Book of Fables: The Yiddish Fable Collection of Reb Moshe Wallich, Frankfurt am Main, 1697

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Katz, Eli
Wallich, Moshe
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This is a bilingual edition of the thirty-four fables of Sefer Meshalim, published in Yiddish in 1695. It presents a facsimile of the Yiddish edition, including its woodcuts, along with a translation done now. The translator's introduction (9) helps to establish the background of the text. The main known work behind Sefer Meshalim is the Ku-Bukh (1595, perhaps even 1555). Of the thirty-four fables, sixteen are from the Aesopian canon through Berechian ben Natronai ha-Nakdan's Mishlei Shu'alim; nine are from Boner's Edelstein; and eight (XXVI-XXXIII) are from Arabic maqama tradition's Meshal ha-Kadmoni. One (VIII) has no known predecessors. There are regularly two or more illustrations for one fable. There is often a line intended as a caption for the woodcut. The morals tend to be very long. What Katz calls a critical apparatus often contains valuable information on the given fable within its family. Some Aesopic fables are told differently. Thus in FC (II), the crow is already eating the cheese. The fox addresses him, and the crow is able to talk back without dropping the cheese! The cheese weighs 20 pounds. In the story of the monkey father, all three run for a while. The father sees the lion catching up and tells the unloved child to jump onto his back, thinking that he can cast him off to the lion. As the lion gets still closer, the father says to the child on his back You're getting too heavy for me and bends over, trying to throw him off. The child will not get off! There is never any mention of the front, nor does the illustration show the loved child clinging to the father-monkey's chest. The Androcles figure in AL (VII) becomes a nasty thief after the thorn removal. In XI, the old lion roughed up by the animals surprisingly recovered! The mice in BC (XIV) actually buy a bell to put on the cat! The wolf flayed to cure the sick lion in XV goes away alive. Among the best illustrations are those for DS (II) and MSA (XVI). There is a great final woodcut showing the wife and guard hoisting the dead husband up onto the gallows with a rope. In The Cow and the Dog (XXVIII), the dog lured the cow into deep water, and helped to push her under. There is a good image of this scene on 173. A new favorite for me is VI. A singing man reminded a girl of her beloved lost donkey. Everyone thereupon said that he has a voice like an ass. He learned never to sing again! Many of the late Arabic stories (XXVI-XXXIII) get so long that I would not count them as fables.
Wayne State University Press
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