Taibele and Her Demon (Hat Tip: SalemPress.com)
A story that plays on the border between the real and spiritual realms but does not in the end sacrifice literal plausibility is “Taibele and Her Demon.”
Taibele is an abandoned wife in the shtetl of Frampol. Forbidden to remarry until her husband is proven dead, she is sentenced to a life of solitude. The village prankster Alchonon one day overhears Taibele’s fascination with a story of a woman seduced by a demon, and he devises a scheme to take advantage of her credulity.
One night he appears naked in her bedroom claiming to be the demon Hurmizah. [The play did not show this feature – there was a curtain he stood behind and he was clearly dressed.] He testifies that her husband is dead, charms her with tales of the demon world, and is welcomed into her bed. Though at first fearful and ashamed, Taibele gradually becomes dependent on Hurmizah’s biweekly visits.
Winter comes, however, and with it the inescapable truth of Alchonon’s humanity. His naked body cannot tolerate the cold during his nocturnal visits; he is taken ill and stops coming to see Taibele. She despairs at Hurmizah’s absence and takes it as a pronouncement on her.
Then one day, she sees a modest funeral procession on the snowy village street. When she realizes that it is the idler Alchonon, whom she often mocked at the well, she feels a deep sympathy and accompanies him to the grave. She lives the rest of her life alone and carries her secret to the grave.
The power of this story lies in the irony of Taibele’s passion for the demon Hurmizah. Here, the surreal world exists only in the minds of the characters: As long as people believe in demons, their existence is real enough.
Singer is suggesting the unseen and unknown connections that can be forged between individuals when the imagination is free. At the same time, the love that results is not without its price. For Alchonon, that price is untimely death; for Taibele, it is the burden of sin, mystery, and desertion.