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Meditations on a Monkey-Face:
Monsters, Transgressed Boundaries, and Contested Hierarchies in a Yiddish Eulenspiegel

This paper discusses an early-eighteenth-century Yiddish translation of the famous early modern Schwankroman (jest-novel), Eulenspiegel. The uniqueness of the translation lies in its incorporation of five distinct tales, which do not appear in any other extant Jewish or non-Jewish edition. Four of these original tales feature monstrous creatures, such as cynocephali (dog-headed men), strong, venomous women, and monkey-faced men. The article offers a close reading of these monstrous creatures, revealing how they serve to unpack concerns surrounding problems of transgressed borders and confused hierarchies, which were shared by many of the unnamed Yiddish translator's Jewish and non-Jewish contemporaries. I offer a review of these anxieties, locating them against their wider cultural background, and tracing their unique manifestations within the Jewish—and particularly Yiddish—literary realm. I argue that there was something special about writing monstrosity in Yiddish, and particularly in a Yiddish translation of a German work. A hybrid genre, formed by the unnatural coupling of separate tongues, literature, cultures, classes, and genders—Yiddish literature was a monstrous creation in its own right; an almost natural breeding ground for monsters.

Key Words

Yiddish, Gender, Translation, Monsters, Monstrosity, Early Modern, Animals, Animal Studies, Disability

I could never Look Long upon a monkey without very mortifying reflections.

—William Congreve, 1695

in 1735 there appeared in Prague a Yiddish adaptation of the tales of the famous German prankster Till Eulenspiegel.1 This was not the only, nor was it the first, Jewish adaptation of Eulenspiegel, which began appearing in Yiddish as early as 1600.2 Its uniqueness lies, however, in [End Page 28] the changes made to the text by the Yiddish translator, which are expressed in the Judaization of the language and setting of the tale, the omission of all denigrating references to Christians, Christianity, or religion more generally, and, most significantly, the incorporation of five distinct tales that do not appear in any other extant Jewish or non-Jewish edition.3 These five original tales unpack concerns surrounding problems of transgressed borders and confused hierarchies, which were shared by many of the unnamed translator's Jewish and non-Jewish contemporaries but took on a unique significance in the context of Yiddish literature.

In what follows, I offer a reading of the 1735 Yiddish Eulenspiegel against the context of its German original. I focus a narrow lens on four of the five original stories in the translation, which feature monstrous creatures. Such creatures have fascinated readers almost universally; however, their meanings, significance, and ubiquity change over time, space, and culture. In early modern works, monsters enjoyed a particular appeal that transgressed language, space, period, and genre. They appeared in folktales and science books, travel narratives and conduct manuals, epics and poems, highbrow philosophical tracts and lowly chap-books.4 One motif is pervasive in these depictions: where they occur, monsters are almost always mongrels. They are the outcome of an unnatural union between species or genders, self and other. As the monster-studies scholar Jeffrey Jerome Cohen explains, monstrous bodies are bodies that "cannot choose their allegiances, unassimilated bodies that encode a whole history of conflict and interdependence, bodies that cannot [End Page 29] synthesize the difference they enflesh."5 The monstrous is that which cannot be understood according to conventional notions of identity. It is an aberration, which in its very existence destabilizes epistemological boundaries and challenges the possibility of identity. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that from antiquity and into the early modern period monsters often appear where physical boundaries were at their most vulnerable—in sex and in pregnancy—and where cultural boundaries were perceived as most fragile — in travel. These unsure zones, where identity is at its flimsiest, were the realm of marvelous and terrible creatures.

It is precisely here where we encounter the Yiddish Eulenspiegel's monsters. In keeping with the literary conventions of his time, the translator conjures his monsters in the delivery room and on distant islands, using them as a tool through which he is able to express his anxieties concerning the problem of maintaining order in the face of radical transformation. In particular, the translator uses his monsters to convey concerns surrounding the instability of social and cultural categories such as human, animal, man, woman, the elite, and the masses. These seemingly distinct categories of identity are woven closely together by a thread of horror that runs through all five of the original tales appearing in the adaptation.

In what follows, I review these anxieties, locating them against their wider cultural background and tracing their unique manifestations within the Jewish—and particularly Yiddish—literary realm. I argue that there was something special about writing monstrosity in Yiddish, and particularly in a Yiddish translation of a German work. A genre formed by the unnatural coupling of separate tongues, literatures, cultures, classes, and genders—Yiddish literature was a hybrid creation in its own right, an almost natural breeding ground for monsters.


We know next to nothing about the author of the 1735 Eulenspiegel or the circumstances of the book's publication. Like many other Yiddish chapbooks of its time, it was published anonymously in a small octavo format. The survival of two copies, however, may indicate that the book enjoyed some success.6 The colophon states that the book was printed by [End Page 30] the "Boksy bukh drukeray"inline graphic referring to the celebrated Bak family printing press, originally established in Prague in 1605.7 For over two centuries the Baks published an impressive number of rabbinical and liturgical works alongside popular books in Yiddish.8 The Bak family press's publication of Hebrew and Yiddish books side by side is indicative of contemporaneous understandings of Yiddish literature as a kind of complementary canon, a genre of writing meant to fill a need that Hebrew books simply could not—the rapidly increasing reading appetite of "uneducated" Jews, that is to say, Jews who could not read Hebrew. Of course, such "uneducated" readers comprised the vast majority of Jewish men and virtually all Jewish women (and children) in early modern Ashkenaz. And yet the Hebrew and Yiddish libraries did not always coexist peacefully. Indeed, in the context of early modern Ashkenaz, Yiddish literature formed a site of uneasy encounter among separate classes, genders, cultures, languages, genres, and literatures.

One important aspect of this uneasiness stems from the disparity between the presumed ignorance of the (supposed) consumers of Yiddish literature, and the relatively high level of education of its producers, namely, the authors, publishers, and translators who participated in the creation of this corpus.9 This imbalance is expressed in different ways in early modern Yiddish literature, but never more conspicuously than in the highly apologetic introductions, which appeared regularly in Yiddish books (often, as discussed further below, in Hebrew), in which the authors or publishers explained, in highly paternalistic terms, their choice to participate in such a lowly genre (and language).10 Often these introductions [End Page 31] presented the text as one targeting women, another indication of the perceived asymmetry between author/producer and reader. Previous scholarship has questioned the close affiliation of Yiddish with women that is often trumpeted in Old Yiddish texts, however, as Dovid Katz has argued, "The targeted [feminine] readership declarations in the extensive corpus of Yiddish published works over decades and centuries simply constitute too voluminous a corpus to mean 'nothing' … When a certain comment about readership is repeated over … centuries, over big swathes of Europe, by a variety of publishers and authors, there is every reason to feel confident of at least a direct relationship between that comment and some aspect of reality, even if the relationship is oblique, complex and never to be fully known."11

The association of Yiddish literature with women seems particularly relevant in the context of the Yiddish Eulenspiegel. Indeed, one early eighteenth-century Jewish bookseller went so far as to remark that Yiddish translations of Eulenspiegel and other fools-narratives were the only kinds of books available for a feminine readership ("den Frauen geben sie nur das zu lesen").12

The particular translation with which I am concerned offers an unusually striking expression of the disparity between the producers and the consumers of Yiddish literature. Though his identity remains unknown to us, the author of the 1735 Eulenspiegel appears to have been an exceptionally well-read individual. In his philological analysis of the text, Hermann-Josef Müller has done an admirable job identifying the various classical, medieval, and contemporary (non-Jewish) sources that the Yiddish author consulted in adapting his main German hypotext. Müller links many of the anecdotes and motifs appearing in the stories to various early modern cosmographies, travel narratives, and encyclopedias, particularly Sebastian Münster's 1544 Cosmographia, from which our Yiddish author probably drew directly.13 Clearly, these highbrow works would not have been accessible to the vast majority of the book's Yiddish readers.

This imbalance between the context of a work's authorship and that of its readership poses a problem for the modern reader. I do not wish to perpetuate the perception of the readers of old Yiddish literature as unsophisticated. [End Page 32] In fact, as Jeremy Dauber argues, close readings of old Yiddish works "allow us to reconceive the complex capacities for nuance and reading on the part of their audiences [which are] not necessarily dependent on conventional markers of audience sophistication such as textual education or linguistic knowledge."14 In the framework of the present discussion, however, it is important to bear in mind that a reading of the Yiddish Eulenspiegel as a historical document requires a somewhat careful maneuvering between the text's discrete Hebrew, Yiddish, and German (or non-Jewish) contexts. Without undervaluing the importance of identifying the text's hypotexts, then, my own reading takes a primarily synchronic approach to the translation, taking into account questions of readership, genre, and contemporaneous Jewish and non-Jewish debates and practices. In fact, it is precisely this anxious exchange, this strained dialogue between the text, its context, genre, language, sources, and readers—that lies at the heart of this essay. In my reading of the 1735 Eulenspiegel I wish to demonstrate how this particular text tackles the problem of its own articulation in Yiddish, and in the form of a translation of a popular German book, while at the same time participating in broader debates concerning such issues as femininity, masculinity, monstrosity, and social hierarchy—debates that were not specifically Jewish but were part of a shared culture of Jews and Christians in early modern Europe.


