotted out, but it was never written. Now, unfortunately, Bari Wood has beaten me to the punch with The Tribe . Sadly, it turns out to be more a murder story than the real pull-out-all-the-stops horror story I had envisioned.

The story starts with the mystery of why one barracks of Jews at the Belzec concentration camp given very special treatment. They were not only left alive, but in addition, the SS gave them the best food available. They were eating canned sausage while the SS were eating garbage.

Flash forward to the present when five blacks who mug and murder the son of one of the survivors of that barracks are themselves brutally murdered. The story then tells in boring detail about the affair between the murdered Jew's widow and the black police inspector who was a close friend of her husband's father.

Any given paragraph by Wood is clearly written, but this story seems to jump back and forth in time with disconcerting rapidity. The legends that this story was built around have a much greater potential than this story would indicate. The whole story is preparation for the final few pages, when the characters finally get to confront the evil that until that point they had only heard about second-hand. Like too many contemporary horror novels, there is too much writing without enough worthwhile story. If you want to read a novel about the Golem, this is not the one to start with.


March 12 through March 22, 1992, at La Mama Theater in New York the play was Golem by Moni Ovadia. It was actually a production of Art Artificio, a theater company of Milan, Italy. The play had previously been performed in Milan and Berlin before coming for this two-week run in New York. Ovadia not only wrote the play, he stars in it. Somehow this is reminiscent of small-town theater companies. A small group of friends is responsible for everything you see or hear. The play also bears the credit "Dramaturgy and Mise-en-scene by Daniel Abbado and Moni Ovadia." No director is listed so I rather assume that directing is included in "dramaturgy."

As the play opens the stage is black. The house lights pick up a wisp of fog and from it comes a man dressed in the shabby clothing of an Eastern European Jew. He sees the audience, laughs, and identifies himself as the Wandering Jew. (Now this is a bit peculiar. The Golem is a figure from Jewish folklore, but the Wandering Jew does not really fit into Jewish folklore. He really is a Christian creation to explain away Jesus' claim that some of those who were hearing his words would still be around at the Second Coming. The Wandering Jew is the listener that will still be around at the next Coming, but that can only be true if he is nearly immortal.) The Wandering Jew starts talking to the audience about golem stories. A golem is a statue brought to life by mystical means. The Wandering Jew considers just about any story in which a non-living figure is brought to life. He includes Frankenstein , Rocky Horror, E.T. [sic], and The Terminator. He also includes what he considers the greatest of all golem stories... Pinocchio . (Well, this is an Italian theater troupe. To my mind it is a moot point if these are golem stories or not. My rule is if you don't know you are making a golem, you aren't.)

The Wandering Jew then proceeds to tell the story of the Golem of Prague. It would be. What other golem story does anybody tell? The story proceeds in three languages: English, Yiddish, and Hebrew. When the proceedings are not in English they are translated into English by a synagogue assistant who looks like a Yeshiva student who, in turn, looks like a pipe cleaner with a knot at the Adam's apple, his most prominent feature. He both interprets for the audience and takes part in the action. The story that is told is once again how the Golem is created and how it drives away the enemies from the ghetto. Then it starts killing children and has to be destroyed. Most of what the Golem does we are told about rather than seeing. We do see the Golem, but as a sort of mockup that cannot actually be made to walk. The Golem stands at the back of the stage through the whole play, but it is usually hidden by a translucent black screen. We can see the Golem only when he is lit. The appearance of the Golem is at once both accurate to the legends and more horrifying than he has ever been portrayed in films. He appears to be seven or eight feet tall with long arms. Somehow it may be reminiscent of the mutant from This Island Earth. The body looks almost like a rock pillar, but it also seems humanoid, albeit deformed. At the top is a head that looks like a skull, rendered very roughly in stone.

