"The Kappa" is an act of theater based upon the ancient Japanese legend of the kappa, a kind of lake monster which appears something like a cross between a small man, a monkey, and a frog. [1] The traditional folklore is just the starting point for creating a rather different version of the monster, which is outwardly the same, but inwardly distinct.

THE SET: The set consists of a lake, the land around it, a tree, and some bushes. A peasant hut and the rest of a peasant village lie just offstage.

The lake is simply an area of the stage made distinct by objects that project/suggest its borders. In a minimalist production, the boundaries of the lake could even be suggested by a few chairs, and by the behavior of the actors. The substance of the water can be conveyed by pantomime Ė by the swimming motions of those who are in the lake, and by their slowed-down movement in the watery medium. The depths of the lake may be conveyed by context and by the behavior of the kappa when he is under water, implying less contact with what is going on around him on the land; the surface of the lake can be brought into being by pantomime (breaking the surface, looking out at the other actors, and making contact with what is happening above the water).

There is a tree just beyond the lake. There are many minimalist possibilities for representing the tree. One possibility would be to have the actor who plays the treeís soul sitting in a chair, with various plants and some sticks (or even coat-hangers) representing his branches projecting around him.

There may also be one or two bushes nearby, which could be represented by chairs with potted plants in them.

Of course, a more elaborate or realistic set would be just fine!

At the edge of the stage (stage right) is the entrance to one home in a small Japanese farming village: the home of Mrs. Miyagi and her boys. We donít have to see it. The rest of the village, also out of sight, lies off in the same direction.


THE KAPPA: He is the lake monster. Refer to his description within the play, and in the background link provided in Note 1 at the end of the play. He does not have to be fully made-up to appear as a kappa, but some sort of costuming or alteration should serve as a "kappa badge", giving him visual credibility in his role.

THE TREE: Tree is the soul of the tree, and should be played by an actor on stage, though I also toyed with the idea of having a voice off stage, or even an offstage voice transmitted onto stage through a speaker in a tree setting. Great liberty may be taken in his appearance and behavior, as there is no single vision which can be used to convey his role. His voice is often low (deep) and slow. Sometimes he sings or chants his lines, especially in conjunction with Bird, to produce a "Greek chorus" or "Kabuki" type effect. But as this style might not serve every scene and mood, both Tree and Bird, who sometimes sing their lines, should also be able to speak them like regular actors.

THE BIRD: He has a nest in the tree, and is friends with Tree and Kappa. His voice is high-pitched, in contrast to Treeís. He and Tree act as narrative and reflective voices, as well as participants in the drama.

MOTHER (MRS. SAKIKO MIYAGI): A single mother who has come back from the city to the peasant village in which she grew up in order to start her life over and raise her two sons, Akio and Yukio, with the help of their grandfather (who does not appear in the play).

AKIO: He is the younger of Mrs. Miyagiís sons, the one who she adores more, which incites the jealousy of Yukio, her older and bolder boy. He could be five to seven.

YUKIO: He is Mrs. Miyagiís older son. He is smart and brave, with some anger and a mean streak. He could be anywhere from nine to twelve.

TAKAHASHI: He is one of the farmers of the village.

USHIJIMA: Another one of the farmers of the village.

NOMURA SAN: He is the village elder, an old and infirm man who for many years has been the villageís source of guidance and moral support.

REIKO: She is a beautiful, interesting, mentally unbalanced young woman who was once in love with the kappa.

SAPLING: He is a small, incipient tree who will make his appearance at the end of the play. Options for his presentation are varied.

OFF-STAGE SOUND EFFECTS PERSON: To hit gongs, bang drums, ring/strike temple bells when required.

PROPS (A Partial List):

Appropriate costuming.

A cane for Nomura San.

Two poles with baskets of produce suspended from either end.

A fan for Reiko.

Two axes.

A knife.

Two ropes.

A basket with food in it.

A water container.


The scene opens with the Kappa lying at the bottom of the lake, and a mother lecturing her two young sons, Akio and Yukio. Yukio is bigger than his brother, and jealous of the greater affection which the mother displays towards Akio, as will be demonstrated by the way she hugs and touches the younger boy.


Mother: We are going to have a good time in this village. Your grandfather is a wonderful man and the people are very friendly. This is where I grew up. Itís a beautiful place to grow up. You are going to love it, just like I did. In no time at all, you will stop missing the city. There is just one thing I have to warn you about.

Yukio: The kappa! [He turns and gives a terrible scowl and roar towards Akio, who is frightened and clings to his mother more.]

Mother: [Slapping Yukio for frightening Akio.] Yukio, stop it! Itís not funny! Leave your brother alone!

Yukio: [To Akio] Heís a terrible monster! He lives at the bottom of the lake. Heíll eat you alive!

Mother: Stop it!

Yukio: Iím just warning him, so heíll be safe!

Mother: [Akio is looking up at her, to see if he should believe it.] In that case, thank you, Yukio. But let me do it. Itís true, baby. The kappa lives in that lake. When I was a child, he drowned a little boy. We all cried. We stopped going swimming that summer.

Yukio imitates the monster again, terrifying Akio.

Mother: [Slapping him] Stop it! Leave him alone!

Yukio: Iím trying to help him!

Mother: Let me help him! You just listen! Heís your brother! You just listen!

Kappa: [He is stirring in the bottom of his lake, but, of course, they do not see him or hear what he is saying.] What did they say? [Incredulous] Drowned a child?

Mother: [Kneeling down in front of Akio, gripping him by both shoulders.] Listen to me, Akio. Thereís a very dangerous monster that lives in the lake. Very dangerous! He is called the kappa. He is about this big [she stands up and indicates with her hand a height about five feet tall, then she kneels down again.] But he is very strong. He looks something like a cross between a monkey and a frog. He has webbed hands and feet, he has scales like a fish, and terrible eyes that look right into your soul. They can paralyze you, you must not look into them! He loves to drown small children Ė to lie in ambush for them in his hiding place underneath the lake and then grab them as they go swimming by overhead. He pulls them to the bottom of the lake and drowns them, and then he eats them, or sometimes he just kills them for fun, and throws their bodies back onto the shore for their parents to find. He stinks like a fish Ė like a fish in the market, thatís been sitting in the sun too long.

Kappa: For Godís sakes, enough! How did you ever come by these ideas! Iím no murderer, and I donít stink like a fish! I live in the water, my whole life is one endless bath! Iíve never killed a soul! I havenít even swallowed a minnow! I eat plants from the lake bottom, and I apologize every time I take a bite!

Mother: If you ever encounter the strong smell of rotting fish as youíre walking by the lake, run back home as quickly as you can! It means that the kappa is coming out of the lake!

Akio: He can come out of the water!?

Yukio: [Delighted] You bet! He can run as fast as a deer and heíll chase you until he finally catches up with you and tears you apart! [He is imitating the monster again, and grabbing Akio, the mother must push him away. She slaps him again.]

Mother: Stop it! Stop tormenting your brother! Stop it! Youíre just like your father, you even have his eyes! Leave him alone! Leave your brother alone!

Kappa: Iíve never even slapped a kid.

Yukio: [Upset, as she reassuringly embraces Akio.] Itís not fair! Iím just trying to help!

Akio: [Terrified] He can come out of the water?

Mother: Yes, he can, but donít worry. Itís not like Yukio says. He doesnít run fast on the land, he goes slowly. Look, Iíll show you. This is how he walks. [She stands up and lumbers around with her hands stretched out in front of her like a mummy or zombie.] You can run faster than he can.

Yukio: No he canít! Akioís slow! Slower than a worm! The monster can catch him!

Mother: No he canít! Shut up! [To Akio] Donít worry, Akio, the kappa canít catch you! Just donít go too close to the lakeís edge when itís dark.

Kappa: [Covering his ears] What an injustice! What a lie! What a twisted imagination you have! And by the way I could catch him, Iím just not like that!

Mother: All the kappaís power comes from the water. The farther away from it he goes, the less power he has. [She points to her head] Look, Akio, he has a little hole in his head, itís like a crater, right here, in the top of his head. Itís like his skull had a built-in teacup. When he climbs out of the lake, he keeps a little pool of water in that hole, so he can hold onto his power. But if he spills it, all his power will be gone, he will be weak and helpless, so weak that people can defeat him. So whenever he comes out onto the land he has to go slow and walk very carefully to make sure he doesnít spill his water. Thatís why you can run faster than him. But donít go by the edge of the lake when itís dark.

Yukio: So, mamma, we canít go swimming, then? We live right next to this beautiful lake and even when itís summertime and itís boiling outside we canít go in to cool off, not even for a minute? We just have to stand here looking at it? What kind of place is this? What good is the countryside if you can only look at it? You said we were going to move to a wonderful place, with nature, with big trees and mountains and flowers and animals and fresh air, that we would be happier than in the city. You lied! You lied, mamma, you lied! I want to go back to the city. Whereís daddy?

Mother: [Fighting back tears] Stop Yukio! Stop! I didnít lie. Look Ė look at this tree! [She points to the tree behind them] See itís big, strong branches, just like arms, just like a spider, a giant, friendly spider with leaves. You donít have to go swimming in the lake to stay cool, the tree will hold a thousand leaves over your head to give you shade. Just like you were a prince, with servants to fan you and to bring you ice. Yukio, the tree is like a lake, a cool, green lake above your head! Your friend. Sit beneath it, swim in the lake in the air.

Yukio: Mom, stop being stupid. Itís just a tree. The lake is over there and I want to go swimming in it.

Mother: [A bird in the tree sings] Look, it has a bird! What a beautiful bird! What beautiful feathers! What a beautiful voice! Yukio, it is like the phoenix, itself! Do you remember the story of the phoenix? Things burned down and destroyed [she fights back tears] can rise up from the ashes, and be born again! There arenít birds like this in the city. [It sings again, and moves around] See? [She reaches out to him, but he bats her hand away.]

Yukio: Sparrows are just fine. The kind of birds who grab up a piece of bread from the sidewalk and fly away before the other birds can take it away from them. They make their nests in buildings and train stations. Dirty little smart birds that get by. What good is a lake if you can only look at it? I want to be with dad.

Kappa: For Godís sakes, let the boy swim! I wonít touch him! You promised him compensation for coming here: donít take the city lights away from him without giving him a reward!

Mother: [Tortured, and in doubt, then finally making up her mind.] Look, Yukio Ė look Akio Ė itís possible to go into the lake. Thereís a trick. We used it in my time, after the boy drowned. [Hesitating] Look, Iíll show you.

Yukio: Show us, mamma.

Mother: Iíll show you.[She takes them slowly towards the lake] First thing is, you have to know the lake. Here, the banks are steep, you get into deep water right away. Remember, Akio, you donít know how to swim like your brother, so you have to stay in shallow water. Yukio, donít let him go into the lake here. Follow me. [They head towards another part of the lake]

Yukio: Mom, where is the monster?

Kappa: In her imagination.

Mother: Somewhere in there. Come on. [They arrive at another part of the lake] Here. Here, the water is shallow. Akio, you can go in for about twenty meters, before the water will become too deep for you. The lake bed slopes down gently in this place, so youíll see that itís getting deeper. Donít let it get any higher than your armpits. Yukio, you can swim when youíre by yourself, but when youíre with your brother, just watch him, and stay by the shore. Pay attention to him, he might try to follow you and he canít swim.

Yukio: And the kappa?

Kappa: Forget about me kid, just enjoy the water! For Godís sakes!

Mother: [Taking the kids back to a safe distance from the shore] Thatís where the trick comes in. Cucumbers, Yukio! Cucumbers!

Yukio: Cucumbers?

Kappa: Oh no, not cucumbers! Iím so tired of them!

Mother: The kappa loves cucumbers!

Kappa: How do you know? Have you ever seen me eat them?

Mother: Even more than human flesh, the kappa loves the taste of cucumbers!

The kappa buries its head in its hands.

