The Golem is a creature formed by a rabbi out of mud or clay (although it can
be made of wood). It is an enduring and favourite subject in Jewish folklore,
and it has proved invaluable in its power to reflect the vicissitudes of history.
The Golem can take many forms, but is always powered by a magic or holy
word. The tale usually ends with the destruction of the creature, but hints of
its probable return usually haunt and disrupt any sense of finality. The most
famous and enduring version of the story was set in the Prague Ghetto, and
was a favourite subject for German Expressionist artists. This is because it
reflected a time when the old and the new combined in uncanny and
disturbing ways. The Golem story was popular with Romantic writers like
E.T.A. Hoffmann, who were similarly reacting to a world that was changing
under the influence of Enlightenment thinking and war. Sigmund Freud’s
famous essay, ‘The Uncanny’, (‘Das Unheimliche’) of 1919, used
Hoffmann’s classic Golem tale, The Sandman, as its central focus, though
Freud was never to acknowledge its Jewish origins.
|Date of Award||Oct 2010|