Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The Golem retells a story from Jewish folklore. Initially intended for an adult readership, The Golem first appeared in a 1969 edition of the Yiddish language periodical The Jewish Daily Forward. Author Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote all his fiction in Yiddish, only afterward publishing an English translation.

In the 1982 publication of The Golem as a children’s book, Uri Shulevitz’s chiaroscuro drawings capture the interplay of light and dark that conveys the story’s tone. They also illuminate the story’s medieval setting.

A classic tale of misdirected ambition, The Golem draws on legends dating back to the sixteenth century. These legends center on a clay giant, or golem, created by the historical figure Judah Loew ben Bezalel, a noted Kabbalist, or practitioner of Jewish mysticism. The golem is intended to champion the Jewish community in time of need.

Singer blends several of the legends surrounding the golem into a single narrative. He begins by introducing the reader to Rabbi Leib, humble as well as learned, and therefore suited to his sacred task. The rabbi is instructed about how to bring the golem to life and for what specific purpose: to exonerate a Jewish banker—and with him the entire Jewish community—from a charge of killing a Christian child for ritual purposes.

This first part of the narrative reaches its climax when the golem disrupts the banker’s...

(The entire section is 525 words.)