Yukio: Cucumbers???

Kappa: I hate cucumbers!

Mother: Itís a well-known fact. So before you go swimming, what you do is throw cucumbers into the water. The kappa will satisfy his hunger eating them, and then, he will leave you alone.

Yukio: [Delighted] Cucumbers!

Akio: [Imitating him, jumping up and down] Cucumbers! Cucumbers!

Mother: [Clapping her hands together with childish delight] Yes, cucumbers! Cucumbers!

Kappa: Oh no! Superstitious idiots are going to clutter up my lake with cucumbers! I was hoping all I had to do was wait a few more years for the village elder to pass on, and all this hoopla would be at an end. But now it looks as though the next generation is going to be poisoned by these folktales as well. Another century of vilification Ė another century of cucumbers!

Enter two farmers going by, carrying large loads, each with two baskets suspended at either end of a long pole which they hold over their shoulders. With them is the village elder.

Mother: Oh look, people are coming! - Good morning Mr. Takahashi. Good morning Mr. Ushijima. Good morning Nomura San.

All of the men: Good morning Mrs. Miyagi. [Appropriate bows are given, with the village elder, Nomura San, receiving several repeated and deep bows as befits his status.]

The Boys: [Cued by their mother, bowing also] Good morning. Good morning. Good morning Nomura San.

The Farmers: Hello boys.

Nomura San: Good morning, bright ones.

Takahashi: How is everything?

Mother: Good, good, thank you so much for asking. And how are you doing? And your families?

Takahashi: Today finds us all well, thanks.

Ushijima: Yes, fine. The moon has handed us in one piece to the sun. We are all very grateful.

Takahashi: [Wobbling slightly under the weight of his burden] Well, have a good day, Mrs. Miyagi, so nice to see you. We must be on our way. The market is getting bigger every day. We keep telling the earth it must give us more. We can hardly keep up. Mrs. Takahashi is reading the latest magazines from the city and already has a long list of things to buy.

Ushijima: You never know about demand.

Takahashi: Supply and demand.

Ushijima: You never know about prices. Theyíre as unpredictable as spirits. Get your water from the well before it runs dry. Ride the earth like a racehorse towards a better day.

Takahashi: Towards Mrs. Takahashiís new wardrobe.

Ushijima: Before it gives out. Tomorrow, the cornucopia might be a ghost town.

Takahashi: Off we go! So nice to see you, Mrs. Miyagi. And your boys. Welcome home!

Mother: Thank you so much! [More bowing. Then, turning towards the village elder] Very modern farmers!

Nomura San: [Laughs] These days, we donít beg or bow down in the shrine, we tell the earth what to do. The spirit of the factory commands the fairy of the wind and the fairy of the flower. I call it Smokestack Shinto. Ideas that are not ours seep in [points to his head]. [Looking in the direction Takahashi and Ushijima have gone:] Wonderful men, different timesÖ

Mother: Thatís so.

Nomura San: And, pray tell, what are you and your boys doing here by the lake? Are you warning them about the kappa?

Kappa: Shut up, old man, let the wretched myth die with you. Leave me in peace!

Mother: Just now. I was up to the part about the cucumbers.

Nomura San: Oh yes, the cucumbers! [His eyes light up] Yes, young lads, cucumbers! Every affliction has its remedy. Cucumbers! And ropeÖ

Yukio: Rope?

Kappa: What? Rope, for me to strangle myself with? Forget about it! I donít believe you, Iím not who you think I am! I wonít kill myself just to make you happy! I deserve to live!

Nomura San: Yes, boy, rope. Do you see that rope hanging over there, from the tree branch? It looks like someone wanted to make a swing, but it needed to be looped and secured. Maybe another day. Yes, boy, the rope Ė itís just loose, not knotted. You can take it down. Bring it over here.

Mother: Yukio, do as Nomura San says.

Yukio does, though with some anger, because he was doing it anyway before his mother gave him orders. He gives the rope to the village elder.

Nomura San: Here, boy, take this end of the rope, and walk over there. [Yukio does, stretching out the rope between them.] Thatís right. Now hold it lower Ė thatís right, about fifteen centimeters above the ground. This will work well in the nighttime, but in the day you will have to bring it lower to the ground, unless you are doing it in high grass, because the monster ought not to see the rope. [Yukio looks at him, wanting an explanation.] Well, you see, if you and your brother can stretch the rope out like this between you, or if you, yourself, can hold on one end after having fastened the other end to a tree, it may be possible to lure the monster into an ambush. As he chases one boy - perhaps you have made friends with the boys here, and you can all work together now? - you may be able to trip the kappa with the rope, and if he falls, the water will spill out of the hole in his head and he will lose all his power. Then, even you, a small boy, Yukio, will be able to defeat him. He will be as weak as a frog. [The old man assumes a martial arts pose] Face him like this, and then strike him! With both hands and feet! [He does some rapid moves, then doubles over.] Oh, my back!

Mother: [Rushing forward to help him] Nomura San, are you all right!? Nomura San!

Nomura San: Yes, thank you. It is so nice to be embraced by a beautiful, young, concerned woman. You have added another year to my life. But I am afraid with a back like this I will be no match for even a waterless kappa. It will be up to your boys to protect the village!

Mother: Did you hear that, Yukio? You must be brave!

Nomura San: The true warrior knows the weakness of his enemy! He does not fight the enemy where the enemy is strong, but where the enemy is weak!

Mother: Yes, Yukio, you must listen to Nomura San!

Kappa: A frustrated samurai! What a shame - he is living in the wrong century, there is no one for him to chop to pieces! No Mongol invasion to thwart, just your friendly neighborhood kappa turned into a coat-rack for his nightmares; no brilliantly crafted sword passed down from father to son to wield, just a tattered, neglected rope frayed by the wind and rain.

Mother: Nomura San knows everything. He is the wisest man you will ever meet!

Kappa: If that is so, I pity you. He is wise enough to let his hair turn as white as the snow on top of Mt. Fuji so that people will credit him with knowledge he does not possess. But still, in spite of it all, you have to respect him. Anyone who could survive so long amidst such unfair, gossip-prone creatures as men are deserves respect!

Nomura San: Oh, please, Mrs. Miyagi, do not exaggerate! I am more old than I am wise.

Kappa: And he has a degree of self-perception, as well. Not bad for a human!

Nomura San: Dear Sakiko, if I may call you that, for I still remember you as a little girl. Experience is not necessarily the same as wisdom. But it is useful, nonetheless. I am not rich in anything, my house is nearly empty and, inside, my soul is equally bare. But I share what I have.

Kappa: Yes, fairy tales that deserve to be put to rest. Ghosts from dark times, haunting the present. Lies written onto the blank slate of an innocent generation. Like creeping vines, the aged take over the possibility of the Now, fill it with their prejudices and fears, strangle new flowers that want to grow. They claw and scratch for immortality by affixing themselves, as parasites, to the present, with their ancient narrow minds.

Nomura San: [Nodding] Just so. I can only share what I have.

Mother: Oh no, Nomura San, it is you who exaggerate! You are wise and kind. You always were! An inspiration for the young. You were always like a master gardener, who assured that we would thrive. You watered us, pruned us, kept us growing straight, saw to it that we had light, kept away the insects that would despoil us. You protected us, guided us, made us blossom! I am afraid I have not blossomed enough for all the work you have done! [Fights away a surge of emotion]

Nomura San: Thank you, Mrs. Miyagi, but you are too kind. [He bows, and she must bow much lower, again he bows, and again she bows]

Mother: I hoped that you might do the same for my sons. Teach themÖ

Nomura San: Just so. Young men! [talking to the boys again.] Do you understand? There is nothing worthwhile that does not have danger! Nothing beautiful that does not also have the power to destroy you in some way! Here, you have the open arms of nature welcoming you back to the full experience of being human. You are no longer living in the city, which shuts out the sky and turns flowers into prisoners. Look up at that sky, see how big it is, how wide it is, look at the clouds, like countries in a giant map.

Yukio: They just blow away: the clouds. The countries stay on the map. Itís different. [His mother gives him a little shove and shows disapproval for the way in which he is contradicting the village elder.]

Nomura San: Not so much as you imagine, my dear boy. The map is only a sky that moves at a slower pace. Just as the clouds change shape and then lose their form and disappear in the wind, kingdoms and nations Ė well Ė clouds come and go but the sky remains. [He is philosophical and reflective, silenced by the power of his idea]

Mother: That is deep, Nomura San. Deep! [She starts to hit him, reprimanding him for his modesty, but doesnít touch him] See, you are wise! I told you you were wise!

Nomura San: And the lake! The lake, young lad! What do you have in the city? Swimming pools! Little tiny bodies of water, token lakes, imbedded in concrete. Like tigers in a zoo! Behind bars! Crippled lakes make for crippled fish! But here, here you have the real thing, boy, the real thing, what once made men great! The extraordinary beauty. But you have to pay the price! The price! The kappa lurking beneath the surface. [The kappa writhes in disgust once again] Mediocre men eliminate the danger, and in so doing, kill the beauty. They sacrifice what is great in order to be safe. Here, young lad, here in the country, is the rich, true soil in which the tree of man was always meant to grow. Donít regret the comforts you have left behind, the savagery will save you! Donít fear the danger Ė let it lift you into the sky, like a planet, like a star!

Mother: [Genuinely grateful for the talk he has given to her sons] Thank you so much, Nomura San! Thank you so much for inspiring my boys! I know you will help them, as you helped all the children of my times!

Nomura San: [Modestly] Please!

Mother: [To her kids] Thank Nomura San, children. Thank him!

They do, saying ĎThank youí, and bowing to him. She also bows.

Nomura San: Well, Mrs. Miyagi, I am afraid I must be on my way. I told Mr. Inamoto that I would take a look at his orchard and see if I can make any recommendations. His trees arenít doing well, but he can see nothing wrong with them. Iíll take a look. Even with these eyes, I may be able to help.

Mother: Yes, surely Nomura San. I am sorry to have kept you for so long!

Nomura San: No, please donít apologize, I have thoroughly enjoyed our meeting. I am so happy you have returned to our little village. Itís a good place for young boys to grow up, and itís nice that youíve come back. Itís a shame to have so many wonderful people grow up here only to leave and never come back. Poor us, one day weíll be just like in the poem: Wild grass covers the courtyard. Rambling vines cover the well. I gather wild millet and make a pudding and pick some mallows for soup. When soup and pudding are done, there is no one to share them. I stand by the broken gate, and wipe the tears from my eyes. [2]

Mother: I am sorry Nomura San. I am so sorry. Please forgive me!

Nomura San: Please! No apologies! The world has changed. You even see how Mr. Takahashi and Mr. Ushijima have become. Good men, changed timesÖ I only want you to know that, even though history may be leaving us behind, we will never leave you behind. You are one of us and will always be, and if not one of all the millions of lights in Tokyo and Osaka is on for you, here there will always be a candle and a lantern burning for you. You can come back. Anytime. You can come back and go, and come back again. This is your home, Sakiko. Always! Now I must be going!

Mother: [Wiping tears from her eyes] Oh thank you so much, Nomura San! Thank you so much! I can never repay you for the beautiful things you have just said!

Nomura San: You repay me, Sakiko, by being you. Wherever you are, just by being you. [He bows, she bows, and they all call out "Good-bye, Nomura San!"]

Mother: [After a while] Well, come along boys! Now that youíve seen the lake, and Iíve warned you about the kappa, letís go home!

Yukio: We canít go swimming?

Mother: Akio doesnít know how to swim.

Yukio: I canít go swimming?

Mother: Tomorrow you can go with your brother to the lake. Iíll give you cucumbers, and then you can go.

Again, the kappa just shakes his head. The family leaves.


The kappa moves about sluggishly in the water. The bird in the tree sings and whistles.

Bird: Poor Kappa! Poor, poor misunderstood kappa!

The kappa slowly swims up to the surface.

