Trust the Tightrope Walker

By Kevin Penner


A discussion of what it means to really believe, using the classic story of tightrope walker Charles Blondin.



Narrator: A hundred years ago, before the days of movie stars and football heroes, some of the most famous people were known for daring feats, like climbing mountains, escaping from chains and vaults, and swinging on the flying trapeze.  None was more famous than the great Charles Blondin of France, the foremost tightrope walker in the world.

Blondin: (enters and bows with a flourish; speaks with French accent:) If it is a rope and it is tight, I will walk on it!

Narrator: He was adored by people all over the world.  (crowd enters and stands around him -- men shake heads in wonder; women flutter eyelids)

#1: (girl) May I have your autograph, please?

Blondin: Mon plaisir, mademoiselle!  (he signs paper with a flourish, hands it back to girl, who almost swoons, kisses paper and hugs it tightly)

Narrator: He amused audiences with his antics . . . (Blondin "tests" out rope -- mimed -- acts scared, turns around but is pushed onto the rope by his assistant -- #2 -- runs half-way across, then turns and runs back and assistant hands him a broom, which he uses as a balance pole.  Meanwhile, crowd is laughing)

Crowd: Ho, ho!  Mr. Blondin is so funny!  Oui, il est trés amusant!

Narrator: And he thrilled the throngs with death-defying displays of derring-do.  (Blondin takes broom and sweeps off rope, sits down then lies down on the rope)

Crowd: Oooooohhh!  (He gets up, does a jig, using broom like a cane.  Then he skips back to assistant, who hands him a unicycle -- mimed)  Aaaaaaahhhh!  (Blondin cycles back to "platform", takes off hat and bows.  Crowd claps) Yaaay!  Hooray for Blondin!  Three cheers!  C'est incroyable!  He's the greatest! (etc.)

Narrator: But no exploit could match his heart-stopping stunt of spanning the gorge at Niagra Falls.  (crowd gasps!) The crowds gathered from miles around -- the Americans on one side . . .

Crowd: (on one side) Yay!

Narrator: . . . and the Canadians on the other.

Crowd: (on the other side) HOORAY!

Narrator: A buzz of excitement ran along both banks.

Crowd: Buzzz!

Blondin: This is the longest walk I have ever attempted.  C'est trés dangereuse!  But it is calm today, and I anticipate no problems.

Narrator: The buzz died down to a murmur . . .

Crowd: Murmur, murmur, etc.

Narrator: . . . and all you could hear was the rushing roar of the raging rapids below.

Crowd: Sssssshhh!  (i.e. sounds like waterfall)

Narrator: The crowd oohed and aahed as Blondin walked across.  (Blondin walks over with broomstick)

Crowd: Ooooohhh! (he turns around and walks back)  Aaaaaaahhh!  (crowd applauds as he reaches the bank)

Narrator: Women fainted and strong men looked away when he took across a wheelbarrow with a two hundred pound weight. (assistant heaves weight into wheelbarrow -- mimed -- and Blondin wheels it across.  Women faint into men's arms -- who look away) Then Blondin stopped and addressed the audience:

Blondin: Do you believe I could carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?

Crowd: (all nodding their heads vigorously) Yes, yes of course! (etc.)

#2: (to #3) He carried that bag of sand across, didn't he?

#3: Sure!  He's  the greatest tightrope walker in the world!

#1: I believe you can do anything, Mr. Blondin. (she flutters eyelids, still clutching autograph)

Blondin: (dramatically) Would anyone like to volunteer to step into the wheelbarrow?

Narrator: No one stepped forward, though some did comment at a distance:

#2: What an honour!

#3: What a privilege!

#1: What a man!

Blondin: Let me repeat: I am looking for a volunteer to be the first person in history to go across Niagra Falls in a wheelbarrow. (pause) Say, you look like a brave fellow, how about you?

#2: I wouldn't want to risk it.  My family might think I was irresponsible. (Blondin looks inquiringly at #3)

#3: Well, sir, I'm honoured by your request but I, uh, don't have time . . . I, uh, . . . I . . . Oh yes, I have to go and do some shopping! (#3 leaves in a hurry, pushing through the crowd)

Blondin: (with bemused look) That's strange -- it's a holiday and all the shops are closed. (suddenly businesslike) But come, let us not waste time.  How about you, miss?

#1: Oh, Mr. Blondin, you're my hero!

Blondin: Then you'll come with me?

#1: (realizing the danger) But, but . . . I'm scared of heights . . . I couldn't . . . (she faints into #2's arms)

Narrator: Finally, a little boy volunteered to go across with Mr. Blondin.

Crowd: (clapping) YAY!  Three cheers for the little boy!  Imagine that!  What courage! (etc.)

Narrator: The crowd held their breath as Mr. Blondin took the boy safely across.

Crowd: WHEW! (they all wipe off sweat, etc.)

Narrator: Why do you think the boy volunteered?

#2: Because he had faith in Mr. Blondin.

#1: He put his life into Blondin's hands.

#3: (who has returned and says sheepishly) Not like some of us who didn't really believe.

Narrator: (to audience) It's just like believing in Jesus Christ.  Some people give mental assent:

#2: I believe Christ existed . . .

#1: I believe Jesus died . . .

Narrator: But it's not really believing . . .

#3: It doesn't make much difference to me.

#2: I would want to go too far.  People might think I was a fanatic.

#1: I think it's still important to trust in yourself to get through.

Narrator: The only problem is that a vast gulf separates us and God, because of sin.  And Jesus is the only one who can bring us across to God.  We've got to place our lives in the Tightrope Walker's hands.


© Copyright Kevin Penner. All rights reserved.
This is copyrighted material, but you may use the sketches anytime, royalty-free. The only thing I ask is that you include my name and address in the copies. ("by Kevin Penner Box 2840 Swan River, MB, CANADA R0L 1Z0")