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The Millionaire Miser
A Buddhist Fable

Told by Aaron Shepard

Reader’s Theater Edition #15

Adapted for reader’s theater (or readers theatre) by the author, from his story printed in Cricket, Nov. 1995

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Story copyright © 1995 Aaron Shepard. Script copyright © 1997, 2002 Aaron Shepard. Scripts in this series are free and may be copied, shared, and performed for any noncommercial purpose, except they may not be posted online without permission.

PREVIEW: Sushil is so stingy, even a god takes notice.

GENRE: Fables, folktales
CULTURE: Buddhist, Asian Indian
THEME: Stinginess
READERS: 11 or more
READER AGES: 8 and up
LENGTH: 7 minutes

ROLES: Narrators 1–4, Sushil, Boy, Nirmala, Sakka, Man, Woman, Rajah, (Servant), (Other Townspeople), (Children)

NOTES: This tale comes from the Jataka, an ancient Buddhist collection of folktales, legends, and fables. Sakka, the King of Heaven, is a popular figure found in many of those tales. For best effect, place NARRATORS 1 and 2 at far left, and 3 and 4 at far right, as seen from the audience. To help SAKKA imitate SUSHIL, SUSHIL should use a distinctive funny voice. Sushil is pronounced “SOO-shil.” Nirmala is pronounced “NEER-ma-la.” Sakka is pronounced “SOK-a,” sounding like “sock a.”

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Book cover: Folktales on StageNARRATOR 1:  Sushil was a miser. Though his treasure house was full, he was too stingy to give away even the smallest coin.

NARRATOR 4:  And since food cost money, he ate almost nothing, and starved his family and servants besides.

NARRATOR 2:  One morning, as Sushil took his daily walk through town, he saw a boy eating a sweet rice dumpling.

BOY:  (makes loud sounds of enjoyment as he eats)

NARRATOR 3:  Sushil’s mouth watered as he made his way home. He said to himself,

SUSHIL:  If only I could ask my wife to make me a sweet dumpling. But if I wanted one, so would my wife. And if my wife wanted one, so would the children. And if the children wanted one, so would the servants. So I had better just keep quiet.

NARRATOR 1:  When Sushil arrived home, he said nothing about a dumpling. But he wanted one so badly, he felt weak. His legs shook, and he had to go to bed.

NARRATOR 4:  His wife, Nirmala, came to him. She asked,

NIRMALA:  What is wrong, my husband?

NARRATOR 2:  Sushil lay groaning and clenched his teeth.

NIRMALA:  Is there something you want?

NARRATOR 3:  Sushil’s face grew red, then purple. At last he squeaked,

SUSHIL:  I would like a sweet rice dumpling.

NIRMALA:  That is no problem. We are wealthy enough. Why, I will make sweet dumplings for the whole town!

SUSHIL:  (gasps)

NARRATOR 1:  Sushil gasped in horror.

SUSHIL:  You will make a pauper of me!

NIRMALA:  Well then, I will make dumplings for our family and servants.

SUSHIL:  Why would the servants need any?

NIRMALA:  Then I will make them for us and the children.

SUSHIL:  I am sure the children can do without.

NIRMALA:  Then I will make one for you and one for me.

SUSHIL:  Why would you want one?

NARRATOR 4:  Nirmala sighed and went out.

NARRATOR 2:  After a while, she returned with a single sweet dumpling.

NARRATOR 3:  Then she looked on as Sushil, moaning with delight, devoured every crumb.

SUSHIL:  (makes loud sounds of enjoyment as he eats)

* * *

NARRATOR 1:  Now, it happened that all this was seen by Sakka, the King of Heaven, who was sitting on his marble throne in his thousand-mile-high palace.

SAKKA:  (appalled, looking down to earth) Not in seventy-seven millennia have I ever seen such a miser! I will teach this fellow not to be so stingy.

NARRATOR 4:  So the god waited till the next day, when Sushil left on his morning walk. Then he made himself look just like Sushil and came down to earth.

NARRATOR 2:  Sakka walked into Sushil’s house as if he were Sushil himself.

NARRATOR 3:  In Sushil’s own voice he told a servant,

SAKKA:  (imitating Sushil) Run through the town and invite everyone you see. Today Sushil will share his wealth!

SERVANT:  (excitedly bows and runs off)

NARRATOR 1:  When Nirmala heard these words, she cried,

NIRMALA:  Husband, can this be true? Heaven be praised for your change of heart!

NARRATOR 4:  Then she helped him open the treasure house.

