Saturday, February 16, 2008


Don't go to sleep? Darn right, not with this guy creeping around. Believe me, in no way is this the kind little sprite from Hans Christian Andersen who ushers kids off to Slumberland with a little bit of dust in their eyes. This is the late-great animator John Berry's take on the character as described in E. T. A. Hoffmann's 1816 short story "Der Sandmann". This one ain't for the kiddies. (Unless you really don't want them to go to sleep... ever.)

The Bible has it's own share of weird and unusual tales. Take for instance the one told in the deuterocanonical text of Tobit. (Sorry protestant readers, that's one of the books you dumped, but you can always borrow one of our Bibles if you're interested.) In that story, a combination of Jewish and oriental folklore, we meet the unfortunate Sarah, a nice lady whose first seven husbands have been murdered on their wedding nights by the demon Asmodeus. Aided by the disguised angel Raphael, Sarah's eighth husband Tobias confronts Asmodeus in the bridal chamber and defeats him with a steaming pile of fish guts.

Yeah, it's weird, but as the book's introduction in the New American Bible explains, "The inspired author of the book used the literary form of religious novel (as in Jonah and Judith) for the purpose of instruction and edification. There may have been a historical nucleus around which the story was composed, but this possibility has nothing to do with the teaching of the book. The seemingly historical data-names of kings, cities, etc.-are used merely as vivid details to create interest and charm." Despite the bizarre narrative, the book basically ends up being a reflection on the value of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Good reading for Lent, and since they use fish guts, you can even enjoy it on Fridays.

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