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TWO BROTHERS


This first appeared in Horizon Review 



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Acknowledgements

 

This play is based on the traditional Korean tale ‘Heungbu and Nolbu’, with additional material adapted from classical and folk Korean poetry.

 

 

 

CAST OF CHARACTERS

 

SONHWA, the Narrator.

Gentle goddess of the pumpkin, her name means 'Fairy Flower'. She wears a traditional high-waisted Korean dress in shimmering white, bound with a blue and orange sash, and an elaborate orange head-dress that represents the pumpkin.

 

HEUNGBU

NOLBU, older brother to Heungbu

BO BAE, or 'Treasure', wife to Heungbu

TAEKWON, or 'Sour Pickle', wife to Nolbu

JOO EUN, or 'Silver Pearl', Heungbu's baby daughter

 

1st SWALLOW

2nd SWALLOW

SWALLOW KING

SWALLOW COURTIERS, MAID SERVANTS & CHILDREN

A SERPENT

 

TWO SMALL BOYS

TWO MOON MAIDENS

TWO GOBLINS

 

A SWALLOW PUPPET

 

 

NOTE: Downstage right is a small tree, about 5 feet in height, which occupies the same place throughout and indicates the change of seasons. In spring it is covered in white blossoms - it is a plum tree. In winter it is a snow-covered pine. In autumn it is a maple covered in bright red leaves.

 

 

1. PROLOGUE

 

[The story takes place in a small Korean village, long ago. Centre stage is a snug and comfortable house set in a garden. Downstage right the plum tree. Rosy dawn light and the morning chorus of birds. Enter Sonhwa.]

 

SONHWA     I am Sonhwa, the Flower Fairy of the Pumpkin

                        Every spring I bear a white blossom

                        Every fall I yield a big bright pumpkin

                        Tasty to eat, also useful for drinking gourds

                        or fine hat!

                        [Taps her head-dress.]

                        In this house live two brothers

                        Their names are Heungbu and Nolbu.

                        Nolbu is the older brother.

                        I'm afraid to tell you about him -

                        You won't like hearing it. He's not a nice man at all.

                        What's he like? Well!

                        Eats a lot, drinks a lot, curses a lot

                        Beats people up a lot

                        Has his own way a lot

                        Slaps his own wife a lot

                        Slaps crippled man, pinches baby

                        Speaks rough words to father and mother

                        Pulls a dog's tail

                        Drowns a cat

                        Spits in the rice pot

                        And rubs pepper in people's eyes just for fun.

                        His heart is crooked like a kudzu vine, grown all in a tangle.

His wife Taekwon is named after the sour yellow pickle which she resembles very much. She's so greedy she wants the best of everything for herself. If she went to the market and saw some fine new thing for sale, she'd fall down in a faint if she couldn't have it, and wouldn't get up for maybe one hundred days.

Now Heungbu is not like that at all. Heungbu, the younger brother, is good-natured and loyal. His heart is straight as a flying arrow. He loves his wicked brother Nolbu, and sighs to see him do wickedness every day. Still, he says nothing, he bites his lips. Even when Nolbu beats him he tries to bear it without complaining. His wife Bo Bae is named after a treasure, but she's only a poor farmer's daughter. Still, she's a simple, good-hearted girl. Whether she will be a treasure to Heungbu we must wait and see.

Now father and mother have died, and the house, and the rice fields, and the horses, and the cattle and the money all belong to Nolbu. I wish he would share a little of this wealth with his brother! Are they not sons of the same mother? But no, Nolbu has told his brother to leave the house where he was born, immediately - right now - this very morning.

 

                        Surely in the western paradise she weeps

                        To see such cruelty from brother to brother.

                        How can you put him out of the house?

                        Are you not both children of mine?

 

                        See in the garden these tears of dew

                        A mother is weeping for her children.

                        One for his wicked heart

                        The other for his sorrow.

 

                        The little leaves are wet with mother's tears

                        The morning sky is wet with her tears.

 

                        [Exit Sonhwa]

 

 

2.

 

[Now it is bright morning. The house door flies open and Heungbu and his wife, Bo Bae, tumble out, propelled by heavy blows from Nolbu. They lie on the ground, dazed and shaken. Nolbu stands in the doorway and behind his back we see his wife Taekwon, who shakes her fist at them.]

 

NOLBU          [Shakes his fist at them.]

                        You good-for-nothing!

                        Now get out of my house and don't show your ugly face again.

                        Don't think you can live off me. What's mine is mine.

                        You and your lazy wife clear off, double quick!

 

TAEKWON   Yeah, that's right - clear off!

                        No more getting fat on my rice!

                        Greedy little brother.

                        No more dressing up in my clothes!

                        Ugly sister-in-law.

 

 

NOLBU          Wife, shut up - I'll do the talking.

                        Now the two of you get out of here.

 

HEUNGBU    Brother, don't talk like that!

                        Brothers are like hands and feet

                        If we two brothers part

                        Won't we stumble on the road of life?

                        Won't we miss one another's helping hand?

 

NOLBU          [grinning]

                        I think I'll manage all right without you

                        And your free-loading wife.

                        Now shut your mouth and clear off!

 

[He goes into the house and slams the door. Heungbu gets up and helps Bo Bae to her feet. They brush themselves off and straighten their clothes.


BO BAE         [Gently arranging his clothes for him, brushing the dust from his hair.]

 

                        Never mind, my husband

                        If your brother says 'go', let us go.

 

HEUNGBU    [dazed]

                        But where shall we go? Where?

                        We have no home now.

                        Nowhere to go.

                        Nolbu has given us nothing

                        Not even a water gourd, not even a shirt,

                        Not even a pair of straw sandals. Nothing.

 

BO BAE         The swallows have their nests

                        And the foxes their holes.

                        We too can build a house for ourselves.

                        Let's go up into the green mountains

                        There we can cut reeds enough

                        to make a small house.

 

 

3.

 

[Heungbu and his wife begin to walk. Behind them the scene changes to a rugged mountain landscape. Enter Sonhwa]

 

SONHWA     

They walked and walked till they came to a bare place under  a mountain, that nobody wanted. There they cut           reeds and, working all day, soon built a house for themselves.

 

[Light comes up on a tiny reed hut. Inside are Heungbu and Bo Bae.]

 

SONHWA     But it was not much of a house.

                        That house was so small, when they lay down to sleep

                        Their feet stuck out of the door.

 

                        [Heungbu and Bo Bae's feet appear under the door.]

 

                        That house was so small, when they got up in the morning

                        Their heads poked right through the roof!

 

[Heungbu and Bo Bae now stand and their heads appear, poking through the roof.]

 

                        At night they could see the stars shining over their heads.

                        When it rained the rain came in

                        And rained right into the house.

                        When the north wind blew it blew right through the walls

                        Right into the house

                        Where Heungbu and his wife shivered and shivered

                        And shivered with cold.

 

[Heungbu and Bo Bae shiver, clasping one another, and collapse onto the floor of the hut.]

 

                        What to do?

                        Hold tight, keep warm together

                        Soon they get a baby like that.

 

[Sound of a baby crying inside the hut. Now the tree is changed to the snow-covered pine.]

 

 

4.

SONHWA     

They call that baby Joo Eun, after the silver pearl, hoping she will bring good fortune to her parents. Poor Joo Eun! How should a baby bring good fortune? No sooner born, she is hungry and cold. Daughter of a poor man, she cries all day and all night. Heungbu works hard, ploughing in winter, planting in spring, still the rice pot is empty most nights. Bo Bae works hard, sewing clothes for rich ladies, pounding grain, picking herbs in spring, still too many nights the pot is empty, the chipped bowls stand upside down on the shelf. Poor Bo Bae! Wife of a poor man, her tears fall into the thin broth she is stirring, hoping to make it grow thicker. But stirring alone won't thicken soup, and her tears only make it salty.

See them now, dressed in old rags, sitting in their ice-cold hut with nothing but broth for supper.

 

[Inside the hut. Heungbu and Bo Bae are seated on the floor at a low table. Bo Bae holds the child in her lap. Before them are two small bowls of broth. Bo Bae is trying to feed some broth to the child.]


BO BAE         Come, Joo Eun, come my little silver pearl, just one mouthful. Oh! She only spits it out.

 

HEUNGBU    No wonder. This broth tastes of nothing but salt. Pah! [spitting it out] Nobody can eat this stuff.

 

BO BAE         [to the child] Come, my sweet girl, come now, my precious jewel, open your mouth... Oh! She simply won't eat it. [Begins to cry softly] What are we to do? I've no more milk to give her, and she won't eat the broth. Look how thin she is, poor little thing!

 

[The baby begins to cry piteously. Bo Bae croons to her, rocking her in her arms.]

 

                        Hush, my baby, don't cry!

                        Will you have sweets?

                        Will you have rice?

                        Mama has no more milk for you

                        It's all gone dry -

                        Hush, oh hush, don't cry!

