The Blood Libel Legend: A Casebook in Anti-Semitic Folklore

Alan Dundes, Editor University of Wisconsin Press $42.5 (385p) ISBN 978-0-299-13110-4
Easter Saturday, 1144: a 12-year-old boy named William is found murdered in the woods outside Norwich, England. Several years later, Thomas of Monmouth, a monk, learns of William's death and becomes obsessed by it. He hears rumors that Jews crucified William in a bizarre ritual. A Jew converted to Catholicism named Theobald confides that Jews annually sacrifice a Christian child ``to show contempt for Christ.'' Based on this and other hearsay, Thomas writes a re-creation of William's murder implicating Jews, and the blood libel is born. Dundes ( Cinderella: A Casebook ) collects 14 essays analyzing this tale and tracing its metastasis throughout Europe, the Middle East and the U.S. Manifesting itself in cultural contexts as different as Chaucer's ``The Prioress's Tale,'' Spain during the Inquisition and Nazi Germany, the legend has had consistently deadly consequences. Several essays substantially repeat information; one, by Ernest A. Rappaport, is allusive to the point of distraction. Nevertheless, they make a fascinating detective story in which the culprit is the human desire for narrative itself when it serves the goals of racism. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/04/1991
Release date: 11/01/1991
Genre: Religion
Paperback - 396 pages - 978-0-299-13114-2
Open Ebook - 396 pages - 978-0-299-13113-5
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