Aesop’s Fables

Aesop and the rest of the slaves lie asleep in various positions and locations around the garden. Maarika’s slave, Hanna, enters. She sits on a bench near Aesop and looks up at the night sky. Aesop wakes and sees her there.

AESOP
Admiring the moon?

HANNA
It’s so beautiful. How lovely it is to think of the Goddess Artemis sitting up there looking down on all of us.

AESOP
Ah, yes, of course. The Goddess in the moon.

HANNA (gently shoving him)
Are you making fun of me, Aesop?

He laughs and she can’t help but laugh too.

HANNA
Alright, if it’s not a Goddess then how do you explain it then? What do you think is up there?

AESOP
I would only be speculating as much as anyone, but I agree with the scholar, Thales. He believes that, like the earth, the moon is a moving ball always gazing at the rays of the sun. He has a theory that it moves around the earth and causes the eclipses.

HANNA
Oh, that’s a bit boring. I’d much prefer to think of Artemis holding a huge glowing white sphere between her palms.

AESOP (laughing)
And so you must believe what you will, my beautiful Hanna.

Pause. They kiss.

HANNA
I love this time of night when the masters are sleeping and the world is at peace. It’s moments like these when I could almost imagine I’m a free woman.

AESOP
Your mind is free. Your thoughts are your own. You are able to look upon this glorious moon, are you not?

HANNA
Oh, Aesop. It’s not the same.

AESOP
I heard the slaves talking about us earlier. They can’t understand why a beautiful woman like you would be interested in a monstrosity such as myself. I don’t understand it myself, Hanna.

HANNA
That’s because they don’t know your mind and heart as I do, dear Aesop. But there will come a time when the whole world will respect you and your gift for storytelling.

AESOP
I don’t know about that.

HANNA
I hear that the slaves have been hanging off your every word today. And the Mistresses have been inside talking of your stories all night. You are developing quite the following.

AESOP
That is very humbling to hear, but I have no need for flattery or adulation.

HANNA
You should! Don’t you want more than this life, Aesop? Don’t you want riches like the masters and the freedom to live your life as you want? I long to be granted freedom and leave here.

AESOP
I’m happy to wait. When the time is right I trust that freedom will be mine.

HANNA
I’m not sure I have the patience to wait.

AESOP
Patience is a virtue. Slow and steady wins the race, Hanna. Don’t you know the story of the hare and the tortoise?

HANNA
No, that is not one I am familiar with.

AESOP
Seriously? The tortoise and the hare…? It’s pretty famous one.

HANNA
Nope.

AESOP
Right. Okay then. Listen carefully then, my love, for I think you will enjoy this tale.

 

Lights fade down and the next group enter
NARRATOR 1
Once upon a time, in a field on the edge of a village there lived an energetic hare named Henry and a sleepy tortoise named Tina.

NARRATOR 2
Tina the tortoise liked to take her time, while Henry the hare was always in a hurry.

NARRATOR 3
One day, Henry was boasting to the animals, as was his usual habit.

HENRY THE HARE
I am the fastest animal in the whole wide world! I’m faster than a cheetah and a racehorse. I’m probably even faster than a jet plane!

FLICK THE FOX
Yes, yes, Henry. We know how fast you are. You’ve told us a hundred times!

RHONDA THE RABBIT
Nobody likes a bragger, Henry.

HENRY THE HARE
It’s not bragging if it’s the truth. You’re all just jealous of my speed and how good I am.

SHEENA THE STORK
Oh do be quiet! You are so full of yourself!

MURRAY THE MOUSE
Who cares if you’re fast? Speed isn’t the most important thing in the world, you know!

HENRY THE HARE
I can prove to you all that I’m the fastest animal in the whole wide world. Who wants to race me? You, Larry? You, Flick?

TINA THE TORTOISE
Oh, for goodness sakes! Who do you think you are? We know you are fast but even you can be beaten!

HENRY THE HARE
Beaten in a race? By whom? Not you, tortoise!

TINA THE TORTOISE
I should like to try.

Henry laughs.

HENRY THE HARE
You? Why, you’re the slowest creature in this field! I’d be at the finish line before you’d walked two steps!

LARRY THE LION
I think it’s a great idea!

GINA THE GOAT
Yeah, let’s organise this race and have a bit of fun!

Rhonda exits during this.

NARRATOR 4
So the animals arranged the race for the next day. They all gathered to cheer on Tina the Tortoise and Henry the Hare.

Tina shakes Henry’s hand.

TINA THE TORTOISE
May the best animal win.

HENRY THE HARE
Thanks. I will!

OWEN THE OWL
Okay, competitors. We want a clean, fair race. It’s once around the field, over the wooden bridge and back through old Farmer Gregory’s paddock. Understood?

They nod. Seb holds up his tail as the flag.

SEB THE SKUNK
On your marks, get set, go!

The skunk drops his tail, at the same time a stinky odour comes out and the animals all gag and choke for a moment.

SEB THE SKUNK
Sorry, everyone. Force of habit.

Henry quickly recovers and races offstage as Tina begins to slowly move.

SANTO THE SHEEP
Henry’s taken off so fast I can’t even see him!

CHEKI THE COW
He’s a blur! He’s a dot! He’s already out of the field and on to the bridge!

