The Monstrous ZIz and other Fantastic Birds, legends retold by Louis Ginzburg
The legends retold in Louis Ginzberg's classic work Legends of the Bible are a variation of the stories in the Scriptures as told and retold in the ancient east since the days of Abraham in synagogues and churches and then in homes of a hundred generations of people. Among Ginzberg's[*] legends, culled them from a vast literature scattered over many countries and centuries, are those that describe fascinating creatures not mentioned in the biblical creation story.

On the fifth day of creation, on same day with the fishes, the birds were created, for these two kinds of animals are closely related to each other. Fish are fashioned out of water, and birds out of marshy ground saturated with water.

ZizAs leviathan is the king of fishes, so the ziz is appointed to rule over the birds. His name comes from the variety of tastes his flesh has; it tastes like this, zeh, and like that, zeh. The ziz is as monstrous of size as leviathan himself. His ankles rest on the earth, and his head reaches to the very sky.

It once happened that travelers on a vessel noticed a bird. As he stood in the water, it merely covered his feet, and his head knocked against the sky. The onlookers thought the water could not have any depth at that point, and they prepared to rake a bath there. A heavenly voice warned them: "Alight not here! Once a carpenter's axe slipped from his hand at this spot, and it took it seven years to touch bottom." The bird the travelers saw was none other than the ziz.

His wings are so huge that unfurled they darken the sun. They protect the earth against the storms of the south; without their aid the earth would nor be able to resist the winds blowing thence. Once an egg of the ziz fell to the ground and broke. The fluid from it flooded sixty cities, and the shock crushed three hundred cedars. Fortunately such accidents do not occur frequently. As a rule the bird lets her eggs slide gently into her nest. This one mishap was due to the fact that the egg was rotten, and the bird cast it away carelessly.

The ziz has another name, Renanim, because he is the celestial singer. On account of his relation to the heavenly regions he is also called Sekwi, the seer, and, besides, he is called "son of the nest," because his fledgling birds break away from the shell without being hatched by the mother bird; they spring directly from the nest, as it were. Like leviathan, so ziz is a delicacy to be served to the pious at the end of time, to compensate them for the privations which abstaining from the unclean fowls imposed upon them.

There is a bird called "krum.."
bird changing colors
"In cities far across the sea there is a bird called kerum
and when sun shines on it, it changes into ever so many colors."
(TB Ber. 6b)

And did you perhaps ever hear of the hol?

footnotes
[*] When Louis Ginzberg died in 1953, he was recognized as the world's upstanding scholar in the field of Talmudic learning. His studies were carried on at the universities of Berlin, Strassburg and Heidelberg, and from 1902 at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, where he served with distinction as Professor of Talmud for more than half a century. The Legend of the Jews, a massive seven-volume work with notes, written in German, and translated into some forty languages, was originally published for scholars (the first volume was published in 1909). This selection from a shorter and simpler edition, published by Jewish Publication Society in 1975. [back]
excerpted
From: Louis Ginzberg, Legends of the Bible 1956; 1992 by the Jewish Publication Society (Philadelphia, PA), p. 15. By permission of the publisher.

BIRDS Table of Contents

 

   
  SEARCH THE SITE:

Subscribe to the JHOM mailing list for updates.
Email:


Contact us


Tell a friend