Travel back to a land at the intersection of folklore and religion. The 23 authentic Jewish fairy tales in this book, brought together from the Talmud and other ancient sources, including the Jewish Chap Book, the Midrash Rabbah, Beth Hammidrash, Tanhuma, and Rabbi Eliezer, will surround you with angels, demons, goblins and an amazing assortment of Old Testament prophets and sages. In several of these stories, the prophet Elijah — "always at hand to comfort the sorrowful, cheer the despondent, and help those in distress" — assumes a role similar to that of a fairy godmother, creating miracles that change people's lives.
In "The Magic Apples," Elijah provides some anti-leprosy medication that helps a young man gain a fortune and win the hand of his beautiful cousin. In "The Goblin and the Princess," an obliging little ogre helps two wise men convince the Roman emperor to let the Jews continue to observe the Sabbath and their holy laws. Fate intervenes in "The Princess and the Beggar" when a lovely young princess is forced by her father to live in isolation. The greedy king of "The Demon's Marriage" is tricked into wedding his daughter to the Son of Satan. And in "The Magic Leaf," a holy man is punished for meddling with mysteries of life and death.
These and 18 other entertaining and instructive stories from Jewish legend and lore are sure to enthrall a new generation of fairy tale enthusiasts.
Read an Excerpt
Jewish Fairy Tales
By Gerald Friedlander, SUSAN L. RATTINER, Sheilah Beckett
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1997 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Chanina and the Angels
WHILST THE Temple was still standing it was the custom of all the Jews to bring their sacrifices and gifts to Jerusalem. Rich and poor vied with one another in bringing offerings to the Holy House of God. Now there was a very poor man named Chanina who lived far away from the Holy City. In his own town he saw his fellow townsmen preparing themselves for their pilgrimage to Zion where the Temple was. Each one had an offering or present and he alone had nothing. He asked himself: "What can I find worthy of God's acceptance?"
He looked around in his humble home, but he could not find anything of value.
"All my neighbors," said he to himself, "will set out next week for Jerusalem taking their offerings with them and I, alas! will appear before the Lord empty-handed. This will not do, it must not be."
He then betook himself to the stone quarries near the town where he lived. He gazed around and saw a huge block of marble which had been placed on the rubbish heap, because its surface was too rough for polishing. He resolved to make its surface smooth, be the trouble never so great. From sunrise till sunset he worked. At last his patience and labor were rewarded. The surface of the stone became smooth and fit for polishing.
When this task was accomplished, Chanina rejoiced greatly.
"Now," he exclaimed, "this shall be my gift to God's Temple. The difficulty which now confronts me is, How am I to get this beautiful block to Jerusalem? I vow to give it to God's service and it must be taken to the Temple."
He returned to his town to look for carriers. He found a dozen men who could easily transport it. He asked them whether they would take the marble to the Holy City. They replied,—
"We will do what you want, if you pay us."
"Tell me, good friends, how much do you want?"
"One hundred golden coins."
"Where can I find such an immense sum of money? See," cried he, "this is all I possess; let me count. One, two, three, four, five pence. This is my total fortune. If you will trust me and should kind Providence help me to earn money, I will gladly pay you all you demand. Now you are going to Jerusalem for the Festival and you might at the same time transport this marble, which I have vowed to give to the Sanctuary."
They laughed at him, as though he were joking, and went their way, leaving him alone. After a while he saw an old man coming along. When they met, the stranger greeted him and said,—
"What a fine block of marble! Do you know to whom it belongs?"
"I found it here some days ago cast on the rubbish heap. I have polished its surface and I have vowed to give it to the Temple."
"You have done well, my son. How will you have it removed to the Holy City?"
"That is just the difficulty which is troubling me at the present moment."
"Well, perhaps I can help you. I have five servants yonder. If you will lend a hand, I think we can transport it."
"Most gladly will I do as you say, and in addition I will pay you five pence, all I possess at present."
"So be it."
At that moment five tall men came forward and at once placed their hands on the marble. As in a blinding storm they rushed along, carried by the huge block, and before many seconds had passed Chanina found himself beside the marble in the Temple Court. He rubbed his eyes, for he thought that he was dreaming, but when he saw the priests and the Levites coming towards him he knew that he was wide awake.
"The Lord be with thee, O Chanina," they cried.
"May the Lord bless you!" he answered.
