Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews Multimedia Digital Library

Oral Literature of the Sephardic Jews
Samuel G. Armistead, University of California, Davis

Contents of Article:

Historical Background

The Varieties of Judeo-Spanish

Types of Oral Literature

History of Sephardic Ballad Collecting

Origins of the Sephardic Ballad Tradition

Sephardic Ballads and Other Ballad Traditions

La bella en misa (The Beauty in Church)

Lyric Songs

Enumerative Songs

Prayers and Charms





Historical background

The edict by which all Jews were exiled from Castile and Aragon was signed by the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel, on March 31, 1492 (Baer 1961-1966: II, 433). But we should not think of this banishment, radical and catastrophic as it surely was, as an altogether sudden, definitive occurrence. It was, in a certain sense, a quite gradual, centuries-long process. Some Jews, when threatened by the alternative of exile, were to accept Christianity and some were to become sincere converts, but many other conversos who remained in Spain were to practice in secret their ancestral religion for centuries after 1492. For example, Inquisitional records tell us in detail of just how such Crypto-Jews continued to celebrate, in secret, Sukkoth (Tabernacles) and Pesach (Passover), in Madrid, even in the early 18th century, well over two centuries after the banishment of Jews from Spain (Alpert 1995; 1997). And a number of Crypto-Jewish communities have survived, even down to the present day, in Portugal, along the northeastern border with Spain.[1]  There was also a secret Jewish community on the Island of Ibiza until the early 1940s and vestigial memories of the presence of Jews also persist elsewhere in Spain and in the Americas.[2] Over the centuries, many other Crypto-Jews in Spain and in Portugal, faced with oppressive conditions at home, opted to joined their exiled coreligionists in North Africa, the Balkans, the Near East, and later in Holland, where they could practice their ancestral religion openly and without danger of Inquisitional retribution.[3] This aspect of the Exile, as a gradual, ongoing process, was to have an important impact on the folk literature of the exiled communities. The close link between the Moroccan Jewish settlements and the Iberian Peninsula was never broken—from Tangier, after all, one can clearly see the coast of Southern Spain—while, in Eastern communities, more distant and relatively more isolated, there were still numerous conversos who had opted for the welcome offered to Western Jews in the Ottoman domains and who settled in what is now Bosnia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Rumania, Greece, and Turkey, bringing with them cultural perspectives and oral-literary texts of a more modern character than was reflected in the essentially medieval repertoire brought out of Spain in 1492.


The Varieties of Judeo-Spanish

Until recently, two different dialects of Judeo-Spanish were spoken in the Mediterranean region: Eastern Judeo-Spanish (in various distinctive regional variations) and Western or North African Judeo-Spanish (also known as Ḥakitía), once spoken, with little regional distinction, in six towns in Northern Morocco and, because of later emigration, also in Ceuta and Melilla (Spanish enclaves in Morocco), Gibraltar (Great Britain), Casablanca (Morocco), and Oran (Algeria).[4] The Eastern dialect is typified by its greater conservatism, its retention of numerous Old Spanish features in phonology, morphology, and lexicon, and its numerous borrowings from Turkish and, to a lesser extent, also from Greek and South Slavic. Both dialects have (or had) numerous borrowings from Hebrew, especially in reference to religious matters, but the number of Hebraisms in everyday speech or writing is in no way comparable to that found in Yiddish.[5] The North African dialect was, until the early 20th century, also highly conservative; its abundant Colloquial Arabic loan words retained most of the Arabic phonemes as functional components of a new, enriched Hispano-Semitic phonological system. During the Spanish colonial occupation of Northern Morocco (1912-1956), Ḥakitía was subjected to pervasive, massive influence from Modern Standard Spanish and most Moroccan Jews now speak a colloquial, Andalusian form of Spanish, with only an occasional use of the old language as a sign of in-group solidarity, somewhat as American Jews may now use an occasional Yiddishism in colloquial speech (Hassán 1969). Except for certain younger individuals, who continue to practice Ḥakitía  as a matter of cultural pride, this splendid dialect—the most Arabized of the Romance languages—has essentially ceased to exist. Eastern Judeo-Spanish has fared somewhat better, especially in Israel, where newspapers, radio broadcasts, and elementary school and university programs strive to keep the language alive. But the old regional variations (Bosnia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Rumania, Greece, Turkey, for instance) are already either extinct or doomed to extinction (Sala 1970; Harris 1994). The best we can perhaps hope for is that a Judeo-Spanish koiné, now evolving in Israel—similar to that which developed among Sephardic immigrants to the United States early in the 20th century—may somehow prevail and survive into the next generation.[6]


Types of Sephardic Oral Literature

On their departure from late medieval Iberia, the Hispanic Jews took with them into exile a rich body of oral literature. Ongoing, if in some cases only sporadic, contacts with the homeland significantly modified and enriched this original medieval Spanish corpus. Even more important was the impact of the many linguistically diverse folkliterary traditions of the peoples among whom the Jews settled, particularly in the Balkans and in the Near East, but also in North Africa.[7] Hispanists, who were among the early pioneers in collecting Sephardic oral literature, tended to look on the tradition as an essentially static, richly evocative treasure trove of medieval survivals (Menéndez Pidal 1973: 335-336). While there are, indeed, highly significant and invaluable instances of the survival of medieval text-types and other medieval features in both Judeo-Spanish traditions, to assume that any and all texts, simply because they were sung or told by Sephardic Jews, must, for that reason alone, be of medieval origin falsifies and diminishes this tradition, one of whose most characteristic features is, precisely, its rich synthesis of diverse cultural components, gathered from the many peoples encountered by the Spanish Jews during their multisecular pilgrimage in Mediterranean lands.

Sephardic oral literature includes the following generic types: narrative ballads (romansas), lyric songs (cantigas), cumulative songs, prayers and medicinal charms, riddles (endevinas), proverbs (refranes), and folktales (consejas).[8] Other traditional—and partially oral—genres were also cultivated in Judeo-Spanish. Two especially deserve mention here: complas (paraliturgical poetry: popular, sometimes traditionalized, religious or didactic songs) and plays, originally staged to commemorate important holidays (compare the Yiddish Purimspiel). But, though complas especially and, to a lesser extent, also the drama, both involve an oral component, these must be considered essentially written literature.[9]


Sephardic Ballad Collecting

Though there are, as we shall see, traces of ballads from as early as the mid-16th century, oral literature in Judeo-Spanish began to be collected only in the late 19th century.[10] Such early attempts were haphazard and sporadic. Systematic efforts began only in the early 1900s, with ballads—the supposed repository of an exclusively medieval tradition—being given almost all the attention, to the grave neglect of other genres.[11] Some folktales were, however, very accurately transcribed and published for their value as linguistic documents. There are also a number of extensive early 20th-century proverb collections, usually edited without interpretive commentary. Only after World War II, faced with the full, horrendous significance of the Holocaust and the ongoing threat of Balkan and North African nationalism, did Sephardic and Western scholars come to realize that the entire folkliterary tradition would have to be collected during the next few decades if it were to be saved at all.[12] Only then did the systematiccollecting and evaluation of various forms of lyric poetry begin to come into its own, while the other forms, though collecting had already started, began to be studied seriously according to the norms of modern scholarship. But riddles have continued to be the black sheep of Judeo-Spanish folk literature and have been gravely neglected almost to the present day.


Origins of the Sephardic Ballad Tradition

Judeo-Spanish romansas (Spanish romances) are narrative ballads characteristically embodying 16-syllable, usually monorhymed verses, divided into two octosyllabic hemistichs, with assonant rhyme in each second hemistich.[13] The eight-syllable assonant ballad verse ultimately derives from the anisosyllabic assonant verse of the medieval Spanish epic, and a certain number of Judeo-Spanish ballads, together with some ballads from other Hispanic regions, can be shown to be genetically derived, through direct oral tradition, from medieval Spanish heroic poetry.[14] The earliest evidence we have for the existence of ballads among the Hispano-Jewish exiles does not consist of full texts, but involves an extensive corpus of incipits (or, in some cases, of crucial internal verses), used as tune markers in 16th- and 17th-century Hebrew hymnals (piyûtîm collections): A typical heading might read: “Pizmôn leḥan Arbolera tan gentil” (A hymn to the tune of Arbolera etc.), thus giving us the earliest Judeo-Spanish documentation for The Husband’s Return (in assonance). In Morocco we have no full texts until the late 19th century, but 18th-century hymnals give us similar, though more limited data from an earlier time (Armistead and Silverman 1973; 1981). The earliest extensive text from the East comes to us in the form of a fragmentary Dutch translation of a ballad, sung as a mystical allegory, in Izmir (Turkey), in 1665, by the false Messiah, Shabbatai Zevi (Scholem 1975: 396-401; FLSJ, V, Chap. 14). By the early 18th century, we have a substantial corpus of handwritten ballads from the Sarajevo community and, towards the end of the century, also from the Island of Rhodes (Armistead, Silverman, and Hassán 1978b). Three early Hispano-Portuguese ballads were copied—nostalgically—by Sephardic Jews in Amsterdam in 1683 (Armistead and Silverman 1980a; 1980b).

Sephardic Ballads and other Ballad Traditions

The Sephardic ballads are very much a part of the Pan-Hispanic ballad tradition and they cannot be studied in isolation. The two Sephardic traditions (Eastern and North African) and the repertoires of other Hispanic language areas—Castilian-speaking regions of Spain, the Canary Islands, and Spanish America; Galicia, Portugal, the Portuguese Atlantic islands and Brazil; and the Catalan-speaking areas of Spain, France, and Sardinia—are mutually complementary, from a philological perspective, offering crucial data for reconstructing the ballads’ early development and for studying the oral tradition as an ongoing dynamic process, involving constant recreation and a high degree of poetic creativity (Bénichou 1968b). The entire ballad tradition (the Romancero) is, then, very much a Pan-Hispanic phenomenon, but, at the same time, many Hispanic ballads also have recognizable, genetic relatives in other European linguistic communities (RPI: II, 624-644; Armistead 2000a). Like the other branches of the Pan-Hispanic Romancero, the Judeo-Spanish ballads include songs based on medieval Spanish and French epics; others concern events in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian history; still others recreate Biblical episodes, legends from Classical Antiquity, or details of medieval romans d’aventure; many ballads embody a variety of topical, novelesque plots: prisoners and captives, the husband’s return, faithful or tragic love, the unfortunate wife, adultery, various amorous adventures, tricks and deceptions (CMP). Many ballads can be traced back to medieval Iberian origins, others were invented by the Sephardim in exile, still others can be shown to have reached the Jewish communities well after 1492, doubtless brought there by converso emigrants; a few Eastern romances are adaptations of Modern Greek ballads (tragoúdia), while others translate French chansons populaires, or Italian and Catalan narrative songs.[15] Though the two traditions (Eastern and North African) have remained very different, a few ballad-types have migrated from one tradition to the other (CMP: I2, S6, X6, X13). The Moroccan tradition—like the local Judeo-Spanish dialect—has been profoundly influenced by Modern Spanish traditional ballads brought in by 20th-century Spanish immigrants—particularly Andalusians—to the Spanish zone of Northern Morocco.


