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“Would that My Words Were Inscribed”: Berechiah ha-Naqdan’s Mišlei šuʿalim and European Fable Traditions

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Chapter Summary

This chapter studies some of the fabular sources that the author transformed into Hebrew narratives, and traces the richness of their literary motifs. The history of European fables from Antiquity to the middle Ages is long and complex. The chapter mentions some of its major phases and highlights the most important notions relevant to our understanding of our twelfth century multicultural fabulist. It reviews the main biblical source associated with the fable and compare the fable with another possible source for Berechiah, derived from Christian theology. Berechiah ha-Naqdan's Mishlei Šhuʿalim is a vivid testimony to the circulation of such sources throughout the Middle Ages and to the popularity of fables. The embedding of quotations from the Pentateuch, Talmudic sources, and works like Mivhar ha-peninim enabled Berechiah to bring the fables closer to his public's cultural space, to make them topical, and to endow them with a new moral meaning.

Keywords: Berechiah ha-Naqdan; Christian theology; European fables; Hebrew; Mishlei Šhuʿalim; Mivhar ha-peninim



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