Ted Hughes, in the Crow collection, has a poem named A Childish Prank (full text), which is a grotesque narration of Adam's and Hava's creation.

In March 1976, at the Adelaide Festival Writers’ Week, Hughes did a commentated reading of some his poems, which included that particular poem.

He said that it's based on a Talmudic legend which tells about the souls refusing to enter the bodies (full text here):

The Talmudic legend is that, when God created Adam and Eve, he took soil from the four corners of the Earth, so that Man shouldn’t feel lost whenever he wandered on the Earth. He moulded these two beautiful people but then he couldn’t get the souls into them, because the souls out in the gulf – being just souls – were completely clairvoyant and knew everything that was going to happen to them. They didn’t want to go into the bodies. So the great problem, before anything can happen at all in Talmudic literature, is how is the soul to be got into the body?

I'm not familiar with this Talmudic legend.

The closest I could find is this midrash from Midrash Hagadol (original text):

ויפח באפיו נשמת חיים בשעה שברא הקב"ה אדם הראשון היה מוטל לפניו כגולם, אמר באיזה מקום אני נופח בו נשמה, אם בפיו הוא מספר בו לשון הרע, אם בעיניו הוא מרמיז בהן לדבר עבירה, אם באזניו הוא שומע בהן גידופים וחירופים, אלא אני רואה מקום יפה באדם שהוא דרך האפים, מה האף הזה פולט את הזוהמא וקולט ריח טוב, כך צדיקים בורחין מן העבירה שריחה רע ומידבקין בדברי תורה שריחה נודף. (בראשית ב ז)

Is there actually a Talmudic or Midrashic legend of the souls refusing to enter Adam's and Hava's bodies?

  • The Midrash Hagadol for Genesis is also available on HebrewBooks.
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 12:24

1 Answer 1


The Mishnah (Avot 4:22) says that you are born against your will - Bartenura explains that the soul is reluctant to enter the body, and an angel brings it down against its will

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