La bella en misa (The Beauty in Church)

Here is a Sephardic ballad of medieval origin—sung in both branches of the Judeo-Spanish tradition, as well as in Castilian-, Galician-, and Catalan-speaking areas of Spain, in northern Portugal, and in Mexico and Argentina (RPI S4). Apart from its delightful content, it eloquently illustrates the basic principle that each ballad has its own, sometimes highly distinctive—if not, as in this case, unique—individual history. The ballad of La bella en misa (The Beauty in Church) originated as the central episode of a Greek ballad, learned and transcribed by Catalans during their occupation of Greece (1311-1388), then taken back to Catalonia, whence it spread to Spain and Portugal, later to be taken back to its land of origin, when the Jewish exiles departed from Iberia in 1492 (Setton 1948; En torno: 50-60). This ballad also illustrates the very considerable presence of a Christian ambience and sometimes even specifically Christian details and motifs in the Sephardic ballads—originally learned from an essentially Christian tradition—conserved as an integral part of the ballad repertoire, despite almost 500 years of exile (En torno: 127-148; Armistead 2000b). Note, however, how here the originally Catholic priest has been transformed into an Orthodox papazico.


            Tres damas van a la misa

Three ladies are going to mass

            por hazer la orasión.

to say their prayers.

2         Entre’n medio va mi spoza,

With them goes my bride,

            la que más quería yo.

the one I love most of all.

            Sayo yeva sovre sayo;

She wears many pleated skirts

            un xiboy de altornasión.

and a waistcoat of fine cloth.

4         Su cavesa, una toronǧa

Her head is round like a grapefruit;

            sus caveyos briles son.

her hair is golden thread

            Cuando los tomó a peinare,

and when she combs it,

            en eyos despuntó el sol.

it glistens in the sun.

6         Las sus caras coreladas

Her red cheeks

            mansanas d’Escopia son.

are apples from Skopje;

            Los dientes tan chiquiticos

her small teeth

            dientes de marfil ya son.

are all like ivory.

8         Su boquita tan chequetica

In her tiny mouth

            y que no le cave’n peñón.

a rosebud would not fit;

            La su seja enarkada

her arched eyebrows

            árcol de tirar ya son.

are like taut bows.

10      Melda, melda, papazico,

The priest, reading his prayers,

            de meldar ya se quedó.

stopped in his reading.

            —Melda, melda, papazico,

“Read on,  little priest;

            y que por ti no vengo yo.

I’ve not come here for you.

12      Vine por el hijo del reyes,

I have come for the king’s son,

            que de amor v’a muerir yo.

for I am dying of love.”[16]


Lyric Songs

Traditional lyric poetry among the Sephardim also has strong ties to the Iberian tradition.[17] Certain poetic forms, notably the Moroccan wedding songs, embody a “vocabulary” of parallelistic, synonymous rhyme words identical—in part—to that found in early Castilian and Portuguese traditional lyric poetry. Thus, for ‘chemise’, ‘beloved’, ‘to sleep’, and ‘wine’, we find the synonymic alternates: camisa/delgada, amigo/amado, dormir/folgar, vino/claro, among many others (Alvar 1985). Though some ballads also have specific communal functions—as wedding songs, lullabies, songs of mourning—the functions of lyric poetry, its uses in specific utilitarian social contexts, are in general much more sharply defined. In many cases, this is liminal poetry, marking the thresholds of human life, the crucial moments of transition: birth songs, wedding songs, funeral dirges (Armistead 1993: 364-367). Many of these songs, either in their poetic form or in their specific genetic relationship to known early counterparts, have ancient Iberian origins. However, some collectors of Eastern Sephardic lyric poetry were astounded to encounter almost exact word-for-word correspondences between certain popular lyric songs, well known in Istanbul and in Salonika, and identical songs, sung even to identical tunes, by modern Spaniards. But these were not ancient, pre-Diasporic survivals. A number of Spanish popular songs reached the Sephardic East on phonograph records and were quickly learned by Jewish singers, who gradually came to consider them as a venerable and authentic part of their own Sephardic repertoire, even despite some very obvious religious and cultural conflicts: “A la una nasí yo, / a las dos me baftizaron . . .” (‘I was born at one o’clock, at two I was baptized . . .’). This same, probably quite modern, song is known today all over the Spanish-speaking world and must be a late addition to the Sephardic repertoire. On the other hand, the Sephardim’s long residence in Eastern Mediterranean lands also enriched their repertoire of lyric songs, several of which turn out to be close translations of Greek distichs (En torno: 178-182; Armistead and Silverman 1983-1984: 43-44). As an example of an authentically traditional lyric song, the following endecha—sung at funerals and also during the nine days of the month of Ab (Thishʿā bĕ-’Āb) to commemorate the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem, which is evoked in vv. 1-8. The rest of the poem involves a conversation between a mother and her deceased son or daughter:


            Ḥaḫamim nombrados,

Famous wise men,

2         de honra y de fama,

of honor and of fame,

            los yevan atados

are carried off bound

4         y arrastrados por la vía.

and dragged along the streets.

            ¡Yoren, yoren, las señoras,

Weep, weep, you women,

6         las que tienen razón,

for well may you weep,

            por la Caza Santa

for the Holy City

8         y el ḥorbán de Sión!

and the destruction of Zion!

            —Si había algún consuelo

“If there were some comfort

10      y en éste mi corasón,

in this heart of mine,

            yo vos rogo, la mi madre,

I beg you mother,

12      por las piadades,

for the sake of charity,

            que escribáis mi dulse nombre

to write my sweet name

14      y en vuestros lumbrales.

on the threshold of your home.”

            —Y escrito lo tengo, escrito,

“And I have inscribed it

16      y en la veluntade.

within my very soul.

            Los días que fuere viva,

As long as I live,

18      mi madre, con tus pesares.

I will mourn for you.”

            —Yo vos rogo, la mi madre,

“I beg of you, mother,

20      por las piadades,

for the sake of charity:

            que saquéis mis nuevos vestidos

Take out my new clothes

22      del arca y del ajugares.

from the dowry chest.

            Con la hoja del adefla,

With leaves of the rosebay,

24      mi madre, los bufeares.

Mother, fumigate them for me.

            Con la hoja de la retama,

With leaves of the furze,

26      mi madre, los safumare.

Mother, perfume them for me.

            Y si al año no volviere,

If I don’t return in a year,

28      sacáilos al delale.

take them to be sold

            Y al primero precio,

And at the lowest price,

30      mi madre, los qaddeare.

Mother, sell them off.

            Y el que los comprare,

And whoever buys them,

32      que no pase por la mi caye.

let him not go by my street,

            No los vea la mi madre,

so my mother may not see them,

34      los de dolor al corasón.

those clothes of heartfelt grief.”[18]


Enumerative Songs

There are relatively few cumulative or enumerative songs in the Sephardic repertoire, but they are, nonetheless, of great interest.[19] The song of the Moorish girl (or the mulberry—the word mora is ambivalent), which, through fly, spider, mouse, cat, dog, stick, fire, water, and ox, ascends to the shôḥēt (ritual slaughterer) and the malākh ha-māweth (Angel of Death), is also known in Spanish Christian areas and is a Pan-European song-type, but it also reminds us of the traditional Passover song Ḥad gadyā (One little Goat), itself seemingly translated into Aramaic from a Central European variant of the same text-type. The Little Goat, though it is probably of Askenazic origin, is also sung in Judeo-Spanish (Un cavretico). Also very popular—and also in association with Passover—are multiple Judeo-Spanish translations of the Hebrew song, Eḥad mi-yodeʿa (The Twelve Numbers), which was also sung in Arabic by Spanish-speaking singers both in the East and in Morocco. Another song, El viejezico (The Little Old Man), has a seemingly identical counterpart in Modern Greek, but strikingly similar Peninsular analogues have recently come to light, throwing the song’s exact origins into doubt (En torno: 183-188; Pedrosa 1992-1995). In both Morocco and the East, Dize la nuestra novia (Our Bride Says), sung at weddings, of course, embodies a cumulative allegorical description of the beautiful girl, as also does another, more bawdy, but regrettably incomplete Eastern song.[20] Vivardueña, also sung both in the East and in North Africa—and again at weddings—acts out, with gestures, in a mimetic dance, the various stages in the production of bread: sowing, irrigating, growing, reaping, gathering, sifting, grinding, kneading, molding, and baking. The song is genetically related to similar songs known throughout the Hispanic world, as well as in France and Italy. In its nuptial context, with its emphasis on fertility, it suggests ancient correlations between agriculture and sexuality. Historically, it confirms the existence of medieval Jewish farming communities on the Iberian Peninsula (En torno: 110-117; Tres calas: 107-112). La cantiga de las horas (Song of the Hours), known only in the East, follows the hours of the day, while evoking, in these verses from the Island of Rhodes, a typically multiethnic Eastern Mediterranean ambience:


            In il curtijo de Aḥmet,

In Ahmed’s courtyard,

            ayí ǧugan a shesh-u-besh.

they are playing at “six and five.”

            ¿Qué volo diré, mi alma?

What can I tell you, my dear?

            Agora son las sex.

It’s now six o’clock.

