Why the Trees Lose Their Leaves

play by Sue Murray based on a Cherokee legend , illustrated by Anna Bron

Characters

Narrator 1

Narrator 2

Birds (as many as you like—different North American species)

Sparrow family:

Mr sparrow

Mrs sparrow

Young sparrow 1

Young sparrow 2

Trees:

Oak

Maple

Beech

Alder

Poplar

Pine

Creator

 

Performers playing birds might need to ad lib—make up their own words to say—at times. These words could be planned before play is performed.

narrators are onstage all the time. trees stand around the stage, looking splendid in full leaf.

narrator 1           Long ago, the birds and the plants could talk to one another. They were friends and lived in harmony. In those early times, all the trees kept their leaves all year round.

narrator 2          Every year, the cold time came. The birds would fly south to seek sunshine and warmth, returning only when the warm season returned. One year, something happened that changed the trees forever.

birds     (birds cross the stage, flying south. Ad lib lines, based on these suggestions)

Brrr … it’s time to head south.

Time to follow the sun.

My nest was too chilly last night.

The cold time is here.

Let’s go, everyone!

(mr sparrow and sparrow family enter during the migration of the birds.)

mr sparrow       Oh dear. I’m afraid that I can’t fly south! My wing still isn’t mended after that crash I had. I’ll stay here. You go, my family.

mrs sparrow     But you must come south, dear. You’ll freeze otherwise!

young sparrow 1            Papa! Please come.

young sparrow 2            Oh do come, Papa.

mr sparrow       No, no. I insist. You must go to the warm lands without me. I’ll see you all again when the warm season returns. Off you go now.

mrs sparrow, young sparrow 1 and young sparrow 2                (as they join the migration of the birds and exit) Goodbye! Take care! Get better!

(mrs sparrow, young sparrow 1 and young sparrow 2 fly off with the last of the birds.)

narrator 1           Mr Sparrow knew that he could not survive the cold season without help. So he asked the trees.

mr sparrow       (going to oak) Oh, mighty Oak! My wing is broken and I cannot fly south. I need shelter or I will die. Please, may I live in your leaves and branches for the cold time so my wing can mend and I can welcome my family home in the warm time?

oak        No, Mr Sparrow. I don’t wish to be disturbed during the cold time. Find shelter somewhere else.

narrator 2          Mr Sparrow was hurt to be turned away by Oak.

mr sparrow       (going to maple) Sweet Maple. My wing is broken and I cannot fly south. Please give me shelter for the cold season.

maple  No, Sparrow. I don’t want to have a guest during the cold time. Find shelter somewhere else.

mr sparrow       (walking sadly to beech) Please, Beech, I will die if I do not find shelter soon.

beech   No, Mr Sparrow. I don’t like to be bothered during the cold time. Find shelter somewhere else.

narrator 1           All the trees gave Mr Sparrow the same answer.

(sparrow walks sadly past alder and poplar.)

Alder  No, Mr Sparrow. Find shelter somewhere else.

poplar  No, Mr Sparrow. Find shelter somewhere else.

narrator 2          Until there was no tree left to ask, except one.

mr sparrow       (going to pine, without hope now) Oh, Pine. My wing is broken and I cannot fly south. I need shelter or I will die.

pine       Hmm. But Mr Sparrow, I am the least of the trees. My leaves are so thin. I don’t have thick branches like other trees, either. But you are welcome to spend the cold time with me.

narrator 1           And so Mr Sparrow did just that. He survived the cold time. And his wing mended.

mr sparrow       (flying) Pine! Pine! I feel warm again. And I can fly. Thank you! Thank you! I am going to greet my family as they return. Goodbye!

(mr sparrow flies south and exits.)

narrator 2          Creator had watched all that had happened. He called a council of the trees.

(creator enters and stands on a platform at the back of the stage. trees move to stand around him. pine is slightly apart from the rest of the trees—the least of them.)

creator (sternly, to the main group of trees) Trees! You, who were given so much. Who are so blessed. Not one of you would share even the smallest part of what you have with Mr Sparrow when he needed help.

(Glaring at the trees) From now on, when the cold time comes, your leaves will dry up, die and blow away.

(Turning to pine) Pine, you with your needle-like leaves are often called the least of the trees. Yet only you gave Mr Sparrow shelter. You have touched my spirit. You alone shall keep your leaves and remain green all year round.

narrator 1           And that is why, to this day, when the cold time comes …

(all trees except pine drop their leaves.)

narrator 2           … all the trees lose their leaves. All the trees except Pine.

(All birds, including sparrow family, enter, and everyone takes a bow.)

THE END