Folklore is the root of many a modern story and this tradition of storytelling spans all cultures, ethnicities and religions. Today we are learning about Jewish folklore with a wonderful tale from Mark Levenson. We’ve got crushed bridegrooms, golems and a horrible demon named who has designs on all the things we treasure in this life. Scroll down to visit with author Mark Levenson and to learn about The Hidden Saint.
Description of The Hidden Saint
THIS NEW FANTASY NOVEL TAKES READERS TO A WORLD THEY’VE NEVER ENCOUNTERED BEFORE, IN WHICH THE VAST SWEEP OF JEWISH MYTH AND MAGIC IS COMPLETELY REAL.
The historical horrors of eighteenth-century Eastern Europe are interwoven with fantastic creatures drawn from 3,500 years of Jewish myth and magic. For the first time, THE HIDDEN SAINT conjures up a very human origin story for one of the greatest superheroes of Jewish folklore: Rabbi Adam, famous for battling wizards, witches, and demons.
The story opens on a long-awaited family wedding, which turns to horror as Rabbi Adam’s children are abducted by an ancient supernatural evil.
To save them, the rabbi is joined by a golem, a man of clay pained by the burden of living among, but always apart from, humans. He’s goaded and mentored by an elderly, wisecracking housekeeper who is secretly one of the thirty-six hidden saints, or Lamed-Vavniks, upon whom the fate of the world depends.
And he’s blessed and challenged by his wife, Sarah, who leads him to a garden named Eden.
As tidal waves and fires ravage the earth and the very stars above begin to disappear, can Rabbi Adam and his companions succeed in time?
Time for a trip into a fantasy world filled with golems, demons and magic based on Jewish folklore. Rabbi Adam is a man who has suffered and is searching for answers. When the rabbi’s children are taken from him, he goes on a journey with a wonderful golem and a strange but loving old woman named Shayna. The setting of the town filled with dead people was fascinating. I loved the bird express and the mystery of his first love as Levenson expertly weaves his story. I am not usually a fantasy reader, but that didn’t seem to matter. I enjoyed the adventure!
A Visit with Mark Levenson, Author of The Hidden Saint
Tell us a little about yourself.
I once had a high school journalism teacher who said never start an autobiography with where you were born, unless it was someplace interesting, like jail. So you won’t get that from me. Writing is all I’ve ever done, professionally, and in just about every way possible — as a newspaper and magazine reporter, PR director, playwright, short story writer and, now, novelist. My pay-the-bills job is PR writing for large corporations, anything that touches the media, their customers, etc. Good background for a novel sometime.
What inspired the idea behind your book?
What inspired this book was my long-term immersion in Jewish folklore. I’ve adapted Ansky’s Yiddish-theater masterpiece, The Dybbuk, for actors and puppets, written versions of the golem and Chelm stories for the stage. I love the centuries-old eastern European Jewish folktales and conceived of a way to bring them to new audiences. The Hidden Saint is a classic hero’s journey story — with an untried hero, mentor, comic sidekick, villain, etc. — but through a world I’ve never seen depicted before in fiction: the world of Jewish myth and magic. When I encountered Rabbi Adam, a Jewish superhero of sorts from the 16th century, I knew I wanted to write an origin story for him, and this is it.
Who is your favorite character to create scenes for in the book?(You can also insert a paragraph or two showing this character doing what you love best about writing him/her along with your answer.) If an actor or actress were to play this part, who would it be?
We put a bit of our hearts into each character, so they’re all our children and we can’t have favorites. So I don’t. But my favorite is Shayna, the elderly housekeeper and member of a secret society that keeps the world in existence, and also the hero’s mentor. She’s my favorite because she says exactly what’s on her mind, no varnish but plenty of piss and vinegar. And she’s also easy to underestimate; Rabbi Adam, the protagonist, certainly does so. And she quotes Shakespeare. What’s not to like? I was inspired to create her by the late English character actress Margaret Rutherford, who played Miss Marple in a series of 1960s films. But today, any English character actress could play her — Emma Thompson, Judi Densch, Maggie Smith. An excerpt:
They traveled several miles in the wagon. Shayna was eating a small pastry she must have secreted within her voluminous cloak. When she finished, she reached into a pocket and produced her handkerchief and wiped her lips with a single, straight stroke. The golem, meanwhile, was fascinated by a white sash he had acquired from one of the Cossacks who had no further need of it. He was tying and untying it into a series of intricate knots.
“How do you do it?” Adam asked Shayna.
“Do what?” she replied as she surveyed the fields around them.
“The idea that we’re going to a wedding, after what we’ve seen…” his mouth remained open but the rest of the thought remained unspoken.
Shayna gave him an appraising look, the corners of her thin little mouth twitching for an instant. “Oh,” she said. “You think I should be a sourpuss, like you?”
The golem put down the knotted sash and watched them.
“No, I don’t—” Adam began, then stopped. “I mean, I’m not a sourpuss.”
Shayna looked straight ahead, contemplating the road, which stretched to the horizon. “It must be the light then,” she said after a while. It appeared to Adam as though a hint of a grin was evident on the golem’s great, carved face.
“You know very well what I mean,” he continued. “All the dead of Miropol. All the dead and wounded of Okop. More dead than one should have to see in a lifetime. And now we go to a wedding… We should be mourning, not on our way to celebrate—shouldn’t we?”
Around them, the afternoon wind grew stronger, colder. The golem leaned forward, awaiting Shayna’s response.
“King Solomon says that everything has its season, everything has its time,” she reminded him. “A time to weep and a time to laugh. Who’s to say that this isn’t the time to laugh?”
“Then when is the time to weep?” he cried out.
“I suspect you’ll know it when you come to it,” Shayna said.
Is this book a part of a series?
It’s the start of a series. Don’t want to provide spoilers, but the arc of the protagonist raises the question: “what does he do next.” I have some ideas about that.
Where can readers leave reviews?
All the usual places: Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads — and if you do, thank you!
How can readers find your books and are there more coming in this series?
You can find The Hidden Saint wherever you buy books online. And yes, I’m planning the sequel now.
About Mark Levenson
Mark Levenson is an award-winning dramatist, screenwriter, and short story writer, as well as a longtime journalist.
His Jewish-themed fantasy writing has won honors from The National Foundation for Jewish Culture and the American Jewish University, as well as a Union Internationale de la Marionnette-USA Citation of Excellence, an award founded by Jim Henson.
Levenson’s novel, The Hidden Saint (Level Best Books, February 2022), is the culmination of his more than 20 years of engagement with Jewish folklore. Levenson wrote The Return of the Golem and The Wise Men of Chelm for the stage, and adapted S. Ansky’s The Dybbuk for actors and puppets. His Jewish-themed short fiction credits include Mystery Weekly Magazine, Kindle Kzine, and Ami Magazine. He blogs about Jewish fantasy for The Times of Israel.
Perhaps Levenson’s interests in fantasy and folklore are in his blood; his ancestors include a magician-grandmother, “Lightfingers Ida,” and a great-great-uncle who was a Russian circus strongman.
Levenson writes for and about puppet theatre, and performs an updated version of the classic Punch & Judy. He was graduated from Cornell University. He and his family live in Westchester County, New York.