55. The Miser Mohel and the Demon (IFA 9182)
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55 The Miser Mohel and the Demon T O L D B Y R A C H E L A L B U K H E R T O H. A Y I T M A T R A S There was a mohel* who was very pious. But as for charity? He would not give even a grush.** What was he willing to do? Only circumcision. Wherever there was a circumcision, there he was. And God loved this man a lot. It happened that a woman delivered a baby boy. Immediately, a being came from below who looked like a person. He said [to the mohel], “Hello.” “Hello.” “My wife delivered a baby boy. Come, perform his circumcision.” “Very well.” They took a bus. They arrived at some place, and then walked and walked. The mohel said to him, “Where are you taking me?” “Be quiet. Don’t talk.” They entered a beautiful home. So many diamonds! So much gold! So much silver! The mohel said, “Where is the farida?§ I want to perform the circumcision.” He said, “Just a minute.” The mohel entered, and the farida was in bed. He said to her, “Hello.” “Hello.” She said, “Look, they took me. I am human like you are. The demon took me, and I did not know. I ate here, and I had a good time here. This baby boy was born to a demon. I beg you,” she said, “I like you. Don’t eat anything, don’t drink, no water, not anything. Why should you remain here?” The poor mohel. He performed the circumcision for this woman’s son, and afterward they brought him wine. He said, “I am observing a fast in memory of my father. Today I cannot drink water, eat cakes, anything.” 500 * One who does circumcisions. ** A small unit of money, similar to a penny.§ The woman who had just given birth. “Good, come and see how much gold I have. So, take some gold.” The mohel followed him, pleased. Now, there was a chain of keys, small and large, many, many of them. The mohel said, “What is this?” The demon said, “This is your key, because you don’t give to charity.” The mohel said, “Give me the key.” The demon said, “You are not going to take anything, no keys, nothing.” The mohel said, “Well, I performed a circumcision here and I did not take any money. This is my key. Give it back to me.” The demon felt sorry for him and gave him the key. The mohel returned home and said, “From now on I’ll open my hands to charity and perform deeds of loving kindness.” 55 / The Miser Mohel and the Demon  501   502  Folktales of the Jews: Volume 1 COMMENTARY FOR TALE 55 (IFA 9182) H.agit Matras recorded the narrative performance of Rachel Albukher in Jerusalem in 1971.1 Cultural, Historical, and Literary Background This is a very popular tale whose versions are available orally and in print. They occur in two primary forms: In the first, told mostly by men, the mortal helper to the demons is a circumciser (form 1), whereas in the second, told mostly by women, she is a midwife (form 2). In the non-Jewish European versions, the helper is a midwife who is called by a demon to assist his mortal wife who is giving birth. A Jewish version about a mohel (circumciser) who functions as the mortal in the land of the fairies is known.2 References to legends about a human midwife to the fairies are available.3 The Brothers Grimm recorded such a tale from Dortchen Wild, who later married Wilhelm Grimm.4 The earliest written record of this tale in a European language appears in Otia Imperialia by Gervase of Tilbury (c. 1152–c. 1220).5 Further discussions of beliefs in and narrative cycles about the relations between mortals and fairies are available.6 The earliest printed texts of form 1 tales in Jewish tradition appeared in Zevi Hirsch Koidonover’s Sefer Kav ha-Yashar (The book of the straight line) (1705).7 This was a very popular ethical book of which Friedberg8 listed thirty-three editions . AYiddish translation appeared in Frankfort am Main in 1709, and a JudeoSpanish translation was known in Constantinople in 1724. Jellinek9 printed the Kav ha-Yashar, which has been translated.10 The work was not, however, translated into any variety of Judeo-Arabic. Form 1, in which a...