The Wandering Jew - Cartaphilus
The character of the Wandering Jew has fascinated many writers and artists over the centuries. Can physical immortality ever be a curse? Or is it always a blessing? Or, can the curse be turned into a blessing? The Legend of Cartaphilus, the Wandering Jew, explores these questions.
The legend begins as Jesus is on his way, carrying the cross, to his crucifixion. Cartaphilus is supposed to insult Jesus, by not letting him pause for a rest. Jesus places a curse on him, and says he will live until the Second Coming. During the Middle Ages, in Europe, this story gained wide credence. Occasionally, characters with long white beards would show up in major European cities, claiming to be the Wandering Jew. They would be quizzed by the local authorities, and either accepted or rejected.
The Flying Dutchman is a similar legend, and was used by Wagner in his opera of the same name. The great German writer, Heinrich Heine, also wrote about this character. It was Heine's work which inspired Wagner.
The Wandering Jew, by the French writer, Eugene Sue, is the most famous novel based on this tradition. It was a bestseller in the 1840's, and is available today in reprint editions. Perhaps the most entertaining Wandering Jew novels are those written in the 20th century by George Sylvester Viereck and Paul Eldridge, from 1929 to 1932. In order, they are:
My First Two Thousand Years: The Autobiography of the Wandering
Salome: The Autobiography of the Wandering Jewess
These are classics of Immortalist fiction, and should be reprinted in paperback, with modern covers. Bestsellers in their day, translated into several languages, they can be found in second-hand book searches. There are 3 main Immortals in the story, and we hear the tale of their last 2000 years told from each of their viewpoints.
What is really great about this version is that the curse is gradually changed into a blessing. If Jesus did return, Cartaphilus will choose to remain Immortal because he truly enjoys living. If you enjoy Immortalist fiction, don't rest until you get a hold of these books. Hopefully, it won't take you 2000 years to find a complete set.
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