This anthology of twenty-one travelers' tales examines the Talmudic tales as an inter-cultural phenomenon. As a literary genre travelers' stories have grown out of oral traditions. These traditions flourished along the trade routes of the ancient world. Indeed the roads around the Mediterranean basin were busy with traffic during the Roman and Byzantine periods. The traveler who came back from far away countries told his audience - family members, companions and friends - about the adventures he had experienced or adventures that he had heard of during his voyages while traveling on the road or at night in the inn, with enlarged and exaggerated details in order to transmit his experience to his hearers. These stories were told and retold again and again for generations, transcending borders - both geographical and chronological. As oral traditions these stories were not canonized into a frozen form and content, they were always liable to change. However, over the years, a few stories derived from the ocean of oral traditions were included in various literary compilations.
When they were included in a written volume they were changed and converted so as to fit into the framework of their new setting. Some travelers' tales percolated into rabbinic literature. Voyage literature can be roughly divided into two distinctive types. In the first category, the voyage is to some imaginary realm - the nether world, paradise, bottom of the ocean. The traveler is taken on his voyage by some miraculous means, and the story is a pure fantasy. In the second category the travelers' tales are woven from realistic details: the traveler is going on a voyage riding a horseback or sailing by boat; he is going overseas or behind the mountains, crossing the border into terra incognita. However the stories that belong to this category are no less imaginary. Both types can be found in rabbinic literature. The quintessential hero of the second category is Rabba bar Bar Hanna, an important Babylonian Amora who lived in the 3rd and beginning of the 4th century CE.
Publisher: The Edwin Mellen Press Ltd