Though here “Ahmet” is obviously a Turkish gentleman, the curtijo evokes the typical courtyard of an Eastern Sephardic home, a center of family life. Shesh-u-besh is a Turkish form of backgammon, whose name combines a Persian six with a Turkish five.


Prayers and Charms

Prayers and curative charms have been only sparsely collected among the Sephardim and they have been very little studied, but they reveal clear and very interesting connections with Iberian and Pan-European traditional poetry and folkbelief, as in the following charm from Rhodes, where the supernatural or divine figure—here an old man, significantly dressed and shod in iron, a sure and magical protection against witches and the evil eye—is met while traveling along a road on a curative mission, as in numerous Peninsular counterparts:


            . . . Caminando por un camino,

. . . As I was walking along a path,

26      encuentrí a un viejezico:

I met a little old man:

            Fierro vestía,

He was dressed all in iron,

28      fierro calsava.

and with iron shoes.

            —¿Onde vas?

“Where are you going?”

30      —Ande fulana,

“To the house of so-and-so,

            hija de sistrana,

daughter of such-and-such,

32      a quitarle todo el ainará.

to take from her all the evil eye.

            Todo el que la miró,

Every person who looked at her

34      con mala ojada,

with an evil look

            con mala ariada,

and a bad demeanor:

36      y a la fondina de la mar

I would throw him

            yo lo echava.

into the depths of the sea.

38      Y el Dio la melezinava.

And God cured her.”[21]

The charm has strikingly similar analogues still current in Spain and Portugal. A prayer for rain collected in 1958, in Los Angeles (California), from an informant from the Island of Rhodes: “¡Agua, O Dio! / Que la tierra la demanda . . .” (Water, O God! The earth demands it . . .), is verbally identical to the rain prayer included in Gonzalo Correas’ proverb dictionary compiled in Spain in 1627: “¡Agua, Dios, agua, ke la tierra lo demanda!”[22] The following bilingual bedtime prayer was written down in an 18th-century family song and prayer MS from the Island of Rhodes:


            Me echo en mi cama,

I lie down in my bed,

2         de Miryām ha-nĕbî’āh

protected by Miriam the prophetess;

            me covijo con colcha

I am covered with the quilt

4         de rey Šĕlōmōh

of Solomon the king;

            entrego mi alma

I give up my soul

5         en poder del Criador:

to the power of the Lord:

            El que me la guadre

May he keep it safe

8         de ḥuego de flama,

from flames of fire

            de muerte de xapetanya.

and from sudden death.

10      Sero mis puertas y mis ventanas

I close my doors and windows

            con sío del rey Šĕlōmōh melekh

with King Solomon’s seal;

12      Mîḥā’ēl de mi derecha,

Michael is on my right hand

            Gabrî’ēl de mi ensyedra,

and Gabriel on my left

14      Šĕkhînāh pozada sovre mi cavesa:

and the spirit of God above my head:

            Escápame de veneno malo

Keep me safe from evil poison

16      y de ḥôlā’îm rā’îm

and from bad sickness;

            escápame de gĕzērôth malos,

save me from misfortune

18      kāšēr de sakānāʿ

and keep me free from danger.[23]

José Manuel Pedrosa’s recent in-depth study of this text and its Pan-European congeners (1995: 187-220) has shed indispensable light on its ancient origins and its magical implications.



As we have already observed, Judeo-Spanish riddles have been gravely neglected. An interesting, but, in comparative terms, still seriously deficient corpus from the Eastern tradition can now be studied, but to date we still know nothing at all about riddles among North African Sephardim.[24] Preliminary studies of the Eastern repertoire suggest, tentatively, a richly diverse tradition, more or less equally divided between riddles of early Iberian origin and others obviously borrowed from Turkish, from Greek, or from an unspecifiable Pan-Balkan tradition. Some riddles clearly date from pre-Expulsion times, as would seem to be the case with the following riddle from Monastir (Macedonia):

Una coza y coza muy maraviyoza:

Cae en la mar y no se moja

                                                                 (El sol)

(Something, something very marvelous:

It falls into the sea and does not get wet.)

                                                                 (The sun)[25]

Just as in the Eastern Sephardic communities, this riddle is also enormously popular in Spain and elsewhere in the Hispanic world. It is one of the few Judeo-Spanish riddles for which we have early documentation. The Toledan poet, Fernán González de Eslava—a priest who, incidentally, was probably of converso parentage—writing in Mexico City during the second half of the 16th century, included the following verses in one of his compositions, which habitually are amply interlarded with quotations from traditional poetry:

—¿Qué es cosa y cosa:

Entra en la mar y no se moja?

—Esse es el sol, pienso yo.

(“What sort of a thing is this?

It goes into the sea and doesn’t get wet.”

“That’s the sun, I believe.”)[26]

There are, however, many other Eastern riddles which have obviously been borrowed from the repertoires of the Jews’ Turkish, Greek, or Slavic neighbors. The following multiple-answer riddle, also from Monastir, is indubitably of Turkish origin:


Todu ay al mundu:

Everything exists in the world:

Solu tres cozes no ay.

Only three things don’t exist.


(Capac al mar,

(A cover for the sea,


milizine a la muerti,

a cure for death,


iscalere para asuvir

a ladder to ascend


a lus sielus.)

to heaven.)



(Luria 1930: 89)


The riddle’s Turkish counterpart reads:


Bizim pacaya bir kuş geldi,

A bird came to our roof:

hak dedi, hük dedi,

It said: Hak! It said: Hük!

bu dünyada üç şeye

It said: There is no remedy

çare yok dedi.

for three things in this world.

(Denize kapak,

(A lid for the sea,

göǧe merdiven,

a ladder for the sky,

ölume çare.)

a cure for death.)

                                                                                  (Başgöz and Tietze 1973: no. 1041.1a)

The Eastern Sephardic riddles confirm, then, the eclectic, multicultural origins we have already encountered in other genres of Judeo-Spanish traditional literature.



Proverbs are still an essential part of folk-speech everywhere in the Hispanic world and, in this, the Sephardim are no exception. As is the case with other proverb traditions, Judeo-Spanish refranes are often pithy, pungent, and sarcastic, using direct—and sometimes very crude—language to get across a crucial lesson: “Quen no tiene a la fermoza, beza a la mocoza” (He who doesn’t have a beautiful girl, must kiss a snot-nosed one); “Quen mocos manda, bavas aresive” (If you send snot, you’ll get back slobber); “Cagajones y bembrillos son amariyos” (Turds and quinces are both yellow); “Mi nuera la garrida, diskué ke laba desfoyina” (My bright daughter-in-law! After she washes, she decides to clean the chimney).[27] Many proverbs must have come from Spain with the exiles of 1492. Here are four, accompanied immediately below by their early Peninsular counterparts—the latter brought together in 1627, in the proverb dictionary of Gonzalo Correas (Combet 1967). The translation is essentially identical in each case:

A gran’ a grano, hinche la gayina el papo.

Grano a grano, hinche la gallina el papo.

(One seed at a time, a hen fills its craw.)

Antes que te cazes, mira lo que hazes.

Antes ke te kases, mira lo ke hazes . . .

(Watch what you do before you get married.)

Aqueyos polvos truxeron estos lodos.

Kon esos polvos se hizieron estos lodos.

(That dust brought, or made, this mud.)

Dime con quén andas; te diré quén sos.

Dime kon kién fueres i diréte kién eres.

(Tell me who you go around with and I’ll tell you who you are.)[28]


Other Eastern Judeo-Spanish proverbs obviously have been borrowed from neighboring Balkan or Near Eastern peoples: “Mošé murió; Adonai quedó” (Moses died; God remains) has its exact counterpart in Arabic (or Judeo-Arabic): “mūsā māt, baqā rabb il-samāwāt” (Moses is dead; God remains in Heaven) (Khayyat 1985: 195, no. 30). That a person of superior status will corrupt his inferiors is pungently expressed by Eastern Sephardim with the saying: “El pexcado fiede de la cavesa” (A fish stinks from its head). The saying has Greek and Turkish counterparts; it is also known in Italy, but, to my knowledge, it does not occur in Spain:

Balık baştan kokar.

(The fish stinks from the head.)

Apoù tẽn kefalẽ   murízei tò psári.

(From the head, the fish smells.)


Peştele de la cap se împute.

(The fish, from the head, stinks.)[29]


Excessive caution is warned against in “Quén se quema en la chorbá, asopla y en el yogurt.” (He who gets burned drinking soup, will also blow on the yoghurt.) Like many other Eastern Judeo-Spanish proverbs, this one is probably Pan-Balkan in distribution, though, for now, I can only cite Greek and Rumanian congeners:

Çorbaden aǧzı yanan ayran üfliyerek içer.

(He who is burned with the soup will blow on the yogurt drink.)

Sütten aǧzı yanan yoǧurdan üfleyerek yer.

(He who is burned with the milk will blow on the yogurt.)

Apoũ káēke’s tẽn kolokútha fusᾷ kaì tò giaoũrti.

(He who gets burned by the [hot] pumpkin will also blow on the [cold] yogurt.)

Cine se frige cu borş suflă şi în iaurt.

(He who gets burned with borscht even blows on yogurt.)[30]


Needless to say, some Biblical proverbs have also come over into popular usage in Judeo-Spanish, as, for example, is the case with: “Echa un pedasico de pan a la mar; algún día lo toparás” (Throw a little piece of bread into the sea; some day you will find it again”), which corresponds exactly to Ecclesiastes 11:1 (simplified transcription):

Shalaḥ laḥemeḥ ʿal-penê ha-maîm ki-berob ha-yamîm thimeçaenû.

(Throw your bread upon the waters, some day you will find it again).



During the early stages of field work on Judeo-Spanish oral literature, folktales suffered by comparison with the ballads, so attractive to Hispanists. All the same, an important corpus of folktales, rigorously transcribed in close phonetic notation, was brought together early on, because scholars looked upon the folktales primarily as samples of the spoken language, while later collecting—following World War II and the Holocaust—recognized them for their own intrinsic value.[31] We now have at hand a vast and variegated corpus, much of it dispersed in articles, some of difficult access. Reginetta Haboucha’s monumental Types and Motifs (1992) has systematized this material and has made it readily accessible, giving us an indispensable starting point for subsequent research on Judeo-Spanish folktales.

