Lovers of fantasy may be familiar with the mythic golem of Jewish folklore. Examples of the clay figure, brought to life by Kabbalistic magic, have appeared in recent years as a Marvel Comics character, on television’s X-Files and Sleepy Hollow, and in Jonathan Stroud’s Bartemeaus children’s book series. When I began exploring the idea of a golem as antagonist for the second installment of my Genie Chronicles, Solomon’s Bell, I was captivated by the opposite yet compatible qualities of the folk figure in comparison to the series’ djinn, supernatural Arabian and later Islamic creatures of mythology and theology anglicized as genies.
According to the Quran, genies are born of a smokeless but scorching fire. They exist in their own realm, but can be called forth to interact with us. Like humans, they can be good, evil, or neutrally benevolent. In Western lore, they are shape-shifters, jokesters, and tricksters who will exploit any mistake made by a master if it means a chance at winning freedom. The genies I encountered in my earliest research resented their captivity and felt no love for their masters. There was nothing they wouldn’t do to be rid of them. Their tenacity at freeing themselves by any means necessary, I decided for my work, is what led to the “three wish” myth, and Genie Chronicles main character Virginia “Ginn” Lawson deduces that by the time a master has made three wishes, a genie has found a way to win his or her freedom to the detriment of the master. Ginn eagerly throws herself into the “be careful what you wish for” trope. Wish for a “ton of money” and boy are you gonna get it…right on top of your head!
From my point of view, golems, molded from cold clay and being—at least initially—devoid of emotion or motive, save fulfilling their masters’ commands, posed a sharp contrast. A golem was created to serve and did so blindly. Forget about free will: many of the golems in the oldest source materials I found weren’t thought to possess a soul and couldn’t even speak. (My thirteen year-old girl genie was going to have a field day!) It was the golem’s absolute devotion to fulfilling the will of its master that ultimately led to the golem’s destruction in many of the stories I explored while researching for Solomon’s Bell.
Perhaps the most famous of golem stories is the story of the Golem of Prague. Created from clay from the Vltava River by rituals and incantations performed by Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, Prague’s golem was brought to life to defend the Jewish ghetto from anti-Semitic attacks. Versions of the story of the Golem of Prague end differently, but all of them badly with one event or another leading to the utter destruction of the golem, almost always because the golem is unable to exert even the smallest amount of free will or self-control.
As with genies, I discovered golem folklore crosses cultural lines. There are examples of djinn in many cultures; whether Anglo-Saxon fairies, sprites, and leprechauns, or Hebrew angels, each of these creatures share an origin story with genie mythology. Likewise with golems, the Gingerbread Boy and Frankenstein’s Monster are each a kind of “improvised” golem and share similar mythos. I had a lot of fun playing with the older versions of golems, weaving them into the backstory of my narrative’s Order of the Grimoire, and contrasting them to an evolved specimen: one Malory Clay, practically perfect in every way, a new girl in Virginia’s life who she refers to, when she’s feeling most generous, as Malibu Malory. In Malory Clay I found my antagonist and a catalyst for propelling Ginn into 16th Century Prague, where she hopes to discover, by learning the secrets of Prague’s golem, a way of defeating Malory and rescuing her unsuspecting family from the clutches of the Grimms.
The shared magic and miracles of genies and golems—creatures whose souls burn for freedom pitted against others formed from inanimate matter with souls in question—have made for fascinating research and have been a joy to write for Solomon’s Bell. I hope readers will find they make for a captivating story.
To save her family, Ginn uses her newfound genie powers to transport herself and her friends to 16th century Prague. Only one thing there remains the same as at home: she can’t let anyone know what she really is.
The Emperor of Prague and those closest to him are obsessed with magic. In pursuit of it, they’ve waged war on the citizens of their city. In the citizens’ defense, someone has brought to life a golem, a dangerous being with connections to an artifact capable of summoning and commanding an entire army of genies. Can Ginn escape the notice of the Emperor as she attempts to discover a way to defeat Prague’s golem in time to save her family from a similar creature?
Solomon’s Bell is the sequel to Heir to the Lamp and the second book of the Genie Chronicles series.
***Praise for the GENIE CHRONICLES series***
“An exciting new spin on a genie tale. Virginia is a feisty main character who I would love to have as a friend. Captivating!” — Melissa Buell, author of the YA fantasy series, The Tales of Gymandrol
“Filled with magic, curses, and mystery … a spellbinding journey I couldn’t put down.” — Kelsey Ketch, author of Daughter of Isis
“Heir to the Lamp is Anne Rice meets Harry Potter: delicious writing, mysterious Southern Gothic, and an inventive, magical world for tweens, teens, and the young at heart.” —Susan Abel Sullivan, author of The Haunted Housewives of Allister, Alabama, Cursed: Wickedly Fun Stories, and The Weredog Whisperer
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About the Author
Michelle Lowery Combs is an award-winning writer and book blogger living in rural Alabama with her husband, one cat and too many children to count. She spends her spare time commanding armies of basketball and soccer munchkins for the Parks & Recreation departments of two cities. When not in the presence of throngs of toddlers, tweens and teens, Michelle can be found neglecting her roots and dreaming up the next best seller. She is a member of the Alabama Writers’ Conclave, Jacksonville State University’s Writers’ Club and her local Aspiring Authors group. Check Michelle out at her website MichelleLoweryCombs.com.