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The Power of a Tale

Stories from the Israel Folktale Archives

edited by Haya Bar-Itzhak and Idit Pintel-Ginsberg

Jewish Studies, Jewish Life and Tradition, Folklore

Raphael Patai Series in Jewish Folklore and Anthropology

Published: November 2019
ISBN: 9780814342084
Pages: 464 Size: 7 x 10
Illustrations: 45 b&w illus.
Published: November 2019
ISBN: 9780814342091
Pages: 464 Size: EPUB
Illustrations: 45 b&w illus.

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.

Haya Bar-Itzhak is a professor emerita of literature and folklore at the University of Haifa. She was chair of the department of Communication at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College. She served in the past as chair of the department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, head of folklore studies, and the academic director of the Israel Folktale Archives at the University of Haifa. Prof. Bar-Itzhak has published eleven books, among them Israeli Folk Narratives: Settlement, Immigration, Ethnicity (Wayne State University Press, 2005).Idit Pintel Ginsberg Ph.D. is a researcher of Jewish culture, focusing on folk literature, intangible cultural heritage preservation, Jewish cultural symbolism, folklore in rabbinical and medieval Jewish thought and its interaction with contemporary cultural issues as rituals, festivals, magic and demonology. For the past decade she served as the academic coordinator of the Israel Folktale Archives. She is also the author of The Angel and the Hamin, a compilation of IFA folktales centered on food and foodways.

Contributors Include:
Tamar Alexander-Frizer, Nili Aryeh-Sapir, Haya Bar-Itzhak, Dan Ben-Amos, Rachel Ben-Cnaan, Roseland Da'eem, Amer Dahamshe, Tamar Eyal, Larisa Fialkova, Itzhak Ganuz, Haya Gavish, Galit Hasan-Rokem, Edna Hechal, Heda Jason, Esther Juhasz, Roni Kochavi-Nehab, Rella Kushelevsky, Avidov Lipsker, Hagit Matras, Yoram Meron, Haya Milo, Dov Noy, Ayelet Oettinger, Yoel Perez, Idit Pintel-Ginsberg, Ravit Raufman, Ilana Rosen, David Rotman, Dept of German and Russian, Esther Schely-Newman, Peninnah Schram, Howard Schwartz, Tsafi Sebba-Elran, Aliza Shenhar, Dina Stein, Limor Wisman-Ravid, Yael Zilberman, Rachel Zoran

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

The Power of a Tale offers a multicultural feast of narration and information. The reader can dip into it again and again, assured each time of finding something to interest, fascinate or amuse. This is a volume to treasure.

– Neville Teller, The Jerusalem Post

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.

– Jewish Book World

The book is dedicated to Dov Noy (1920-2013), who, having earned a PhD in folklore under Stith Thompson, singlehandedly founded Israeli folklore studies and, by presenting Jewish folklore in a positive light, caused it to be incorporated into the academic discipline of Jewish Studies. The contributors are mostly his students and grand-students. As a whole, this book is a showcase for their—and by extension, Noy’s—work, a demonstration of the achievements of the Israel Folktale Archives.

– Christine Goldberg, Journal of Folklore Research

This comprehensive collection of folktales will be of interest to the researcher in comparative world folklore, the ethnologist, and the general reader. The book provides an excellent introduction to the wealth of oral folklore in Israel and provides insight into the ongoing work of the IFA.

– James H. Grayson, Folklore

Without the commentaries, The Power of a Tale would be
a valuable collection; with the commentaries, it is invaluable.

– Corinne Stavish, Storytelling, Self, Society