As noted above, there exist two other extant early modern Yiddish translations of Eulenspiegel. They appeared in 1600 and in 1736 and offered readers close translations, almost devoid of Hebraisms, omissions, or additions to the original text. In contrast, the 1735 translation features a heavily Judaized Eulenspiegel, which includes a great number of Hebraisms and omits almost all mention of non-Jewish rituals, holidays, clergy, saints, and even names from the text. The names of Eulenspiegel's parents, for instance (Claus and Anna), are omitted, and the many priests that appeared in the original German tale consistently become merchants, physicians, and other laymen in the Yiddish translation.15 At the same [End Page 33] time the book refrains—again unlike the other two early Yiddish Eulens-piegels—from derogatory references to Christianity or Christians.16 Thus, whereas the other early editions consistently engaged in coded antiChristian polemics, replacing a word here or a letter there to mock and ridicule Christian rituals and holidays, the intense Judaization of the 1735 translation, and its consistent elimination of almost all reference to Christians or Christianity, makes it an exceptionally tame adaptation in religious terms. Indeed, the book is tamer not onlythan the other Yiddish versions but also than the non-Jewish versions of the tale, in which members of the clergy are often portrayed in such compromising situations as drinking, stealing, or even defecating in church.17 Another curious idiosyncrasy of our translation is the omission of figures that appear to have been deemed by the Yiddish author inappropriate for a Jewish readership. Thus, a story which in the original Eulenspiegel features a Scottish priest and a "loose woman" becomes, in the 1735 translation, a story about a soldier and a merchant.18 [End Page 34]

The importance of these literary maneuvers is not to be underestimated. As Bakhtin explains, "The essential principle of grotesque realism is degradation, … the lowering of all that is high, spiritual, ideal, abstract; it is a transfer to the material level, to the sphere of earth and body."19 In eliminating almost all reference to religious figures, rites, or rituals, the Yiddish translator effectually altered the very genre of the text. The confusion of genres becomes even more evident when we consider the translator's selection of the five original tales, all of which conspicuously lack the carnivalesque spirit of the German source text and comply much more closely with the bourgeois genre of travel and adventure than with the folk genre of grotesque realism.

The first of these tales appears at the very beginning of the adaptation and relates the eponymous hero's birth. The unnamed translator/author explains that during her pregnancy, Eulenspiegel's mother had been startled by the image of a monkey, and that as a result, her son bore a monkey's face. To the best of our knowledge, this particular origins story has no equivalent in the vast Eulenspiegel corpus. One 1532 edition does attribute to the protagonist a generally "apish look,"20 and at least one later edition elaborates on this theme, arguing that Eulenspiegel's ape-like appearance corresponded directly with his foolish character.21 And yet in no other version is there any mention of Eulenspiegel's mother having encountered a monkey, or of the baby having any facial or other deformity.

Having related the story of Eulenspiegel's monstrous birth, the Yiddish translator goes on to introduce a selection of tales derived from one of the various Eulenspiegel editions, sparing the reader almost nothing of the original's scatological and often cruel humor.22 Toward the end of the book the translator departs once again from the German source text, to introduce three tales describing the protagonist's travels to mythical lands and the wondrous adventures he encountered throughout. These tales differ significantly in character from the traditional Eulenspiegel narratives; they share none of the original's comedy, its focus on wordplay, or its [End Page 35] mischievous trickery; and whereas the German Eulenspiegel's adventures are always located in Europe (for the most part in German-speaking lands), these new tales take the reader to strange and exotic lands occupied by Amazon-like warriors and dog-headed men. The stories appear, in short, to have been derived from an altogether different tradition and somewhat awkwardly incorporated into the Eulenspiegel narrative.

The three original adventure stories are followed by another singular tale, describing Eulenspiegel's marriage to a wealthy widow and how he became king for three days. The tale departs from the theme of overseas adventure, which characterizes the preceding three tales, and seems to have been taken from yet another source. The Yiddish writer then returns to the original Eulenspiegel sequence one last time to describe Eulenspiegel's final pranks, committed on his deathbed, and his subsequent death and headstone.

Taken together, the various departures of the 1735 hypertext from its hypotext and, more importantly, from the other early Yiddish translations of Eulenspiegel shed light on our unknown author's agenda and self-perception. It is evident that the author of the 1735 Eulenspiegel did not wish merely to reproduce a popular German book for its sheer entertainment or commercial value. He took great care in adapting his main hypotext (as well as various secondary ones) to suit the needs of a Jewish readership and his own moral standards.23 In fact, I would venture to say that this particular translation not only departs from the other early Yiddish Eulenspiegels but that it was precisely in opposition to these translations that it was written. Though it is impossible to recover the translator's agenda with any certainty, the existence of at least four Yiddish translations of Eulenspiegel between 1600 and 1806 attests to the books considerable popularity among Yiddish readers. It could be, then, that our translator wished to put forth a more conservative alternative precisely to such works, which focused on, in some cases, slightly polemical or Judaized transliterations of the German source, and which were often frowned on by the rabbinical and quasi-secular authors alike.24 The omission of all references to Christianity seems to support this interpretation, indicating that the translator of this particular edition was much more deeply concerned with issues inside the Jewish community than outside. [End Page 36]

If this is indeed the case, the 1735 Eulenspiegel should be read against the context of a relatively rich library of early Yiddish books, which, though "secular," were still presumed to hold educational value. The most famous examples of such books are works that drew primarily on internal Jewish sources, such as the Tsene rene or the Maaseh bukh that paraded their educational merits, contrasting these with the mere entertainment offered by Yiddish translations of German works. Significantly, however, translations too often presented themselves as didactic works, as attested to by the highly moralistic introductions or title pages of such works as the 1718 Yiddish translation of the Arabian Nights, or the circa 1714 Yiddish adaptation of the tale of the princess and the geese, made famous centuries later by Hans Christian Andersen.25

But what were the particular issues with which the 1735 Eulenspiegel was concerned? What were its intended moral or didactic values? To understand this, I turn now to a reading of the original tales that the translator chose to combine in his adaptation.


In his philological study of the text and its sources, Müller notes a curious phenomenon, namely, that even though several of the Yiddish Eulenspiegel's adventures include encounters with other animal-headed creatures, as well as some devious monkeys, the protagonist's monkey-face is never once made note of throughout the text. In fact, observes Müller, after its first mention at the beginning of the book, Eulenspiegel's facial abnormality seems to play no narrative role in the work.26 And yet treating this idiosyncratic back-story as merely anecdotal, an almost accidental, departure from the traditional Eulenspiegel narrative runs the risk of underestimating the adaptation's narrative complexity. In early modern thought, bodily abnormalities and forms of monstrosity were heavily charged with symbolic meaning and bore distinct cultural, religious and political significance. Rather than chalking up the Jewish Eulenspiegel's monkey-face to mere entertainment value, I suggest we read it as an important addition to the original text, which sets the tone for other [End Page 37] departures made by the Yiddish translator throughout the book. Indeed, as Dauber has artfully shown, often, it is precisely those details in Yiddish texts which, on a first reading, appear as insignificant or idiosyncratic that "provide keys to crucial thematic structures. "27 What, then, can we learn from the Jewish Eulenspiegel's monkey-face?

The translator makes a point of explaining that Eulenspiegel's facial deformity was the direct result of his mother's having been startled by the sight of a monkey: "zeyn muter hot zikh an ayn af fer-zehen."28 It is worth taking a moment to consider the choice of words in this description. Used exclusively in the context of pregnancy, the German verb construction sich an etw. versehen is an idiosyncratic form designating the phenomenon known today as "the pregnant imagination."29 The idea, in a nutshell, is that the fears and desires of a woman leave their mark on her fetus. Of course this notion was hardly new, having appeared already in antiquity.30 However, up until the seventeenth century this was merely one of a variety of explanations provided for the birth of monsters. Other explanations focused on faulty male semen, astrological considerations, improper positions during coitus, the child's diet immediately after birth, and more.31 Beginning in the seventeenth century, however, increasing attention was given to the role of the mother in the production of monsters, and the womb became a regular feature in the discourse of monstrosity, linking femininity and the political calamities still associated with the appearance of monsters—in unprecedented ways.32 [End Page 38]

Indeed, even the most cursory look at early modern literature would suggest that sometime during the period women's wombs stopped functioning properly. Beginning in the late sixteenth century and over the course of two centuries, women all over Europe were apparently giving birth to countless bunnies, piglets, and heavily deformed children. Writers of medical manuals and conduct books attempted to counter the phenomenon by urging their pregnant readers to refrain from strong scents, disturbing sights, unanswered cravings, and intercourse. Still, according to this literature, the births of myriad monsters persisted, to the prurient fascination of the early modern reading public.

Similar accounts of monstrous births and terrible wombs appeared also in Yiddish and Hebrew texts. Thus, for instance, in her Yiddish-language memoirs, the seventeenth century merchant-woman Glikl recalls how her Joseph was born covered in brown marks, which had been imprinted on his skin following an unrealized desire during her pregnancy for a medlar (mispel—a kind of fruit). With sudden insight, Glikl ordered that the baby be given a medlar to suck on, and indeed almost immediately the spots disappeared.33 Similar anecdotes are ubiquitous in the works of Jewish authors from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.34 Admittedly, some authors did stress the importance of entertaining pure thoughts by both partners during conjugation; however, it was widely understood that, as Benjamin Slonik explained already in his 1585 Seder mitsvot ha-nashim, "it mainly goes according to the mother's intentions."35

Indeed, the monstrous potential of the pregnant body was precisely [End Page 39] in its ability to erase paternity, to produce offspring that were exclusively maternal, and consequently horrific. As Marie-Hélène Huet explains: "The … instrument of generation in women is monstrous in that it inverts all natural hierarchy … If the monster is nature's disorder, the female instrument of procreation is the cause of all the disorders in nature."36 Thus, while earlier depictions of monstrous births had focused primarily on their religious, political, astronomical, and communal meanings, beginning in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, popular and scientific depictions of monstrous births became heavily gendered, and the monster came to embody the hair-raising possibility of feminine independence.

