Adapted from a story by Malba Tahan (pen name for Julio Cesar de Mello e Souza, 1895-1975), a mathematician from Brazil who also wrote The Man Who Counted (Editoria Record, 2001), which was first published in Brazil in 1949.
Once, two friends named Mussa and Nagib made a journey through the mountains of Persia on camel back. (Leader — If you have fashioned clay camels, you can start with the characters on camel back outside of the theater.)
They came after a time to a place where a stream flowed by a sandy bank and trees gave shade. (Leader — Walk the characters down to the river's edge.)
There they had a discussion, which turned into an argument. Nagib grew angry, and for the first time ever, he slapped Mussa across the face. (Leader — You may wish to act this out with the characters explicitly or less so.)
Mussa was stunned. He felt angry. He wanted to slap Nagib back. But then he thought, "I cannot be too mad at my friend because I could have done the same thing. We are alike, and I care about him, and I don't want to fight with him anymore." So he walked over to the trees instead and picked up a stick. (Leader — Show this with the character.) With the stick he wrote in the sand, "Today my
best friend slapped me." (Leader — Use the toothpick to write this in the sand for all to see.)
Then he and his friend stood in silence and watched as the desert wind blew the words in the sand away. (Leader — Blow the sand gently, until the writing disappears.)
By the time the writing had disappeared Nagib had said that he was sorry. The friends got back on their camels and rode to their destination in a distant city. On their trip back through the mountain pass they stopped again at the same river. (Leader — You can show this with the characters leaving the stage and then returning.)
This time the two friends decided to take a swim. Since their first visit, the rains had made the current stronger and river much deeper. Mussa, the friend who had been slapped, stepped into the water first. Right away, he slipped on a rock, was dragged under by the current, and began to drown. Nagib jumped in without a second thought and pulled his friend to safety. (Leader — Show these actions with the clay figures.)
The two friends again sat in silence for some time until Mussa had regained his breath. Then he rose and went to his saddlebags. There he found a carving knife. This time he went to a rock near the river. (Leader — Show the character moving off and back.)
Into the rock he carved these words, "Today my best friend saved me." (Leader — Use the toothpick or other sharper object to write the words in the clay.)
Again the two friends sat in silence. Finally Nagib spoke, "My friend, after I hurt you, you wrote the words in sand. Now after I saved you, you wrote the words in stone, why?" (Leader — Demonstrate this dialogue, using the characters.)
Mussa replied, "When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. This way our hearts are free from bitterness, and we can renew our friendships. But, when someone does something kind for us, we must engrave it in stone and in our hearts so that we will never forget."
“Thank you my friend” said Nagib. “I am very grateful for our friendship. I don’t ever want to hurt you again.”
The two friends embraced and continued on their journey together. (Leader – Have the two characters embrace. You can have them continue their journey, if you made camels, or just say, “The End.”)