Puppet Play: How the Beetle Got Her Colors
By Jeanette Larson
Notes and Tips
This traditional tale from Brazil is similar to the Aesop fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare.” As written, it is suitable for preschool children but can easily be embellished for older children. This puppet show requires two puppeteers.
If possible, have two beetle puppets—one that is brightly colored and one that is plain. Change the dialogue to include the colors on the beetle you have, if necessary. Or, decorate a plain beetle with blue and green feathers and multi-colored glitter. Folkmanis sells a Scarab beetle (#2329) that will work for the shiny, pretty beetle. Wear a long black glove to camouflage your arm and hand. They have retired their Stag Beetle but it can still be found through some suppliers. Folkmanis sells a gray rat (#2081) but if you have a brown rat puppet, change the script to match rat’s color. The Folkmanis Scarlet Macaw puppet (#2362) would work if you do not have a parrot.
As the audience gathers, play music that is lively, such as “The Jungle Rhythm” from Jungle Book 2, “Wipe Out” by the Surfaris on the soundtrack from George of the Jungle, or “Deep in the Jungle” on Deep in the Jungle by Joe Scruggs. This music can also be used during the race to add excitement and provide an interlude during which the race occurs.
Alternative: If you do not have hand puppets and cannot buy or make them, make large stick puppets using paper plates or cardboard and paint stir sticks.
- Jungle or rain forest scenery backdrop
- Tree stump or tree
- Brown or gray mouse
- Gray Beetle
- Optional: Colorful Beetle
- Parrot or other colorful bird
How the Beetle Got Her Colors
Open curtain. Parrot enters and faces the audience.
Parrot: Long ago, in the lush jungle of Brazil, there lived a slow, gray beetle. This beetle walked through the jungle, minding her own business and not bothering anyone.
Enter Beetle, humming or singing as she walks across the stage.
Beetle: I’m just walking along, minding my own business.
Enter Rat running swiftly.
Beetle: Oh, hi Mr. Rat. How are you?
Rat: I’m fast! Look at you, you plain old beetle. You are so slow; I almost missed seeing you there. (Rat stands up on his hind legs, struts around, running back and forth across the stage acting rude.)
Rat: Don’t you wish you were as fast as I am?
Beetle: I’m fine just as I am. I enjoy walking slowly through the jungle looking at the beautiful things around me.
Parrot: The rat, which was as gray as the beetle, enjoyed teasing the other jungle animals. He would laugh and make fun of them.
Rat steps close to Beetle and bumps into her.
Rat: Oh, you silly gray beetle. I didn’t even notice you. I almost stepped on you. Get out of my way!
Beetle moves away, looking sad.
Parrot: Also in this jungle there lived a parrot—oh, that’s me! This parrot, if I do say so myself, was colorful and beautiful and wise. And, I have magical powers!
Parrot: (sternly): I have watched Rat be mean and rude for the last time. It’s time for me to teach Rat a lesson! (Parrot encourages the audience to applaud or respond to the suggestion.) Right? Right?
Parrot looks at Rat and Beetle.
Parrot: Rat, I have watched you from the treetops being rude and mean to Beetle and the other animals. You walk around bragging and acting like you are better than the other animals. Let’s see how good you are. Let’s have a race and see if you really are faster than Beetle.
Rat: Great! Once and for all, you will see how fast I am, Parrot. Then you will have to sing my praises to all of the other animals.
Parrot: Rat, you and Beetle will race from here to that tree stump (points to stump). Whoever gets there first will win a new coat.
Rat and Beetle: (speaking together) Okay. Let’s do it!
Rat: (gloating) This will be so easy. I have such strong legs and I’m so fast. I almost feel bad for you, Beetle, with your skinny little stick legs. (laughs) But I will enjoy winning, even if it’s not much of a contest. I’ll win without even breaking a sweat. Let’s get moving.
Parrot: Ready, set, GO!
Rat takes off quickly and looks back at Beetle who has hardly moved. Play fast music and have Rat run back and forth across the stage for a minute. Then, move Beetle off stage so that when Rat looks back one more time, he doesn’t see her. Be sure that Rat stays short of the stump so that he doesn’t accidentally finish the race.
Rat: Um, I’m so quick I can’t even see that silly slow Beetle I left behind. I’m sure to win!
Have the Beetle fly swiftly overhead, unnoticed by Rat. If possible, put the puppet on a stick so that she can ‘fly’ across above Rat’s head. Otherwise, just take her off-stage and bring her back up at the other end. Beetle re-appears at the stump before Rat reaches there.
Beetle: (acting impatient) What took you so long? I’ve been waiting for you.
Rat: (looking incredulous and sputtering as he speaks) Huh? What? How? What happened? How did you get here?
Beetle: Oh, didn’t you know? I can fly!
Rat: You fly? I didn’t know you could fly.
Parrot: There’s a lot you don’t know, Rat. If you would be nice and get to know the other animals, you would learn a lot. You always judge others by their appearance so you never learn about their abilities and talents. As they say, “Never judge a book by its cover.”
Parrot turns to Beetle.
Parrot: Now, Beetle, as the winner, what would you like your coat to look like?
Beetle: I will keep my wings, but I would sure love to have some pretty colors. I’d like the blue of the sky right after a rain and the green of fresh leaves in spring. And, if it’s not too much to ask, I’d like my wings to sparkle like the sun when it shines on the river.
Parrot: Your wish is granted.
Take the plain beetle off stage and have the colorful beetle appear and take a bow or strut around.
Parrot: And to this day, beetles have colorful coats and rats are just plain gray.