As Huet's observation suggests, these concerns were not limited to the issue of monstrous births but extended to the female body more generally, and particularly the womb. A poignant example is offered by the Jewish Italian physician Jacob Zahalon. In his 1683 medical manual, Zahalon warned his readers of the many maladies produced by the womb, some of which were quite dire, even deadly. Thus, for instance, he explained that virgins often suffer from a closing up of the womb, caused by excessive anger and scolding, and which can be cured through intercourse.37

Zahalon's younger colleague Tuviah ha-Cohen painted an even more dismal portrait. In his 1708 Ma'ase Tuviah, the Metz-born physician described several maladies liable to inflict the womb, among which is satyriasis, or excessive desire: "know this, sometimes [a woman's] desire rises, and she opens the mouth of her womb and swallows the member, embracing it in an almost inseparable manner."38 Tuviah's devouring womb, which opens its mouth, at once embracing and devouring its victim, gives striking expression to the fears of feminine agency underlying early modern discussions of the womb. The image of the devouring womb depicts feminine gluttony—precisely that kind of sexual and culinary appetite that in other accounts was thought to produce monsters—as the [End Page 40] inversion of adequate, nourishing womanhood, which can only exist in the context of family.39 As if to accentuate the fears of feminine agency underlying his medical discourse, Tuviah associates the ailment particularly with single, unmarried women, deserted wives, and widows.

In these and other discussions, then, feminine independence was symbolized by the womb and was closely associated with monstrosity and malady. That the translator of the 1735 Eulenspiegel chose to open his adaptation with a tale that drew directly on this rich discourse is striking. Indeed, our first encounter with this Yiddish text is one of horror—a direct confrontation with the monstrous effects of a woman's mind/womb. The hypothesis that this opening vignette does indeed constitute a heavy nod to the discourse that linked feminine power with monstrosity is strengthened through a reading of the second original story in the adaptation, in which Eulenspiegel is captured by a tribe of strong, independent, and indeed monstrous women.


The tale depicts Eulenspiegel's visit to a kingdom of Amazon-like female-warriors. The women of the kingdom bear poisonous fingernails and have a particularly foul disposition; the men are in charge of housework and are regularly beaten by their ruthless wives. The latter maintain their cruel dominion by chopping off the right thumb of every male-born baby, preventing insurrection by making it impossible for any man to wield a sword.40 As Müller has shown, several of the tropes that appear in the Yiddish story, particularly the kingdom of strong women, the poisonous fingernails, and the amputation of the men's thumbs—have a rich history, appearing in numerous texts from antiquity and into early modernity. However, the combination of all three elements in one narrative is, as Müller notes, a unique feature of the Yiddish Eulenspiegel.41

The story of the Amazon women brings the concerns surrounding feminine independence, only vaguely alluded to in the book's opening vignette, to fruition. It closely corresponds with other depictions of cruel independent women in early modern prose, art, and broadsheets. Indeed, the early modern period, and particularly the seventeenth century, has often been regarded as a period that witnessed a growing unease surrounding women's independence. This unease was expressed not only in [End Page 41] literary descriptions but also, among other things, in a "sudden upsurge in witchcraft trials and other court accusations against women, the 'gendering' of various available forms of punishment, and the invention … of additional punishments specifically designated for women."42

Of course, the amputated thumb is an almost banal symbol of castration, and it is hardly surprising that the feminization of the kingdom's men is achieved through this heavily symbolic act. The elongated fingernail offers a corresponding phallic symbol that completes the metaphor. It serves as a kind of horrific prosthetic penis, signifying the abject artificiality, indeed the monstrosity of feminine force. Hand in hand, these two fingers symbolize for the reader a world turned on its head, in which women—who in early modern anatomy are defined by lack (of a penis, of heat, of a beard)—are masculinized; while men, through an act of enforced lack, become women.

But there is also a more complex statement that underlies this juxtaposition of the masculine thumb and the feminine fingernail. From antiquity and into modernity, the superiority of man to beasts has often been ascribed to the purportedly unique organization of the human hand. As Aristotle explains in a famous passage: "It is because he is the most intelligent animal that [man] has got hands. Hands are an instrument; and Nature, like a sensible human being, always assigns an organ to the animal that can use it."43 Aristotle's association of instruments, mastery of nature, and the singular human hand was reiterated in numerous works throughout the early modern period. Thus, for instance, German author Jakob Böhme explained that "the Hands signifie Gods Omnipotence: for as God in Nature can change all things, and make them what he pleaseth: so man can also with his Hands change all which is grown in Nature, and can make with his Hands out of them what he pleaseth: he ruleth with [End Page 42] his Hand."44 This understanding of the human hand as the essential instrument, which allows man to use other instruments, and in this way to rule over nature—and, implicitly, over women—seems to underlie the horrific policies of the women of Amazon island. As the men of the island explain, it is only by use of the thumb, which allows the wielding of swords (and other tools and instruments), that men can exercise their dominion. The close connection between the thumb, the tool, the penis, and the human adds to the richness of the castration metaphor and connects the tale to an overarching concern in the five original stories with the issues of confused categories and contested hierarchies. By losing their thumbs the men are animalized and abandoned to the forces of nature, and of women.

Unlike the thumb, which is an integral part of the body, the fingernail occupies a liminal position between the natural and the unnatural. Not exactly part of the body, but not entirely separate from it, the fingernail is a death attached to the flesh, a memento of the claw, and a constant reminder of the absurd animality of man, or rather, of woman. Similarly to hair, it holds an ambivalent position between the man and the beast, life and death, self and other, nature and culture—forever transgressing these seemingly impassable divides.45 This disregard for borders renders the fingernail (again, like hair) a particularly fruitful metaphor for women in general, and for feminine power in particular. Such power, we are led to understand, is not entirely unnatural; it is like the brute force of the clawed animal, which extends from the body itself. It is an excess of nature, a nature untamed, and in a sense is much more natural than the domesticated masculine power, which may rise and fall with the flip of a thumb. It is this ambivalent naturality of feminine force that renders it so very monstrous. Like other monstrous beings—such as hirsute wild men, cannibals, and human-animal hybrids—strong women, unsubdued by men, are at once an emblem and an aberration of nature. They represent a chaotic nature, which men cannot place under their real—or symbolic—thumbs.

At one point in the story, Eulenspiegel attempts to chastise the men for their submissiveness, provocatively asking, "Why are you such fools [End Page 43] [naren] that you let the women dominate you?" But of course, the real fool is Eulenspiegel, who is in fact the ideal type of the Narr—the fool—of early modern German literature.46 The implicit irony in Eulenspiegel's address to the men becomes explicit when he flees the kingdom to continue his travels. Here, and in other stories in the book, Eulenspiegel chooses flight over fight the very instant the opportunity avails itself. This is a far cry from other heroes encountered in early modern Yiddish tales, such as Zimro or Bovo d'Antona, who are presented as brave and skilled warriors and as passionate lovers.47 But Eulenspiegel is a comic, rather than a heroic, figure. Like the amputated men of Amazon-kingdom, his less-than-human status is inscribed into his flesh. His weakness, his debility, is written all over his monkey-face.


As we have seen, the Yiddish author's fears of feminine agency were shared by many of his contemporaries. And yet recent scholarship has complicated the paradigm of a seventeenth-century "gender crisis," arguing that gender is always a site of negotiation and contestation, and that several early modern discourses or practices, nowadays viewed as deeply misogynist, were often, in fact, a means of thinking about and controlling other issues, some of which had little to do with women as such.48

The latter perspective may prove fruitful in considering the interrelationship between the original stories appearing in the 1735 Eulenspiegel. Indeed, a more holistic view of the five tales reveals a nagging concern with problems of hybridity, transgression, and confusion of order. All of the original tales in the translation feature people, animals, and things [End Page 44] appearing in places and behaving in ways they should not. Returning to the tale of Eulenspiegel's monstrous birth, imagining the hybrid body of the monster is a means to express concerns about the instability of identity, loss of control, and mixed categories, about things that ought to be separate becoming one.

The Yiddish translator's particular choice of monster—a man bearing the face of a monkey—seems to similarly correspond not only with an anxiety concerning women's independence but also with this overarching preoccupation with transgressed borders more generally. An almost-human creature, prone to mimicry and imitation, the monkey has long been a troubling presence in European thought. As H. W. Janson explains: "As an unworthy pretender to human status, a grotesque caricature of man, the ape [is] the prototype of the trickster, the sycophant, the hypocrite … Under the circumstances it is hardly surprising that the animal should have been linked with the monstrous hybrid beings of myth and fable."49 Indeed, while not immediately available to the modern reader, there existed in early modern thought a close connection between apes or monkeys and monsters, man-like creatures, dog-headed men, and, curiously, also Jews.50 This range of associations made the monkey a perfect candidate for the leading role in the Yiddish Eulenspiegel. Indeed, by invoking the monkey, the Yiddish author makes the crossing of borders performed by Eulenspiegel's monstrous body all the more disturbing—presenting us with a monstrous hybrid, combining the body [End Page 45] of a man and the face of a man-like monster. Confronted, at the very opening page of the book, with this uncanny spectacle (is this a man masquerading as a monkey, or a monkey masquerading as a man?) the early modern reader is prompted to revisit his or her understanding of difference—between men and women, humans and beasts, self and other, nature and its aberrations.

The particular significance of the monkey as a creature that challenges the borders of the human is beautifully played out in the third original story appearing in the translation, in which the reader is confronted with a pack of deeply anthropomorphized monkeys. The tale describes how Eulenspiegel was tricked by these creatures, who stole his merchandise of hats, threatening to bankrupt him, merely in order to don the hats upon their own heads, doffing them and bowing to one another, as though they too were men. Eulenspiegel attempts at first to retrieve the hats by climbing the trees to chase the monkeys through the forest—but, of course, he fails miserably. Finally, it occurs to him to outsmart the monkeys and to exploit their imitative nature. He then throws his own hat on the ground, a move which the monkeys promptly mimic. Having retrieved his hat, Eulenspiegel decides to take his revenge on the monkeys. He takes a bucket full of water, places it under the trees where the monkeys sit observing him, and washes his eyes thoroughly. He then leaves a bucket of pitch just where the water bucket once stood. As expected, the monkeys climb down from the tree and commence washing their eyes with the pitch, thus blinding themselves and allowing Eulenspiegel to catch them.51

Like the other tales in the adaptation, the tale of the monkeys and the hats builds on a previous—in this case, relatively well-known—tale, combining it with elements found in classic and early modern non-Jewish literature.52 It further corresponds with a widespread fascination with the similarity between humans and apes or monkeys, which had existed since antiquity and intensified in the eighteenth century, and which, according to Dror Wahrman, witnessed the "opening up of potential cracks in the boundary between humans and apes."53 In contrast, however, to such [End Page 46] eighteenth-century thinkers as Rousseau or Linnaeus who celebrated the permeable boundaries between monkey and man, for the Yiddish translator this similarity is a source of deep-seated anxiety. Seen through the eyes of a monkey-faced protagonist, the monkeys' mimic behavior is deemed so vile that Eulenspiegel emerges from his (as we will presently see) characteristic passivity to punish the creatures for their human pretenses (or perhaps, parody). In order to do so, he uses precisely this apish hubris—the monkeys are literally blinded by their desire to emulate men—a desire that is ironically shared by Eulenspiegel.

