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Grandma Turtle

Grandma Turtle: A Traditional Shawnee Story rewritten as a Script
Retold by Brian “Fox” Ellis
© Copyright 2006 Brian “Fox” Ellis
Also Available on his CD – River Stories I
 

THE CAST OF CHARACTERSturtle1

GRANDMA TURTLE -

SPIDER -

DEER -

DUCK -

EAGLE -

BEAVER -

MUSKRAT -

BEAR –

BADGER –

FOX –

WOLF -

CREATOR -

NARRATOR -

THE ANIMAL CHORUS -

 
NARRATOR: In the beginning all there was was darkness, and Gitchimanitou, Creator.
 
CREATOR: The Creator of us all, Gitchimanitou, saw that darkness and shazam! Creator thought about light and the sun was made. But ooh, that was too hot. It hurt your eyes to look at it. So Creator thought about a softer light, shoo! and the moon was made. Ah, that was much more beautiful. And then Gitchimanitou thought about little tiny lights, psh, psh, psh, psh, hundreds of little tiny lights, psh, psh, psh, psh, thousands of little tiny lights, psh, psh, psh, psh, until soon the heavens were filled with stars. And then Creator thought about the earth and ooh, that was a big thought.
 
NARRATOR Now you might think that strange, but whatever Creator thought about was made. Have you ever made something? You must first imagine it - whatever you can imagine you can make. In this way you can be a creator, too. And in this way, Creator made the sun, the moon, the stars and the earth. Then Creator thought about water: a nice tall glass of cold water, and a nice gentle rain. And then Creator thought about a little creek, a raging river, ocean waves. And the more Creator thought about water, the more water was made, and more water, and more water until soon the entire earth was covered with water.
 
CREATOR: And then, Creator thought about the animals.
 
(Each animal says his or her name and swims or flies across the stage:) Beaver, bear, muskrat, eagle, fox, wolf, turtle, spider, duck, deer,
 
NARRATOR: All of the animals you can imagine were made. And when all of those animals were made, they went splash, splish, splash into the ocean. Remember that the earth was covered with water.
 
(In this first scene and through most of the play the animals pretend they are swimming in an endless ocean.)
 
DEER: With our skinny little hooves, we have trouble swimming all of the time.
 
DUCK: But some of us, like the ducks - we have webs between their toes, oil in our feathers - we loved all of that water.
 
EAGLE: But some of the birds had to fly all of the time. If we grow tired of flying and want to land, duck1splash, into the water we go. Remember there was no land for us to land on so our feathers would be wet and we would have trouble flying again.
 
NARRATOR As you can imagine, after a while the animals got tired of swimming all of the time. The birds became tired of flying all of the time. (The animals gather together into a Grand Counsel)
 
DEER: Hey, I’ve got an idea. Creator made the world. Why don't we have Creator make a place for us to rest?
 
SPIDER: That's a good idea, but how are we going to talk to Creator?
 
DUCK: I know, I know. Eagle. Eagle can fly higher than any other bird. Why don't we ask eagle to carry our prayers?
 
(Eagle flies in large circles, higher and higher until soon Eagle flies to the sky world.)
 
EAGLE: Creator, we are getting tired of flying all the time. We are tired of swimming all the time. We need a place to rest. Please can you help us?
 
CREATOR: I'd be happy to help; you should have asked a long time ago. But first, I want you to learn that all life gives to life and that is how life is to be lived. So I need your help. I need one of you to swim to the bottom of the ocean and get a ball of mud. I will make that mud into land for you to rest upon. (Eagle flies back down to the animals)
 
EAGLE: Creator said that if one of us can swim to the bottom of the ocean and get a ball of mud, then creator will make land for us to rest upon.
 
FOX: Well, I'm the best swimmer, if anybody can go to the bottom of the ocean it should be me. fox1
 
WOLF: Oh no you're not! I'm a better swimmer than you are.
 
BADGER: No, no, no, no, no. She's the best swimmer; she can do it.
 
BEAR: No, he's the best swimmer.
 
TURTLE: Now I know that I'm kind of old, and the truth is I may not be the best swimmer. But I think I can go to the bottom of the ocean and get that ball of mud. Would you give me a chance, please?
 
NARRATOR: (talking to the audience) Here is where I need your help. I'd like to invite all of you to close your eyes and imagine that you are your favorite animal. Imagine that you are covered with fur or feathers or scales. Imagine that you have hooves or claws or wings or fins… Hold that thought, now open your eyes. I'd like all of the animals to repeat after me.
 
NARRATOR & ALL THE ANIMALS: "Grandma, you're too old." Can you all say that? "Grandma, you're too old. You go home and take a nap." "You go home and take a nap." "Leave this for us young ones, we'll take care of it." All together: "Leave this for us young ones, we'll take care of it." Let's say that whole thing again, with attitude this time. "Grandma, you're too old. You go home and take a nap. Leave this for us young ones, we'll take care of it."
 
TURTLE: "All right, I don't mind taking a nap now and then. (So, Grandma Turtle goes on home to take a nap. Beaver swims forward.)
 
BEAVER: I was made for living in the water. I have webs between my toes to help me swim. I have oil in my fur to keep me warm in cold water, and I have a wide flat tail that helps me swim fast. If anybody can swim to the bottom of the ocean, it's me.
 
FOX: OK, OK, Beaver should go first.
 
NARRATOR: (Beaver acts this out). Beaver takes a great big deep breath and swims down, and doooooooooooown. When Beaver finally made it to the top, in his paws he has.... Water. He couldn't do it. The ocean is too deep, so out comes Grandma Turtle.
 
