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Mop Top
A Tale of Norway

Told by Aaron Shepard

Reader’s Theater Edition #28

Adapted for reader’s theater (or readers theatre) by the author

For more reader’s theater, visit Aaron Shepard’s RT Page at

Story copyright © 1997 Aaron Shepard. Script copyright © 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: A wild princess must get back her sister’s head from a gang of troll girls.

GENRE: Folktales, tall tales
CULTURE: Norwegian
THEME: Heroines
READERS: 16 or more
LENGTH: 10 minutes

ROLES: Narrators 1–4, Mop Top (female), Fair Hair (female), Queen, King, Gardener’s Wife, Goat, Calf, Troll Girls (4 or more, including Troll Girl 1), Prime Minister (male)

NOTES: This tale, collected in the mid-1800s by the great Norwegian folklorist Jörgen Moe, is often found in folktale books as “Mop Head” or “Tatterhood.” It may well have helped inspire the creation of Pippi Longstocking. For best effect, place NARRATORS 1 and 2 at far left, and 3 and 4 at far right, as seen from the audience. TROLL GIRLS should make up their troll words, probably ahead of time. Their shouting and screeching should NOT be in unison.

Aaron’s Extras
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Book cover: Folktales on StageNARRATOR 1:  Once there was a King and Queen who were never happy,

NARRATOR 4:  because they had no children.

NARRATOR 2:  Every day, the Queen would sit and sigh,

QUEEN:  (sighs heavily)

NARRATOR 2:  until the King would ask,

KING:  What is wrong, my dear?

QUEEN:  Oh, you know. (sighs heavily) If only we had children. I could hug them when they were good, and scold them when they were bad. What fun it would be!

NARRATOR 3:  Then the King too would sigh,

KING:  (sighs heavily, then nods sadly)

NARRATOR 3:  and agree with the Queen.

NARRATOR 1:  One day, the Queen was sitting and sighing in the garden,

QUEEN:  (sighs heavily)

NARRATOR 1:  when the gardener’s wife came by.

GARDENER’S WIFE:  What is wrong, Your Majesty?

QUEEN:  Oh, you know. (sighs heavily)

GARDENER’S WIFE:  Well, perhaps I have something that can help.

NARRATOR 4:  From her apron pocket she took a pouch, and from the pouch she took a seed. She placed it in the Queen’s palm. It was shaped like a baby, curled in sleep.

GARDENER’S WIFE:  Plant this seed tonight, when the full moon is at its highest. Water it with your right hand. But don’t water it with your left, or you’ll be sorry!

NARRATOR 2:  That night, when the full moon was at its highest, the Queen crept out to the garden and planted the seed. She scooped up some water with her right hand and poured it over.

NARRATOR 3:  But she forgot what the gardener’s wife said, and she watered it with her left hand too.

NARRATOR 1:  Early next morning, the Queen ran back to the spot.

QUEEN:  (gasps)

NARRATOR 4:  There, in place of the seed, she found a tall tree with two long branches. On each branch was a single blossom.

NARRATOR 2:  The blossom on the right was golden yellow, and very lovely.

NARRATOR 3:  The blossom on the left was flaming red, and very strange.

NARRATOR 1:  As the Queen watched, the petals fell from the yellow blossom, and the fruit began to grow. It grew into a lovely little girl with a princess’s gown and shining golden hair.

NARRATOR 4:  The child cried,

FAIR HAIR:  Pick me, Mama, I’m ripe!

NARRATOR 2:  The Queen rushed to pick the child from the tree.

QUEEN:  (in surprised delight) Am I your Mama? (beaming) How wonderful! I shall call you Fair Hair.

NARRATOR 3:  Just then, the red petals fell, and another child began to grow. But this one was a dirty mess!

NARRATOR 1:  She had tangled red hair that stuck out all over. Her clothes were rags, she carried a wooden ladle, and she sat on a baby billy goat.

GOAT:  (bleats)

NARRATOR 4:  The child called,

MOP TOP:  Pick me, Mama, I’m ripe!

NARRATOR 2:  The Queen rushed to pick her.

QUEEN:  (doubtfully) Am I your Mama? (making a sour face) How terrible! I shall call you Mop Top.

MOP TOP:  Mop Top! Mop Top!

NARRATOR 3:  With her wooden ladle, she bopped her billy goat’s bottom,


GOAT:  (bleats)

NARRATOR 3:  and the billy goat galloped round and round the tree.

NARRATOR 1:  So now the Queen had the children she wished for.

NARRATOR 4:  Fair Hair was as good as gold, so the Queen could hug her as much as she liked.

NARRATOR 2:  And Mop Top was always into mischief, so the Queen could scold her as much as she liked.

NARRATOR 3:  As for the two sisters, they loved each other dearly and were never apart.

NARRATOR 1:  One day, the girls were picnicking in a cow pasture.

CALF:  Moo.

NARRATOR 4:  Suddenly, from the nearby woods came a terrible ruckus.

TROLL GIRLS:  (shout and screech troll words)

FAIR HAIR:  (in alarm, not yet seeing the girls) What’s that?

MOP TOP:  (yelling) Troll girls!

TROLL GIRLS:  (shout and screech troll words)

NARRATOR 2:  Just then, dozens of troll girls burst from the woods, shouting and screeching ugly troll words.

NARRATOR 3:  They had long tails

NARRATOR 1:  and longer noses.

NARRATOR 4:  They grabbed the picnic food and played catch with it.

TROLL GIRLS:  (shout and screech troll words)

MOP TOP:  (to Fair Hair) Keep your head down! I’ll take care of this!

NARRATOR 2:  Mop Top bopped her billy goat’s bottom,


GOAT:  (bleats)

NARRATOR 2:  and raced right among the troll girls.