Kappa: Are you talking to me?

Bird: So now he finally shows his face! The frightening monster! The terrible beast! Eater of children! Savage blemish of paradise!

Kappa: Theyíre crazy. You know Iím not like that.

Bird: You spend all your time living at the bottom of a lake. You can be anything they want you to be. Just the lake, just the lake. For them, thatís you; you never let them get to know you, so youíve become nothing more than their creation. Serene, serene lake, like a canvas for a painter. Paint a kappa at the bottom! A terrible hungry kappa! Beautiful lake, too good to be true. It needs a monster!

Kappa: Itís not fair. Why donít you tell them? [The bird just looks at him] Tell them that Iím peaceful, kind; Iím even noble. Arenít I?

Bird: Noble as a snake without poison; noble as a spider without a web; noble as a tiger without claws; noble as an ocean without a storm! Youíve never hurt a soul!

Kappa: I eat algae, marsh reeds, lily pads Ė after checking first to make sure no frog is curled up asleep inside.

Bird: He is as gentle as the Buddha, but without the armor of understanding. The criticism hurts! It is hard not to believe the error of the world! How could so many people and so many generations be wrong! Why do they keep on saying it? Could it be true?

Kappa: Iím not like they say. Iím not a monster Ė am I?

Bird: Could so many people be wrong?

Kappa: Please, dear friend, you who live beside me, reassure me! Help me endure the misperception of the earth! Tell me that they are wrong.

Tree: You are noble. They are wrong.

Kappa: What? Whoís that?

Tree: You are noble. They are wrong.

Kappa: What? Whoís that?

Bird: Donít you recognize the voice of the ancient one?

Kappa: The village elder, Nomura San?

Bird: He is nothing more than an infant, leaning on a cane.

Tree: You are noble. They are wrong.

Kappa: Who is it? Whoís speaking to me?

Bird: Are you afraid? Is it the kappa of the kappa? For you is the land a lake with something terrible hiding at the bottom?

Kappa: No those are kind words. Kind words. I am not afraid. Who is it? Dear bird, do you know? Hello, with whom am I speaking? Whoís there?

Bird: Kappa, kappa. It is the voice of my throne. My universe of spreading branches and green leaves, my paradise of bark and shade, my mother who suckles me with fruit, my father who guards me with height; my refuge from the sky, my shelter from the ground; the grandfather who shows me where the spirits live, the lover who kisses me in the night, and makes my lips bleed!

Kappa: The tree! The tree itself speaks to me!

Bird: The ancient one, whose roots are like the grasping hands of wise men; they dig deep into the library of secrets beneath the ground, read books of soil, holy books made of earth, they hunger for anything that can make leaves green, and give a home to birds.

Kappa: The tree! The tree speaks to me!

Tree: Centuries have I watched. Children become old men. [The bird harmonizes, singing in a high voice to accompany the treeís low, slow words. "Centuries has he watched! Children become old men!" He continues to do this.] You have done no wrong. You have done no wrong. If they fear something on the bottom of a lake, they can live on the land. You have done no wrong.

Kappa: I am not a monster.

Bird: Do you believe it now?

Kappa: I am good.

Tree: Your trials are just beginning.

Kappa: What?

Tree: [With Bird singing along] Your trials are just beginning. You are noble, but your trials are just beginning.

Kappa: I am good, I have never harmed a thing. One day, when I accidentally swallowed a bug, I spit him out, I put him on the shore in the sunlight so his wings would dry out, I guarded him till he could fly away.

Tree: Your trials are just beginning. You will fall asleep. Everyone needs to sleep. To sleep. To sleep. While you sleep, another generation will be turned against you. Poor, poor kappa! It is one thing to be noble, another to be loved!

Kappa: I am good. I am goodÖ

The kappa sinks wearily in the water, and falls asleep at the bottom of the lake.


Akio and Yukio appear from stage right, their hut. They each have two cucumbers. We do not see their mother, but hear her voice.

Mother: Remember what I said, Yukio! Your brother cannot swim! Take him in where the waterís shallow. But first, throw cucumbers into the lake! Throw them as far as you can, so they will reach the place where the monster lives and draw him away from you. Heíll go wherever the cucumbers are. If you do as I say, Yukio, youíll be safe.

Yukio: Donít worry, mom. Iím not a baby! Iím old enough to go to the lake by myself. The boys here are already laughing at me for being a mammaís boy, because you follow me everywhere. Itís like I was a puppy on a leash.

Mother: Well now, today, Yukio, you wonít have to put up with me. Just be careful! And make sure to take good care of Akio. Now I have to go help Mrs. Takahashi prepare plums for the village feast. Donít forget to watch Akio like an eagle! Iím counting on you. Youíre a big boy now! You have to assume responsibilities.

Yukio: No problem, mom. See you later. Come on, Akio [holding both cucumbers with one hand, he yanks his brotherís arm. Akio says "Ow!"] Come on baby brother, weíre going to the lake! Stop yelling, what a baby!

Akio: Stop hurting me!

Yukio: Donít cry, momís not around. Sheís a sucker for your tears, but donít you get it, with everybody else it just makes you look bad. Boys are supposed to be tough. [Yukio hits himself with his fist] See, am I crying?

Akio: Your nose! Thereís blood coming from your nose!

Yukio: Am I crying? Come on! Grow up! [They move to where the shallows are] All right, take off your shirt.

Akio: Iím afraid Ė the kappa.

Yukio: Dummy, thatís why we have the cucumbers! [He throws his into the lake, then yanks Akioís out of his hands]

Akio: Wait, let me throw them!

Yukio: No, you canít throw them far enough. We have to throw them into deep water, so theyíll reach the kappa. [He throws them] There! Now weíre safe! Come on, letís swim! [Yukio plunges in, while Akio hesitates] Come on! [Seeing him still hesitating] Sissy!

Akio: What if the kappa is still hungry after he eats the cucumbers?

Yukio: Nomura San knows his stuff. [Pause] Do you think mamma would let us swim in the lake if it didnít work? [Pause] Well go on, then, be a sissy! Stay there on the shore! Iíll be back in a while, Iím going out for a swim! [As he swims away, into the deeper water, he momentarily stops to tread water and shouts back to Akio] I was always a good swimmer! My teacher called me Mark Spitz. Mark Spitz was a swimmer in the Olympics. My teacher told me I was fast enough to catch a mermaid! "When you get older, that will matter to you," he said. Sissy! [He splashes the water] Kappa, kappa, where are you? Busy eating my cucumbers! [To Akio] Sissy!

Yukio swims away, ceasing to keep an eye on Akio, who finally, stung by his brotherís words, begins to advance out into the water, wading.

Akio: Wait for me, Yukio! Wait for me! Iím coming! - Iím not a sissy! Iím coming! [He wanders out deeper into the water, then suddenly slides down a sudden drop in the bank into water over his head, and begins to thrash about] Help! Yukio help! Help me! [Yukio doesnít hear]

Tree: Fast child. Dear child. Child light like a feather. Child heavy as a stone. Everyone wants to swim. Some are not fish.

Akio: Yukio! Help!

Yukio notices him for the first time, and is horrified. He begins to swim back towards his drowning brother.

Tree: Disaster. Disaster. The big boy is not big enough. He wonít be able to save his brother. Only one creature can save him now.

Desperately, Yukio is swimming towards Akio whose lungs are now filling with water below the surface.

Bird: Wake up! Wake up! Sleeping kappa, now is your chance! Your chance to defeat the fairy tales! Sleeping kappa, wake up! Wake up!

Tree: I can only watch. My roots bind me here, I am chained by what nourishes me. I stretch my branches towards the boy but they do not reach. Only leaves fall into the water, like flowers over his grave.

Bird: [Excitedly, flying above the drowning boy] I canít help him! I canít help him! I chose a light body so I could soar in the sky; it lacks the strength to lift him out of the water! If only I had only known! If only I had known!

Yukio: [Desperate, searching for Akio who is now beneath the water] Akio! Akio! Where are you?! Where are you?! [He dives below, surfaces, dives below again. He is trying] Akio!

Tree: In a single moment, jealousy and anger stumble back to the true meaning of brother. The torturer repents, he tries to be a hero. But it is too late! Only one creature can save the little one now!

Bird: Wake up! Wake up, sleeping kappa! A child is drowning in your home!

The kappa begins to stir.

Yukio: Akio! Akio! Where are you? Where are you? Akio!

Bird: Wake up! Wake up, you slumbering demon! Can you wake up in time to be an angel?

The kappa is awake.

Tree: The boy! The boy! Kappa, the boy!

Bird: The boy! The boy!

Yukio: [Screaming and crying] Akio! Akio!!!

The kappa sees what is happening.

Kappa: My God! Whatís going on here! Idiots in my lake! Cucumbers? Someoneís drowning! Fools! [He begins to swim towards Akio] Cucumbers canít prevent drowning! Fools! Where is Mrs. Miyagi? [The kappa grabs up Akio, and swims with him to the shore]

Yukio: Akio! [Seeing the kappa, he screams] The kappa! The kappa! [He desperately swims to get out of the lake]

The kappa climbs up out of the lake, carrying the inert body of the boy in his arms. He lays him down on the ground.

Kappa: God no! Heís dead! Iím too late!

Yukio: [Running off stage] Help! Help! The kappaís got Akio! The kappaís got Akio!

The kappa attempts to resuscitate Akio.

Kappa: Come on, kid! Come back! Donít die! Your mother loves you too much! You havenít done anything wrong, you donít deserve this!

After a while, Mr. Takahashi, Mr. Ushijima, and the mother come running in together from stage right, with Yukio leading the way.

Yukio: The kappaís got Akio! Look! Look!

The mother screams, the men stop and look in horror.

Yukio: [Observing the kappa bent down over Akio, trying mouth-to-mouth resuscitation] Heís eating him!

Mr. Takahashi: Heís eating out his tongue!

The mother screams again and faints. Mr. Ushijima catches her. Mr. Takahashi runs up to the tree and breaks off a branch.

Tree: Ow!

Mr. Takahashi rushes forward, then hesitates.

Takahashi: Monster! You monster! Heís just a child!

Kappa: Heís dead.

Takahashi: You killed him!

Kappa: I tried to save him.

Takahashi: Get away from his body!

Kappa: I tried to save him.

Takahashi: You murdered him! You dragged him under the water, and now you were going to eat him!

Kappa: [Getting up and backing away from his body] Youíre wrong. Why wasnít somebody watching this kid? He didnít know how to swim.

Yukio: The kappa grabbed him by his ankles and pulled him under the water! He drowned him!

Takahashi: Youíre a murderer!

Kappa: I tried to help.

Tree: He tried to help. Believe him. He tried to help.

Bird: The kappa wouldnít hurt a soul! His only sin was sleeping. Who can be awake every minute of every day? He went to sleep, he forgot not everyone can live in the water like him!

Takahashi: Youíre a murderer!

Bird: Are you deaf? Are you deaf? You havenít listened to a word we said!

Tree: They donít understand the way we speak. My creaking branches, my leaf-filled hands waving in the air; your whistles and your chirps. They donít understand the way we speak. They used to, but they donít anymore.

Takahashi: [As the kappa backs away deeper into the lake] Monster! Why canít you share the water with us? Why do you hoard it with your malice? And now this poor woman, when she wakes up from what she thought was only a bad dream, and finds out that it really happened...

Ushijima: Yukio, go find Mr. Homma, he used to work for a doctor. If heís not in, his wife will call the hospital. Your brother may be dead, and your mother will need treatment.

Yukio: He did it! He killed Akio! He grabbed him by the feet and dragged him under the water!

Kappa: I didnít do a thing!

Takahashi: Murderer!

Yukio: He killed my brother!

Ushijima: Hurry up, Yukio!

Yukio turns and runs away. The kappa continues to back into the water.

Kappa: I didnít do a thing. I tried to save him. [He disappears beneath the surface.]

