Yiddish Folktales

Yiddish Folktales

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Overview

Filled with princesses and witches, dybbuks and wonder-working rebbes, the two hundred tales that make up this delightful compendium were gathered during the 1920s and 1930s by ethnographers in the small towns and villages of Eastern Europe. Collected from people of all walks of life, they include parables and allegories about life, luck, and wisdom; tales of magic and wonder; poignant encounters between rabbis and their disciples; and stories whose only purpose is to entertain. Long after the culture that produced them tragically disappeared, these enchanting Yiddish folktales continue to work their magic today.

With black-and-white illustrations throughout
Part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805210903
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/01/2000
Series: Library of Yiddish Classics
Edition description: 1ST SCHOCK
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 519,708
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.16(h) x 1.16(d)

About the Author

Editor BEATRICE SILVERMAN WEINREICH (1928-2008) was for many years a research associate at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York and coeditor of the journal Yiidisher Folklor. She published many articles in academic journals on Yiddish culture and folklore.

Translator LEONARD WOLF is the author of the novels The Glass Mountain and The False Messiah, and of Bluebeard: The Life and Crimes of Gilles de Rais. Among his translations from Yiddish are The Certificate by Isaac Bashevis Singer and The Family Mashber by Der Nister.

Read an Excerpt

4
THE LUCK THAT SNORED
 
 
Once upon a time there were two brothers, one rich and the other poor. The poor brother was a servant in his rich brother’s house. One day as he was standing guard at the gate, there came a tiny man wearing a golden cat and carrying a sack of gold on his shoulders.
 
“Who are you?” the poor brother asked.
 
“I’m your brother’s luck.”
 
The poor brother was amazed. “Perhaps you can tell me where I can find my luck?” he said.
 
“Of course I can, but it won’t do you any good,” said the tiny man. “Because he’s lying in a deserted field that’s hard to find. And your luck is mangy and run down and asleep.”
 
But the poor brother begged and pleased and wept, until finally the man took pity on him. “All right then, I’ll tell you,” he said. “Go off that way for a long, long time till you come to a field. Go past it for a long time till you come to another field, where you’ll see thousands of lucks lying asleep. Don’t wake them. Go on until you see thousands of other lucks who have just woken up. They will be sitting around yawning and scratching themselves, but don’t let that bother you. Keep going, keep searching until you find a luck who’s sleeping sounder than the others, and snoring louder. That one is your luck.”
 
And when the little man with the gold cap had finished speaking, he disappeared.
 
Early the next morning the poor brother started off in search of his luck. He walked on and on until he came to a barren field, just as the little man had said. He didn’t stop but went on until he came to another field that was equally barren. He looked about and saw a great many lucks sleeping and snoring, but he did not disturb them. He saw others who sat around yawning and scratching themselves, but he paid no attention.
 
He went on and one, searching and searching, until he saw a luck That was sleeping more deeply than the others. He went up and tried to wake him: “Luck, my luck, wake up. Why do you sleep so hard?” His luck never stirred, just slept and snored. Again he tried to wake him, but nothing helped. Finally the poor man wept. “Luck, ah my luck,” he pleaded, “don’t sleep anymore. Pay attention. My wife and children are hungry. Help me. Give me something.”
 
His luck said nothing. But he put a scabby hand into his breast pocket, took out a silver gulden, and handed it to the poor man.
 
“What good will this do?” the man asked.
 
“Some good, some good,” grumbled the luck. “Go to the marketplace and buy the first thing that comes your way.”
 
The poor man went to the marketplace, where he met a peasant with a hen to sell. So he bought the hen and took it home. He went to sleep, and the hen flew up to a shelf and went to sleep too.
 
When the poor man woke in the morning, he saw something gleaming on the shelf. He got out of bed and found that the hen had laid a golden egg. He woke his wife and children and showed them the golden egg, and they all danced and leaped for joy, Then the poor man took the egg and sold it for a great deal of money. And from that time on, he grew richer and richer.
 
Things are well for them
And for us, even better.
 
 
###
 
 
 
6
WHY DOGS CHASE CATS AND CATS CHASE MICE
 
 
Once upon a time the dogs applied to the king for a decree that would forbid people to bother dogs. The king signed the decree and gave it to them, but then the dogs couldn’t think of a place to put it. Finally they passed it to the cats for safekeeping, because cats are able to creep into all sorts of snug nooks and crannies. The cats took the paper and hid it in the eaves of a house.
 
Sometime later, dogcatchers started rounding up dogs. “Hey,” cried the dogs, “wait a minute. We’ve got a decree from the king that says you can’t bother us.”
 
“If that’s true,” said the dogcatchers, “where is it?”
 
So the dogs ran to the cats and said, “We need the king’s decree that forbids anyone to bother us. Where is it?”
 
“Wait a minute. We’ll go and look,” said the cats, and off they went to the eaves. The document was there all right, but the mice had gnawed it to shreds and tatters, When the dogs heard this, they were furious and chased the mice.
 
