The Borrower and the Boy
By Mary Norton
Reader’s Theater Edition #29
Adapted for reader’s theater (or readers theatre) by Aaron Shepard, from the book The Borrowers, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1953
For more reader’s theater, visit Aaron Shepard’s RT Page at www.aaronshep.com.
Story copyright © 1953 Mary Norton. Script copyright © 2002 Aaron Shepard. Adapted and distributed by permission of The deFaria Company, which restricts the following standard permissions by prohibiting fees or admission charges for performances of this script. 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: Young Arrietty knows that nothing worse can happen to a Borrower than to be seen by a human bean—and now she’s talking to one!
CULTURE: British (English)
THEME: Points of view
READER AGES: 11–14
LENGTH: 10 minutes
ROLES: Narrators 1 & 2, Arrietty, Boy, Pod
NOTES: The Borrowers is the first book in a series that also includes The Borrowers Afield, The Borrowers Afloat, The Borrowers Aloft, and The Borrowers Avenged. For best effect, place NARRATOR 1 at far left, and NARRATOR 2 at far right, as seen from the audience, then place BOY closest to NARRATOR 1, and ARRIETTY closest to NARRATOR 2. BOY can double as POD.
NARRATOR 1: Imagine you are nearly fourteen years old but are only a few inches tall and live under the floor of a great house in the country. And imagine your tiny father one day takes you upstairs and outdoors for the first time—and on that very first day you meet a being that seems like a giant.
NARRATOR 2: That’s what happened to Arrietty, one of the little people called the Borrowers. While her father was at work by the front door of the house, she ran off under a cherry tree to sit among the grass and wildflowers. But then something moved above her on the bank. Something glittered. Arrietty stared.
NARRATOR 1: It was an eye. An eye like her own, but enormous. A glaring eye. Then the eye blinked. A great fringe of lashes came curving down and flew up again out of sight.
NARRATOR 2: Arrietty sat breathless with fear. Cautiously, she moved her legs. She would slide noiselessly in among the grass stems and slither away down the bank.
BOY: (in a low voice) Don’t move!
NARRATOR 1: The voice, like the eye, was enormous, but somehow hushed. Arrietty, her heart pounding in her ears, heard the breath again drawing swiftly into the vast lungs.
BOY: Or I shall hit you with my stick!
NARRATOR 2: Suddenly Arrietty became calm. Her voice, crystal thin and harebell clear, came tinkling on the air.
BOY: (surprised) In case you ran toward me quickly through the grass. In case you came and scrabbled at me with your nasty little hands.
NARRATOR 1: Arrietty stared at the eye. She held herself quite still.
BOY: Did you come out of the house?
BOY: From where in the house?
ARRIETTY: I’m not going to tell you!
BOY: Then I’ll hit you with my stick!
ARRIETTY: All right, hit me!
BOY: I’ll pick you up and break you in half!
ARRIETTY: All right.
NARRATOR 2: Arrietty stood up and took two paces forward.
NARRATOR 1: There was an earthquake in the grass. He spun away from her and sat up, a great mountain in a green jersey.
BOY: (loudly) Stay where you are!
NARRATOR 2: Arrietty stared up at him. Breathless she felt, and light with fear.
ARRIETTY: I’d guess you’re about nine.
BOY: You’re wrong. I’m ten.
NARRATOR 1: He looked down at her, breathing deeply.
BOY: How old are you?
ARRIETTY: Fourteen. Next June.
NARRATOR 2: There was silence while Arrietty waited, trembling a little.
BOY: Can you read?
ARRIETTY: Of course. Can’t you?
BOY: No. I mean, yes. I mean, not so well.
ARRIETTY: I can read anything—if someone could hold the book and turn the pages.
BOY: Could you read out loud?
ARRIETTY: Of course.
BOY: Would you wait here while I run upstairs and get a book now?
BOY: I won’t be but a minute.
NARRATOR 1: He began to move away, but turned suddenly and came back to her. He stood a moment, as though embarrassed.
BOY: Can you fly?
ARRIETTY: (surprised) No! Can you?
BOY: Of course not! I’m not a fairy!
ARRIETTY: Well, nor am I, nor is anybody. I don’t believe in them.
BOY: (confused) You don’t believe in them?
ARRIETTY: No! Do you?
BOY: Of course not! But . . . but supposing you saw a little man, about as tall as a pencil, with a blue patch in his trousers, halfway up a window curtain, carrying a doll’s teacup. Would you say it was a fairy?
ARRIETTY: No, I’d say it was my father!
BOY: Oh. Are there many people like you?
ARRIETTY: No. None. We’re all different.
