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Author Topic: PC070: The Dybbuk In The Bottle  (Read 9365 times)
Heradel
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« on: September 18, 2009, 07:35:25 AM »

PodCastle 070: The Dybbuk In The Bottle

by Russell William Asplund.
Read by Wilson Fowlie.

Avram had no more talent for wonder working than for farming. No matter how hard he prayed, he could not call even a sparrow down from a tree. His Sabbaths were spent at a small synagog in the town, and the rabbi there had no idea of the way to Paradise save the path of a good life. As for Avram’s attempt to animate a golem, the less said about it the better.

Still Avram did not give up. After all, without his books there was only the farm, and the more he worked the farm, the more he wanted to work wonders instead. There was very little glory in cleaning a chicken coop.

And that is how Avram came upon the dybbuk in the bottle.

Rated G. for child-safe dybbuk romping.

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bamugo
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« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2009, 04:15:25 PM »

I liked this one. You don't get to hear very many Jewish folktales these days. I've never actually come across a full version of the Golem myth, even.

From what I know of the basic golem story, this seemed to have a similar message - the folly of pride.

What I found most fascinating was how closely it followed the pattern of a spaghetti western. Townsperson being bothered by troublesome bandit, hero comes in from elsewhere, takes control, boots out the bandit, order is restored and the hero rides off into the sunset. The only thing missing was the whore with a heart of gold. The little bird that stays, maybe? Or am I reaching too far?  Grin
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Heradel
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« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2009, 04:58:54 PM »

I liked this one. You don't get to hear very many Jewish folktales these days. I've never actually come across a full version of the Golem myth, even.

From what I know of the basic golem story, this seemed to have a similar message - the folly of pride.

What I found most fascinating was how closely it followed the pattern of a spaghetti western. Townsperson being bothered by troublesome bandit, hero comes in from elsewhere, takes control, boots out the bandit, order is restored and the hero rides off into the sunset. The only thing missing was the whore with a heart of gold. The little bird that stays, maybe? Or am I reaching too far?  Grin

The full version of the golem myth is really more folklore and superstition — Judah Loew ben Bezalel's Golem of Prague is the account of one, and there's no real definitive version of the story.

Note: I love how wikipedia feels the need to disclaim that golems haven't been proven to exist: The Maharal is particularly known for the legend that he created a golem, a living being from clay, using mystical powers based on the esoteric knowledge of how God created Adam. There is no contemporary evidence that this happened, and the story first appeared in print nearly 200 years after his death.
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« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2009, 05:45:26 AM »

Sometimes it's nice to read a traditional folktale as it is and not reimagined in some new stylish twist.  This was a generally pleasant experience all around.
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« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2009, 11:00:27 AM »

Everything is more fun with Jews. They're clever and different enough from me culturally to be interesting without being too far away. They also have funny words like dybbuk. That makes me smile. That's pretty much what this story is: a clever, funny story about people from a culture that interests me.

Fowlie did a really good job with the voices.
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MacArthurBug
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« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2009, 05:51:05 PM »

Good, not outstandingly AMAZING but really quite good. The reading was nice, the story pulled together. More like this please
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« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2009, 05:48:48 PM »

Very nice tale.  I always like a good "deal with the devil" story, and this one was delightfully different.  While I wasn't rooting for the dybbuk at the beginning, it was obvious that Avram was in over his head, so it was fun to see how the dybbuk tricked him each day.  Then when Avram saw the error of his ways and enlisted the help of Rabbi Miltzer, it was fun to see how the dybbuk was defeated.  I loved the practical wisdom of the Rabbi and how he accomplished the task without pompous ceremony or displays of power, but with simple logic and ease, helping fix up the farm in the process.
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Schreiber
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« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2009, 11:14:43 PM »

I don't mean to step on Mr. Asplund's toes, but Dybbuks aren't really demons.  At least not within  Jewish mythology.  They're ghosts of human beings who have escaped from Gehenna, or Hell.  We do have demons.  They're called Shedim, but like Dybbuks they tend to be more interested in possessing living people than taking corporeal form.

