Unless you’ve been living under a rock your whole life, you have probably seen Fiddler on The Roof, it’s one of the most successful, and timeless Broadway plays of all time. If you haven’t, go to youtube right now and watch some high school production, it’s a great play.
It’s the story of a Jewish dairy farmer living in a small Russian village in the years leading up to the Bolshevik revolution.
Tevye has five daughters to support on a milkman’s salary. As his daughters are hitting their teenage years, it’s time to call the matchmaker for some good Jewish husbands! But those crazy girls have thoughts of their own and each of Tevye’s three elder daughters chooses to break tradition in her own way and marry for love.
So the three main daughters end up happily married, but Tevye has five daughters.
So if you’re like me, you’ve probably wondered “Whatever happened to . . . what were their names?”
Their names (yes they are mentioned) are Shprintze (sha-sprint-za) and Bielka (B-L-ka).
Let me help you: Bielka is the baby
So what fate befell them? Well, if you’re the sort of person who likes to make up happy little stories like “One married a WWI vet, and the other became a first wave feminist.” Do yourself a favor and close this page. I got sources and you aren’t going to like them.
Fiddler on the Roof is based on “Tevye the Dairyman” a collection of short stories by Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich about Tevye and his family. While the play leaves the two youngest daughter’s fates open-ended, Rabinovich tells us exactly what happened to them and it’s not happy. Grab some tissues and read on.
Important to note: In the book, all of Tevye’s daughters are grown before the edict kicking them out of their village (you know it’s name, it’s okay, you can sing it). Just like in the play the edict is the end of the story, but that hasn’t happened yet.
So we are still in the little village of Anatevka, Shprintze and Bielka are grown up, and influenza killed Motel and Golde.
I warned you!
Tevye meets a rich widow. She wants Tevye to mentor her teenage son because he needs a father figure and people used to care about that. Remember this is around 1900, a teenage boy was expected to grow up fast, become a man, get married, and support his family! There was no internet, no video games, just back-breaking work and we liked it that way dag-nam-it!
So Tevye takes this young man under his wing, and he takes a shine to Shprintza, and Shprintza takes a shine to him. Sure enough, without even a matchmaker, these two crazy kids decide they want to get married. Tevye has been through this three times by now, so he knows his daughters and tradition.
Tevye thinks about this for all of three seconds. He is:
- From a wealthy family.
None of Tevye’s other sons-in-law have met both criteria. Yes, get married you, crazy kids!
So Shprinta’s happy, the boyfriend is happy, Tevya’s happy. Everyone’s happy. Except for his mother. Mom doesn’t want her son marrying poor, so under family pressure, he dumps Shprinta.
Well, that sucks! but broken hearts mend with time, right? Right?
The day after the breakup, Tevye carries on with his milk route doing that Tevya monologue we all love so much. He stops at the bridge because there’s some commotion, a body in the water. Shprintza pulled a move out of the Ophelia playbook. She drowned herself.
I told you to grab some tissues!
Bielka also grew up and met a man. He’s a self-made rich guy on the hunt for a trophy wife. Bielka is pretty but poor. No big deal, he grew up poor too.
Remember this is back when “old money” looked down on “new money” so he’s trying to pretend that he’s always had money. “by the way Tevye” the young man says “Could you please move away, I don’t want word getting around that I married a milkman’s daughter.” Yeah, Tevye’s new son-in-law is kind of a jerk.
Tevye straight up asks Bielka why she agreed to marry this asshole and she tells him that she did what her parents always wanted from their daughters, she married a rich Jewish man. The fact that he’s an asshole? She’ll live with it because Tevye isn’t getting any younger and her new hubby can afford to let Tevye retire. So Tevye’s baby girl, sweet Bielka does marry for love. . . just not love for her husband.
So there you have it, Shprintze killed herself for love and Bielka is stuck in a loveless marriage.