Mother Goose is a well-known book of
nursery rhymes in English. Do you think
such a book can save Planet Earth from
a Martian invasion? Read this play,
set four centuries in the future, and find out.
HISTORIAN LIEUTENANT IOTA, GREAT AND MIGHTY THINK-TANK,
SERGEANT OOP APPRENTICE NOODLE , OFFSTAGE VOICE,
TIME: The twenty-fifth century
PLACE : The Museum of Ancient History: Department of the Twentieth Century on the Planet Earth
BEFORE RISE : Spotlight shines on Historian, who is sitting at a table down
right, on which is a movie projector. A sign on an easel beside
her reads: Museum of Ancient History: Department of the
Twentieth Century. She stands and bows to audience.
HISTORIAN : Good afternoon. Welcome to our Museum of Ancient
History, and to my department ó curiosities of the
good old, far-off twentieth century. The twentieth
century was often called the Era of the Book. In those
days, there were books about everything, from
anteaters to Zulus. Books taught people how to, and
when to, and where to, and why to. They illustrated,
educated, punctuated, and even decorated. But the
Footprints 64 without Feet
strangest thing a book ever did was to save the Earth.
You havenít heard about the Martian invasion of 2040?
Tsk, tsk. What do they teach children nowadays? Well,
you know, the invasion never really happened, because
a single book stopped it. What was the book, you ask?
A noble encyclopedia? A tome about rockets and
missiles? A secret file from outer space? No, it was
none of those. It was ó but here, let me turn on the
historiscope and show you what happened many
centuries ago, in 2040. (She turns on projector, and
points it left. Spotlight on Historian goes out, and comes
up down left on Think-Tank, who is seated on a raised
box, arms folded. He has a huge, egg-shaped head, and
he wears a long robe decorated with stars and circles.
Apprentice Noodle stands beside him at an elaborate
switchboard. A sign on an easel reads:-
MARS SPACE CONTROL
GREAT AND MIGHTY THINK-TANK, COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF
Bow low before entering).
NOODLE : (bowing) O Great and Mighty Think-Tank, most
powerful and intelligent creature in the whole
universe, what are your orders?
THINK-TANK : (peevishly) You left out part of my salutation,
Apprentice Noodle. Go over the whole thing again.
NOODLE : It shall be done, sir. (in a singsong) O Great and Mighty
Think-Tank, Ruler of Mars and her two moons, most
powerful and intelligent creature in the whole
universe ó (out of breath) what-are-your-orders?
THINK-TANK : Thatís better, Noodle. I wish to be placed in
communication with our manned space probe to that
ridiculous little planet we are going to put under our
generous rulership. What do they call it, again?
NOODLE : Earth, your Intelligence.
THINK-TANKEarth ó of course. You see how insignificant the place
is? But first, something important. My mirror. I wish
to consult my mirror.
NOODLE : It shall be done, sir. (He hands Think-Tank a mirror.)
THINK-TANK : Mirror, mirror, in my hand. Who is the most
fantastically intellectually gifted being in the land?
OFFSTAGE VOICE : (after a pause) You, sir.
THINK-TANK : (smacking mirror) Quicker. Answer quicker next time.
I hate a slow mirror. (He admires himself in the mirror.)
Ah, there I am. Are we Martians not a handsome
race? So much more attractive than those ugly
Earthlings with their tiny heads. Noodle, you keep on
exercising your mind, and someday youíll have a
balloon brain just like mine.
NOODLE : Oh, I hope so, Mighty Think-Tank. I hope so.
THINK-TANK : Now, contact the space probe. I want to invade that
primitive ball of mud called Earth before lunch.
NOODLE : It shall be done, sir. (He adjusts levers on switchboard.
Electronic buzzes and beeps are heard as the curtains
TIME : A few seconds later
PLACE : Mars Space Control and the Centerville Public Library
AT RISE : Captain Omega stands at centre, opening and closing card
catalogue drawers in a confused fashion. Lieutenant Iota
is up left, counting books in a bookcase. Sergeant Oop is at
right, opening and closing a book, turning it upside down,
shaking it and then riffling the pages and shaking his head.
NOODLE : (adjusting knobs) I have a close sighting of the space
(Think-Tank puts on a pair of enormous goggles and
turns towards the stage to watch.) They seem to have
entered some sort of Earth structure.
THINK-TANK : Excellent. Make voice contact.
NOODLE : (speaking into a microphone) Mars Space Control
calling the crew of Probe One. Mars Space Control
calling the crew of Probe One. Come in, Captain
Omega, and give us your location.
OMEGA : (speaking into a disk which is on a chain around her
neck) Captain Omega to Mars Space Control.
Lieutenant Iota, Sergeant Oop, and I have arrived on
Earth without incident. We have taken shelter in this
(indicates room) ó this square place. Have you any
idea where we are, Lieutenant Iota?
