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Preface The prospective reader should be warned at the very outset that the subject of this volume is not a pleasant one. This is not a study of a folktale like Cinderella or Little Red Riding Hood. Instead it is an assemblage of essays all treating one of the most bizarre and dangerous legends ever created by the human imagination: the blood libel legend. According to this legend, which goes back to at least the twelfth century in Europe, Jews murder an innocent Christian infant or child for the ritual purpose of mixing the victim's blood with their matzah around Easter time. Strange though this legend may sound to anyone who has not encountered it previously, it has a sordid history which has caused great grief to countless numbers and generations of Jews. It continues to be believed as true even in the twentieth century, and it has had a demonstrable effect on the perpetuation of the worst kind of anti-Semitism, that is, anti-Semitic behavior which has caused the death of Jews. In order to better understand the blood libel legend, we should perhaps make several basic distinctions. Ritual murder is a general term referring to any sacrificial killing-of either animal or human victim for some designated reason, e.g., to place in a cornerstone so as to ensure a successful building or bridge. Jewish ritual murder, in particular, refers to Jews killing Christians for some alleged religious reason. The blood libel is a subcategory of Jewish ritual murder. Not only is a Christian killed-usually a small child, typically male-but the child's blood is supposedly utilized in some ritual context, e.g., to mix with the unleavened bread eaten at Passover. One of the first reported cases of ritual murder allegedly carried out by Jews is that of William of Norwich in 1144. The first essay in this volume by Gavin 1. Langmuir discusses this case in ample detaiL The second essay, by nineteenthcenturyfolklorist JosephJacobs, considers amorefamous case in England, that of Hugh of Lincoln in 1255. From cases we move to more folkloristic or literary renditions of the legend. vii Preface Brian Bebbington's symbolic analysis of the ballad of Little Sir Hugh is followed by Chaucer's classic Prioress's Tale. From cases and texts, we shift to surveys of ritual murder or the blood libel in different locales. Colin Holmes's review of modern English instances, Frantisek Cervinka's account of a well-known case in Czechoslovakia, and Sanford Shepard's consideration of Spanish examples are representative. Charlotte Klein samples the many reports of ritual murder found in an important Catholic periodical sponsored by the Vatican. Then follow examinations of ritual murder reports in nineteenth -century Egypt by Jacob M. Landau and in the twentieth century in the United States by Abraham G. Duker. After these cases, texts, and surveys, the final section of the volume concerns the analysis of the blood libel legend. Cecil Roth seeks an origin for the legend in the Christian misunderstanding of the Jewish feast of Purim, and Magdalene Schultz emphasizes the child abuse component of the legend in her essay. The last two selections by Ernest A. Rappaport and the editor attempt to bring psychoanalytic theory to bear upon the content of the blood libel legend. One should keep in mind that these fourteen essays were written at different time periods and were addressed to very different audiences. So it was almost inevitable that there would be some repetition and overlap in the essays. On the other hand, taken as a whole, these diverse studies of the blood libel legend give a remarkably complete picture of the legend in all its complexity. The intent of the casebook is to hold an evil legend up to the light of reason with the hope of nullifying its pernicious influence. To do so, I had to take the risk of introducing the legend to some who may never have heard it before. I would hate to think that this volume would in any way help spread the legend. On the other hand, the legend has existed for nearly nine centuries up to the present time and it has had dire consequences for many, many individuals. I believe the risk is worth taking because such an evil legend must be analyzed and shown to be the dangerous fantasy that it surely is. viii ...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780299131135
Related ISBN
9780299131142
MARC Record
OCLC
835455593
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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