He then turned round to look for the old man and his five men, but they had vanished. He wanted to give them the five pence which he had promised to pay. He then asked the priests to accept the marble as his gift for the coming festival, and he also handed to them the five pence, asking them to distribute the money to the poor. With great joy in his heart he thanked God for the miracle which had befallen him. He said to himself,—
"I believe the old man was Elijah the prophet, and the five men with him were ministering angels. The wonders of the Lord never cease."
Chanina felt his coat pressing rather heavily on his shoulders. He put his hands into his pockets, and he was amazed to find them full of golden coins. He rejoiced at this fresh token of Heaven's favor, and when he returned home he had sufficient money to spend his days in comfort.CHAPTER 2
The Demon's Marriage
LONG, LONG ago, in quite the olden time, there lived a King who had an only daughter. The monarch was very wealthy and he was exceedingly proud of being so rich. To be sure, he had much more money than he deserved to have. He thought more about money than about anything else. He was also haughty because he wore a crown. He listened to silly people who told him that his blood was blue, because he was a King. "Like father, like child," says an old proverb, and the Princess was also very proud. She loved money, and thought herself better than everybody else.
When a poor noble Prince came to woo her, she would refuse to listen to his heart's cry; telling him that his rank was not good enough, or that his money was far too little for her ideas. In fact, she thought that money was the only thing worth having in life. Her father, instead of rebuking her and correcting her, encouraged her to look for rank and wealth as the first qualifications in any suitor. In fact, he used to say that he would never allow her to marry any one unless he happened to be a Prince who had as much money as he had.
Many suitors came to win her hand, but she rejected them. Some of these men were noble and good men; their only fault was their poverty. One day when she was celebrating her twenty-third birthday her father said to her,—
"I do wish, dear daughter, that Princes who are beggars would keep away from our court."
"To be sure, dear father, I quite agree. I have no patience with poor people who think of marrying me for the sake of my wealth."
Not long after this conversation there appeared in the courtyard of the palace a handsome young fellow dressed like a Prince in silk and velvet. His sword was of gold, and he had diamonds in the buckles of his shoes. He knocked at the palace door and when it was opened he asked to see the King. He was admitted and conducted at once to the royal presence. He advanced towards the throne whereon the King sat, and, after bowing in a very stately fashion, exclaimed,—
"May your gracious Majesty live long and live well! I am a Prince with very blue blood; my pedigree is unparalleled, I can assure you. I have come to ask your Majesty's permission to woo your lovely daughter. I am longing to see her, for I hear that she is the most beautiful Princess in all the world. The fame of her beauty has reached my father's realm, and I now ask you to allow me to see her."
"Well, noble Prince, I think I can allow you to see her. Like all wise Princesses, she has made up her mind to be uninfluenced in her love affairs. I cannot help you. What I will do, however, is to second your efforts, if my daughter seems favorably disposed towards you."
He then ordered his chamberlain to request the Princess to come to the throne-room.
"Tell her royal highness," he added, "that a most noble Prince is being received in audience and desires to make her royal highness' acquaintance."
After a few minutes' interval, the Princess entered the throne-room and sat on a chair of state beside her father. She looked very beautiful and her court jewels added to her adornment.
"Permit me to greet your royal highness," said the visitor, "and will you favor me by accepting this small gift which I have brought from my royal father."
He then gave her a gold casket full of brilliants and pearls. There were rings and bracelets set with glistening diamonds and rubies. She gazed for some time at the wonderful sight, and when she had feasted her eyes sufficiently she cried aloud,—
"Look, father dear! See what a wonderful gift this charming Prince has brought me. Never before did I receive such a lovely present. I cannot find words to thank the Prince."
"Truly wonderful and right royal is the gift," said the King, and turning to his daughter he said: "Now leave us."
"Now may I speak?" said the Prince with a smile on his face. "I have come to win the hand and heart of your lovely daughter. I am indeed so much in love with her that I venture to ask you to consent to my endeavor to win her love. I know you will not allow her to wed a poor Prince. I feel sure that I can satisfy you that I am not only as wealthy as your Majesty, but I can claim to possess more money than can be found in your kingdom. I am, of course, of noble descent as I have already mentioned. My father rules a great kingdom and I am the heir-apparent."
"By all appearances," observed the King, "your royal highness seems to be a very wealthy and noble Prince. I must confess that I have been agreeably surprised by your kindness in giving my daughter such a magnificent present."
"Oh, your Majesty!" said the Prince, "pray do not mention this again. It was a mere bagatelle compared with the jewels I have with me here in my apartments. If your Majesty will honor me by accompanying me to my rooms I will be able to show your Majesty a small portion of my wealth. I do not like to boast, but I must tell you that I have with me antique and precious gems of greater value than all the crown jewels of your Majesty. Such things as I possess your Majesty has never seen. All this is as nothing compared with the wealth in my castles and palace at home. All this fortune awaits my future wife. I hope it will be your daughter. Have I your consent?"