 

                        Hush, my baby, don't cry!

                        I don't want sweets!

                        I don't want rice!

                        Papa shall fetch a bucket of milk

                        From the Milky Way in the sky -

                        Hush, my baby, don't cry!

                        There, she's sleeping now. But I'm afraid hunger will soon wake her.

 

[She lays the child on a pile of rags in the corner, covers her with her own shawl.]

 

BO BAE         [Turns to Heungbu.] Something must be done. The child is starving.

 

HEUNGBU    Let us pray once more to Heaven...

 

BO BAE         

No, Heungbu! Listen to me - Are you the father of this child or not? All your prayers aren't enough to fill her tiny stomach even once. Go to the house of your rich brother and tell him how it is with us. Surely he'll let you have something, if only a little rice, if only a handful of barley, to tide us over until spring,

 

HEUNGBU    My brother? The only thing I'll get from him is a knock on the head for my trouble.

 

BO BAE         You could at least try, if only for the sake of our child. He is your brother, after all.

 

HEUNGBU    Yes, he's my brother. Very well, if you insist, I'll go. Only please don't expect too much. You know what he's like.

 

 

5.

 

[Outside Nolbu's house. The snow lies thick. Downstage right the snow-covered pine, downstage left, a wooden shelter filled with sacks of grain.]

 

SONHWA     

With a heavy heart Heungbu set out for the house of his brother Nolbu. Look at him - what a shame! With his patched coat, ragged trousers, his hat with a hole in it, and on his feet old straw sandals that are falling to     pieces in the snow.

 

                        [Heungbu appears, approaching the house.]

 

                        Slowly, slowly, he draws close to the house

                        Slowly he circles it, afraid to speak to his own brother.

                        Tired and hungry, eaten up with fear

                        Perhaps it would be better, he thinks

                        To lie down in the thick snow and die.

 

                        But he remembers Bo Bae

                        Waiting patiently for his return.

                        He remembers Joo Eun, his tiny silver pearl,

                        Waiting for her father to bring her a bucket of milk

                        From the river in the sky.

                        He can't fly up to that river of stars

                        And fetch down milk for his child

                        But he can at least try his luck

                        Here, with his older brother.

 

[Heungbu notices the pile of sacks under the wooden shelter. Cautiously he approaches and peeks into one of the sacks.]

 

HEUNGBU    What's this piled up

                        Sack upon sack in the courtyard?

                        Sack upon sack of rice!

                        Sack upon sack of barley!

                        What happiness for Heungbu -

                        My brother has so much grain

                        Surely he can spare one sack for Joo Eun.

 

[Meanwhile Nolbu is seen peering out the window at Heungbu. Heungbu goes up to the door and knocks, then steps back and bows very low. Nolbu opens the door.]

 

HEUNGBU    [Bowed almost to the ground]

                          Most honoured older brother! I come to inquire about your health. Are you quite well, sir?

 

NOLBU          Who are you?

 

HEUNGBU    Who... am I? Why, I'm Heungbu.

 

NOLBU          Heungbu? Who is 'Heungbu'? I don't know anybody by that name.


HEUNGBU    

Oh, brother, how can you say such a thing? Don't speak to me like that, brother, please don't. I've come to your house, a shameless beggar, it's true. I bow before you, here in the snow, and ask only a little rice, not for myself but for my hungry child.

 

                        Please, my brother

                        For the sake of love between brothers

                        Let me have just one sack of rice

                        for my baby girl.

                        I swear to you we are starving

                        There's not a bite of food in the house.

                        If the child doesn't eat something soon

                        She will die

                        and her tiny bones will scatter on the wind,

                        Her small spirit will soar away to heaven

                        Leaving her parents alone and desolate.

 

                        Pray, my brother

                        Let me have just one sack -

                        I'll work hard on your farm when the spring comes

                        I'll plough acres of fields for just one bag of rice.

                        Please, my brother

                        Remember the love between brothers

                        And let my child live.

 

NOLBU          You shameless fellow!

                        If it's heaven's will to give me something

                        And you nothing - is that my fault?

 

HEUNGBU    The fault is all mine, brother

                        I am truly shameless.

                        I stoop to beg for the sake of my child.

 

                        If you won't give a sack

                        Give only one cupful -

                        A cup of rice that my child may live

                        If only for a day.

 

NOLBU          Listen, whatever-your-name-is -

                        Why should I open my rice sacks for your sake?

                        Why should I rob even my dog of his dinner

                        to feed your ugly brat?

 

                        Why should my pigs go hungry

                        So your little pig of a daughter

                        Can get fat at my expense?

                        Aren't you selfish, coming here

                        To rob me of what's mine?

 

HEUNGBU    Even if it be so, spare me, brother.

 

NOLBU          [Motions Heungbu to follow him and walks to the wooden shelter where the sacks are stored.]

 

                        Come here, brother, right over here -

                        Maybe I've got something for you after all.

 

[Heungbu follows him eagerly. Nolbu reaches behind the sacks and takes out an axe-handle. He wheels round and beats Heungbu with it mercilessly.]

 

HEUNGBU    Oh, brother, stop!

                        Don't beat me, brother, don't!

                        You're worse than a roaring dragon!

                        You're worse than a greedy carp!

                        Why do you treat me like this, why?

                        If you don't want to give, don't give -

                        But why do you beat me?

                        Oh, if our mother could see you now

                        What would she say?

                        Will you beat me to death, brother?

 

[Nolbu, exhausted with beating him, throws down the axe-handle and stands there, panting heavily, looking down at Heungbu, who lies on the ground, badly hurt.]

 

NOLBU          That's my answer. Now get out of here, you good-for-nothing.

 

[Nolbu goes into the house and slams the door behind him. Slowly Heungbu gets to his feet, rubs himself all over, examines his many wounds,]


SONHWA    

Now Heungbu's heart was so heavy within him, his only wish was to return home. But first he must say good-bye to his brother's wife. And who knows? Perhaps she, being a woman, would prove to have a softer heart than her husband.

 

[Light comes up on Taekwon in the kitchen, stirring a pot of rice with a large ladle. Heungbu approaches her, limping badly.]

 

HEUNGBU    [bowing deeply]

                        Most honoured sister-in-law!

                        My best wishes for your honourable health!

 

[Taekwon turns around from the stove, pretends to be astonished to see him there.]

 

TAEKWON   What, you? What do you want?

 

HEUNGBU    Only a handful of rice,

                        Dear sister-in-law,

                        Only one spoonful of rice

                        For my baby girl -

                        Joo-Eun, the silver pearl,

                        Beloved child of most unworthy parents.

 

[Overcome with desire, Heungbu approaches the rice pot. Taekwon hits him across the cheek with the ladle.]


TAEKWON   How dare you come in here! You want to rob us? Help, husband! Help! It's that brother of yours again!

[Heungbu rubbing his cheek finds a few grains of rice have stuck there. Unable to control his hunger, he swallows them.]

 

HEUNGBU    Ah, generous sister-in-law,

                        Hit me again, please -

                        Here, on the other cheek!

                        Let me have just a few more grains of rice

                        To take home with me...

 

TAEKWON   I'll let you have something, all right!

 

[She puts down the ladle and takes up the poker from the kitchen fire and hits him with that. Heungbu retreats under her blows. He collapses in a heap under the snowy pine tree.]

 

 

6.

 

[Night has fallen. Heungbu comes to himself again under the pine tree. A bright moon has risen. He sits up and looks around him.]

 

HEUNGBU    Now the bright moon shines on the world below

                        A Palace of Broad Cold everywhere glittering.

                        Snowy treasures, free for the taking

                        Property of everyone.

                       

                        How can my heart be sad

                        in such a place as this?

                        Surely the simple life is best.

 

                        Poor and foolish me!

                        May I live like a bird

                        Trusting all to heaven.

 

                        Good fortune and bad

                        Let them come as they will

                        Truly a man's path is not his own.

 

[Heungbu gets to hit feet, brushes the snow from his clothes, and begins the journey home, limping painfully.]

 

 

7.


SONGHWA  

Meanwhile, in the little hut, Bo Bae is waiting anxiously for her husband's return. As the thirsty earth waits for rain in a long drought, as the prisoner deep under ground waits for the day he will see the sun again, as the motherless child waits with a heart full of pain for the one who has gone away, so she waits for her beloved husband.

 

[Inside the hut. By the light of a single lamp, Bo Bae is working at a spinning wheel; her child lies in a heap of rags at her feet.]

 

BO BAE         [sings]

                        O, my jewel! O my pearl!

                        In heaven, on earth

                        The best little girl!

 

                        Tiny gem under my jacket

                        Like a green leaf my daughter came.

                        If I had gold, if I had silver

                        I'd give it all for this child of mine.

 

                        Round my heart the rain clouds gather

                        Spin by moonlight the moonlight silk.