Eulenspiegel's attempts to retrieve his hats grant further expression to this unease concerning monkeys—an uneasiness perhaps most eloquently articulated by William Congreve, whose "mortifying reflections" on looking at a monkey are cited in the epigraph to this essay; "I can never care for seeing things that force me to entertain low thoughts of my Nature"—Congreve further explained.54 these sentiments must have been shared by our Yiddish author, as he conjured in his mind the image of a monkey-faced man, fumbling through the forest, leaping between the tree branches, in an attempt to emulate a monkey. And yet at a critical moment in the story, Eulespiegel turns the taxonomic tables—deciding to outsmart rather than simply chase the monkeys. By making the monkeys mimic him rather than mimicking them himself, Eulenspiegel confirms his humanity, his mastery of nature. He thus redeems himself (momentarily) from his maternally imprinted monkey face and assumes his rightful position in the human-animal, man-woman hierarchy.55

As Cohen observes, however, and as any horror-film enthusiast will testify: "no monster tastes of death but once."56 And indeed this is not the end of the unfortunate protagonist's travails. Just as soon as he establishes his masculinity/humanity in the tale of the monkeys, Eulenspiegel is captured by a tribe of man-eating dog-heads, falling victim once again to a monstrous nature, to the unnatural union—both in the corporeal as well as in the congestive sense—of man and beast. Here, on the island of the cynocephali, the precariousness of bodies and boundaries is brought to the extreme, as human-animal hybrids devour proper men. [End Page 47]


The next original story in the adaptation finds Eulenspiegel and his ship's crew stranded in a strange land, ruled by cynocephali, or dog-headed men (hunds kepf). Immediately upon their arrival the men are taken captive by the dog-heads, who fatten them with raisins and almonds in order to subsequently eat them. Eulenspiegel makes a connection with one of his captors, a friendly widow, and prods her to explain the dog-heads' anthropophagic ways. She explains that the dog-heads are, in fact, an exceedingly gentle "people," who consume no meat except the flesh of their enemies. The dog-heads identify Eulenspiegel and his companions as belonging to these enemies because of their inhumane treatment of the poor monkeys (di armi afin). The widow then explains to Eulenspiegel that the dog-heads believe that their souls undergo a process of transmigration into various animals, which is why they refrain from animal flesh in general, gently care for even the smallest creatures, and kill any man who kills an animal. She then goes on to relate that after three generations (dorot), the soul is immersed in a great bath, which causes it to forget its past reincarnations, after which it is reborn in the body of a (presumably, dog-headed) man. Some days after this conversation, the dog-heads take seven of Eulenspiegel's companions, dance with them, beat them, burn them, and finally ravenously feast on their flesh, all while heavily drinking. They then collapse in a drunken stupor around the fire and spend the next day in a deep sleep. Finding a hole in his cage that very night, Eulenspiegel'seizes the opportunity to escape the dog-heads. He frees his remaining comrades and the men run to their ship and sail away, returning safely to a German land (ayn taytsh land).57

As Müller notes, the tale of the man-eating cynocephali is strikingly similar to a tale appearing in Yehudah Hadassi's twelfth-century Eshkol ha-kofer. Building on an earlier account in the travel tales of Eldad haDani, Hadassi tells of a tribe of cannibalistic dog-heads who fatten their victims before feasting on their flesh.58 It is, however, unlikely that an [End Page 48] eighteenth-century Yiddish author in Prague would have had resource to Hadassi's book, an infamous Karaite work. Rather, the story seems to have reached our author through contemporary, perhaps non-Jewish sources. Thus, for instance, a nineteenth-century English translation of the Arabian Nights relates a tale featuring dog-headed cannibals, who fatten their own human victims with raisins and almonds.59

Whatever its precise source, it seems that in the story of the dog-heads, as in the other original tales appearing in the translation, the Yiddish writer uses a preexisting narrative framework as a platform for his own creation. Thus, the conversation between Eulenspiegel and the widow—in which the protagonist is exposed to the dog-heads' unique form of "anthropotarianism" and their belief in the transmigration of souls—does not appear in any of the versions of the travels of Eldad Ha-Dani, Eshkol ha-kofer, or the Arabian Nights known to me. The description is characteristic of our anonymous author in several ways. First, by depicting Eulenspiegel's warden as a widow, it partakes in the motif of powerful single women that runs through four of the five original tales in the adaptation. Second, similar to the other original tales, it incorporates elements from classical literature—the great bath of forgetfulness, for instance, in which the dog-heads' souls are immersed before returning to their bodies, is reminiscent of the mythological river Lethe, which was said to surround the underworld, inducing oblivion in the souls that pass through its waters.60

Most important, read in the framework of the other stories appearing in the translation, the tale of the dog-heads appears to accentuate the problem of borders underlying the text in its entirety. It continues the Yiddish author's fascination with monsters and hybrid creatures, with beings that challenge boundaries and hierarchies, and complicate binary pairs. It also correlates closely with the author's interest in animals that are viewed as being particularly close to the human (and, incidentally or not, particularly to Jews).61 Indeed, like apes and monkeys, dogs occupy [End Page 49] a uniquely privileged position in the anthropocentric perception of the animal world. The cynocephali in particular were considered from antiquity and into the early modern period to be highly ambiguous monsters, closely resembling humans.62 In his celebrated Hutoriae animalum (1551), for instance, Conrad Gessner associated the cynocephali with highly anthropomorphized baboons, who are able to read and write and converse regularly in "the Indian language" (Indianische Spraach). Gessner further described the dog-heads diet (in a manner reminiscent of the Yiddish Eulenspiegel) as extremely refined, consisting mainly of almonds, nuts, and roasted or fried meat. These various anthropomorphic traits notwithstanding, Gessner did not classify the dog-heads as humans but rather as apes, accentuating once again the close connection between the two creatures.63

This recurrence of human-animal hybrids and humanlike beasts/women in the Yiddish Eulenspiegel suggests a certain insecurity about what it is that makes a man. As Karl Steel astutely observes, "At the seam of the dog's ravening head joined to a human body … the human confronts the fact that there is nothing to the human as human except this only ever partial emergence from the animal."64 But the tale of the dog-heads does not merely reiterate the concerns already touched upon in the preceding three tales. Rather, it intensifies these fears, throwing them into sharp critical relief. Indeed, a closer look at the dog-heads reveals that they are in fact the mirror image of all three—the Amazon women, the man-like monkeys, and the monkey-faced man. Admittedly, similarly to the protagonist, the Amazons, and the anthropomorphized monkeys, the dog-heads are also half-men, located somewhere in the liminal spaces that separate human from animal. And yet in contrast to the monkeys and Eulenspiegel who imitate humans, or the long-nailed women who imitate men, the cynocephali are disturbingly at ease with their animality, to the extent that they reject their humanity almost entirely, celebrating their oneness with beasts. Abstaining from animal flesh and showing more mercy toward animals than toward men, the dog-heads exhibit a striking kind of theriophily, which favors the animal over the human. Their belief [End Page 50] in the transmigration of souls between species further exemplifies the challenge posed by these half-humans to the anthropocentric worldview.

The modern reader is perhaps tempted to identify a critical, almost posthuman message in this tale, which contrasts Eulenspiegel's desperate, tiring, and perhaps vain struggle to assert his humanity with the almost primitivist portrayal of the dog-heads' vegetarianism, their spiritual belief system, and their harmonic way of life. Indeed, on a first reading, the story seems to offer a devastating critique of anthropocentrism and to collapse the human-animal divide that is questioned by looking at Eulenspiegel's face. The fact that—unlike the heroes of similar stories that appeared in Eshkol ha-kofer or the hypotext of the Arabian Nights—Eulenspiegel does not slaughter his dog-headed captors seems at first to corroborate precisely such a reading.

And yet while the dog-heads' kindness to animals may be interpreted by readers today as a moral virtue, in the early modern period such staunch favoring of the animal over the human would have elicited vastly different reactions. Medieval and earlymodern Europeans tended to view vegetarianism as unhealthy and even, according to some accounts, heretical—a defiance of the divine license to consume meat (Gen 9.3).65 Little work has been done on Jewish attitudes to the issue; however, a forthcoming study by David Shyovitz shows that with the (important) exception of the German Pietists (haside Ashkenaz), the dominant view among medieval Jewish halakhic thinkers was deeply anthropocentric and emphatically rejected the possibility of ethical vegetarianism.66 In Jewish works from the early modern period, vegetarianism or theriophily are similarly often treated with disdain or fascination and serve as a mark of exoticism and wonder. In Matityahu Delakrut's sixteenth-century Tsel ha-'olam, for instance, we read of an Indian tribe whose members burn themselves to save their animals. The description appears alongside descriptions of tiny pygmies, cannibalistic patricides, hairy wildmen, and, indeed, dog-headed men—attesting to the wondrous nature of theriophily in the eyes of the author.67

Vegetarianism is similarly (albeit more subtly) exoticized and once more rejected in the early maskilic book Amude bet Yehudah (1766), by the Lithuanian physician Yehudah Hurwitz. In this work, we encounter a [End Page 51] noble savage who attempts to promote vegetarianism, claiming that the consumption of meat pollutes the souls of men. Hurwitz responds by comparing meat to medicine, explaining that its careful and moderate consumption strengthens the body, while excessive consumption weakens it. He furthermore explains that animal sacrifice accentuates the unique position of man as the center of all creation, to the extent that he is able to elevate even the souls of animals to the divine.68 These examples point to a discursive interdependence between animal killing and anthropocentrism, and between theriophily and savagery. It is this interdependence that grants meaning to Eulenspiegel's tale of the vegetarian cynocephali.