IOTA : I canít figure it out, Captain. (holding up a book) Iíve
counted two thousand of these peculiar items. This
place must be some sort of storage barn. What do you
think, Sergeant Oop?
OOP : I havenít a clue. Iíve been to seven galaxies, but Iíve
never seen anything like this. Maybe theyíre hats.
(He opens a book and puts it on his head.) Say, maybe
this is a haberdashery!
OMEGA : (bowing low) Perhaps the Great and Mighty Think-
Tank will give us the benefit of his thought on
THINK-TANK : Elementary, my dear Omega. Hold one of the items
up so that I may view it closely. (Omega holds a book
on the palm of her hand.) Yes, yes, I understand now.
Since Earth creatures are always eating, the place
in which you find yourselves is undoubtedly a crude
OMEGA : (to Iota and Oop) He says weíre in a refreshment stand.
OOP : Well, the Earthlings certainly have a strange diet.
THINK-TANK : That item in your hand is called a sandwich.
OMEGA : (nodding) A sandwich.
IOTA : (nodding) A sandwich.
OOP : (taking book from his head) A sandwich?
THINK-TANK : Sandwiches are the main staple of Earth diet. Look
at it closely.(Omega squints at book.) There are two
slices of what is called bread, and between them is
some sort of filling.
OMEGA : That is correct, sir.
THINK-TANK : To confirm my opinion, I order you to eat it.
OMEGA : (gulping) Eat it?
THINK-TANK : Do you doubt the Mighty Think-Tank?
OMEGA : Oh, no, no. But poor Lieutenant Iota has not had her
breakfast. Lieutenant Iota, I order you to eat this ó
IOTA : (dubiously) Eat it? Oh, Captain! Itís a very great
honour to be the first Martian to eat a sandwich, Iím
sure, but ó but how can I be so impolite as to eat
before my Sergeant? (handing Oop the book and saying
brightly) Sergeant Oop, I order you to eat the sandwich
OOP : (making a face) Who, Lieutenant? Me, Lieutenant?
IOTA and OMEGA : (saluting) For the glory of Mars, Oop!
OOP : Yes, of course! (unhappily) Immediately. (He opens his
mouth wide. Omega and Iota watch him breathlessly.
He bites down on a corner of the book, and pantomimes
chewing and swallowing, while making terrible faces.)
OMEGA : Well, Oop?
IOTA : Well, Oop? (Oop coughs. Omega and Iota pound him on
THINK-TANK : Was it not delicious, Sergeant Oop?
OOP : (saluting) That is correct, sir. It was not delicious. I
donít know how the Earthlings can get those
sandwiches down without water. Theyíre dry as
NOODLE : Sir, sir. Great and Mighty Think-Tank. I beg your
pardon, but an insignificant bit of data floated into
my mind about those sandwiches.
THINK-TANK : It canít be worth much, but go ahead. Give us your
trifling bit of data.
NOODLE : Well, sir, I have seen surveyor films of those
sandwiches. I noticed that the Earthlings did not eat
them. They used them as some sort of communication
THINK-TANK : (haughtily) Naturally. That was my next point. These
are actually communication sandwiches. Think-Tank
is never wrong. Who is never wrong?
ALL : (saluting) Great and Mighty Think-Tank is never wrong.
THINK-TANK : Therefore, I order you to listen to them.
OMEGA : Listen to them?
IOTA AND OOP : (to each other, puzzled) Listen to them?
THINK-TANK : Do you have marbles in your ears? I said, listen to
them. (Martians bow very low.)
OMEGA : It shall be done, sir. (They each take two books from
the case, and hold them to their ears, listening intently.)
IOTA : (whispering to Omega) Do you hear anything?
OMEGA : (whispering back) Nothing. Do you hear anything, Oop?
OOP : (loudly) Not a thing! (Omega and Iota jump in fright.)
OMEGA AND IOTA : Sh-h-h! (They listen intently again.)
THINK-TANK : Well? Well? Report to me. What do you hear?
OMEGA : Nothing, sir. Perhaps we are not on the correct
IOTA : Nothing, sir. Perhaps the Earthlings have sharper
ears than we do.
OOP : I donít hear a thing. Maybe these sandwiches donít
THINK-TANK : What? Does somebody suggest the Mighty Think-Tank
has made a mistake?
OMEGA : Oh, no, sir; no, sir. Weíll keep listening.
NOODLE : Please excuse me, your Brilliance, but a cloudy piece
of information is twirling around in my head.
THINK-TANK : Well, twirl it out, Noodle, and I will clarify it for you.
NOODLE : I seem to recall that the Earthlings did not listen to
the sandwiches; they opened them and watched them.
