About the Book
Tales from Arab Lands presents tales from North Africa, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq in the latest volume of the most important collection of Jewish folktales ever published. This is the third book in the multi-volume series in the tradition of Louis Ginzberg’s timeless classic, Legends of the Jews. Other volumes can be found here.
The tales here and the others in this series have been selected from the Israel Folktale Archives (IFA), named in Honor of Dov Noy, at The University of Haifa, a treasure house of Jewish lore that has remained largely unavailable to the entire world until now.
Since the creation of the State of Israel, the IFA has collected more than 20,000 tales from newly arrived immigrants, long-lost stories shared by their families from around the world. The tales come from the major ethno-linguistic communities of the Jewish world and are representative of a wide variety of subjects and motifs, especially rich in Jewish content and context.
Each of the tales is accompanied by in-depth commentary that explains the tale’s cultural, historical, and literary background and its similarity to other tales in the IFA collection, and extensive scholarly notes. There is also an introduction that describes the culture and its folk narrative tradition, a world map of the areas covered, illustrations, biographies of the collectors and narrators, tale type and motif indexes, a subject index, and a comprehensive bibliography.
Until the establishment of the IFA, we had had only limited access to the wide range of Jewish folk narratives. Even in Israel, the gathering place of the most wide-ranging cross-section of world Jewry, these folktales have remained largely unknown. Many of the communities no longer exist as cohesive societies in their representative lands; the Holocaust, migration, and changes in living styles have made the continuation of these tales impossible. This series is a monument to a rich but vanishing oral tradition.
This series is a monument to a rich but vanishing oral tradition.
For anyone who wants an introduction to what the Diaspora really means, hand them any volume in this masterful collection. . . . Each tale has a life of its own, lit from within, and each piece of commentary and footnote records a story of telling stories, human, lively, deep. . . . We are indebted to JPS for publishing this astonishing collection.
—Roger Abraham, PhD
Ben-Amos builds on the high standards previously set in the Folktales of the Jews series with a marvelous journey through Arab lands. . . . Invaluable as a reference, and a delight for readers, the stories are rooted in their distinctive cultural environments and relate at the same time to the broad Jewish experience. Ben-Amos’s notes show an incredible command of worldwide sources and sensitivity to the special cultural dimensions of storytelling in Arab lands. With this volume, the monument of the series continues to impress and inspire.
—Simon J. Bronner, PhD
The entire series, when completed, will constitute a project of major importance based on the oral tradition.
—Haya Bar-Itzhak, Journal of Folklore Research