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Wandering Jew

Entry updated 19 January 2019. Tagged: Theme.

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This undying vagrant is an Icon of Fantasy who appears or is alluded to in a number of sf stories, usually exemplifying the notion of Immortality as a curse rather than a blessing [for comments under Accursed Wanderer, Flying Dutchman and Wandering Jew see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. According to legend, the Wandering Jew – known by various names including Ahasuerus and Cartaphilus – was uncharitable to Christ on the day of crucifixion, and so was condemned to live on until the End of Time; the story has been assimilated, though not necessarily with much clarity, in some Vampire narratives. An early Proto SF treatment which takes the wanderer on a tour of the Solar System is Miles Wilson's The History of Israel Jobson, the Wandering Jew (1757 chap) as by M W. The most famous novel in which the character makes an appearance is almost certainly Le juif errant (1844-1845 10vols; trans D M Aird as The Wandering Jew 1845 3vols) by Eugene Sue [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]; the best known sf novel is Walter M Miller Jr's A Canticle for Leibowitz (April 1955-February 1957 F&SF; fixup 1960). C S Forester transfers the curse to Hitler in "The Wandering Gentile" (in The Nightmare, coll 1954). John Boyd, as a witty variation on Shaggy God Story bathos, leaves the Time-Travelling hero of The Last Starship from Earth (1968) to make his way back from Biblical times to modernity in this wanderer's role; a similar fate afflicts a longer-range time traveller in Earthdoom! (1987) by David Langford and John Grant. Ahasuerus himself is a minor character in Diana Wynne Jones's Parallel-Worlds adventure The Homeward Bounders (1981). A relevant anthology is Brian Stableford's Tales of the Wandering Jew (anth 1991), with a long and useful introduction by Stableford. The further author links listed below also offer examples, chiefly fantasy; see also the corresponding entry in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below. [DRL]

see also: Adam and Eve; Olof W Anderson; Frank Aubrey; H M Bien; James P Blaylock; James Fenimore Cooper; Paul Eldridge; Gustav Meyrink; Richard Miller; Robert Nichols; Leo Perutz; Edgar Quinet; Frank R Stockton; Artegall Smith; George S Viereck.

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