Of course, nothing accentuates the horrific nature of the dog-heads' theriophily as much as their cannibalism. The cannibalistic ritual reveals the futility, indeed the monstrosity, of any attempt to absorb the human into the animal. These dog-heads, who will not harm a mouse but will eat a man, exemplify the horrible outcome of reducing the difference between man and beast, predator and prey. The tale of the man-eating cynocephali gives startling expression to the fact that, as scholars in the field of animal studies have suggested, anthropocentrism, the belief in human supremacy, is intrinsically connected to violence, to the killing and eating of animals. As Val Plumwood explains: "The idea of human prey threatens the dualistic vision of human mastery in which we humans manipulate nature from outside, as predators but never prey … We act as if we live in a separate realm of culture in which we are never food, while other animals inhabit a different world of nature in which they are no more than food."69 The human-animal binary rests, in other words, on the divide between the inedible and the edible, man and meat. Interestingly, the dog-heads' cannibalistic vegetarianism does not really collapse this binary so much as invert it. The story depicts cannibalism as the almost inevitable outcome of vegetarianism and theriophily. Like the strong women of Eulenspiegel's earlier escapades, the cynocephali's cannibalistic ritual serves as a bloody reminder of the fact that contesting hierarchies [End Page 52] results not in equality or harmony but rather in the reversal of existing power-structures, the distortion of the natural order of things.70

In this sense, cannibalism signifies the end result of the confusion of categories but at the very same time offers a solution to the problem of the human. In fact, the archetypical European depiction of the cannibal feast envisions it as vastly different from any other kind of meat consumption; cannibals do not just eat people—the consuming of human flesh is a unique form of eating. A voracious ritual, often involving heavy drinking, dancing, and sex, it lasts several hours—and in the Yiddish Eulenspiegel, an entire night. It is therefore no coincidence that it is precisely during the cannibal feast that Eulenspiegel manages to escape his captors and free his shipmates. At the very moment in which the dog-heads attempt to literally absorb the human into the animal, they demonstrate precisely the futility of their desires, and thus also the impossibility of a peaceful coexistence between man and beast. From this terrible encounter, violence arises as the ultimate answer to the question of man. Eulenspiegel thus ends up corroborating Steel's argument, that "the human is an effect rather than a cause of its domination of animals; that the human cannot abandon the subjugation of the animal without abandoning itself; and that the human can therefore be said not to exist except in its action of domination."71

Seen in this light, Eulenspiegel's choice to let the sleeping dogs lie becomes not a vindication of the cynocephali but a further indication of Eulenspiegel's own monstrosity, accentuating ever more powerfully his own half-human status. In running away, rather than confronting his captors and exercising his right to violence, Eulenspiegel reproduces his behavior in the kingdom of strong women, demonstrating once again his apishness, his ambivalent position in the proper order of things.


Throughout all of the original tales appearing in the adaptation, Eulenspiegel is presented as the victim, rather than the instigator of confused categories and hierarchies. Thus, whereas the German Eulenspiegel seems to revel in challenging and mocking social, religious, and class hierarchies, [End Page 53] a palpable anxiety concerning overstepped boundaries permeates its Yiddish translation.72 This anxiety corresponds with similar concerns expressed in Jewish society during this period. As David Ruderman has argued:

On many grounds the rabbis of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries had reason to feel anxious. Along with the unmanageable explosion of knowledge triggered by printed books, the curtailment of their authority by lay leaders and governmental officials, and the Sabbatean threat …, they also witnessed with horror … the recurrent and conspicuous boundary crossings between Judaism and Christianity (and sometimes … between Judaism and Islam) on the part of a small but conspicuous number of Jews and Christians.73

Indeed, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries have often been characterized as a period of intense crisis for European Jews, who underwent several large-scale demographic, geographic, technological, cultural, and religious transformations.74

In the particular context of literature, beginning in the sixteenth century, the communities of Ashkenaz witnessed an explosion of Hebrew and Yiddish printing, opening up a deeply exclusive world of literary, religious, and esoteric knowledge to lay men, women, and children and offering unprecedented degrees of power to nonelite publishers, authors, translators, and readers. As Dauber has explained, the print revolution "spurred not only the democratization of knowledge but concomitant elite fears about loss of social and moral control."75 Such fears, he argues, [End Page 54] were validated throughout the pursuing centuries, as popular spiritual movements such as Sabbateanism and Frankism gained ground, sending shock waves throughout the Jewish community in Europe and beyond.76 These popular movements, and the numerous other transgressions of tradition that occurred throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, bear dire testimony to what might happen when literature gets out of control and the elite is subjugated to the masses.

Considered against the context of these concerns, the dog-heads' spirituality may perhaps be read as an anxious parody on the rise of popular spirituality among early modern Jews—conflating kabbalism and cannibalism, as it were, and demonstrating the hazards of religious knowledge when it is placed in the hands of (what was perceived by Jews of the period to be) half-men. Similar fears surrounding the democratization of knowledge and the popularization of spiritualism were voiced by many of the Yiddish author's contemporaries, both within the Jewish community and outside it. Even some early maskilim shared these concerns, their call for Jewish acculturation notwithstanding. Yehudah Hurwitz, for instance, presented the popularization of kabbalistic spiritualism on the one hand, and of philosophy on the other, as the greatest threats to the Jewish community of his time. Here, for example, is his invective against unlimited access to knowledge, religious or "secular": "Should any man of Israel be a doctor and an observer, should all learn reason and visions, and every cattle grazer should dabble in the seven wisdoms? All of this is unattainable and distant from nature and from wisdom. Who will hewer the wood and who will draw the water if everyone's eyes shall be turned up to the skies?"77

Yiddish literature occupied a particularly precarious position within this discourse surrounding the democratization of knowledge and its social, political, and religious ramifications. On the one hand, Yiddish literature was envisioned as a means to tackle the dangers brought about [End Page 55] by the onset of modernity, with some Yiddish books, as we have seen, specifically targeting others as "unkosher" and presenting themselves as a viable alternative. On the other hand, in its very appeal to the every man, its closeness to German literature, and its use of new literary motifs and forms, this same literature was also an agent of change in its own right.78 As Jerold Frakes explains: "Despite the radically innovative tendencies in early Yiddish literature, its immediate function seems to have been less to undermine and subvert than to supplement, but through its supplementation, it ultimately did subvert and undermine by broadening the scope of literature, enlarging the palette, increasing the vocabulary of literary and cultural expression."79 In fact, it was precisely the increasing permeability of the boundaries between Jewish and non-Jewish culture in Europe that paved the way for Yiddish translations of German texts such as Eulenspiegel.

Rabbinic approaches toward Yiddish writing were accordingly highly ambivalent. On the one hand, works in Yiddish were produced by members of the rabbinical elite itself.80 On the other, no few rabbis expressed vigilance toward Yiddish literature and made efforts to restrict it to a specific realm.81 Further evidence of the attempt to designated Yiddish literature to a specific realm is provided also by the apologetic introductions, discussed above, in which the authors of Yiddish books attempt to defend their works against the contempt of more learned readers.82 Also educative are comparative readings of Hebrew works translated into the vernacular. As scholars such as Michael Stanislawski and Chava Turniansky have shown, such translations were often purged of philosophical, esoteric, and certain halakhic discussions, indicating a fear of the inappropriate transmission of these discussion to the Yiddish-speaking masses.83 [End Page 56]

But resistance to Yiddish literature was not limited to works that infringed on the authority of Hebrew. Objections were also raised to the popular early transcriptions of German epics, and attempts were made to offer adequate substitutes based on Jewish sources, in the form of biblical epic in Yiddish.84 Also indicative perhaps of a caution around Yiddish is the use of different typeface and separating brackets for Hebrew and Yiddish words. the separation, which was standard practice in texts in early modern Yiddish (and appears also in our Eulenspiegel), implies an anxiety of contamination. Yiddish was to be kept far from the holy, learned Hebrew, set aside by such means as brackets and type.85 Taken together these examples testify to the fact that, as Shlomo Berger argued, Yiddish was expected to remain on the margins of the Jewish literary domain and never to infringe on its center.86

The instability, unruliness, and potentially hazardous nature that were attributed to Yiddish literature correspond remarkablywith earlymodern concerns regarding feminine independence, as discussed above. Like women, and indeed, like animals, Yiddish literature was perceived as potentially helpful, so long as it remained in its place, subjugated to the Hebrew, masculine pen. Thus, from its very first beginnings in the medieval period, and with increasing urgency from the sixteenth century onward, Jewish men took over literature in Yiddish, producing texts written for—but only rarely by—women. They often did so apologetically, explaining—often, as Dovid Katz notes, in the Hebrew tongue, which would have been unintelligible for their readers but accessible for the wholly masculine rabbinic elite—that it was altruism that had motivated them to assume the much-derided vernacular.87 A white man's burden indeed, but an essential one, for in this manner, Jewish authors asserted their authority and ensured the continued masculinity of the Jewish literary realm.

And yet, as testified by these same apologetics, it seems that like its own monkey-faced protagonist, Yiddish literature continued to bear the mark of its femininity, of its hybrid and potentially transgressive nature. The result of this ambivalence was a highly reflective, strictly self-controlled [End Page 57] genre of writing: a literature intimidated by its readers and haunted by its own disastrous potential.

