The Golem is inscribed with magic or religious words that keep it animated. Writing the name of God on its forehead, (or on a clay tablet under its tongue) or writing the word Emet ('truth' in the Hebrew language) on its forehead are examples of such words. By erasing the first letter in 'Emet' to form 'Met' ('death' in Hebrew) the golem can be destroyed.
The existence of a golem is a mixed blessing. Although not overly intelligent, a golem can be made to perform simple tasks over and over. The problem is one of control or getting it to stop.
Golems are used primarily in metaphor either as brainless lunks or as entities serving man under controlled conditions but enemies in others. Similarly, it is a Yiddish slang insult for someone who is clumsy or slow.
The most famous tale involves the golem created by the 16th century rabbi Judah Low ben Bezalel of Prague, and was the basis for Gustav Meyrink's 1915 novel Der Golem, as well as classic set of expressionistic silent movies, Paul Wegener's Golem series, of which especially Golem: How He Came Into the World (also released as The Golem, 1920, USA 1921) is famous.
The Golem is considered by some to be an early android.
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Some modern references to The Golem
- Feet of Clay, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett features golems. One specific golem named Dorfl is adopted into regular chronology and appears in later works.
- The play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) by Karel Capek features a modern version of the old legend.
- Golems have been heavily referenced by role-playing games, and have expanded the definition from clay and stone, to iron, wood, rope, straw, and flesh amongst other substances.
- A famous story about a type of golem is Avram Davidson's "The Golem".
- Trevor Pinch and Harry Collins published a critical science book called "The Golem: what you should know about science" and later one called "The Golem at large: what you should know about technology".
- An episode of "The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest", a popular animated series, centres on a rock Golem that goes on a rampage in Prague.
- An episode of "Gargoyles", a popular animated series, centers on a clay Golem that becomes possessed by a madman.
- Golems feature prominently in China Miéville's novel Iron Council.
- The Golem of Prague is an important element in the plot of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon.
- The Dutch author Harry Mulisch incorporated the Golem legend in his De Procedure ("The Procedure").
- Golem has been chosen as the name of an ambitious project on robot evolution at Brandeis University.
- A recently released anime, RahXephon, features remotely controlled giant fighting creatures made of clay and referred to as Dolems. It's generally assumed that Dolem is Engrish for Golem.
- Another contemporary anime, InuYasha, features frequent golem use by the character Naraku.
A common mis-associationGollum is additionally the name of a deformed, wretched creature in J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional Middle-earth; the name however is derived not from Golem, but rather from the throaty sound the character makes, beginning with a glottal stop (a throaty, almost swallowed "g").
- HREF="http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~jewsoc/prague.html" class="external">The Golem of Prague: Miracles of the Maharal
- Background on the Golem Legends