The stage design is equally strange. It is somewhere between expressionistic and Dali-esque. On the left there is one strange stairway that goes no place but tapers to a point. On the right there are a series of pointed and rounded arches that lead to another stairway. Taking part in the story as the people of the town, and also providing the music is a nine-piece Klezmer band playing a score by-who else?-Moni Ovadia.

Visually then the stage is very well rendered and give the play a dreamlike quality. The storytelling is the play's weakest aspect. The program provides a "guide" to explain what is happening. It should have been more obvious without benefit of the guide. There is, for example, a recreation of the Sorcerer's Apprentice story, but it is done is a sort of wordless dance not unlike ballet. Even knowing what the story was supposed to be, it was not clear what we were seeing. Still, with the Eastern European cast and the Klezmer music the play is thick with atmosphere. It was worth seeing.

Julien Duvivier's The Golem (1936)

To start with, what is a golem? It is a statue that has been brought to life by mystical means. The Bible claims that God created man by bringing the dust of the earth together and breathing life into it. Legend has it that God can be invoked to do it again by special Ceremonies, though the formula is imperfect and the resulting Artificial human will lack the power of speech. Frankenstein was inspired by golem legends. The most famous golem story is of the Golem of Prague, brought to life to protect the Jewish community. Films about golems are unusual though there had been two made in Germany previously starring Paul Wegener. One of them is a lost film, but the other is considered a classic. Since that film was made a tide of anti-Semitism had risen in Germany. In 1935 the Nuremberg Laws institutionalizing German state anti-Semitism. About the same time a film, a French and Czech co-production, was being made with veiled anti-German and not so veiled pro-Jewish sentiments, The Golem. The film has interest as a political document as well as a fantasy film. For many years this has been a rare film, but this year it is starting to become available on videotape.

The time is the 17th Century in Prague. Rabbi Loew, who created the Golem is dead, but Rudolf II is still emperor. The troubled Jewish community is now led by the young Rabbi Jacob, student and friend of the late Rabbi Loew. Rudolf's tolerance of the Jewish community has lasted about as long as the life of Loew. Now he is reinstituting persecution albeit warily. His dreams are still troubled with visitations of the Golem and he will not rest easy until he possesses it and is sure the Jews cannot reanimate it. He is willing to torture and kill to get his hands on the magical statue. All his attempts to confiscate it fail until one night it just appears in his palace, still stone-like and inanimate. With the Golem under his thumb, the Rudolf safely returns to persecution.

Except for the metaphor of its politics, and perhaps not even that at the time, this is not a film of extreme subtlety. The filmmakers were primarily interested in getting their idea across. The feeding of Jews to lions is probably anachronistic, but it is an image that the audiences could probably find meaningful. The writers obviously felt very strongly about the film's message and was neither shy nor particularly subtle about expressing that message. When somebody tries to warn the Jews "Your brothers are in the hands of murderers" it is clear that the message is meant for more than the characters in the film. When the Emperor calls himself a friend of Jews while torturing one the analogy may break down slightly-at least the Nazis admitted their motives toward the Jews-but still it is clear that it is another dig at the Third Reich. The burning of the Jewish ghetto also seems to be a very contemporary image in the film. The motto of the film, often repeated, is "revolt is the right of a slave." The French filmmakers do not say the French will come to the Jews' aid if they revolt, but it definitely affirms their right.

Julien Duvivier directed the film as a somewhat fancy costume drama, perhaps to attract a wider audience in the bleak days of the late thirties in Europe. In a golem film, of course one of the main considerations is the design of the Golem itself. Ferdinand Hart is perhaps one of the least imaginative visualizations. It looks more or less like a statue of a large bald man. The reasons for toning down the horrific aspect of the Golem are again likely to be political. If the film is supposed to instill a sense of solidarity with the Jews, it would not make sense to have them be the creators of monsters. The script then seems intentionally to build suspense about the appearance of the Golem. He is not shown on-screen until well into the plot and only at the end of a suspenseful sequence of a nighttime walk through the big empty palace. Disorientation and insecurity on the part of the emperor are often created with a tilted camera.

