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A play to read with children     

The little frog and the moon, a tale from Iraqi folklore

by Talal Hassam
Translated by Dr. Anis Behnam Naoum

Easy English Times editor Lorraine Ruston, Dr. Anis Behnam Naoum, and publisher Betty Malmgren in 2009.

(Editor's note: We met Dr. Naoum at the International TESOL Conference in Denver, Colorado in 2009. The play below was written by Dr. Naoum's friend, a well-known Iraqi writer for children. Naoum is a professor at the University of Mosul in Iraq. We have taken the liberty of editing the play for length.)

Historical information: In the old days, people believed that when the moon was eclipsed, it was swallowed by a whale. Therefore, they played on tambourines, tins and trays so the frightened whale would let the moon go.

SCENE I: Forest, Pool, Night, Sounds of Tambourines, Voices of Children.
Children: O, wicked whale, let our high moon go. If you don't, I'll drum on a tray.

Frog: These sounds are deafening. They have been playing on tambourines and chanting all evening. They believe that the whale has swallowed the moon. Oh, which one of us didn't believe in such a thing in his childhood!

Listen dear ones. It's an interesting and useful story. I'll tell it to you. But please remember that I was then just a little frog. As the moon disappeared tonight, my mother also disappeared one night. I spent many days looking for her, but in vain…

SCENE II:  Forest, Pool, Night, The Little-Frog comes in.

The Little-Frog:   (Exhausted and desperate) Mama, mama, mama.

Grandma Frog: Sonny! Your absence worried me, Come here, sonny.

The Little-Frog:  I couldn't find mama.

The Old Grandma Frog: Wait dear. Mama may come tomorrow.

The Little-Frog: That's what you told me yesterday. And the day before yesterday.

The Old  Grandma Frog: Let's wait; she may be at a faraway place.

The Little-Frog: It's my mistake. She said many times "I'll go away if you make me mad." And I've made her mad.

Grandma Frog:  Actually, a mother never gets mad at her little child.

The Little-Frog:      (Shaking his head) Mama got mad…

Grandma Frog:  Even if she does, it won't last for long.

The Little Frog: I don't blame her; It was my mistake. She used to tell me "don't get away from the pool, the stork might see you and …"  I went far. The stork came upon me suddenly; he was about to swallow me if I hadn't  jumped into the pool.   And … (Bursting into tears) and my mother was angry.

The Old Grandma Frog: Stop weeping, sonny. Mama will come.

The Little-Frog:   (Looking around) I wish I knew where she went. (The moon glitters in the pool. The Little-Frog shouts.) The moon.

Grandma Frog:  The moon!

The Little-Frog:    Yes,  she said  "I'll go to the moon." I'll stay here till mama forgives me and comes back.

The Old Grandma Frog goes out. The Little-Frog is left alone.

The Little-Frog:   I know you're on the moon, mama. I also know you're looking at me and hearing me too. I've made a mistake, mama. I went far away from the pool. Forgive me; I won't do it again. Come back; I need you.

(The Old He-Frog enters and stealthily approaches The Little-Frog).

The Little-Frog:       Who are you!

The Old He-Frog:  Me?  I, came from a distant place. I'm hungry.

The Little-Frog:     Mosquitoes are in plenty here. Catch as many as you wish.

The Old He-Frog: I like mosquitoes; but I'm tired. I'll eat this … moon.

The Little-Frog:      No, let the moon alone!

The Old He-Frog:   I'll eat it. It isn't yours.

The Little-Frog:      I won't let you touch it; mama is there.

The Old He-Frog:   Mama!

The Little-Frog:    Please don't touch the moon.

The Old He-Frog:    But I'm hungry.

The Little-Frog: I'll catch enough mosquitoes for you. Just sit under the tree and rest. I'll bring you the mosquitoes.

The Old He-Frog:  O.K. Hurry up; I'm hungry.

The Little-Frog runs about catching mosquitoes. He puts them in a fig leaf to give to the Old He-Frog.

The Little-Frog:  Here you are.  Here is your meal. 

