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  • Writer's pictureHina Siddiqui

Vanya and the Five Elements

Updated: Aug 27, 2020

Narrator

In all our days, we have heard many a tale. From the Pied Piper and his rats to the Goose Girl and her tricks. Today we tell you a tale never heard before... from the icy lands of Rus, comes this story of danger and magic... of demons, mythical creatures and one brave boy. This is the story of a journey across the elements that make up life – Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Heart.


Our story begins in Chudovo... a small town on the bank of the Upper Volga. Everyone is preparing for the end of winter – the happiest time of the year and a festival that lasts for a whole week! It is the feast of Maslenitsa – when the ice begins to thaw and the snowstorms retreat. The whole village is celebrating! Young men and women dance around the pole. Everyone lights candles around the house. Dinner tables are laden with every mouth-watering confection imaginable!






SCENE 1: PART A


Speaking Parts

Baker, Blacksmith, Mother, Washerperson, Stablehand, Cook, Priest, Farmer, Village Head and Vanya

Other Characters

Musicians: 8-10

Maypole Dancers: 10 - 16

Villagers setting up: 12-18

Children dancing in a circle: 15-20


Scene opens to a stage lit blue and the clanging of church bells. Candles are lit across the stage.


Movement Piece: 3 mins

  • Village Musicians enter and start playing a rustic tune – moving with bells, violins, shakers etc

  • Maypole set to one side, various villagers dancing around it

  • A long table set to one side. Various villagers dance and bring in dishes of various kinds to keep on to the table. There is much laughing, hugging and wishing each other.

  • Little children dance in a circle in the centre of stage, playing clapping games etc

  • Suddenly Vanya runs onto stage, he basically trips over everything and everyone, making the musicians break their instruments, breaking the rhythm of the dancers, overturning the table and making the children cry and fall over. He stops centrestage. Freezes. Looks up at the audience and smiles.


Everyone

(scream at once)

VANYA!


Everyone freezes

Narrator

While everyone in Chudovo worked hard to prepare the feast, there was one who was not busy cleaning the home and sweating over the hearth.


Everyone unfreezes and starts yelling at Vanya and crying about the mess he’s made – It’s a cacophony of anger and disappointment. Everyone freezes again.


Narrator

Vanya was a boy of 8. And he got into trouble every single day.


Vanya shrugs.


Baker

Why you little thief! Return my honeycakes this instant!


Vanya

But I fed them to the horses, they were hungry!


Stablehand

Vanya, you little rascal, where are all the horses?


Vanya

I took them for a run in the morning.


Head

Good heavens boy! Now you are a horse-thief too? Must I banish you from the village now?


Vanya

I returned most of them to the stable. Except the ones who ran away to the fields.


Farmer

Vanya, you let the horses loose in the fields! They have eaten half my crop!


Vanya

I told you they were hungry.


Washerperson

Vanya, your horses ran through my clotheslines! You have ruined a week of laundry!


Blacksmith

You dropped the barrels of water on my smithy! My fire is out! How am I supposed to forge anything now?


Cook

Vanya, you were supposed to tend the soup in the oven! Now it’s all burned and bubbled over! What are we supposed to eat tonight?


Priest

In the name of all that is holy, why haven’t you done your homework Vanya? If you don’t pay attention to your studies, how will you grow up to be anything?


Vanya stands with his head down. Lights on the rest of stage fade to blue. Spotlight on him remains.


Narrator

Vanya wasn’t a bad boy. He didn’t mean to cause anyone harm. He was just too restless to do what he was told. His head was full of fancies. And when an idea took him, he had to act! ...and his actions usually led to catastrophe for someone in the village.


Enter a lady with a broom, sweeping the stage with a big broom. A spotlight follows her. She sweeps for a while, humming a song, ignoring Vanya.


Mother

So Vanya, what havoc have you caused today?

Vanya

Havoc? What havoc mother? Why must you always think I caused havoc?


Noises off


Baker

Where is that little thief?


Stablehand

I need my horses returned, where is the rascal!


Washerperson

Vanya, come back and do my laundry!


Mother looks up.


Mother

Well?


Vanya

There may be one or two things that I did today.


Mother

And?


Vanya

They may have bothered some people...


Mother

That means I have to spend another afternoon listening to the whole village complain about you?


Vanya

Not the whole village...


Mother

Oh, not the whole village?


Vanya

Yes, Vasya and her family are visiting her grandmother in Moscow. So they won’t be complaining.

Mother

I wouldn’t be surprised if you had found a way to bother them all the way in Moscow.


Vanya

I promise I haven’t.


Mother

Vanya, your promises aren’t the most comforting.


Vanya

I am sorry mother...


Mother

Well, Vanya... you can keep creating a mess and apologizing for it... or you could stop

creating messes.


Vanya

But mother...


Mother

Enough. Go upstairs and wait till I call for you.


Vanya

But mother...


Mother

I said enough. Now go, I have some angry guests to welcome.


Vanya goes past her. The lights come on the rest of stage. The speaking characters all begin grumbling and rush towards Mother. She sighs.


Mother

Ah, welcome everyone. Won’t you come in? I have some warm soup for you all.


