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This article is about the fictional character. For the 1939 film, see Tevye (film).

Tevye the Dairyman ([ˈtɛvjə], Yiddish: טבֿיה דער מילכיקער Tevye der milkhiker, Hebrew: טוביה החולב) is the protagonist of several of Sholem Aleichem's stories which were originally written in Yiddish and first published in 1894. The character is best known from the fictional memoir Tevye and his Daughters (also called Tevye's Daughters, Tevye the Milkman or Tevye the Dairyman) as a pious Jewish milkman in Tsarist Russia with six troublesome daughters:[a] Tzeitel, Hodel, Chava, Shprintze, Bielke, and Teibel. He is also known from the musical dramatic adaptation of Tevye and His Daughters, Fiddler on the Roof. The Village of Boyberik, where the stories are set, is based on the town of Boyarka in Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire).[b]

Tevye began his literary life in 1895 with seven daughters. Over time, in subsequent chapters, as Tevye’s life unfolded and he told Sholem Aleichem new stories, six of his seven daughters got names (Bielke, Chava, Hodel, Shprintze, Taybele, and Tzeitel), and five of them got stories in which they played lead roles. The names of three daughters even became story titles (“Hodel,” “Chava,” and “Shprintze”). Taybele never got a story, and the seventh daughter never even got a name.[1]

The story was adapted for stage and film several times, including several Yiddish-language musicals. Most famously, it was adapted as the Broadway musical and later film versions of Fiddler on the Roof. The original Broadway musical was based on a play written by Arnold Perl called Tevye and his Daughters. Tevye the Dairyman had three film adaptations; in Yiddish (1939), English (1971) and Russian (1991).


Tevye the Dairyman comprises eight stories, with Tevye each time supposedly meeting Sholom Aleichem by chance and relating the latest story of his trials and tribulations:[2]

  1. Tevye Strikes It Rich (also translated as The Great Windfall)
  2. Tevye Blows A Small Fortune (also translated as The Roof Falls In or The Bubble Bursts)
  3. Today's Children (also translated as Modern Children)
  4. Hodl
  5. Chava
  6. Shprintze
  7. Tevye Leaves for the Land of Israel (also translated as Tevye Goes to Palestine or Tevye is Going to Eretz Yisroel)
  8. Lekh-Lekho (also translated as Get Thee Out)

The original stories included several events not portrayed in the musical Fiddler on the Roof. For instance, by the time of the events of Lekh-Lekho, Tevye's wife Golde and Tzeitl's husband Motl (Motel) have both died (Tevye's daughter Shprintze is also dead, according to the story "Shprintze"). Also, in Lekh-Lekho, upon learning of the Jews' expulsion, Chava leaves her Russian Orthodox husband, wanting to return to her family and share their exile. Sholem Aleichem leaves it up to the reader to decide whether or not Tevye forgives her and takes her back, saying:

Put yourself in Tevye's place and tell me honestly, in plain language, what you would have done… (Hillel Halkin translation).

and ending the story with "The old God of Israel still lives!"

A 2009 translation includes a final short story entitled Vachalaklokos, which takes place after Lekh-Lekho.[3]

Other translations include:

  • Aleichem, Sholem (1994), Sholem Aleykhem's Tevye the Dairyman, Miriam Katz transl (complete, illustrated ed.), Pangloss, ISBN 0-9347-1031-7 .
  • ——— (1999) [Crown Publishers, 1949], Tevye's Daughters: Collected Stories of Sholom Aleichem, Frances Butwin transl, Sholom Aleichem Family, ISBN 1-9290-6803-4 ; until recently[when?], this translation seems to have been the standard published version.

Audio adaptations[edit]

The Tevye stories have been recorded and commercially released twice:

  • Aleichem, Sholem (1987), Tevye the Dairyman and the Railroad Stories (tapes), Audio Renaissance, Theodore Bikel reader (abridged ed.), Macmillan Audio, ISBN 978-1-55927379-4 , with six of the stories: Tevye Strikes It Rich, Tevye Blows a Small Fortune, Today's Children, Hodl, Chava and Lekh-Lekho.
  • ——— (2009), Tevye the Milkman (CD), Classic Fiction, Neville Jason narrator (unabridged ed.), Naxos Audiobooks, ISBN 978-962634934-2 .


