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The Millionaire Miser

A Buddhist Fable

Told by Aaron Shepard

Reader’s Theater Edition #15

Adapted for reader’s theater (or readers theatre) by the author, from his story printed in Cricket, Nov. 1995

For more reader’s theater, visit Aaron Shepard’s RT Page at www.aaronshep.com.

Story copyright © 1995 Aaron Shepard. Script copyright © 1997, 2002 Aaron Shepard. Scripts in this series are free and may be copied, shared, and performed for any noncommercial purpose, except the texts may not be posted publicly without permission.

PREVIEW: Sushil is so stingy, even a god takes notice.

GENRE: Fables, folktales
CULTURE: Buddhist, Asian Indian
THEME: Stinginess
READERS: 11 or more
READER AGES: 8 and up
LENGTH: 7 minutes

ROLES: Narrators 1–4, Sushil, Boy, Nirmala, Sakka, Man, Woman, Rajah, (Servant), (Other Townspeople), (Children)

NOTES: This tale comes from the Jataka, an ancient Buddhist collection of folktales, legends, and fables. Sakka, the King of Heaven, is a popular figure found in many of those tales. For best effect, place NARRATORS 1 and 2 at far left, and 3 and 4 at far right, as seen from the audience. To help SAKKA imitate SUSHIL, SUSHIL should use a distinctive funny voice. Sushil is pronounced “SOO‑shil.” Nirmala is pronounced “NEER‑ma‑la.” Sakka is pronounced “SOK‑a,” sounding like “sock a.”

All special features are at www.aaronshep.com/extras.

NARRATOR 1:  Sushil was a miser. Though his treasure house was full, he was too stingy to give away even the smallest coin.

NARRATOR 4:  And since food cost money, he ate almost nothing, and starved his family and servants besides.

NARRATOR 2:  One morning, as Sushil took his daily walk through town, he saw a boy eating a sweet rice dumpling.

BOY:  (makes loud sounds of enjoyment as he eats)

NARRATOR 3:  Sushil’s mouth watered as he made his way home. He said to himself,

SUSHIL:  If only I could ask my wife to make me a sweet dumpling. But if I wanted one, so would my wife. And if my wife wanted one, so would the children. And if the children wanted one, so would the servants. So I had better just keep quiet.

NARRATOR 1:  When Sushil arrived home, he said nothing about a dumpling. But he wanted one so badly, he felt weak. His legs shook, and he had to go to bed.

NARRATOR 4:  His wife, Nirmala, came to him. She asked,

NIRMALA:  What is wrong, my husband?

NARRATOR 2:  Sushil lay groaning and clenched his teeth.

NIRMALA:  Is there something you want?

NARRATOR 3:  Sushil’s face grew red, then purple. At last he squeaked,

SUSHIL:  I would like a sweet rice dumpling.

NIRMALA:  That is no problem. We are wealthy enough. Why, I will make sweet dumplings for the whole town!

SUSHIL:  (gasps)

NARRATOR 1:  Sushil gasped in horror.

SUSHIL:  You will make a pauper of me!

NIRMALA:  Well then, I will make dumplings for our family and servants.

SUSHIL:  Why would the servants need any?

NIRMALA:  Then I will make them for us and the children.

SUSHIL:  I am sure the children can do without.

NIRMALA:  Then I will make one for you and one for me.

SUSHIL:  Why would you want one?

NARRATOR 4:  Nirmala sighed and went out.

NARRATOR 2:  After a while, she returned with a single sweet dumpling.

NARRATOR 3:  Then she looked on as Sushil, moaning with delight, devoured every crumb.

SUSHIL:  (makes loud sounds of enjoyment as he eats)

* * *

NARRATOR 1:  Now, it happened that all this was seen by Sakka, the King of Heaven, who was sitting on his marble throne in his thousand-mile-high palace.

SAKKA:  (appalled, looking down to earth) Not in seventy-seven millennia have I ever seen such a miser! I will teach this fellow not to be so stingy.

NARRATOR 4:  So the god waited till the next day, when Sushil left on his morning walk. Then he made himself look just like Sushil and came down to earth.

NARRATOR 2:  Sakka walked into Sushil’s house as if he were Sushil himself.

NARRATOR 3:  In Sushil’s own voice he told a servant,

SAKKA:  (imitating Sushil) Run through the town and invite everyone you see. Today Sushil will share his wealth!

SERVANT:  (excitedly bows and runs off)

NARRATOR 1:  When Nirmala heard these words, she cried,

NIRMALA:  Husband, can this be true? Heaven be praised for your change of heart!