Takahashi: Murderer! [As the kappa disappears, he rushes forward to examine Akio. After a whileÖ] Itís too late! The boy is dead!

Ushijima: Poor Mrs. Miyagi. I wonder what it feels like to be stabbed in the heart?


The kappa is despondent in the lake, as the tree and bird describe his state.

Tree: Poor, poor kappa. Silent, under the lake, in shame. No one believes him. When anything bad happens, heís to blame.

Bird: Akio, poor child! Everyoneís crying! Kappa watched the funeral from the lake. The villagers going by. The priest with the bell. The mother who could barely stand. She kept falling down like a leaf blown off a tree. One leaf after another. They kept picking her up, they wouldnít let her miss her childís burial for anything.

Offstage, the sound of the temple bell being struck.

Tree: I understand the bell. Just like me, it doesnít use words, but I understand it. Why donít men understand me? Iím standing here with the truth in my bark, like writing in the sky. The truth about my friend, the one whoís spent his life hiding in a lake.

Bird: If you went to their parties and danced, kappa san, they would know you. If you drank sake, and kissed girls who wanted a husband on the cheek. If you listened to the stories of good men who protected their hearts with drunkenness, if you plowed fields with them under the hot sun. If you sang their songs and ate at the same table.

Tree: The mystery is like an empty room, you can put whatever you want into it. You, dear kappa, have become the closet in which mankind stores its terror.

Bird: You chose the solitude of the lake; you let them do this to you.

Tree: You chose purity over them. The purity that is only attainable by avoiding life!

Bird: You did not make alliances, by buying things at their stores, or marrying one of their kind. You set yourself up for the kill! You did not make alliances, by buying things at their stores, or marrying one of their kind.

Tree: By marrying one of their kind.

Bird: By marrying one of their kind.

Enter Reiko, the kappaís ex-girlfriend, a human. Slowly, she walks to the edge of the lake. She is beautiful and elegant in a kimono, and carries a fan. The Tree and the Bird whisper to each other:

Tree and Bird, one after the other: Here she comes. (Here she comes.) How beautiful! (How beautiful!)

Reiko: Kappa! Dear Kappa! Is it true? I have come to find out, if the monster with a heart of gold is really just a monster, after all. Was I so wrong?

Kappa: [Stirring] It is her! The woman who I once loved! The woman who almost took me from the lake!

Reiko: Kappa, kappa. Is it true? The being I loved, the being I almost married, did he kill a boy? Did he drag a child to the bottom of the lake?

Kappa: [Beginning to swim to the surface] How could she ask such a question? I must swim to the surface of the lake, I must be tortured by her beauty all over again to set her straight, so that I will not be tormented thinking that she despises me!

Reiko: The moon is so beautiful tonight. Reflected in the water, it looks like a creature of the lake. No one ever blamed the moon for killing a child. Kappa, kappa, did I once listen to crickets all night long, and count the stars in the sky, with a killer? I have to know who I let kiss me. I have to know if I can stop crying now. Please tell me that itís true, that you killed the boy. Please put my heart back together.

Kappa: [Still swimming towards the surface] No, I canít let her think that! If just one person in the world believes I am good, it will be enough. But it must be her! [Bursting to the surface; she cries out in surprise and takes several steps backwards.] Reiko! Reiko! I am innocent! I killed no one! [She looks at him, hand over mouth, with fear and surprise, and then the wish to know who he truly is. He is mesmerized, anew, by her beauty.] I killed no one, Reiko. Reiko Ė why couldnít you have grown old and ugly in the years we have been apart! It seems you stepped out of my memory exactly as you were! [She is just looking at him.] You torment me Ė just like then!

Reiko: Kappa, dear kappa. You turned me into a torment by refusing to come out of the water!

Kappa: It is my element, Reiko. This lake is my world. How could I leave it?

Reiko: You told me you loved me.

Kappa: I did. I do. I did.

Reiko: I thought no one was looking. I went into the lake to take a swim. You saw me.

Kappa: It was not my fault. I live here. I wasnít trying to spy on you. I heard the splash.

Reiko: You were at the bottom of the lake.

Kappa: You were traversing my sky of water like the sun. Your body was shining. Your bodyÖ

Reiko: You desired me.

Kappa: I heard you talking to yourself. At first, I thought you were lonely. Then I thought, what an amazing imagination this girl has! She is a whole world unto herself, filled with talking flowers, with giants, with fairies, with sages disguised as rocks, with insects that were once kings. I thought: though her world does not need me, I want to be a part of it! You were not lonely, I was!

Reiko: You desired me.

Kappa: And you desired me. In spite of my bizarre nature Ė no, because of it! You were always drawn to strange things, Reiko. You wanted to be different, and I could help you better than anyone else to achieve your objective. What other girl has a kappa? What other girl walks about with a slimy, frightening creature at her side? I was the perfect partner to prove you were not ordinary!

Reiko: It was your sadness that attracted me. I understood sadnessÖ

Kappa: It was your anger, Reiko. You wanted a weapon to wield against the world. You didnít tell them they were wrong about me, you wanted them to remain afraid. You perpetuated the folktale that has destroyed me! You could have told them that the red stains on your kimono were from wine, but you wanted them to think that it was from your blood! You used me to keep the world at bay.

Reiko: My uncle. He was a bad man.

Kappa: Your imagination blossomed like a lotus in the mud of his desire. You ran away from his degrading footsteps in the night, threw yourself into the arms of a thousand new friends who only you could see. I was one of themÖ

Reiko: Your sadness called.

Kappa: Our sadness. We came to each other to end sadness, but we only made it stronger. Loving each other, the sapling of our sorrow grew into a mighty tree. A tree of pain that covered the world. New hands that reach out to me die in its shade. I will never live again.

Reiko: You said you loved me. I thought that meant you were going to come.

Kappa: The water, Reiko. I needed the water. I needed the water, and I need it. I need to swim in it, to be immersed in it, to feel it pouring over every inch of my skin as I glide through it like a porpoise making love with the sea. Itís not the sea, my little lake, but even so. Like Issa said: A one foot waterfall Ė it too makes noise! It is what I live for, Reiko: the water, being in the water, being one with the water - what makes my life have meaning. Up there, on the land, I am a cripple, a freak, people scream and run away, or throw stones at me; I see graceful dancers and stagger among them like a child just learning to walk. They gather with shining eyes to behold the treasure of nature, but when they see me coming, they abandon the cherry trees, as though they just remembered that they had left something cooking on the stove. I come, and suddenly, a hundred pots are burning back home! And the cherry trees look at me with the silent recrimination of magnificent blossoms that will now not be seen. Here, in the water, I am beautiful and I am admired. The fish bow down to me. I am powerful, I am competent - no, I am great; I am in touch with who I am, I am able to give, I am alive. Here, in the waterÖ

Reiko: Water, water, and more water.

Kappa: Itís my element, Reiko.

Reiko: Ego is your element, kappa, dear kappa. You chose to live where you had power, instead of where you could be loved. You made me love you, and then you stayed in the water.

Kappa: Please, Reiko.

Reiko: Thatís not love! You ought not to let someone fall in love with you if you have nothing to offer them except a rift. You ought not to pick up a glass vase if you are only going to drop it!

Kappa: Please, Reiko. Please.

Reiko: Love is about making compromises. I said I would live by the shore. What did you think I would do, grow a fish tail and scales to be with you? Cut gills into my neck?

Kappa: Reiko, what could I do?

Reiko: You could have come out to live on the land like everybody else. What is that stupid crater in your head for, anyway?

Kappa: It only holds a little water.

Reiko: Enough to retain your power.

Kappa: A fraction of my power.

Reiko: Isnít love worth it?

Kappa: So constricted! So hard not to spill the water. One wrong step, tripping over a stone; bending over to pick up something that has fallen; tilting my head Ė a thousand ways to lose the water! I couldnít live that way! So tight! So cautious! So afraid! So out of my element!

Reiko: [Regarding him] Then you should never have kissed me. You should never have let me sympathize with you. You should have told me I was a foolish girl who didnít know what I was getting into, that you had no intention of cooperating with my fantasy of redeeming you. You should have told me that my rebellious open-mindedness was no match for a thousand years of folklore; that the old wives who threw cucumbers into the lake knew you better than I did.

Kappa: Reiko. Please, donít. You know this is a very sensitive time for me. They are saying I am a monster.

Reiko: You are a monster.

Kappa: No, Reiko, please! I didnít kill that boy!

Reiko laughs cruelly and contemptuously.

Kappa: I didnít kill him! Surely, you donít believe their lies!

Reiko: Of course you didnít kill him, kappa dear! But you are still a monster. A monster who broke a womanís heart! Who didnít prevent her from committing social suicide, but helped her! A selfish monster, an egotistic monster, a monster who wanted ecstasy, and didnít stop a fool from throwing herself at you, like a cucumber!

Kappa: Reiko, donít talk like that! I loved you! I loved your soul! I wanted to be with you, I wanted to marry you! I just couldnít accept those terms Ė to live out of the water!

Reiko: Now Iím just the strange girl who loved a kappa. Nobody wants me now, they look at me like I was a diseased prostitute, or a madwoman covered in her own excrement. Because I dared to love you! Because I gambled that you would love me back! You are selfish! Selfish, kappa! You and your water! I wish you had killed the boy, so I could hate you even more than I hate myself for being such a fool! What a shame he merely drowned!

Kappa: [Weeping] No, Reiko, how is it possible? How is it possible for you to think this of me?

Reiko: And even now, you weep because I despise you, not because you have hurt me!

Kappa: Reiko! [He screams.] A knife! Throw a knife into the lake. I will kill myself at once! I donít deserve to live! I want to die for what I have done to you!

Reiko laughs wildly. She is mentally unstable.

Kappa: Go on! Please! Throw me a knife! I want to end this torment!

Reiko: Your torment! Your torment!

Kappa: I want to right the wrong!

Reiko: Your torment! Itís always you youíre worried about! Your torment! Your power! - How will a dead kappa corpse floating in the lake mend my life?

Kappa: [Weeping] No, Reiko! Donít do this to me. Iím sorry! Iím sorry! What can I do?

Reiko: [After a while.] Nothing. Nothing, kappa, but be yourself. It is your curse. Dive back down to the bottom of the lake. Thatís where you belong. In your world apart from the world. Why should I be upset? The mistake was mine.

Kappa: Somehow, there must be something I can do for you. Reiko! I will dig through the lake bottom to some place where there is gold, and bring it back for you! I will claw my way through the mud to the center of the earth, find the treasures of lost empires on the other side of the world to lay at your feet! I will break my code of honor, for you I will discard my principles: I will tell the villagers that by throwing coins and jewelry into the lake their wishes will be granted and they will tell the townsfolk at the market who will tell the people of the cities, and soon, hundreds of thousands will be making the pilgrimage here every day to hurl gold and silver coins and emeralds and rubies and diamonds and pearls into the lake, and I will gather them up in my arms, and give them all to you! I will make you a princess, Reiko, I will erase my inadequacy by giving you glorious things that will make you forget me!

Reiko laughs wildly and by now seems utterly demented.

Kappa: Reiko, please! Say you forgive me, or give me the knife!

Reiko: [Finally composing herself again] Go back to the bottom of the lake, kappa. Thatís where you belong. You will accomplish nothing by killing yourself.

Kappa: [Concerned.] And what about you?

Reiko: Donít worry about me. Some days, I want to die. But other days, I have a wonderful time. I hide by peopleís homes and listen to them talking about you. The things they say! I have found that it is possible to enjoy life as a ghost. I am disappointed I cannot walk through walls yet, but soon enough! Nature doesnít let us keep this human form for long.

Kappa: I am a monster. Youíre right. A monster.

Reiko: And a doctor.

Kappa: A doctor?