                        Mama shall make you a moonlight jacket

                        Moonlight jacket white as milk.

 

                        You are a fairy bright as a moonbeam

                        You are a Princess come down from the sky.

                        If I had coral, pearls and amber

                        Still this child I never could buy.

 

[She pauses for a moment to listen for the sound of Heungbu returning, but hears nothing.]

 

BO BAE         [to herself]

So late! And still no sign of him. How can people say 'time flies'? Tonight it seems to stand still, just as if the cold had frozen it.

 

                        [Resumes her spinning and singing.]

 

                        Round my heart the darkness gathers

                        Snow is falling round the house.

                        Round and round the wheel is spinning -

                        Bring some rice for my little mouse!

 

[Again she leaves off spinning. This time she has heard someone at the door. It is Heungbu. She goes quietly to the door.]

 

BO BAE         [Speaking softly so as not to wake the baby.]

 

                        There you are at last, my husband!

                        Come in, come in, and show me what you've got.

 

                        [Heungbu staggers into the house and collapses onto the floor.]


BO BAE         I see the wine was good at your brother's house. A few fine toasts to brotherly love, that's all very well. But where is the rice for Joo Eun?

 

HEUNGBU    Listen, my dear little wife, it happened like this:

 

                        [He motions to her and she kneels down beside him to listen.]

 

                        When I got to my brother's house

                        The two of them, Nolbu and his dear wife

                        Came running out to greet me.

                        Laughing with joy, they brought me into their house.

                        'Brother, why don't we see you more often?' they cried.

                        They served up the best of the wine

                        And a huge lunch of steamed rice and juicy meat dumplings.

                        Then they gave me a heavy sack of rice

                        And another, just as heavy, of red beans.

                        'Take this home for your dear wife and little Joo Eun,' they said,

                        'And be sure to visit us again soon.'

                        They even offered me one of their servant boys

                        to carry the sacks. But I,

                        Shamed by their generous nature said,

                        'No, it is enough, Brother!'

                        I put the sacks on my back and started for home.

 

                        Only listen what happened next!

                        I was nearly home,

                        Just crossing that narrow pass where the kites nest -

                        There I met a robber

                        He knocked me down in the snow

                        and took all I had -

                        I've come home empty-handed.

                        Not my brother's fault!

                        All my fault -

                        Poor and foolish Heungbu.

 

                        [He covers his face with his hands.]

 

BO BAE         [speaking softly]

                        That's enough! I see how it is.

                        One heavy sack of rice

                        One big sack of red beans -

                        All lies!

                        Oh husband of mine, why do you lie to me like this?

                        Don't I know your brother Nolbu?

                        Don't I know his wife?

 

[Gently she pulls his hands away from his face - they are covered in blood.]

 

                        What's this? Blood on your hands?

                        Blood on your face?

 

                        [She examines him more closely.]

 

                        Cuts and bruises everywhere!

                        Don't tell me - there was never any robber.

                        Your own brother has done this to you.

                        Oh, my poor husband!

                        And it was I who made you go to him!

 

                        [She fetches a basin of water and gently washes his wounds.]

 

                        Oh, my husband, my heart!

                        You said that you hated to go

                        You said it was no use asking him

                        But I, foolish wife - I insisted!

                        You, kind and gentle, wouldn't say 'no' to me.

                        Now you're bruised all over like a rotten peach!

                        Poor dear husband!

                        How could your brother beat you like that

                        And send you away without even

                        a single grain of rice?

                        Wicked Nolbu! Wicked and cruel!

                        To treat a brother like that.

 

HEUNGBU    Bo Bae, my sweet little wife

                        You are better to me than any treasure.

                        Never mind my brother -

                        They say even a king in his castle

                        Can't feed all his hungry people.

                        How then should my brother

                        fare any better?

                        Let's not be afraid of our poverty -

                        There's no shame in a humble life.

                        We'll work harder than ever.

                        With so many chores in the village -

                        With ploughing and sowing

                        Spinning and weaving

                        Matting and thatching

                        Fetching and carrying

                        We'll manage somehow until spring.

                        If we skip a few meals, what does it matter?

                        We'll give what we have to Joo Eun

                        And our hearts will grow fat, watching her eat.

 

 

                        Good times, bad times - neither lasts forever.

                        Winter soon will pass and spring -

                        The lovely spring will come

                        Like an emerald wave rushing over the whole earth

                        Filling every corner with sparkling green.

                        Let's live in peace with our poverty -

                        Honesty and good faith are treasures too.

 

[Bo Bae helps him to the mat and they lie down together in one another's arms.]

 

 

8.

 

[The scene changes to early spring. Downstage right the blossoming plum tree. The sound of gentle birdsong is heard. Heungbu comes out of the house carrying a spade and a rough plank of wood. He fixes the plank to the outside wall of the house; it is a hand-lettered sign that reads: 'WELCOME SPRING'. Then he takes up the spade and begins to dig in the garden. Enter Sonhwa.]

 

SONHWA     Now the lovely Maid of Spring

                        comes stepping on her tiny feet

                        up to the poor man's gate.

                        Now peach and plum blossoms gather outside his door

                        Waving their silken sleeves in greeting.

 

                        The grass grows thick in the fields

                        The willows droop their feathered heads

                        over the misty stream.

 

                        Already the wild geese have flown

                        And out of the deep blue sky

                        The light-winged swallow comes

                        swooping and fluttering.

 

[As she speaks these words the silhouettes of wild geese are seen flying away over the mountains. We hear their parting cries. A swallow (puppet) comes swooping and twittering around Heungbu's house. Heungbu leaves off digging for a moment to regard the swallow.]

 

HEUNGBU    

Hey there, pretty fellow! Looking for a place to build your nest? I wouldn't stop here if I were you. This little house of mine's liable to tumble down with the first big rainfall!

 

[The swallow perches on the roof of the hut, and sings to him, a long trill.]

 

HEUNGBU   

Oh, so you like it here, do you? A quiet spot pleases you best, far from the dust of the busy world. It's true - we're at peace here, alone with the clear moon and bright sun. But listen to me, little one, though you're only a bird, surely you want the best for your children too. Fly down to the village yonder, and choose a rich man's house. Build your nest under the shadow of his sturdy wooden eaves, and raise your children there in safety.

 

[The bird shakes its head, utters a loud trill, then begins to build a nest under the eaves of Heungbu's hut. Bo Bae comes out of the house, carrying a basket of food and Joo Eun on her arm. She pauses to watch the swallow at work.]


BO BAE         

Look, Joo Eun! See the pretty bird! Aren't we the lucky ones, to have such a fine fellow for company. We must take care to put out a few crumbs for him every day. You'll see - soon he too will have hungry babies to feed. Pretty little babies - just like my Joo Eun!

 

[She carries the basket to Heungbu. They sit down together on the ground and she unpacks a very small lunch.]

 

BO BAE         [Offering the food to Heungbu]

 Eat, my husband, eat! How hungry you must be, working all morning long in the garden.

 

HEUNGBU   

And you, little wife? Aren't you hungry yourself? Working all morning with needle and thread? I'm afraid my little wife is too thin... [He takes her hand.] Look at these poor little hands - thin as grasshoppers!

 

BO BAE         [Laughing, pulls away her hand.]

No! How can you say such things? I'm fat as a duck, as you know very well! It's just that I don't need as much food as you. Besides, Joo Eun and I have already eaten.

 

                        [The swallow pauses on the roof for a moment to sing.]

Just look at him! He's so full of joy, he can't help singing. And I feel just the same! Just think, soon the whole garden will be bursting with fine fat vegetables!

 

HEUNGBU    Bursting?


BO BAE         Exploding! Cabbages as big as cartwheels! Peapods the size of pumpkins! Pumpkins the size of... Joo Eun!

 

[Heungbu has finished eating. He rises, sprinkles a few crumbs of food for the swallow, bowing comically to the bird as he does so.]

 

HEUNGBU    

Here you are, sir! Please help yourself, honoured guest! [to Bo Bae] I told him not to stop here, but he wouldn't listen. Well, we must do what we can for him! I'm off to see about those rice fields now. How happy I am today! It's true what they say: Neither good fortune nor bad lasts forever!

 

                        Gentle spring returns, filling all creatures with pure joy.

                        One single spirit sings from the heart of things

                        A thousand voices, one lovely song -

                        Welcome Spring!

 

[Heungbu shoulders his spade and goes off. Bo Bae gathers up the remains of the meal and goes into the house.]

 

 

9.

 

[A few weeks later. The same scene, by night. A full moon is shining in the sky. Enter Sonhwa.]

 

SONHWA     Soon the nest is filled with new life.

                        All day long the swallow and his mate

                        Hurry back and forth with food for their children.

                        By night they huddle in their home under the eaves

                        Warming the little ones with their feathers.

 

[As Sonhwa speaks the following, the Serpent enters and performs the actions as she relates them.]

