*Storytellers 1, 2, and 3 (S1, S2, S3)
Rohit, Uma’s son
Bina, Uma’s daughter
*Mohan, Uma’s neighbor
Chandra, Uma’s friend
All Mice, to be read by a group
Kindness can have unexpected consequences.
Learning Objective: Students will compare and contrast two characters who differ in the way they treat others.
S1: Long ago, in India, there was a village of mice.
S2: The village was a lively place, with mice scurrying to school, to work, and to market.
S3: Our story begins on a sunny morning as Uma and her children come out of their burrow.
Uma: Don’t forget your lunches.
S1: Uma hands them each a tiny sack.
Rohit: Crickets, yum!
Bina: Thank you, Mummy!
S2: The children scamper down the road.
S3: Uma waves to her neighbor Mohan.
Uma: Good morning, Mohan.
Mohan (grumpy): What’s good about it?
Uma: We are healthy. We have food and shelter. Life is good.
S1: Suddenly, a great rumbling sound is heard.
S2: The ground beneath them starts to tremble.
All Mice (scattering): Earthquake! Take cover!
S3: Uma runs after her children.
Uma: Bina! Rohit!
S1: The rumble gets louder. Uma sees huge figures crashing through the bushes.
Uma: It’s not an earthquake! It’s elephants!
S2: As the elephants charge toward them, cracks appear in the ground. Mice fall in.
All Mice: Aaaaaaah! Help!
S3: Other mice get trampled as the elephants stomp through the village and disappear.
S1: Then all goes quiet.
S2: The next day, the mice gather in the marketplace.
Uma: Chandra, how is your foot?
Chandra: It’s just a sprain. I’ll be OK.
Mohan: How many mice did we lose yesterday?
Uma: At least 20. And many more were hurt.
Chandra: The elephants never bothered us before. Why now?
Mohan: Because they are horrible creatures.
S3: They hear rumbling again.
Mohan: The elephants are back!
Uma: I’m going to find out what’s going on.
Mohan: You better let me handle this.
S1: Uma and Mohan run toward the road as the elephants come from the other direction.
S2: Mohan shouts up to them.
Mohan: Hey! Hey, you!
S3: The elephants don’t hear and keep going.
S1: Uma climbs onto the roof of a hut. She rolls up a large leaf to use as a megaphone.
Uma (shouting): Excuse me! EXCUSE ME!
S2: A small elephant stops.
Uma: Why are you coming through here?
Kumar: Our water hole dried up. Now we must drink from the lake nearby.
Mohan (shouting): You wrecked our homes!
Uma: Many mice were killed.
Kumar: Whoops. We didn’t see you.
Mohan: Whoops? That’s all you have to say?
Kumar: We didn’t mean to hurt anyone.
Uma: Perhaps you could go around our village instead of through it.
Kumar: I’m sorry, but do you think thirsty elephants are going to take the long way? Besides, they won’t listen to a puny elephant like me.
S3: Kumar trots off.
S1: Weeks later, the mice call a meeting to talk.
Mohan: The elephants continue to destroy our village.
Chandra: More mice get hurt every time they come through.
Bina: I’m scared! It’s not safe here anymore!
Rohit: What are we going to do?
Mohan: Let’s get revenge. We’ll go to their kingdom and chew up all their pillows.
Uma: That doesn’t solve anything. Though you’ve given me an idea.
Uma: I will reason with the elephant king.
Mohan: Asking nicely won’t get you anywhere. Elephants only listen to force.
Uma: I think kindness will get you a lot further than force.
Mohan: We’ll see. I’m coming with you.
Uma (sighing): If you insist.
Bina: Be careful, Mummy!
Rohit: Come back soon!
Uma: I will, my dears. Don’t worry.
S2: Uma and Mohan are in the forest.
Mohan: I can’t believe you tricked that snake that almost ate us.
Uma: Everyone likes to show what they’re good at. I simply asked if he could tie himself into a really tight knot.
Mohan: Then he got stuck and we escaped!
S3: They emerge from the forest to see a majestic city.
S1: In the distance is an ornate building with a large dome.
Uma: That must be the palace!
S2: They run toward it and slip in through the space under the doors.
S3: They are awed by the colorful tile floors and painted columns.
S1: Suddenly, huge shadows fall over them.
Mitali: What’s this? Mice in our palace?
Kumar (whispering): Maybe they’re spies.
Mitali: Oh, Kumar, my son, if only your body were as big as your imagination.
S2: Mitali scoops the mice up with his trunk.
Mohan: We demand to speak with your king.
Mitali: King Rama doesn’t waste his time with vermin like you.
Kumar: Wait, you’re the mice from the village.
Uma: Please take us to your king. It is a matter of life and death.
S3: King Rama sits on a plush velvet throne.
Mitali (suspiciously): Your Majesty, these mice say they have a terrible problem. They claim only you can help.
Rama: Me? Help mice?
Mohan: It’s the least you could do since you elephants ruined our lives.
Mitali: Watch yourself. I could crush you with my toenail.
Rama: What is the problem?
Uma: When elephants come through our village on their way to the lake, our homes are destroyed and mice are killed.
Rama: We need water. What else can we do?
Uma: We simply ask that the elephants take a different route to the lake.
Mitali: That would add miles to our journey.
Uma: I don’t think you realize what an impact your actions are having on our lives. Put yourself in our tiny feet.
