by Matthew Kressel
Read the follow-up to the groundbreaking fantasy novel King of Shards
“Surreal and exotic…Scary, exhilarating fun!” –N.K. Jemisin, Hugo award-winning author of The Fifth Season on King of Shards
“An imaginative, intelligent, and soaring debut that mixes Jewish folklore/mysticism and modern-day social politics.”– Paul G. Tremblay, author of Cabin at the End of the World on King of Shards
“Kressel plumbs the depths of Kabbalistic lore to create a unique fantasy cosmos.” —The Huffington Post
To celebrate the October 13th release of my forthcoming debut novel, King of Shards, I will be featuring one new blog entry a day about a different Judaic myth for 36 days. Today’s entry is on Adne Sadeh, The First Man.
Day 26: Adne Sadeh, The First Man
The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary
Before God created Adam, he created another creature who has gone extinct. We call this creature the Adne Sadeh. This creature was attached to the earth by a naval cord, and if the cord were to be cut, the Adne Sadeh would die. The cord could stretch up to a full mile, and thus the Adne Sadeh lived its whole life confined to the radius of its naval cord. The create ate the fruits and vegetables that grew within its domain, and it snatched and fed on the unfortunate creatures that walked too close to it. The creatures lived for a very long time, and it was said that only two things could kill the Adne Sadeh: cutting its cord, or a flood. Thus all the Adne Sadehs were erased from the earth with the Great Flood.
But some say a few of these creatures still remain in high mountains and in remote places where humans do not dwell. They call these beasts Fadua, and they resembled humans in all respects but for the large naval cord that connects them to the earth. Any one who approaches within reach of its tether is instantly killed and devoured, thus few records of their existence remain. It is said that the bones of Fadua can be used to practice witchcraft.
The Myth’s Origins
The Midrash Tanhuma describes an encounter of a man who was served an Adne Sadeh and told it was a vegetable, even though it looked in all respects like a human being. The man ran away, believing himself to be a cannibal. The 1672 Maiseh Buch, or Story Book, a collection of 254 tales compiled by Jacob ben Abraham, tells of a rabbi who was served what appeared to be human hands, but which was a type of vegetable.
Leviticus 19:31 says, “Turn you not unto the ghosts, nor unto familiar spirits; seek them not out, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.” In this passage, “familiar spirits” is sometimes translated as “wizard.” And in Hebrew, this is pronounced jedoui or jedua, quite close to the word “jedi,” who is a type of wizard in the Star Wars mythology, though the words likely have no etymological connection.
The myth may be based on part on the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, an 11th century Central Asian myth of a sheep growing as a “fruit” from a plant base and connected to it by a tethering umbilical cord.
Some Thoughts on the Myth
I love the stories of strange creatures of the bible. The Ziz, the Leviathan, Behemoth, the Shamir. And here we have another myth, evolved from a Talmudic tale of a rabbi who was served an unusual dish and commingled with other myths of the Middle Ages. While there is no causal link that I could find between the modern word “jedi” and the jedoui of Leviticus, it’s interesting to note that they both mean a kind of wizard. It also makes me wonder about the origination of such a myth of a man connected to the earth by a tether. What did such a person or persons see that inspired them to create this myth? Some strange animal in the woods? A birth in progress? It’s interesting to ponder, and might make good short story fodder.
Tomorrow’s Myth: Tzimtzum, the Contraction of God