 

                        Until the night the serpent comes

                        slithering into the garden.

                        The swallows in their nest

                        think themselves safe - but no!

                        Silently the footless beast glides on its belly

                        right up to the nest

                        Seizes them one by one in its mouth

                        and devours them.

                        Only one young swallow escaped.

                        It fell into the long grass -

                        The serpent didn't see it hiding there!

                        When it was gone, the swallow began to cry.

 

[The piteous cries of the swallow are heard as the day breaks. Bo Bae comes out of the house with a watering pot and begins to water the garden. She hears the cries, finds the swallow in the grass. She takes it up gently in her hands.]


 BO BAE         

Poor little thing! Did you fall out of the nest? How did it happen? Weren't mother and father watching over you? [She peeks into the nest.] All gone! All ruined! [The swallow continues to cry.] And your leg's broken as well. Heungbu, come quickly! Heungbu, something's happened to the swallow family!

 

                        [Heungbu comes out of the house, only half-dressed.]

HEUNGBU    What's all the fuss? [Looks at the crying bird.] What's wrong with the little fellow?


BO BAE         

I found him just over there in the grass. I think his leg is broken. And what's more - the nest is empty! The swallows are gone - every one!

 

HEUNGBU    Gone! [He examines the nest.] Look at that - it's been smashed. A serpent has done this thing.

 

                        No other creature

                        would attack these gentle harmless birds

                        No other creature

                        would gobble down these innocent young

                        Before they've even had time to learn to fly!

                        Look here, where he slid on his evil belly in the grass -

                        Vicious beast! Even its shape is evil!

                        Where is it? I'll make it pay for its crime!

 

[Heungbu seizes the garden spade and searches in the grass for the serpent.]

                        Beast! Cruel beast! Come out and let me smash your head for you!

 

[The swallow cries louder then ever. Bo Bae tries to soothe it.]


BO BAE         

There, there, don't cry - We'll be your parents now. [to Heungbu] It's too late. I'm sure the serpents' gone back to his lair. We'd better see what we can do about this little one.

 

                        [Heungbu puts down the spade and approaches her.]

HEUNGBU    

It seems you're right - there's no sign of the monster. [He takes the wounded swallow from Bo Bae.] Poor little fellow! His leg is broken. Bring me a bit of fine silk thread and I'll bind it up properly.

 

                        [Bo Bae goes into the house.]

 

HEUNGBU    [to the swallow]

                         Never mind, young sir - We'll look after you now!

 

                        When I remember how proud your father was of his family

                        It makes my heart ache.

                        How wrong to hurt the pretty swallow

                        Who does no harm to anyone

                        Who eats no grain nor seed of ours

                        Who flies in and out before the King of Heaven

                        cutting the sky with graceful, fluttering wings...

 

                        [Bo Bae returns.]

 BO BAE         I've brought a bit of red silk thread - I took it from my wedding dress.

 

HEUNGBU    Now you just hold him carefully while I tie his leg.

 

BO BAE         How he's trembling!


HEUNGBU    

Steady... There we are! That should hold till the leg has time to heal itself. [The swallow has stopped its crying. Now it utters a soft trill. Heungbu strokes its feathers.] There you are, young sir. That's better, isn't it? Now we need a nest for him. Line a basket with leaves still wet with morning dew - that will make a soft bed. We'll keep him inside till he's strong enough to fly.

 

[Bo Bae goes into the house, comes back with a small straw basket. She plucks a few broad leaves from the garden and arranges them into a nest. Heungbu places the wounded bird in the basket and together they go into the house.]

 

 

10.

 

[Now the tree is changed to the red maple. Enter Sonhwa.]

SONHWA     That swallow lived in Heungbu's house for a long time. Heungbu and Bo Bae caught many bugs in the garden, made sure their swallow had plenty to eat. Then one day the swallow's leg was healed.

 

[ The swallow puppet comes fluttering out of the house, swoops through the air, chirping loudly. Heungbu and Bo Bae, with Joo Eun in her arms, follow it out of the house, clapping their hands for joy.]

 

HEUNGBU    Bravo! Well done, young sir!

 

BO BAE         Look, Joo Eun - our swallow is well again! Bravo!


SONHWA     

Before the swallow left that place to go in search of his fellows, he paused to say something of great importance to Heungbu and his wife. But alas! Those two did not understand the swallow language, and so had no idea what he wished to say to them. They thought he was only singing a song of health and good fortune.

 

[Now the swallow perches on the roof of the house and sings a long, pretty series of chirps and trills, while Sonhwa interprets for us.]

 

SONHWA     This is what he said:

 

                        In days of old King Hungdok

                        Kept a pair of green parrots

                        Harmonious in a golden cage.

                        One parrot died and the other, broken-hearted

                        Cried all night for its vanished mate.

 

                        Cry, cry, oh bird!

                        Sleep to wake and cry!

 

                        Moved to compassion, the King

                        took pity on the bird,

                        Set a mirror in its cage

                        Hoping to deceive away sorrow.

                        Happy at first, it pecked at the glass

                        But in the end it cried again -

 

                        Cry, cry, oh bird!

                        Sleep to wake and cry!

 

                        In the days of old, Minister Chung

                        Saw a wounded pheasant in a well.

                        Struggling for life, she spread her wings

                        Dappling the water with her blood

                        She tried to shield her little ones.

 

                        Moved to compassion at the sight

                        The Minister refused to kill the bird.

                        A temple was built at the well

                        in memory of a pheasant's sorrow.

 

                        Cry, cry, oh bird!

                        Sleep to wake and cry!

 

                        In days of old a magpie

                        Brought news to a desperate prisoner.

                        In days of a old a sparrow's song

                        Set an innocent captive free.

 

                        Swallow though I be,

                        Can I forget your kindness?

                        Trifle though I be,

                        Can I forget your care?

 

                        Though today I leave you

                        Look for me when spring returns

                        Once more to the green mountains.

 

[With this the swallow flies off. Heungbu and Bo Bae watch the path of its flight.]

 

HEUNGBU & BO BAE [together]

 

                        Away on the autumn wind

                        I see the swallow passing

                        I see him passing, passing

                        Beyond the green mountains.

 

                        We shall live in winter cold

                        We shall live in the green mountains.

                        We shall eat wild grapes and berries

                        Here in the green mountains.

 

                        Cry, cry, oh bird!

                        Sleep to wake and cry!

                        With more cares than ever you had

                        I sleep to wake and cry!

 

 

11. At the Court of the Swallow King

 

[In this scene all the characters are swallows played by human actors. Let the costumes suggest in subtle manner that they are swallows and not men. They should wear head-dresses and masks that give a bird-like appearance. Their movements likewise should be quick and agile, like those of a swallow.

 

The Swallow King sits on a throne and wears a golden crown on his head. He is surrounded by his courtiers. A pair of young lady swallows are gently fanning him with enormous paper fans.

 

A young swallow child enters with a sign board and stands downstage centre. The sign board reads: 'THE COURT OF THE SWALLOW KING'. Swallow child exits. Enter a courtier with a message.]

 

COURTIER   [Bows low before the swallow King.]

                        Your Majesty!

                        A young swallow has just arrived

                        from beyond the green mountains.

                        He wishes to speak to you

                        on a matter of the greatest importance.

 

KING              Let him come in.

 

                        [Enter Swallow, limping.]

 

SWALLOW   [Bows low.] May Your Majesty live a thousand years!

 

KING             Why do you limp like that, young fellow?

                        Has something happened to your leg?

 

SWALLOW   Ah! Your Majesty has seen right to the heart of things.

                        That's just what I've come to see you about.

                        Listen, all of you! Just listen what's happened to me:

 

                        My parents raised me at the house of Heungbu -

                        A poor man, he lives far to the north

                        beyond the green mountains.

                        One night a serpent came and destroyed our home

                        Devouring father and mother, sisters and brothers.

                        I fell from the nest into the grass

                        The serpent didn't see me hiding there

                        But my leg was broken -

                        I was sure to die soon.

                        Then Heungbu and his wife took pity on me

                        They took me into their house

                        and nursed me back to health.

                        They cared for me as if I were their own child -

                        How can I ever repay such kindness?

 

                        His house is a grass hut full of holes

                        His baby girl has barely enough to eat

                        He and his wife will be hungry and cold

                        When the snow once more covers the green mountains.

                        Great King! Father of all the Swallow people -

                        Won't you do something to help his poverty?

                        And so repay, if just a little,

                        such kindness shown to a poor swallow.

 

KING              [nodding thoughtfully]

                        Hm, hmm! Yes, yes!

                        This Heungbu has a good and generous nature.

                        Clearly it is our duty to reward him.

                        How could we ever think to be ungrateful?

                        How neglect one who has shown such love

                        to a poor swallow child?

 

[He motions to his courtiers. They all put their heads together with the King and confer.]

 

KING              [Waving away his courtiers.]

