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King Solomon and the Golden Fish

Tales from the Sephardic Tradition

Texts Collected and Edited by Matilda Koén-Sarano
Translated and Annotated by Reginetta Haboucha
Preamble by Yoel Shalom Perez

Folklore, Jewish Life and Tradition, Jewish Studies, Translation

Raphael Patai Series in Jewish Folklore and Anthropology

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Hardback
Published: August 2004
ISBN: 9780814331668
Pages: 432 Size: 6x9
eBOOK
Published: August 2004
ISBN: 9780814341872
Review

A pioneering work to savor and treasure! A delight!

— Gloria J. Ascher

Orality has been central to the transmission of Sephardic customs, wisdom, and values for centuries. Throughout the Middle Ages, Spanish Jews were known for their linguistic skills, and as translators and storytellers they were the main transmitters of Eastern/Islamic culture to the Christian world. Derived from a distinguished heritage, Judeo-Spanish storytelling has evolved over a five-hundred-year historical journey. Constant contact with the surrounding societies of the past and with modern Israeli influences, making it more universal than other Sephardic oral genres. Told in order to entertain but also to teach, Judeo-Spanish folktales convey timeless wisdom and a colorful depiction of Sephardic communities up to the first half of the twentieth century.

King Solomon and the Golden Fish is a selection of fifty-four folktales taken from Matilda Koén-Sarano’s collection of stories recorded in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) and translated by Reginetta Haboucha into fluent and idiomatic English that preserves the flavor and oral nuances of each text. Haboucha provides commentary and annotations to the folktales that enlighten both the academic and the lay reader, making this book at once appealing to scholars and enjoyable for the general public. King Solomon and the Golden Fish is divided into six main thematic sections: Supernatural Tales, Tales of Fate, Tales of the Prophet Elijah, Romantic Tales, Tales of Cleverness and Wisdom, and Jokes and Anecdotes. These folktales remain a powerful link between modern-day Spanish Jews and the Hispano-Jewish legacy—this collection passes along that legacy and provides a source of the customs and values of Sephardic Jews.

Matilda Koén-Sarano is a writer, scholar, poet, and storyteller living in Jerusalem.

Reginetta Haboucha, Ph.D., is Dean of Liberal Arts at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She is the author of Types and Motifs of the Judeo-Spanish Folklore.

The strength of the storytelling tradition in Sephardic Jewish culture is well documented in this fine collection of folktales. The introductory material, a careful discussion of the Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) language, storyteller biographies, discussion of the richness of detail in the stories themselves, intelligent and thorough commentary, and an extensive bibliography ass up to an informative explanation of Sephardic culture.

– Choice

[This] book will appeal both to the general reader who simply wishes to imbibe the Sephardic culture contained in these tales as well as to scholars interested in the contributions made by Sephardic tales to the universal field of folklore."

– Ralph Tarica, La Lettre Sépharade

This collection of Sephardic narratives culled from . . . Israel, Turkey, Greece, Morocco, and Yugoslavia represents a marvelous introduction to the creative imagination and cultural richness of the Sephardic world. . . . [King Solomon and the Golden Fish: Tales from the Sephardic Tradition] constitutes a delightful addition to the Jewish library. Indeed, it should really be among the short lists of books that a Jewish library must possess."

– Jane Gerber, Institute for Sephardic Studies, City University of New York

A pioneering work to savor and treasure! A delight! This first diverse collection, by master storyteller and scholar Matilda Koén-Sarano, of Judeo-Spanish folk tales in English, will attract specialists with its extensive annotation and inspire and challenge all to tell the tales and transmit the precious human legacy they exemplify."

– Gloria J. Ascher, Co-director of Judaic Studies, Tufts University