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The Camel’s Complaint: A Christmas Puppet Play

Our Christmas gift to all: A puppet play I wrote some years ago. Merry Christmas!

The Camel’s Complaint

Characters:
Caliph the Camel
Hannah the Horse
Daniel the Donkey
Lucius the Lion
Ollie the Ox
Sarah the Sheep

Scene One|
Setting: Desert oasis. Palm trees, green plants such as aloe, yucca, water hole off to side. Tents visible in background.
Lighting: Outdoor sunset.
At Rise: Hannah enters left, whinnies loudly. Caliph stumbles on behind her, sinks down, begins to snore.

Hannah: Caliph! Caliph! Wake up, great ship of the desert!

Caliph (Grumbling, not looking up): May a thousand fleas make their nests in your tail. Can’t you be quiet?

(Daniel enters right.)

Daniel: Ah, the most beautiful flower of the desert. What’s the matter, Hannah?

Hannah: Caliph won’t get up again, Daniel. The caravan’s going to leave without him.

Daniel: They won’t leave without that sorry excuse for a camel.  Remember what he’s carrying?

Hannah: but he’s got to get up. He’s making us lose time every day. What if we’re too late?

Daniel: Get up, son of a sand-slug. Caliph! You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Caliph: It’s fine if you want to keep walking all night, every night. This load of mine is much too heavy.

Daniel: It should be heavy. That’s gold you’re carrying, O grandfather of grouches.

Caliph: Sand for breakfast, dust for lunch, cactus spines for supper. What a life! I’ve had enough.

Daniel: You haven’t got any choice. Our masters are headed for Judea. I know that much.

Caliph: Why Judea? The whole place smells like Caesar’s armpits.

Hannah: They follow the Star.

Caliph: The sky is full of stars! Can’t they pick one going to the Caspian Sea Resort? I need a vacation!

Daniel: I’ve heard them talk about a new King.

Hannah: This King is greater than Herod or Caesar, the masters say. They call Him the King of kings.

Caliph: Humph! All I know is, my load’s too heavy and I’m tired of walking. I don’t care about any king of kings. See you at the waterhole. (Caliph exits left.)

Hannah: What if we miss the King of kings, Daniel?

Daniel: We’ll have to think of a way to hurry Caliph up. Hmmm … I have an idea. Follow me. (Both exit left.)

Scene Two
Lighting: Desert sunrise.
Setting: Similar to scene one, but plants, etc., rearranged to show it is a different location.
At Rise: Caliph runs onstage from left.

Caliph: We can make another few miles before it gets too hot. Come on, come on!

(Hannah and Daniel stagger onstage behind Caliph, panting, exhausted.)

Daniel: Caliph, stop! We’ve got to rest! You mangy, flea-bitten son of a jackal, stop! (collapses)

Caliph: Is that lion still following us?

Hannah: Oh, Caliph, there isn’t any lion! Daniel made up that story to scare you so we could go faster!

(Caliph stops dead, turns, butts heads with Daniel.)

Caliph: No lion?

Daniel: No lion, Caliph.

Caliph: I ran all night long, and now you tell me there’s no lion? Why I should –

Daniel: Go ahead. I’m so tired I don’t care what you do.

Caliph: Fortunately for you, my long-eared friend, I am also too tired. But I’ll have my revenge. (Caliph lies down heavily, and begins to snore.)

Hannah: We certainly made up for lost time today, Daniel. It was a good idea.

Daniel: We’ll be in Jerusalem tomorrow night. Get some sleep, fairest Hannah. King of kings, here we come.

(He gives her a peck on the nose. She nuzzles him, and they go to sleep. Lucius the Lion enters quietly from right and looks at the three sleeping animals, walks all around them, sniffing, and stops over Caliph. Caliph suddenly snorts, shaking his head with a loud jingle of bells. Lucius runs off right. A distant roar is heard offstage. Caliph jumps up.)

Caliph (Whispering): What was that? It couldn’t be. Could it? (He looks around fearfully, then drops off to sleep again. After a pause, lighting dims to signify sunset, and animals get up and exit.)

Scene Three
Setting: Bethlehem. Stable with hay in manger, buildings visible at sides.
Lighting: Night outdoor in town.
At Rise: Ollie and Sarah enter, munching.