 

                        We cannot give a life for a life

                        This lies beyond our power.

                        But take with you this pumpkin seed -

                        Let him plant it when spring returns

                        Once more to the green mountains.

 

                        [The Swallow, bowing low, takes the pumpkin seed.]

 

SWALLOW   I thank Your Majesty -

                           It shall be done.

 

 

12. The Flight of the Swallow

 

[Downstage right, the plum tree in bloom. Sonhwa will now relate the story of the swallow's journey. As she recites she dances round and round, opening and closing a fan, to illustrate the bird's actions.]

SONHWA     

When spring came again to the beautiful land, all the dear swallows flew off to visit new places. The young swallow would have to travel a long journey alone, to seek out the house of Heungbu. After bidding farewell to the King, he took up the pumpkin seed firmly in his beak and set off for the north country.

 

 

                        Right up into the blue sky

                        Beating small wings with all his might

                        Up into the air he flew with the pumpkin seed

                        Holding it tightly -

                        Careful not to let it drop!

                        Into the soft spring wind he flew

                        Away over the great wall Malli-jang-seong

                        That winds like a white snake along the green valley

                        Away over Striped Toad River

                        And far up to the top of Pheasant Mountain.

 

                        Here he stopped to rest

                        Looking down upon a busy town

                        Upon rows and rows of red-tiled rooftops

                        Winding in narrow lanes

                        Upon men and women, busy as ants,

                        Passing to and fro in the marketplace.

                        Some came to sell, and some to buy

                        So many people, like crawling ants

                        in the valley far below.

 

                        When the moon rose he soared

                        Once again into the wind

                        Carried on the fragrant breath of spring.

                        Under him dark valleys fast asleep

                        Above him steep rocky hillsides

                        Reaching almost to heaven.

                        He saw the moon, a single white blossom

                        at the bottom of Flower River

                        Suddenly break and scatter

                        Crushed by a dragon's curling tail.

 

                        Up, up he flew towards the green mountains

                        Peaks, like incense burners, veiled in blue mist,

                        Rising on every side.

                        Onward he flew, touching the edge of heaven

                        with weary wings, grazing the Milky Way.

                        Shall I visit Weaver Girl and Herd Boy? he thought,

                        Eager to see that famous pair

                        Who dwell among the stars.

                        But no, he must return to the house of Heungbu

                        Must find again that small hut

                        And the man who has been his saviour.

 

 

                        Now, in early morning mist,

                        He came to rest at True Light Temple

                        Perching on a great bell

                        He watches while a lone monk

                        Sweeps the dust from the temple path.

                        Behind him a five-colour sky

                        The sun rises over the mountains

                        Now every peak is pure white jade.

 

                        Up he flew again into the clear air

                        On and on he flew.

                        Now he has crossed the green mountains -

                        Not much further to go!

                        But which house is Heungbu's?

                        In all these flowering valleys

                        How to find one small grass hut?

                        Unsure of the way

                        He flutters from branch to branch

                        of a young plum tree.

                        It is here Bo Bae is walking

                        Come to pluck a branch of white blossoms

                        To welcome spring.

 

 

13.

 

[Outside Heungbu's house. Downstage right, the plum tree. Enter Bo Bae, a sprig of flowering plum in her hand. The swallow puppet is right behind her.]

 

BO BAE         Where are you now

                        You harsh and bitter Old Man Winter?

                        Where are you now

                        You nasty winds that bite?

                        Welcome back, gentle spring,

                        Lovely upon a thousand hills!

 

                        [The swallow comes to rest upon the roof of the hut.]

 

BO BAE         Hello there, pretty one!

                        Have you too come to welcome the spring?

 

                        [The swallow flies right up to her, fluttering wildly.]


BO BAE         What's all this? She looks closely at the swallow.] Why, it's you! Our own little swallow child - you've come back! Heungbu - come and see! Heungbu, look who's here - You won't believe it - Our swallow's come back, and he's got something in his beak!

 

[Heungbu comes out of the house. The swallow flies at him, drops the pumpkin seed at his feet, and chatters loudly. Heungbu picks up the seed.]


BO BAE         Just look at his leg - He's still wearing that bit of red thread we used to tie it up. I can't believe he's come back. So even a bird can have a thankful heart.


HEUNGBU    Why not? Are they not living creatures, as well as we? Hello, little fellow! Nice of you to remember us.

 

[The swallow, settled once again on the roof, chatters happily. Now he makes a circle overhead, and flies away.]


BO BAE         He's off! He'll be looking for a wife, now he's grown. What's that he was carrying in his beak? Let me see...

 

                        [Heungbu holds out his hand, the seed resting on his palm.]

 

HEUNGBU    I'm not sure what it is. What does it look like to you?

 

BO BAE         It's yellow like gold... Do you think it might be gold?


HEUNGBU    No, no - it can't be gold. A long time ago, when the world was young, a greedy old man stole all the gold and locked it away in a cave deep under the Diamond Mountains. Now there's no more gold left in the world.


BO BAE         Now I look at it again, it seems to me to be blue - clear blue as the sky. Maybe it's a piece of sky blue amber?


HEUNGBU    No, no - it can't be a piece of sky blue amber. A long time ago, when the world was young, the Dragon King took all the amber to make for himself a drinking goblet. He drinks from it every night in his palace under the waves. So there's no more amber left in the whole world.


BO BAE         But now that I look at it again, I think it must be red. Maybe it's a precious jewel?

 

HEUNGBU    Impossible. All the jewels are gone too.

 

BO BAE         Go on - what happened then?


HEUNGBU    A long time ago, when the world was young, Crystal Mountain caught fire.           All the jewels were melted but one, and an old monk took that one away. Out of that jewel he carved a flute for himself. When he played on that flute, the people's hearts all turned to stone for sorrow. So he threw that flute down a well that hasn't any bottom. There are no more jewels left in the world.

 

BO BAE         [Looks carefully at the seed, pokes it with her finger.]

 

                        Though it sparkles like a jewel

                        Though it turns five colours before my eyes

                        It has a shape like a seed.

                        Then surely it must be a seed?

 

HEUNGBU    Look! There's writing on it too!

 

BO BAE         What does it say?


HEUNGBU    [Reads.] 'Seed rewarding kindness.' So it is a seed! I'd say by the shape of it, it's a pumpkin seed. It must be some special kind of pumpkin that they grow down south. The little swallow's brought it all that long way, only to show his thankfulness. Well - a gift from a swallow's a rare thing. Who ever heard of it? I'd say it's as good as any gold or jewel or even your sky blue amber. I'll plant it in the sunniest part of the garden. We're sure to get some fine fat pumpkins out of it.

 

[Heungbu plants the seed and Bo Bae waters it. Together they go into the house.]

 

 

14.

 

[It is night in the garden. A full moon rises, and immediately the pumpkin begins to grow. First green tendrils appear, then three large white blossoms, and finally three enormous striped pumpkins - one yellow, one blue, and one red. While the pumpkins are growing, Sonhwa steps into the garden and speaks the following.]


SONHWA     Bo Bae looked after that pumpkin as if it were a child. She tended it with love, and how it grew!

 

                        First a green leaf, then another

                        Then three more.

                        Now three white blossoms

                        as big as temple bells.

                        At last three pumpkins appear on the vine:

                        One is yellow as gold

                        One is blue as sky blue amber

                        One is red as a precious jewel.


These are no ordinary pumpkins! On a fine fall day, Heungbu and Bo Bae decide to harvest them.

 

[Morning light. Downstage right the red-leafed maple tree. Heungbu and Bo Bae cut the pumpkins from the vine and carry them into the hut.]

 

 

15.

 

[Inside the hut. The three pumpkins sit in the centre of the room. They are enormous. Joo Eun is playing with them, tapping them with her little hand. Bo Bae enters and kneels to play with her.]


BO BAE         Oh, what pretty pumpkins! Look, Joo Eun, this blue one will make such a fine blue bowl. Do you know what we're going to put in it?

 

                        [sings]

 

                        Pumpkin soup! Pumpkin soup!

                        Lots of tasty pumpkin soup -

                        Hot and tasty pumpkin soup

                        Pumpkin soup for my little pearl...

 

                        [Enter Heungbu with a large two-handled saw.]

 

HEUNGBU    Have a look at this! Big enough to do the job, hm?

 

BO BAE         Where did you get it?


HEUNGBU    Borrowed it from Mr. Kim. I told him I needed it to cut down an old tree. So, are we ready?


BO BAE         [Jumps to her feet.] Ready! [She settles Joo Eun on a pile of rags in the corner.]

Sit tight, baby - don't move. Watch while we saw the pumpkins.

 

[Heungbu takes the yellow pumpkin and marks its middle with a knife. Then each takes hold of his end of the saw and they begin to cut. As they cut, they sing.]

 

HEUNGBU &  BO BAE

 

                        Song of the Pumpkin-Sawing

 

                        Back and forth!

