The Story of the Crooked Preacher by Jacob ben Elʿazar

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Abstract

The story translated hereby is the eighth in a collection of ten stories (titled “The book of fables”) by Jacob Ben Elʿazar, a late thirteenth-century Jewish author from Toledo. His stories take the form of the Andalusi variety of the maqāma, allowing for more liberty of theme, narrative experimentalism and openness to diverse influences—Arabic as well as Romance. The story’s narrator, Lemuʾel, joins a huge crowd fascinated by a humongous beard belonging to a (Moslem?) preacher named Akhbor. His unruly beard, as well as his long pious sermon, are exaggeratedly represented. After being generously paid by the crowd, the seemingly-poor preacher returns to the luxurious mansion he owns. Suspicious Lemuʾel secretly follows him home. Peering from an ambush, he sees Akhbor merrily and lavishly partying with four young maidservants. As the four leave, a black woman enters to have fierce sex with Akhbor. Lemuʾel, being disgusted with the scene, calls back the four maidservants who smuttily insult Akhbor, pluck his beard off, and finally beat him up to death. Days later, in spring, the same four ex-maidservants stroll like ladies in blooming orchards. Four young gentlemen make awkward advances to them, upon which the ladies teach them a lesson in the art of Courtly Love. The story culminates in the marriage of the four couples. The epilogue, clearly detached from the story’s main body, introduces a novel romantic theme: Romance Courtly Love replacing the carnal eroticism of al-Andalus. The story’s hybrid cultural scene, may well epitomize the transition underwent by thirteenth-century Iberian Jewry from al-Andalus to Christian Spain. "His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'"; Andalusi, Judaeo-Arabic, and Other Near Eastern Studies in Honor of Ross Brann. Edited by Adam Bursi, S.J. Pearce, Hamza Zafer. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2020 Brann, Ross (jubilee volume) Christians and Jews in Muslim Societies. 4
Original languageEnglish GB
Title of host publication"His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'"
Subtitle of host publicationAndalusi, Judaeo-Arabic, and Other Near Eastern Studies in Honor of Ross Brann
EditorsAdam Bursi, S.J. Pearce, Hamza Zafer
PublisherBrill
Pages231-258
ISBN (Print)9789004369139
StatePublished - 26 Mar 2020

Publication series

NameChristians and Jews in Muslim Societies
Volume4

Keywords

  • Fables
  • Jewish -- History and criticism
  • Hebrew literature -- Spain -- History and criticism
  • Jacob ben Eleazar
  • 1170-1233?. Sepher ha-meshalim
  • Jewish parables -- History and criticism

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