In Fiddler on the Roof, Motel Kamzoil is the likable tailor who is both afraid of being yelled at by Tevye (“He’ll yell at me.”) and, finally, stands up to Tevye and marries his daughter, Tzeitel:
Motel was not, however, the first tailor that Sholem-Aleichem used as a primary character in his stories. In 1915, Sholem-Aleichem began writing Dos groyse gevins (The Grand Prize), “a jolly four-act comedy about a tailor whose simple happiness is spoiled when he wins a fortune in a lottery.” Unfortunately for Sholem-Aleichem, “The Grand Prize was not even produced. [Boris] Thomashefsky told him the play was weak [so] Sholem-Aleichem turned to David Kessler … When he read it for the esteemed actor, Kessler nodded off” (Alisa Solomon, Wonder of Wonders, pg. 38).
Sholem-Aleichem also wrote about a tailor in the 45-page story titled “The Enchanted Tailor” (Solomon, Wonder of Wonders, pg. 68) which was “published at the end of the nineteenth century” (César and Rekha, “Sholem Aleichem’s ‘The Enchanted Tailor’,” Literature Across Borders, 2006):
Presented as a folk tale from Chelm, the fictional town of fools … it follows the [tailor] … as he goes to a nearby town to buy a milk goat but is tricked into bringing home a male goat—and tricked again when he takes it back to complain … Sholem-Aleichem tells how the tailor is driven made with confusion over the trick the innkeeper plays on him and hovers on the precipice of death; his neighbors become so incensed they prepare to wage battle against the town the goat came from. (Solomon, Wonder of Wonders, pg. 67-68)
Interestingly, Professor Uri Eisenzweig (Distinguished Professor of French and Comparative Literature and Graduate Director, Rutgers University) draws a parallel between “The Enchanted Tailor” and Marc Chagall’s 1911 work titled Rain (La Pluie) (oil and charcoal on canvas) (César and Rekha, “Sholem Aleichem’s ‘The Enchanted Tailor’,” Literature Across Borders, 2006).