Because of their more flexible form—prose rather than verse—it is sometimes difficult to trace a story’s precise origin. Some Sephardic folktales were surely taken into exile from the Hispanic homeland, but, surely again, the tradition was also greatly enriched by the diverse Eastern Mediterranean traditions with which the Jews were inevitably in daily contact.[32] Similarly, in Morocco, certain stories clearly emerge as borrowings from the local Arabic or autocthonous Berber traditions, while others may have come from pre-diasporic Spain and still others may well have been learned from recently arrived Spanish immigrants. The following example, with its Turkish trickster hero, its thoroughly Eastern ambience (including a mosque tower), and its abundant Turkish vocabulary, without doubt exemplifies once again the important contributions of Near Eastern diasporic traditions to the Hispanic heritage of the Sephardim.


Quitaron un tel-lal en la malé que el que se puede estar en la mexquita deznudo la noche entera le va a pagarle tanto.

—Bueno—dize—. (Salió Ḥoǧa a correr.) —¡Yo!—dize—¡yo lo hago esto!


Lo deznudavan entero, como lo parió la madre. Lo metieron una sábana sólo, tapado. Y subió a la mexquita. Ma el que quitó tel-lal en la malé le dixo al pikchí:

—Cada hora ya lo ves, al pasar, si está ahí. Que no mos vaiga engañar.

Y viene el pikchí, con la lampa, mirava: Ya está ahí.

Está bien. Cada hora lo mizmo; cada hora lo mizmo. Cuando ya abax[ó] ..., cuando ya eskapó la nochada, le dizen (para cobrar), le dizen y ¿cómo dizen?:

—Tú estuvites caentiko toda la noche.—

Dize: —¡¿Cómo me pude caentar?!

Le dizen: —El pikchí, cuando iva cada hora, ¿no te mirava con la lampa? La resplandor de la lampa te caentava el fuego [= puerpo].— ¡Pues no le pagaron! [...]

Nastradí Ḥoǧa yamó a todos los vezindados de caza. Les dio ... el ... un .... anque ... un party. [...] Y Nastradí Ḥoǧa se fue abaxo a cozer el kavé, para todos. ¿Qué hizo? En luguar de meter el ev a la lumbre, ... el ibrik de kavé, lo colgó ¡al taván! Y la lumbre abaxo.

Ya esperan una hora, dos, tres, cuatro. El kavé no está echo.

—Nastradí, ¿qué pasó del kavé?—dizen.

—Y está coziendo—.

Como tantas horas [pasaron], abaxaron abaxo los vezi[ndados], el aquel, los musafírim. Le dizen:

—Nastradí Ḥoǧa, ¿cómo el cavé se puede hazer cuando está el taván ahí y [la lumbre] aquí?

Dize: —¡¿Cómo pude yo caentarme cuando estava en la mexquita?![33]


They sent a town crier around the neighborhood saying they would pay a certain amount to anyone who could spend the whole night standing naked on [top of] the mosque.

Ḥoǧa ran out, saying: “Me! I’ll do it!”

“Very well,” they said.

They stripped him as completely as the moment he was born. They covered him only with a sheet. And he went up in the minaret. But the person who sent the town crier around the neighborhood told the night watchman:

“Every hour, when you go by, take a look to see if he’s there, so he won’t deceive us.”

And the night watchman comes by, with his lamp, and looks and sees him there.

Each hour the same thing; each hour the same. When he came down ..., when the night was over, they tell him (he wanted to be paid), they say to him ... and what do they go and tell him?:

“You were nice and warm all night long.”

He says: “How could I ever have warmed myself?!”

They answer him: “When the night watchman went by every hour, didn’t he look at you with his lamp? The light from the lamp warmed your body.” And they didn’t pay him!

Nastradí Ḥoǧa called all his neighbors and gave them the . . . a ... even though ... a party. And Nastradí Ḥoǧa went downstairs to cook the coffee for everyone. What did he do? Instead of putting the househould effects, ... the coffeepot on the fire, he hung it from the ceiling! And the fire down below.

Well, they waited one hour, two, three, four. The coffee isn’t done.

“Nastradí, what ever happened to the coffee?” they say.

“It’s cooking,” he answers.

Since so many hours [went by], the neighbors, that is the guests, went downstairs, saying:

“Nastradí Ḥoǧa, how can you ever make coffee when the ceiling is up there and [the fire down] here?”

He answers: “And how could I warm myself when I was in the minaret?!”

__________  .  __________

 In looking back at Judeo-Spanish oral literature as a whole, it becomes clear that this is not only the repository of priceless medieval survivals so dear to Hispanists, nor yet is it solely a fascinatingly exotic variant of Jewish culture, but it is, rather, a variegated tapestry woven of many different cultural strands—at once Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, Hispanic, Mediterranean and Near Eastern—but, ultimately, uniquely and richly distinctive in its own right.


Adams, Kenneth, “Castellano, judeoespañol y portugués: El vocabulario de Jacob Rodrigues Moreira y los sefardíes londinenses,” Sefarad, 26-27 (1966-1967), 221-228, 435-446, 213-226.

Alonso, Dámaso, “La tradición épica castellana en la obra de Menéndez Pidal (Teoría y hechos comprobados),” La Torre, 18-19 (1970-1971), 15-49.

Alpert, Michael, “The Inquisition Campaign in Madrid, 1718, and its Consequences,” Ninth British Conference on Judeo-Spanish Studies, July 2-4, 1995: Programme and Abstracts, ed. Hilary Pomeroy et al. (London: Queen Mary and Westfield College, 1995).

Alpert, Michael, “A Marrano Pesach,” Tenth British Conference on Judeo-Spanish Studies, June 29-July 1, 1997: Programme and Abstracts, ed. Hilary Pomeroy et al. (London: Queen Mary and Westfield College, 1997), p. 6.

Altabé, David F., Erhan Atay, and Israel J. Katz (ed.), Studies on Turkish-Jewish History: Political and Social Relations, Literature and Linguistics, New York: Sepher-Hermon, 1996.

Alvar, Manuel, Endechas judeo-españolas, 2d ed., Madrid: Instituto Arias Montano, 1969.

Alvar, Manuel, Cantos de boda judeo-españoles, Madrid: C.S.I.C., 1971.

Angel, Marc D., The Jews of Rhodes: The History of a Sephardic Community, New York: Sepher-Hermon, 1978.

Armistead, Samuel G., and Joseph H. Silverman, “Dos consejas sefardíes,” Narraciones hispanoamericanas de tradición oral: Antología (Madrid: E.M.E.S.A., 1972), pp. 95-101.

Armistead, Samuel G., and Joseph H. Silverman, “El cancionero judeo-español de Marruecos en el siglo XVIII (Incipits de los Ben-Çûr),” Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica, 22 (1973), 280-290.

Armistead, Samuel G., and Joseph H. Silverman, Review of Vilar Ramírez (1969), Romance Philology, 29 (1975-1976), 273-276.

Armistead, Samuel G., Joseph H. Silverman, and Iacob M. Hassán, “Sobre el cuento tradicional del Kismet dela hija del rey,” Estudios Sefardíes, 1 (1978a), 153-170.

Armistead, Samuel G., Joseph H. Silverman, and Iacob M. Hassán, “Un nuevo testimonio del romancero judeoespañol en el siglo XVIII,” Estudios Sefardíes, 1 (1978b), 197-212.

Armistead, Samuel G., and Joseph H. Silverman, “El Romancero entre los sefardíes de Holanda,” Études de Philologie Romane et d’Histoire Littéraire offertes à Jules Horrent, ed. Jean Marie d’Heur and Nicoletta Cherubini (Liège: Gedit, 1980a), pp. 535-541.

Armistead, Samuel G., and Joseph H. Silverman, “Three Hispano-Jewish romances from Amsterdam,” Medieval, Renaissance and Folklore Studies in Honor of John Esten Keller, ed. Joseph R. Jones (Newark, Delaware: Juan de la Cuesta, 1980b), pp. 243-254.

Armistead, Samuel G., and Joseph H. Silverman, “El antiguo romancero sefardí: Citas de romances en himnarios hebreos (Siglos XVI-XIX),” Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica, 30 (1981), 453-512.

Armistead, Samuel G., Reginetta Haboucha, and Joseph H. Silverman, “Words Worse than Wounds: A Judeo-Spanish Version of a Near Eastern Folktale,” Fabula: Zeitschrift für Erzählforschung, 23 (1982), 95-98.

Armistead, Samuel G., and Joseph H. Silverman, “Las endevinas djudeo-espanyolas,” Aki Yerushalayim, 3:12 (1982), 11-14.

Armistead, Samuel G., and Joseph H. Silverman, “Adivinanzas judeo-españolas de Turquía: Los ‘Enigmas’ del Rabino Menahem Azôz,” Philologica Hispaniensia in Honorem Manuel Alvar, I: Dialectología (Madrid: Gredos, 1983), pp. 81-92.

Armistead, Samuel G., and Joseph H. Silverman, “Sephardic Folkliterature and Eastern Mediterranean Oral Tradition,” Musica Judaica, 6:1 (1983-1984a), 38-54.

Armistead, Samuel G., and Joseph H. Silverman, “Two Judeo-Spanish Riddles of Greek Origin,” Laografía, 33 (1983-1984b), 169-175.

Armistead, Samuel G., “Adivinanzas españolas de Luisiana,” Homenaje a Alvaro Galmés de Fuentes, 2 vols. (Madrid: Gredos, 1985), II, 251-262.

Armistead, Samuel G., “Américo Castro in Morocco: The Origins of a Theory,” Américo Castro: The Impact of His Thought, ed. Ronald E. Surtz et al. (Madison, Wisconsin: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies, 1988), pp. 73-82.

Armistead, Samuel G., “Más adivinanzas españolas de Luisiana,” Homenaje a Alonso Zamora Vicente, 2 vols. (Madrid: Castalia, 1989), II, 25-38.

Armistead, Samuel G., and Joseph H. Silverman, “A Judeo-Spanish Prayer,” La Corónica, 19:1 (1990-1991), 22-31.

