These creatures mentioned in the title have characteristics (any, such as traits, costumes, behavior, etc.) attributed to anti-semitism by antisemitic people (or have their origins rooted in this)?

  • Can you elaborate on these characteristics..?
    – Tom Sol
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 20:43
  • Any characteristics, such as behavior, costumes, actions, appearance, etc. Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 20:52
  • 2
    Who are these people you are talking about? who is giving false information? what are they saying?
    – Tom Sol
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 6:00
  • 1
    Hi there! I am talking about Anti Semitic people attributing characteristics of folkloric creatures to Jewish people. Not the aspects. I will edit my post Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 13:23
  • In folklore, probably not. In modern fantasy depictions, probably. The pictures we associate with goblins, for instance, with the long hooked nose, probably arose as part of a general tendency to give creatures that were supposed to be evil or deceptive a stereotypical "jewish look". You see similar things with the traditional depiction of witches, with hooked noses and a version of the Judenhat that Jews were required to wear. There was no one way that goblins or ogres or the like were depicted in the folklore, but standardized depictions that developed later often used antisemitic tropes.
    – Jeremiah
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 16:54

4 Answers 4



You don't mention any specific characteristics, specific dates or specific references so it's impossible to determine any real connexion between folkloristic iconography and some real instance(s) of antisemitism.

That said, one can speculate. From the 21st century perspective, we could say: "Well, Dwarves love gold and the Jews run the banking system, so naturally, Dwarves are a caricature of Jews." The premise falls apart once we realise that mythological Dwarves, while they do seem to be into gold and gems, come to us from prechristian times out of the far north. Unlikely, it seems to me, that pagan Norsemen would be so perturbed by Jews that they would invent a whole race for the simple purpose of denigration.

Does that mean later antisemites couldn't take those characteristics of Dwarves and turn them to evil? Of course it's possible! Tolkien fell afoul of this accusation. I think at best the answer to your query is both yes and no.

  • Hi there, does creatures that carry gold are attibuted to Jewish people by antisemitic people? Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 15:49
  • 1
    @TechnicGoblin5R -- I don't know. I guess you could ask one? Unless I'm misunderstanding your point, I think I addressed your question in my response: we can certainly speculate that antisemites might (or might not) make such a connexion.
    – elemtilas
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 18:18
  • I searched on Reddit and found something interesting: np.reddit.com/r/askhistorians/search?q=anti-semitism subreddit:askhistorians The thread that i am asking is on the first page of this search Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 15:03
  • 1
    @elemtilas I like the way you think. The enormous bold "Possible" made me wary at first, but your answer is a good one. I hope people understand the nuance of "anyone can interpret anything the way they want to" without taking your answer to be a definitive affirmative.
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 18:01

Antisemitism is almost as old as Christianity itself, and because the churches dominated every aspect of life and death, the folkloric and the religious aspects are so intertwined they are almost indistinguishable. An example of this would be the Passion Plays:

Over the course of time, Christians began to accept... that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for killing Jesus. According to this interpretation, both the Jews present at Jesus’ death and the Jewish people collectively and for all time, have committed the sin of deicide, or God-killing. For 1900 years of Christian-Jewish history, the charge of deicide (Which was originally attributed by Melito of Sardis) has led to hatred, violence against and murder of Jews in Europe and America --Boston College Guide to Passion Plays

Another "folkloric" work that was used from the Middle Ages onward is the "Judensau" (German for "Jews' sow"), an image of Jews in obscene contact with a large sow (female pig), which in Judaism is an unclean animal, that appeared during the 13th century in Germany and some other European countries; its popularity lasted for over 600 years. In Nazi Germany, classes of German schoolchildren were sent to see the Judensau on German churches and the term remains extant as a neo-Nazi insult.

As for "costumes", the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 was the first to proclaim the requirement for Jews to wear something that distinguished them as Jews. It could be a colored piece of cloth in the shape of a star or circle or square, a Jewish hat (already a distinctive style), or a robe.

For an extensive reading on the stereotypical depiction of Jews in Medieval art, see Sara Lipton, Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography

  • PS. I edited my post to prevent deletion, and i am asking about Mythological creatures such as the widely known brownies, fairies, ogres, elves, etc. that have their characteristics attibuted to jewish people, by antisemitic people. Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 13:30

These characters were created, like all mythological creatures, as a metaphor for somebody. Long after those people disappeared, Jews appeared and like most immigrants became the subject of negative imagery. The long story is complicated.

  • Could you please expand on your answer? We always love hearing long answers!
    – user6252
    Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 4:28

I think the answer to your question is no. Folklore is created primarily for the ears of children and would consist of imagery relevant to the culture of the area. By culture I mean natural aspects, type of landscape, textiles created from available materials, manners of speaking and daily rituals.

First of all I don't see any close connection between the loric creatures you mention. Ogres, brownies and fairies are very different from each other.

In Norway ogres turn to stone in sunlight and come alive in the dark.

In Scotland Brownies sometimes do housework while the people are sleeping but will leave if you show any generosity to them.

In Ireland different fairies have different roles but are generally benevolent towards humans unless natural surroundings are subject to devastation in which case they may cause harm as punishment.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.