Harry Baur as the emperor is goggle-eyed and insecure. He was at the time a familiar actor, I believe. Charles Dorat as Rabbi Jacob is young and handsome but his performance is not particularly inspired. Finally there is Ferdinand Hart in the title role as the mystical statue. What can you say about a role that for most of the film requires you to stand absolutely still, then in the inevitable climax for this sort of film suddenly in the final reel turns into Machiste. The role requires more broad shoulders than depth.

I would say that the film is less a work of art and more a piece with some entertainment and an artifact of a dramatic period of history. Nevertheless, as someone with a particular interest in golem legends I am very pleased to see this particular film, usually only available at campus showings, now on videotape.

Vilna's Got a Golem

Power and the effects of power are the subject of Lou Jacob's allegorical Vilna's Got a Golem. The play takes place in 1899 with a troupe of Jewish actors putting on a play set in 1540 in which the Jews of Vilna build a golem. To the performance has come a government official from the Bureau of Jewish Affairs. Of course the official does not speak a word of Yiddish. This means that each chapter of the play has to be explained to the official. (Of course, this production of the play is in English, but it is clear which parts are supposed to be Yiddish, which Russian.) While the play is basically a fantasy in which the Jews of Vilna use a golem to avenge the bloody pogroms aimed at Jews, they must try to hide this from the official who could use the anti-Christian play as an excuse for murder. (A golem is an animated statue that is brought to life using the same formula God used to create Adam. The golem, however, has no soul and does what he is told like a robot. Through centuries of murderous anti-Jewish pogroms the Jews consoled themselves with stories of this somewhat monstrous protector.) Both the external and the internal plays start out as comedies, but slowly more interesting themes work their way into the plot.

In the internal play, which is the main focus of the first of two acts, the community of Vilna (today known as Vilnius, Lithuania) tries to lead happy lives but live in constant fear of the pogroms (bloody anti-Jewish riots that were very common through the 1800s). Two comic cobblers learn that the Cossacks are only twenty miles away and could easily again drop onto the Jewish community to rape and murder. Deciding that they need protection, they build a golem over the strenuous objections of their rabbi. But the comedy is put on hold while one of the cobblers, Zavel, gives a harrowing account of the murder of his pregnant wife. This is why he wants more than protection-he wants revenge. The depth of the hatred that some of the Jews feel for the non-Jews around them is dwarfed by the depravity of the treatment they have received at the hands of non-Jews. The golem is the perfect weapon. It is a Frankenstein-like monster that kills non-Jews without mercy, but will never harm a Jew. This raises the question of just who the golem, who is an instrument of God, thinks is a Jew and who is not, since there is some controversy on that issue. But more serious issues will arise.

The golem responds only to Zavel's commands and Zavel is eaten with hatred for the non-Jews who have persecuted him and his people, murdering his family. Soon he no longer cares if the non-Jews are guilty or not. The monster has become not the golem but the man who controls him. The persecuted and the persecutor have changed places. The young, drunk with the power of being on top, has stopped going to synagogue. And the Jewish community has exchanged one set of problems for another. Now they are riding the tiger. If they destroy the golem or even stop using it, they fall prey to the revenge of the non-Jews. If they continue to use it, they themselves are the oppressors. In the end the story is an allegory that is equally applicable to nuclear weapons and to the Middle East politics. Its conclusion is hopelessness: that there will always be oppressors and the oppressed. It is ironic that even a Jewish power fantasy is tinged with the question of whether it really is a good idea to be the powerful. Is the perpetrator or the victim actually better off? The play by Ernest Jaselovitz has deceptively single layers of meaning. Lou Jacob directed the production at the Harold Prince theater of the University of Pennsylvania. There the production is simple with two tall ladders flanking the stage, a small Aron Kodesh (an ark for Torah) on the stage (which doubles for the whole synagogue), and a klezmer band in the background. Of the various dramatic plays and movies I have seen on the subject of the golem, and by now I have seen many, this is probably the best.



