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The Hebrew Folktale

History, Genre, Meaning

Eli Yassif. Foreword by Dan Ben-Amos. Translated from Hebrew by Jacqueline S. Teitelbaum.

Publication Year: 1999

"The most comprehensive account of its subject now available, this impressive study lives up to the encyclopedic promise of its title." -- Choice

The Hebrew Folktale seeks to find and define the folk-elements of Jewish culture. Through the use of generic distinctions and definitions developed in folkloristics, Yassif describes the major trends -- structural, thematic, and functional -- of folk narrative in the central periods of Jewish culture.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xvii

From the ancient Israelites to modern Israel, the history of the Hebrew folktale spans a period of three millennia. Rooted in oral tradition, and documented first on parchment, the transmission of Hebrew folktales continued into the medieval, Renaissance, and modern periods, leaving its traces in manuscripts and print, and now resonating in the cassette culture of contemporary mass...

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pp. xix-xx

This book is a monograph dedicated to a special branch of Jewish culture—the folktale (or folk narrative). It chronologically describes the main periods of folk creativity from the Hebrew Bible to our own time. However, its orientation is by no means historical, but generic. By using generic distinctions, it describes the major characteristics of the Hebrew folktale in each of the main periods...

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Introduction: Jewish Culture and the Hebrew Folktale

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pp. 1-7

Varied and complex motives underlie the need for a comprehensive history of the Hebrew folktale. The foremost of these motives is the predisposition of each generation to reexamine its cultural heritage. The openness of recent cultural studies to areas of creativity largely ignored in the past, along with the notion that all branches of life and creativity are dynamically intertwined, has...

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The Biblical Period: The Folktale as Sacred History

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pp. 8-37

Every critical reader of the books of the Hebrew Bible accepts the premise that these literary creations were penned by numerous authors, in various places, over a period of a great many years. The vast similarity between the literature of the Bible and the sacred literatures created in other cultures has, moreover, raised the possibility that the current versions of the biblical books underwent...

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The Second Temple Period: The Casting of Narrative Patterns

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pp. 38-69

The literary material upon which we base a description of the postbiblical Jewish folktale is fragmentary and scattered, and mostly second- or third-hand. Spanning an estimated five hundred years of Jewish history, the age commonly termed “The Second Temple period” or “The Second Commonwealth” witnessed such decisive historical events as the Return to Zion, the Hasmonean Revolt, Hellenistic inroads into Palestine, the rise of Christianity,...

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The Folktale in the Rabbinic Period: Between Folk Culture and Rabbinic Literature

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pp. 70-244

We must take into account several fundamental difficulties regarding which compositions to include in the framework of a description of the folktale in the rabbinic period. Some texts are not at all problematic; the period of the Palestinian Talmud, Babylonian Talmud, and ancient aggadic and halakhic Midrash is clear enough, it being generally agreed that these works were compiled...

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The Middle Ages: External Perils and Internal Tensions

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pp. 245-370

The notion of a “Middle Ages” in Jewish history is controversial. For some, it corresponds to Christian Europe’s medieval period; others demarcate an era to apply exclusively to Jewish history. Still other scholars reject altogether such a classification for Jewish history, on the grounds that they do not find the markers of transition between eras that would justify its definition as...

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The Later Generations: The Folktale in Confrontation with a Changing World

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pp. 371-460

The tales that grew out of and around the Hasidic movement form one of the largest and richest veins to be mined in all of Jewish literature. They have taken both oral and written form concurrently during the last two hundred years—mostly in Eastern Europe prior to the Second World War, and thereafter...


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pp. 461-541

Abbreviations Used in the Notes

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pp. 543-548


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pp. 549-560

E-ISBN-13: 9780253002624
E-ISBN-10: 0253002621
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253335838

Page Count: 584
Illustrations: 2 figures, 1 index
Publication Year: 1999