Two sequels to the Tevye stories have been published:

Tevye as a dramatic role[edit]

Zero Mostel and Chaim Topol are the two actors most associated with the role of Tevye, although Theodore Bikel has performed it numerous times on stage.[4] For the film version, the part ultimately went to Topol, as producer-director Norman Jewison felt that Mostel's portrayal was too unnecessarily comic. Critic Pauline Kael warmly embraced Topol's performance, as he has appeared in many stage revivals of the show. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in the film version of Fiddler, but lost to Gene Hackman, who won for his performance in The French Connection.

Other noteworthy musical Tevyes have included Luther Adler, Herschel Bernardi, Paul Lipson (who played the role in the original Broadway run over 2,000 times), Shmuel Rudenski (who played the role in the original Israeli Yiddish and German productions), Alfred Molina (in the 2004 Broadway revival), Harvey Fierstein and Henry Goodman. Paul Michael Glaser, who played Perchik in the film version, is scheduled to play Tevye in a 2013–14 touring production in the United Kingdom.[5]

Tevye is also the name of a 1939 film adaptation of Sholem Aleichem's story performed entirely in Yiddish.[6] In this adaptation, Tevye, played by Maurice Schwartz, plays the role as a narrator of the events as well as a main character. He is portrayed as gruff at times but with flashes of wit and humor, human at all times.

Prior to the Broadway debut of Fiddler on the Roof in 1964, several different adaptations of the Tevye stories appeared on stage and screen, in America and beyond. The earliest screen version was an American silent film called Broken Barriers. Broken Barriers, based on Rabinowitz’s own theatrical treatment, was released in 1919 (just a few years after Rabinowitz died). IMDb (the Internet Movie Database) also lists a German film called Tevya und Seine Tochter (Tevye and His Seven Daughters) from 1962. After Fiddler on the Roof became a Broadway sensation, an Israeli film called Tuvia Ve Sheva Benotav (also Tevye and His Seven Daughters) was released in 1968, as well as two Russian versions Tevye Molochnik (Tevye the Milkman) in 1985, and Izydi! (Get Thee Out!) in 1991.[7]


  1. ^ In the first short story, there is also a mention of a seventh daughter; in Fiddler, however, there are only five daughters (using the first five names listed above), of whom only the first three have major roles.
  2. ^ In Fiddler, the town name is Anatevka.


  1. ^ Huttner, Jan Lisa (September 18, 2014). Tevye's Daughters: No Laughing Matter. New York, New York: FF2 Media. ASIN B00NQDQCTG. Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Aleichem, Sholom (1987), Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories, Library of Yiddish Classics, Hillel Halkin transl, Schocken, ISBN 0-8052-1069-5 
  3. ^ Aleichem, Sholom (2009), Tevye the Dairyman and Motl the Cantor's Son, Classics, Aliza Shevrin transl, Penguin, ISBN 0-1431-0560-4 
  4. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/2013/aug/24/entertainment/la-et-cm-theodore-bikel-tevye-20130825
  5. ^ The fiddler on the roof, United Kingdom .
  6. ^ "Tevye". The National Center for Jewish Film. Retrieved 2014-09-18. 
  7. ^ Huttner, Jan Lisa (September 18, 2014). Tevye's Daughters: No Laughing Matter. New York, New York: FF2 Media. ASIN B00NQDQCTG. Retrieved 3 November 2014. 


  • Liptzin, Sol (1972), A History of Yiddish Literature, Middle Village, NY: Jonathan David, pp. 68–70, ISBN 0-8246-0124-6 .
  • Huttner, Jan Lisa (2014), Tevye's Daughters: No Laughing Matter, New York, NY: FF2 Media, ASIN B00NQDQCTG .

External links[edit]