NARRATOR 4:  Then she helped him open the treasure house.

TOWNSPEOPLE (including WOMAN, MAN, BOY):  (enter)

NARRATOR 2:  Soon the people of the town arrived. The pretend Sushil told them,

SAKKA:  Take what you will! And if anyone who looks like me tries to stop you, drive away the scoundrel!

MAN:  Thanks to Lord Sushil!

WOMAN:  The most generous man alive!

NARRATOR 3:  They rushed into the treasure house and loaded themselves with gold, silver, diamonds, and pearls.

NARRATOR 1:  Just then, the real Sushil came home.

NARRATOR 4:  When he saw his treasure being carried out the gate, he screamed,

SUSHIL:  Robbers! Thieves! Put that back! How dare you!

NARRATOR 2:  But the townspeople said,

BOY:  This must be the one that Lord Sushil warned us about!

NARRATOR 3:  And they chased Sushil halfway across town.

WOMAN:  (chasing Sushil) Be off with you!

MAN:  (chasing Sushil) And don’t show your face again!

NARRATOR 1:  The crowd turned back. Sushil rushed on to the court of the Rajah.

SUSHIL:  (arriving out of breath, speaking frantically) Your Majesty, the people of the town are taking all I own!

RAJAH:  But your own servant invited them!

NARRATOR 4:  . . . said the Rajah.

RAJAH:  I heard him myself. Did you not give the order?

SUSHIL:  Never! If the order was given, I beg you to bring the one who gave it!

NARRATOR 2:  So the Rajah sent a messenger.

NARRATOR 3:  Soon came Sakka, still pretending to be Sushil, along with Nirmala and the children. The children stared wide‑eyed at the two Sushils, and Nirmala nearly fainted.

SUSHIL:  Impostor!

SAKKA:  Deceiver!

RAJAH:  (bewildered, looking from one to the other) I cannot tell the difference between you!

NARRATOR 1:  . . . said the Rajah. He turned to Nirmala.

RAJAH:  Can you say which is the true Sushil?

NARRATOR 4:  Nirmala looked at both men.

NIRMALA:  Your Majesty, may I ask them a question?

RAJAH:  Certainly.

NARRATOR 2:  Nirmala turned to Sakka.

NIRMALA:  Is it better to be generous to yourself, to your family, to your servants, or to your neighbors?

SAKKA:  It is best to be generous to all! When you are generous, others also grow generous, and everyone is wealthier.

NARRATOR 3:  Then Nirmala turned to Sushil.

NIRMALA:  Is it better to be generous to yourself, to your family, to your servants, or to your neighbors?

SUSHIL:  To none! It is a waste of wealth that can never be regained!

NARRATOR 1:  Nirmala took a deep breath. She gathered the children, then drew close to Sakka.

NIRMALA:  This is the true Sushil, Your Majesty.

SUSHIL:  But, Nirmala! My wife! My children!

NARRATOR 4:  At that, the god stepped forward. With a blinding flash of light, he changed back to his own shape.

SAKKA:  Your Majesty, I am not Sushil but Sakka. I came down from Heaven to teach this man a lesson!

NARRATOR 2:  He turned to the trembling and downcast Sushil.

SAKKA:  Do you see? You are so stingy, even your wife and children deny you!

SUSHIL:  (moans)

SAKKA:  There is but one hope for you. Will you stop being such a miser?

SUSHIL:  (hesitantly) Well . . . maybe I could be a little more generous.

SAKKA:  (sternly) A little more?

SUSHIL:  Well . . . maybe a little more than a little more.

SAKKA:  You had better be a lot more generous. Or I’ll be back!

NARRATOR 3:  And with another flash of light, he vanished.

RAJAH:  (to Sushil) Well!

NARRATOR 1:  . . . said the Rajah to Sushil.

RAJAH:  It seems you indeed have been taught a good lesson!

SUSHIL:  I suppose so, Your Majesty.

NARRATOR 4:  He turned shyly to Nirmala and held out his hand.

SUSHIL:  (questioningly) Wife?

NARRATOR 2:  Nirmala took it.

NIRMALA:  (smiling at him) Husband! Oh, Sushil, let us celebrate! I have an idea. Let us make sweet rice dumplings for the entire town!

SUSHIL:  (gasps)

NARRATOR 3:  Sushil gasped in horror.

NARRATOR 1:  His legs shook.

NARRATOR 4:  He groaned and clenched his teeth.

NARRATOR 2:  His face grew red, then purple.

NARRATOR 3:  Then he squeaked,

SUSHIL:  All right!

All special features are at www.aaronshep.com/extras.

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