Fiddler on the Roof
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Fiddler on the Roof can be found here.

The story is set in 1905 in the small town of Anatevka in Tsarist Russia. Tevye (Topol), a poor milkman, and his wife Golde (Norma Crane) contend with marrying their three eldest daughters, Tzeitel (Rosalind Harris), Hodel (Michele Marsh), and Chava (Neva Small), while attempting to hold on to their ancient Jewish traditions in the face of the changing times that lead to the Russian revolution.

Yes, albeit indirectly. Fiddler on the Roof is a film adaptation of a Broadway musical that is based on short stories from Tevye and his Daughters (1894) (aka Tevye the Milkman) by Russian Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem [1859-1916] (aka Solomon Rabinowitz). The original Broadway musical was based on a play written by Arnold Perl. The musical was adapted for the film by American playwright Joseph Stein, who also novelized the story. The musical gave rise to such familiar songs as 'Sunrise, Sunset' and 'If I Were a Rich Man'.

Anatevka is a fictional shtetl (a small town with a large Jewish population) in the Pale of Settlement of the Russian Empire, generally the only region of the Empire where Jews were permitted to live - in modern days, roughly corresponding to Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Moldova and Ukraine. In Sholem Aleichem's original TEVYE stories, Anatevka is near the the fictional village of "Boyberik" which is based on Boyarka (a town in Ukraine near Kiev). Boyarka was best known as a resort, and Sholem Aleichem spent several summers there with his family.

The Fiddler is a metaphor for survival in a life of uncertainty, precarious as a fiddler on a roof 'trying to scratch out a pleasant simple tune without breaking his neck.' The fiddler also represents that tradition that Tevye sings of in the opening number, the traditions that Tevye is trying to hold onto in a changing world. The title stems from 'The Fiddler', a painting by Russia-born artist Marc Chagall [1887-1985].

What does "Reb" mean?

"Reb" is a Yiddish title of respect traditionally used among Ashkenazi Jews as an equivalent of "Mister." Unlike "Mister," it is used typically to preface the first name rather than the last name. Like the cognate honorifics "Rebbe" and "Rabbi," "Reb" is derived from the Hebrew word "Rav," which is a biblical term of honor meaning a revered teacher and/or a great leader. In traditional Judaism, the terms "Rav," "Rebbe," and "Rabbi," specifically denote someone who is an ordained religious teacher and leader. "Reb," however, is more of a secular form of address, despite the fact that is more commonly used among Orthodox Jews.

'May it be His Will that the Divine Presence should rest on the work of your hands.'

It's in their marriages. The first marriage arranged by Yente (Molly Picon) between Tzeitel and Lazar Wolf (Paul Mann) was bypassed when Tzeitzel and Motel (Leonard Frey) informed Tevye that they pledged to marry each other the previous year. In most every other way, however, this was a very traditional marriage. The local Rabbi married them under a canopy, and they both lived in the same village, although the dancing of men and women together was nontradtional. The marriage between Hodel and Perchik (Paul Michael Glaser) was worse because Perchik is leaving and says that he will send for Hodel. Both he and Hodel tell Tevye that they do not seek his permission but only his blessing. However, while Perchik is a Marxist with liberal interpretation of the scriptures, he is still a devout Jew. The last marriage, between Chava (Neva Small) and the Christian Fyedka (Ray Lovelock) is outside the faith. It is based solely on love with absolutely no consideration for religious tradition.

How does the movie end?

Following the edict that all Jews must leave Anatevka in three days, Tevye, Golde, Tzeitel, and Motel start packing. Yente (Molly Picon) decides to go to the Holy Land (Israel). The butcher Lazar Wolf (Paul Mann) says he's going to move to Chicago. Chava and Fyedka stop to say goodbye and tell that they are moving to Krakow (Poland). Tevye refuses to recognize them but doesn't stop Golde from telling them where they will be living in America. As Tevye leaves Anatevka pulling all his worldly goods behind him, the Fiddler follows.

Page last updated by DrakeStraw, 1 year ago
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