Kay E. Vandergrift

Special Interest Page

Golem Page


In order to understand Golem by David Wisniewski it is useful to read some of the research and writings about this very old legend and the issues connected to it. The story has connections to Jewish mysticism while also possessing a long thread in fictional literature. The excerpts provided below help to frame your understanding of this legend and the additional readings serve to fill out any gaps remaining.


Cabala (Hebrew, "received tradition"), generically, Jewish mysticism in all its forms; specifically, the esoteric theosophy that crystallized in 13th-century Spain and Provence, France, around Sefer ha-zohar (The Book of Splendor), referred to as the Zohar, and generated all later mystical movements in Judaism. See Mysticism; Theosophy. The earliest known form of Jewish mysticism dates from the first centuries AD and is a variant on the prevailing Hellenistic astral mysticism, in which the adept, through meditation and the use of magic formulas, journeys ecstatically through and beyond the seven astral spheres. In the Jewish version, the adept seeks an ecstatic version of God's throne, the chariot (merkava) beheld by Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 1).

The Medieval Period

Medieval Spanish Cabala, the most important form of Jewish mysticism, is less concerned with ecstatic experience than with esoteric knowledge about the nature of the divine world and its hidden connections with the world of creation. Medieval Cabala is a theosophical system that draws on Neoplatonism and Gnosticism and is expressed in symbolic language. The system is most fully articulated in the Zohar, written between 1280 and 1286 by the Spanish Cabalist Moses de León, but attributed to the 2nd-century rabbi Simeon bar Yohai. The Zohar depicts the Godhead as a dynamic flow of force composed of numerous aspects. Above and beyond all human contemplation is God as he is in himself, the unknowable, immutable En Sof (Infinite). Other aspects or attributes, knowable through God's relation to the created world, emanate (see Emanation) from En Sof in a configuration of ten sefirot (realms or planes), through which the divine power further radiates to create the cosmos. Zoharic theosophy concentrates on the nature and interaction of the ten sefirot as symbols of the inner life and processes of the Godhead. Because the sefirot are also archetypes for everything in the world of creation, an understanding of their workings can illuminate the inner workings of the cosmos and of history. The Zohar thereby provides a cosmic-symbolic interpretation of Judaism and of the history of Israel in which the Torah and commandments, as well as Israel's life in exile, become symbols for events and processes in the inner life of God. Thus interpreted, the proper observance of the commandments assumes a cosmic significance.

From: Richard S. Sarason. "Cabala," Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia. Deluxe Edition. c. 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation, Disc 1.



In Jewish legend, an image or form that is given life through a magical formula. A golem frequently took the form of a robot, or automaton. In the Hebrew Bible (see Psalms 139:16) and in the Talmud, the term refers to an unformed substance. Its present meaning developed during the Middle Ages, when legends arose of wise men who could instill life in effigies by the use of a charm. The creatures were sometimes believed to offer special protection to Jews. The best-known of the golem stories concerned a Rabbi Löw of 16th-century Prague, who was said to have created a golem that he used as his servant.

From: Entry on "Golem" in Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia Deluxe Edition, c. 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation, Disc 1.



In the development of the later legend of the golem there are three outstanding points: (1) The legend is connected with earlier tales of the resurrection of the dead by putting the name of God in their mouths or on their arm, and by removing the parchment containing the name in reverse and thus causing their death. Such legends were widespread in Italy from the tenth century (in Megillar Ahima'az). (2) It is related to ideas current in non-Jewish circles concerning the creation of an alchemical man (the "homunculus" of Paracelsus). (3) The golem, who is the servant of his creator, developed dangerous natural powers; he grows from day to day, and in order to keep him from overpowering the members of the household he must be restored to his dust by removing or erasing the alef from his forehead. Here, the idea of the golem is joined by the new motive of the unrestrained power of the elements which can bring about destruction and havoc. Legends of this sort appeared first in connection with Elijah, rabbi of Chelm (d. 1583).

