The Great Kapok Tree

By Lynne Cherry


Parts (14):  Narrator,  The Man,  Monkey,  Boa,  2 Butterflies,  Toucan,  Frog,  Jaguar,
             2 Porcupines,   Anteater,  Sloth,  Boy
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Narrator:  One man was walking into the rain forest.  Moments before, the forest had been alive 
           with the sounds of squawking birds and howling monkeys.  Now all was quiet as the
           creatures watched the man and wondered why he had come.  The man stopped and pointed 
           to a great Kapok tree.  Then he took the ax he carried and struck the trunk of the tree.

The man:   Whack!  Whack!  Whack! 

Narrator:  The sounds of the blows rang through the forest.  The wood of the tree was very hard.   

The man:   Chop!  Chop!  Chop!  

Narrator:  The man wiped off the sweat that ran down his face and neck.

The man:   Whack!  Chop!  Whack!  Chop!

Narrator:  Soon the man grew tired.  He sat down to rest at the foot of the great Kapok tree.
           Before he knew it, the heat and hum of the forest had lulled him to sleep.  A boa 
           constrictor lived in the Kapok tree.  He slithered down its trunk to where the man
           was sleeping.  He looked at the gash the ax had made in the tree.  Then the huge 
           snake slid very close to the man and hissed in his ear.

Boa:       Senor, this tree is a tree of miracles.  It is my home, where generations of 
           my ancestors have lived.  Do not chop it down.

Narrator:  A butterfly flew near the sleeping manšs ear

Butterflies:  Senor, our home is in this Kapok tree, and we fly from tree to tree and
              flower to flower collecting pollen. In this way we  pollinate the trees and
              flowers throughout the rain forest.  You see, all living things depend on one
              another.

Narrator:  A troupe of monkeys scampered down from the canopy of the Kapok tree.  They 
           chattered to the sleeping man.

Monkey:    Senor, we have seen the ways of man.  You chop down one tree, then come back for
           another and another.  The roots of these great trees will wither and die, and there 
           will be nothing left to hold the earth in place.  When the heavy rains come, the soil
           will be washed away and the forest will become a desert.

Narrator:  A toucan flew down from the canopy.

Toucan:    Senor!  You must not cut down this tree.  We have flown over the rain forest and
           seen what happens once you begin to chop down the trees.  Many people settle on the 
           land.  They set fire to clear the underbrush, and soon the forest disappears.  Where 
           once there was life and beauty only black and smoldering ruins remain.

Narrator:  Some bright and small tree frogs crawled along the edge of a leaf.  In squeaky
           voices they piped in the man's ear.

Frog:      Senor, a ruined rain forest means ruined lives . . .many ruined lives.  You 
           will leave many of us homeless if you chop down this great Kapok tree.

Narrator:  A jaguar had been sleeping along a branch in the middle of the tree.  Because his
           spotted coat blended into the dappled light and shadows of the understory, no one
           had noticed him.  Now he leapt down and padded silently over to the sleeping man.
           He growled in his ear.

Jaguar:   Senor, the Kapok tree is home to many birds and animals.  If you cut it down, 
          where will I find my dinner?

Narrator:  Two tree porcupines swung down from branch to branch and whispered to the man.

Porcupines:  Senor, do you know what we animals and humans need in order to live? Oxygen.
             And, Senor, do you know what trees produce?  Oxygen!  If you cut down the
             forests you will destroy that which gives us all life.

Narrator:  An anteater climbed down the Kapok tree with her baby clinging to her back.  The
           unstriped anteater said to the sleeping man.

Anteater:  Senor, you are chopping down this tree with no thought for the future.  And
           surely you know that what happens tomorrow depends upon what you do today.  The
           big man tells you to chop down a beautiful tree.  He does not think of his own
           children, who tomorrow must live in a world without trees.

Narrator:  A three-toed sloth had begun climbing down from the canopy when the men first 
           appeared.  Only now did she reach the ground.  Plodding ever so slowly over to
           the sleeping man, she spoke in her deep and lazy voice.

Sloth:     Senor, how much is beauty worth?  Can you live without it?  If you destroy the
           beauty of the rain forest, on what would you feast your eyes?

Narrator:  A child from the Yanomamo tribe who lived in the rain forest knelt over the 
           sleeping man.  He murmured in his ear.

Boy:       Senor, when you awake, please look upon us all with new eyes.

Narrator:  The man awoke with a start.  Before him stood the rain forest child, and all 
           around him, staring, were the creatures  who depended upon the great Kapok tree.
           What wondrous and rare animals they were!  The man looked about and saw the sun
           jewels amidst the dark green forest.  Strange and beautiful plants seemed to 
           dangle in the air, suspended from the great Kapok tree. The man smelled the
           fragrant perfume of their flowers.  He felt the steamy mist rising from the 
           forest floor. But he heard no sound, for the creatures were strangely silent. 
           The man stood and picked up his ax. He swung back his arm as though to strike
           the tree.  Suddenly he stopped.  He turned and looked at the animals and the 
           child.  He hesitated.  Then he dropped the ax and walked out of the rain forest.