Arab Folktales from Palestine and Israel

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Raphael Patai' s (1910-1996) lifelong fascination with Arab folktales began on a Ramadan night in 1933, at a cafe in Jerusalem where, for the first time, he heard a famous qassas, a storyteller, tirelessly relate story after story from his vast repertoire of Arab folktales. In Arab Folktales from Palestine and Israel, a collection of twenty-eight tales gathered in Palestine and Israel

and one of Patai's last books, Patai explores this rich cultural tradition. He studies tales ...

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Raphael Patai' s (1910-1996) lifelong fascination with Arab folktales began on a Ramadan night in 1933, at a cafe in Jerusalem where, for the first time, he heard a famous qassas, a storyteller, tirelessly relate story after story from his vast repertoire of Arab folktales. In Arab Folktales from Palestine and Israel, a collection of twenty-eight tales gathered in Palestine and Israel

and one of Patai's last books, Patai explores this rich cultural tradition. He studies tales from three separate times: those recorded by a German scholar in 1910-11, those read over Jerusalem Radio in the winter of 1946-47, and those recorded by the Israeli scholar Yoel Perez in 1982-84.

These fables, part of the cultural heritage of a small corner of the Arab world, are translated into an English that remains faithful to the original Arabic text, presenting to foreign readers a sense of the original style and a picture of traditional Arab life and customs, attitudes, social and cultural norms, psychology, and values.

Providing insight into Arab culture, Patai offers extensive notes and commentary on particular Arabic phrases and images, as well as the ways of speaking and thinking found among the Arab population, especially the Bedouins, in Palestine and Israel. Patai also places the stories in the context of global

folktales, and traces the transformations in the art of storytelling. This collection as a whole presents a colorful slice of traditional Arab life, values, customs, attitudes, and sociocultural patterns.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Raphael Patai, prominent anthropologist, historian, and biblical scholar of international note, was a prolific writer until his death in July 1996. He is the author of more than thirty books, including Jadid aI-Islam (1997), The Jewish Mind (1996 [1977]), The Jews of Hungary (1996), The Hebrew Goddess

(1990), The Myth of the Jewish Race with Jennifer Patai (1989), and The Messiah Texts (1988), all published by Wayne State University Press.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 The One-eyed Ghoul 31
2 Allah's Dispensation 37
3 The Jinn's Gratitude 45
4 The Price of the Bride 51
5 The Virtuous Maiden 59
6 The Banished Prince 69
7 The Emir's Daughter 79
8 The Unfaithful Wife 89
9 The Two Blind Women 95
10 Each Man Suffers Disasters 101
11 The Lightest of the Light, the Heaviest of the Heavy, and the Fattest of the Fat 109
12 Talaja of the Twenty and the Chicken 117
13 Cunning ... and Cunning 123
14 The Locust and the Sparrow 135
15 Tambar Titi 141
16 The Return of the Light 147
17 The Bird of Power 155
18 The Dull-witted Fisherman 165
19 The King and His Wife 175
20 Ghouls in Switzerland 183
21 The One-eyed Giant Shephent 197
22 Hasan the Sharp-witted 203
23 The Prince Who Turned into a Deer 209
24 Pomegranate Seed 217
25 The Uncles and Their Nephew 225
26 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers 233
27 Wadi'ah 239
28 The Two Hunters 247
Afterword 255
References 259
Type Index 261
Motif Index 263
Index 265
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2003

    Nice Idea, Bad Presentation

    As a Palestinian I was intrigued by this book ¿ written by an Israeli but containing Arab Palestinian stories and folktales. Furthermore, the introduction set me up to expect to gain something profound out of reading it. Though most of the tales here have appeared elsewhere before, this book boast that its literal translation is better than all others because it helps us to better understand the ¿Arab mind¿. Unfortunately, and despite the author¿s good intentions, the final product is lacking in many respects. First, thanks to the ¿literal translation¿, the text is interrupted by frequents endnotes, most of which are repetitive, that one must flip to understand the story. Secondly, the brief section of commentary after each story usually does not go far beyond reiterating the plot, in somewhat simpler language. Half the volume of the book is taken by these useless commentaries and endnotes. What little in the text concerns ¿understanding Palestinian culture¿, what one finds is either too superficial to be of value, or completely erroneous. Some comments are buried in the form of snide comments in the notes which betray some despise for the Arab culture that is the object of study. More importantly, many of these comments reveal the author¿s misunderstanding of Arab culture, or he perhaps is reading too deeply into the fairy tales. For example, he frequently describes the violence in some of the story as reflective of Arab culture as a whole, when in fact, most fairy tales (Grimm Brother¿s for instance) are not free from their share of violence. Can we condemn German culture in its entirety simply because the wicked witch curses Sleeping Beauty to death for the mere fact of being not invited to her birthday party? Couldn¿t it be that the excessive violence in some tales is there simply to make it more interesting or more of a fairy tale? ¿Arab Folktales from Palestine and Israel¿ also often mistranslates certain words. Thus the notes explain that `abd in Arabic both means Negro and slave, hinting that Arabs still practice slavery, whereas that latter meaning had fallen out of popular usage for a thousand years. Reading this book without that knowledge, one would think that Arabs today own slaves, which is absurd. Another closely related issue is the role of the author here. Though he describes himself as ¿translator and commentator¿, he failed to mention his primary role as editor in selecting which stories to include in this anthology. The folktales in this collection are gathered from 3 different periods, but in each case the stories come from the same narrow locale. I myself have never heard any of those stories, even though I grew up in Palestine, so these are not popular stories by any means. A vast majority of them have a Bedouin setting, so considering only 10% of Palestine¿s Arabs were Bedouin at the time, these stories are not representative of mainstream Palestinian culture. The book tends to be judgmental and arbitrarily so, which makes it very confusing for the reader. For example, comments on one story claim that story demonstrates such and such a trait (say marriage to more than one woman) is predominant in Arab culture. Then the next story features the opposite trait (say faithfulness to a single wife), but the book comments that such a story is an exception. There is really no rational basis for this book¿s judgments, and given how these stories are selected, no basis for generalizing these experiences to Palestinian culture as a whole. So somewhere near the middle I stopped reading the author¿s comments and notes and simply read and enjoyed the stories by themselves.

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