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When the Twins Went to War

A Fable of Far East Russia

Told by Aaron Shepard

Reader’s Theater Edition #25

Adapted for reader’s theater (or readers theatre) by the author, from his story printed in Cricket, July 1999

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

Story copyright © 1997, 1999, 2000 Aaron Shepard. Script copyright © 2000, 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: The war-loving men of the Beldy clan are once more off to battle—but why are the wise young twins going with them?

GENRE: Folktales, fables, legends
CULTURE: Russian (Far East, native)
THEME: Militarism
READERS: 14 or more
LENGTH: 10 minutes

ROLES: Narrators 1 & 2, Chubak, Udoga, Beldy Chief, Beldy Chief’s Wife, Hunter/Beldy Man, Other Beldy Men (1 or more), Beldy Women (2 or more), Zaksuli Chief, Zaksuli Chief’s Wife, Zaksuli Women (2 or more)

NOTES: In Far East Russia, the Amur River area is the home of many native tribes who lived for centuries by hunting and fishing. They were remarkably similar to the Pacific coast tribes of the northwest United States and of Canada. For best effect, place NARRATOR 1 at far left, and NARRATOR 2 at far right, as seen from the audience. The BELDY WOMEN can double as the ZAKSULI WOMEN. Amur is pronounced “ah‑MER.” Nanai is pronounced “nan‑I,” sounding like “Nan eye.” Beldy is pronounced “BEL‑dee.” Chubak is pronounced “CHOO‑bak.” Udoga is pronounced “oo‑DO‑ga.” Zaksuli is pronounced “ZAK‑soo‑lee.”

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

NARRATOR 1:  On the Amur River, in the tribe of the Nanai, the ones who most loved to fight were the men of the Beldy clan.

NARRATOR 2:  They were always rushing off to attack another clan’s village, or defending themselves from a clan that had come for revenge.

NARRATOR 1:  They neglected their hunting.

NARRATOR 2:  They neglected their fishing.

NARRATOR 1:  They got so bad, they felt lost when they weren’t fighting. They just sat around and waited for the next war.

NARRATOR 2:  And every year, there were fewer of them left alive.

NARRATOR 1:  Now, into this clan was born a pair of twins whose names were

CHUBAK:  Chubak.

NARRATOR 1:  and

UDOGA:  Udoga.

NARRATOR 2:  The Beldies were careful to honor the boys, because they knew that twins are good luck.

NARRATOR 1:  Besides, there was something special about those two. By the time they were five years old, they were wiser than anyone else in the village.

NARRATOR 2:  So both the men and the women of the clan often came to them for advice.

NARRATOR 1:  One day, a Beldy hunter found that one of his traps had been sprung, but the animal was missing.

NARRATOR 2:  He could tell from the signs that the animal was a weasel and it had been taken by a man of the Zaksuli clan.

HUNTER:  (indignantly, to himself) A Zaksuli stole my weasel!

NARRATOR 1:  The hunter went to tell the Beldy chief.

NARRATOR 2:  The chief roared,

BELDY CHIEF:  This is a great insult! (to the Beldy men) Prepare for war!

BELDY MEN (including HUNTER):  (shouting randomly, all at once but not together) A war! A war!

NARRATOR 1:  All the Beldy men rushed off eagerly to get ready their spears, knives, bows, and arrows.

NARRATOR 2:  The chief’s wife cried,

BELDY CHIEF’S WIFE:  (to the chief) Not again! Is a weasel worth killing and dying for?

BELDY CHIEF:  (proudly) We are men. Must a man not fight?

BELDY CHIEF’S WIFE:  (screaming) You are men! Must a man be stupid?

NARRATOR 1:  She went with the other Beldy women to talk with the twins.

BELDY CHIEF’S WIFE:  Udoga, Chubak, tell the men to stay home. We’ve had enough fighting and killing!

BELDY WOMEN:  (speaking randomly, all at once but not together) That’s right. We’ve had enough. Tell them to stay home.

NARRATOR 2:  Chubak said to Udoga,

CHUBAK:  She’s right, brother. There’s been enough war.

NARRATOR 1:  Udoga told the women,

UDOGA:  We’ll see what we can do.

NARRATOR 2:  Not long after, the men also came to the twins.

BELDY CHIEF:  Chubak, Udoga, give us your counsel.

NARRATOR 1:  Chubak picked up a warrior’s bow.

CHUBAK:  Never has a clan been so insulted! If the thief had taken a sable, we could forgive him. The skin of a sable has value. But a weasel skin is almost worthless. It must have been taken just to shame us. If we are shamed, we have no honor. If we have no honor, we are dead. The Zaksulis have killed us!

BELDY MEN & CHIEF:  (randomly) That’s right! They’ve killed us! The Zaksulis have killed us!

NARRATOR 2:  Udoga picked up a spear.

UDOGA:  The Zaksulis have killed us, so now we must kill them back. All their men must die. Death to the Zaksulis!

BELDY MEN & CHIEF:  (together) Death to the Zaksulis! Death to the Zaksulis!

UDOGA:  But wait! This is no ordinary war. The Zaksulis are so evil, the place where they live is evil too. We must not let this evil touch us. We must take a vow not to eat any food from their land or drink a single drop of their water.

BELDY MEN & CHIEF:  (randomly) We swear it! We swear it! (together) Death to the Zaksulis! Death to the Zaksulis!

NARRATOR 1:  The women were sad.

