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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 donít, Iíll 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 didnít believe in such a thing in his childhood!

Listen dear ones. Itís an interesting and useful story. Iíll 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 vainÖ

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 couldnít find mama.

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

The Little-Frog: Thatís what you told me yesterday. And the day before yesterday.

The Old  Grandma Frog: Letís wait; she may be at a faraway place.

The Little-Frog: Itís my mistake. She said many times ďIíll 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 madÖ

Grandma Frog:  Even if she does, it wonít last for long.

The Little Frog: I donít blame her; It was my mistake. She used to tell me ďdonít get away from the pool, the stork might see you and Ö"  I went far. The stork came upon me suddenly; he was about to swallow me if I hadn't  jumped into the pool.   And Ö (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  ďIíll go to the moon.Ē Iíll 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 youíre on the moon, mama. I also know youíre looking at me and hearing me too. Iíve made a mistake, mama. I went far away from the pool. Forgive me; I wonít 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. Iím hungry.

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

The Old He-Frog: I like mosquitoes; but Iím tired. Iíll eat this Ö moon.

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

The Old He-Frog:   Iíll eat it. It isnít yours.

The Little-Frog:      I wonít let you touch it; mama is there.

The Old He-Frog:   Mama!

The Little-Frog:    Please donít touch the moon.

The Old He-Frog:    But Iím hungry.

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

The Old He-Frog:  O.K. Hurry up; Iím 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 youíre alone here.  

The Little-Frog:   No, Iím not. I live with my mother; but sheís now on Ö

The Old He-Frog:  This place is quite and beautiful. Iíll 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! Heís done it. He has eaten the moon.

The Old He-Frog:   Whatís wrong?

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

The Old He-Frog:  What youíve  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 donít ..

The Little-Frog:  No, no (begging). Please, donít touch the moon again. Iíll 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 itís enough for him.

Help  yourself.  Here  you are.

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

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

The Old He-Frog:   I wonít stay till tomorrow.

The Little-Frog: You mean youíll leave today?

The Old He-Frog: Yes, Iíll leave today.

The Old He-Frog: I wonít 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. Iím your grandma.

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

Grandma Frog:  Calm down dear. Whatís 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 canít be eaten, sonnyÖ

The Little Frog:  Look, thereís 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: Sheís there and no one can reach her.

The Little Frog:  But Iíve seen her growing smaller and smaller day by day.

Grandma Frog: Youíll grow up, sonny; and youíll 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; Iím no longer a Little Frog.

Grandma Frog:  Yes, youíre no longer little, sonny (Silence). Mama may come one day. Letís wait.

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

 The Frog:       My dear, listen to me. Theyíre still playing on their tambourines and singing: O whale... Let our high moon go... If you donít, Iíll drum on my tray. But one day, theyíll  grow up and know that the moon canít be swallowed by the whale.