From: "Golem" entry in the Encyclopedia Judaica. Volume 7. Jerusalem, Israel: Keter Publishing House, 1971, pp. 754-755.



A variant of the Golem legend gives another explanation for the Maharal's [Rabbi Loew] decision to return the clay monster to the dust lie came from.[sic] Although the creature was mighty in strength, supernatural in prescience, and ever alert in following the orders of his Cabalistic creator, so that he saved the Jews of Prague from many a calamity, nonetheless, his creator decided to "unmake" him because he had grown afraid of the creature he had created, for the Golem, waxing drunk with the immense power he was wielding, menaced the entire Jewish community, even trying to bend the Maharal to his will, which had now turned evil and destructive. Thereupon, using the secret gematria of Cabalistic formulas for the second time, the Maharal returned the clay hulk of his creature to its original inanimate condition by withdrawing from its mouth the Shem, the life-creating, ineffable Name of God that he had placed there when first he made him.

From: "The Golem," in The Book of Jewish Knowledge. Nathan Ausubel. On The First Electronic Jewish Bookshelf, Scanrom Publishers, 1994,Cd-Rom.



The Legends concerning the golem, especially in their later forms, served as a favorite literary subject, at first in German literature-of both Jews and non-Jews-in the 19th century, and afterward in modern Hebrew and Yiddish literature. To the domain of belles lettres also belongs the book Nifla'ot Maharal im ha-Golem ("The Miraculous Deeds of Rabbi Loew with the Golem"; 1909), which was published by Judith Rosenberg as an early manuscript but actually was not written until after the blood libels of the 1890s. The connection between the golem and the struggle against ritual murder accusations is entirely a modern literary invention. In this literature questions are discussed which had no place in the popular legends (e.g., the golem's love for a woman), or symbolic interpretations of the meaning of the golem were raised (the unredeemed, unformed man; the Jewish people; the working class aspiring for its liberation).

Interest in the golem legend among writers, artists, and musicians became evident in the early 20th century. The golem was also invariably the benevolent robot of the later Prague tradition and captured the imagination of writers active in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and German. . . . The outstanding work about the golem was the novel entitled Der Golem (1915; Eng. 1928) by the Bavarian writer Gustav Meyrink (1868-1932), who spent many years in Prague. Meyrink's book, notable for its detailed description and nightmare atmosphere, was a terrifying allegory about man's reduction to an automaton by the pressures of modern society.

From: "Golem" entry in the Encyclopedia Judaica. Volume 7. Jerusalem, Israel: Keter Publishing House, 1971, pp. 754-755.

This dissertation examines the ways in which contemporary Jewish American authors rewrite traditional Jewish narratives to both reflect and revise current conceptions of the self and the Jew. Far from denying a connection to Jewish tradition, these authors instead shift the focus, articulating a Jewishness that has less to do with their conception of a specifically revealed will of God than with their desire to integrate inherited stories with those emerging from contemporary Jewish life. I argue that the texts being granted authority have changed, expanded to include narratives of collective memory that stand outside of the sacred canon but nevertheless retain both causal and normative roles in the construction of contemporary Jewish identity.

. . .

[Grauer] contends that by reworking the Jewish legend of the golem to allow for female creation, Cynthia Ozick (in "Puttermesser and Xanthippe") and Marge Piercy (in He, She and It) speak to perceived gender inequities within Judaism while still maintaining that traditional narratives can fruitfully inform contemporary female identity.

From: Grauer, Tresa Lynn. One and the Same Openness: Narrative and Tradition in Contemporary Jewish American Literature. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1995, abstract page.



This is a poster for Paul Wehener's lighthearted 1917 film, "The Golem and the Dancer"--an authentic myth that worked loose from its religious moorings to serve a variety of symbolic functions.

