In searching Google Images for the Ziz I found this modern
children's book making use of this rather minimal myth.
I can't believe the author would mind a little free publicity!
“Well, that’s the modern spelling of ‘roc’ or ‘rukh,’” said Linna. “I’m going to hit a little bit on those stories later, if there’s time. Go on, Avi.”
“The ancient Rabbis who wrote the interpretations of Judish scripture called the Talmud named the Judish version of the rook the ‘Bar Yokneh.’ But they also equated it with the Ziz, for no particular reason that I can see, but then I’m no scholar on such matters. In our times it became a subject for nursery tales. My father’s old friend, Rabbi Eliyahu Kohn – some of you met him at my wedding … ” And Avi beamed, but whether at the thought of his wedding or at the recollection of the Rabbi’s funny, wrinkly grin it was hard to say.
Then Avi cleared his throat. “It was from Rabbi Kohn, the man I call Uncle Ely, that I first heard about the Ziz. You see, there are three great Judish beasts. One of them is the lord of the ocean, the livyatan, or king of the fishes … ” “In Inge it’s ‘leviathan,’” said Linna. “It just means a big sea monster.”
“Oh, it is?” said Avi, looking foolish. “I’ve never heard the Inge word for it – thanks for enlightening me, Linna! Anyway, besides this big sea creature, there was a monstrous ox – and I know the Inge for that – it’s ‘behemoth,’ which just means ‘cattle’ or ‘livestock’ in Hebru. And so I suppose the Talmudists just decided to make this mysterious creature called a ziz into a giant bird to round out a trio of fish, beast, and bird.
“On the Fifth Day of Creation God made the fishes out of water, and then he made the birds out of marshy ground, a mixture of water and earth. On the Sixth Day of Creation, he made the land animals out of dry earth, and then that same day he went on to make human beings, but that gets us into a whole different story. So while the … lev-AI-a-than? … was made to rule the fishes and the behemoth the beasts, so the Ziz was made to rule the birds – King of the Birds, like Garuda. And he is every bit as fabulous as Garuda – he’s so big that his head touches the sky."
And Avi chuckled richly, pinching his whiskered chin. “I’ll never forget the first time I heard Uncle Ely talk about the Ziz. I was only five years old, and he and his wife had taken his three children and me down to swim at the beach. His son Ziv is one of my best friends – some of you may remember he was one of my witnesses at the wedding. Uncle Ely went in the water, too … ” He broke off. “Now, don’t look so skeptical, Captain! Remember this was almost 25 years ago and Rabbi Kohn was only in his early thirties. Anyway, he told the tale while he was standing in water up to his calves, and this is it.
“One time some people were sailing in a boat and they came upon this huge bird standing in the water, so tall that its crest brushed the sky. And here Uncle Ely sort of pranced around and kicked up spray, and then settled down standing on one leg like a stork. And he ruffled up his hair with one hand like a bird’s crest – he had more hair then, too. Ziv and I and Ziv’s two sisters giggled our heads off."
“What? The Rabbi wasn’t wearing his kippah?” queried Robbie, who was enjoying himself tremendously.
Avi regarded his Captain with mock exasperation. “Well, it’s kind of hard to keep a hat on your head when you’re swimming, so he made an exception. Uncle Ely went on to say that since most of the bird’s legs were above the water line, the people on the boat thought the sea was shallow at that spot, and they decided to jump in and take a bath. But then a voice came out of the heavens – and here Uncle Ely made his voice really deep and ominous … “Do not jump in! Once a carpenter dropped his axe overboard at this spot and it did not reach the bottom for seven years! This bird is the Ziz, and you will never see its like elsewhere!’” Avi, too, made his voice unnaturally deep, wagging his head pompously.
“And then Uncle Ely stretched out his arms and announced that the Ziz had wings so broad that they darken the sun and hold back the winds from the south, which otherwise would have blown the Judish people away long ago. And Uncle Ely flapped furiously … you remember how scrawny he is – his arms could hardly have darkened or held back anything! Then he came back onto the beach and hunched down over a large stone as if he was incubating it and said that the Ziz had eggs so big that one time when one fell out of its nest and broke, 300 trees were crushed and the fluid flooded 60 cities. Humanity is fortunate that normally the Ziz is very careful with its eggs!”
Avi paused to let everybody laugh and then he said, “I’ll always remember with pleasure what a cutup Uncle Ely could be when we were children. He was so much fun.”
“Where was Daniel?” asked Robbie softly.
Avi glanced at him. Not many people in the room knew about Daniel. "Oh ... he was only three at the time, you know -- not old enough for that kind of excursion. but that's not the whole story of the Ziz. He appears in several later tales meant especially for children. I'll tell just one of them ... "