                        Back and forth!

                        Little teeth cut fat pumpkin!

 

                        Swallow brought it

                        Heungbu planted it -

                        Little teeth cut fat pumpkin!

 

                        Don't worry poor man!

                        Don't worry poor child!

                        Little teeth cut fat pumpkin!

 

                        Bo Bae watered it

                        Joo Eun shall eat it -

                        Little teeth cut fat pumpkin!

 

[At this the pumpkin springs open, a cloud of bright gold dust bursts forth from it. Heungbu and Bo Bae tumble backwards. As the dust clears, the two halves of the pumpkin lie revealed, filled with glittering gold coins that spill out onto the floor. Slowly, Heungbu and Bo Bae get to their feet. Cautiously they approach the split pumpkin. Joo Eun runs up, delighted, and begins to play with the gold coins.]


BO BAE         [Slowly kneeling beside the child, she puts one arm around her, with her other hand she reaches out to touch the gold. She speaks softly, wonderingly.]

All this gold - for us? Now we can buy rice for my baby girl. No more hungry little stomach, ever again... Heungbu? Let's see what's in the other two.

 

                        [Again they begin to saw, this time the blue pumpkin.]

 

HEUNGBU &  BO BAE    

                         Back and forth!

                        Back and forth!

                        Little teeth cut fat pumpkin!

 

                        No more sorrow

                        No more care -

                        Little teeth cut fat pumpkin!

 

                        Back and forth!

                        Back and forth..!

 

[The blue pumpkin splits open in a cloud of blue dust. Out of it spring two small boys dressed in bright blue-striped clothes and carrying building tools.]

 

HEUNGBU    Oh, no! I knew it was too good to be true. Now we'll have two more hungry mouths to feed.

 

[The boys set to work and in no time at all they transform the hut into a beautiful, well-furnished house. Heungbu and Bo Bae look on in amazement, while Joo Eun claps her hands in delight. When the house is complete, the boys bow to the three of them and vanish in a cloud of blue dust. Heungbu and Bo Bae regard one another in silent wonder. Joo Eun climbs onto a pile of soft, bright silk cushions and curls up.]

 

HEUNGBU    There's still one pumpkin left...


BO BAE         I'm afraid even to touch it - It must be a dream. Surely all these things will vanish in a moment?


HEUNGBU    Come on, little wife - don't be so timid! Take your end of the saw and help me to cut.

 

                        [They begin to saw the red pumpkin.]

 

HEUNGBU &  BO BAE   

                        Back and forth!

                        Back and forth!

                        Little teeth cut red pumpkin!

 

                        No more leaky roof

                        No more freezing nights...

 

BO BAE         Wait!

 

HEUNGBU    What is it, then?

 

BO BAE         What if all this gold,

                        And what if this fine house

                        Don't belong to us?

                        What if the master comes soon

                        to throw us out?

                        We'll have nowhere to go -

                        We'll be out once more in the cold.

                        Oh husband! Where's the little house

                        We built with our own hands, in days of sorrow?

 

HEUNGBU    Hush, little wife - don't be so timid!

                        Truly all this is ours.

                         Remember the words on the seed?

                        'Rewarding kindness'.

                        The swallow was grateful -

                        We'll show ourselves grateful in turn

                        And share our good fortune

                        Not keep it all to ourselves.

                        Now, come on!

 

HEUNGBU &  BO BAE     [sawing]

 

                        Back and forth!

                        Back and forth!

                        Little teeth cut... !

 

[The red pumpkin bursts open in a cloud of red dust. Out of it step two lovely little girls - the Moon Maidens, elegantly dressed in red-striped robes and golden moon head-dresses. They are carrying golden plates piled high with food, which they place on the shining new table. Out of the pumpkin they take red lacquer bowls full of steaming rice, red glass goblets, flacons of wine, and ever more plates of food. When the table is fully laden they bow low to the family, and vanish in a red cloud. Bo Bae takes Joo Eun in her arms. Together the three of them approach the table.]

 

HEUNGBU    [Takes up a glass of wine in his hand and bows in the four directions.]

 

                        Thanks be to the spirit of gentleness

                        Who has had such pity on a poor man.

                        Though poor, we lived always in harmony.

                        In riches, may we grow richer in virtue.

 

                        I offer this cup at the Gate of Heaven

                        The more I gaze up at goodness

                        The higher it seems

                        Beyond the reach of my poor eyes.

 

                        A man with an ungrateful heart

                        Is worse than birds or beasts.

                        A man without love for his brother

                        Is like a stray goose, crying aloud.

 

 

                        Let me send for my brother Nolbu

                        And ask him to the feast.

                        Good fortune shared

                        Is good fortune doubled.

 

 

16.

 

[Lights are partially dimmed. Sonhwa appears beside the maple tree.]


SONHWA     When Nolbu heard of his brother's good fortune, he turned bright red with rage, and stamped his foot so hard he nearly broke it. Then he ran over to Heungbu's house as fast as his legs would carry him.

 

[Lights come up inside Heungbu's new house. Heungbu, Bo Bae and Joo Eun are now dressed in fine silk clothing. Nolbu stands outside, banging on the door.]


NOLBU          Hey, you - Heungbu! Lousy little brother of mine! Why do you keep me standing out here in the cold? Too fine to open up to your older brother?

 

[Bo Bae goes and opens the door, bows low. Nolbu steps inside, looks her up and down, looks all around at the house, trying to conceal his admiration. Then he looks again at Bo Bae.]

 

NOLBU          Look at you, all dolled up like a good-time girl ... very nice!

 

BO BAE         [bows again] I hope you have been well, brother-in-law.


NOLBU          And what if I've not been well? What if I've been at death's door? What difference would it make to you two selfish good-for-nothings?


HEUNGBU    [bows] Brother, how can you say such things? Welcome to our house. How are you? [He wipes away tears.]


NOLBU          What a face! What are you snivelling for? Has somebody died? Already you're boasting about your big house - eh?

 

BO BAE         Please, take a seat, brother.

 

[She places a silk cushion for him at the table. Reluctantly, Nolbu sits, then Heungbu and Bo Bae, with Joo Eun beside her, follow suit. Nolbu gets up, examines the cushion, takes out a pocket knife and slits it, shakes it so that feathers fly around the room, then sits down on it again. Bo Bae serves from various dishes; they begin to eat.]


NOLBU          [to Heungbu] Sooo... I guess you got a good drenching from the night dew. What a haul!

 

HEUNGBU    Night dew? What are you talking about?


NOLBU          How many guys did you rob to get your hands on all this? Waiting for them out there in the dark, you must've got soaked through with the night dew more than once! It's a wonder you didn't catch a cold and die.

 

HEUNGBU    Brother, how can you think that of me? I'm no thief! All this was a gift from the Swallow King of the South.

 

                        One young swallow made a nest

                        Just under the eaves of our house

                        Raised a family, wife and children there.

                        One night a wicked serpent ransacked the nest -

                        Only one poor swallow was left

                        and that one's leg was broken.

                        We took care of him

                        Tied up his leg with a bit of thread

                        Nursed him till he was strong enough to fly away.

                        In the spring he came back

                        Bringing a seed in his beak.

                        We planted it and soon we had three fat pumpkins.

                        Inside the pumpkins was all this treasure -

                        A magic seed has brought us this good fortune.


NOLBU          Sooo... a magic seed, you say? I'll have to get hold of one of those. Meanwhile, you'd better give me something to tide me over, if you know what's good for you.


HEUNGBU    Please, help yourself - take whatever you like! I only want to share my good fortune with you, brother.


NOLBU          [spitting out food] Pah! This rice is disgusting! [Picks up the bowl.] How much did you pay for this bowl? I don't like it - it's too small! [He throws in on the ground.] How much for this plate? I don't like it either - it's too big! [He throws a whole platter of food against the wall. Joo Eun begins to cry. Bo Bae gets to her feet.]


BO BAE         Brother, please don't smash the plates! They were gifts from the Moon Maidens! [She gathers up the fragments, crying.]

 

                        Why do have to spoil everything?

                        How can you throw precious rice at the wall?

                        When every night people sit down to empty bowls

                        in so many houses!

 

[She takes the crying Joo Eun in her arms. Nolbu gets up, overturns the table, and kicks out at various objects. His eyes light on a large chest.]

 

NOLBU          What's in that chest?

 

HEUNGBU    I've no idea. We haven't even opened it yet.

 

NOLBU          I'll take that. [He hoists it onto his back - it is very heavy.]

 

HEUNGBU    Wait, brother - let me help you...


NOLBU          Get away! I can carry it home myself.

 

 [He staggers towards the door.]

Did the Moon Maidens bring this chest too?

 

HEUNGBU    No, the Blue Amber Boys brought it.


