FABLES OF THE JEWISH AESOP by Berechiah Ha-Nakdan

FABLES OF THE JEWISH AESOP

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Translated from 12th-century Hebrew by the late Moses Hadas, this collection of fables uses the modes of Aesop but often fills them with the bitter wisdom of the Jews. They are called fox fables (remember Reynard?) not only because the fox shows up most often as lead character but also because the fox is proverbially shrewd and worldly. What is one to say about these adult fables in which goodness and light seldom are rewarded? Can these bitter insights be for children other than from the ghettoes of Europe? One commentator suggests that they are gentle satires perhaps about living people of Berechiah Ha-Nakdan's times. But if these are gentle, what can savagery be? In the ""Wolf and Crane"" fable (subtitled, Whose serves wicked sinners, his reward is enough if he is delivered from blows), the wolf is dying because of a bone lodged in its throat. The crane with its long beak saves the wolf's life by extracting the bone. The crane's reward? this comment from the wolf: ""Who hath ever come into my mouth and remained whole? This once hast thou escaped from between my teeth... Depart from me lest I slay thee, lest thy life be for a prey."" Often enough, the sympathetic animal, say the sheep, is eaten right down to the bones by the wolf and eagle. No quarter is given and the weak fall prey to the bloodthirsty. To be sure, a moral is always rendered, but this collection is less for the Os and Dr. Seuss contingent than for the post-Auschwitz crowd.

Publisher: Columbia University Press