And that’s how it’s been ever since.
 
 
####

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Yiddish Folktales"
by .
Copyright © 1997 Beatrice Weinreich.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction  •  xix
 
PART ONE: Naked Truths and Resplendent Parables: Allegorical Tales
1. Naked Truth and Resplendent Parable  •  7
2. A Bit of Herring, a Pinch of Salt, and a Morsel of Bread  •  8
3. Things Can Always Get Worse  •  9
4. The Luck That Snored  •  10
5. The Fever and the Flea  •  12
6. Why Dogs Chase Cats and Cats Chase Mice  •  14
7. Wisdom or Luck?  •  15
8. Pleasing All the World  •  19
9. Poverty Grows and Grows  •  20
10. The Sacrifice of Isaac and the Caretaker of Brisk  •  21
11. The Treasure at Home  •  23
12. A Fable of a Bird and Her Chicks  •  24
13. Letting In the Light  •  25
14. Bad Luck  •  26
 
PART TWO: A Rooster and a Hen, Let the Story Begin: Children’s Tales
15. The Pain in the Neck: A Nonsense Tale  •  35
16. The Six-Pointed Homentash: A Purim Take  •  36
17. A Tale of Two Brothers  •  37
18. Stones and Bones Rattle in My Belly  •  44
19. Sóre-Kháne at the Tip of the Church Tower  •  45
20. Little Bean  •  47
21. A Topsy-Turvy Tale  •  50
22. Clever Khashinke and Foolish Banshinke  •  51
23. The Granny Bear  •  53
24. Moyshele and Sheyndele  •  54
25. Next Time That’s What I’ll Say  •  57
26. The Naughty Little Girl  •  60
 
PART THREE: Magic Rings, Feathers of Gold, Mountains of Glass: Wonder Tales
27. Hangs the Moon on My Palace Roof  •  69
28. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice  •  73
29. The Beggar King and the Melamed  •  77
30. Of Nettles and Roses  •  79
31. The Demon and Sosye  •  83
32. How Much Do You Love Me?  •  85
33. The Master Thief  •  89
34. The Orphaned Boys  •  93
35. Two Brothers Who Went to the Devil  •  98
36. The Snake Bridegroom  •  101
37. The Princess and Vanke, the Shoemaker’s Son  •  105
38. The Foolish Youth and Elijah the Prophet  •  107
39. The King’s Lost Daughter  •  112
40. The Magic Fish and the Wishing Ring  •  115
41. The Hunchbacks and the Dancing Demons  •  120
42. The Princess of the Third Pumpkin  •  122
43. The Orphan Boy Who Won the Bride  •  126
44. Forty Hares and a Princess  •  130
45. The Merchant’s Son and the Demons  •  125
46. The Ram, the Basket, and the Stick  •  140
47. The Golden Feather  •  142
 
PART FOUR: Justice, Faith, and Everyday Morals: Pious Tales
48. The Tale of the Stingy Woman  •  155
49. The Wheat Poured In at the Door  •  157
50. In Heaven and Hell  •  158
51. The Miracle of the Tree  •  160
52. The Poor Man’s Ruble  •  161
53. Blood and Water  •  162
54. A Letter to God  •  163
55. The Seven Good Years  •  167
56. Set a Trap for Another  •  168
57. A Succos Tale  •  170
58. Only Eleven Little Fish  •  172
59. A Passover Take  •  173
60. A Shocking Tale of a Viceroy  •  176
61. The Leper Boy and Elijah the Prophet  •  182
62. The Trustees  •  185
63. A Tragic Tale  •  186
64. Upon Me  •  189
65. The Ballad of the Faithful Wife  •  190
66. The Iron Chest  •  192
67. Water Wouldn’t Hurt  •  195
68. The Unlearned Villager  •  195
69. Holding On to One-Quarter of My World  •  196
70. The Poor Rabbi and His Three Daughters  •  198
 
PART FIVE: Nitwits, Wits, and Pranksters: Humorous Tales
71. The Clever Girl: A Riddle Tale  •  207
72. Then Where’s the Cat?  •  210
73. The Best for My Wife  •  211
74. The Coat of Patches  •  211
75. The Bishop and Moshke: Another Riddle Tale  •  214
76. Good Manners and Foolish Khushim  •  216
77. Khushim and His Bride  •  218
78. The Tale of a Leaf from the Tree of Knowledge  •  219
79. Reb Hershele and the Goose Leg  •  221
80. Hershele Ostropolyer and the Sabbath Caftan  •  222
81. Why Khelmites Are Fools  •  222
82. The Angel Spills the Jar of Fools  •  223
83. A Shoyfer in Khelm  •  223
84. The Hill Pushed Away  •  224
85. How Khelmites Lighted Up the Night  •  225
86. The Melamed’s Trunk  •  226
87. The Rolling Stone  •  227
88. A Cat in Khelm  •  227
89. Khelmites Who Refused to Tread on Snow  •  228
90. The Sundial  •  228
91. A Khelm Compromised  •  229
92. A Bridge in Khelm  •  229
93. Sowing Salt  •  230
94. Two Cows for a Melody  •  231
95. Froyim Greydinger, the Magic Stick, and the Pot of Soup  •  233
96. What Makes Tea Sweet: An Exercise in Logic  •  235
97. The Visitor from the World Beyond  •  235
98. The Ten Women  •  237
99. The Congregation Loves Jam  •  239
100. Motke Khabad Needs a Place to Live  •  239
101. Why the Head Turns Gray before the Beard  •  240
102. The Love Potion  •  243
103. Skotsl Kunt: Skotsl’s Here  •  246
104. The Clever Little Tailor  •  247
105. Two Tunes for Three Hundred Rubles  •  250
106. Some True Miracles of God  •  254
 