NOLBU          Hm. 'Blue Amber Boys' - what's that? Who ever heard of it? I don't believe you! 'Blue Amber Boys' - what nonsense... [He goes out, grumbling to himself.]

 

 

17.

 

[At Nolbu's house. Nolbu and his wife sit disconsolately on the ground. Between them is the open chest, its contents strewn about the room: bolts of silk cloth and brocade, bags of money, a pile of jewels.]

 

 

TAEKWON   So that's all we get -

                        One tiny little chest

                        and practically empty!

                        Meanwhile that good-for-nothing brother of yours

                        Lives in a big house,

                        And that little yellow wife of his

                        Dresses up every day like a queen.

                        Husband, I feel sick!

                        I feel very faint, I think I might even die...

                        Just the thought of those two

                        Counting their money

                        Makes my heart burn so hot

                        I think it might kill me!

 

NOLBU          I know...

 

TAEKWON   You know, you know...! So what are you going to do about it?


NOLBU          What do you expect me to do? Go catch a swallow with a broken leg?


TAEKWON   Now, that's an idea... Why shouldn't the Swallow King reward us as well? Oh oh! I can hardly wait until spring! Then we're sure to get our hands on one of those dumb birds.

 

 

18.

SONHWA     

From that day on, Nolbu and his wife thought of nothing but the swallow that was to make them rich. All winter long they watched the sky, but not so much as a crow came to stay in their garden. At last it was spring time again, and the swallows came flocking back from the south land.

 

[The flowering plum tree is again in place. Nolbu comes out of the house, carrying a net. Several swallow puppets flutter onto the scene.]

SONHWA     

Nolbu ran after them - tried to catch one - but the swallows were afraid of him. They flew away when they saw him coming.

 

[Nolbu chases the swallows with his net, but is unable to catch one.]


NOLBU          Hey, come here you bastards! Hey, where do you think you're going? Stop! Come to my house - I'll give you a big reward! Hey! Hold on a minute!

 

                        [All the swallows fly away. Nolbu shakes his fist at them.]

 

NOLBU          Dumb birds! [He trudges back into the house.]

 

SONHWA     But it wasn't long before one poor swallow

                        One poor ill-fated swallow!

                        Came to Nolbu's house

                        and made his nest under the eaves.

                        Soon the mother swallow laid her eggs

                        Soon she was sitting on them.

                        Nolbu and his wife watched those eggs

                        with eyes like a pair of serpents

                        Waiting for them to hatch.

 

                        Soon they hatched

                        Soon the young birds grew strong and learned to fly

                        But still no serpent came to disturb the nest.

                        Nolbu and his wife grew tired of waiting

                        Day and night for a serpent that never appeared.

                        Taekwon lay down on the bed

                        and refused to get up till a serpent came.

                        So Nolbu thought he'd better go out

                        And look for one.

 

 

19.

 

[A nest full of swallows can be seen under the eaves of Nolbu's house; they are twittering happily. Nolbu comes out of the house carrying a long stick and a sack. He stops to look at the swallows, whom he regards with a calculating air.]


NOLBU          

Hello, dear swallows! [the swallows fall silent.] What's the matter? Don't you even say 'hello' to your friend Nolbu? [He smiles exaggeratedly.] Dear little swallows - very nice! I love you very much! [He turns away from the nest.] Dumb birds! Where on earth am I supposed to get a serpent anyway? Whoever heard of such a thing? 'Go get a serpent' she says to me - as if they were just lying around waiting for me to help myself.


[He begins to search along the wayside. A huge serpent comes gliding up to him.]


Ah! What a huge beast! What's it doing? Trying to eat me?


[He pokes it with the stick.]

 

                        Hey - you, you! Hey listen- here's the deal:

                        You come over to my house -

                        There's a whole nest full of swallows there.

                        I want you to knock them about a bit,

                        Eat one or two of them

                        Break a few bones -that sort of thing.

                        Then soon I'll be a millionaire

                        And you can have a big reward.

                        So, what do you say?

                        Let's go - huh?

 

                        [The serpent bites Nolbu on the toe.]

 

NOLBU          Augh! What are you doing?

                        Help ! Help! It bit me! The bastard bit me!

                        He bit me on the toe!

 

[He hops around in pain. The serpent slithers away. Nolbu sits down and examines his foot.]

Augh - that hurts pretty bad... I guess I was lucky this time. That serpent tried to kill me! No use asking him for help. I'll just have to become a serpent myself.

 

 

20.

 

[Night time. Nolbu and his wife come silently out of the house. She is carrying a lantern. They sneak up on the nest.]

 

NOLBU          Ssh! Don't make so much noise! Do you want to wake them up?

 

TAEKWON   I didn't say anything. It's you doing all the talking.


NOLBU          Your feet are too noisy. Here, hold that lantern up close to the nest. Closer!


TAEKWON   [Holds up the lantern.] You'll see - the light will wake them up for sure.

 

NOLBU          Ssh! Will you just hold that lantern and keep your mouth shut!

 

[He reaches into the nest, takes out a swallow, and deliberately breaks its leg, then returns it to the nest. The swallow begins to cry piteously.]


NOLBU          Help, help! A serpent! A huge, gigantic serpent!

 

[Pretends to search.]


Which way did he go? Poor little swallow! Sooo, a bad serpent came and broke your leg, huh? What bad luck!

 

[He takes the wounded swallow up in his hand. All the other swallows awaken and begin to cry.]

 

Look at this, wife - the poor little swallow's leg is broken. Maybe you've got a piece of thread?

 

TAEKWON   [Holds out a ball of thick twine.] Here you are!

 

NOLBU          What's that then?

 

TAEKWON   Fishing line! Much better than thread.

 

[She ties it around the swallow's leg, while it continues to cry.]

 

NOLBU          Tighter! Tie it really tight. Make sure it can't come off.


TAEKWON   Don't worry, I'm tying it plenty tight. This won't come off in a hurry.

 

                        [Nolbu puts the bird back into the nest.]


NOLBU          [to swallow] 

There you are - practically as good as new. Now don't forget who fixed your leg for you - huh? It's me, Nolbu. Remember that next time you see that King of yours.

 

[Nolbu and Taekwon go into the house. The swallow continues to cry softly. The moon rises, and lights up the garden. Enter Sonhwa. She stands in a ray of moonlight.]

 

SONHWA     Heartless Nolbu!

                        To break a poor swallow's leg like that!

                        All night long the little one cried!

                        All night long the cruel twine, so tightly bound,

                        cut into his flesh.

                        Barely, barely did he live until morning

                        Slowly, slowly he began to heal

                        But his poor leg was ruined forever.

 

 

21.

 

[Downstage right the red maple tree again. Bright morning light.]

 

SONHWA     When the night frost returns again to the garden

                        And red leaves shake in autumn wind

                        It's time for the swallows to leave for the south land.

                        But first the wounded bird

                        Has something to say to Nolbu.

 

[A group of swallows wheels overhead, chattering loudly. Nolbu comes out of the house, and looks up at them, a large grin on his face. Taekwon appears, peering over his shoulder.]

 

NOLBU          They're off!


TAEKWON   He's still got that piece of fishing line, all right. I tied it good and tight.

 

[The swallow alights on the roof of Nolbu's house and begins to chatter loudly.]


NOLBU          Hey, he's talking to us! I guess he's grateful for that good deed of mine.


SONHWA     Stupid Nolbu! Who would be grateful to have his leg broken? Here's what the swallow really said:

 

                        Nolbu, my enemy!

                        Wicked Nolbu!

                        I'll be back next year

                        To repay you for your cruelty!

                        No evil deed remains unpunished -

                        Take care - Nolbu!

 

                        And with that, away he flew on the wings of the wind.

 

                        [The swallow flies off.]

 

                        Cry, cry, oh bird!

                        Sleep to wake and cry!

                        With more cares than ever you'll know

                        I sleep to wake and cry.

 

 

22.

 

[At the court of the Swallow King, as in Scene 11. The Swallow King is once again seated on his throne, surrounded by courtiers and maid-servants. Two of his children, mere infant swallows, are seated nearby on the floor, playing a board game. Enter a Courtier.]


COURTIER   [bows low] 

Your Majesty! A young swallow has just arrived from beyond the green mountains. He's in great distress, and begs to speak to you urgently - most urgently!

 

KING              Let him come in.

 

[Enter the young swallow, crying piteously and limping very badly, dragging his hurt leg behind him. All stop what they are doing to stare at him, aghast. The children begin to cry in sympathy.]

 

KING              My child! Why do you weep so loudly?

                        Why do limp so badly?

 

SWALLOW   [bows deeply] Your Majesty!

                        Perhaps you remember Heungbu,

                        The good man who cared for a wounded swallow?

                        Last year you sent him a magic pumpkin seed

                        And now he's a very rich fellow.

                        His brother Nolbu heard about it

                        And wanted a magic seed of his own

                        So he got hold of me

                        And broke my leg on purpose

                        Then tied it so tight with this twine

                        I shall never walk upon that leg again.