Ollie: By all the boils on Job’s back, I’m glad it’s calmed down around here, Sarah.

Sarah: It was a madhouse during that census, wasn’t it, Ollie? So many strange animals and  people.

Ollie: Even people staying in the stables with us! And giving birth to babies, by every pair of unclean animals on the ark!

Sarah: What a strange place for the Lamb of God to be born. But I’m glad we got to see Him.

Ollie: Yes, indeed, but it’s better for Him to be living in a house, by all the salt in Elisha’s cruise.

Sarah: Ollie, I heard a lion last night.

Ollie: By the four hundred prophets of Baal, Sarah, this is Bethlehem — civilization. A lion! Don’t be silly.

Sarah: I know I heard it. It was scary. Ollie! There it is!

(Caliph runs onstage right, pushes between Sarah and Ollie, tries to hide.)

Ollie: By all the water in the Red Sea, I’ll have my horns in you, you — CAMEL?

Caliph: Hide me! Hide me, quick! I’ll be dead and lying in a sand-swept grave if I go back to that caravan!

Sarah: You scared us half to death! Who are you, and what are you doing here?

Caliph: I am Caliph, son of Casbah, son of Cashmir, heir to the royal line of blue-blooded Bactrian —

Ollie: Spare us the pedigree. By all the soldiers in David’s army, what are you doing in our stable?

Caliph (munching a mouthful of hay): Enjoying your fabulous fodder. I’ve run away from a caravan. They were bound for Jerusalem, but I gave them the slip in Jericho. I’m a free camel! Ha – ha – ha – ha – ha! Eh — by the way, where am I?

Ollie: Out in the cold, by all the Philistines Samson killed! (He shoves Caliph with his horns.) We’re done feeding strangers, thank you very much.

Caliph: Ouch! Those horns are sharp! Am I bleeding? You’ll be hearing from my attorneys!

Sarah: We work for our food, you silly camel. If you want our master to feed you, maybe you could help him at his inn.

Caliph: Work! I’m through working! But I do have something that will make your master take care of me for the rest of my life. My packs are full of gold!

Sarah: Gold! You ran away with your master’s gold? Stay out of our stable. This is where the Lamb of God was born.

Caliph: Well … it wasn’t really my master’s gold. It was for some King … the King … uh … the King of … a king of … some sort.

Ollie: That’s all we need — someone who steals a king’s gold. You get out of here, or by all the spices of Sheba’s queen, you’ll need more than an attorney when I get through with you! Go on, get out!

(Ollie jabs Caliph again. Caliph runs off right. Ollie and Sarah exit left.)

Scene Four
Setting: Barren desert. No plants of any kind except dead brush. Jagged rocks.
Lighting: bright daylight.
At Rise: Caliph stumbles on from left, falls exhausted.

Caliph (gasping): No food … no water … this pack … still on my back. How could things get worse?

(Lucius enters right, stands directly over Caliph, sniffs him. Caliph slowly looks up, then jumps away.)

Caliph: Aaaah! Now I’m going to be lion lunch! I knew it could get worse!

Lucius: You must get back to the caravan at once.

Caliph: Oh, O get it. I’m hallucinating. You’re just a mirage of a lion, right?

Lucius: The Lion of Judah is in great danger. You must get the gold to Him.  He will need it to escape.  Do not let the Enemy win! Go! Go!

(Lucius roars and chases Caliph offstage left. Roaring continues, then fades away.)

Scene Five
Setting: Bethlehem stable as before.
Lighting: Night in town.
At Rise: Ollie and Sarah enter left, heads nod, they fall asleep. Lucius enters quietly from right, comes up to Ollie.

Lucius: Where is the Lion of Judah?

Ollie (Startled awake, he snorts and waves his horns.): What? Keep away! By all the straw in Pharaoh’s bricks, there’ll be no mutton or porterhouse for you tonight, lion!

Lucius: The Lion of Judah! Quickly! Where is He?

Sarah (cringing): You’re the only lion we’ve seen.

Lucius: He was born in this very place not long ago. A baby — the travelers from Nazareth. Where is He?

