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1001 Stories Collection

The Golem of Prague

1001 The Golem Anthony Delanoix
Added on 05th October 2020

Oral tradition Jewish story from Eastern Europe

Europe Myths and legends

The famous story of the figure of clay, created to protect the Jewish people in the city of Prague.


Long ago, in 16th century Prague, the people of the Jewish Quarter needed protection. Rabbi Loew, whose mystical powers could create life from the four elements, went down to the banks of the Vltava river, sculpted a figure from clay and brought it to life. This golem did its creator’s bidding, defending the Jewish people, until one fateful sabbath, Loew forgot to deactivate it, and the golem began to rampage through Prague, destroying everything in its path…

Why we chose it

The Golem legend has been told since the Middle Ages and there are many versions told by different storytellers.

Where it came from

Rabbi Loew, or the Maharal of Prague, was a real man, and his gravestone can still be found in the Old Jewish Cemetery. However, the golem appears in Jewish legend across Europe, and its roots can be traced back to the Bible and Talmudic literature. During the 16th century it began to be portrayed as the protector of Jewish people in times of persecution. The golem of Prague is the most famous version of the myth and only began circulating in the 18th and 19th centuries. The earliest known written account is the 1834 book Jüdische Gil Blas by Friedrich Horn. Several different versions of the story exist, as is often the case with oral legends (for example, accounts differ on whether a stone tablet or a piece of paper with a holy word activates the golem).

Where it went next

The golem legend has had a huge influence on literature, popular culture, and Prague itself. Its image can be seen in statues, tourist souvenirs, and even the patterns of the city’s pavement. The places in the tale have become tourist attractions, like the attic of the Old New Synagogue which supposedly contains the deactivated golem.

There have been many different written versions, including Der Golem (1914), by Gustav Meyrink. There are also many film adaptations such as The Golem (1920), by Paul Wegener, whose design for the golem has influenced its depiction ever since. It has also been adapted for television, music, comic books, and even video games.

Associated stories

The myth has been used by many writers and inspired books such as Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000) by Michael Chabon. Golem-like creatures also appear in the folklore of other cultures, including Norse mythology.

Added on 05th October 2020

Oral tradition Jewish story from Eastern Europe

Europe Myths and legends