THINK-TANK : Yes, that is quite correct, I will clarify that for you,
Captain Omega. Those sandwiches are not for ear
communication, they are for eye communication. Now,
Captain Omega, take that large, colourful sandwich
over there. It appears to be important. Tell me what
(Omega picks up a very large volume of Mother Goose,
holding it so that the audience can see the title. Iota
looks over her left shoulder, and Oop peers over her
OMEGA : It appears to contain pictures of Earthlings.
IOTA : There seems to be some sort of code.
THINK-TANK : (sharply interested) Code? I told you this was
important. Describe the code.
OOP : Itís little lines and squiggles and dots ó thousands
of them alongside the pictures.
THINK-TANK : Perhaps the Earthlings are not as primitive as we
have thought. We must break the code.
NOODLE : Forgive me, your Cleverness, but did not the chemical
department give our space people vitamins to increase
THINK-TANK : Stop! A thought of magnificent brilliance has come to
me. Space people, our chemical department has given
you vitamins to increase your intelligence. Take them
immediately and then watch the sandwich. The
meaning of the code will slowly unfold before you.
OMEGA : It shall be done, sir. Remove vitamins. (w takes
vitamins from boxes on their belts.Present vitamins.
(They hold vitamins out in front of them, stiffly.) Swallow
The Book That Saved the Earth 71
vitamins. (They pop the vitamins into their mouths and
gulp simultaneously. They open their eyes wide, their
heads shake, and they put their hands to their
THINK-TANK : Excellent. Now, decipher that code.
ALL : It shall be done, sir. (They frown over the book, turning
OMEGA : (brightly) Aha!
IOTA : (brightly) Oho!
OOP : (bursting into laughter) Ha, ha, ha.
THINK-TANK : What does it say? Tell me this instant. Transcribe,
OMEGA : Yes, sir. (She reads with great seriousness.)
Mistress Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With cockle shells and silver bells,
And pretty maids all in a row.
OOP: Ha, ha, ha. Imagine that. Pretty maids growing in a
THINK-TANK : (alarmed) Stop! This is no time for levity. Donít you
realise the seriousness of this discovery? The
Earthlings have discovered how to combine
agriculture and mining. They can actually grow crops
of rare metals such as silver. And cockle shells. They
can grow high explosives, too. Noodle, contact our
NOODLE : They are ready to go down and take over Earth, sir.
THINK-TANK : Tell them to hold. Tell them new information has come
to us about Earth. Iota, transcribe.
IOTA : Yes, sir. (She reads very gravely.)
Hey diddle diddle! The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon,
The little dog laughed to see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.
OOP : (laughing) The dish ran away with the spoon!
THINK-TANK : Cease laughter. Desist. This is more and more
alarming. The Earthlings have reached a high level
of civilisation. Didnít you hear? They have taught their
domesticated animals musical culture and space
techniques. Even their dogs have a sense of humour.
Why, at this very moment, they may be launching an
interplanetary attack of millions of cows! Notify the
invasion fleet. No invasion today Oop, transcribe the
OOP : Yes, sir. (reading)
Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the Kingís horses and all the Kingís men,
Cannot put Humpty Dumpty together again.
Oh, look, sir. Hereís a picture of Humpty Dumpty.
Why, sir, he looks like ó he looks like ó (turns large
picture of Humpty Dumpty towards Think-Tank and
THINK-TANK : (screaming and holding his head) Itís me! Itís my Great
and Mighty Balloon Brain. The Earthlings have seen
me, and theyíre after me. ďHad a great fall!Ē ó That
means they plan to capture Mars Central Control and
me! Itís an invasion of Mars! Noodle, prepare a space
capsule for me. I must escape without delay. Space
people, you must leave Earth at once, but be sure to
remove all traces of your visit. The Earthlings must
not know that I know. (Omega, Iota, and Oop rush
about, putting books back on shelves.)
NOODLE : Where shall we go, sir?
THINK-TANK : A hundred million miles away from Mars. Order the
invasion fleet to evacuate the entire planet of Mars.
We are heading for Alpha Centauri, a hundred million
miles away. (Omega, Iota, and Oop run off right as
Noodle helps Think-Tank off left and the curtain closes.
Spotlight shines on Historian down right.)
HISTORIAN : (chuckling) And thatís how one dusty old book of
nursery rhymes saved the world from a Martian
invasion. As you all know, in the twenty-fifth century,
five hundred years after all this happened, we
Earthlings resumed contact with Mars, and we even
became very friendly with the Martians. By that time,
Great and Mighty Think-Tank had been replaced by
a very clever Martian ó the wise and wonderful
Noodle! Oh, yes, we taught the Martians the difference
between sandwiches and books. We taught them how
to read, too, and we established a model library in
their capital city of Marsopolis. But as you might
expect, there is still one book that the Martians can
never bring themselves to read. Youíve guessed it ó
Mother Goose! (She bows and exits right.)
Online Lessons with Spoken text and correct pronounciation