Many a tale of enchantment
records how primal
forces ran wild
once they were unleashed
. Jewish legends
tell of spell
creatures called golems that sometimes grew dangerously independent of their maker's wishes.
Golems were human figures molded from clay and brought to life by men schooled in sacred texts. It was said that rabbis animated the golems by placing in their mouths parchments inscribed with the name of God, at the same time reciting passages from the scriptures. Such rites were once performed as spiritual exercises - demonstrations of the power of the holy word.
But golems came to be employed for mundane purposes. The most famous of these beings - the golem of Prague, named Joseph by the man who made him - defended the Jews in the Prague ghetto against the depredations of their Christian neighbors. Because the longer Joseph lived the larger and more powerful he grew, he was an effective deterrant to violence. He was also useful as a builder and an errand boy: he could not speak, having no soul, but he could obey.
However, like other creatures of magic, golems had a willful streak, and their ever-increasing size made them a threat to the very folk they were summoned to serve. So it was with Joseph, who ran amok on Sabbath Eve for reasons no one could determine, levelling the ghetto walls with his massive shoulders and leaving buildings ablaze in his wake. He might have brought the entire ghetto to ruin had his creator not caught him, pulled the parchment from his lips, and recited backward the scripture that had started him in motion. All that was left when the man was finished was a lifeless mound of clay.