TOWNSPEOPLE (including WOMAN, MAN, BOY):  (enter)

NARRATOR 2:  Soon the people of the town arrived. The pretend Sushil told them,

SAKKA:  Take what you will! And if anyone who looks like me tries to stop you, drive away the scoundrel!

MAN:  Thanks to Lord Sushil!

WOMAN:  The most generous man alive!

NARRATOR 3:  They rushed into the treasure house and loaded themselves with gold, silver, diamonds, and pearls.

NARRATOR 1:  Just then, the real Sushil came home.

NARRATOR 4:  When he saw his treasure being carried out the gate, he screamed,

SUSHIL:  Robbers! Thieves! Put that back! How dare you!

NARRATOR 2:  But the townspeople said,

BOY:  This must be the one that Lord Sushil warned us about!

NARRATOR 3:  And they chased Sushil halfway across town.

WOMAN:  (chasing Sushil) Be off with you!

MAN:  (chasing Sushil) And don’t show your face again!

NARRATOR 1:  The crowd turned back. Sushil rushed on to the court of the Rajah.

SUSHIL:  (arriving out of breath, speaking frantically) Your Majesty, the people of the town are taking all I own!

RAJAH:  But your own servant invited them!

NARRATOR 4:  . . . said the Rajah.

RAJAH:  I heard him myself. Did you not give the order?

SUSHIL:  Never! If the order was given, I beg you to bring the one who gave it!

NARRATOR 2:  So the Rajah sent a messenger.

NARRATOR 3:  Soon came Sakka, still pretending to be Sushil, along with Nirmala and the children. The children stared wide-eyed at the two Sushils, and Nirmala nearly fainted.

SUSHIL:  Impostor!

SAKKA:  Deceiver!

RAJAH:  (bewildered, looking from one to the other) I cannot tell the difference between you!

NARRATOR 1:  . . . said the Rajah. He turned to Nirmala.

RAJAH:  Can you say which is the true Sushil?

NARRATOR 4:  Nirmala looked at both men.

NIRMALA:  Your Majesty, may I ask them a question?

RAJAH:  Certainly.

NARRATOR 2:  Nirmala turned to Sakka.

NIRMALA:  Is it better to be generous to yourself, to your family, to your servants, or to your neighbors?

SAKKA:  It is best to be generous to all! When you are generous, others also grow generous, and everyone is wealthier.

NARRATOR 3:  Then Nirmala turned to Sushil.

NIRMALA:  Is it better to be generous to yourself, to your family, to your servants, or to your neighbors?

SUSHIL:  To none! It is a waste of wealth that can never be regained!

NARRATOR 1:  Nirmala took a deep breath. She gathered the children, then drew close to Sakka.

NIRMALA:  This is the true Sushil, Your Majesty.

SUSHIL:  But, Nirmala! My wife! My children!

NARRATOR 4:  At that, the god stepped forward. With a blinding flash of light, he changed back to his own shape.

SAKKA:  Your Majesty, I am not Sushil but Sakka. I came down from Heaven to teach this man a lesson!

NARRATOR 2:  He turned to the trembling and downcast Sushil.

SAKKA:  Do you see? You are so stingy, even your wife and children deny you!

SUSHIL:  (moans)

SAKKA:  There is but one hope for you. Will you stop being such a miser?

SUSHIL:  (hesitantly) Well . . . maybe I could be a little more generous.

SAKKA:  (sternly) A little more?

SUSHIL:  Well . . . maybe a little more than a little more.

SAKKA:  You had better be a lot more generous. Or I’ll be back!

NARRATOR 3:  And with another flash of light, he vanished.

RAJAH:  (to Sushil) Well!

NARRATOR 1:  . . . said the Rajah to Sushil.

RAJAH:  It seems you indeed have been taught a good lesson!

SUSHIL:  I suppose so, Your Majesty.

NARRATOR 4:  He turned shyly to Nirmala and held out his hand.

SUSHIL:  (questioningly) Wife?

NARRATOR 2:  Nirmala took it.

NIRMALA:  (smiling at him) Husband! Oh, Sushil, let us celebrate! I have an idea. Let us make sweet rice dumplings for the entire town!

SUSHIL:  (gasps)

NARRATOR 3:  Sushil gasped in horror.

NARRATOR 1:  His legs shook.

NARRATOR 4:  He groaned and clenched his teeth.

NARRATOR 2:  His face grew red, then purple.

NARRATOR 3:  Then he squeaked,

SUSHIL:  All right!

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