TURTLE: Now I know I'm kind of old. Truth is, I'm probably older than all of you added up together. But, I think I can do it. Will you give me a chance, please?
 
ALL THE ANIMALS: "Grandma, you're too old. You go home and take a nap. Leave this to us young ones, we'll take care of it."
 
TURTLE: Oh, all right, I’ll go home to take another nap. (As soon she is gone, out comes Muskrat.)
 
muskrat
MUSKRAT: Beaver, he's cool; but I'm better. You see, I have webs between my toes just like Beaver, but I'm better. See, I have oil in my fur to keep me warm in the cold water, just like Beaver, but I'm better. Instead of a wide, flat, fat old tail, I have a long, skinny tail that moves like a snake. If anybody can make it to the bottom of the ocean, it's me.
 
WOLF: All right, Muskrat should go next.
 
NARRATOR: (Muskrat acts this out). So Muskrat takes a great big deep breath and he swims down, and down, and dooooooooown. All of the other animals are watching and they see Muskrat go deeper than Beaver. He went so deep that he disappeared. All they see are a few bubbles coming to the top…
 
BADGER: Muskrat is going to do it.... Maybe not. He's been gone a long time. No one can hold his breath that long.
 
NARRATOR: And then they see the bubbles coming, and Muskrat keeps swimming up and up. And finally Muskrat made it to the top. In his paws he had...nothing. The ocean is so deep that not even Muskrat could do it. (So, out comes grandma turtle.)
 
TURTLE: "Now I know I may not be the best swimmer. Truth is, this young creature here; she looks like a good swimmer. She's probably better than I am, but I think I can do it. Will you give me a chance, please?"
 
ALL OF THE ANIMALS: "Grandma, you're too old. You go home and take a nap. Leave this for us young ones. We'll take care of it."
 
TURTLE: "All right, I’ll go home to take another nap.
 
NARRATOR: Another animal tried; and another one; and each time Grandma Turtle came back and they chased her away again. When Bear tried, he wasn't a good swimmer and he almost drowned. They always came up with empty talons or empty paws, empty claws or empty hooves. Every animal who tried came up empty-handed. And so, finally, everyone had tried, everyone except... Grandma Turtle. (She comes out one last time). TURTLE: "You don't think I can do it, do you? Truth is, I'm not sure I can; but I think I can. Will you give me a chance, please?"
 
ALL OF THE ANIMALS: Grandma, you're too... (Bear interrupts…)
 
bear
BEAR: "ARRG! Now wait one minute," said Bear. "Wait one second here. We all had a turn. Don't you think it's fair we give Grandma Turtle a chance? How many of you think it's fair?" (The animals mumble, argue, and generally agree.)
 
BEAR: (turning to Grandma Turtle) "Come on, Grandma. Show us your stuff."
 
TURTLE: Will you help your old Grandma Turtle? Now what I want you to do is this: I want you to just sit there; and I want you to take this deep breath; and I want you to hold your breath with me. Ready? Now that breath isn't going to get you to the bottom of the ocean. Come on, you need a bigger breath than that. First you've got to blow out all of your air and empty your lungs and then take the biggest breath you ever took. Fill your belly. Fill your chest. Now hold it.”
 
NARRATOR: Grandma Turtle started swimming down and down, deeper and deeper. She went deeper than Beaver. She went deeper than Muskrat. They thought, “Grandma is going to do it -- but how many animals can hold their breath that long?” They quietly let it out when no one else was looking. They took another deep breath and thought, “Come on, Grandma.” Some animals thought, “She is kind of old and the bubbles stopped coming up. Maybe she's drowned; maybe we're never going to see our Grandma again.” No, they took that thought out of their mind and they held on. They took another deep breath. They held on because they had faith. Grandma Turtle kept swimming, down and down, deeper and deeper, until she turned around. She headed up and up. Finally, she made it to the top. In her claws she had... underneath her fingernail there was… a little bit of mud. (Turtle acts all of this out and then at the end All of the animals cheer!)
 
CREATOR: Creator had been watching the whole time. "Grandma, take that ball of mud and put it on your back." (Grandma Turtle rolled it into a small ball and placed it on her shell.) When she did, ZAPPPP, with a bolt of lightning and a roar of thunder, that tiny little ball was turned into a huge island. Turtle Island. Over 2,000 miles wide and 3,000 miles long.
 
NARRATOR: Have you been to Turtle Island? You are sitting on the turtle’s back right now. Look at a map of North America. Or maybe you can imagine this with me. Florida sticks out in the ocean like one leg. Baja, California, is another leg. Mexico is a big curved tail that gets skinny down past the Yucatan. Up by Hudson Bay, you have a front arm and Alaska is another front arm. I'll admit Canada is a strangely shaped head. But if you use your imagination, it looks like a turtle. How did Native People know that? We didn't have satellites, but a thousand years ago we called this place Turtle Island. Hold on, it's moving. North America is moving about one inch a year, slow like a turtle. Swimming in the earth’s oceans, swirling in the sky.
 
Have you seen a turtle before? Have you seen those cracks on their backs? Some people believe that those cracks are there because the turtle carries the weight of the earth on her back. So next time you see a turtle, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to say, "Thank you, Grandma Turtle, for what you did. Thank you for what you taught us." What did she teach us? Say it with me, "All life gives to life and that is how life is to be lived.”
 
ALL OF THE ANIMALS: (End with a circle dance, singing)
The earth is our mother we must take care of her (2X)
Hey younga, ho, younga, hey, young, young (2X)
Her sacred ground we walk upon with every step we take (2X)
Hey younga, ho, younga, hey, young, young (2X)