Armistead, Samuel G., “Epopeya y Romancero: El sueño de doña Alda en la tradición moderna,” Scripta Philologica in Honorem Juan M. Lope Blanch, 3 vols., (Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma de México, 1992), III, 79-88.

Armistead, Samuel G., “Judeo-Spanish Traditional Poetry in the United States,” Sephardim in the Americas: Studies in Culture and History, ed. Martin A. Cohen and Abraham J. Peck (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993), pp. 357-377.

Armistead, Samuel G., “An Additional Note on Jewish-Spanish Joseph Narratives,” Romance Philology, 49 (1995-1996), 276-277.

Armistead, Samuel G., “‘Eyebrows like Leeches’: Balkan Elements in a Judeo-Spanish Song,” La Corónica, 24:2 (1995-1996), 91-103.

Armistead, Samuel G., “Quelques noms sépharades du vieux cimétière juif de Philadelphie,” La Lettre Sépharade, 19 (September 1996b), 13.

Armistead, Samuel G., and Joseph H. Silverman,“Nueve adivinanzas de Estambol: Colección Milwitzky,” Sefarad, 58:1 (1998), 31-60.

Armistead, Samuel G., and James T. Monroe, “J.-Sp. puertas de rey(es) ‘royal courts’,” Sefarad, 58 (1998), 227-241.

Armistead, Samuel G., “Near Eastern and Balkan Elements in Sephardic Oral Literature” (First Cynthia M. Crews Lecture), Proceedings of the Tenth British Conference on Judeo-Spanish Studies, 29 June-1 July 1997, ed. Annette Benaim (London: Department of Hispanic Studies, Queen Mary & Westfield College, 1999), pp. 1-20.

Armistead, Samuel G., “Ballad” and “Hispanic Tradition,” Medieval Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs, ed. Carl Lindahl, John McNamara, and John Lindow, 2 vols. (Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2000), I, 61-71, 475-488.

Armistead, Samuel G., “The Memory of Tri-Religious Spain in the Sephardic Romancero,” Encuentros & Desencuentros: Spanish-Jewish Cultural Interaction Throughout History, ed. Carlos Carrete Parrondo et al. (Tel Aviv: University Publishing Projects, 2000), pp. 265-286.

Armistead, Samuel G., Review: Harm den Boer, La literatura sefardí de Amsterdam (Alcalá de Henares: Universidad de Alcalá, 1996), Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos, 24:2 (2000), 422-424.

Armistead, Samuel G., “Seis cantos de boda judeo-españoles (mss. de Américo Castro),” La eterna agonía del Romancero: Homenaje a Paul Bénichou, ed. Pedro M. Piñero Ramírez et al. (Seville: Fundación Machado, 2001), pp. 179-193.

Arora, Shirley L., “On the Importance of Rotting Fish: A Proverb and its Audience,” Western Folklore, 48 (1989), 271-288.

Attias, Moshe, Romancero sefaradí: Romanzas y cantes populares en judeo-español, 2d ed., Jerusalem: Ben-Zewi Institute, 1961.

Attias, Moshe, Cancionero judeo-español: Canciones populares en judeo-español, Jerusalem: Centro de Estudios sobre el Judaísmo de Salónica, 1972.

Baer, Yitzhak, A History of the Jews in Christian Spain, 2 vols., Philadelphia: J.P.S., 1961-1966.

Başgöz, Ilhan, and Andreas Tietze, Bilmece: A Corpus of Turkish Riddles, Berkeley-Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1973.

Benardete = Samuel G. Armistead and Joseph H. Silverman, Judeo-Spanish Ballads from New York (collected by Mair José Benardete), Berkeley-Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1981.

Benbassa, Esther, and Aron Rodrigue, Sephardi Jewry: A History of the Judeo-Spanish Community, 14th-20th Centuries, Berkeley-Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000.

Bendayán de Bendelac, Alegría, Diccionario del judeoespañol de los sefardíes del norte de Marruecos, Caracas: Centro de Estudios Sefardíes de Caracas, 1995.

Bénichou, Paul, “Observaciones sobre el judeo-español de Marruecos,” Revista de Filología Hispánica, 7 (1945), 209-257.

Bénichou, Paul, “Notas sobre el judeo-español de Marruecos en 1950,” Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica, 14 (1960), 307-312.

Bénichou, Paul, Romancero judeo-español de Marruecos, Madrid: Castalia, 1968a.

Bénichou, Paul, Creación poética en el romancero tradicional, Madrid: Gredos, 1968b.

Benmayor, Rina, Romances judeo-españoles de Oriente: Nueva recolección, musical transcriptions by Judith H. Mauleón, Madrid: C.S.M.P., 1979a.

Benmayor, Rina, “Social Determinants in Poetic Transmission or a Wide-Angle Lens for Romancero Scholarship,” El Romancero hoy: Historia, comparatismo, bibliografía crítica, ed. Samuel G. Armistead et al. (Madrid: C.S.M.P., 1979b), pp. 153-165.

Benoliel, José, “Dialecto judeo-hispano-marroquí o hakitía,” Boletín de la Real Academia Española, 13 (1926), 209-233, 342-363, 507-538; 14 (1927), 137-168, 196-234, 357-373, 566-580; 15 (1928), 47-61, 188-223; 32 (1952), 255-289.

Blondheim, D.S., Les parlers judéo-romans et la «Vetus Latina», Paris: E. Champion, 1925.

Bosnia = Samuel G. Armistead and Joseph H. Silverman, with Biljana Šljivić-Šimšić, Judeo-Spanish Ballads from Bosnia, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971.

Brown, Kenneth, and Harm den Boer (ed.), El barroco sefardí: Abraham Gómez Silveira, Arévalo, prov. de Ávila, Castilla 1656-Amsterdam 1741, Kassel: Reichenberger, 2000.

Bunis, David M., Sephardic Studies: A Research Bibliography, New York: Garland, 1981.

Bunis, David M., A Lexicon of Hebrew and Aramaic Elements in Modern Judezmo, Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1993.

Bunis, David M., “Piesa di Yaakov Avinu kun sus ižus (Bucharest, 1862): The First Judezmo Play,” History and Creativity in the Sephardi and Oriental Jewish Communities, ed. Tamar Alexander et al. (Jerusalem: Misgav Yerushalayim, 1994), pp. 201-252.

Camhy, Gina, “Algunas recetas de repostería sefardí de Bosnia,” ed. Elena Romero and Iacob M. Hassán, Estudios Sefardíes, 1 (1978), 161-194.

Cantera, Francisco, “Hebraísmos en la poesía sefardí,” Estudios dedicados a Menéndez Pidal, 5 (1954), 67-98.

Carracedo, Leonor, and Elena Romero, “Refranes publicados por Yaʿacob A. Yoná,” Sefarad, 41 (1981), pp. 389-560.

Catalán, Diego, Siete siglos de Romancero (Historia y poesía), Madrid: Gredos, 1969.

Catalán, Diego, Por campos del Romancero: Estudios sobre la tradición oral moderna, Madrid: Gredos, 1970.

CMP = Samuel G. Armistead et al., El romancero judeo-español en el Archivo Menéndez Pidal (Catálogo-índice de romances y canciones), 3 vols., Madrid: C.S.M.P., 1978.

Cohen, Judith R., and Oro Anahory Librowicz, “Modalidades expresivas de los cantos de boda judeo-españoles,” Revista de Dialectología y Tradiciones Populares, 41 (1986), 189-209.

Cohen, Judith R., “«Ya salió de la mar»: Judeo-Spanish Wedding Songs among Moroccan Jews in Canada,” Women and Music in Cross-Cultural Perspective, ed. Ellen Koskoff (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1987), pp. 55-67.

Cohen, Judith R., “Sephardic Song,” Midstream: A Monthly Jewish Review, 49:5 (July-August 2003), 12-16.

Cohen, Julia, Creating a Lost Spanish “Province”: Charting Sephardic Jews onto Hispanic Maps, 1898-1932, Honors Thesis, University of California, Davis, 2001.

Correas, Gonzalo, Vocabulario de refranes y frases proverbiales, [ed. Miguel Mir], Madrid: “Revista de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos,” 1924.

Correas, Gonzalo, Vocabulario de refranes y frases proverbiales, ed. Louis Combet, Bordeaux: Université de Bordeaux, 1967.

Correas, Gonzalo, Vocabulario de refranes y frases proverbiales, [ed. Miguel Mir], with a new prologue by Víctor Infantes, Madrid: Visor, 1992.

Costa Fontes, Manuel da, “Mais Orações Criptojudias de Rebordelo,” Revista da Universidade de Coimbra, 37 (1992), 457-469.

Costa Fontes, Manuel da, “Four Portuguese Crypto-Jewish Prayers and their ‘Inquisitorial’ Counterparts,” Mediterranean Language Review, 6-7 (1993), 67-104.

Crews, Cynthia M., Recherches sur le judéo-espagnol dans les pays balkaniques, Paris: E. Droz, 1935.

Crews, Cynthia M., “Some Arabic and Hebrew Words in Oriental Judeo-Spanish,” Vox Romanica, 14 (1955), 269-309.

Crews, Cynthia M., “Textos judeo-españoles de Salónica y Sarajevo con comentarios lingüísticos y glosario,” Estudios Sefardíes, 2 (1979), 91-258.

Daǧpinar, Aydin, A Dictionary of Turkish-English English-Turkish Proverbs and Idioms, Istanbul: Doyuran Matbaası, 1982.

Danon, Abraham, “Les superstitions des juifs ottomans,” Mélusine, 8 (1896-1897), 265-281.

Danon, Abraham, “Les superstitions des juifs ottomans,” Actes de l’Onzième Congrès International des Orientalistes (Paris, 1899), pp. 259-270.

Den Boer, Harm, La literatura sefardí de Amsterdam, Alcalá de Henares: Universidad de Alcalá, 1996.

Díaz-Mas, Paloma, Los sefardíes: Historia, lengua y cultura, Barcelona: «Riopiedras», 1986.

Díaz-Mas, Paloma (ed.), Los sefardíes: Cultura y literatura, [Vitoria]: Universidad del País Vasco, [1987].