NARRATOR 3:  Then she bopped those troll girls’ bottoms.


TROLL GIRLS:  (shout and screech troll words)

NARRATOR 1:  One after another, those troll girls went leaping and crying back into the woods.

TROLL GIRLS:  (shout and screech troll words)

NARRATOR 4:  Meanwhile, Fair Hair just had to peek. She lifted her head the tiniest bit.

NARRATOR 2:  Whisk! A troll girl took Fair Hair’s head right off!

TROLL GIRL 1:  (shout and screech troll words)

NARRATOR 3:  Then the troll girl whisked the head off a calf, put it on Fair Hair, and ran away with Fair Hair’s head.

TROLL GIRL 1:  (shout and screech troll words)

FAIR HAIR:  (in distress) Moo! Moo!

NARRATOR 1:  When Mop Top had chased off the troll girls, she came back to her sister.

MOP TOP:  (seeing the calf’s head on her) Oh, no! This won’t do! A princess can’t lose her head!

NARRATOR 4:  So, Mop Top asked the King to prepare a ship. When it was ready, she led her sister on board.

NARRATOR 2:  The King called to Mop Top as she galloped round and round the deck.

KING:  Don’t you want any sailors?

MOP TOP:  (yelling) We don’t need them!

GOAT:  (bleats)

NARRATOR 3:  Then she pulled up the anchor and set sail.

NARRATOR 1:  They sailed for a long time, till they reached the land of the trolls. Mop Top told Fair Hair as they docked,

MOP TOP:  Stay here!

NARRATOR 4:  Then she went ashore and galloped up the road, all the way to the troll castle.

NARRATOR 2:  There on a window sill was her sister’s head!

NARRATOR 3:  Mop Top bopped her billy goat’s bottom.


GOAT:  (bleats)

NARRATOR 1:  The goat raced past the window, and Mop Top grabbed the head. Then she galloped back down the road.

TROLL GIRLS:  (shout and screech troll words)

NARRATOR 4:  The troll girls came leaping and bounding from the castle, screaming and shrieking nasty troll words.

TROLL GIRLS:  (shout and screech troll words)

NARRATOR 2:  They chased Mop Top till they caught up.

NARRATOR 3:  A troll girl reached for the head.

MOP TOP:  (yelling) No, you don’t!

NARRATOR 1:  She swung her wooden ladle.


NARRATOR 4:  That troll girl’s head flew right off her shoulders, and the troll girl had to run after it.

TROLL GIRLS:  (shout and screech troll words)

NARRATOR 2:  Mop Top kept swinging.


NARRATOR 3:  Oh, those troll heads did roll!

NARRATOR 1:  All the troll girls had to chase their heads and leave Mop Top alone.

NARRATOR 4:  By the time the troll girls had their heads on straight, Mop Top had reached the ship and set sail.

NARRATOR 2:  Then Mop Top took the calf’s head off her sister and gave her back her own head.

FAIR HAIR:  You’re wonderful!

MOP TOP:  You’re right!

NARRATOR 3:  And the calf’s head said,

CALF:  (mournfully) Moo!

NARRATOR 1:  Mop Top and Fair Hair sailed home.

NARRATOR 4:  The King and Queen were overjoyed.

NARRATOR 2:  The Queen gave Mop Top a big hug.

NARRATOR 3:  Mop Top gave the calf back its head.

CALF:  (joyfully) Moo.

NARRATOR 1:  But the very next day, Mop Top said to Fair Hair,

MOP TOP:  Let’s go!

NARRATOR 4:  So they climbed back on board, and sailed off for adventure.

NARRATOR 2:  At last, they came to a far country.

NARRATOR 3:  The people there were looking for a new King or Queen, because the old King had just died. So the Prime Minister himself came down to meet the ship.

NARRATOR 1:  When the Prime Minister saw Mop Top galloping round the deck, he glared.

GOAT:  (bleats)

NARRATOR 4:  But when he saw the lovely Fair Hair, he stared!

PRIME MINISTER:  Princess, be our Queen!

FAIR HAIR:  Oh, no! My sister is brave and noble. She should be the Queen.

PRIME MINISTER:  (in horror) Oh, no! She can’t be the Queen!

MOP TOP:  (yelling) Why not?

PRIME MINISTER:  (blustering) Well, a Queen can’t ride an old billy goat!

MOP TOP:  You call this an old billy goat? Look again!

NARRATOR 2:  The Prime Minister looked again.

PRIME MINISTER:  (does double take, stares) Huh?!

GOAT:  (neighs)

NARRATOR 3:  He saw that Mop Top was riding a beautiful white horse.

PRIME MINISTER:  Well, a Queen can’t dress in rags and carry a ladle!

MOP TOP:  You call these rags? You call this a ladle? Look again!

NARRATOR 1:  The Prime Minister looked again.

PRIME MINISTER:  (does double take, stares) Huh?!

NARRATOR 4:  He saw that Mop Top wore an elegant riding suit, and carried a polished riding stick.

PRIME MINISTER:  Well, a Queen can’t be a dirty mess!

MOP TOP:  You call me a dirty mess? Look again!

NARRATOR 2:  The Prime Minister looked again.

PRIME MINISTER:  (does double take, stares) Huh?!

NARRATOR 3:  He saw that Mop Top was perfectly groomed, with smooth and shining red hair.

PRIME MINISTER:  Well . . . . Well . . . . Well . . . . Then you can be the Queen!

NARRATOR 1:  So Mop Top became the Queen

NARRATOR 4:  and ruled that country with her sister’s help.

NARRATOR 2:  And if ever that Prime Minister made her mad,

NARRATOR 3:  you can bet she bopped his bottom!


About the Story
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