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Tevye the Dairyman ([ˈtɛvjə], Yiddish: טבֿיה דער מילכיקערTevye der milkhiker, Hebrew: טוביה החולב) is the fictional narrator and protagonist of a series of short stories by Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich (better known by his pen-name of Sholem Aleichem), 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, Beilke, 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 begins his literary life in 1894 with seven daughters. Over time, as Tevye "tells" Aleichem the tales of his family life, six of his seven daughters (Beilke, Chava, Hodel, Shprintze, Taybele, and Tzeitel) are named, and of these five play leading roles in Tevye's stories; the Tevye stories tell of his business dealings; the romantic dealings and marriages of several of his daughters; and the expulsion of the Jews from their village by the Russian government.

The Tevye stories have been adapted for stage and film several times. Sholem Aleichem's own Yiddish stage adaptation was not produced during his lifetime; its first production, by Maurice Schwartz, was in 1919. (Schwartz did a film based on the play twenty years later.) Most famously, it was adapted as the Broadway musical and later film Fiddler on the Roof. The Broadway musical was based on a play written by Arnold Perl called Tevye and His Daughters. Tevye the Dairyman had four film adaptations: in Yiddish (1939), Hebrew (1968), English (1971) and Russian (1991).

English translations[edit]

Tevye the Dairyman comprises ten stories, with Tevye each time supposedly meeting Sholom Aleichem by chance and relating the latest tale of his trials and tribulations. Eight have been published in translation under the following titles:[1]

  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. Hodel
  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 events not depicted in 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. Aleichem leaves it to the reader to decide whether 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 that takes place after Lekh-Lekho.[2]

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)|format= requires |url= (help), 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)|format= requires |url= (help), Classic Fiction, Neville Jason narrator (unabridged ed.), Naxos Audiobooks, ISBN 978-962634934-2.


Two sequels to the Tevye stories have been published:


Zero Mostel and Chaim Topol are the two actors most associated with the role of Tevye, although Theodore Bikel performed it many times on stage.[3] For the film version, the part ultimately went to Topol, as producer-director Norman Jewison felt that Mostel's portrayal was too unnecessarily comic, he was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in the film version of Fiddler. He also portrayed the character nearly 3,500 times on stage, retiring the role in 2009.

Other noteworthy musical Tevyes have included Luther Adler, Herschel Bernardi, Paul Lipson (original Broadway run, over 2,000 performances), Leonard Nimoy (1971 touring company), Shmuel Rodensky (original Israeli, Yiddish and German productions), Alfred Molina and Harvey Fierstein (2004 Broadway revival), Henry Goodman (2007 London revival), Danny Burstein (2015 Broadway revival) and Yehezkel Lazarov (2018 touring company). Paul Michael Glaser, who played Perchik in the 1971 film version, played Tevye in a 2013–14 touring production in the United Kingdom.[4]

Tevya is the name of a 1939 film adaptation of the story, performed entirely in Yiddish.[5] In this adaptation, Tevye, played by Maurice Schwartz, is portrayed as gruff with flashes of wit and humor.

Prior to the 1964 Broadway debut of Fiddler on the Roof, 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, based on Aleichem's own theatrical treatment, was released in 1919 (just a few years after Aleichem died). In 1962 he directed the film Tuvia Vesheva Benotav, released in English as Tevye and His Seven Daughters. After Fiddler on the Roof became a Broadway sensation, an Israeli film called Tuvia Ve Sheva Benotav (also "Tevye and His Seven Daughters") starring Shmuel Rodensky was released in 1968, as well as two Russian versions, Tevye Molochnik (Tevye the Milkman) in 1985, and Izydi! (Get Thee Out!) in 1991.[6]


  • Tevya (1939)
  • Tevye's Daughters (2014)


  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. ^ Aleichem, Sholom (1987), Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories, Library of Yiddish Classics, Hillel Halkin transl, Schocken, ISBN 0-8052-1069-5
  2. ^ Aleichem, Sholom (2009), Tevye the Dairyman and Motl the Cantor's Son, Classics, Aliza Shevrin transl, Penguin, ISBN 0-1431-0560-4
  3. ^ "Theodore Bikel and Tevye, the perfect match". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ The fiddler on the roof, United Kingdom.
  5. ^ "Tevye". The National Center for Jewish Film. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  6. ^ Huttner, Jan Lisa (18 September 2014). Tevye's Daughters: No Laughing Matter. New York City: 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]