"What is the name of your father's kingdom, and what is your own name?"
"I am called Prince Daring and my father's realm is called the Kingdom of Delight; it is situated far away beyond the hills, across the sea. Probably in such a small kingdom as this your Majesty has never heard of this realm. Do not your subjects say, 'The proof of the pudding is in the eating'? Here I am, at all events, and you can judge what sort of Prince I am. Your own eyes shall have abundant proof as to my enormous wealth. I imagine your experience tells you that you can recognize in me the exterior of a Prince the like of whom you have rarely seen at your court. Kindly tell me now whether I am acceptable to your Majesty as a future son-in-law."
"I will give my decision when I have seen your treasures."
"Will your Majesty accompany me now to my rooms?"
"We will go at once."
The King went with the Prince to his lodging, which was in one of the best hotels in the city. The King was astounded to see in one of the rooms more gold, silver, jewels, and precious material than he had ever seen in all his life.
"Well, I never," observed the King, "expected to see such wealth and treasure; you must be a hundred times richer than I am. Of course you have my consent to wed my sweet daughter. I am sure you will make a very good son-in-law."
They then returned to the palace. The King sent for the Princess and told her that he quite approved of the Prince as her future husband. The Princess with a blush on her face said,—
"I am quite happy to be the bride of such a noble Prince whose wealth will enable us to be happy and to enjoy life in a manner becoming our rank."
"Of that there can be no doubt," said the King.
"Yes, you shall have as much money as you want, sweet Princess," said the Prince.
"I shall realize my dream of having heaps and heaps of money, amusement will make me so happy," said the Princess with joy in her eyes.
The Prince then placed a lovely diamond engagement ring on the finger of the Princess, saying: "With this ring do I betroth thee unto me." He then kissed her. But she seemed to be chilled by his cold lips and she trembled for a second. Her father wished her joy and kissed her. The King summoned his courtiers and told of his daughter's engagement. The happy bridal couple received the congratulations of the entire court. Heralds were sent to all parts of the kingdom to proclaim the good news. The people rejoiced when they heard that the Princess had at last found a husband.
Elaborate preparations for the royal wedding were at once taken in hand. The marriage was fixed to take place in a week's time. All the nobles and the rich merchants were invited to witness the function and to attend the State ball which was to follow the happy event. The banquet after the marriage ceremony was truly royal. The best of everything was provided in abundance. The choicest wines were taken from the royal cellars. The King determined to make an effort in order to impress his rich son-in-law. He spared no expense to provide a magnificent feast, and he succeeded so well that all his guests were surprised and delighted.
After the first week of their married life, the Prince came to his father-in-law and said,—
"Beloved father of my wife! I crave your Majesty's permission to return to my own land and home with my dear wife. I promised my good father that I should not be absent from his court for more than twenty days. I have spent fourteen days here as your guest and I took three days to come here and I need three days for the return journey. My time is now up. I dare not disappoint the King my father lest he be angry with me and your daughter. It would never do for my sweet wife to meet her father-in-law in one of his dreadful tempers. He is liable to fits of wicked temper, and if I am not greatly mistaken most monarchs are subject to the same trouble."
"Yes, yes," cried the King somewhat testily. "I am also in a temper occasionally and I shall soon fly into a very bad one if you talk about going away so suddenly. This unexpected news has quite upset me—dear me! This is too bad. Just stay one more day to please me. If you hurry away so suddenly the courtiers will think that we have had a quarrel or that something is wrong."
"Your Majesty surely knows by now that I would most gladly do anything to give you pleasure, but I cannot disobey my father. I must therefore say 'Good-by' now, and I once again thank you for giving me your beautiful and sweet daughter. I will take every care of her and you will hear from us in due course."
The King saw that the Prince was determined to depart. He therefore gave his consent with the best grace he could command. He gave orders for a large retinue to accompany the Princess and her husband. He told his daughter that she might take with her his court harpist and retain him as one of her attendants in her new home. Prior to his departure the Prince gave beautiful presents to all the court officials and also a large box of jewels to the King. At last the bride and bridegroom left the palace. The King stood on the balcony and waved his hand to his daughter. Every mark of honor was naturally shown to the Prince and Princess. Away the cortege went, many of the followers being afoot, the rest on horseback.