Díaz-Mas, Paloma, Sephardim: The Jews from Spain, trans. George K. Zucker, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

En torno = Samuel G. Armistead and Joseph H. Silverman, En torno al romancero sefardí (Hispanismo y balcanismo de la tradición judeo-española), Madrid: Seminario Menéndez Pidal, 1982.

Firestone, Melvin M., “Sephardic Folk-Curing in Seattle,” Journal of American Folklore, 75 (1962), 301-310.

FLSJ = Samuel G. Armistead, Joseph H. Silverman and Israel J. Katz, Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews, 3 vols., Berkeley-Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1971-1994; 2 vols., Newark, Delaware: Juan de la Cuesta, 2006 (Vol. V); 2008 (Vol. IV) (vols. VI-VIII in press).

Frenk, Margit (ed.), Fernán González de Eslava, Villancicos, romances, ensaladas y otras canciones devotas, Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 1989.

Galante, Abraham, Appendice à l’histoire des juifs de Rhodes, Chio, Cos, etc., Istanbul: Ishleri, 1948.

Goldberg, Harriet, “The Judeo-Spanish Proverb and its Narrative Context,” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 108 (1993), 106-120.

Haig, Kerest, Dictionary of Turkish-English Proverbial Idioms, Amsterdam: Philo Tress, 1969.

Harris, Tracy, Death of a Language: The History of Judeo-Spanish, Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994.

Hassán, Iacob M., “De los restos dejados por el judeoespañol de los judíos del norte de Africa,” Actas del XI Congreso Internacional de Lingüística y Filología Románica Madrid 1965, 4 vols. (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1969), IV, 2127-2140.

Hassán, Iacob M., Las coplas de Purim, Ph.D. diss., Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 1976.

Hassán, Iacob M., “Mas hebraísmos en la poesía sefardí de Marruecos: Realidad y ficción léxicas,” Sefarad, 37 (1977), 373-428.

Hassán, Iacob M., and Elena Romero, “Quinot paralitúrgicas: Edición y variantes,” Estudios Sefaradíes, 2 (1978), 3-57.

Hassán, Iacob M., “Hacia una visión panorámica de la literatura sefardí,” Jornadas de Estudios Sefaradíes: Cáceres, 24-26 marzo de 1980, ed. Antonio Viudas Camarasa (Cáceres: Universidad de Cáceres, 1981), pp. 51-68.

Hassán, Iacob M., “Visión panorámica de la literatura sefardí,” Hispania Judaica, II, ed. Josep M. Solà-Solé et al. (Barcelona: Puvill, 1982), pp. 25-44.

Hassán, Iacob M., “Versión manuscrita de la copla sefardí, La castidad de José,” Sefarad, 52 (1992), 123-130.

Hassán, Iacob M., “La literatura sefardí culta: Sus principales escritores, obras y géneros,” Judíos, sefarditas, conversos: La expulsión de 1492 y sus consecuencias, ed. Angel Alcalá (Valladolid: Ambito, 1995), pp. 319-330.

Hemsi, Alberto, Coplas sefardíes (Chansons judéo-espagnoles) [pour chant et piano], 10 fascicles, Alexandria, Egypt-Aubervilliers, France: Edition Orientale de Musique / privately printed, 1932-1973.

Hemsi, Alberto, “Evocation de la France dans le folklore séphardi,” Le Judaïsme Séphardi (London), 24 (July 1962), 1055-1057, 1059; 25 (Dec. 1962), 1091-1093.

Hemsi, Alberto, Cancionero sefardí, ed. Edwin Seroussi et al., Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1995.

Hony, H.C., and Fahir İz, A Turkish-English Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon, 1957.

Hordes, Stanley M., “The Sephardic Legacy in the Southwest: The Crypto-Jews of New Mexico (Historical Research Project Sponsored by the Latin American Institute, University of New Mexico), Jewish Folklore and Ethnography Review, 15 (1993), 137-138.

Hordes, Stanley M., “The Sephardic Legacy in New Mexico: A History of the Crypto-Jews,” Journal of the West, 35:4 (1996).

Jeannaraki, Anton, ’Ásmata krētikà metà distíchōn kaì paroimiõn, Wiesbaden: Martin Sändig, 1967.

Katz, Israel J., Judeo-Spanish Traditional Ballads from Jerusalem: An Ethnomusicological Study, 2 vols., New York: Institute of Mediaeval Music, 1971-1975.

Katz, Israel J., “A Transcription of the Judeo-Spanish Ballad La vuelta del marido,” Musica Judaica, 6 (1983-1984), 55-57.

Katz, Israel J., and M. Mitchell Serels (ed.), Studies on the History of Portuguese Jews, New York: Sepher-Hermon, 2000.

Khayyat, Shimon L., “Relations between Muslims, Jews and Christians as Reflected in Arabic Proverbs,” Folklore, 96 (1985), 190-207.

Koen-Sarano, Matilda, Kuentos del folklore de la famiya djudeo-espanyola, Jerusalem: Kana, 1986.

Koen-Sarano, Matilda, Djoha ke dize? Kuentos populares djudeo-espanyoles, Jerusalem: Kana, 1991.

Koen-Sarano, Matilda, Konsejas i konsejikas: Del mundo djudeo-espanyol, Jerusalem: Kana, 1994.

Kolonomos, Žamila (ed.), Proverbs, Sayings and Tales of the Sephardi Jews of Macedonia, Belgrade: Savez Jevrejskih Opština Jugoslavije, 1978.

Larrea Palacín, Arcadio de, Romances de Tetuán, 2 vols., Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1952.

Larrea Palacín, Arcadio de, Cuentos populares de los judíos del Norte de Marruecos, 2 vols., Tetuán: Editora Marroquí, 1952-1953.

Larrea Palacín, Arcadio de, Canciones rituales hispano-judías, Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1954.

Leibovici, Sarah, “Nuestras bodas sefarditas: Algunos ritos y costumbres,” Revista de Dialectología y Tradiciones Populares, 41 (1986), 163-187.

Levy, Isaac, Chants judéo-espagnols, 4 vols., London-Jerusalem: Fédération Séphardite Mondiale / Edition de l’auteur, 1959-1973.

Lévy, Isaac J., Prolegomena to the Study of the «Refranero Sefardí», New York: Las Américas, 1969.

Lévy, Isaac J., and Rosemary L. Zumwalt, “Aun de lo suzio profita il mundo (Even from the dirty the world profits): A Hidden Side of Sephardic Proverbs,” Proverbium, 11 (1994), 143-158.

Lévy, Isaac J., Jewish Rhodes: A Lost Culture, Berkeley: Judah L. Magnes Museum, 1989.

Librowicz, Oro Anahory, Florilegio de romances sefardíes de la diáspora (Una colección malagueña), Madrid: C.S.M.P., 1980.

Librowicz, Oro Anahory, Cancionero séphardi du Québec, I, Montreal: Cégep du Vieux Montréal, 1988.

Lida, Denah, “Refranes judeo-españoles de Esmirna,” Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica, 22 (1958), 1-35.

Lieberman, Julia Rebollo, El teatro alegórico de Miguel (Daniel Leví) de Barrios, prefacio de Samuel G. Armistead, Newark, Delaware: Juan de la Cuesta, 1996.

Luria, Max A., A Study of the Monastir Dialect of Judeo-Spanish, New York: Hispanic Institute, 1930a.

Luria, Max A., “Judeo-Spanish Dialects in New York City,” Todd Memorial Volumes: Philological Studies, II, ed. John D. Fitz-Gerald and Pauline Taylor (New York: Columbia University Press, 1930b), pp. 7-16.

Malka, Victor, Les juifs sépharades, Paris: «Que sais-je?», 1986.

Martínez Ruiz, Juan, “Textos judeo-españoles de Alcazarquivir (Marruecos), 1948-1951,” Revista de Dialectología y Tradiciones Populares, 19 (1963), 78-115.

Menéndez Pidal, Ramón, Estudios sobre el Romancero, Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1973.

Molho, Michael, Usos y costumbres de los sefardíes de Salónica, trans. Federico Pérez Castro, Madrid-Barcelona: C.S.I.C., 1950.

Mound, Gloria, “The Hitherto Unknown Jews of Ibiza and Formentera,” Fourth British Seminar of Judeo-Spanish Studies, Glasgow 1984: Abstracts of Papers, ed. Nicholas G. Round (Glasgow: University of Glasgow, Dept. of Hispanic Studies, 1984), pp. 19-20.

Muallimoǧlu , Nejat, Turkish Delights: A Treasury of Proverbs and Folk Sayings, 2nd printing, Istanbul: Avcıol Matbaası, 1990.

Nahón = Samuel G. Armistead and Joseph H. Silverman, with Oro Anahory Librowicz, Romances judeo-españoles de Tánger (recogidos por Zarita Nahón), Madrid: C.S.M.P., 1977.

Öztaş, Kaya, Türkçe-fransizca, fransizca-türkçe atasözleri, Ankara: Nüve Matbaası, 1967.

Pedrosa, José M., “Plurilingüismo y paneuropeísmo en la canción tradicional de El buen viejo,” Romania, 113 (1992-1995), 530-536.

Pedrosa, José M., Las dos sirenas y otros estudios de literatura tradicional: De la Edad Media al siglo XX, Madrid: Siglo XXI, 1995.

Roden, Claudia, The Book of Jewish Food, London: Viking, 1997.

Romero, Elena, “Teatro judeoespañol aljamiado: Adiciones bibliográficas,” Sefarad, 28 (1968), 403-408.

Romero, Elena, “El bet-dín de los cielos,” Segismundo, 4 (1973), 135-243.

Romero, Elena, “Teatro sefardíEl teatro y su crítica (Reunión de Málaga de 1973), Málaga: Diputación Provincial, 1975.

Romero, Elena, “Complas de Tu-bišbat,” Poesía: Reunión de Málaga de 1974, ed. Manuel Alvar (Málaga: Diputación Provincial, [1976]), pp. 277-311.

Romero, Elena, and Leonor Carracedo, “Poesía judeoespañola admonitiva,” Sefarad, 37 (1977), 429-451.

Romero, Elena, El teatro de los sefardíes orientales, 3 vols., Madrid: C.S.I.C., 1979.