PART SIX: Sages, Tsadikim, and Villains: Legends
107. Sabbath in Paradise  •  265
108. The Baal Shem Tov and the Herdsman  •  267
109. Yisroel, the Child Rebbe  •  270
110. The Disciple Who Went Astray  •  271
111. The Rebbe’s Melody  •  272
112. Don’t Go into the Mud in the First Place  •  275
113. The Missed Moment of Redemption  •  276
114. The Mekarev Rebbe Gets Even with a Stingy Woman  •  277
115. The Happy Pair and the Baal Shem Tov  •  279
116. The Fleet-Footed Tomeshef Rebbe  •  282
117. The Right Order Is Important  •  283
118. Reb Khaim Urbakh Rocks a Cradle on Yom Kippur  •  284
119. Rain and the Rebbe of Stolin  •  284
120. The Miracle of the Dry Well  •  285
121. The Reincarnation of Queen Esther  •  286
122. The Penitent and the Rebbe of Tshekhenove  •  289
123. The Boy Who Put Two Socks on One Foot  •  290
124. The Power of the Mourner’s Prayer  •  291
125. The Curious Disciple  •  293
126. A Common Piece of Earth  •  293
127. Reb Malkiel and the 702 Candles  •  294
128. A Modern Miracle  •  296
129. How Judah Halevi Entered Heaven Alive  •  298
130. Rabbi Joshua and the Emperor of Rome  •  299
131. A Wonderful Legend of a Cave  •  300
132. Waiting for the Messiah  •  301
133. The Torah of My Servant Moses  •  303
134. Rabbi Jonathan and the Minister: A Disputation  •  304
135. He Has Only One Weakness  •  306
136. The Rabbi Shows Respect for His Shoemaker  •  306
137. Evening the Score  •  307
138. Reb Leybele of Mir Goes to the Marketplace  •  309
139. Napoleon the First and the Jewish Officer  •  312
140. Napoleon in Vilna  •  313
141. Nafol tipol: Napoleon, You Will Fall  •  313
142. The Cantonist’s Mother and Nicholas the First  •  315
143. Czar Nicholas Decrees the Burning of the Talmud  •  320
144. Emperor Franz Josef and the Innkeeper’s Infant  •  320
145. The Poor Man and Rothschild  •  321
146. Rothschild’s Shoes  •  322
147. Rothschild’s End  •  322
 
PART SEVEN: Elves and Dibbuks, Ghosts, and Golems: Supernatural Tales
148. The Shoemaker and the Shretelekh  •  329
149. The Synagogue, the Church, and the Town Hall  •  330
150. The Transmigrating Soul  •  331
151. Who’s Milking the Cows?  •  333
152. The Passover Elf Helps Great-Grandmother  •  334
153. The Old Shul in Motele  •  334
154. The Blacksmith and the Horses with Human Hands  •  336
155. The Mysterious Gold Chain  •  337
156. The Unquiet Grave  •  338
157. The Large Stone Synagogue of Berditshev  •  339
158. The Golem of Vilna  •  340
159. The Ball Shem Tov and the Gilgl  •  342
160. The Shretele That Took a Little Nap  •  343
161. The Lost Hat and the Pile of Gold  •  344
162. The Miracle of the Beer Keg  •  345
163. How Doves Saved a Synagogue from Fire  •  346
164. The Calf That Turned to Gold  •  346
165. A Cave That Leads to the Land of Israel  •  347
166. Late-Night Spooks  •  348
167. The Demon Sheep  •  348
168. The Dibbuk Melody of Tolne  •  349
169. The Missing Bridegroom  •  352
170. Two Hrubeshoyv Legends  •  353
171. Why the Rebbe’s Pipe Must Be Kept Lighted  •  354
172. Luckily, the Rooster Crowed Late  •  355
173. Neither Eat not Drink What a Demon Offers  •  356
174. A Balshem Drives Out a Dibbuk  •  357
175. Lantekh, the Bridge Hobgoblin  •  359
176. The Demon and the Willow Twigs  •  359
177. The Sleepy Tailor and the Zmore  •  360
178. The Last Dibbuk  •  361
 
Glossary  •  369
Annotations to the Tales  •  379
Notes  •  403
Bibliography  •  407

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