Stromberg, David, editor. “In the Land of Happy Tears: Yiddish Tales for Modern Times: Collected and Edited by David Stromberg”, Delacorte Press, 2018.
Wise Yiddish Tales in English
Everyone loves a folktale and some of the best are those that came out of the Yiddish language.
You don’t need to be Jewish to love Levy’s rye bread, nor do you need to read Yiddish to appreciate these wise tales. This engaging collection has been translated for the first time into English and the stories are wonderful for families as well as youngsters. An extra bonus is a comprehensive introduction on Yiddish culture, “What is Yiddish Anyway”? Also included is a glossary of words that are considered to be untranslatable.
Those of us who have been around for a while know that humor is a basic element of Yiddish and much of the Old World has become part of our modern culture. Many Yiddish words actually appear in English dictionaries are we hear them in conversation. Some of the past has survived also in stories like the ones we have here and these stories have morals that are noble s well as practical but I will let you find those out do for yourselves when you read this wonderful collection.
Editor David Stromberg has grouped the stories into four sections based on bravery, rebellion, justice and wonder, principles that have deep roots in the teachings of the Jewish religion (but you do have t be Jewish to enjoy the stories). Regardless of when a story was first told, stories are timeless and every generation can enjoy good stories.
These stories have been largely overlooked or forgotten and date back to the early and middle twentieth century by some of the most respected Yiddish writers of their time—Jacob Kreplak, Moyshe Nadir, Sonya Kantor, Jacob Reisfeder and Rachel Shabad and they still resonate with contemporary audiences. They can be scary, as wrongdoers often get what’s coming to them in unsuspected or even strange ways and the values that are sometimes thought to be simple and/or quaint make for a fascinating read.
In the stories, we have, for example, a king who loves honey so much that instead of ruling over his people, he licks it all day. We learn that the moon longs for a playmate but children can’t play at night because they are asleep. We go to a forest in which the king of mushrooms and the queen of ants coexist but are threatened by the hands and feet of children at play.
I am an old man and I love every one of these stories and you will too. You will also be very proud of our Yiddish heritage.