By John Schaper
An adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen folk tale.
Grandmother Avia - Regalis' Grandmother
Old Woman - The Winds' mother
Members of the Court and Residents in the Garden of Paradise (Dancers)
(The Young Prince Regalis and Grandmother Avia are wandering in the palace gardens. Members of the Royal Court are in the background.)
My schooling has taught me well, yet no answer have I found to quench my thirst for knowledge.
My sweet child, your want of knowledge far outweighs that which any mere book could ever offer you. For all your books, their splendid pictures and their history, you have been unable to find that which your heart is searching for.
Grandmother, tell me what you know of the Garden of Paradise.
Ah... The Garden of Paradise, where every flower tastes like the sweetest of all the cakes, and the stems like the finest wine. There are trees that grow knowledge, trees that grow fruits of history, another geography, a third grew languages. Whoever eats these fruits immediately knows the answers to any question. The more you eat the more you learn. A truly wonderful land, of joy and peace.
But where is this land to be found grandmother?
That I cannot answer, my child. That I just cannot answer.
Oh, but why did Eve touch the Tree of knowledge? Why did Adam eat the forbidden fruit? Had I been in their place, it would never have happened. I would never have touched the fruit and sin would never have entered the world!
[Regalis and Avia exit]
(Prince Regalis is wandering in the woods when he comes across a cave in which a fire is burning. This is the home of the four winds.)
If only I knew the whereabouts of the Garden of Paradise, then I could live surrounded by beauty.
(Thunder and Lightning)
Good Lord! I must find shelter before the heavens erupt.
[He sees the entrance to a cave, where an Old Woman sits by a fire.)
Come nearer, sit down by the fire and warm yourself young man.
If I may, kind lady.
(Goes to her)
There is a terrible draught here. I see you are wise to sit by the fire, as it is now pouring with rain outside this shelter.
This is no breeze compared to when my sons come home.
Why ever so?
You are now in the cave of the four winds. They are my sons.
Where are your sons?
There is no use in answering stupid questions. My sons do as they please, they may play ball with the clouds, or dance among the lilies and reeds by the rivers.
You speak in a rather harsh manner about your sons.
That I do. My sons have naught to do, but play childish pranks on ships at sea, or bury civilizations and uncover others in the desert. I must be hard if I am to control my wayward sons. Do you see those four sacks hanging by the wall over there? They are much the same to my sons as the cane or the slipper are to you and your fellow men. Hush! Here comes one now.
[Enter North Wind, dry ice for effect]
Do not go directly to the fire my friend, you may perhaps get chillblains on your frosty fingers.
Chillblains! Frost is my delight, dear fellow, for I am the North Wind, who enjoys bringing cold and frosts to the people of this world. From whence did you come?
He is my guest, if you are not content with my explanation then you will find yourself in the sack. Now my son, where did your travels lead this month?
I have come back from the Arctic Ocean, I have been on Bear Island along with the Russian whalers. I sat at the helm, and slept when they sailed from the North Cape. Bear Island is a wonderful, glorious place! The ground could only have been made for dancing, it is as flat as a plate. I blew into the clouds that they may part to allow light for the people to see a small hut built from a wreck and covered by a whale skin.
My son relates his adventures so vividly, my mouth waters whenever I listen to his tales.
Hark! Here comes my brother the West Wind. Oh how I do love him, he smells of the sea, and has a right healthy coldness to him.
Can that be the delicate Zephyr?
Zephyr he is, but no longer delicate. He was once a gallant youth, but those times have long since passed.
[Enter West Wind (bird calls & animal noises etc.)]
Where did your travels lead my son?
To those forest waste lands, where the thorny creepers weave hedges between the trees, where the water snake lies in the damp grass, and where man is lost. I saw the buffalo in their herds so large they took a day to pass a river in the midst of the plains. I rode the wild horses, before travelling, hunting for coconut trees, so that I may watch them crash onto the ground and spill their contents all over.
[Enter South Wind]
It is very cold here. I can only presume that my brother the North Wind has arrived home before me.
It is so hot that a polar bear might be roasted alive in here.
Thou art thyself a polar bear my brother.
Do you both wish to be sent to the sack? Sit down my son and tell me of your tales.
I have been hunting, hunting lions in the land of Africa - such a vast plain on which beautiful grass grows. The Gnu danced while the Ostrich ran races with me, but I am far swifter than he. I travelled to the yellow sands of the desert and met with a caravan. They had killed their last camel in search of a drink. They found very little. I pulled the sand up around myself as I began to dance. I buried them there under a pyramid of sand, to one day return and uncover their bodies so that the sun may bleach their bones white.
Then you have done evil my wicked son. Into the sack you go.
[South Wind is pushed into a sack]
These are then truly wild fellows.
Yes, truly. But they must all obey. But now, here comes the fourth son.
[Enter East Wind]
So you have come from that corner of the world!?! I was to believe that you were to have gone to the Garden of Paradise.
I go tomorrow. It is a hundred years tomorrow since I was last there. I have come from China, where I danced round the porcelain tower, so that all the bells began to ring. In the street below, the criminals were being flogged till the bamboo canes broke upon their shoulders, and still I clinked the bells.
You are a wild youth. It is well that you go to the Garden of Paradise, as you visits there always contribute to your improvement. Remember to drink plentifully from the source of wisdom, and bring me a little flask filled with it.
I will do that my dear mother. But why, pray tell, have you put my brother the South Wind in the sack? Let him out so that he may tell me all about the Phoenix. The Princess in the Garden of Paradise, when I visit once in a hundred years, always asks me about that bird. Open the sack my sweetest mother, and I will give you two cups full of tea as fresh and as green as when I plucked it.
Well, for the sake of the tea, and because you are my darling, I will open the sack.
[The South Wind gets out of sack]
Here, my brother, is a palm leaf for the Princess. The old Phoenix - the only one left in the world - gave it to me. He has scribbled on it, with his beak, the history of his whole life. The Princess can read it herself. I saw the Phoenix set fire to his own nest, I saw him as he sat within it, and he was consumed. How the dry branches crackled, and how pleasant was the odour that arose from the burning nest. At last the flames consumed all, and the old Phoenix is now in ashes. But his egg lay glowing in the fire. It burst with a loud noise, and the young one flew out. He is now king over all birds, and the only Phoenix in the world.
Only tell me two things:
what Princess is that whom I've heard so much about, and where is the Garden of Paradise?
Ah, ha! You wish to go there? If so, fly with me tomorrow, but I must warn you that no human being has visited there since Adam and Eve were driven out. The Queen of the Fairies makes it her home, and there is the Island of Bliss where death never comes. If you seat yourself on my back tomorrow I will take you there, I think I shall be allowed. But do not talk any more, for I wish to sleep.
(Regalis and the East Wind are flying over the plains. Regalis wakes from sleep.)
Good morning! You may sleep a fair while longer, my companion, for there is not much to be seen down below, unless you find amusement in counting the churches and cottages we pass over.
It was uncivil to leave without my goodbyes to your brothers and your mother.
That can be excused, as you were asleep when we left.
[Some time passes]
Now you can see the Himalayan Mountains, they are the highest in Asia. We shall soon come to the Garden of Paradise.
Are we now in the Garden of Paradise? For this is surely the most beautiful land I have ever seen.
No, not yet, but we shall arrive very soon. Do you see that rock and the large cavern, in front of which hangs vines and shrubs like large green curtains? We must go through it.
So that is the way to the Garden of Paradise. Surely we are going through the valley of death to reach the Garden of Paradise? For it extremely cold, and the rock a deadly grey.
(The Garden of Paradise. Residents of the Garden wander in the background. Enter the East Wind, Regalis and the Princess)
My dear friend, the East Wind, what news have you of the old Phoenix?
Princess, the Phoenix is no longer old, he has been reborn into a young Phoenix once more. He has given me a leaf for you.
Thank you dear Wind, amuse yourself at your own will here in my Garden while I talk to this fine young man you have carried here.
[East Wind goes and talks to Residents]
I am Prince Regalis, humbly at your service.
There is no need to put anyone to service here, everything is plentiful.
[They walk on side by side. Adam and Eve "play" happily in and out of the trees]
Is that not Adam and Eve? Were they not driven out of this Paradise?
My dear Prince Regalis, time does not operate here as it does in your world. Although they are no longer here, yet their image can still be seen among the trees and the bushes, birds and animals.
Only timelessness could have made such cunning pictures of these events. Pictures that move and evolve, yet eternally the same.
Let us now board my boat. You shall find it refreshing, for the boat is rocked on swelling waves, without stirring from its place. Yet all the countryside may appear to glide past us.
Oh 'tis such a wonderful land, might I stay here always?
That depends on yourself, dear Regalis. If you do not, like Adam, allow yourself to be led to do what is forbidden, you may stay here always.
I will not touch the apple on the Tree of Knowledge, for there are a thousand fruits here quite as beautiful.
One should not make false promises. Examine youself. If you are not strong enough, return with the East Wind who brought you here. He is about to fly back, and will not return for a hundred years.
[East Wind re-emerges from the background]
The time will pass here as if it were only one hundred hours, but that is time enough for temptation and sin. Every evening when I leave you, I must invite you to come with me! I must beckon to you, but beware of attending to my call, come not with me, for every step will but increase the temptation. You will come into the hall where the Tree of Knowledge stands. I shall sleep among its fragrant hanging branches. You will bend over me, but if you touch me Paradise will sink beneath the earth, and be lost to you. The sharp wind of the desert will whistle around you, the cold rain will drip from your hair, sorrow and care will be your inheritance.
I will stay here with my Princess. My friend the East Wind, safe journeys and may God protect you, farewell East Wind.
Be strong, and we shall see each other again after one hundred years. Farewell my Prince, farewell.
[East Wind exits]
Now must we begin our dances, and when the sun is sinking, while I am dancing with you, you will see me beckon, you will hear me say "Come with me" but do not follow me. For a hundred years I must repeat this call to you each evening. Every day your strength will increase, till at last you will not even think of following me. This evening will be the first and hardest time. I have warned you!
[They dance for a while]
It is now time my dear Prince, pray do not follow.
My child, my dear, dear child!
'Tis a call as beautiful as that of my mother. I am coming my lovely Princess.
[He begins to follow her]
Come with me, come with me.
The fairy spoke true, but I will not sin, but I must hear more of this angelic sound.
[Regalis now trance-like follows the Princess]
Come with me, come with me.
What manner of spell is this, I was warned yet still I go. I have not yet sinned, neither will I.
[He bends over her]
Do you weep on my account? Weep not, loveliest of creatures, for I am in no danger, I have yet to sin, I will be true, Weep no longer, with a kiss I shall rid your tears.
[He kisses her, and there is a tremendous clap of thunder and everything goes into disarray]
What have I done!?! Spare my life for I did not know what I was doing.
[All goes black, Regalis is crying]
What have I done?!? I have sinned like Adam, I have sinned and Paradise has sunk low, beneath the earth.
(The cave of the winds. Death is there as is the Old Woman and her sons. They sit around the still form of Regalis]
Already, on the first evening! I truly expected it. Well if you were my son, you would go forthwith into the sack.
He shall go there! He shall be laid in the coffin, but not yet. Suffer him to wander yet a little while longer upon the earth, and to repent of his sins. He may yet improve, he may grow good. I shall return one day when he least expects it, and then I shall lay him in the black coffin. If his head and heart are still full of sin, he will sink lower than the Garden of Paradise, but if he has become good and holy, I shall put the coffin on my head, and fly to the star yonder. The Garden of Paradise blooms there also. He shall enter, and remain in that star, that bright sparkling star, for ever.
Regalis is clad in royal purple and a fine hat (no crown).
Avia wears a dress from the Victorian era.
The Old Woman is dressed in ripped trousers just making it to the upper calves. Her top is an old shirt tied at the front to keep it closed.
The North Wind is covered in firs.
South Wind wears an open top and loose pants.
West Wind has a hint of Indian garb.
East Wind at first wears the clothes of a Chinaman, but for the Garden of Paradise he wears green.
Fairy Princess wears a light pink flowing dress.
Death wears the typical black hooded cloak.
© John Schaper 1998
All rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged.
In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org