The Official Collection of Fantastical Creature Information--Updated Randomly

For all your fantastical creature needs! This is the beginning of my encyclopedia, and I'm collecting as much information as I can on various fantasy creatures. Most of my stuff can be found on wikipedia. However, no source is perfect, so the stuff that is my input is often italicized. Help me by sending me more information at Questkid13@gmail.com

Side Note: There have been concerns about my using Wikipedia because it is not a reliable resource. I am well aware of wikipedia's unreliable nature--but that's exactly why I use it. Fantasy creatures are available to all, and everyone should have a chance to add their "discoveries." This website is supposed to be a fun collection of fantastical creature information with fun images to go with. I am not a reliable source--I'm just a collector. Though at this point, I am flattered that people are concerned with the validity of my site. :)

!!!!This is NOT a forum. Comments are to be informative and generally helpful. Clean humor is acceptable, but NOT if it detracts from the entry. This site is to help people find out more about fantastical creatures!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Golem


In Jewish Folklore, a golem (גולם, sometimes, as in Yiddish, pronounced goilem) is an animate being created entirely from inanimate matter. The name appears to derive from the word gelem (גלם), which means "raw material". Alternatively some sources indicate it is a corruption of the Hebrew go′al 'enu (גואלנו) our redeemer or our avenger.

History
Origins of the word
The word golem is used in the Bible to refer to an embryonic or incomplete substance. The Mishnah uses the term for an uncultivated person. Similarly, golems are often used today in metaphor either as brainless lunks or as entities serving man under controlled conditions but hostile to him in others. Similarly, it is a Yiddish slang insult for someone who is clumsy or slow.

Earliest stories
The earliest stories of golems date to early Judaism. Adam is described in the Talmud as initially created as a golem when his dust was "kneaded into a shapeless hunk". Like Adam, all golems are created from clay. They were a creation of those who were very holy and close to God. A very holy person 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 became, however, a being created by that person 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. In Sanhedrin 65b, is the description of Rava creating a man (gavra). He sent him to Rav Zeira; Rav Zeira spoke to him, but he did not answer. Said Rav Zeira, "You were created by the magicians; return to your dust."

Owning and activating golems
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 one of the names of God on its forehead, a slip of paper in its mouth, or inscribed on its body, or writing the word Emet (אמת, "truth" in the Hebrew language) on its forehead are examples of such words. By erasing the first letter aleph in Emet to form Met (מת, "dead" in Hebrew, when the aleph letter א is cancelled) the golem could be deactivated. Another way is by writing a specific incantation in the owner's blood on calfskin parchment, and placing it in the mouth. Removing the parchment will deactivate the golem. It is likely that this is the same incantation that the Rabbi recites in the classic narrative.

The classic narrative
Depending on the version of the legend, under Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor, the Jews in Prague were to be either expelled or killed. To protect the Jewish community the rabbi constructed the Golem out of clay from the banks of the Vltava river and brought it to life through rituals and Hebrew incantations. As this golem grew it became increasingly violent, killing gentiles and spreading fear. A different story tells of the Golem falling in love, and when rejected, he became the violent monster as seen in most accounts. Some versions have the Golem eventually turning on its creator and perhaps even attacking other Jews.

The Emperor begged Rabbi Loew to destroy the Golem, promising to stop the persecution of the Jews. To deactivate the Golem, the rabbi rubbed out the first letter of the word "emet" (truth or reality) from the creature's forehead leaving the Hebrew word "met", meaning death. The Emperor understood that the Golem's body, stored in the attic genizah of the Old New Synagogue, would be restored to life again if needed. Accordingly, the body of Rabbi Loew's golem still lies in the synagogue's attic, although some versions of the tale have the golem stolen from the genizah and entombed in a graveyard in Prague's Zizkov district where now the great Žižkovská tower stands.

The existence of a golem is sometimes a mixed blessing. Golems are not intelligent — if commanded to perform a task, they will take the instructions perfectly literally.
In some incarnations of the legend, the Maharal's Golem had superhuman powers to aid it in its tasks. These include invisibility, a heated touch, and the ability to use the Maharal's walking stick to summon spirits from the dead. This last power was often crucial, as the Golem could summon dead witnesses to testify in Prague courts.

In many depictions golems are inherently perfectly obedient. However, in its earliest known modern form the story has Rabbi Eliyahu of Chelm creating a golem that became enormous and uncooperative. In one version of this the rabbi had to resort to trickery to deactivate it, whereupon it crumbled upon its creator and crushed him.


A Special thanks to Wikipedia for the information and to RachelCurtis of Deviantart for this slightly stolen image :)

3 comments:

believer said...

Of course there is the alternative that the Golem of Prague had nothing to do with a fanastical creature and the legend was nothing more than a means to explain actual events to a frightened public. The death of the priest Taddeush and the nephew of Pope Sixtus V, the archbishop o Prague, both of whom were responsible for anti-Jewish pogroms in the city was more than coincidence. Singer based his book on the original legend as passed down by Katz who just happened to be the Maharal's son-in-law. Obvious distortions occurred as a result but more so out of necessity than by accident, especially if murder was involved. Yes, there was a banker involved, as was the mayor and several other prominent people. The Emperor did have reason to lay charges and historically, did take possession of the mayor's fortune after Meisel's death. These are all facts and the story as presented by Singer, although quaint and enchanting, does not provide the history behind the actual events. The crimes committed by the banker, the printing house and the Golem were more than legend but in actuality historical facts.
The reality was that in the year of 1588, the city of Prague was held in the grip of terror, victim to the murderous rampage of an inhuman monster created from the seeds of hatred and sown through religious intolerance and mortal greed. Therefore the legend of the Golem must be viewed from this perspective to appreciate it fully.
I highly recommend reading Shadows of Trinity released by Eloquent Books http://www.eloquentbooks.com/ShadowsOfTrinity.html in order to compare the legend against the historical documentation and recorded events. In this story, there is an exposure of those intentionally proclaimed as its heroes to be nothing more than the notorious villains who were prepared to destroy their own world.
Shadows of the Trinity, for the most part, is a non-fiction historical novel, revealing a series of strange and world-shattering events that occurred during the years 1588 and 1589 in Prague, the Bohemian capital of the Austro-Hungary Empire. It is a social commentary on why people believe that in order to achieve something good that they must commit evil to do so.

Ethenielle Teir'elenia said...

I'm fully aware of the boring alternative, thank you very much. The point is to put up stories and things where a golem DOES enter into our lives. The fablehaven series would be a better example. Or perhaps the Golem's eye, that one was good too. This is a blog about seeing beyond the boring history and enjoying the possibility of such creatures existing.

Andry Chang said...

i have a suggestion: i authorize you to use the term "monstropedia" for this blog, because like mine, you summarized the fantastic creatures from many sources and made them easy to find. it's been very useful for my project www.fireheart.tk, and keep on posting! my support always!
If you want me to post some more creatures info for you in this blog, please, do tell!