Let us return now, briefly, to the question of actual women and their function in the Yiddish Eulenspiegel. In an overview of debates concerning early modern gender talk, Frances E. Dolan points out that "gender-as-scapegoat arguments threaten to dismiss gender as a diversionary tactic. They also threaten to redraw the line between the real and the representational, the cause or experience of disorder and the language used to describe it, in too tidy a way. Finally, they … shrink and confine gender into a fixed separable category."88 And indeed, the intense preoccupation with the issue of women's agency in early modern Yiddish (and Hebrew) books in general, and in Eulenspiegel in particular, should not be dismissed. Rather, it should be taken to imply real (albeit intricate and nuanced) anxieties surrounding women and power, which (alongside and in tandem with other anxieties) troubled Jewish authors of the time. Thus, if we wish to fully understand the meanings of early Yiddish literature, we can do no better than to embrace the Brantshpigl s famous formulation that at the core of this literature's hopes, fears, and concerns, stood both "women and men who are like women."89


In summation, let us return one last time to Eulenspiegel, who escaped the Amazon kingdom only to be subjected to a feminist reading. Returning home from his adventures, Eulenspiegel finally grows old and weary and is no longer able to support himself. Here, the Yiddish narrator offers us yet another original tale, depicting the protagonist's marriage to a wealthy widow—yet another tale of confused hierarchies. It relates how Eulenspiegel accidentally became a king for three days, enjoying all the luxuries and comfort of royalty before returning home to live out his last days as a peasant. Eulenspiegel's marriage to the widow also continues the book's preoccupation with the problem of feminine agency. Once again, it is the woman who is in the position of power—she is the one who redeems Eulenspiegel of his poverty. It is hardly coincidental that Eulenspiegel's savior is a widow rather than a maiden—widows are a recurring theme in this text and have long been perceived in Jewish culture as symbols of powerful women. This is perhaps nowhere more evident [End Page 58] than in the memoirs of Glikl—a proudly independent widow—who commends her fellow widows for their success in business and for their agency and initiative.90 Incidentally, Glikl uses her own widowhood as a means to justify her own (however private) literary endeavor. But perhaps the marriage of Eulenspiegel and the widow is not merely an adequate ending to Eulenspiegel's comic narrative of castration. One could in fact read the last story as an attempt to end the book on a positive note after all, by allowing Eulenspiegel to redeem his masculinity by husbanding a widow of his own. The text does little to solve our ambivalence, leaving us to wonder whether, at the end of it all, the Yiddish author is able to tame the beast that is the authoritative woman or must succumb to her completely, to surrender to her cannibalistic womb, and allow himself to finally be devoured. [End Page 59]

Iris Idelson-Shein

IRIS IDELSON-SHEIN is a research fellow at the The Martin Buber Chair for Jewish Thought and Philosophy, Goethe University.


1. Eylnshpigl (Prague, 1734/5).

2. For an overview of the other known Yiddish editions, see Max Erik, Vegn altyidishn roman un noveU (Warsaw, 1926), 204–6; John A. Howard, ed., Wunderparlich [!] und seltsame Historien Til Eulen Spiegels (Würzburg, 1983), vii—xi; Hermann-Josef Müller, "Ein wenig beachteter <Eulenspiegel> in hebraischen Lettern: Eulenspiegel als Kristallisationsgestalt in einem Nowidworer Druck von 1806," in Röllwagenbüchlin: Festschrift für Walter Rollyum 65 Geburtstag, ed. J. Jaerling, U. Meves, and E. Timm (Tübingen, 2002), 411–32; Ruth von Bernuth, "Das jischev fun Nar-husen: Jiddische Narrenliteratur und judische Narrenkultur," Aschkenas 25.1 (2015): 137–39.

3. Eylin shpigl, [1], [25–30]. For an English adaptation of the five tales, see Joachim Neugroschel, No Star Too Beautiful: Yiddish Stories from 1382 to the Present (London, 2002), 92–96. A philological analysis of the tales is offered by Müller, "Eulenspiegel im Land der starken Weiber, der Hundskopfe und anderswo: Fünf unbekannte Eulenspiegelgeschichten in einem jiddischen Druck von 1735," in Jiddische Philologie: Festschrift für Erika Timm, ed. W. Roll and S. Neuberg (Tübingen, 1999), 200–226.

4. For a classic discussion of this increased interest, see Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, "Unnatural Conceptions: The Study of Monsters in Sixteenth-and Seventeenth-Century France and England," Past and Present 92 (1981): 20–54; Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150–1750 (New York, 1998), 180–89. On the increased interest among early modern Jews, see David B. Ruderman, Kabbalah, Magic, and Science: The Cultural Universe of a Sixteenth-Century Jewish Physician (Cambridge, Mass, 1988), 74–88; Andrew Berns, "Abraham Portaleone and Alessandro Magno: Jewish and Christian Correspondents on a Monstrous Birth," European Journal of Jewish Studies 5.1 (2011): 53–66. Chajes notes a similar phenomenon concerning narratives of spirit possession in Jewish and Christian works: J. H. Chajes, Between Worlds: Dybbuks, Exorcists, and Early Modern Judaism (Philadelphia, 2003), 2–8.

5. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, "Hybrids, Monsters, Borderlands: The Bodies of Gerald of Wales," in The Postcolonial Middle Ages, ed. J. J. Cohen (New York, 2000), 94.

6. Copies of the book are available at the National Library in Jerusalem and Yale University Library. See Sarah Zfatman, Ha-siporet be-Yidish mi-reshitah 'ad "Shivhe ha-Besht" (1504–1814): Bibliografiah mu'eret (Jerusalem, 1985), 130–31.

7. Leon Nemoy, "A yidisher uberzetsung fun Eylnshpigl," Yivo bleter 27 (1946): 198.

8. On the press, see Chaim D. Friedberg, Toldot ha-dfus ha-'ivri be-[.. JEropah ha-tih onah …. (Antwerp, 1935), 19–26; Marvin J. Heller, The seventeenth Century Hebrew Book, 2 vols. (Leiden, 2011), 1:lv. The omission of the name of the book's author/translator and the central position of the publisher are characteristic features of Old Yiddish books. See Shlomo Berger, "An Invitation to Buy and Read: Paratexts of Yiddish Books in Amsterdam, 1650–1800," Book History 7 (2004): 35–37.

9. On the creators of Yiddish literature as part of a kind of "middle-level intelligentsia," see Chone Shmeruk, "Can the Cambridge Manuscript Support the Spielmann Theory in Yiddish Literature?" Studies in Yiddish Literature and Folklore 7 (1986): 1–36; Jean Baumgarten, Introduction to Old Yiddish Literature, trans. J. C. Frakes (Oxford, 2005), 58–61; Jeremy Dauber, In the Demon's Bedroom: Yiddish Literature and the Early Modern (New Haven, Conn., 2010), 33.

10. On these introductions, see Max Weinreich, History of the Yiddish Language (Yiddish; New York, 1973), 2 vols., trans. S. Noble (New Haven, Conn., 2008), 1:A263; Berger, "Invitation to Buy and Read," 31–61; Rachel L. Greenblatt, To Tell Their Children: Jewish Communal Memory in Early Modern Prague (Stanford, Calif., 2014), 181.

11. Dovid Katz, Yiddish and Power (Basingstoke, 2015), 75.

12. Quoted in von Bernuth, "Das jischev fun Nar-husen," 134.

13. Müller, "Eulenspiegel," 207–26.

14. Dauber, Demon's Bedroom, 2–3.

15. Compare: Eylin shpigl, [1], [3], [11], [15]–[16], [18]–[19], [31]–[32]; Ein kurtzweilig lesen von Dyl Ulenspiegel, facsimile of the 1515 edition (Leipzig, 1911), 3a, 13a, 96b–97a, 115a–b, 117a–b, 126a–127a. One rare exception is the mention of a bishop, but in this tale too, Eulenspiegel's pretend-visits to church are omitted. Compare Eylin shpigl, [19]–[20]; Ulenspiegel, 120a–b. These omissions are not present in the other extant Yiddish versions. See, e.g., MS Munich, Cod. Hebr.100, fol.134a. Bavarian State Library, accessed August 24, 2015, http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/0003/bsb00036332/images/index.html?id=00036332&nativeno=134. Eli Katz notes similar omissions in Moshe Wallich's treatment of the Kuh bukh in his 1697 Sefer meshalim. Katz argues that "within his social and literary milieu Wallich's … changes can be seen as representing a 'universalizing' rather than a 'Judaizing' tendency." See Eli Katz, Book of Fables: The Yiddish Fable Collection of Reb Moshe Wallich, Frankfurt am Main, 1697 (Detroit, 1994), 20–21. I thank Claudia Rosenzweig for bringing Katz's discussion to my attention.

16. On the intentional corruption of the source text in order to deliver antiChristian messages in the other seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Yiddish Eulenspiegels, see Arnold Paucker, "Yiddish Versions of Early German Prose Novels," Journal of Jewish Studies 10.3–4 (1959): 162–63; von Bernuth, "Das jischev fun Nar-husen," 138. It could perhaps be argued that this difference stems, at least in part, from what Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin has termed "the move away from the definition of the Jew as anti-Christian toward a radically different perception embodied in the phrase 'Judeo-Christian civilization.' "See Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, The Censor, the Editor and the Text: The Catholic Church and the Shaping of Jewish Canon in the Sixteenth Century (Philadelphia, 2007). For more on the various strategies for dealing with Christian elements in early Yiddish translations, see Claudia Rosenzweig, "The Widow of Ephesus: Yiddish Rewritings and a Hypothesis on Jewish Clandestine Forms of Reading," Aschkenas 25.1 (2015): 97–113.

17. See, e.g., Ulenspiegel, 14a–16a. On the frequent occurrence of the clergy in medieval comic literature, see Alison Williams, Tricksters and Pranksters: Roguery in French and German Literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (Amsterdam, 2000), 49–83.

