Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xii

This book discusses the folktales of a single ethnic group: Jews who trace their lineage to Spain. The distinction of the Judeo-Spanish group lies in its multicultural diversity. Over the hundreds of years that have passed since their expulsion in 1492 from their land of origin, the exiles have dispersed throughout the lands of the Ottoman Empire: Turkey, Greece...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiiii-xiv

This book was published in Hebrew in 1999 by Magnes Press and Ben-Gurion University. It won the Samuel Toledano Prize for the best book on Spanish Jewry in 2000. I thank the publishing house for allowing the English translation. Meanwhile, I published with the Yad Ben-Zvi Institute and Ben-Gurion University Press another extensive book,...

Part 1: The Characteristicsof Ethnic Identity

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1 Folk Literature as an Expression of Ethnic Identity

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pp. 3-23

Studies of the history, characteristics, and subject matter of folklore range from those that emphasize universalism to others that stress locality and matter unique to particular groups. Advocates of the former search for elements common to various cultures and determine the invariable principles of the folktale in particular and of folklore in general. Advocates of the...

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2 The Corpus of Tales

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pp. 24-44

This study is based on a corpus of some four thousand Sephardic folktales. These sources include collections of tales published in Israel in Hebrew and Ladino, the Sephardic tales in the Israel Folklore Archives (IFA), and folktales documented in my fieldwork. There is some overlap between these three sources, as the IFA houses most of my fieldwork and also contains some...

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3 The Correlation with Hebrew Sources

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pp. 45-69

Me'am Lo'ez is the most important literary work written in Ladino, mediating between written sources in Hebrew and Judeo-Spanish literature. It is an extensive interpretation of the Bible, compiled sequentially according to the order of the biblical verses. The commentary incorporates Midrash, halacha ( Jewish law), and legends from the Mishnaic period (circa 200 C.E.) until its own time, the eighteenth century, drawing on...

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4 The Connection to the Land of Origin

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pp. 70-94

Although more than five hundred years have passed since Spain’s expulsion of the Jews in 1492, the Sephardic community has to this day kept a historical, cultural, and emotional connection to the land of origin. According to the terminology proposed by Eric Cohen, this is a sentimental orientation that stems from an emotional feeling of belonging to the land of origin and from the prestige of the place.1 Jews of Spanish origin vie..

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5 The Linkage to the Surrounding Culture

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pp. 95-166

All Jewish ethnic groups share the link to Jewish culture and the Hebrew written canonical sources. All members of the Sephardi group share the link to Spain, of which one prominent characteristic is the preservation of the Judeo-Spanish language. This group, however, is particularly diverse, composed as it is of various subgroups according to the lands that absorbed the Spanish exiles. In each of the lands of the dispersion, a unique...

Part 2: Literary Genres

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6 The Legend

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pp. 169-256

The folk legend is a tale that is anchored in time and place and that revolves around a historical character or event.1 It usually departs from reality to include a description of a miracle that changes the order of nature. Another way of viewing the legend as a miracle entails examination of the interpretive level of the narrator or listener, who creates a link of miraculous cause and effect between the distinct events described in the...

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7 Ethical Tales

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pp. 257-332

Literary classification assigns ethical tales an intermediate position between legend and realistic folk narrative and novella. The characters who populate ethical tales are nameless and have no biographical existence in the real world. There are no markers of time and place. The characters are typical anonymous figures identified by class, occupation, age, or sex: “a story of a rabbi,” “a butcher,” “a young man,” or “a woman.” This kind of...

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8 The Fairy Tale

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pp. 333-393

Of all the literary genres, the fairy tale leans most toward the general and the universal.1 For instance, almost every culture has its parallel versions of the Cinderella story. However, the fairy tale as told among a given group undergoes a process of adaptation to that group. This process is not so well reflected in the structure of the tale as in the linguistic texture, the group norms underlying the story, and, especially, the context in which...

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9 The Novella

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pp. 394-426

In most novellas, destiny or luck drives the plot forward, in contrast to the fairy tale, in which it is the individual, be it a man in a hero tale or an active woman in a feminine tale who is the initiator. In the novella, individuals are pawns in the hands of fate; they cannot alter Heaven’s decrees though they struggle with all their might. The fairy tale teems with marvelous acts and supernatural forces that come to the aid of the protagonists. In the novella, although strange and unusual coincidences and adventures...

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10 The Humorous Tale

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pp. 427-466

Many scholars who treat Jewish humor have unjustifiably tended to view it as a phenomenon that developed in eastern Europe. Indeed, many studies of Jewish humor treat that of eastern European Jewry exclusively. 1 Yet, Jewish humor can be found in all the constituent groups of Jewish society. Each has its own unique characteristics, in accordance with the circumstances of the given sociocultural surroundings. Humor exists in every group that has a common denominator, be it profession, age, ethnicity...

Part 3: The Art of Storytelling

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11 The Performance Art of the Storyteller

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pp. 469-519

As noted in earlier chapters, the folktale is an oral text. When it is written down, the tale is necessarily an ex post facto product, often adapted, of a text that was spoken aloud by a folk storyteller at a particular time and place before a particular audience. The reciprocal relationship between all of these elements creates a unique presentation that folklorists of the contextual school call a “storytelling event.”1 The storytelling event is a structured activity organized according to relations of time...

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12 The Audience as a Factor in Shaping the Story

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pp. 520-549

In every telling of a tale, the presence of a particular audience and its reactions figure among the basic factors that shape the story’s message. First, the storyteller selects a story from his or her narrative repertoire to suit the audience. This selection is evident when the audience in question is homogenous, as in the case of an audience of children or a single-sex audience of men or women. One example of performance...

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13 Circumstances of Time and Place

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pp. 550-578

Scholars of written and folk literature have dealt at length with the complex subject of how the elements of time and space take shape in literary texts.1 In analyzing a performance event, our interest lies not only in dealing at length with the complex subject of how the elements of time and space take shape within the text but also in the influence of the factors of real time and space on the selection of the story and on the modes of...

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Epilogue: Gaps and Bridges between Researcher and Storyteller

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pp. 579-586

In this study, I focused on a single ethnic subset of Jewish culture, Jews who trace their origins to Spain.With respect to genres, I concentrated on one area alone: the various types and subtypes of folkstory, in an effort to ascertain the unique cultural quality of the group, as reflected in the art of the story and its telling. This unique quality is born in a process of reciprocal...

Notes

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pp. 587-630

Bibliography

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pp. 631-658

Name Index

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pp. 659-664

Subject Index

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pp. 665-690