Friday, November 16, 2007

Der Golem: Ancient Jewish Folktale, Opera and The Simpsons Did It

In conjunction with friend and comrade in nerdiness J. Ho, today he and I are posting about golems. I challenged him to a timed drawing, giving him scant few minutes to draw a golem. He posted the end product on his blog today.

For my part I'll be posting a few things about the golem, its history and pop culture references.

Perhaps through video games (most specifically role-playing games) we know the golem today as a humanoid creature made of stone or other such earthy materials. Here is the 'classic' image of the golem creature from the Dragon Quest video games:

The origins of the golem are similar to our modern idea of what a golem is. defines the word 'golem' as: "an artificial human being in Hebrew folklore endowed with life". It is from this folklore that we get our modern golem.

The most famous and one of the earliest mass-media representations of the golem creature is the 1920 film The Golem: How He Came into the World and preceded by the 1915 film Der Golem (translated from German as 'The Golem' but originally released here in the United States under the title 'The Monster of Fate'). I found this on YouTube:

The basic plot of the golem tale is this: An antique dealer buys an old humanoid statue made of clay that was created by a Rabbi centuries before. By placing words written on paper into the open mouth of the golem, the golem will come to life and obey the written command. When the golem is brought to life by the antique dealer, it falls in love with the antique dealer's wife. Saddened the antique dealer's wife does not requite its love, the golem begins murdering people.

Here's an original poster for the film:

And here's a picture of how the golem was portrayed in the film:

If that picture looks familiar, it's probably because (in the immortal words of General Disarray): "The Simpsons did it!" In the 2006 Treehouse of Horror XVII episode of The Simpsons, one of the segments parodies the film. The segment was called "You Gotta Know When to Golem".

John Casken also wrote an opera called Golem that premiered in 1989, retelling the story of the creature with original music.

On a last related note: While looking for video of the golem, I found this on YouTube. This golem costume was hand-made from about five foam mattresses. Rad!



1 comment:

Park Ranger Cam said...

simpsons must have copied the golem from that old movie: