15 Yiddish Writers with their Spirit Animals
A definitive list of the adorable vilde khayes who are actually responsible for the masterpieces of Yiddish literature.
1. Morris Rosenfeld • Red Panda
“Don’t look for me where birds are singing!
You will not find me there, my dear
I am a slave, where chains are ringing,
That is where I rest, my dear.”
—“My Resting Place” (1911)
2. Fradel Shtok • Meerkat
“Dvoyre felt alien among the trees, with the Gentile who was walking home to his village, but she wasn’t afraid.”
—The Archbishop (1919)
3. Y.L. Peretz • Walrus
“We’ll bellow — as fierce as our Lord could desire:
Beware of fire! Beware of fire!
No sound, be it ever so slight!
No spark in the mind, and no flame in the heart!
All piety! Quiet and deathly and dark!
We’re watchmen, the watchmen of night!”
—”The Night Watchmen” (1894)
4. Avrom Reyzen • Emperor Penguin
“We hid from the foes
Who lay in wait for us,
And this is why our songs
Resonate with grief,
And why our melodies
Have a dismal longing
And a hidden rage
In their warp and woof.”
—”Future Generations” (1929)
5. Kadye Molodowsky • Hedgehog
“You are the prophet of mercy and vengeance,
Your fiery chariot shatters the clouds.
You know my heart. I have guided the harrow
To cleanse the garden for justice and good.”
—”A Letter to Elijah the Prophet” (1942)
6. Meyshe Kulbak • Giant Panda
“My Grandpa once had some cousin or uncle,
A trainer of bears for shows in the big fairs,
By day he would sit and forge chains for his bear,
And at night they would dance as the night stars would twinkle…”
— Asóre Dibráye (1922)
7. Itsik Manger • Bonobo Monkey
“Silent evening. Murky gold.
I sit by a glass of wine.
What has become of my day?
A shadow and a shine —
May just a flash of murky gold
Enter this song of mine.”
— “Evensong” (1967)
8. Joesph Opatoshu • Forest Owlet
“Mordechai, his father, grandfather, great-grandfather—as far as six generations back—were all born in the Lipowietz Forest, where they married amongst themselves and lived all together, a family. Every winter at Hanukkah time, they gathered at the house of the oldest in the family and settled accounts.”
— In Polish Woods (1938)
9. Dovid Edelstadt • Black-Footed Ferret
“You may bind us in iron chains,
Like beasts, our limbs you may sever,
You can only kill the body,
Our spirit will live forever!.”
— “In Strife” (1889)
10. Rokhl Korn • Harp Seal
“Every part of me has died an early death,
my head is bowed in mourning to the ground.
God called me to renew Creation
and I failed to hear His word.”
— “Last Night I Felt a Poem on My Lips” (1962)
11. Alter Kacyzne • Slow Loris
“I wanted to be the quietest among you, I wanted to lock my young heart away with the four walls of the study house, I wanted to immerse myself body and soul in the sea of holy books, but I am not people: I am the prodigy who uncovers the Torah’s secrets, and who finds them his only solace.”
— The Duke (1926)
12. Anna Margolin • Fennec Fox
“You are terrible, yet vague.
You loom up around me like mountains,
howl blindly at my sides like giant hounds,
and murmur with me dully and madly
the tales of an old, old guilt.”
—”Dear Monsters” (1929)
13. H. Leyvick • Emu
“Your days and nights and all your deeds
have been decreed.
You are created for more than merely life.
In silence and concealment you will do
Great wonders, but your deeds will be in secret.
No one will know the hero. You will seem
A hewer of water, a cutter of wood.”
— The Golem (1920)
14. Ab. Cahan • Philippine Eagle
“…the operator, with his bared brawny arms, pushed away at an unfinished coat, over which his head, presenting to view a wealth of curly brown hair, hung like an eagle bent on his prey.”
— A Sweatshop Romance (1898)
15. Peretz Markish • Snow Leopard
“And you who are, my Future,
Grown old in grey hair?
I don’t belong to you,
But you dream of me!
I am yours, insignificant “Now,”
And blindly I am rich!
We both of us die alike
And alike are born!…”
—”I Take My Leave of You, Passing Time” (1919)