18. Cf. Ulenspiegel, 96b–97b; Eylin shpigl, [11]. Once again, this change is unique to the 1735 translation. See MS Munich, Cod.Hebr.100, fol.174b.

19. Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. H. Iswolsky (1968; repr. Bloomington, Ind., 1984), 19.

20. Müller, "Eulenspiegel," 201, n. 26.

21. Lustige Historien oder merckwürdiges Leben, Thaten und Reisen des weltbekandten Tyll Eulenspiegels (n.p., 1736), 8, n. 2.

22. The booklet includes several tales that did not appear in the early 1515 edition but do appear in later editions of the legend. Compare, e.g., Eylin shpigl, [20]–[25]; Wunderbarlich und seltsame Historien Tyl Eulenspiegels (n.p., 1593), 130a–135a.

23. In this sense, the translation supports Baumgarten's characterization of Yiddish translations of German epic as attempting to invent a specifically Jewish literature. See Baumgarten, Introduction, 135.

24. On the desire to create such an alternative, see Chone Shmeruk, Sifrut Yidish: Prakim le-toldoteha (Tel Aviv, 1978), 33–37; Baumgarten, Introduction, 300.

25. Mare'ot ha-tseva'ot (Wansbeck, 1718), 3a–6b; Eyn vunderlikh unt zer nutslikh sheyn maaseh … reprinted in Sara Zfatman, "The Tale of Hyrcanus' Seven Sons Who Were Transformed into Geese–On the Yiddish Adaptations of an International Folktale (AT 451)," Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Folklore 10 (1988): 32–93. On Mare'ot ha-tseva'ot, see Chaim Liebermann, "Tirgum Yidi bilti yadua' shel sefer 'Elef layla va-layla," Alei sefer (1977): 161–62.

26. Müller, "Eulenspiegel," 201.

27. Dauber, Demon's Bedroom, 204.

28. Eylin shpigl, [1].

29. See Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm, Deutsches Worterbuch, 25:1256, accessed June, 2017, http://www.woerterbuchnetz.de/DWB?lemma=versehen.

30. See, e.g., the age-old story of a white baby born to a black couple in Heliodorus, An Ethiopian Romance (Aethiopica), trans. M. Hadas (Philadelphia, 1957), 94–95. The tale was repeated in a wide array of medieval and early modern texts and folktales, including in Hebrew and Yiddish. See, e.g., Midrash Tanhuma, Naso 7; Maase bukh (1602; repr. Frankfurt, 1702), 55a–b, 161a–b; Abraham Yagel, Gei hizayon (ca. 1578), ed. D. Ruderman (Jerusalem, 1997), 122.

31. For some examples from the early modern Jewish world, see Gedaliah Ibn Yahya, Shalshelet ha-kabalah (Venice, 1587), 76a–b, 78b; Mathyahu Delakrut, Tsel ha-'olam (sixteenth c.; repr. Munkacs, 1897), 4b; Binyamin Beinish Ba'al Shem Tov, Shem tov katan (1706; repr. Czernovitz, 1855), 9b; Isaac Satanov, Sefer ha-Kuzari (Berlin, 1795), 3a. See also Robert Jütte, "Im Wunder vereint: eine spektakula¨re Missgeburt im Ghetto 1575," in Interstizi: Culture ebraico-cristiane a Venezia e nei suoi domini dal medioevo all'età' moderna, ed. U. Israel, R. Jütte, R. C. Mueller (Rome, 2010), 530–39.

32. On the shift in early modern perceptions of the womb and the monstrous birth, see particularly Mary Fissel, Vernacular Bodies: The Politics of Reproduction in Early Modern England (Oxford, 2004), esp. 53–69; Marie-Hélène Huet, Monstrous Imagination (Cambridge, Mass., 1993); Jennifer Spinks, Monstrous Births and Visual Culture in Sixteenth-Century Germany (New York, 2009), 132.

33. Glikl, Zikhronot, 341–47.

34. See, e.g., Rivkah bat Meir, Meneket Rivkah (before 1605), critical ed. F. von Rohden and trans. S. Spinner (Philadelphia, 2009), 91–95, 100, 102; Yaakov Zahalon, Otsar ha-hayim (Venice, 1683), 4b, 30b; Zekhariah Simner, Sefer zekhirah (Hamburg, 1709), 43a–b, 45a–b; Barukh Shick, Sefer amude ha-shamyim (Berlin, 1776), 5a.

35. Benjamin Slonik, "Seder mitsvot ha-nashim," 1585, transcription and trans. E. Fram and A. R. Segal, in Edward Fram, My Dear Daughter: Rabbi Benjamin Slonik and the Education of Jewish Women in Sixteenth-Century Poland (Cincinnati, Ohio, 2007), 218–19. For other examples, see Zahalon, Otsar ha-hayim, 4b; Barukh Schick of Shklov, Sefer tiferet ha-adam (Berlin, 1776), 5a; Pinchas Hurwitz, Sefer ha-brit (1797; repr. Jerusalem, 1990), 242; Yoel Baal Shem, Toldot adam (Zolkiew, 1720), n.p. [40]. An exception to the rule is found in the 1692 Yiddish translation of Igeret ha-kodesh, which ascribes the greatest influence on the character of the child to the father. See Michael Stanislawsky, "Toward the Popular Religion of Ashkenazic Jews: Yiddish-Hebrew Texts on Sex and Circumcision," in Mediating Modernity: Challenges and Trends in the Jewish Encounter with the Modern World, ed. L. B. Strauss and M. Brenner (Detroit, 2008), 98.

36. Huet, Monstrous Imagination, 30; also 33–34, 59; Fissel, Vernacular Bodies, esp. 90–91.

37. Zahalon, Otsar ha-h. ayim, 89a. On Zahalon and his book, see Ruderman, Jewish Thought and Scientific Discovery in Early Modern Europe (New Haven, Conn., 1995), 232–35. On intercourse as a cure for maladies of the womb in ancient Greece, the Arab world, and early modern Europe, see Helen King, "Once upon a Text: Hysteria from Hippocrates," in Hysteria beyond Freud, ed. S. L. Gilman, et al. (Berkeley, Calif., 1993), 42, 50, 52; G. S. Rousseau, "'A Strange Pathology': Hysteria in the Early Modern World, 1500–1800," in Hysteria beyond Freud, 134.

38. Tuviah ha-Cohen, Ma'aseh Tuviah (Venice, 1707), 134a–b. On Tuviah, see Ruderman, Jewish Thought, 229–55.

39. See discussion in Iris Idelson-Shein, "The Monstrous 'Mame': Mapping the Margins of Maternity in Early Modern Jewish Discourse," Jewish Social Studies 20.3 (2014): 53–55.

40. Eylin Spigl, [25].

41. Müller, "Eulenspiegel," 213.

42. Lynda Boose, "Scolding Brides and Bridling Scolds: Taming the Woman's Unruly Member," Shakespeare Quarterly 42.2 (1991): 184; David Underdown, "The Taming of the Scold: The Enforcement of Patriarchal Authority in Early Modern England," in Order and Disorder in Early Modern England, ed. A. Fletcher and J. Stevenson (New York, 1985), 116–36. For a different view on strong women, which occurs in eighteenth-century literature, see Dror Wahrman, The Making of the Modern Self: Identity and Culture in Eighteenth-Century England (New Haven, Conn., 2004), esp. 7–8. See also Astrid Lembke's reading of the sixteenth-century Yiddish Widuwilt as conveying a positive, albeit complex, representation of strong women: Astrid Lembke, "Ritter außer Gefecht: Konzepte passiver Bewa¨hrung im Wigalois und im Widuwilt," Ashkenas 25.1 (2015): 63–82.

43. Aristotle, Parts of Animals, trans. A. L. Peck (London, 1961), 371.

44. Quoted in Joe Moshenka, Feeling Pleasures: The sense of Touch in Renaissance England (Oxford, 2014), 218. See further examples throughout.

45. My reading of the fingernail is inspired by Julia Kristeva's discussion of the abject in Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (New York, 1982) and Mary Douglas's discussion of margins in Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (London, 1966).

46. On fools and folly in early modern Yiddish culture, see Ruth von Bernuth, How the Wise Men Got to Chelm: The Life and Times of a Yiddish Folk Tradition (New York, 2016), esp. 43–59.

47. On these chivalric heroes, see Erika Timm, "Beria und Simera: Eine jiddische Erza¨hlung des 16. Jahrhunderts," Literaturwissenschaftliches Jahrbuch 14 (1973): 1–94; Claudia Rosenzweig, Bovo d'Antona by Elye Bokher: A Yiddish Romance: A Critical Edition with Commentary (Leiden, 2015); Dauber, Demon's Bedroom, 220–54.

48. For a useful overview and discussion of the two approaches, see Frances E. Dolan, "Gender and Sexuality in Early Modern England," in Gender, Power and Privilege in Early Modern Europe: 1500–1700, ed. J. Munns and P. Richards (2003; repr. London, 2014), 11–12. For some of the major voices in this debate, see Ingram, "Scolding Women," 65–70; Lara Apps and Andrew Gow, Male Witches in Early Modern Europe (Manchester, 2003).

49. H. W. Janson, Apes and Ape Lore in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (1952; repr. Nedeln, 1976), 14–15. The association of the monkey and the monster is also evident in Congreve's discussion of monsters cited in my epigraph above. See William Congreve, "A Letter to Mr. Dennis, Concerning Humor in Comedy" (1695); repr. in The Works of William Congreve (London, 1761), 3:499.