Mother walks off and everyone else follows, still grumbling. The lights fade to black.


Narrator

Vanya’s mother was a kind woman. But she could only do so much. Vanya had ruined the feast of Maslenitsa. And villagers were baying for blood. They had all come to her house to demand an answer for her son’s misdemeanours. Everyone except the children of course. They children were left to play in the open spaces around the houses. Everyone knew that the izby of their houses were the safest place for their children. But on that night, great mischief was afoot. The wind began to howl and it grew colder, colder than it had ever been. This was no effect of climate change. But the work of the ice-demon Morozko. Everyone thought that the ice-demon was just a fairytale, a piece of fiction designed to scare little children and keep them indoors during the winter storm. But Morozko was as real as you and me. And he was very, very angry.






SCENE 1: PART B


Speaking Parts:

Morozko (this can be male or female), Old Marya, Villager 1, Villager 2

Other Characters:

Children: 15-20 Ice-creatures: 15-20 Villagers: 8-10


Scene opens to a snowy space, with little children playing. Moroko walks between them. They don’t see him. S/he looks at them and snarls.


Morozko

Humans... all they do is eat, gossip and make new humans. This village... in the past 50 years, their population has grown ten times. The more they grow, the more they steal from me! My forest are chopped down to fire their ovens. My wild horses and wolves tamed to make new pets. My lakes and rivers filled with scum to keep their homes clean. Every day they destroy a little more of my world.

Not anymore!


I will take these tiny humans. Take them with me to Buyan, the island of magic and winter. And this village will never see them again!


Morozko howls like a wolf, laughs and walks out


Movement Piece:

  • Children playing, in pairs, groups, braiding hair, playing with toys, building snowmen

  • Ice-creatures enter from all over stage, and surround them

  • Children try to run but can't, they dodge the creatures, but are herded in

  • Struggle between creatures and children, in pairs, groups

  • Finally the creatures drag the children away


Fade to red and sounds of children crying and calling for their mamma and papa


Narrator

By the time the villagers returned from their angry meeting – all the children of Chudovo had disappeared. The parents searched the village up and down. They called the names of their little ones till their throats grew sore. But no one answered their call.


The grieving parents realized that the only child left in the whole village was Vanya. They couldn’t believe their luck – all their sweet, obedient, careful children taken and the mischievous devil- child spared? In their grief, they blamed Vanya for the loss. They thought this was another trick he had played. Some even wanted to give the poor child a good hiding till he confessed where he had hidden the children of Chudovo. But Old Marya, the oldest, wisest woman in the village stopped them and made them see sense.


Lights on stage. Villagers walk in with sticks, angry. Enter Old Marya, with a walking stick. She bangs her stick, everyone stops.


Old Marya

Stop this nonsense at once. Vanya did not do anything. It was the ice-demon – Morozko! (everyone gasps). The snowstorm was his/her doing and now s/he has your children. There is nothing to be done. Go home and think about why this misfortune befell our village.


Villager 1

But how can we get our children back Old Marya?


Villager 2

Yes, we can’t possibly live without them!


Old Marya

Morozko lives at the end of the world. On the magic island of Buyan. The only way to reach him is to travel through water, fire, sky, earth and heart – the elements of nature.


Villager 1

How can we do that?


Villager 2

What you say is impossible!


Old Marya

I don’t know how we can cross the five elements. And I wouldn’t tell you even if I knew. There has been enough sorrow. Go back home and rebuild your lives. The children of Chudovo are gone.


Old Marya hobbles away. The villagers collapse crying.


Narrator

But while the village cried, Vanya decided that he would put things right. He had overheard Old Marya’s tale of the 5 elements. And now he resolved that he would find a way to cross them all. He didn’t know how he could cross earth, sky or fire. But the lake outside the village was water. And he would start there. So later that evening Vanya snuck out of his home and raced to the lake. He was a good swimmer. So without thinking about the desperate cold, he jumped into the freezing waters of the lake. But Vanya’s faith was immediately put to the test. As soon as he dove in to the deep, dark lake, two pairs of strong arms grabbed him. Vanya was dragged down into the underwater throne-room of the Vodyanoy. The Vodyanoy are spirits of the element water. They are just like mermaids, except they are green in colour, smell a lot and are generally mean as hell!




I love writing plays for kids! Working on school productions is one of my all-time favourite activities. This play was heavily inspired by Russian folklore, given that I was reading Katherine Arden's Winternight Trilogy and Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver at the time of writing. FYI Tsar Mirnatius is the kind of man I imagine myself comforting late at night instead of sleeping. After the demon left him of course. Because otherwise it would just be weird.


Read the rest of the play:


Download a printable copy of the entire play here.


Vanya and the Five Elements
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Download PDF • 161KB

If you do plan to stage this play with your students, make sure to credit me as the playwright. This one is especially good for middle-schoolers and younger, with lots of speaking parts. Also, do let me know, I would love to be able to watch, if possible.


Artwork in the post:

Plyaska by Fedot Sychkov. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Whirlwind the Whistler carries away Golden Tress - Russian Fairy Book 1916, illustrator Frank C Pape Source: Wikimedia Commons




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