A poor woodsman ventures off into the forest to chop down a tree and sell it so he can feed his family. But when he swings the axe, it falls into a nearby lake and awakens the Queen of the Lake. She tests his honesty and rewards him for his integrity.
“The Honorable Woodsman” is a play based on a fable by Jean La Fontaine. Fontaine collected fables from a wide variety of sources, both Western and Eastern, and adapted them into French free verse.
This script includes discussion questions and director’s notes on casting and set design.
Debra A. Cole is a celebrated humanities teacher, youth theatre director, and children’s playwright with degrees in journalism, art history, and elementary education. She understands the needs of young performers and their directors and creates pieces that encourage engaging discussion, creative thought, and quirky playfulness. Her goal is that young performers discover the power and delight that theatre brings to actors and audiences alike.
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Excerpt from the play:
WOODSMAN — (M) an honest a hardworking husband and father
WIFE — (F) a kind a loving wife and mother
CHILD 1— (M/F) idolizes the father and wants to be just like him
CHILD 2 — (M/F) doesn’t want to do honest work and dreams of bigger things
QUEEN OF THE LAKE— (F) a magical fairy who tests visitors to see who they truly are
(The action takes place in fairy tale times in a simple home and in a wooded area next to the lake.)
(Lights come up outside the simple home of a woodsman. It is clear that the family has very little. The wife and children are dressed in simple clothes. All gather to wish the woodsman good fortune in his day’s work.)
(lovingly) Dear husband, we wish you good fortune in the woods today. The sun is out, and weather is fair.
(with pride) A woodsman could not ask for a better day to work.
Father? Can I be a woodsman when I grow up? Is it difficult work?
Swinging this wooden axe is challenging work, but it is honest work, my children. My efforts may not bring enough money to buy us a large house or feed us extravagant meals, but every day, I head into the forest knowing that I giving my best to a day’s work, and my family is better for it. You both would be blessed to have such a future for you and your families.
Swinging a heavy axe sounds too difficult for me. I will make my fortune any way that takes as little work as possible. I don’t care what I have to do.
Child! Your father gives his sweat for this family. Be careful of wanting something for nothing. Dishonesty never leads to happiness.
But, mother, don’t you want a nicer house and food in the icebox always at your disposal? More money would buy those things.
Oh, child, life is so much more than those things. Sure, we struggle as a family, but knowing that your father is an honest and hard-working woodsman makes me proud of all that gives to our family. It is best that you find pride in all that our family gives to you.
Well, I want to be a woodsman like father.
Whatever the two of you pick to do in life, honesty is key. Be careful young one, (looking at Child 2) greed will never pay off.
You are a good and virtuous, husband. Go, and do your best.
(Woodsman exist the stage.)
(Lights come up on a dense forest with a lake along the tree line. A lake is just off stage – out of site, but the sounds of nature and water can be heard on stage. The woodsman carries his wooden axe toward the trees.)
What a lovely tree. I will take the tree to town and earn enough money to buy my family a tasty boar for supper tonight.
(The woodsman prepares his axe and begins to chop away at the tree. It is clearly difficult work, but the Woodsman does not give up. All of a sudden, after many chops, the axe flies out of the Woodman’s hands and lands offstage into the lake with a splash.)
(shocked and worried) MY AXE! THE LAKE! How will I ever be able to make a living for my family without the wooden axe? How will my children see a father doing an honest day’s work without my main tool?
(The Woodsman heads to the edge of stage LEFT where the lake is supposed to be. He sits with his head down. A woman’s voice is heard from the lake – off stage – stage LEFT.)
Pardon me, but was it you that rudely disturbed my slumber?
(The Woodsman jumps back as a beautiful lake fairy queen enters stage LEFT to join him on stage. She is dressed in a flowing, blue and green dress and her skin sparkles with silver highlights.)
(shocked) Who are you? Where did you come from?
I am the Queen of the Lake – a fairy queen who lives here (points to lake off stage) in the lake, and you woke me from a beautiful dream.
(bowing) My apologies, my lady. I am a simple woodsman who is trying to make a living for my family.
Well, that alone should not wake me.
No, my lady. It was my axe that caused you to wake, for you see, while chopping this tree, my axe flew out of my hands and into…your lake. I did not intend to cause you grief.
That was silly of you. I assume that axe was your way of making a living, I am right?
Yes, my lady. I am lost without it.
Well, we cannot have that. A woodsman needs his axe. I shall retrieve it for you.
(The Queen of the Lake exits stage LEFT. A splash is heard off stage. After a moment, water is heard again. The queen enters stage left with a beautiful golden axe in hand.)
I have found your axe, woodsman. Please take it and continue your work, so I may slumber.
(confused and embarrassed) I am sorry, my lady, but that is certainly not my axe. I could never afford such a beautiful gold axe. I am but a simple woodsman.
Are you sure? This is a lovely axe.
I am quite sure, my lady. My axe was made of well-worn wood and sturdy steel.
Well, you say this is not your axe, so back to the lake I must go.
(The Queen of the Lake exits stage LEFT. A splash is heard off stage. After a moment, water is heard again. The queen enters stage left with a beautiful silver axe in hand.)
Here it is. It was so shiny; it was easy to spot. Your sturdy steel glowed in my dark waters.
(once again confused and embarrassed) What a beautiful silver axe. I only wish I could tell you it was mine. What wonderful things I could buy for my family with this axe. But sadly, the axe you hold is not mine.