Reiko: Yes. The persecution you suffer is very healing for me. A wonderful medicine for my broken heart. Donít do anything stupid! Of course, I wonít tell them that you are innocent. Or, on second thought, maybe I will. If I take your side you will feel even more guilty for not leaving the water to love me. Yes, I will stand up to this grieving, enraged village, to Akioís mother and the rest of them, I will defend you, I will be your advocate, I will bear their wrath just so you feel more despicable for not marrying me. And then I will imagine you, writhing in misery at the bottom of this pool for the rest of time! [She laughs, again, wildly, then begins to sing and dance as she leaves.]

Reiko: [Singing] Kappa, kappa, loves the water, kisses water, blue and green; Kappa, kappa, my dear Kappa, blew off the world for a dream

Kappa: [Groaning] Reiko!

Reiko: [singing] Kappa, kappa, loves the lake, loves the lake so blue; Kappa, kappa, does not want a woman [she casts away her fan] he wants his solitude

Kappa: I am a monster. I am a monster. I reached out to her, beyond my limits. I tried to love her. My lack of self-perception encouraged her delusions. I didnít drown the boy, but I drowned her happiness. I am a monster. If only some traveler would lose his knife here, in the lake.


Tree: [A few drumbeats from off stage might be effective here.] Guilt. Guilt. The tempest that wrecks the sensitive soul. Collisions fill the world. It is up to each of us not to be glass. Now heís just lying there on the bottom of the lake. With the world at stake, he is submerged.

Bird: They shattered each other. Thatís love. No wonder most people only go through the motions.

Tree: He was lonely, and he was kind; he tried to give her what she wanted. But he was a vassal of the lake, sworn to the water life. She tore him in two.

Bird: He was dreaded and despised. She walked over the fire of the worldís prejudice to be with him. She was the most valiant blind person who ever lived.

Tree: Two heroes. One disaster.

Bird: Now he wants to die.

Tree: There are others who want to live, but he lacks the strength to help them.

Bird: Because he wants to die.

Tree: Today, there are men who want to change the world, not knowing that the world has already changed them. Good men who have lost their sight. And someone is going to die. As a result of this, someone is going to die.

Bird: The sleeping kappa who did not wake up in time to save the drowning boy Ė will he wake up in time today?

Tree: The kappa wants to die.

Bird: He wants to die.

Tree: But someone else wants to live.

Bird: The kappa wants to die.

Tree: But I want to live.

Bird: [Silence, then:] Oh no! Not you! Not you, dear Tree! Tell me you are not the object of your own dark prophecy!

Tree: I want to live.

Bird: I love you! Without you I die, too!

Tree: The kappa wants to die.

Bird: But we want to live.

Tree: Mourning for yesterday, he forsakes today. He could help, but he wonít. He canít.

Bird: Shame binds him like chains.

Tree: Guilt destroys him. He hides like a fugitive because of little things.

Bird: If you are kind, nothing is little. He hates himself because his ideals are so high.

Tree: When others blame him, he thinks they must be right. His mind is like a house without a roof Ė all the rain comes in. Like a good child, he believes his parentsí accusations.

Bird: Monster! Monster! The world calls him monster!

Tree: He protestsÖ

Bird: But the word gets past his defenses. MonsterÖ

Tree: He denies itÖ

Bird: But the words begin to accumulate. Like snow falling out of the sky that begins to stick to the ground.

Tree: He puts his hands up to block the blowÖ

Bird: But it gets through!

Tree: He screams, "Youíre wrong, youíre wrong! I am not a monster!"

Bird: Every time he says the word "Not" it hammers the word "Monster" deeper into his brain.

Tree: He denies he is a monster, but in the center of his soul, he believes he is.

Bird: He does not want to contradict the world. It is his nature to defer. So they must be right, and he must be wrong!

Tree: Mother said, "You stole the apple. Donít deny it!" He found out: itís better to admit it, even if you didnít do it: that way love will return after the beating.

Bird: Child learns to be the criminal, even though heís innocent.

Tree: Teacher laughed at him. Because little kappa disagreed with Teacher, and that time Teacher was right. Teacher laughed at him. Pierced him right through with that terrible laugh.

Bird: Humiliation! Humiliation! My religion is to never feel that way again! Never question the expert! Never challenge authority! Revered teacher will laugh at me! If you say I am a monster, it must be true!

Tree: Kappa knows itís not true.

Bird: But he feels that it is, and he lives like it is. His mind drowns, like little Akio, in the lake of his deference to others.

Tree: He is too sensitive. Like soft clay, in which everything makes an impression Ė in which a sparrow leaves a footprint Ė and even a leaf leaves behind a trace of its weightless passing. His mind absorbs the world. And the world hates him.

Bird: Monster! Monster! Monster! Monster! How can he not succumb to the hatred of the world, by hating himself!?

Tree: Without the savage might of a monsterÖ

Bird: Only the guiltÖ

Tree: Without the admirable virility and furious grace of a monsterÖ

Bird: Only the self-loathingÖ

Tree: Without the brutal effectiveness of a monsterÖ

Bird: Only the despair, and shame!

Tree: He wants to die, but he does not need a knife. All he needs is the bottom of the lake.

Bird: But we want to live.

Tree: We want to live, but we cannot resist. He has been blessed with the strength of a monster, but because he believes he is a monster, he is unable to manifest that strength. Your wings are made to fly, not fight. My roots are made for a world where trees do not need to run.

Bird: Dear Tree, what is going to happen while kappa is sleeping at the bottom of the lake?

Tree: They are coming with axes. Canít you hear them coming? The men are coming. They are coming with axes.

Bird: [Screaming] NO!!!!! Axes? NO!!!!!

Enter Takahashi and Ushijima with axes; also mother, with a basket of food and water container; and Yukio. Yukio seems to have developed some kind of nervous mannerism since his brother died, he periodically shakes his right arm. The tree-cutters spend some time setting up.

Bird: [Continues to whisper] NoÖ NoÖ.

Takahashi: [To mother] Do you want to say a final prayer to the tree?

Mother: Yes, please. Come here, Yukio.

Ushijima: Isnít Nomura San on the way?

Takahashi: He said his prayers for the tree at the shrine. I think heís coming at the end, just to get a piece of wood. He wants to keep a piece of wood from the tree.

The mother bows down by the tree, and motions for Yukio to come and join her.

Ushijima: Itís too bad, eh? The old man wasnít happy, but we need more space to plant.

Takahashi: What magic and fairy tales are for us, Economics is for him. I donít understand how a dragon could blow fire out of its mouth without burning its respiratory tract, or blowing up like the Hindenburg. But it seems to make sense to him. Likewise, he canít understand how getting a foothold in a new market could justify the felling of a tree he used to climb when he was a child.

Ushijima: Poor old man, did you hear what he said? "Iíve stood in the way of progress long enough. I can hardly see my own hand, my eyesightís so bad, now. Itís possible I no longer know what the worldís like. Do what you have to do, you must see the world more clearly than I do now."

Takahashi: He loves this village. The only way for it to survive is to adapt to whatís going on outside. Didnít the Emperor Meiji do that?

Ushijima: Thatís right. To save the soul of Japan, the sword had to give way to the gun.

Mother: Dear, beautiful tree, please forgive us! We need this land to farm, or we would never cut you down! Thank you for all the joy you have given us Ė for the shade, for the fruit, for the songs of the birds, for the branches you let us climb Ė I remember that my brother used to climb up Ė on this branch here Ė and to pretend that he was the lookout in a ship. What beautiful lands he saw! [She begins to weep] Oh itís sad! so sad!

Ushijima: Please forgive us, Tree. May your spirit flourish somewhere, may it find a place where trees are not in the way. Some place far away, in a kingdom of trees!

Takahashi: Sorry tree, even though I think Iím only talking to myself, and that Iím really not sorry for you but for the people who are upset because I am going to cut you down.

Ushijima: May you be reincarnated in the Amazon Jungle.

Mother: So many memories! Oh, so sorry Mr. Takahashi, I donít mean to make you feel bad. I know you have us all in mind, you are committed to improving our village.

Yukio: First, you told me there was a beautiful lake here, but it had a kappa. Then you told me we had this gorgeous tree Ė and now theyíre cutting it down. This is a paradise all right: a paradise of lies! [Angrily he walks away. She starts to follow, then stops, wiping tears from her face.]

Takahashi: [To Ushijima] Well Ėare you ready?

Ushijima: [Tying a sweat-cloth around his head and getting gloves for wielding his axe, and goggles for his eyes.] In a minute.

Tree: A minute more to live. How I loved this village and its children! And you, my dear friend, Bird, and all your relations.

Bird: No! It cannot be! Those are real axes in their hands!

Tree: I have no defense except for menís love of beauty. Like a fragile beach pounded by a mighty ocean of pragmatism, that aesthetic sense is being eroded. Today, the ocean claims another foot of land.

Bird: Injustice! Unbearable injustice!

Tree: Their world is like an avalanche, Bird. We cannot resist. But you, my friend, at least you have wings to fly away from the closing eye of mankind. Find another tree. One with sheltering branches and a view that is worthy of you. May the gods bless you for your constancy!

Bird: Injustice, no! I will not allow it! Still, we have one weapon! One weapon with which to fight against the axes in the hands of blindness! The moping kappa at the bottom of his lake! The depressed, miserable kappa who wishes he were dead! His spirit is as low as your towering noble branches are high. I must rouse him! I must drag him out of his lake, force him to be the monster they say he is!

Tree: He is dead to life, dear Bird. You cannot rouse him. I am prepared. I will enjoy my last moment of touching the sky.

Bird: I will not give up! I love you more than you love yourself! I love you too much to be wise!

The bird leaves the tree and begins to fly over the lake.

Bird: Kappa! Kappa! Awake! Rise up! Rise up before it is too late! Do not let another boy drown! Today it is the Tree! Our great friend the tree! Kappa, kappa! Do not fail us!

Kappa stirs on the lake bottom.

Bird: They have axes! They have axes! Kappa, they have axes! They do not fear the gods! They only fear you! Awake! Awake! Your teeth! Your claws! Your bone-breaking power! Your paralyzing eyes! Use the legend! Step into the driverís seat of their lies! Overpower them with their imagination! Your friend, the tree, depends on you playing the part they have given you!

The kappa, agitated, is beginning to come back to life.

Tree: [To Bird] Donít disturb him, dear friend. It is more important for him not to be a monster than to save a friend.

Bird: [Answering the tree:] There is a time when gold becomes poison. [To Kappa:] Kappa, it is your friend! They are going to cut him down with axes! Kappa, we are helpless! He is bound by his loyalty to the earth, by the commitment his roots have made to the soil; I am cursed by the frivolity of flight! They do not fear the specter of a stump, the emptiness where a great soul used to stand! They only fear you! They are about to kill Tree!

Takahashi: [To Ushijima:] Arenít you ready yet? Honestly, you are taking longer than my wife before she goes to town. Weíve missed the train more than once on account of her.

Ushijima: [Smiling, to Takahashi, and parodying that:] Wait. I need to comb my hair. [Then turning serious:] Ready. [To mother:] Mrs. Miyagi, please make sure your boy stays over there. Weíre planning for the tree to fall that way [points in the opposite direction] but things donít always turn out like theyíre planned.

She nods, and goes over towards her sulking boy to make sure he does not approach the tree to closely.

Mother: So sad! So sad!

Takahashi: Ready?

Ushijima: Too bad. Such a beautiful tree. Well, letís just start. Letís cut it down before it becomes too painful. Memories are such impediments!

Kappa: Is someone calling me? Whoever you are, donít you know I am worthless? Like a hole in your pocket. Any coin you put into it will fall out. Donít call me, I canít stand to disappoint another soul.

Bird: Kappa, thereís no time to despise yourself! Thereís only time to act! Stop lamenting what went wrong in your life Ė your friend needs help now! The world that stopped for you continues for others! - Your friend!

Kappa: I am a monster. I donít deserve to be a hero.

Bird: Your friend!

The men begin to cut into Tree with their axes.

