Saturday, 7 January 2012

Golem, Gollum and Superman

While teaching Frankenstein, I showed some of my students this video from the National Theatre about man-made creatures.

I was particularly struck by the section on the Golem, the automaton of Jewish legend, and wondered whether there could be a link with (the homophonic) Gollum from The Lord of the Rings. Others have suggested that there might indeed be a link but it's next to impossible to get hold of the relevant material.

Although Gollum's riddles are deeply rooted in Anglo-Saxon literature, Gollum (like the hobbits themselves) is not. It is perhaps not too fanciful, therefore, to seek his origins elsewhere, though it is also true that it is the Orcs who better fit the model of soulless automata created as hollow imitations of men.

I was also intrigued by Dr Nadia Valman's suggestion that the Golem legend evolved in the face of anti-semitic attacks, with the Golem coming to be seen as a super-heroic protector of the embattled Jewish community, and Superman himself being the creation of two Jewish cartoonists in the 1930s. It's amazing where English lessons can take you.

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