50. For some Yiddish examples from the period under study, see Moshe Wallich, Sefer meshalim (Frankfurt, 1697), 5a. Repr. with English translation in Book of Fables, trans. E. Katz (Detroit, 1994), 44–45; Jerold Frakes, Early Yiddish Epic (Syracuse, N.Y., 2014), 151. On the association of apes or monkeys and Jews, see Leonid Livak, The Jewish Persona in the European Imagination: A Case of Russian Literature (Stanford, Calif., 2010), 76–77; Elisheva Carlebach, Divided Souls: Converts from Judaism in Germany, 1500–1750 (New Haven, Conn., 2001), 75–76; Sara Lipton, Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography (New York, 2014), 190. For an analysis of another (later) Jewish ape/man, see Samuel Spinner, "Plausible Primitives: Kafka and Jewish Primitivism," German Quarterly 89.1 (2016): 17–35. The association between monkeys or apes and Jews makes it, perhaps, tempting to read this Eulenspiegel as a religious polemic; however, the omission of all denigrating references to Christians that appeared in previous versions of the book (both in Yiddish and German) does not support such a reading.

51. Aylin spigl, [26]–[27].

52. For a discussion of the story's sources, see Müller, "Eulenspiegel," 213–15. Perhaps the most widely recognized adaptation of the tale is Esphyr Slobodkyna's 1940 children's book Caps for Sale.

53. Dror Wahrman, The Making of the Modern Self (New Haven, Conn., 2004), 131–41. On earlier attitudes, see Janson's Apes and Ape Lore. For a contextualization of the debate within the larger framework of the Enlightenment's obsession with defining and redefining the borders of the human, see Shulamit Volkov, "Exploring the 'Other': The Enlightenment's Search for the Boundaries of Humanity," in Demonizing the Other: Antisemitism, Racism and Xenophobia, ed. R. S. Wistrich (New York, 1999), 148–67.

54. Congreve, "A Letter," 499.

55. Eylin-Shpigl, [25]–[28].

56. Cohen, "Monster Culture," 5.

57. Eylin shpigl, [29].

58. Hadassi's story is clearly inspired by the travel tales of Eldad Ha-Dani, but it deviates from the hypotext in two significant points: in the earlier tale the cannibals are Cushites rather than canines, and the protagonist is saved when a foreign army arrives and kills the cannibals. Of course, it is possible that the tale featured in Eshkol ha-kofer–and subsequently also in the Yiddish Eulenspiegel–was based on a version of the travels of Eldad ha-Dani that has not reached us today. Compare Yehudah Hadassi, Sefer eshkol ha-kofer (Gozlav [Yevpatoria], 1836), 22b; Sefer Eldad ha-Dani, ed. A. Epstein (Pressburg [Bratislava], 1891), 51.

59. Edward Lane, trans., The Thousand and One Nights (London, 1838), 3:110, n. 52.

60. On classical motifs in Old Yiddish literature, see Frakes, "Quid Shmuel cum Homero? Greek Culture and Early Yiddish Epic," Literature Compass 11.7 (2014): 460–71.

61. On the association of Jews and dogs, see, in particular, Kenneth Stow, Jewish Dogs: An Image and Its Interpreters (Stanford, Calif., 2006). The association is evident also in the German Eulenspiegel itself, which features a tale in which Eulenspiegel refers to Jews as "you dogs" ("i[h]r Hund[e]"): Ulenspiegel, 49b. The tale is, of course, omitted from the 1735 translation. The 1600 translation merely omits the canine reference. See Howard, Wunderparlich, x.

62. Karl Steel, How to Make a Human: Animals and Violence in the Middle Ages (Columbus, Ohio, 2011), 143–44. Steel also notes that at least one medieval discussion of the cynocephali described them as being particularly gentle toward other animals, a further indication of their closeness to humans. Ibid., 148–50.

63. Conrad Gessner, Allgemeines Thier-Buch, part 1 (of 3): Abbildung aller vier-füssigen […] Thieren (1550; trans. Frankfurt am Main, 1669), 14–15. On the connection between baboons and cynocephali, see Janson, Apes and Ape Lore, 15.

64. Steel, How to Make a Human, 163.

65. Joan Fitzpatrick, Food in Shakespeare: Early Modern Dietaries and the Plays (London, 2007), 7, 58–61.

66. David Shyovitz, "How Can the Guilty Eat the Innocent: Animal Killing and Animal Eschatology in Medieval Jewish Thought," forthcoming. I am grateful to the author for sharing his forthcoming essay with me.

67. Matithyahu Delakrut, Tsel ha-'olam (16th c.; repr. Munkács, 1897), 7b.

68. Yehudah Hurwitz, Amude bet Yehudah (Amsterdam, 1766), 5b–6a. On Hurwitz, see also Shmuel Feiner, "Ben anane ha-sikhlut le-or ha-muskalot: Yehudah Hurwitz, maskil mukdam ba-me'ah ha-18," in Within Hasidic Circles: Studies in Hasidism in Memory of Mordecai Wilensky, ed. D. Assaf et al. (Hebrew; Jerusalem, 1999), 111–60.

69. Val Plumwood, "Being Prey," UTNE Reader, July/August 2000, accessed October 20, 2016, https://www.utne.com/arts/beingprey. See also Steel, How to Make a Human, 118.

70. It is worth mentioning that several studies have pointed to a close historical connection between meat eating and patriarchal values, and between vegetarianism and female empowerment. For a classic study, see Carol J. Adams, The sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory (New York, 1990).

71. Steel, How to Make a Human, 19.

72. Some scholars argue that given the assumed identity of the author of the 1515 Ulenspiegel, it is likely that the figure was originally conceived "as a negative example useful to expose moral and intellectual follies endangering the social order." See, e.g., Werner Wunerlich, introduction to Eulenspiegel-Interpretationen: Der Schalk im Spiegel der Forschung, 1807–1977 (Munich, 1979), 11–14; Priscilla Hayden-Roy, "Till Eulenspiegel's Transgressions against Convention: Interpreting the Parasite," Daphnis 20 (1991): 7–31; Williams, Tricksters, 144. However, the identity of the author is not ironclad. See Jürgen Schulz-Grobert, Das Strassburger Eulenspiegelbuch: Studien zu entstehungsgeschichtlichen Voraussetzungen der a¨ltesten Drucküberlieferung (Tübingen, 1999); Paul Oppenheimer, introduction to Till Eulenspiegel: His Adventures (New York, 1991), lxiv–xlvii.

73. Ruderman, Early Modern Jewry: A New Cultural History (Princeton, N.J., 2010), 159.

74. For an overview, see Ruderman, Early Modern Jewry, esp. 136–58. In the specific context of Yiddish literature, see Baumgarten, Old Yiddish, 26–37.

75. Dauber, Demon's Bedroom, 7. See also Baumgarten, Old Yiddish, 26–37; Katz, Yiddish and Power, esp. 45–71. Katz sees the rise of Yiddish literature from the Middle Ages to the modern period as a long-term (albeit often convoluted) process of popular empowerment. On similar concerns spurred by Hebrew printing, see Elchanan Reiner, "The Ashkenazi Élite at the Beginning of the Modern Era: Manuscript versus Printed Book," Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry 10 (1997): 85–98; Rachel Greenblatt, "'And He Wrote Many Books': Print, Remembrance, Autobiographical Writing and the Maharal of Prague," in MAHARAL, Overtures: Biography, Doctrine, Influence, ed. E. Reiner (Hebrew; Jerusalem, 2015), esp. 97–99.

76. Dauber, Demon's Bedroom, 7.

77. Hurwitz, Amude bet Yehudah, 32a. For a discussion and further references, see Idelson-Shein, Difference of a Different Kind: Jewish Constructions of Race during the Long Eighteenth Century (Philadelphia, 2014), 94–104; Feiner, "Ben anane," 111–60.

78. Dauber, Demon's Bedroom, 6; Baumgarten, Old Yiddish, 28, 33–34, 36; Agnes Romer-Segal, "Yiddish Works on Women's Commandments in the Sixteenth Century," in Studies in Yiddish Literature and Folklore, ed. C. Turniansky (Jerusalem, 1986), 40–41.

79. Jerold C. Frakes, The Emergence of Early Yiddish Literature: Cultural Translation in Ashkenaz (Bloomington, Ind., 2017).

80. Romer-Segal, "Yiddish Works," 39–40.

81. See Shlomo Berger, "Functioning within a Diasporic Third Space: The Case of Early Modern Yiddish," Jewish Studies Quarterly 15.1 (2008): 78; "Invitation to Buy and Read," 37; Romer-Segal, "Yiddish Works," 40; Zinberg, Old Yiddish, 223–27; Shmeruk, Sifrut Yiddish, 13–18.

82. See, e.g., Mare'ot ha-tseva'ot, 3a–6b. For further examples, see Zinberg, Old Yiddish, 122–23, 224.

83. Stanislawski, "Popular Religion," 93–106; Chava Turniansky, "Yiddish and the Transmission of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe," Jewish Studies Quarterly 15.1 (2008): 5–18.

84. Chava Turniansky, "On Old-Yiddish Biblical Epics," International Folklore Review 8 (1991): 32; Baumgarten, Introduction, 155–57.

85. On this literary convention and its motivations, see Shlomo Berger, "On the Use of Hebrew Words in Parenthesis in a Yiddish Text: The Case of Keter Malkhut (Amsterdam 1673)," Zutot (2003): 34–39.

86. Berger, "Third Space," 80.

87. Katz, Yiddish and Power, 47–51. See also Frauke von Rohden, "Introduction," to Meneket Rivkah, 24–25.

88. Dolan, "Gender and Sexuality," 12.

89. For a discussion of the close association between the discussion of the limits of the human, social order and hierarchy, and women's proper place, see Volkov, "Exploring the 'Other,'" esp. 150–51.

90. For a later Yiddish tale depicting powerful widows and male resistance to them, see François Guesnet, "Der angestupste Sohn des Vorstehers, oder: Jüdische Lebenswelt, Recht und Geschlecht in einer jüddischen Komödie des 19. Jahrhunderts," Lesestunde/Lekcja czytania, ed. R. Leiserowitz et al. (Warsaw, 2013), 139–54.