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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Golem is also the name of an inductive logic programming system. In Pokémon, Golem is a rock-type Pokémon.

In Jewish folklore, a golem (sometimes pronounced goilem) is an animated being crafted from inanimate material. In modern Hebrew the word golem denotes "fool", "silly", or even "stupid", "clue-less", and "dumb". The name appears to derive from the word gelem, which means "raw material".
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The word golem is used in the Bible and in Talmudic literature to refer to an embryonic or incomplete substance. Psalm 139:16 uses the word "gal'mi", meaning "my unshaped form" (in Hebrew, root words are defined by sequences of consonants, ie. glm). Similarly, Golems are used today primarily in metaphor either as brainless lunks or as entities serving man under controlled conditions but enemies in others. Similarly, it is a Yiddish slang insult for someone who is clumsy or slow.
The earliest stories of golems date to early Judaism. Adam is described in the Talmud (Tractate Sanhedrin 38b) as initially created as a golem when his dust was "kneaded into a shapeless hunk". Like Adam, all golems are created from mud. They were a creation of those who were very holy and close to God. A very holy person was one who strove to approach God, and in that pursuit would gain some of God's wisdom and power. One of these powers was the creation of life. No matter how holy a person got, however, the being they created would be but a shadow of one created by God.
Early on, the notion developed that the main disability of the golem was its inability to speak. In Sanhedrin 65b, it describes how Rabba created a golem using the Sefer Yetzirah. He sent the golem to Rabbi Zeira. Rabbi Zeira spoke to the golem, but he did not answer. Said Rabbi Zeira, "I see that you were created by one of our colleagues; return to your dust".
Having a golem servant was seen as the ultimate symbol of wisdom and holiness, and there are many tales of golems connected to prominent rabbis throughout the Middle Ages.
Other attributes of the golem were gradually added over time. In many tales the Golem is inscribed with magic or religious words that keep it animated. Writing the name of God on its forehead, (or on a clay tablet under its tongue) or writing the word Emet (אמת, 'truth' in the Hebrew language) on its forehead are examples of such words. By erasing the first letter in Emet to form Meit (מת, "death" in Hebrew) the golem can be deactivated.
The most famous golem narrative involves the Maharal of Prague, a 16th century rabbi. He is reported to have created a golem to defend the Prague ghetto from Anti-Semitic attacks. However these stories are of relatively recent origin, and appear to be the result of fictional accounts written by Yudl Rosenberg in 1909.
The existence of a golem is in most stories portrayed as a mixed blessing. Although not overly intelligent, a golem can be made to perform simple tasks over and over. The problem is one of control or getting it to stop, bearing a resemblance to the story of the broomstick in the Sorcerer's Apprentice.
In the late nineteenth century the golem was adopted by mainstream European society. Most notably Gustav Meyrink's 1915 novel Der Golem based on the tales of the golem created by Judah Low ben Bezalel. This book inspired a classic set of expressionistic silent movies, Paul Wegener's Golem series, of which especially Golem: How He Came Into the World (also released as The Golem, 1920, USA 1921) is famous. Another famous treatment from the same era is H. Leivick's 1921 Yiddish-language "dramatic poem in eight sections" The Golem.
These tales saw a dramatic change, and some would argue a Christianization, of the golem. Christianity, far more than Judaism, has long had a deep concern with humanity getting too close to God. The golem thus became a creation of overambitious and overreaching mystics, who would inevitably be punished for their blasphemy, very similar to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the alchemical homunculus. The Golem has also been considered by some to be an early android, further divorcing it from its roots.
In 2005, the story of the Golem was returned to its Jewish roots, as a new comic strip in Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth depicted the Golem as a government-funded superhero protecting Israel from its domestic and existential difficulties.[edit]

Popular culture


Books, films and games

Probably as a result of the popularity of Meyrink's work, the golem concept has found its way into various elements of popular culture. Examples include:

Gollum is a wretched creature in J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional Middle-earth. However Tolkien has stated that the name is not derived from Golem, but rather from the throaty sound the character makes.[edit]

Golems in role-playing games

Golems also appear as a popular feature of the Dungeons & Dragons game, although the word is used as an umbrella term to refer to automata and simulacra from many mythologies. They are divided according to the material of construction:

  • Clay golems (most like the original, and prone to berserk rages)
  • Flesh golems (stiched-together abominations reminiscent of Frankenstein's creature)
  • Iron golems (great metal statues that can expel toxic fumes)
  • Stone golems (animate statues impervious to non-magical attack)

The whimsical computer game NetHack also includes such creatures as paper golems (large piles of paper that inflict papercuts on adversaries) and gold golems (large animate conglomerations of gold coins).
The "mon" genre of video games often include a monster named "golem" or having golem-like qualities, usually animated rock or earth in a vaguely anthropomorphic shape, such as Golem from Pokemon and Golemon from Digimon.
Golems also appear in some of the early installments of the Final Fantasy, the NES game Ultima Exodus, The Heroes of Might and Magic series and Diablo 2.


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