On the third day after their departure they saw in the distance a large and beautiful city. The Prince then turned to all who had followed him and said,—
"Yonder is the capital of my father's kingdom. I now wish to bid you all farewell. Return to your homes, as I do not wish to trouble you to accompany me any longer. I thank you for your courtesy in coming thus far. I appreciate your attention very much indeed."
The retinue heard these words in great surprise. They begged him to allow them to accompany him a little further.
"If we may not," said they, "come as far as the castle, let us at all events see you and our dear Princess enter the city gates. We will then return home."
"You will return now or not at all," cried the Prince with flashing eyes. "I almost feel inclined to enjoy the pleasure of doing a little evil to all of you. You are, one and all, in my power. You think that I am a Prince. I am nothing of the kind. You imagine that I am a human being. You are mightily mistaken."
"What are you then?" they cried in dismay.
"I am a demon in human shape. Were it not for the fact that you have been very courteous to me and the Princess my wife, I would not suffer you to return at all. I should keep you here in my kingdom as prisoners and slaves. I went to your lord the King to punish him for his abominable pride. He loves money more than anything else. Virtue, character and true nobility do not count in his eyes. He prefers appearances to reality—and for once in his life he has got his preference. Your King asked me my name: go and tell him that I am the son of Satan. You will not easily forget it once you have heard it. I know that my personality usually makes a great impression. I think your King and master will remember me all the days of his life. In giving the Princess to me he thought the lines of her life were being laid in pleasant places. But pleasant places are not to be bought with money. It is not all gold that glitters. The love of money is a terrible spell that casts misfortune and unhappiness upon all those who love it above all things. When people are ready to sell body and soul for gold and silver there is no hope for them. Your King has sold his daughter to the Devil and there is no hope for either of them."
When the Princess heard these terrible words she screamed in fright and fell to the earth in a dead faint. She was quickly raised up from the ground by the harpist, who was so sweet and gentle in all his ways. He led her to a tuft of grass where she could rest herself. The retainers stood still as though they were bewitched. At last one of them turned to the disguised demon and said,—
"What proof can you give us that what you say is the truth?"
"Proof, indeed!" cried he. "See!" He touched the ground with his golden sword and lo! a column of fire and smoke arose from the earth. "I will give you further proof," he added. "I now command all the jewels and gifts which I gave to the King and the officials on the day of my departure to change into tinsel and dross. You will see that this has happened when you reach the palace. Now tell me when will that be if you return at once?"
"Why, in three days, of course," said they. "Is to-day not the third day since we left the King?"
"Yes, that is correct, but you will not be able to reach your homes in three days. When I am with you the way is soon covered. As soon as you leave me it will take you three weeks to cover the same ground which took me but three days. If this should prove to be true, you need have no hesitation in telling your master all that you have seen and all that I have spoken. Now, good folk, begone! I am tired of talking and I want to take my wife to the castle without any further delay. Farewell."
Excerpted from Jewish Fairy Tales by Gerald Friedlander, SUSAN L. RATTINER, Sheilah Beckett. Copyright © 1997 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsI. The Magic Apples (from the Jewish Chap Book)
II. The Wise Merchant (from the Midrash Rabbah)
III. Heavenly Treasures (from the Talmud)
IV. King Solomon's Carpet (from Beth Hammidrash)
V. The Magic Lamp (from Shalsheleth Hakkabalah)
VI. Chanina and the Angels (from the Midrash Rabbah)
VII. The Wonderful Slave (from Beth Hammidrash)
VIII. "About Leviathan, King of the Fish (from the Jewish Chap Book)"
IX. The Demon's Marriage (from the Jewish Chap Book)
X. The Magic Leaf (from the Midrash Rabbah)
XI. The Prince and the Rabbi (from Shebet Jehudah)
XII. The Princess and the Beggar (from Tanchuma)
XIII. The Castle in the Air (from Achikar)
XIV. The Citizen of the World (from Rabbi Eliezer)
XV. The Snake's Thanks (from the Jewish Chap Book and Tanchuma)
XVI. The Rebellious Waters (from Rabbi Eliezer)
XVII. The Goblin and the Princess (from the Talmud)
XVIII. Iron and the Trees (from Genesis Rabbah)
XIX. David and the Insects (from the Alphabet of Ben Sira)
XX. The First Vineyard (from Tanchuma)
XXI. Abraham's Tree (from Jalkub Chadash)
XXII. "Joseph, the Sabbath Lover (from the Talmud)"
XXIII. The Magic Sword of Kenaz (from the Biblical Antiquities of Philo)