Tree: [Cries out in pain] Ahhhhh! Ohhhhhh! The destruction has begun.

Kappa: Whoís that?!!!

Bird: You self-indulgent, despicable, pitiful wreck! I spit on you! [He spits repeatedly] I spit on you!

Tree: Ahhhhhhh! No, such cruelty! I held you in my branches! I gave you shade! You ate my fruits in the summer time!

Kappa: Whoís that!?

Bird: Scum!

Tree: Ohhhh! Such sharp axes! Such cold hearts! So this is what it feels like! Ahhhh! This is where the forest has gone! Ohhh, what a curse to have feelings! Rocks, how lucky you are!

Kappa: Whoís screaming? Whoís in pain?

Bird: I hate you, Kappa, more than the world does, more than Reiko is able to! You are a monster for not being a monster!

Tree: Ahhhhh!

Kappa: It is the Tree! My friend the tree! They are killing him! [Begins to swim towards the surface] No, my friend!

Tree: [As his killers pause to catch their breath and look at the cut:] I have always known I would take this road, but yesterday I did not know it would be today. [3] And look at them Ė the ones who are chopping me down Ė tired already! They are as exhausted from killing me as I am from dying!

Bird: [Crying now] Kappa! You are the only one who can do something! Can you stop pitying yourself for a moment? Can you stop drinking your tears? Can you stop reopening old wounds just so you can look at your blood? Our friend! Our dear, dear friend! If you cannot use them, give them to me: your claws! Your sharp teeth! - Our friend!

Tree: [As the cutters resume] Ahhhh!

Kappa: [Bursting up through the waters] STOP!!!! STOP!!!!! You beasts that call yourselves men, STOP!!!!!

The pull back from the tree in surprise and terror.

Yukio: Itís the kappa! The kappa!

Mother: [Gives a piercing scream]

Ushijima: The Kappa!

Takahashi: Akioís killer! [He brandishes his axe. Ushijima, following his lead, brandishes his.]

Kappa: Leave my friend alone! Do not harm the Tree!

Takahashi: You killed Mrs. Miyagiís boy. Donít dare to moralize with us! This is just a piece of wood. Go back into the lake you came from!

Yukio: [Running towards the cutters as his mother cries "Yukio!" and tries, in vain, to restrain him.] Itís the monster! The monster who killed my brother!

The kappa now climbs out of the lake, menacingly, as the cutters approach him hesitantly with their axes.

Yukio: He killed my brother! You have to kill him!

Mother: You killed my boy! You terrible monster! Mr. Takahashi, you must not let him get away!

Bird: Liars and fools! Liars and fools! Go on, Kappa, be who they think you are!

Kappa: It doesnít take a monster to drown someone who doesnít know how to swim.

Yukio: He killed my brother!

Mother: Monster!

Kappa: Yukio, do you think if they kill me it will protect your secret?

Mother: What secret!?

Yukio: Kill him! If you donít, heíll kill all the other kids!

Mother: Mr. Takahashi, you must kill him if you can! We must have no more tragedies here!

Kappa: Yukio, it is not easy to be a man.

Mother: Leave my son alone! Donít talk to him like that! Donít talk to him!

Kappa: All of you Ė go home! Leave the Tree alone.

Takahashi: Donít interfere, Kappa. We need space to plant. Do you want us to starve? Mind your business, go back into the lake!

Mother: Donít let him get away! Donít let him get away!

Kappa: Youíre not starving. You just want more. Always more. Tree San is not dying so you can have rice, he is dying so you can have satellite dishes above your homes. Flags of modern times. No antenna can give you more than he can. But even if he was useless, he is my friend. I wonít let you kill him.

Takahashi: Go back into the lake. Weíve made our choice.

Kappa: Your axes think for you!

Mother: Donít let him get away!

Ushijima: [To mother] Mrs. Miyagi, weíre the ones who should be concerned about getting away. This is not just some crazy little man giving speeches in an alleyway. This is a kappa!

Kappa: Go away from tree! Go away and do not come back! You may return to sit under Treeís shade, and children may come to climb in his branches. But no one with an axe in his hand!

Takahashi: Are you threatening us? Are you threatening us?

Bird: Yes, he is threatening you! Pay attention, humans, he is threatening you! He will rip you apart limb by limb! Yes, he is threatening you!

Tree: A beautiful soul sometimes needs the arms of a monster. How easy to become lost! Philosophy, what a thick fog! You wander about in it, utterly confused, searching for the right answer, trying to be a good. Then, suddenly, a friend in need appears, and you know what to do.

Takahashi: Kappa, leave us alone! We are going to do what we have to do! [He motions to Ushijima that they should go back to cutting down the tree. They are reluctant to take on the kappa.]

Kappa: Do not approach Tree with your axes!

Takahashi: Are you threatening us?

Kappa: I am telling you to leave. NOW!

Mother: Donít listen to the kappa! Heís a monster!

Takahashi looks at the kappa, defiantly, then steps over to the tree and takes a swing. The tree cries out in pain "AHHHH!"

Kappa: [Makes a frightening aggressive display and screams:] Ahhhhhhhhh! [He charges.]

Mayhem results. Takahashi and Ushijima, crying out in fear and also with martial energy, step forward to fight him with their axes. The mother screams and tries to run away with Yukio, he breaks free from her and runs to the rope that is by the tree and starts to tie it a bush as Takahashi and Ushijima fight with the Kappa. The kappa is strong and fast, and stands erect so as not to lose the water on the top of his head. He evades several axe swings. Finally, he separates Takahashi from his axe and knocks him to the ground. He also causes Ushijima to lose his grip on his axe, then embraces him in a crushing grip.

As the fight goes on, Tree and Bird observe.

Bird: He is fighting! He is fighting! The gentle weakling is fighting! They would not let him withdraw, they drove him to the center of the world!

Tree: Oh, these terrible cuts in my bark. Was this the awful sun that the closed bud of kappaís heart needed in order to flower? This sun of hemorrhaging sap? This sun of blood?

Bird: The humans fight fiercely, but they are up against a kappa! A kappa!

Tree: With those huge axes they want to chop him down, but he can step out of the way; he can fight back! Oh human warriors, brave enough to face a helpless tree that cannot move, now you face a kappa!

Bird: They created the nightmare; and now they are making it come true!

The kappa is now crushing Ushijima who he has got in a bear-hug.

Ushijima: Ahhhh! My ribs! Ahhh! Heís crushing me. Help! Help, I canít breathe!

Takahashi gets up, and seizes his axe once more. He dashes forward to attack the kappa from behind, but the kappa turns and uses Ushijima as a human shield. Takahashi must pull short with his blow. The kappa then thrusts Ushijima aside and lashes out with a kick that knocks Takahashi to the ground. After this, the kappa throws Ushijima to the ground and punches him, then turns and kicks Takahashi senseless as he tries to rise. He begins to strangle Takahashi.

Kappa: You killer! When the tree tried to talk to you, you did not listen! When the bird tried to talk to you, you did not listen! This is the only language that you understand! No translation needed!

Ushijima begins to crawl away.

Yukio: This way Mr. Ushijima! Hurry! Come this way!

Ushijima staggers up, and begins to limp away.

Yukio: Come, over here! The big knife we brought to cut the fruit! Here, by the refreshments! You must get it to use against the kappa!

Bird: Beware, kappa! The boy is clever! - Beware, kappa, the boy must silence you! While you live, the sky could fall down at any moment!

The kappa sees Ushijima hobbling towards the new weapon, he abandons the gasping Takahashi, and comes after Ushijima. But Yukio has prepared a trap, he lifts up the rope he has tied to the bush, and trips the kappa.

Tree: No! The craft! The craft!

Bird: Clever boy! Now that Akio is dead, everything is for him! He has grown twice as high! He has the cleverness of two boys!

Yukio: Quick, Mr. Ushijima! [Yukio runs up to give him the knife] Attack him, now! Before he can get back to the lake! The water has spilled out of his head! His power is gone!

Bird: Terrible humans! Terrible humans! Why did I ever sing for you?

But the kappa struggles up, and pretending to run towards the lake to draw Ushijima that way, doubles back and manages to reach the place where they have stored their refreshments. He lifts up the water container there, and pours water from it into the hole in his head. The mother shrieks but does not try to stop him.

Yukio: Quick, Mr. Ushijima, get him before he fills the hole with water! Quick! Quick!

Ushijima rushes forward, but he is too slow and arrives too late. The kappa roars, avoids the knife, and breaks his arm, then kicks him and drops him to the ground. Takahashi is now returning with his axe, but he is still in a daze. The kappa screams, and Takahashi staggers back in terror.

Mother: [Screaming] We are doomed! Doomed! The kappa is a hundred times more dreadful than we imagined!

Tree: When crimes go too far, karma gives love a terrifying body.

Bird: When you steal from the ocean, it answers with fists of waves. You twist its beauty into a storm.

Mother: Help us, spirits, save us from the monster!

Tree: The spirits are on his side. You spare one cherry tree in the world, and think it has the strength to protect you? Pray no more to spirits, woman, pray to the grime coming out of your smokestacks! See if it will lift a finger on your behalf!

Mother: We are doomed! Mr. Takahashi! Is there nothing we can do?

Takahashi: Run, while I stand here and die, Mrs. Miyagi! [He advances hesitantly towards the kappa] I will be the cucumber! Though I am a man, today I will be nothing more than a cucumber! Run while you can! Raise your son well! He has promise.

Tree: Still, a trace of the samurai. A last flower in the snow. So sad to see greatness retiring before the dark, like the sun at dusk.

Takahashi: Run! Save yourselves!

Suddenly, the sound of a gong. Everyone freezes in their tracks. After a moment, it sounds again.

Mother: Nomura San! Nomura San is coming!

Takahashi: Send him away! He is weak and helpless!

Mother: He is wise!

Yukio: [Running off stage towards Nomura San] Nomura San! Nomura San! Come quick! Itís the kappa! Heís killing everyone!

Takahashi: Tell him to go away! - Hurry, Mrs. Miyagi, run!

Mother: No, bring him here, Yukio! Nomura San will know what to do! Mr. Takahashi, take heart. Nomura San is almost here!

The gong sounds again.

Tree: What shall happen now? Who was once my greatest human friend, and the voice all listened to, but now, he has stepped down from the throne of his white hair, he has abdicated, surrendered the ramparts of wisdom to the merely vigorous!

Bird: What will happen now? What will happen now?

Ushijima crawls towards the place where Nomura San is about to appear. Takahashi also gravitates towards that area. Kappa stays where he is, facing the approach. The gong sounds one more time. Enter Nomura San, led by Yukio. All eyes watch. Nomura San and the kappa regard each other for a while.

Tree: Who does he love more? Me, or men wielding axes?

Bird: Will he choose justice, or his own kind? Will he take the side of the kappa, who is defending the tree he loves, or take the side of men who are wrong, because they are from his village?

Tree: Can he trust his own judgment, still? Does he have the confidence? Or has the frailty of his body spread to his spirit? Does his heart shake like his hands? All around the last golden thought in his life is senility. What if he cannot find the needle of the knowledge of what is right and wrong in the haystack of everything he has forgotten?

Bird: He loves you, dear tree, but he is no match for the young, whose arms rejoice in swinging axes! They are too insistent! He can barely see them, now, they are mere shadows before his eyes. Whenever he clings to a noble sentiment, they break his grip by convincing him it is archaic!

Tree: What will Nomura San do? Let the kappa preserve what he, a withered old man, cherishes, but cannot defend? Or reject the alien tool the gods have given him to save his world, and stand by the men he knows who are destroying it?

Bird: In the end, he is only an old man. It does not matter what he thinks or does.

Tree: Do not underestimate him, dear Bird. He is Nomura San!

