War and the ruby tree. The motif of the unborn generations in Jewish women’s story-telling
AffiliationUniversity of Derby
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AbstractThe Marks/Khymberg family oral storytelling tradition, currently practised publicly by Shanaleah Khymberg (Shonaleigh Cumbers) (b. 1971), includes a large number of cycles of fairy-tale-like stories (wundermaysel), including The Ruby Tree, a many-branched story-cycle showing affinities with well-known tales such as Rapunzel and Beauty and the Beast. Like other stories in the extensive family repertoire, The Ruby Tree was learned orally by Shonaleigh in childhood from her grandmother, Edith Marks. Edith Marks herself trained and practised as a community storyteller or drut'syla (cf. Yiddish dertseyler "storyteller") in the pre-war Netherlands, before carrying the family repertoire in her memory, through Holocaust and postwar relocation to Britain, and teaching it to her grand-daughter in accordance with traditional practice. The imagery of The Ruby Tree, as the story is told by Shonaleigh today, resonates with the often traumatic history of the story's transmission from the pre-war Netherlands to the modern international storytelling circuit. We aim to discuss the story-cycle as a variant of well-known international oral folktale-types, before narrating the dramatic changes of context which the Marks/Khymberg family tradition has undergone, and drawing conclusions about the effects of war, deportation, mass-murder and postwar dispersal on the meaning of this ancient story as it re-emerges in dialogue with its modern context.
CitationHeywood, S. and Cumbers, S. (2017). 'War and the ruby tree: The motif of the unborn generations in Jewish women’s story-telling'. In Buttsworth S. and Abbenhuis, M., (eds.). 'War, myths, and fairy tales'. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 219 - 237.