I went on Wikipedia to make sure I had all this right, and it turns out there is one Kabbalistic sect in which Dybbuks appear as big red monsters: Yeshiva Dungeons and Dragons, founded by Rabbis Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.
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ajames
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« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2009, 05:29:01 AM »

I don't mean to step on Mr. Asplund's toes, but Dybbuks aren't really demons.  At least not within  Jewish mythology.  They're ghosts of human beings who have escaped from Gehenna, or Hell.  We do have demons.  They're called Shedim, but like Dybbuks they tend to be more interested in possessing living people than taking corporeal form.

I went on Wikipedia to make sure I had all this right, and it turns out there is one Kabbalistic sect in which Dybbuks appear as big red monsters: Yeshiva Dungeons and Dragons, founded by Rabbis Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

Clearly, then, this is set in an alternative universe or an alternate history  Grin.

I had lots of fun listening to this one. Good story and good reading.
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eytanz
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« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2009, 04:17:13 PM »

I don't mean to step on Mr. Asplund's toes, but Dybbuks aren't really demons.  At least not within  Jewish mythology.  They're ghosts of human beings who have escaped from Gehenna, or Hell.  We do have demons.  They're called Shedim, but like Dybbuks they tend to be more interested in possessing living people than taking corporeal form.

I found it rather grating that the characters - especially the wise Rabbi - started their days at sunrise, not sunset. But then, I don't normally check for authenticity in tales dealing with other people's cultures - and there have been plenty of those - so I can't complain just because someone is not very accurate about my own.

Other than that, I rather enjoyed the story. Though, if you try to take it as a fable, you run into some trouble - the end moral seems to be "be happy with your lot in life and don't aspire to be more than you are". Oy vey.
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2009, 04:51:26 PM »

Other than that, I rather enjoyed the story. Though, if you try to take it as a fable, you run into some trouble - the end moral seems to be "be happy with your lot in life and don't aspire to be more than you are". Oy vey.

I didn't take that message from it, though I guess one could.

To me, it was more what the Rabbi said explicitly at the end: if you keep looking far afield, or in books, or to shortcuts (or, to extend the analogy to modern life, on TV or the lives of celebrities) for happiness, you'll miss the happiness and satisfaction inherent in your life as it is now, warts and all, and that you can make it by focusing on it.  It's more "Don't try to take the easy road; there isn't one."  It may also be, "Go with your strengths."

Also, it seems to me that Avram could still become a wonder worker.  He just wasn't going to do it by reading about the wonders of others.

In a world where wonders can be worked, but is otherwise much like ours (presumably), I suspect that Avram could, by applying himself to his farm, really seeing it and all that God gave him in it, could become a 'farm wonder' worker and eventually be renowned years hence as "Rabbi Avram, who could grow enough to feed a city even in the worst drought," or some such thing.

However, by the time he's able to do such things, it no longer seems like a wonder to him any more, because he understands how it all works and it's just something he can do, much like Avram's rescuer casually freed the birds.

And even if he does see how it's wondrous to others, he knows he's channelling the power of God and has come to understand - internally, deeply, not just intellectually - that whatever he does himself, it's still small potatoes (har!) next to the wonder that is God and his creation.

[Note: it bears repeating that these ideas do not represent my view of the world in which we live, but are about the fictional world of this story, though the 'moral' may well apply here as there.]
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« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2009, 07:32:33 AM »

So, I liked the story (yay Jewish folktales), and the author did a great job. I saw the ending coming before Rabbi Meltzer even showed up on the scene, but that's probably just comfortable familiarity with the genre.

