The Farmer and the Scuppernongs

This allegorical play was written by Starissa of the Cracked Globe theatrical company, based out of Altaruk. It premiered on 27 Sorrow, Year of the Wind’s Reverence, with the famed Orchid of the Dunes starring as the Thri-kreen Druid. Though well-received, its premiere was marred by Stavros, the actor playing the Farmer, departing from the script at the end to give a more revolutionary message than the written ending.

A tiny family farm a ways outside one of Athas’ city-states. The crimson sun shines bright overhead, and the barren desert stretches into the distance all around. A small farmhouse and a shack outbuilding preside over a dry garden patch.

THE FARMER and his YOUNG SON enter stage right. THE FARMER begins to discuss the scuppernong crop he hopes to grow this year. He’s found some fine seeds, and tells his son that these scuppernongs could be their ticket to a hand pump for the well, some draft kanks to pull the plows, maybe even a larger farm.

THE FARMER plants the scuppernong seeds in neat rows, measuring the distance between them with a ruler and barking at the YOUNG SON when he strays from the careful measurements. The sun sets and rises repeatedly as they plant, and scuppernong vines begin to appear from the neat rows. THE FARMER and the YOUNG SON move over the vines, assiduously snipping and cutting at any that stray from the neat rows. Finally the sun rises again and THE FARMER and the YOUNG SON look out over rows of brown, withered scuppernong vines. The crop has failed.

THRI-KREEN DRUID enters stage left. She asks for water and THE FARMER grudgingly gives her a dipper. He waves his hand at the withered scuppernong vines and gruffly asks for her opinion.

THRI-KREEN DRUID (studying the vines): Let them grow, steward of the fields. You have trimmed and cudgeled them into your idea of what a scuppernong vine should be, and it does not resemble what a scuppernong vine’s idea of itself is. Let them grow.

The FARMER snorts incredulously. DRUID bids farewell to the FARMER and trundles off stage right.

The sun rapidly comes and goes and a new season has begun. FARMER and SON are planting scuppernong seeds again in neat rows. As they begin to grow, FARMER allows them to grow more than he did before. To keep them “neat” (he tells SON), he stretches each vine out and tacks it nice and straight along stakes he has jammed into the earth. As vines curl off the straight stakes, he trims them. The sun comes and goes, and the crops wither and die.

DRUID enters stage left. She asks for water and the FARMER again gives her a dipper. She shakes her head as she sees his crops, tutting.

THRI-KREEN DRUID: No, no, no…let them grow free!

She leaves stage right, still shaking her head.

The sun again rises and falls, marking a new season. FARMER and SON are sowing scuppernong seeds, much more liberally than before, scattering them across the earth. They grow, and the FARMER restrains himself as they begin to spread wildly, curling across the ground. He talks proudly about the rich crop he’s going to reap as he fertilizes them. Suddenly, he pulls back, roaring—he has been pricked by a thorn, and a bright drop of blood glistens on the tip of his thumb. Enraged, he stomps offstage and returns wearing thick inix-hide gloves and carrying a sharp obsidian knife. He yanks each vine up and strips off its thorns with the knife, muttering curses to the elements as he does so. When he is finished, he surveys his work in satisfaction.

The sun rises and sets, and the vines wither and die.

The DRUID enters stage left. She halts as she sees the mutilated, withered vines. Her antennae twitch in anger.

DRUID: You were the steward of this land, and you have failed it. The scuppernongs depended on you for nurturing, guidance, and protection so they could survive in this harsh land, and you gave them naught but a little water. Thrice the scuppernongs tried to flower and fruit, and thrice you crushed them as they tried to provide a bounty. You do not deserve these scuppernongs, nor this land, nor this stewardship.

The FARMER hangs his head. But now the SON emerges from behind the shack and beckons the DRUID and FARMER over. As they approach, the shed swings back to reveal a small scuppernong patch growing behind it. The vines are huge, green, and lush, bigger than any yet seen. More importantly, they drip with green jewels—luscious scuppernongs. The SON explains that he has been tending his own little patch, letting them grow as free as they liked.

DRUID: The son is wiser than the father, I see.

Again the FARMER hangs his head. The SON suggests selling the scuppernongs—such a bountiful crop, though small, will tide them through until next year. The FARMER smiles and puts his arm around the SON, saying, “Aye, what a wise boy. I’ve learned my lesson, and next year we shall have the best scuppernong crop in the Tablelands.”


The Farmer and the Scuppernongs

The Lost Seas waxwingslain