                        Though he and his wife live in plenty

                        They want still more

                        Nor do they share so much

                        As a single grain of rice with anybody.

                        All they think about is more riches

                        And they don't care how they get it

                        Even to breaking my leg.

                        Great King, and loving Father to the Swallow people -

                        Won't you do something to avenge this wrong?

                        And repay him, if only a little, for his cruelty!

 

KING              [to the maid-servants]

Ladies! Do something about this poor fellow's wounds. Take that nasty twine off his leg! And somebody call the doctor - immediately!

 

[The maid-servants rush to help the swallow - lead him to a pile of soft cushions, where they untie the twine and massage his leg.]

 

KING              [to the swallow]

                         I know all about this Nolbu -

                        He's an unnatural monster

                        Who'd let his own brother starve

                        Though they grew from a single stem.

                        An evil man, whose face is set against heaven.

 

                        How can such deeds go unpunished?

                        How ignore one who has shown

                        Such cruelty to a poor swallow?

                        He too shall have a pumpkin seed

                        from the royal treasury.

                        Let him plant it when spring returns

                        Once more to the green mountains.

 

                        [All applaud.]

 

                        Now, won't someone fetch the doctor!

 

 

23.

 

[Nolbu's house. Downstage right, the flowering plum tree. Nolbu sits in the garden, sipping tea and eating cakes. Enter Sonhwa.]

 

SONHWA     Soon it was spring again.

                        The swallow set out for the green mountains

                        Holding that pumpkin seed tightly in his beak

                        Careful not to drop it

                        Up into the blue sky he flew

                        Beating small wings with all his might

                        Day and night he flew

                        Till he came to the house of Nolbu.

 

[Exit Sonhwa. The swallow flutters into view, holding the seed in its beak, and approaches Nolbu. Nolbu jumps to his feet, spilling his tea and cakes on the ground.]


NOLBU          Hey you, swallow! Where've you been all this time? I've been waiting for you, you lazy guy! Well, you're here now. Let's see what you've got. Give me that seed - give it here!

 

[He runs after the swallow, his hands outstretched greedily. The swallow flutters here and there, causing Nolbu to follow him. At last he drops the seed to the ground - Nolbu seizes it.]


NOLBU          Got it! Hey, wife! I've got the seed! Hey - wait till you see this! Now we'll be as rich as that stupid brother of mine! [He rushes into the house.]

 

[Sonhwa again steps forward.]

SONHWA     

Now Nolbu and his wife were two very ignorant people. They didn't even bother to look carefully at that seed. If they had, they would have seen the writing on it, for in tiny golden letters were the words, 'Seed Rewarding Cruelty'. But they never thought to look. They were in such a hurry to get rich, they planted that seed right away, that minute, and all summer long they tended it and watched it grow.

 Soon a huge vine grew out of the ground, and in no time at all there were three great fat pumpkins ready to be plucked - one yellow, one blue and one red. Nolbu and his wife brought the pumpkins into the house. They locked all the doors and windows and got ready to cut open the pumpkins. They waited till it was dark to be sure nobody would know what they were up to, for they didn't want to have to share any of that treasure with anybody at all..

 

 

24.

 

[Night. Downstage right the maple tree. Inside Nolbu's house - a single lamp burns on a stand. Nolbu and Taekwon are kneeling on the floor, surrounded by three enormous pumpkins.]

 

NOLBU          [Just finishing to sharpen a large saw.]

 

                        This fellow's teeth are sharp enough. Let's get going.

 

                        [He walks over to the yellow pumpkin, sets the saw in place.]

 

                        [to Taekwon] Take hold of the other end.

                        [Together they begin to saw.]

 

NOLBU          Not like that!

[He goes round to her side and hits her, straightens the saw.]

 

Like this, stupid!


TAEKWON   Who are you calling stupid? I'm the one who told you how to get that magic seed in the first place. You're too dumb to think of anything.

 

NOLBU          Shut up and do as I say. Now - saw!

 

[As they saw they sing together the following]

 

NOLBU & TAEKWON

                        Back and forth!

                        Back and forth!

                        Sharp teeth cut fat pumpkin!

 

                        Don't worry, rich man!

                        Don't worry, rich wife

                        Plenty of gold in the pumpkin!

 

[The pumpkin bursts open in a shower of golden sparks. Inside are piles of rubbish, now strewn all over the floor.]


NOLBU          

What the ...? Where's my gold? There's nothing here but a load of trash! Hey you, swallow - what's the big idea? Come back here and let me break your other leg for you!


TAEKWON   

Stop your shouting - he can't hear you. He's far away by now. Come and give me a hand with this blue pumpkin. May be this is the one with the treasure inside.

 

[They begin to saw open the blue pumpkin.]

 

NOLBU & TAEKWON  

                        Back and forth!

                        Back and forth!

                        Sharp teeth cut fat pumpkin!

 

                        No more rubbish

                        No more trash

                        Plenty of gold in the - !

 

[The pumpkin bursts open in a flash of blue light. Out of it spring two small boys dressed in bright blue-striped suits and brandishing large sticks. The boys run amok in the house, smashing everything in sight with the sticks. They even break down the walls of the house. When the destruction is complete, they bow to the audience, then vanish in a puff of blue smoke. Nolbu and Taekwon regard one another in dismay.]


TAEKWON   It's all your fault. Why did you have to copy that stupid brother of yours?


NOLBU          Hey, listen, wife - There's still one pumpkin left. That's sure to be the one with the treasure.

 

TAEKWON   I'm afraid even to touch it. Who knows what will happen next.

 

NOLBU          Come on - do as I say.

 

[They begin to saw open the red pumpkin.]

 

NOLBU & TAEKWON  

                        Back and forth!

                        Back and forth!

                        Sharp teeth cut fat pumpkin!

 

                        No more trouble

                        No more trash -

 

TAEKWON   Wait!

 

NOLBU          What is it then?

 

TAEKWON   Something bad is going to happen. I can feel it...

 

NOLBU          [Goes over and hits her.] Can you feel that? Now, do as I say.

 

NOLBU & TAEKWON  

                        Back and forth!

                        Back and forth!

                        Sharp teeth cut -!

 

[The pumpkin bursts open in a shower of red sparks. Out of it spring two hideous red goblins, brandishing enormous clubs. They beat Nolbu and his wife without mercy. The two of them cry out, but to no avail.]

 

NOLBU & TAEKWON  

Stop! No! No! Stop! Ow! Stop, please stop! No more! Ow! Oooow! (etc.)

 

[When the goblins have beaten them thoroughly, they bow to the audience, then vanish in a puff of red smoke.]

 

 

25. EPILOGUE

 

[Enter Sonhwa, alone on stage.]


SONHWA    

Now Nolbu and his wife had nowhere to go. Sorrowful and bewildered, they wandered arm in arm through the village. Though they were poor and hungry, no one took pity on them, no one offered them so much as a mouthful of rice. Though they were homeless and freezing to death, no one offered them a place to lay their heads, not even so much as a woodshed. They were reaping the rewards of their selfishness. 

But soon Heungbu heard about what had happened. Quickly he harnessed his best cart and came to the place where his brother stood, hanging his head in the rain.

 

                        'Oh, my poor brother!

                        How can you stand there -

                        Is not my house your house?

 

                        Was not my mother your mother?

                        Was not my father your father?

                        Come home with me now, brother

                        And sister-in-law too.'

 

                        So Heungbu brought his brother home,

                        And Bo Bae prepared a room for them

                        The best room in the house                       

                        And the two of them stayed there.

 

                        Heungbu served his brother Nolbu

                        with all his heart

                        And comforted him daily.

                        And Nolbu was ashamed

                        And learned to love his brother, Heungbu.

 

[Now Heungbu and Nolbu appear together centre stage, with them to left and right are Bo Bae with Joo Eun, and Taekwon. They all join hands and speak the following.]

 

HEUNGBU    When brothers are born

                        They are like two berries

                        Grown on a single stem.

                        They are like fingers

                        On a single hand.

                        Love your brother

                        As you love yourself.

 

NOLBU          To quarrel with a brother

                        Is nothing but foolishness.

                        You may buy fields and paddies

                        You may buy a good horse or a fine house -

                        But where can you buy

                        for yourself a brother?

 

BO BAE         Far better to live together in harmony!

                        Love your brother with all your heart

                        Share your coat with him

                        Share your last bowl of rice with him

                        Love him till his hair turns white

                        And you barely know one another's face.

 

TAEKWON   

                        Love between brothers

                        Has no inside and no outside.

                        Love your brother your whole life long!

                        Then you'll never be a stray goose

                        Old and wandering the earth alone.

 

[At this the first swallow puppet enters and flutters over them. It settles on Joo Eun's hand, and she holds it up for all to see. It sings a last, delicious trill.]

 

 

THE END