In an article by John Gross entitled "The Golem--As Medieval Hero, Frankenstein Monster and Proto-Computer," he reviews "Golem! Danger, Deliverance and Art," an exhibition at the Jewish Museum in April 1988 in New York City displaying memorable images of the German filmmaker Paul Wegener along with many others.


"Between 1914 and 1920 Wegener made three movies on the golem theme: first "The Golem," set in 29th century, then "The Golem and the Dancer," a lighthearted fantasy, and finally "The Golem: How He Came into the World," which goes back to the 16th century and the story of Rabbi Loew. Only the last of the three has survived. It can be seen on video at the Jewish Museum, and it makes an extremely pwerful impression. The golem, played by Wegener himself, is a complelling figure, with his stiff movements and squared-off haricut (remininscent, as Emily Bilski [curator of the exhibit] says, of figures in Egyptian art, though it also makes him look rather like a medieval serf.)"

. . .

"There are golems and golems. A third version, very different from eithr Wegener's or Steiner-Prag's can be found in a verse play, "The Golem," published in New York in 1921 by the Yiddish poet H. Leivick. According to Leivick's stage directions, he visualized the golem as a giant with a black curly beard, a dull stare and a fixed smile that was somehow on the verge of tears. (One of the artists who translated this conception into pictorical terms was the celebrated stage designer Boris Aronson; in the late 1920's he devised some striking sets and costumes for a production of the play that unfortunately never materialized.) For Levick, the golem was a false savior, who promised deliverance but deliverd violence: by the sound of it, the play is heavy with Jewish foreboding. And by the mid-1930's there was a sense of looming calamity in Czechoslovak portrayals of the golem, too--in the fine painting by the surrealist Frantisek Hudecek, for instance, which shows men (or androids) being hammered into life in some kind of infernal smithy."

From The New York Times, Sunday December 4, 1988, p.41.



Among the prime candidates for placement under the rubric of the folklore of evil, I would rank at or very near the top of the list the so-called blood libel legend. Other phrases designating this vicious legend include blood accusations and ritual murder (accusation). These terms are used almost interchangeably but there are several scholars who have sought to distinguish between ritual murder and blood libel, arguing that ritual murder refers to a sacrificial murder in general whereas the blood libel entails specific use of the blood of the victim. In the case of alleged Jewish ritual murder, the blood motivation is nearly always present which presumably accounts for the equally common occurrence of both ritual murder and blood libel as labels.

. . .

The blood libel legend is not only the basis of ongoing festivals, but it has also been memorialized in church decoration. Legends proclaiming the Jewish "ritual murder" of Christian children or the profanation or desecration of holy wafers are celebrated in various European towns in such artistic forms as tapestries or stained glass church windows. For example, there are such windows or pictures or tapestries ornamenting the choir of the Saint Michael-Saint Gudule Cathedral in Brussels, a ceiling fresco in the small Tyrol village of Judenstein, paintings in a church sanctuary in the Vienna suburb of Korneuberg, and a stained glass window in a Paris church chapel.

. . .

It would be one thing if this classic bit of anti-Semitic folklore existed only in ballad or legend form, but the sad truth is that what has been so often described in legend and literature is also alleged to have occurred in life. There have not been tens, but hundreds of actual cases of blood libel tried in various courts in various countries. The map of Western and Eastern Europe and the Near East is profusely dotted with sites where ritual murders were said to have occurred.

. . .

The sad truth about the blood libel legend is not so much that it was created-the need for such a psychological projection on the part of Christians is evident enough-but that it was believed to be true and accepted as such and that the lives of many individual Jews were adversely affected by some bloodthirsty Christians who believed or pretended to believe in the historicity of the blood libel legend.

From: Alan Dundes. "The Ritual Murder or Blood Libel Legend: A Study of Anti-Semitic Victimization through Projective Inversion," in The Blood Libel Legend: A Casebook in Anti-Semitic Folklore. Edited by Alan Dundes, pp. 337, 339, 341, 360.