BOY: I mean as small as you.
ARRIETTY: (laughs) What a funny question! Surely you don’t think there are many people in the world your size?
BOY: There are more my size than yours.
ARRIETTY: (laughs again) Honestly! Do you really think . . . . I mean, whatever sort of a world would it be? Those great chairs—I’ve seen them. Fancy if you had to make chairs that size for everyone. And the stuff for their clothes— miles and miles of it, tents of it—and the sewing! And their great houses—reaching up so you can hardly see the ceilings—their great beds, the food they eat—great smoking mountains of it!
That’s why my father says it’s a good thing they’re dying out! Just a few, my father says—that’s all we need to keep us going. Otherwise, he says, the whole thing gets—what did he say?—exaggerated.
BOY: What do you mean, “keep us going”?
NARRATOR 2: So Arrietty told him about borrowing—how difficult it was, and how dangerous. She told him about the storerooms under the floor, about her mother, Homily, and her father, Pod. She told him about Pod’s exploits, his skill—how he would venture bravely into the house above to borrow whatever his family needed.
BOY: “Borrowing.” Is that what you call it?
ARRIETTY: What else could you call it?
BOY: I’d call it stealing.
ARRIETTY: (laughs hard) But we are Borrowers, like you’re a . . . a “human bean,” or whatever it’s called. We’re part of the house! You might as well say that the fire grate steals the coal from the coal scuttle!
BOY: Then what is stealing?
ARRIETTY: (seriously) Don’t you know? Stealing is . . . . Well, suppose my Uncle Hendreary borrowed something from the house and then my father took it from him. But Borrowers don’t steal!
BOY: Except from human beings.
ARRIETTY: (laughs harder still) Oh dear, you are funny! Human beans are for Borrowers—like bread’s for butter!
NARRATOR 1: The boy was silent awhile. A sigh of wind rustled the cherry tree and shivered among the blossoms.
BOY: Well, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that’s what we’re for at all, and I don’t believe we’re dying out!
ARRIETTY: (impatiently) Oh, goodness! Just use your common sense! You’re the only real human bean I ever saw, and I only know of three more. But I know of lots and lots of Borrowers!
BOY: Then where are they now? Tell me that.
ARRIETTY: Well, my Uncle Hendreary has a house in the country, and four children.
BOY: But where are the others?
ARRIETTY: (confused) Oh, they’re somewhere.
NARRATOR 2: She shivered slightly in the boy’s cold shadow.
BOY: (coldly) Well, I’ve only seen two Borrowers, but I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds
ARRIETTY: (softly, to herself, as he speaks) Oh, no.
BOY: of human beings.
NARRATOR 2: Arrietty stood very still. She did not look at him.
ARRIETTY: I don’t believe you.
BOY: All right, then I’ll tell you.
ARRIETTY: I still won’t believe you.
NARRATOR 1: And he told her about railway stations and football matches and racecourses and royal processions and Albert Hall concerts. He told her about India and China and North America and the British Commonwealth. He told her about the July sales.
BOY: Not hundreds, but thousands and millions and billions and trillions of great big enormous people! Now do you believe me?
NARRATOR 2: Arrietty stared up at him with frightened eyes.
ARRIETTY: (softly) I don’t know.
BOY: As for you, I don’t believe that there are any more Borrowers anywhere in the world! I believe you’re the last three.
ARRIETTY: We’re not! There’s Aunt Lupy and Uncle Hendreary and all the cousins.
BOY: I bet they’re dead. And what’s more, no one will ever believe I’ve seen you. And you’ll be the very last, because you’re the youngest. One day, you’ll be the only Borrower left in the world!
NARRATOR 1: He sat still, waiting, but she did not look up.
BOY: (without malice) Now you’re crying.
ARRIETTY: (not looking at him) I’m going home.
BOY: Don’t go. Not yet.
ARRIETTY: Yes, I’m going.
BOY: (pleading) Let me just get the book. Please? I’ll just be a minute!
ARRIETTY: (absently) All right.
NARRATOR 2: He was gone. And she stood there alone in the sunshine, shoulder deep in grass. What had happened seemed too big for thought. Not only had she been seen, but she had been talked to. Not only had she been talked to, but she had—
POD: (in a low voice) Arrietty! Come over here!
NARRATOR 1: She spun around, and there was Pod on the path, round‑faced, kind, familiar. Obediently she started over to him.
POD: What d’you want to go in the grass for? I might never have seen you! Hurry up, now. Your mother’ll have tea waiting.
(POD and ARRIETTY leave.)
Read the book!
By Mary Norton