“A year later, lying in a haystack, Chayale told her four-footed friends how fate had brought her here. She spoke to them half in animal talk and half in Yiddish.”
“The Sprite” ~ A Rege Fun Emes (A Moment of Truth), I.L.Peretz Publishing House, Tel Aviv, 1981 - first publication data
Translation by Alisa Poskanzer with Judy Nisenholt
I read this in The Exile Book of Yiddish Women Writers, Edited by Frieda Johles Forman, a delightful collection.
(This story is not included in Oedipus in Brooklyn Stories by Blume Lempel, translated and introduced by Ellen Cassedy and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub)
Born 1907 in The Ukraine
Moved to Paris in 1929, to be near her brother who lived there.
While in Paris she worked as a furrier and attended night school.
1939- having married and had two children, her Family moved to New York State, out of concern over rising anti-Semiticism. Many in her extended Family died in The Holocaust as would she and her Family had they not left. In 1942 French authorities in a compromise with the Germans, agree to arrest and turn over to the Germans all foreign born Jews.
1943- begins to publish with a Short Story, all her writings were in Yiddish. In part this was her way of defying those who wanted the magnifcient Yiddish Cultural tradition destroyed.
In 1950 the Family locates permanently in Long Island.
1999 passes away.
“The Sprite” is a unique story, written almost as a fable from the darkest days for Jews during World War Two in the Ukraine. When Chayale was born, maybe 1929, she seemed to her parents a not quite human girl. The doctor and her mother felt. as they already had boy and a girl, she should be killed. Her father ruled that they must love whatever God sends. Chayale grew up with a second sight, an ability to bond with the wild animals of the forest. I will give a sample of the story:
“Chayale was ten years old when the Germans took over her district . She sensed the danger even before the murderous news reached their village. Chayale got her big brothers to dig a hiding place in the forest. Her mother and father thought this was foolishness. “The forest is for animals, not for people,” said her parents. Behind their parents’ backs, Chayale and her brothers carried carried clothes and food to the hideout. When it became dangerous for her brothers to be out in the street, Chayale undertook the task on her own. She took over beans, peas, flour, sugar, salt. She sneaked through all dangers, ran on her fleet little feet, low to the ground, just like a sprite. Her fantasized friends told her whom to avoid and whom to trust. She could feel the danger, whether near at hand or at a distance, and could vanish in an instant. That is how the first winter passed. Right after Passover, new edicts were announced, among them the cruel expulsion orders. Chayale stubbornly insisted that she would not go. She would not be tricked to wait for the butcher like a goose in a cage. Her father’s pleas and her mother’s tears didn’t help. Chayale stood her ground. She would not go with eyes open into a ready-made trap”
The gentile peasants begin to thing she is supernatural. A very evil thing happens, maybe Christians will be perplexed by the close, all should be.
The ending is heartbreaking. I don’t have the ability to convey the depth of this story. To me it shows an another aspect of the vast talent of Blume Lempel. This would be a perfect story for discussion in a class for advanced college students.
I love this story. I read it three times.