Alexander, Tamar. "A Legend of the Blood Libel in Jerusalem: A Study of a Process of Folk-Tale Adaptation," International Folklore Review: Folklore Studies From Overseas. Volume 5 (1987):60-74.

Allison, Alida. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? The Golem as Family Member in Jewish Children's Literature," Lion and the Unicorn. Volume 14, No. 2 (December 1990): 92-97.

Anthony, Piers. Golem in the Gears. New York: Ballantine, 1986.

Bilski, Emily D. Golem! Danger, Deliverance, and Art. Foreword by Isaac Bashevis Singer; with essays by Moshe Idel and Elfi Ledig.New York: Jewish Museum, 1988.

Bloch, Hayim, The Golem; Legends of the Ghetto of Prague. Translated from the German by Harry Schneiderman. With prefatory note by Hans Ludwig Held. Blauvelt, NY: Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1972.

Borges, Jorge Luis. The Golem. New York: Grove Press, 1967.

Chabon, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. New York: Random House, 2000.

Dundes, Alan, Ed. The Blood Libel Legend: A Casebook in Anti-Semitic Folklore. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991.

Goldsmith, Arnold L. The Golem Remembered, 1909-1980: Variations of a Jewish Legend. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1981.

Goldsmith, Arnold. "Elie Wiesel, Rabbi Judah Lowe, and the Golem of Prague," Studies in American Jewish Literature. Volume 5 (1986):15-28.

Hamill, Pete. Snow in August: A Novel. Boston, MA: Little Brown, 1997.

Haraway, Donna. "A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology and Socialist Feminism in the 1980's" in Feminism/Postmodernism. Linda Nicholson, Ed., New York: Routledge, 1990, pp. 190-233.

Idel, Moshe. Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990.

Jacoby, Jay. Selected Resources for the Study of the Legends of the Golem and Lilith. [microform} Charlotte NC: J. Jacoby, 1984. [Nineteenth Annual Convention, Association of Jewish Libraries, June 24-27, 1984, Atlanta, Georgia.]

Jacoby, Jay. "The Golem in Jewish Literature," Judaica Librarianship. Volume 1, No. 2 (Spring 1984):100-04.

Krause, Maureen T., Ed. "Rabbi Loew and His Legacy: The Golem in Literature and Film." SERIES: Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts ; v. 7, nos. 2 and 3. Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University, 1996.

Meyrink, Gustav. The Golem. Translated by Mike Mitchell and with an introduction and chronology by Robert Irwin. Sawtry, Cambs: Dedalus ; Riverside, CA : Ariadne, 1995.

Piercy, Marge. He, She, and It. New York: Knopf, 1991.

Plank, Robert. "The Golem and the Robot." Literature and Psychology. vol. 15 (1965).

Posner, Marcia W. 'The Golem in Art: An Interview with Beverly Brodsky, Creator of Her Own Golem," Judaica Librarianship. Volume 1, No. 2 (Spring 1984):104-06.

Ripellino, Angelo Maria. Magic Prague. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994.

Rowen, Norma. "The Making of Frankenstein's Monster: Post-Golem, Pre-Robot," in Nicholas Ruddick, Ed. State of the Fantastic: Studies in the Theory and Practice of Fantastic Literature and Film, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992, pp.169-77.

Rubens, A. Alfred. A History of Jewish Costume. New York: Crown, 1973.

Schaffer, Carl. "Leivick's The Golem and the Golem Legend," in Patrick D. Murphy, Ed. Staging the Impossible: The Fantastic Mode in Modern Drama. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992, pp. 137-49.

Scholem, Gershom Gerhard. On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism. [Zur Kabbala und ihrer Symbolik.] Translated by Ralph Manheim ; Forward by Bernard McGinn. New York : Schocken Books, 1996.