Ollie: By every grain of feed in Joseph’s brothers’ sacks, He’s well-guarded from hungry lions.

Lucius: I do not want to eat Him, my foolish friends. I only want –

Lighting: Star appears in sky above set, fills scene with bright light.

Lucius: Ah! It is the sign. They will find Him now.

Ollie: Who are you?

Lucius: My name is Lucius. The Star and I are both sent to lighten that which is dark. You and your fleecy friend have helped the One Who has come. Others will help Him too.  Even stubborn old Caliph. We will see Him safely all the way. I must go now and make sure my reluctant friend has returned to his duty. Farewell, Ollie and Sarah.

(Lucius exits right.)

Ollie: The Lion of Judah? Didn’t you call Him the Lamb of God, Sarah — that baby, I mean?  By all the stones in Solomon’s temple, I –

(Ollie and Sarah exit left, talking. Daniel and Hannah enter right.)

Daniel: I can’t believe Caliph would really run away.  We came all this way to find the King of Kings, and Caliph ran off with the most important gift of all.

Hannah: Our masters are so sad.  This may be the town where we will find Him — the star stopped right here, but without the gold –

(Faint sound of roaring. Caliph runs in left, panting.)

Caliph: The lion! Is it still after me? I’ve been running and running, but I couldn’t get away! I — Daniel! Hannah!  Look out! There’s a lion! It chased me all the way across the desert! Run!

Hannah: Caliph! You’re back! Is the gold safe?

Caliph: Gold! How can you think of gold at a time like this?  Our lives are in danger! Didn’t you hear me say there’s a lion chasing me?

Daniel: I told you that story wasn’t true, Caliph. How could you run away with the gold? It was a gift for the King of kings!

Caliph: The gold is perfectly safe, strapped to my back, weighing at least ten thousand pounds — it would have been safe if that lion had eaten me, not that either of you care.  Say, a minute ago it was dark. Where’d that bright light come from?

Hannah: It’s the Star, silly! See it up there? This is where the King of kings is.

Caliph: The King of kings? That was it! But that lion — he said something about the Lion of Judah — and there was a sheep talking about the Lamb of God — I am so confused!

(Lucius enters left. Daniel and Hannah run off right.)

Caliph: I’m too tired to run anymore. Go ahead and eat me. The gold is here. You can give it to the King of kings, or the Lion of Judah, or the Lamb of God, or whoever’s supposed to get it. Bon appetit!

Lucius: Your masters will be here in a moment, and you will live to serve them a long time, silly, stubborn Caliph. Thanks to you, the Bright and Morning Star will be safe.

Caliph: Don’t tell me, let me guess. This Bright and Morning Star — He’s the same as the King of kings, and the Lion of Judah, and the Lamb of God — Have I got it all straight now?

Lucius: He is all those things, and many more. Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace …

Caliph: You mean He’s — He’s the One? THAT One?  I ran off with His gold? Oh, you’ve just got to eat me. I can’t live knowing what I almost did.

Lucius: What you almost did is not as important as what you really did, Caliph. You brought the gold that will get Him safely to Egypt, away from Herod. All is well.

Caliph: What can I do? I can never make up for all the trouble I’ve caused.

Lucius: Be faithful to your masters from now on. Be faithful, Caliph, and you will be faithful to Him.

(Caliph turns and looks up at the star. Lucius exits left.)

Caliph: The Bright and Morning Star. I think I like that name best of all. I’d better go find my masters now. Faithful Caliph.  Hmmm … I like the sound of that. (Exit right.)

Production Notes for The Camel’s Complaint

Settings: Scenes One and Two are desert oasis with plants which can be changed around to show two different locations. Scenes Three and Five are Bethlehem stable with hay in manger. Scene Four is barren desert with scrub brush, jagged rocks.

Lighting: All outdoor. Scene One is sunset, Scene Two sunrise, Scene Three city at night, Scene Four bright desert day, Scene Five same as Three but add Star shining like daylight at appropriate time.

Props: Bundles or chests for Caliph’s back. Jeweled harnesses can be made from costume jewelry to decorate Caliph and Hannah. Daniel and Ollie wear plain rope halters.

Puppets: Camel, Horse, Donkey, Lion, Ox, and Sheep.

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