Folklore + Myth Meet in 1920s NYC


Surprise! You might have noticed we already did an episode about The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker before. It’s gone. This is a bit more of an in-depth discussion on the story. #AlltheTales was the perfect time to try again.
Golem Jinni Book Cover FB

A few of the questions we used to form our discussion were lifted straight out of the great online book club, NovelTea Book Club, run by our pal Kristin of My Life as a Tea Cup. Join it for great discussions and book recommendations. After you’ve joined, please check out this thread!

(Related: Kristin was on our episode discussing Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking!)

What’s a Golem?

As Lydia noted on our ep, nopes, a Golem does not mean a Gollum. For fun, I tried to do a little bit of research into where Gollum’s name comes from. This wiki discusses shark and fishing related terms that might connect. Yet the main wiki states the following, “Originally known as Sméagol, he was corrupted by the One Ring and later named Gollum after his habit of making “a horrible swallowing noise in his throat.”

Gollum Lord of the Rings

Back to our Golem. Pop culture has covered the idea of a golem as much as it has a jinni/genie yet it hasn’t been as popular. A quick google shows that Minecraft, Clash of Clans, Pokemon, Supernatural, The X-Files, and more reference a Golem the correct way. All characterize the Golem as a man-made creature or item that can sustain a lot of damage and is a brute force.

Fun Facts: In Supernatural‘s episode Everybody Hates Hitler, the Golem’s creator was a man named Isaac Bass. This may be a nod to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Nobel prize winner who wrote a novel called The Golem.

In The X Files episode, the name of the Golem is Isaac too. Similar to our story, the Golem is made as a sort of spouse, though that becomes problematic.

In The Golem and the Jinni, our Golem is first of all female; this is rare. Chava is also made as a companion and wife rather than a protector or laborer; this is ever rarer. Some of the folktale aspects depicted in our story are similar to what we know some Eastern European Jews believed. In order to make a Golem, you need to use earth or clay and believe or practice a type of Jewish mysticism. Chava is clearly an earth spirit.

What’s a Jinni?

Pop culture lef us to believe the Jin look a certain way and are alluring,

I Dream of Jeannie Barbara Eden

or are supernatural beings with a more wispish type body,character_bio_genie_aladdin_disney

or that they are tricksters and take opportunities for granting wishes regardless of your intent to use them.

(Related: My Thoughts on Disney’s Live-Action Adaptations.)

In Helene Wecker’s account, the Jin aren’t one type of being. In fact, as Lydia notes in our episode, our Jin appears to look down on wish granting. Ahmad’s powers seem to be charisma and welding which goes along with his fire spirit nature. His form is very human.

What Did You Think of The Golem and the Jinni?

Check out more All the Tales content and find out about our next event International Women’s Month.



  • I’ve always considered Jinnis or Djinn what is from Arabian Nights. An omnipotent being that can grant wishes but yet is confined to a prison. It’s never been a what popular media creates them as.