The young woman looked up at the ripe, red apple as it shone in the pleasant sunshine and shade of the green, rustling leaves as if its deliciousness was about to burst.
“Taste…it,” hissed the snake, exposing itself from under the leaves. The snake twisted its tail tactfully as it that lay upon the branch of the heavenly tree. The snake’s forked tonged licked its mouth. “Taste it!”
Lilith awoke with a start. The memory haunted her — she, disguised as the snake, had deceived a fellow woman, Eve — and the guilt she felt would not leave. Even after Lilith made an oath to protect the young women of the world, she could not rest. She protected them from the darkness of the shadows, when she could. But still the humans feared her like a monster, depicting her as a demon in their stories. She was feared even by those she sought to protect. Once, Lilith even transferred a piece of her own immortal spirit — one that had not tasted the forbidden fruit — to a dying mortal, one who gave birth to a baby girl who grew up to be Mary Wollstonecraft, a herald of feminist thought and a hero who gave a voice to women. It was Lilith’s shot at redemption! But her work was unfinished. She needed to share one more message with the world — one that transcended gender. It would be a message to all humans — to society as a whole — of her own strife.
This message would formulate in the mind of Mary Wollstonecraft’s daughter, Mary Shelley, but not without Lilith’s help. Perhaps that is why Lilith lurked outside the window of a large home in Geneva, Switzerland, on a dark summer night in 1816. Inside, a bet was being laid out between four men and two women — one of whom was the very daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft. Her name was also Mary, named after her late mother. The bet was regarding who could create the most interesting character for a novel.
“I tell you, I’ve got it!” exclaimed one of the men, referred to as Lord Byron by the rest of the people inside.
“Oh, I dare say you don’t!” said one of the women, named Claire Clairmont.
Meanwhile, quietly in the corner of the room sat Mary Shelley, the granddaughter of the young woman whose life Lilith had saved so many decades ago. Lilith recognized her by her grandmother’s eyes — a silver tint in her irises, a sign of Lilith’s own blazing spirit inside of her.
Mary Shelley was searching for something inside of herself, as if she had forgotten something vital. Lilith knew exactly what. After all, she had made this woman forget what she had seen. Lilith had guided her to her destiny one faithful night in Prague. Now Lilith smiled and let out a small breath onto the window pane. It permeated the window and through the room, until it touched the seated Mary Shelley.
Suddenly, Mary looked up, her eyes blank. She had found it — the memory!
It was the summer of 1814 and her first visit to Prague. Mary Shelley had stood immobilized and alone, frozen from fear of being lost in the city at night, without any lights for guidance. Then Mary Shelley remembered seeing her — a woman with glowing silver eyes, clutching a black cloak. She had never seen such an otherworldly being before, yet some invisible force drew her to follow the cloaked woman. Mary Shelley followed her through the darkness and into a cemetery, not knowing that this woman was actually Lilith. Many years later, she would realize that she was in the cemetery of the Jewish ghetto of Prague. But that night, she could only remember her fear and the cold.
Still, she remembered following Lilith up into the attic of the Old-New Synagogue. And it was there that the revelation occurred. The attic was completely empty except for a single wooden box. Lilith signaled Mary to come over and open the box. But when Mary did so, she found only a pile of blackened clay inside.
What she could not have imagined, though, was what happened next. As Lilith’s eyes glowed brighter, the clay began to shift, turning and twisting and growing out of itself, spilling out of the chest and growing taller, and larger. It began to take a somewhat human form — an especially large human form. Mary Shelley saw dotted eyes form on the creature, and the word אמת, “truth” in Hebrew, emerge on its forehead. She felt her own fear building up until it overtook her, and she fainted. She would not remember seeing the Golem or Lilith until that night in Geneva, as she sat in the corner of the room, thinking.
“I have it!” Mary exclaimed to the surprise of everyone in the room, including her husband, Percy Shelley.
That night, Mary Shelley brought into the world Frankenstein’s monster, a creature like that of the Golem, whose strength came from many sources and that remains until this day a lasting symbol to all men and women across the world, to all societies, of one simple truth: that monsters are what society makes them out to be. This is what Lilith wanted to tell the world through Mary Wollstonecraft’s daughter. It was her own way to redeem herself in the eyes of humans: to show the world that humans create their own monsters, even when the monsters weren’t actually there.
The Legend of Lilith is a two-part short story, its publication spanning FEM and Ha’Am Newsmagazines. The mythological short story depicts a fictional representation of Lilith (a female demon mentioned in Jewish texts) as the first wife of Adam, and how she affects various figures in history and their resultant works pertaining to the values of equality and truth, derived from feminism and Judaism. Part One, “The Midnight Artemis” is published in FEM, UCLA’s Feminist Newsmagazine, while Part Two, “Vision of Golem” is published in Ha’Am, UCLA’s Jewish Newsmagazine.
To read Part One, click here.