The Old He-Frog:   Seems you're alone here.  

The Little-Frog:   No, I'm not. I live with my mother; but she's now on …

The Old He-Frog:  This place is quite and beautiful. I'll stay with you one day or two.
 (Sleeps snoring) Kh, Kh, Kh, Kh.

The Little-Frog:     (Standing by the pool)  The mean old frog is fast  asleep. Damn him. I wish I were a stork, even for one minute so that I could swallow him and save mama and the moon (Yawning).

Ah, I feel drowsy. The moon is sleepy too. She could be tired like me.

SCENE III: Forest, Pool, Night, The Little-Frog straightens himself up.

The Little-Frog:    The  moon  should  have got up by now. Let me hurry  before the Old He-Frog gets up. Who knows, I might see mama looking from the moon and ...     My God! He's done it. He has eaten the moon.

The Old He-Frog:   What's wrong?

The Little-Frog: The moon, the moon has grown smaller. I've brought you plenty of mosquitoes.

The Old He-Frog:  What you've  given  me was not enough; so I ate part of the moon.

The Little-Frog:      You criminal.

The Old He-Frog:   And I might eat the rest of it today, if you don't ..

The Little-Frog:  No, no (begging). Please, don't touch the moon again. I'll catch you enough mosquitoes.

The Old He-Frog:   O. K., go ahead.

(The Old He-Frog singing. The Little-Frog hunting mosquitoes here and there.)

The Little-Frog:  (Stops out of breath) This is a big amount. I hope it's enough for him.

Help  yourself.  Here  you are.

The Old He-Frog: (Taking the fig-leaf) It seems that I'll be satisfied  this time.

The Little-Frog:  I'll hunt for you .. (Kneeling down exhausted) I'll hunt for you .. after a while .. another amount .. to take with you .. If you leave tomorrow.

The Old He-Frog:   I won't stay till tomorrow.

The Little-Frog: You mean you'll leave today?

The Old He-Frog: Yes, I'll leave today.

The Old He-Frog: I won't forget your generosity, patience and intelligence. (Leaving waving) Good- bye.

The Little-Frog: Good bye.

SCENE IV
 Forest, pool, Night. The Little Frog alerted. He hears a noise and thinks it's the Old He-Frog. He starts to hit the frog, but it really is his grandma.

Grandma Frog:  Calm down, sonny. Stop it. I'm your grandma.

The Little Frog: Who! (Stopping hitting her) O, my God!

Grandma Frog:  Calm down dear. What's going on?

The Little Frog: The Old He-Frog is eating the moon.

Grandma Frog: The moon! This is impossible, sonny.

The Little Frog: Come and see it yourself (Catching her hand and leading her to the pool) Look there. Can you see? He has eaten half of her.

Grandma Frog:  O, sonny! The moon can't be eaten, sonny…

The Little Frog:  Look, there's only half of her.

Grandma Frog:  Come on. The moon is not in the pool; it is in the sky.

The Little Frog:  What! In the sky?

Grandma Frog:  Sure, look. (Pointing to the sky).

The Little Frog:      (Looking at the moon amazed) My God!

Grandma Frog: She's there and no one can reach her.

The Little Frog:  But I've seen her growing smaller and smaller day by day.

Grandma Frog: You'll grow up, sonny; and you'll know that the moon appears as a crescent first, then she grows larger and larger till she becomes a full moon. After that, she grows smaller and smaller till she disappears. And then she becomes a crescent once again and so on endlessly.

The Little Frog:       (Weeping) Grandma.

Grandma Frog:  (Taking him to her chest) Sonny.

The Little Frog:       Be frank with me; I'm no longer a Little Frog.

Grandma Frog:  Yes, you're no longer little, sonny (Silence). Mama may come one day. Let's wait.

SCENE V            Sounds of Tambourines and voices of Children. The Frog coming nearer to the audience.

 The Frog:       My dear, listen to me. They're still playing on their tambourines and singing: O whale... Let our high moon go... If you don't, I'll drum on my tray. But one day, they'll  grow up and know that the moon can't be swallowed by the whale.