Nomura San: So, at long last, Kappa san, we meet! I think, perhaps, you have heard of me. I am Mr. Nomura, the village elder. I am the one people come to if there are problems, and there seems to be one now, so I am here to find out if I can help to solve it. I have lived here long enough to hobble, and to become blind. On the way to decrepitude, I have loved four generations of men and given them the best I could: compassion, advice, and silence by their side when there was nothing I could say.

He advances towards the kappa.

Tree: Oh no! He has chosen the children he held in his arms; that is who he sees now, not the ignorant men they have become.

Bird: How can you tell he has decided against you? How can you tell?

Nomura San: I am pleased to meet you, Kappa San. [He bows] After so many years.

Kappa: [Bowing back] Thank you, Nomura San. I am honored to finally meet you in person.

Nomura San: Perhaps we two can solve the trouble that has been occurring here. Surely there must be a way that kappas and humans can live together in peace.

Kappa: I have always thought so. For starters, it would help if you would stop telling such horrible bedtime stories about me. You have built a wall around me for generations that does not let me be who I really am.

Nomura San: Such a long time of being mistaken? Then, surely, it is time to straighten things out. We will try.

Again, Nomura San bows to the kappa. The kappa returns the bow. Nomura San bows more deeply. Kappa must also bow deeply.

Nomura San: I am honored that we two shall have the opportunity to make history together. To build a bridge of understanding between our kinds, and put an end to a needless war that has existed since the beginning of time. [He bows again]

Kappa: [Bowing back] Thank you. Thank you so much. I am grateful for this opportunity to end a terrible misunderstanding. [More bows are exchanged.]

Nomura San: [Smiling, and slowly backing away, then speaking matter-of-factly to Takahashi:] While he was bowing, the water spilled out of his head. He has no power, any longer. Do what you want with him. [Nomura San now begins to walk away. He will eventually sit down and bury his head in his hands.]

Desperately, the kappa feels his head and sees that he has lost his water.

Yukio: Nomura San has tricked the kappa! Quick, get him before he can escape!

The kappa begins to flee. They chase after him. Yukio catches up with him first, and hits him, staggering him, even though he is a mere child. Takahashi has his axe raised, but Yukioís mother protests:

Mother: Careful with that axe! My boy is there!

Takahashi drops his axe. Ushijima who is still badly hurt joins in the fray without weapons. They begin to beat the kappa up without mercy, as he struggles to survive and make it back to the lake.

Bird: Devious old man! Sly and unscrupulous!

Tree: Feeble though he is, he knows more than the rest of them combined. His vice is to remain a patriot in a village that has gone blind.

Bird: Idiotic kappa! What a pitiful fighter! What a gullible fool!

Tree: Heís not idiotic, heís polite. He still respects elders! His vice is to hold onto the eternal human values in a world that has discarded them.

As the kappa squirms free of his tormentors, Ushijima exclaims:

Ushijima: Heís slimy! I canít hold onto him!

Yukio: Donít let him go!

Mother: Yukio, get away from the monster! I canít bear to lose another son!

Yukio: Donít worry mom, he has no power!

Takahashi: Donít try to hold him, just beat him! Hit him, kick him!

Mother: Look out for my son!

Tree: And now, the old man is crying. Because he knows I will die.

Bird: He betrayed you!

Tree: He deferred to the young, just as the kappa has deferred his whole life to the opinion of others, internalizing every misconception, living in the cage of their limitations.

Bird: He betrayed you!

Tree: Nomura San has been as decisive in dooming what he loves, as the kappa has been indecisive in saving it. They both love the same thing, and in their own way, they are both destroying it.

Bird: You are what they love.

Tree: What a gallant disaster. What an interesting intermission in the execution. I almost forgot this terrible pain.

The kappa has finally made it back into the lake. He is half-dead, and appears barely conscious and grievously wounded as he sinks down into the bottom of the lake. Those who beat him stand at the lakeís edge.

Yukio: He escaped! God damn it, he escaped!

Mother rushes up to be with her son.

Mother: [Hugging her boy] Yukio! Yukio!

Ushijima: Not before we could give him a good thrashing, though. I bet it will be a long time before he comes up out of the lake to bother us again. Maybe heíll die at the bottom.

Takahashi: No; the water will heal him. We better finish taking down the tree before he recovers. Thatís what got him so worked up. The tree. Once itís cut down, he wonít have any reason to leave the water. There will be nothing left for him to fight for. [Urging the others, who are exhausted] Come on! Letís finish the job.

Bird: No, Tree! Itís the end! Itís not fair! Itís not right! The Universe is broken! The monster is not at the bottom of the lake, it is at the helm of fate! The hand with claws is not uprooting marsh reeds from the lake bed, it is throwing the stars around!

Tree: Do not blame Creation, Bird. Everything happens for a reason. The little part of the scroll of Destiny that we can read does not make sense; but if it were all to be unwound, and we could read all the words beyond our lifetime, there would be nothing as beautiful.

Bird: I donít believe it! I donít believe you, Tree San!

Ushijima: [To Takahashi] I canít lift my axe. I think my ribs are broken.

Takahashi: All right, then, stand back. Iíll have to finish the job myself.

Nomura San: Oh pity me, great spirit of the tree, I am a weak and feeble man! I could not stand in their way Ė not by resisting them, nor by pretending I could not defeat the kappa! And to think Ė I won a victory that will ruin the village, and I won it by abusing the last shreds of decency that the world needs in order to be saved! Oh pity me, great spirit of the tree, I think I will die with you.

Bird: Hypocrite! I will fly above his useless head and shower it with excrement!

Tree: No, wait dear Bird! Donít go! Donít go! By the time you get back it will be too late! Stay here. Sing to me, please. Sing to me like you used to. I want to die hearing the song you sang when the sun was coming up.

Bird: [Crying] I canít stand it! The pain!

Tree: Please sing. Let me die with your singing in my ears.

Bird begins to sing, a beautiful song without words that sometimes cracks as his voice breaks in pain. Takahashi, meanwhile, resumes his attack on the tree with the axe while bird sings, and the tree screams; the old man stands up to look, then crumples slowly, melodramatically, to the ground. Tree has been cut down.

Yukio: [Whispering] Mamma! Mamma! Look at Nomura San!

Mother: Get him a branch from the tree, Yukio. And get me one, too. Theyíll use the rest for firewood.

After this is done, they all gather up their things, and helping Nomura San, leave the stage. The bird continues singing.


The kappa is swimming dejectedly in the lake; the bird is sitting silent on the shore. Finally, the kappa begins to swim towards the surface.

Kappa: I am drawn to the surface. I hear the thunder of the birdís silence. The world is shaking from his lack of singing. There are times when stillness is an earthquake. And it is all because of me. I must behold, with my own eyes, the ravages caused by my inadequacy. I cannot spare myself the consequences of my failure.

He breaks up to the surface. He and the Bird look at each other for a moment. The Bird looks away.

Kappa: Bird, my dear friend, forgive me! I hear the song that does not leave your throat.

Bird looks at him, not speaking.

Kappa: And now, your tall branch is the ground! I failed. But Bird friend, dear bird, even if it does not bring your song back, I want you to know that I tried. I ruined myself trying to save our friend, the Tree. I ruined myself trying to save your home.

Bird: How so?

Kappa: All my life I fought against being a monster. To save you, I finally succumbed. I finally became the monster they said I was.

Bird: You always believed you were a monster.

Kappa: Only by becoming a monster did I realize that I was not. But now I am.

Bird: No, Kappa, still you are not, or Tree would be standing. [There is a pause.] You bowed down to Nomura San, you could not deny him the respect his age and his position deserved. You could not be rude to him. Though you wanted to be a monster, you could not bring yourself to be one. Being polite mattered to you more than keeping your power. You are so good that even when you are trying to be a monster you are considerate and kind. Forget it, kappa, as a monster you are a total failure!

Kappa: [Amazed and relieved] I am not a monsterÖ you are right, dear Bird! I am not a monster after all! I am not a monster!

Bird: Oh yes, you are, dear Kappa, donít let me mislead you. You are a monster, but not in the way you think. You are a monster for not being able to be a monster when the world demands it! You are a monster for not loving enough to be turned into a monster. More than that, you are a monster for being consumed by your feelings towards yourself, when your feelings should be rushing towards your friend who fell, rushing like helpless, wild waters that have broken through a dam. But, no, you are like a dog leashed to a pole, the pole of yourself, your world has a radius of 3 meters. Somehow, every tragedy is only fuel for your own, you throw things that have an independent existence into the internal fire, as though they belonged to you, you use the tragedies of the world to keep your flame of pain burning bright! Your suffering is like a giant fish that ingests all the suffering of the earth and turns it into your own, until you are the one remaining point of sympathy in the universe!

Kappa: No! Not true! Not true, dear bird!

Bird: You are a monster, because you are crying for yourself, kappa, and not for Tree. There, over there, is his stump. And still you are crying for yourself.

Kappa: No! Please, bird, pleaseÖ You talk too much like Reiko!

Bird: It is no coincidence. We both know you.

Kappa: [Laments] NO! ÖNo. You are right. I am a monster. A monster of another kind. I should be dead, not Tree. He grew high into the sky, he didnít exclude the world with self-torture, he didnít shut it out so he could be alone with his torment. He stood tall, he held his branches out as if to embrace every creature that lived. [The kappa spreads his arms outwards like tree branches] So open. So exposed. [He withdraws his arms and crosses them in a protective position. Then, he spreads his arms out like branches again] So brave. So vulnerable.

Bird: To love is to be vulnerable. Donít close up! [As kappaís body begins to withdraw to a more contracted posture. Kappa fights to keep his arms spread out like branches] Donít close up.

Kappa: So vulnerable. So courageous.

Bird: Courage comes from love.

Kappa: Love. Do I know how to love?

Bird: Those who love are heroes.

Kappa: [Gently puts his hands down and then says:] Tree is dead. [Bird does not reply.] I am a monster, bird. The fact that I am a monster does not matter more than the fact that Tree is dead, but I am thinking, maybe I should end my life, bird. I have committed the crime of not fighting hard enough. And now our friend Tree is dead. Because of me. I killed him, bird, I killed him. I need to pay.

Bird: No, kappa, please donít be foolish. I have already lost one friend. I do not need to lose another.

Kappa: I killed him, Bird.

Bird: No, kappa, you did not. It was Destiny that took Tree from us. Do not blame yourself. He was taken from us for a reason, and your weakness and my smallness were only means by which the universe accomplished its end. Do not harm yourself. We are only instruments of the divine will. Our failings are a part of the calculations that keep the stars in the sky.

Kappa: And what reason could there be, dear bird? What reason for such a noble, beautiful tree to be felled in such a terrible way?

Bird: I do not know. But as Tree, himself, said, a higher purpose was being served. From some mountain top, higher than I can fly, it must be plain to see. Tree, himself, said so.

Kappa: In the midst of his agony, he wanted to our alleviate our suffering! [Kappa gasps with emotion.] Oh, how much greater he was than me! But no, I wonít bring it back to me! - Dear Bird, do you really believe him?

Bird: I am trying. As an act of loyalty to a fallen friend, I cling to the last gift he gave me: an illusion!

Kappa: The world is not wise, Bird, it is only cruel! There is no plan, only the indifferent roll of savage dice! I do not believe in Destiny, Bird, I believe in my cowardice! I failed my friend! Your friend!

Bird: Your flaws were woven into the fabric of the universe. You were a part of the plan.

Kappa: I could have made a difference. Instead, I wasted my existence. I was monster enough to perpetuate the prejudice of the village against kappas for another generation, but not monster enough to save a friend! I strengthened injustice by trying to overcome it without competence! I should die for that! I should die! Damn these gills that do not allow me to drown myself in the lake! Damn these lungs that do not allow me to suffocate myself on the land!

Bird: Destiny is greater than we are, dear Kappa. It moves us, through what it has put in us, like pawns across a chessboard.

Kappa: We move ourselves.

Bird: According to how we have been made. Kappa, there is a reason for everything.

Kappa: Tree is dead!

