The Story of the Crooked Preacher by Jacob ben El'azar

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChristians and Jews in Muslim Societies
EditorsAdam Bursi, S.J. Pearce, Hamza Zafer
PublisherBrill Academic Publishers
Number of pages28
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020

Publication series

NameChristians and Jews in Muslim Societies
ISSN (Print)2212-5523

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies


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