The Literary Fictionist

The Dryad and I: A Confession and a Forecast

A playlet by Sunil Sharma

Cast:  A young Character as a single speaker

Chorus: A few more young actors

Venue: Any place as the stage

Total Time: Five minutes


(Bare stage. Only one character facing the audience. Steps forward.)

Character: Hey there! You, you…and you! Listen! (Pause) Hmm. Ready? (Pause) Well, well, here is my story…the story of a tree-man…yes, Sahiban-kadradan! A tree-man stands before you.

In the background, the chorus is only heard. It stays off stage.

Chorus: What a fiction, man! What a fiction!

Character: No, listen first!

Chorus: Fiction! Fiction!

Character: No, listen, please and then judge. Fiction often tells the truth! Listen, please!


Character: Well, there was a gnarled tree in our compound in an old mohalla of Budaun, Patiali-Sarai, the street there…

Chorus: Budaun? What is that?

Character: Yes, friends, Budaun, the old and historic city of jinns and saints; of fakirs and generals; of legendary mystics and poets…

Chorus: Wow! Go on!

Character: Here it goes…

The tree was old and always whispered in mornings and evenings to those that elected to listen to its gentle song—a deep mourning…a dirge, sad and heart-rending…

Chorus: Hmm! Interesting! Your version of Harry Potter? Hmm!

Character: No Potter, here!

Chorus: Then?

Character:  It is different. Let me continue…

…Returning home from school, I would throw stones at it and it would sigh and nod its head of branches…and drop its fruits on the ground. We would eat the berries and move around its girth, playing hide-n-seek. Then…

Chorus: Then?

Character: One day, I took out a knife and shaved off pieces of its skin. The moment, the bark came off, blood oozed, and the tree cried in a wounded tone. I was not paying attention…I carved my name on the tender heart of the tree and then…

Chorus: Then? Tell us fast. Interesting tale!

Character: Then…

…a woman appeared out of nowhere, startling me, on that memorable dusk full of fading lights and shadows, in that by lane where history meets the present, memory resides dormant… to be awakened in the young ones by an unusual encounter!

Chorus (almost seems to echo): … history meets the present; memory resides dormant… to be awakened in the young ones by an unusual encounter!

 Character: Terrified! I asked her, the bleeding maiden: Who are you?

I am a dryad.

— What is a dryad?

The spirit of a tree.

I was deeply scared! I asked her, ‘Why are you here, madam dryad?’

Because you have awakened me!

— How?

By turning your knife in my heart.

I was speechless.

And casting stones at me from childhood and tearing my branches and leaves. Your wanton acts of violence have caused injuries and wounds that fester…

— I am sorry! I did not know the trees have spirits.

You mortals are fools! Now it is payback time!

— What?!

Heard me right! Payback time.

So, she said to me on that memorable dusk with light and shadows in interplay in that dusty and narrow by-lane full of memories, my dear friends and I protested but she did not listen. Then…

Chorus: Then? Tell us fast, you foolish mortal!

Character: A sad story…

…The dryad turned me into a tree-man and left me suffering for my acts of violence against trees per se…

Chorus: How? Tell us, ignorant human, ignorant of other worlds, of realms, spirits.

Character: Patience!

…I was infected by the spirit of the wounded dryad and developed strange empathy with her pain. Now, whenever children cast stones on the body of the tree, I suffer and bleed! Any scratch there is a scratch on my body-soul. Look here! Scratches all over my body! I suffer and plead…

Chorus: Plead what?

Character: Plead with the fellow humans not to hurt trees or tear the branches or leaves, carve or cut them into dead wood or…

Chorus: Or? Tell us fast, tree-man. Your wisdom as the hybrid or shape shifter? Mythological or magical creature? Half-imagined and half-real? Tell us in words so that we can understand the others.

Character:  Listen, mortals! Words of wisdom, learnt in this new avatar of twin souls, of a tree and human, residing in the human form.

Here: “The Dirge Unheard”

The more you kill others,

of the silent species and natural order,

the more of your ilk

will be killed and soon,

listen you, homo sapiens,

your species will be annihilated


Chorus on the stage now, singing:

“The Dirge Unheard”

The more you kill others,

of the silent species and natural order,

the more of your ilk

will be killed and soon,

listen you, homo sapiens,

your species will be annihilated


The choral actors appear on the bare stage facing the audience. They wear cut-outs of trees — old; wounded, stumps, and new ones, greening.

The chorus faces the audience, while the protagonist or Character remains mute and downcast, on the sides of the wings.


So here was this tale extraordinary

From the by-lanes of Budaun

A tale as fabulous

As the city of Budaun!

Each street—

Steeped in history and magic!

The Character steps forward and chants the remaining part of the song.


Take it or leave it, you all!

If such stories fail to change you,

You are as dead as the stumps

In a forest, once rich,

Now made barren by

The greed of the corporations

And public apathy!


Then it is adieu!

Few years more

And it will be all a fading memory—

Sky, seas, rivers, forests, hills and trees!


Exit all.



Sahiban-kadradan: Valued patrons

Mohalla: colony


Sunil Sharma is an Indian academic and writer with 22 books published—some solo and joint. Edits the online monthly journal Setu. Currently based in MMR (Mumbai Metropolitan Region).



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