Kumar: What do you mean?
Uma: Picture an animal thousands of times larger than an elephant.
Kumar: That would be quite a huge animal.
Uma: Now imagine a herd of them comes crashing through your kingdom. Your friends and neighbors are crushed at random.
Rama: That is not a pleasant thought.
Uma: Yet it happens to us again and again.
S1: The king ponders this.
Uma: My mother always told me that the best quality a leader can have is compassion.
S2: The king smiles at Uma.
Rama: I will order the elephants to take a different route.
Uma: Thank you! I hope we can repay your kindness and help you someday.
Rama (chuckling): Mice helping elephants. That’s a good joke.
S3: Many months later, the mice are living happily in their rebuilt village.
S1: The elephants take a different route to the water hole.
S2: Everything is peaceful, until . . .
S3: One day, King Rama and a group of elephants are walking through the forest.
S1: Rama steps in a trap, and a heavy rope cinches his leg.
S2: He tries to pull his leg free.
Rama: I’m tied to a tree!
S3: His guards carefully walk forward, but there are traps everywhere.
S1: Soon, all the elephants are tied to trees.
Mitali: Whenever I tug, the rope gets tighter!
S2: Kumar catches up and is shocked to see all the other elephants bound by thick ropes.
Kumar: Dad! King Rama! What happened?
Mitali: What does it look like? These are hunters’ traps.
Rama: Imagine me, a king, trapped!
Mitali: Our freedom gone forever.
Rama: Kumar, you must get us out of here before the hunters return!
S3: Kumar looks around, searching for a way to help.
Mitali: Don’t just stand there. Do something!
S1: Suddenly, Kumar takes off running.
Mitali: Kumar! Don’t leave us! Come back!
S2: Kumar runs to the mouse village. When he gets near, he slows down to a walk so he doesn’t rumble the ground.
S3: Uma and Mohan see him.
Kumar (breathless): King Rama and others are trapped by hunters’ ropes.
Mohan: So? I haven’t forgotten all the trouble you elephants caused us.
Uma: And I haven’t forgotten how your king helped save so many of our lives.
Kumar: Can you help us?
Uma: Most definitely.
S1: Uma whistles and all the mice come running.
Uma: The elephants need our help!
S2: Kumar bends down to his knees.
Kumar: Everyone climb on.
S3: The mice scamper onto his back.
Mohan (annoyed): Uma, why are you always so nice?
Uma: Just like the sun melts ice, kindness makes bad feelings soften and slip away.
Mohan: I’ll have to try it sometime.
S1: Kumar sprints through the forest with the mice clinging to his back.
Mohan: I think I might be sick!
S2: Kumar skids to a stop when he sees the trapped elephants.
Mitali: Kumar! I thought you’d run away.
Kumar: Never. I went to get friends.
Uma: Mice, slide down and start chewing!
S3: The mice gnaw at the ropes like they haven’t eaten in months.
Mitali: I’m sorry I doubted you, Kumar. Your body might be small, but your brain and your heart are giant.
Kumar: Thank you, Father.
S1: Soon, all the elephants are free.
Rama: Thank you, dear mice. Thank you!
Mohan: Turns out we’re not so useless after all.
Uma: That’s Mohan’s way of saying, “You’re welcome, King Rama.”
Mohan: I’m still learning about this whole kindness thing.
Rama: Me too, little mouse. Let today remind us to always choose kindness. For your compassion may be rewarded in unexpected ways.
This play was originally published in the March/April 2020 issue.
The story of the elephants and the mice dates all the way back to around 200 B.C. and is part of an ancient Indian collection of fables called the Panchatantra. But civilization in India began thousands of years before that! Explore life in Ancient India and the Indus Valley civilization with these interactive pages from DK Find Out and BBC.
Have your students read the Storyworks version Aesop’s fable "The Lion and the Mouse" and compare and contrast it with the play they just read. One moral of the fable is “a kindness is never wasted.” Challenge your students to connect that line to the play and their own lives.
More About the Story
Compare and contrast, vocabulary, fluency, character, key idea, inference, key details, how a character changes, theme, explanatory writing
Levels of Meaning
Based on an ancient fable, this play shows that acts of kindness can sometimes be repaid in unexpected ways.
The play is chronological and has eight scenes.
The play includes some challenging words (e.g. megaphone, emerge, ornate, compassion), as well as similes, rhetorical questions, and other figures of speech.
No special knowledge is required.
1. Preparing to Read
Preview Text Features and Vocabulary (20 minutes)
2. Reading the Play
Assign parts and read the play aloud as a class. After reading, discuss the close-reading and critical-thinking questions.
Close-Reading Questions (20 minutes)
3. Skill Building
Featured Skill: Compare and Contrast
Divide students into pairs. Ask one member of each pair to write a list of words describing Uma, and the other to write a list of words describing Mohan. For each word, they should include a piece of text evidence from the play. Then have them read their lists out loud to one another.
Invite students to read the September 2015 play, The Lion and the Mouse. Then have them write a short essay comparing and contrasting the two versions of the fable.
Read the play together as a group, pausing after each scene to summarize what happened. Then go through the play’s illustrations and prompt students to describe the action in each one. Have them draw two new illustrations for the play, including a oneline caption for each.
Have students go online to look up another culture’s version of this fable (besides “The Lion and the Mouse”). They can then write their own one-page play based on that version, using The Elephants and the Mice as a model.