BELDY CHIEF’S WIFE:  What hope do we have, when even the twins go to war?

NARRATOR 2:  So they set about preparing the men’s food.

NARRATOR 1:  The next morning, the men loaded themselves with as much food and water as they could carry.

NARRATOR 2:  Then, taking the twins with them, they started off to the Zaksuli village.

BELDY MEN & CHIEF:  (together) Death to the Zaksulis! Death to the Zaksulis!

NARRATOR 1:  They walked all day. It was slow, hard going, with all they had to carry. So the farther they went, the angrier they were at the Zaksulis.

BELDY MEN & CHIEF:  (together, louder) Death to the Zaksulis! Death to the Zaksulis!

NARRATOR 2:  At last they came upon some Zaksuli women gathering berries.

NARRATOR 1:  Chubak called,

CHUBAK:  (belligerently) You women! We are coming to your village! We won’t leave a single man alive!

ZAKSULI WOMEN:  (randomly, to each other) Oh no! The Beldies! It’s the Beldies!

NARRATOR 2:  The women ran off to warn their men.

BELDY CHIEF:  (in dismay, to Chubak) Why did you let them know? With all we’re carrying, those women will get to the village long before we do. The men will hide in the lodges, and we’ll have to wait them out!

UDOGA:  What is that to us? Nothing they do can save them. (to all the men) Death to the Zaksulis!

BELDY MEN (but not CHIEF):  (together) Death to the Zaksulis! Death to the Zaksulis!

NARRATOR 1:  The Beldies reached the village, but the Zaksuli men were already hiding inside.

NARRATOR 2:  They were not like the Beldies. They did not want to fight. They wanted to stay put till those crazy Beldies went home!

NARRATOR 1:  The Beldies hid all around the village in the tall grass and the bushes.

NARRATOR 2:  They knew that sooner or later the Zaksuli men would have to come out. They would need to hunt and fish. Then they would have to face the Beldies.

NARRATOR 1:  The next morning, the Zaksuli men did not come out.

NARRATOR 2:  But the women came out. And they carried big sticks.

NARRATOR 1:  The wife of the Zaksuli chief yelled,

ZAKSULI CHIEF’S WIFE:  You stupid Beldies! Why don’t you go back to your village where you belong!

NARRATOR 2:  Then the women searched for the Beldies in the grass and the bushes. When a woman found one, she beat him with her stick.

ZAKSULI WOMEN & CHIEF’S WIFE:  (randomly) Take that! Stupid Beldies! Go home!

BELDY MEN & CHIEF:  (randomly) Ow! Ow! Ow!

UDOGA:  (calling to the men) Be brave! Remember, you must never hit a woman!

BELDY CHIEF:  But what if the woman—OW!—does not act—OW!—like a woman?—OW!

CHUBAK:  What does that matter? We are men. How could a woman hurt us?

BELDY MEN & CHIEF:  (randomly) Ow! Ow! Ow!

NARRATOR 1:  Day after day, the Beldies waited for the Zaksuli men.

NARRATOR 2:  Day after day, the women came out and beat them.

BELDY MEN & CHIEF:  (randomly) Ow! Ow!

NARRATOR 1:  The Beldy men were brave.

NARRATOR 2:  Then their food ran out.

CHUBAK:  Remember your vow! We will take no food from this evil land!

BELDY CHIEF:  But how can we fight without food?

CHUBAK:  Don’t worry! It won’t be long now!

BELDY MEN & CHIEF:  (randomly) Ow! Ow!

NARRATOR 1:  So they were brave a little longer.

NARRATOR 2:  Then their water ran out.

UDOGA:  Remember your vow! Not a drop of water from this place of evil!

BELDY CHIEF:  But we can’t last long without water.

UDOGA:  We won’t have to. We’ve almost won!

BELDY MEN & CHIEF:  (randomly) Ow! Ow!

NARRATOR 1:  So they were brave a little longer.

NARRATOR 2:  Then their patience ran out.

BELDY CHIEF:  What kind of war is this? We’re so weak from hunger and thirst, we can barely hold our spears!

CHUBAK:  We are men. When honor is at stake, how can we complain of hardship?

BELDY MEN & CHIEF:  (randomly) Ow! Ow!

NARRATOR 1:  So they were brave a little longer.

NARRATOR 2:  At last the Zaksuli chief appeared. He came out to plead with the Beldy chief.

ZAKSULI CHIEF:  Please, can’t we talk and settle this without fighting?

UDOGA:  How can talk restore honor? We will be satisfied only by a great gift.

CHUBAK:  Yes, a gift such as never given before.

NARRATOR 1:  The Zaksuli chief trembled.

ZAKSULI CHIEF:  What do you want?

UDOGA:  You must give us . . . (pauses for effect) . . . the skin of the weasel!

NARRATOR 2:  Both the chiefs stared at the twins in astonishment. Then the Zaksuli chief ran back to tell the good news.

NARRATOR 1:  The Beldy chief’s face grew red.

BELDY CHIEF:  Was that such a great gift? Is that why we starved and suffered? For nothing but the skin of a weasel?

CHUBAK:  (innocently) The weasel skin sent us to war. Why shouldn’t it send us home?

* * *

NARRATOR 2:  When the Beldies got back to their village, the chief told his wife,

BELDY CHIEF:  What a war that was! The most terrible war of all! We never want to go to war again!

NARRATOR 1:  And they didn’t—

NARRATOR 2:  thanks to Udoga and Chubak.

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

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