Romero, Elena, “Las coplas sefardíes: Categoría y estado de la cuestión,” Jornadas de Estudios Sefardíes: Cáceres, 24-26 marzo de 1980, ed. Antonio Viudas Camarasa (Cáceres: Universidad de Cáceres, 1981a), pp. 69-98.

Romero, Elena, Repertorio de noticias sobre el mundo teatral de los sefardíes orientales, Madrid: C.S.I.C., 1981b.

Romero, Elena, Coplas sefardíes: Primera selección, Córdoba:  «El Almendro», 1988.

Romero, Elena, Bibliografía analítica de ediciones de coplas sefardíes, introduction by Iacob M. Hassán, Madrid: C.S.I.C., 1992a.

Romero, Elena, La creación literaria en lengua sefardí, Madrid: Maphre, 1992b.

RPI = Manuel da Costa Fontes et al., O Romanceiro Português e Brasileiro: Índice temático e bibliográfico, 2 vols., Madison, Wisconsin: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies, 1997.

Sala, Marius, Estudios sobre el judeo-español de Bucarest, Mexico City: U.N.A.M. 1970.

Sala, Marius, Phonétique et phonologie du judéo-espagnol de Bucarest, The Hague-Paris: Mouton, 1971.

Sala, Marius, Le judéo-espagnol, The Hague: Mouton, 1976.

Schmid, Beatrice, and Yvette Bürki, “El ḥacćino imaginado”: Comedia de Molière en versión judeoespañola, Basel: Universität Basel, 2000 (= ARBA 11).

Scholem, Gershom, Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah (1626-1676), Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975.

Schwarz, Samuel, Os Cristãos-Novos em Portugal no Século XX, Lisbon: Empresa Portuguesa de Livros, 1925.

Schwarz, Samuel, “The Crypto-Jews of Portugal,” The Menorah Journal, 12 (1926), 138-149, 283-297.

Séphiha, Haïm Vidal, L’agonie des judéo-espagnols, Paris: Entente, 1977.

Setton, Kenneth M., Catalan Domination of Athens (1311-1388), Cambridge, Massachusetts: Mediaeval Academy of America, 1948.

Stillman, Yedida K., “The Costume of the Jewish Woman in Morocco,” Studies in Jewish Folklore, ed. Frank Talmage (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Association for Jewish Studies, 1980), pp. 343-375.

Studemund, Michael, Bibliographie zum Judenspanischen, Hamburg: Helmut Buske, 1975.

Tres calas = Samuel G. Armistead, Joseph H. Silverman, and Israel J. Katz, Tres calas en el romancero sefardí (Rodas, Jerusalén, Estados Unidos), Madrid: Castalia, 1979 .

Varol, Marie-Christine, “Influencia del turco en el judeoespañol de Turquía,” Hommage à Haïm Vidal Sephiha, ed. M.-Chr. Varol and Winfried Busse (New York: Peter Lange, 1996), pp. 213-237.

Vidaković, Krinka, Kultura španskih jevreja na jugoslavenskom tlu, Sarajevo: «Svjetlost», 1986.

Vilar Ramírez, Juan Bautista, La judería de Tetuán (1489-1860) y otros estudios, Murcia: Universidad de Murcia, 1969.

Wagner, Max Leopold, Beiträge zur Kenntnis des Judenspanischen von Konstantinopel, Vienna: Alfred Hölder, 1914.

Wagner, Max Leopold, Caracteres generales del judeo-español de Oriente, Madrid: Centro de Estudios Históricos, 1930.

Wagner, Max Leopold, “Zum Judenspanischen von Marokko,” Volkstum und Kultur der Romanen, 4 (1931), 221-245.

Wagner, Max Leopold, Sondersprachen der Romania, ed. Heintz Kröll, 4 vols., Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1990 (Vols. III-IV: Judenspanisch).

Walker, Warren S., and Ahmed E. Uysal, Tales Alive in Turkey, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1966.

Weich-Shahak, Susana, “The Wedding Songs of the Bulgarian-Sephardi Jews,” Orbis Musicae, 7 (1979-1980), 81-107.

Weich-Shahak, Susana, “Childbirth Songs among Sephardic Jews of Balkan Origin,” Orbis Musicae, 8 (1982-1983), 87-103.

Weich-Shahak, Susana, “Canciones acumulativas sefardíes y congéneres hispánicas,” Revista de Dialectología y Tradiciones Populares, 50 (1995a), 73-91.

Weich-Shahak, Susana, Romancero sefardí de Marruecos, Madrid: Alpuerto, 1997.

Wilson, Howard Barrett, “Notes of Syrian Folk-Lore Collected in Boston,” Journal of American Folklore, 16 (1903), 133-147.

Yurtbaşı, Metin, A Dictionary of Turkish Proverbs, Ankara: Turkish Daily News, 1993.

Zumwalt, Rosemary Lévy, “Las buenas mujeres: The Keepers of Sephardic Health and Home,” Jewish Folklore and Ethnography Review, 15 (1993), 107-112.



* The present article was originally published in French, “La littérature  orale des juifs sépharades” (as translated by Patrick Moser), in Cahiers de Littérature Orale, 44 (1998), 93-122. The present text has been updated and the notes and bibliography have, in various cases, been expanded.

[1] See, for example, the classic monograph of Schwarz (1925; abbreviated English account: 1926); up-to-date bibliography: Costa Fontes (1992; 1993).

[2] For Ibiza: Mound (1984); for the American Southwest: Hordes (1993; 1996). In the latter case, there remains an open and much debated question as to how many of the individuals involved actually are of Jewish origin.

[3] Unlike the Mediterranean settlements established after the Diaspora of 1492, the Sephardic community of Amsterdam was founded by reconverted “New Jews”, whose ancestors had been New Christians in Spain and Portugal for various generations and who brought with them an essentially Renaissance Spanish culture to the “Dutch Jerusalem.” See now den Boer’s monumental monograph (1996; Armistead 2000c). Concerning the mixed Spanish-Portuguese language that would develop in the Amsterdam community, in London, and would even survive briefly in New York, see Adams (1966-1967). These later emigrants would found, in their turn, many of the early Jewish settlements in the New World (Armistead 1993; 1996).

[4] For Eastern Judeo-Spanish, see Crews (1935); Luria (1930a); Sala (1970; 1971); Wagner (1914; 1930; 1990); Varol (1996); for Moroccan Judeo-Spanish: Bénichou (1945; 1960); Benoliel (1926-1952); Wagner (1931); for further bibliography on language: Studemund (1975); Sala (1976); Bunis (1981); for historical and cultural surveys: Séphiha (1977); Angel (1978); Díaz-Mas (1986; 1987; 1992); Malka (1986); Vidaković (1986); Lévy (1989); Altabé, Atay, and Katz (1996); Benbassa and Rodrigue (2000); Katz and Serels (2000). Mark Cohen’s splendid history of the Monastir community (2003) also illuminates that of other Eastern communities. Dictionaries of both dialects: Nehama (1977); Bendayán (1995).

[5] For Hebraisms in Eastern Judeo-Spanish: Bunis (1993); Crews (1955); for the Moroccan dialect: Benoliel (1926-1952); Cantera (1954); Hassán (1977).

[6] For the coexistence of a variety of Eastern Judeo-Spanish dialects in New York in the early 1900s, see Luria (1930b).

[7] See En torno: 151-253; Armistead and Silverman (1983-1989); Katz (1983-1984); Armistead (1995-1996; 1999); Armistead and Monroe (1998).

[8] Various other types of folklore have also been collected and studied, but coverage is often geographically limited and much more work is urgently needed. For example, see, for traditional dress: Y. Stillman (1980); for folk-cookery: Camhy (1978) and especially the far-ranging work of Roden (1997); for folk-medicine: Firestone (1962); Zumwalt (1993); for folk-speech: Benoliel (1926-1952: 151-168, 196-234); for folk-belief: Danon (1896-1897; 1899). Molho (1950) documents numerous aspects of Eastern Judeo-Spanish folklore.

[9] Concerning complas and paraliturgical poetry, see the pathfinding (and ongoing) studies of Hassán (1976; 1992); Hassán and Romero (1978); Romero (1976; 1981a; 1988; 1992a; 1992b); Romero and Carracedo (1977); for the theater: Romero (1968; 1973; 1975; 1979; 1983b); Schmid and Bürki (2000); note also Bunis (1994); Armistead (1995-1996); for an authoritative survey of written literature: Hassán (1981; 1982; 1995); Romero (1992).

[10] The reactions of Spanish intellectuals to the “discovery” of the Hispano-Jewish community in Morocco, following the Spanish occupation of Tetuán in 1860, are curiously insensitive to the historical, cultural, linguisitc, and folkloric significance of what at least some of them had even witnessed firsthand. Dividing their reactions between—in a majority—the crudest canards of traditional anti-semitism and—in a small minority—a sympathetic humanitarian appreciation of Jewish religiosity and other positive features, these Spaniards of the 1860s were totally oblivious of the unique literary and ethnographic value of the Jewish communities (Vilar Ramírez 1969: 68-71; Armistead and Silverman 1975-1976: 274-275). Note also Julia Cohen (2001).

[11] For outlines and documentation of ballad field work, see Nahón: 15-22; Benardete: 4-12.

[12] Concerning social, cultural, and political factors involved in the disappearance of Judeo-Spanish folk literature and language, see Benmayor (1979); Harris (1994); Armistead (1993).

[13] A few narrative songs accepted by scholars as part of the ballad corpus may exhibit other metrical patterns: for example, parallelistic couplets or six-syllable verses (romancillo) (CMP, I, 56, n. 66). Some of the major ballad collections are Attias (1961); Benardete (1981); Bénichou (1968a); Benmayor (1979a); Bosnia; CMP; FLSJ; Hemsi (1932-1973; 1995); Larrea (1952); Librowicz (1980; 1988); Nahón; Weich-Shahak (1990; 1995b; 1997); for crucial criticism: Bénichou (1968b); Catalán (1969; 1970); En torno.

[14] The ballads’ genetic relationship to epic narratives and versification can no longer be considered a theory, but is now established as a recognized and demonstrated fact: Armistead (1992); FLSJ, II-VII. Note also Dámaso Alonso’s authoritative conclusion: “…el paso tradicional de los cantares de gesta a los romances épico-líricos está seguramente comprobado …” (1970-1971: 45).

