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]
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.
There are eight stories, with Tevye each time supposedly meeting Sholom Aleichem by chance and relating the latest story of his trials and tribulations; the story titles below are taken from Aleichem, Sholom (1987), Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories, Library of Yiddish Classics, Hillel Halkin transl, Schocken, ISBN 0-8052-1069-5:
- Tevye Strikes It Rich (also translated as The Great Windfall)
- Tevye Blows A Small Fortune (also translated as The Roof Falls In or The Bubble Bursts)
- Today's Children (also translated as Modern Children)
- Tevye Leaves for the Land of Israel (also translated as Tevye Goes to Palestine or Tevye is Going to Eretz Yisroel)
- Lekh-Lekho (also translated as Get Thee Out)
The original stories included several events not portrayed in the musical Fiddler on the Roof. As an example; 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 new translation, Aleichem, Sholom (2009), Tevye the Dairyman and Motl the Cantor's Son, Classics, Aliza Shevrin transl, Penguin, ISBN 0-1431-0560-4, includes a final short story entitled Vachalaklokos, which takes place after Lekh-Lekho.
Other translations include:
- Aleichem, Sholom (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.
The Tevye stories have been recorded and commercially released twice:
- Aleichem, Sholom (1987), Tevye the Dairyman and the Railroad Stories (tapesTheodore Bikel reader (abridged ed.), Macmillan Audio, ISBN 978-1-55927379-4), Audio Renaissance, , 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 (CDNeville Jason narrator (unabridged ed.), Naxos Audiobooks, ISBN 978-962634934-2), Classic Fiction, .
Two sequels to the Tevye stories have been published:
- Bard, Mitchell G (2013), After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine, CreateSpace, ISBN 1-4819-0713-1.
- Fishman, Tzvi (2011), Tevye in the Promised Land, CreateSpace, ISBN 1-4662-2087-2.
Tevye as a dramatic role
Zero Mostel and Chaim Topol are the two actors most associated with the role of Tevye, although Theodore Bikel performed it numerous times on stage. For the film version, the part ultimately went to Topol, as producer-director Norman Jewison felt that Mostel's portrayal was too broadly comic. Critic Pauline Kael warmly embraced Topol's performance, and 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.
Tevye is also the name of a 1939 film adaptation of Sholem Aleichem's story performed entirely in Yiddish. 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.
- 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.
- In Fiddler, the town name is Anatevka.
- Liptzin, Sol (1972), A History of Yiddish Literature, Middle Village, NY: Jonathan David, pp. 68–70, ISBN 0-8246-0124-6.