The Golem Discussion

I’m back baby! After my hurried post last week, I jetted off to Czech out Prague (cor blimey, that’s a terrible pun and I sincerely apologise)- which was absolutely incredible!! The best way I can describe it is as a child’s fantasy land full of sweets, comfort food, castles, puppets, scary stories, clocks that run backwards, music, chocolate box houses, and all the good things!

In honour of my trip, I thought I might discuss Isaac Bashevis Singer’s version of The Golem, which is, of course, set in that wonderful city.

For those of you that don’t know the story, The Golem is based on the legend of Rabbi Loew who created the golem to protect the Jews of Prague from persecution.

The_Golem_(Isaac_Bashevis_Singer_novel_-_cover_art)You may be aware that it was the story of the golem that inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein, but the central issue here is not the same. For where hubris drives Frankenstein to create his monster, it is not the same impulse that drives Loew to create the golem. The golem, above all, is created out of love. And it is for this reason that the two stories diverge so greatly.

Singer’s heartfelt version highlights this in particular. Against the backdrop of the blood libel- where Jews were falsely accused of murdering Christian children to incite anti-Semitism- The Golem is crucially about a man’s love for his people. Here, Singer brings history into play with legend, expanding the traditional narrative to include other elements of love: a woman’s love for someone who is different, a creator’s love for his creation, even the lowliest of creatures love for life- and the list goes on.

frankensteinOf course, a striking similarity to Frankenstein is where Loew loses control of his creation by asking it to do something for which it was not intended. But this, instead of highlighting the Rabbi’s hubris, brings into focus a debate about good intentions and accountability- which is a central feature of Judaism. The story of Moses hitting the rock and consequently being barred entry to Israel is a prime example of how even the greatest among us can make mistakes.

It is Loew’s mistake here that humanises him and sets the precedent for other characters, such as Frankenstein, that will follow in his footsteps. But it is not only his more fallible nature that marks Loew as the basis for other author’s inspiration. Because it is Loew’s messianic nature that strikes me as the forerunner for heroes such as Superman- who become synonymous with messages of hope, justice and incorruptible idealism.

Loew, a beacon of hope in his own right, represents a long held belief that “love conquers all”. As cliché as that sounds, Singer does not pull his punches when proving Shakespeare’s adage. Much like Hans Christian Anderson’s tales, which I discussed after my trip to Copenhagen, Singer does not shy away from darkness, bringing the reader face to face with the brutal realities of the persecution of Jews in Europe, before offering the redemptive powers of love as a solution. Thus he signs off with a potent final message: “Love once engraved in the heart can never be erased. It lives forever”.

Are any of you familiar with the story? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments 🙂


34 thoughts on “The Golem Discussion

  1. Claire | Art and Soul says:

    That pun is great 🙂 And Prague is so beautiful. As if the city has been frozen in time for hundreds of years.
    I had heard of the legend of the Golem, but not the Singer version. Frankenstein is a brilliant book and I always have to remind myself how young Mary Shelley was when she wrote it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Codie says:

    Your pictures are amazing – it’s so beautiful there! I’ve never heard of the golem, but of course, I know Frankenstein. To be honest the golem sounds better and your review is wonderful. Really glad you’re back!

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thanks so much! It really is! Thanks so much- I really recommend checking it out- what I didn’t mention in the post was how lyrical and beautifully written this version was. Plus it’s a children’s book and really short, so nice and easy to get through! Though I’m not sure where I’d rate it in comparison to Frankenstein- I love them both for very different reasons- I gave them both 5* ratings. Thank you!! Glad to be back! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Emma Yeoman says:

    Definitely going to have to Czech out (sorry – I’m bad at bad puns too….) this book in memory of my recent trip to Prague – sounds amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lisa says:

    Wonderful post. I’ve never read the Isaac Bashevis Singer story, but I’ve read several versions in other contexts (including a wonderful children’s book by David Wisniewski). I definitely need to read the IBS story!

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you so much! Yay- someone else that’s familiar with the golem! I’ve also read that version- I agree, it’s wonderful! (my mum was always a massive fan, so we had several versions dotted around the place) You should- it’s also aimed at children, so it’s really short- but it’s beautifully written and really lyrical and it has a certain intensity that the other versions don’t- I highly recommend it!


  5. Alternate Dimension says:

    I have never heard of The Golem before! Sounds promising! And since you are fascinated by Frankenstein, I was wondering what do you think of the movie Victor Frankenstein with main actors James McAvoy (Victor) and Daniel Radcliff (Igor)? I haven’t seen the movie myself but i’m a fan of the genre.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mudandstars says:

    Wow, this sounds like a powerful story! I’d not heard the story before, but I’m definitely interested in Czeching it out now (I could NOT resist! :P) I must be one of the only people who has never read Frankenstein (although I’m familiar with the story, obviously) – I love Gothic literature though, and it’s on my list of classics to read this year. Your photographs from Prague are gorgeous! It’s one of my favourite cities in the world, the architecture is amazing – I felt like I was walking around in a fairytale the whole time. What was your favourite part? I’m glad you had a lovely holiday, and welcome back 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      hahah love the pun!!! It really is wonderful- I highly recommend it- it’s nice and short too cos it’s a children’s story, so it makes for an excellent light read 🙂 . You should definitely read Frankenstein too cos it’s brilliant- definitely my favourite gothic book! Thank you so much!! I know- it was my first time there and it’s definitely one of the best places I’ve ever visited!! Gosh there were so many things- I loved stumbling upon a random concert where they were playing one of my favourite pieces at the moment. And I had a great time trying out the beer and the food and just exploring the city! Oh and I took a day trip to the Bone Church- which was super creepy! (haha got a bit carried away there- sorry- couldn’t help it! :p ) Thank you so much!! Glad to be back 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • mudandstars says:

        I definitely need to read it! 🙂 Aww that sounds amazing! I didn’t visit the Bone Church while I was there, but that sounds awesome! I think the highlight for me was just wandering around and exploring too 🙂 I loved the Cathedral and the Castle, I took lots of pictures and I keep meaning to do some sketches from them but haven’t got round to it yet.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. prediksi togel jitu says:

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that,
    this is excellent blog. A fantastic read. I will definitely
    be back.


  8. m88vn says:

    Hi! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room
    mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will
    forward this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read.
    Many thanks for sharing!


  9. m88th says:

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  10. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    Great review! I read The Golem back many moons ago. As I haven’t read Frankenstein yet, I can’t make that parallel (other than what I just know culturally) from the story, but I’m glad you pointed out the connection to the origin of Frankenstein. I love how Singer takes a simple story and expands upon the human elements involved. Well, that’s traditional of a good Jew, I guess. Exploring the right and wrong and trying to better understand human motivations. I can’t wait to re-read this book.


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