Sherwin, Byron L. The Golem Legend: Origins and Implications. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1985.

Thieberger, Bedrich. The Great Rabbi Loew of Prague: His Life and Work and the Legend of the Golem. New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1955.

Teitelbaum, Richard. Golem. Sound Recording: An Interactive Opera. New York: Tzadik, 1995.

Trachtenberg, Joshua. Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion. New York: Atheneum, 1970.

Wechsberg, Joseph. New York: Macmillan, 1971.

Wiener, Norbert. God and Golem, Inc.: A Comment on Certain Points Where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion. Cambridge, MA: M I T Press, 1988.

Winkler, Gershon. The Golem of Prague: A New Adaptation of the Documented Stories of the Golem of Prague. Introductory Overview by Gershon Winkler. illustrated by Yochanan Jones. New York : Judaica Press, 1980.

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November 13, 104
Created June 2, 1997 and is continuously revised
SCILS, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

The Golem

By Joyce Ellen Weinstein
the Jewish Magazine Staff

The golem is a very popular figure in Jewish folklore and legend. The golem is a manlike creature that is created by use of mystical powers that are to be found in the Kabbalistic lore.

An original linoleum block by Joyce Ellen Weinstein

inspired by the golem of Prague
An original linoleum block by Joyce Ellen Weinstein
inspired by the golem of Prague

The history of the golem goes back in recorded history to the time of the Talmud, which mentions several instances of Rabbis creating a manlike creature and using him to conduct errands. The most famous golem is the golem of Rabbi Yehuda Leow, the famous Maharal of Prague, who created a golem and after using him to prevent a blood libel, hid him in the attic of the famed synagogue of Prague. Legend has it that the golem is still hidden somewhere in the synagogue which still stands, having escaped miraculously the destruction of the Nazis. A statue of the golem stands at the entrance to the former Jewish area in Prague.

The statue of the golem in Prague

The word golem comes from the Hebrew word gelem, meaning raw material. The golem is outwardly a real person, yet he lacks the human dimension of personality and intellect. Life is interjected into him through a mystical process using God's special name. He is created from the ground, as was the first man. When his mission is over, the name of God is removed from him and he returns to the ground.

Many trace the golem to the mystical teaching of the Kabbalistic book called "Sefer HaYetzera", the book of formation. This ancient book is still in print today and studied by Jewish mystics. The book deals in great length with the actual process of creating the universe. It is in part attributed to Adam, the first man, to Abraham, the first patriarch, and to Rabbi Akiva, the famous rabbi who lived approximately 2000 years ago.

The book describes various mystical elements of creation. Among them are the Hebrew words and letters. As one recalls, God created the world by uttering vocal commands. The Hebrew words that were uttered had a divine power that stemmed from the individual letters. These letters combined in their downward fall into the succeeding world of the material and solidified becoming objects.

The Hebrew Letter "Peh"
Indicating circular outward movement

As an example, the Hebrew letter, peh, is almost exclusively used to designate some sort of outward and opening movement. The peh is a mouth which obviously opens. The word for flower in Hebrew is parach, which opens as it blooms, has peh as its first letter. The word for fruit is parot, which swells as it grows on the tree. The word to explode is potzet, which is an obviously outward movement.

Although many have mastered the secrets of understanding creation as explained in the Sefer Yetzira, very few are able to actually put their knowledge of the secrets of the Hebrew language into practice. We find that only the very righteous are able to succeed in bringing the golem to life. This is due to the inability to actually bring the Godly powers into the gelem, the raw material. Permission is given only to those who use this power for proper purposes.

Many people today say that although we can not create a golem on the level of Rabbi Yehuda Leow of Prague, still we have succeeded in creating a different form of golem. Rabbi Leow took a blob of earth, gave it form and introduced into it vitality, but with out intellectual abilities. Many say that our educational system has duplicated Rabbi Leow's feat, by taking intelligent children and turning out blobs.

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