The animals move upstage and turn their backs to the audience as if watching the race. Tina has made it offstage by now.

NARRATOR 1
Meanwhile, Henry was laughing so hard that he had to stop to catch his breath.

Henry runs back on stage, laughing, and stops at position 2 to look over his shoulder.

HENRY THE HARE
That silly tortoise. What was she thinking? I’ve got this race in the bag!

Rhonda enters, nibbling on a carrot.

HENRY THE HARE
Hey, Rhonda, did you see me? I was pretty awesome!

He poses, showing off his muscles and flirting with Rhonda.

RHONDA THE RABBIT
You haven’t won yet, Henry. And don’t you think you’d better keep going? Tina will catch up if you don’t.

HENRY
Pah! I’ve got plenty of time. That slowcoach has no chance of catching up to me. (Yawns) I might even have a nap.

Rhonda shakes her head and walks back to join the other animals. Henry walks to position 1, lies down and falls asleep.

Tina enters and sees him sleeping. She turns to the audience and puts her finger to her lips.

TINA THE TORTOISE
Shhhh!

She slowly creeps past Henry and continues offstage.

The crowd turn and walk downstage to face the audience again, some of them now holding up a finish line banner.

Tina enters from side of stage and heads towards the sign.

FLICK THE FOX
I don’t believe it!

CARLTON THE CRANE
Is it…? Could it be…?

NARRATOR 2
Tina the Tortoise approached the finish line and Henry was nowhere in sight.

MURRAY THE MOUSE
It is! It’s Tina the Tortoise!

GINA THE GOAT
But where is Henry?

SANTO THE SHEEP
Come on, Tina! You can do it!

Everyone begins to cheer as Tina approaches the finish line.

NARRATOR 3
The cheering woke up Henry.

HENRY THE HARE
What’s going on? What’s all that noise? Oh, I’m hungry. I’d better finish the race so I can go and have my dinner.

Henry runs offstage just as Tina crosses the finish line.

ALL
Hurray for Tina! Hurray for Tina!

Henry runs onstage and towards the finish line just in time to see Owen hanging a gold medal around Tina’s neck.

OWEN THE OWL
Congratulation, Tina! You won the race!

NARRATOR 4
Henry couldn’t believe his eyes. He thought he must still be asleep and dreaming.

HENRY THE HARE
Wait! What? This can’t be right! She must have cheated. Everyone knows I’m faster than her!

SHEENA THE STORK
Tina didn’t cheat. She has won fair and square.

LARRY THE LION
You’ve proven that one may be fast, but that slow persistence does it every time.

OWEN THE OWL
Tina never stopped trying, Henry, not for one moment. Let this be a lesson to you.

RHONDA THE RABBIT
It’s not the end of the world, Henry. You’ve still got your muscles. Maybe you could try weightlifting instead of running next time?

Everyone laughs, including Henry. Tina puts out hand to shake.

TINA THE TORTOISE
It was only a race. I’m sure you’ll win the next one. Truce?

Henry nods and they shake hands. Everyone cheers.

NARRATOR 3
From that day on they became the best of friends and Henry the hare never boasted again because he had learned…

ALL
Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady wins the race!

 

Xanthus’ Garden
Aesop walks through the garden talking quietly to some of the slaves who are following him. Tabitha enters.

TABITHA
What’s going on? Why is everyone following the ugly slave around?

TAAVI
His stories are so good!

WAIOLA
Better than listening to Xanthus and his boring old philospher mates any day!

WADE
Hey, did you know that Aesop had the power of storytelling even before he could speak?

TABOR
What do you mean?

TAAVI
That’s impossible.
WADE
No, it happened a couple of years ago when Aesop was owned by a different Master. His master had a bowl of figs and the other slaves ate them all.

WAIOLA
Oh, I know this story!

ALL
Quiet!

WADE
When the master asked what had happened to all the figs the other slaves blamed Aesop. Obviously the mute Aesop couldn’t argue his own case, but he was still keen to prove his innocence. So, he drank some warm water, stuck his finger down his throat, and threw up all that was in his stomach.

ALL
Ewww!

WAIOLA
That showed the master that there was only water in his stomach. Not a fig to be seen! The master immediately ordered the other slaves to do the same, so they all stuck their fingers down their throats…

ALL
Ewwww!

WAIOLA
…and their vomit had figs in it so the Master knew it was they and not Aesop who’d eaten the master’s figs!

TABOR
Wow. That’s pretty smart, not to mention completely gross. I don’t think I would have thought of that.

TABITHA
Um, you definitely wouldn’t have thought of that.

TABOR
Shut up! I could be smart if I wanted to!

TAAVI
I just thought Aesop was a dumb ugly slave. Maybe I’ve misjudged him.

KACHINA
I think he has ulterior motives. To make the mistresses fall in love with him so they will give him riches and make him a wealthy man.

KAARLE
If you really knew Aesop you would know that that is a ridiculous thing to say.

KACHINA
He is a man isn’t he? All men are greedy and only think of what they can gain.

KAARLE
Not Aesop. He believes that one shouldn’t wish for more than they have. Didn’t you hear him say that the other day? And as for money and riches, Aesop is not a greedy man.

KACHINA
How do you know?

KAARLE
Listen, this is a story he told me the other night.

 

End of Excerpt

(c) Fiona Harris 2016

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