The Power of a Tale
Stories from the Israel Folktale Archives
Edited by Haya Bar-Itzhak and Idit Pintel-Ginsberg
Printed Paper Cased
Pages: 464 Size: 7x10
Illustrations: 45 black-and-white images
In The Power of a Tale: Stories from the Israel Folktale Archives, editors Haya Bar-Itzhak and Idit Pintel-Ginsberg bring together a collection of fifty-three folktales in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Israel Folktale Archives (IFA) at the University of Haifa. Established by the folklorist Dov Noy in the 1950s, the IFA is the only archive of its kind in Israel and serves as a center for knowledge and information concerning the cultural heritage of the many ethnic communities in Israel.
For this jubilee volume, contributors each selected a story—the narrators of which vary in ethnic background, education level, gender, and length of time in Israel—from the more than 24,000 preserved in the archives and wrote an accompanying analytic essay. The folk narrative is anchored in tradition, but it is modified and renewed by each narrator as they tell it to assorted audiences and in different performance contexts. The stories they tell encompass a myriad of genres and themes, including mythical tales, demon legends, märchen of various sorts, and personal narratives. Contributors employ diverse approaches to analyze and interpret the stories, such as the classic comparative approach, which looks at tale types, oikotypes, and motifs; formalism, which considers narrative roles and narrative functions; structuralism, which aims to uncover a story’s deep structure and its binary oppositions; and more.
Translated for the first time into English, the stories and accompanying essays are evidence of the lively research being conducted today on folk literature. Scholars and students interested in Jewish folklore and literature will appreciate this diverse collection as well as readers interested in Jewish and Israeli culture.
The Power of a Tale makes available in English a grand trove of well-traveled stories direct from the lips of expressive tellers. It is a rich collection indeed with narrative treasures derived from all over the world. Ably illuminated and set in context by adroit, sensitive commentators, these stories and the narrators who share them stir the imagination and open unprecedented cultural vistas on the vitality of oral tradition.
– Simon J. Bronner, author of The Practice of Folklore: Essays Toward a Theory of Tradition
The texts in The Power of a Tale are not only traditional and authentic; they are also enjoyable, illuminating, and entertaining. Collectively they cover a vast range of genres, types, and topics, and come from Jewish, Arab, and Druze cultures. Readers will also gain knowledge and pleasure from the folkloristic commentaries that enrich our appreciation for the tales.
– Steve Siporin, professor emeritus, Utah State University
Like our dreams, folktales do not engage in character development. Logical connections between events are not linear. However, the stories tell us about the fundamental values of the narrating society, particularly among the non-elites. One needn’t be a folklore scholar to appreciate "The Power of a Tale."
– Aaron Howard, Jewish Herald-Voice
a charming book . . . provide[s] sometimes surprising insights into those stories, reflecting the various academic perspectives of the scholarly writers.
– Louis Finkelman, The Jewish News
A unique and inherently fascinating contribution to the growing body of Israeli literature.
– Willis Buhle, Midwest Book Review
The dynamic and multifaceted folk heritage documented here might otherwise have been lost in a rapidly changing modern world. Most of the tales appear in English for the first time, and the editors have taken great care to convey the distinctive voice of the original storyteller. [. . . ] This is a volume for both serious specialists of folklore and those who wish simply to enjoy the magic of a vivid story.
– E. J. Vajda, CHOICE Connect
This book is highly recommended for every level of Jewish library, but academic institutions especially
would benefit from integrating it into their collections of folktales, legends, and ethnographic studies
for further study and enjoyment.
– Eli Lieberman,, AJS Review