Bird: [Acknowledging the impact it has had on him.] Have you heard me singing?

Kappa: What reason could there be?

Suddenly, they hear Reikoís voice, singing, drifting in from offstage.

Reiko: The end! The end! How beautiful is the end! Like staring into a deep pool of water, and seeing your reflection when you were young, when you believed in the world. Seeing your reflection one last time.

Kappa: Itís Reiko! Sheís coming here!

Bird: The woman you loved! The woman who burned into nothing, like a candle!

Reiko: The end! The end! I shall have peace, at last, and you who tormented me, you shall be damned! Damned forever!

Enter Reiko, she has a rope in her hand.

Kappa: How terrible she looks! How distressing!

Reiko: [She is disheveled, mad, hardly seeing, she is in a world of her own. She speaks:] Kappa, oh kappa, wherever you are! You ruined my life! So now I shall ruin yours! How dare you not say no! I was stupid, you were the one who had to say no! I was stupid from what theyíd done to me, already a madwoman; but when you are beautiful, madness is not taken seriously, itís dismissed as passion, like biting a nipple; or as something charming like having a pet butterfly. Until you see that the house is filled with a thousand butterflies, and that the sweet girl who you thought had just one is covered with them, crawling all over her clothes and face, up into her ear so she can only hear their wings, and into her vagina giving her orgasms. And that when she chews on her fingernails in nervousness Ė so charming, just like a little child in the school Ė she is actually biting off the tips of her fingers! And then she tries to play the samisen for you! Do you enjoy the music? [Sings] Crazy! Crazy! [Speaks:] Crazy girl: you wonít heal her by taking her clothes off, but then, youíre not a doctor, are you?, youíre a penis. Corkscrew, duck-like kappa penis, how novel! Itís so much bigger than uncleís. - The Zen master says enlightenment is a form of madness. You break away from the world. To those who come and break them they give fragrance Ė blossoms of the plum. [4] [She begins to play with the rope.]

Kappa: Sheís gone mad. I have done this to her.

Bird: She was already lost when you met. Your mistake was to believe you could help her.

Kappa: I could have given more. I was selfish.

Bird: You could have crashed the plane of all your dreams onto the deck of her endless wounds, like a kamikaze pilot. You believed in your dreams.

Kappa: I should have let her know from the first that they came first.

Bird: She was too fascinating. She was extraordinary, like a tree with golden apples, you didnít see the quicksand that surrounded her until it was too late.

Reiko: Ropey! Look, kappa, wherever you are, itís my new friend, ropey! [She waves the rope around] I am a cowboy from America! [She laughs. ]

Kappa: She canít see us. Itís like we were invisible.

Bird: Her inner world has taken over the world. She only sees inside!

Reiko: Yahoo! Get the cows! Head them off at the pass! [Severely] Cowboys are not samurai!!!! I hate Japan, our rebels are so absurd Ė red hair! [She laughs.] But still, I canít get into cowboys. Musashi beat the prince to death with an oar. Was it a prince? Billy the Kid, go to hell! Cowboys are not samurai!!!! Itís time to die. I hate Japan, but I wonít go on living like a cowboy, shameless cowboy in the saloon. [She puts the noose she has made in the rope around her neck] Business attire. [Laughs wildly, then serious:] Yes, kappa, I can no longer stand the shame; nor the thought of you swimming around in your muddy lake like nothing ever happened between us. At least if youíd killed Takahashi or Ushijima, I could say my ex was accomplished. There would be a flower growing from my broken mind. The people would say some woman, she was able to mesmerize a monster! But no, you remained nothing but a slimy, frog-like failure! Well, now itís time to pay. You, swimming around, without memory. Iíll show you! Iíll hang myself over there from your favorite tree, so you can see me dangling, with my feet off the ground, right beside the lovely lake you chose over me. And if they cut me down, at least youíll know the tree you love to look at was my gallows, and youíll suffer, like Iíve suffered every day, with horses of the love I had for you stampeding through my head! I will torture you with the hideous vision of my corpse, gouge out your eyes with an image you will never be able to escape from, Iíll kidnap you and lock you inside my screaming mind so I wonít be alone, Iíll tear you from your watery work, the gardens in your soul, Iíll drag you to the sight of the woman you once kissed distorted by death, because of you! - The enlightened one, by the standards of society, is mad! I think I am a master, but when the world thinks you are mad, what does enlightenment matter? The light blows up inside you. Buddha, do you have iron sides? Arenít you dented by the cannonballs? - Kappa, youíre a monster! [She staggers towards where the tree was and looks around. She is puzzled. She steps around, looks more, and stops.]

Kappa: She is going to hang herselfÖ

Bird: From the tree thatís not there!

Reiko: Oh Ė all these emotions itís just like drinking. I think Iím lost. Where is the tree?

Kappa: I canít believe it.

Bird: Itís what Tree said!

Reiko: The tree Ė by the lake. Is this the lake? Yes, it is. And there was a tree here. Somewhere around here. Could it be hiding in the bushes? [She laughs.] Oh tree! Oh tree! Where are you hiding? Tell me, am I hot or cold? [Laughs] Hot or cold? [She looks around herself, then suddenly grips her head and cries out:] Ahhhhhh! [She falls down]

Kappa: She fallsÖ

Bird: In ecstasy.

Reiko weeps for a moment, wildly and uncontained.

Kappa: Lost for so long.

Bird: Because she did not believe in the gods, she believed in you. You were her last line of defense.

Kappa: But now her eyes are being opened wider.

Bird: Our eyes.

Kappa: I canít believe it!

Bird: Tree said so!

Reiko: Oh great Buddha! Oh hidden spirits of the universe! Forgive me! Forgive me! [Weeping] Itís a miracle! Itís a miracle! I came to hang myself today and overnight the tree from which I planned to hang myself has vanished! Itís a miracle! Itís a sign Ė a sign! The universe wants me! No one else wants me, but the universe Ė the universe has come to hold me in its arms Ė to kiss me Ė to ask me to stay!

Kappa: [Also crying now] I failed her, but now the gods have come to save her, and to free me Ė to finally free me from what I did to her!

Bird: Her life has been saved, and her heart put back together. In a single moment! This is enlightenment! One lightning flash of love across the sky! A sign too strong to deny!

Kappa: Destiny. This is destiny!

Bird: This is why noble tree died Ė he was noble even when he could not fathom the purpose of his sacrifice! And this is why you and I were too weak to save him!

Reiko: Itís a miracle. [Slowly, reverently, she rises, takes off the rope, and throws it to the side.] Never again will I curse the universe, or believe I live in a heartless place. I will repay you, universe, by living again. I will accept the mysterious, extended hand. [As she prepares to leave] May kappa find peace where he dwells in his lake, loving the watery wife of his own mind. For me, he tried to be what he was not. I accept that as love. The world is not through with me. [She begins to leave.]

Kappa: I am free! She is free! We are free, dear Bird. We are sad and alone, but we are free.

Bird: Not alone. We have each other, Kappa, and we live within the universe. And someone is calling us, do you hear?

Kappa: No, who is calling us?

Bird: Listen.

They hear a faint voice, it is the voice of tree, but not as strong.

Sapling: The wheel has turned full circle. I am back, as my own child.

Kappa: Who is it?

Bird: Donít you recognize him?

Kappa: No.

Bird: Donít you recognize the voice of a green shoot rising from a seed, a shoot that has just seen light for the first time and fallen in love with it?

Sapling: Where am I? It looks so familiar, this place.

Kappa: It is a sapling.

Bird: From the seed of tree.

Sapling: I will reach you light. No matter how high I have to grow.

Kappa: Treeís child! It is the tree of tree!

Bird: The continuation of our friend.

Kappa: Men cut him down without mercy, but he has reached all over the world with his overhanging branches, dropping seeds. What he cherished in himself, and what we cherished in him, will not die!

Bird: From faithlessness comes faith. From the most painful doubt, the most enduring belief.

Sapling: Hello! Hello! Is anybody there? I am just waking up. I want to share the joy of waking up.

Bird: Thatís tree, all right. [He begins to sing for the first time since tree died] Bright sun! Bright sun! Iím sorry for not praising your return! Iím sorry for turning my back on your goodness! Shine on my friend! Please shine on my friend until he is sixty meters high! [Says] Welcome, little sapling, to the world! One day, I will be your best friend, I will build a nest in your branches, and sing in your ear. I will be the kingís musician.

Kappa: [Concerned, to the bird] But what about the men, bird? What happened before? Takahashi? Ushijima? How do we stop history from repeating itself? We failed last time.

Bird: We failed in a most fertile way, my dear friend, Kappa. In that rich soil of pain and regret, magnificent crops can grow. We learned all about the world, and all about ourselves when we failed, dear kappa. Our disaster was the best of teachers; our calamity was like Rinzai, like Tokusan. Do we know how to love, now? Do we know how to fight? Do we know how to use what the universe has put in us to try to make the world better, and understand that after we do so, whatever happens belongs to the will of the universe?

Kappa: I can be much better than I am. I can do much better than I did. Now that I have beheld the consequences of trying without succeedingÖ

Bird: In all events, you will remain an instrument of the universe.

Kappa: I wish to be an instrument on another level Ė an instrument of higher quality.

Bird: I thought you did not love Tree enough. Now I see that you do.

Sapling: Hello! Hello everybody! What a wonderful world! Is it as wonderful as it seems, or am I only young?

Kappa begins digging into the ground, outwards from his lake.

Bird: There is a moment when the vision of the young and the old is the same. In the first case that vision is called childish; in the other case it is called wise.

Sapling: Are you wise?

Bird: I am the disciple of your past. I donít take credit for it.

Sapling: Will you explain this to me?

Bird: When you are taller. When you are taller, my little friend. [To kappa] Kappa, dear friend, what are you doing, what is all this furious digging about?

Kappa: I am making a channel, bird. I will dig it all around this piece of land where the sapling is growing, make an island here, an island large enough to be the home of a mighty tree.

Bird: A moat, to turn his green haven into a castle!

Kappa: A circle of water, a ring of power where I cannot be beaten, to surround his skyward climb.

Bird: You are not meditating in the temple.

Kappa: I am acting. My prayers are actions. I have understood injustice and death, but I do not surrender the world to them, because love is greater.

Bird: The great stone statue of the Buddha. Out from the hollow of his nose comes a swallow. [5] You are progressing, Kappa.

Kappa: That is why we are here, Bird. That is why we have cried so much.

Bird: [Singing] After all I have been through, I should be weeping, not singing. I should be weeping, not singing. But from the black fruit comes sweet wine. Because everything in the universe is love. Squeeze it, and the love will come back to you. I am singing because I was so sad I wanted to die. What a beautiful song I found in the hole. What a beautiful song I found in the hole. And I have decided I am going to sing again. I have made up my mind. I am going to sing again. I am going to see with eyes that make it possible to sing. I will find truth with my voice. With my voice I will find what is real.

From offstage, four strikes of the gong, each accompanied by the voice of Nomura San, saying: "Blessings and Peace to the World!" Kappa and Bird stop acting, stand up and bow. The other actors then come out to take their bows. THE END.


[1] Thanks to Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids, an exhibit in the American Museum of Natural History (New York, May 26, 2007 Ė January 6, 2008), for bringing the legend of the kappa to my attention. For more on the kappa, see

[2] Fragment from a Chinese poem, from Kenneth Rexroth, One Hundred More Poems from the Chinese: Love and the Turning Year, page 9.

[3] From the poem by Narihira. (See p. 58, One Hundred Poems From The Japanese, tr. Kenneth Rexroth.)

[4] A haiku by Chiyo, from An Introduction To Haiku: An Anthology of Poems and Poets From Basho to Shiki, with translations and commentary by Harold G. Henderson. P. 83.

[5] Paraphrasing a haiku by Issa, from Henderson: p. 147.

Theater Contents

Creative Safehouse Contents

Site Contents