[15] See En torno: 151-239. A meticulous study of the ballad music confirms—in the case of the Eastern communities—the profound influence of Greek, Balkan, and Near Eastern music on the Sephardic tune repertoire (Katz 1971-1975; 1983-1984; En torno: 243-253).

[16] Sung by Mrs. Esther Varsano Hassid, 65 years, from Salonika (Greece), recorded by S. G. Armistead and J. H. Silverman, in Van Nuys, California, August 22, 1957. See our studies: Tres calas: 25-28, 135-136; FLSJ: I, 319-334. This version was edited in Tres calas: 135. Here I have omitted the refrain (¡El mi señor!) and the verses repeated in singing. The following words require comment: xiboy (v. 3b) (= Sp. jubón, but it is closer to Catalan gipó, Aragonese gipón, Portuguese gibão); altornasión (3b) (< Sp. tornasol) is now meaningless; meldar (10-11) ‘to read’ ultimately goes back to Greek maletãn (Blondheim 1925: 75-79).

[17] For collections of traditional lyric poetry—which usually also include some narrative poetry (ballads)—see Attias (1972); Hemsi (1932-1973; 1995); Larrea (1954); Levy (1959-1973); for songs of passage: Alvar (1969; 1971); Weich-Shahak (1979-1980; 1982-1983; 1990, 1995b); Librowicz and Cohen (1986); Judith Cohen (1987); Leibovici (1986); Armistead (1993: 364-367, 375-376, nn. 27-36; 2002).

[18] Sung by Rachel Nahón, 75 years; collected by S. G. Armistead and I. J. Katz, Tetuán (Morocco), August 9, 1962; for variant texts: Alvar (1969: 147-154). The following forms require comment: Ḥaḫamím (v. 1) ‘wise men’ (< Hebrew ḥākhāmîm); ḥorbán (8) ‘destruction’ (< Hebrew ḥurbān); adefla (23) (< Sp. adelfa) and retama (25) (i.e. bitter-smelling plants); delale (28) ‘auctioneer; town crier’  (< Ar. dallal; Cl. Ar. dallāl); qaddeare (30) ‘to sell cheaply; without bargaining’ (< Ar. qedd; cfr. ʿala qeddu ‘qui ne vaut pas cher’). In v. 18, the reading, “mi madre” is out of place; read “mi hijo” or “mi hija.” Here, and in the following notes, the abbreviation “Ar.” refers to Moroccan Colloquial Arabic.

[19] Concerning cumulative songs, see En torno: 183-188; Armistead (1993: 362-364, 374-375, nn. 20-26); Pedrosa (1992-1995); Weich-Shahak (1995a).

[20] See Hemsi (1995: 327, 458-459); Armistead (1995).

[21] Recited by Rebecca A. Levy, 46 years, from the Island of Rhodes, collected by S. G. Armistead and J. H. Silverman, Los Angeles (California), February 16, 1958; complete text: Armistead (1993: 370-371). Ainará ‘evil eye’ reflects Hebrew ʿēyn hā-rāʿ (or ʿayin rāʿāh). See a splendid variant of our curative charm (which contains, among others, some elements in common with our prayer in n. 23), collected by Susana Weich-Shahak, in Israel, from a woman also from the same community in Rhodes (Weich-Shahak 1992: 30-34). The motif of iron shoes has various connotations in traditional literature. In our curative charm, the iron implies magic protection against evildoing spirits, but one also finds iron shoes as a punitive element or one of deprivation and fatigue: Q502.2. Punishment: wandering till iron shoes are worn out; H1125. Task: traveling till iron shoes are worn out; M136. Vow not to marry till iron shoes wear out (Thompson 1955-1958).

[22] Combet (1967: 65b); Armistead (1993: 369-370, 377, n. 49).

[23] Here I have simplified the transliteration of the Hebrew-letter text edited in Armistead and Silverman (1990-1991: 25). The words for ‘prophetess’ (v. 2), ‘king’ (11), ‘evil sickness’ (16), ‘misfortune’ (17), ‘safe’ (18), and ‘danger’ (18) are from Hebrew, though hŏlāîm rāʿîm (16) and sakānāh (18) have both been misspelled in the MS.

[24] For Eastern Judeo-Spanish riddles, see Luria (1930: 88-90); Galante (1948: 22-24); Armistead and Silverman (1982; 1983; 1983-1984a-b; 1998); for an extensive bibliography of Pan-Hispanic riddles: Armistead (1985; 1989).

[25] Recited by Adela Barokas, circa 80 years, from Monastir (Macedonia), collected by S. G. Armistead, in Brooklyn (New York), October 30, 1981.

[26] See Frenk (1989: 253; 83, 402-403); for another early version and modern Judeo-Spanish variants: Armistead and Silverman (1998: no. 9).

[27] The first three proverbs are from the Eastern communities. I know them from oral tradition. The last one is from Morocco (Armistead 1988: 80, n. 9). Concerning off-color proverbs in the Judeo-Spanish tradition, see Levy and Zumwalt (1994). It would be impossible to give here an extended account of Judeo-Spanish proverb collections. Three of the best documented for the East are Lida (1958); Levy (1969); Carracedo and Romero (1981); for Morocco: Benoliel (1926-1952: 211-234). Goldberg’s contextual study (1993) represents a significant advance.

[28] The Sephardic proverbs are from Rhodes and are cited from a handwritten list compiled by Rebecca A. Levy, 46 years, and given to  S. G. Armistead and J. H. Silverman, in Los Angeles, January 20, 1958. The Spanish proverbs, from Gonzalo Correas’ Vocabulario (Combet 1967: 347b, 60a, 423b, 324a), reflect a special orthography and an alphabetical order designed by Correas. The edition of Correas’ proverbs, edited and introduced by Miguel Mir (1924), also continues to be very useful and has recently been reprinted (1992), with a new prologue by Víctor Infantes. See Lévy (1969) for published Judeo-Spanish counterparts of these proverbs.

[29] See Jeannaraki (1967: 293, no. 24); Armistead and Silverman (1983-1984a: 47, n. 31); Armistead, Silverman, and Haboucha (1982: 97, n. 12). For the widely known Turkish proverb, see Daǧpinar (1974: no. 66); Haig (1969: no. 328); Hony and İz (1957: s.v.); Muallimoǧlu (1990:92); Öztaş, p. 11; Yurtbaşı (1993: 70). My friend, Professor Joseph V. Ricapito, has kindly pointed out an Italian counterpart: “Il pesce puzza dalla testa.” My colleague, Professor Yuri Druzhnikov, informs me that the same proverb exists in Russian as well: “Ryba gniët s golovy.” Note Arora’s important study (1989). Note also an exact—though politicized—Moroccan Colloquial Arabic parallel: “El bled be-ḥal el ḥuta: ka-tkhennez min ar-ras” (This country is like a fish: It stinks from the head). My friend and colleague, Professor Maria Manoliu Manea, offered the Rumanian reading.

[30] The first Turkish example is from Hony and İz (1957: 380, s.v. üflemek). They cite an English proverb: “A scalded cat fears cold water.” Ayran is “a drink made with yoǧurt and water mixed with snow or ice” (Hony and İz 1957: s.v.). The second instance is from Yurtbaşı (1993: 137, 142), who cites distant parallels in various languages. See also Daǧpinar (1982: no. 439); Haig (1969: no. 647); Öztaş, p. 51. Jeannaraki provides a German translation: “Wer sich am heissen Kürbis verbrannt, der blässt auch in die (kalte) sauere Milch,” together with the French counterpart: “Chat échaudeé craint l’eau froide” (1967: 293, no. 22), which corresponds to Spanish, Portuguese, and Catalan: “Gato escaldado del agua fría huye”; “Gato escaldado de água fria tem medo”; “Gat escaldat del aiga freda fuig.” Again, I owe the Rumanian proverb to the kindness and erudition of my colleague, Professor Maria Manoliu Manea.

[31] See, for example, the linguistic studies of Crews (1935; 1979), Luria (1930); Wagner (1914; 1990). Later folktale collections include Kolonomos (1978); Koen-Sarano (1986; 1991; 1994). Larrea’s very substantial Moroccan collection (1952-1953) was poorly collected and poorly edited—from texts taken down in shorthand (!)—from which a great majority of the dialect’s Arabic loan words have been eliminated. Despite the violence done to the tale’s linguistic fabric, the collection at least gives us viable outlines of the narrative content and continues to be an essential reference. ¡Peor es nada! Martínez Ruiz’s editing is incomparably better (1951). For everything concerning traditional stories, Reginetta Haboucha’s splendid Types and Motifs index is indispensable (1992).

[32] For other examples of Judeo-Spanish tales of Near Eastern origin, see Armistead, Silverman, and Hassán (1978); Armistead and Silverman (1983-1984a: 44, 49, n. 19); Armistead, Haboucha, and Silverman (1982).

[33] Version from Silivri (Turkey), told by Marco Fiss, circa 50 years, collected by S.G.A. and J.H.S., Los Angeles (California), April 9, 1960. I have revised the transcription published in our Narraciones hispanoamericanas de tradición oral (1972: 97-98), where we also edit a Moroccan Sephardic variant (pp. 98-101). The following forms need to be glossed: tel-lal ‘town crier’ (T. tellâl; from Cl. Ar. dallāl); malé ‘neighborhood’ (T. mahalle); pikchí ‘night watchman’ (T. bekçi); lampa ‘lamp, lantern’ (Gk. lámpa; T. lâmba, lâmpa); kavé ‘coffee’ (T. kahve); ev possibly ‘household things, house-effects, domestic things’ (elliptical for T. ev-eş yası?); ibrik ‘teapot, coffeepot’ (T. ibrik); taván ‘ceiling’ (T. tavan); musafírim ‘guests’ (T. müsafir, misafir ‘guest, visitor; traveler; stranger’ with H. pl. suffix -im). The story represents Aarne-Thompson type 1262. Roasting the meat. For Turkish and Syrian versions, see Walker and Uysal (1966: 239-241, 295 [no. 36]); Wilson (1903: 142-143).