However, I had a lot of trouble getting over the pronunciation in the reading. Getting someone familiar with Hebrew or Yiddish pronunciation would have been a good idea. "Avram" is "ah-vrum" or "ah-vrahm", not "ay-vrum". And the "ch" in "elimelech" is not a "k" but a guttural "kh" (like the scottish word loch). Etc. Jarring.
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eytanz
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« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2009, 07:34:24 AM »


To me, it was more what the Rabbi said explicitly at the end: if you keep looking far afield, or in books, or to shortcuts (or, to extend the analogy to modern life, on TV or the lives of celebrities) for happiness, you'll miss the happiness and satisfaction inherent in your life as it is now, warts and all, and that you can make it by focusing on it.  It's more "Don't try to take the easy road; there isn't one."  It may also be, "Go with your strengths."


After reading your analysis and thinking about it, I decided that your interpretation is better than mine, which makes me like the story more. Thanks!
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Boggled Coriander
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« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2009, 09:35:36 AM »

I liked this one.  The worst that could be said was that it was predictable, but there's nothing wrong with telling a familiar story well without trying to subvert it somehow.  Wilson Fowlie did an awesome job, as always.

Definitely a pleasant surprise to hear the mighty name of Boggled Coriander intoned by DKT in the feedback section.
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« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2009, 04:56:25 PM »

I liked it.  Classic contract story, and those are always enjoyable for me.  But what really stood out this time was the protagonist and his desire to be a miracle worker.  He studied Rabbis, who are of course men who study.  But they study the world and the word of god, whereas he just studied *them*.  He didn't have the first clue about he world, or god, or how to be a man who can outsmart a demon.  Just because you study something doesn't mean you understand it.
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Nobilis
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« Reply #15 on: September 24, 2009, 08:58:08 PM »

Though, if you try to take it as a fable, you run into some trouble - the end moral seems to be "be happy with your lot in life and don't aspire to be more than you are". Oy vey.

Yeah, I kind of saw it that way too.  Those stories always bother me.
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alllie
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« Reply #16 on: September 25, 2009, 07:25:07 AM »

Less modern fantasy and more something out of Grimm's Fairy Tales. That's okay now and then but gets boring to me fast.
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yicheng
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« Reply #17 on: September 25, 2009, 04:09:16 PM »

I liked this story.  True, it was a bit formulaic but in a good way.  I love any story where the main character outwits his enemies rather than out-fighting them.

Quote
Though, if you try to take it as a fable, you run into some trouble - the end moral seems to be "be happy with your lot in life and don't aspire to be more than you are". Oy vey.

I think it's a matter of how you look at the story.  My buddhist side could be showing, but I believe the moral of the story is to be happy wherever you are.  Avram was obviously unsatisfied with where he was, and pining for something that he thinks will make him happy: "If only I were a wonder-worker, and not just a simple farmer, then I would be happy".  The problem is this line of thinking never ends:  If only I had a better job, then I'd be happy.  If only I lost 25 lbs, then I'd be happy.  If only I had great boyfriend/girlfriend, then I'd be happy.  If only I were well liked by people, then I'd be happy.  Etc..  External things don't usually make you happy, and even if they do, they usually don't last very long. 

To me, the moral is about being happy where you are.  After that, you can do anything you want, only you'll be doing it because you actually want to, not because you're desperately trying to attain it in hopes of being happy.
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« Reply #18 on: September 26, 2009, 08:05:57 AM »

Yet another recent story I enjoyed greatly (quite a streak!). I love these stories which read like old fables (while at the same time having a modern pacing), with a battle of wits between the principal characters.
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« Reply #19 on: September 26, 2009, 05:21:00 PM »

I don't mean to step on Mr. Asplund's toes, but Dybbuks aren't really demons.  At least not within  Jewish mythology.  They're ghosts of human beings who have escaped from Gehenna, or Hell.  We do have demons.  They're called Shedim, but like Dybbuks they tend to be more interested in possessing living people than taking corporeal form.

I went on Wikipedia to make sure I had all this right, and it turns out there is one Kabbalistic sect in which Dybbuks appear as big red monsters: Yeshiva Dungeons and Dragons, founded by Rabbis Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

The "Dybbuk" described in this story seemed more like an Ifrit to me (or "Efreet" as per Rabbis Gygax and Arneson  Wink)
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