The 'Space Friends' developed by Margaret Melicharova, is based on 'Another Point of View', an adult fable by Tony Augarde.
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- big frog longer version of the story in the book
- star people interactive story
This story is designed for interactive telling by parents and teachers. The storyteller is free to simplify or elaborate the text to suit the age of the listeners.
The children are invited to join in earlier parts of the narrative, contributing to the story, acting out and improvising episodes, and providing visual illustrations. Discussion is an important part of the experience.
The story can be spread over several sessions to allow for these activities and to sustain focus on the issues raised.
In schools the story-line can be made into a play for performance, using improvisation and text supplied by the children. It offers good opportunities for creative staging.
Everyone noticed the star. It was brighter than any of the other stars, and each night it shone more brightly than on the night before. When the night skies were cloudless, people stood out-of-doors in groups, gazing up at the star and talking about it in low voices.
Soon scientists were talking about it too, on television and in the newspapers. They all had different things to say, but they agreed about two things. The star, if it was a star, was getting brighter because it was getting nearer. And it was heading straight towards planet Earth.
Some people were very excited about this. Some people were frightened. Some people dared to say they weren't interested: it was probably just an advertisement for something, they said, or something to do with the National Lottery. Some people thought the star was a message from their god, and started going to their places of worship more often.
Ask your listeners what to imagine what they would think and feel about this star.
What might they say about it on a local radio phone-in? Act out the broadcast - if possible using a tape-recorder, for rehearsal and final play-backs. Encourage a variety of points of view.
The people who thought the star had something to say weren't entirely wrong. One day the star spoke.
It spoke to computers, it spoke to television sets. The interference made the screens look fuzzy, and people rang up the electricity and television companies to complain. No-one realised that they were getting messages from outer space.
No-one, that is, except the children. The children, too, were cross that their television programmes were being interrupted. But it was only for a few minutes each day, at the end of the afternoon, and the children quickly got used to it.
Then they noticed the scratchy little noises that came with the fuzzy pictures. They discovered that if they listened carefully, the scratchy little noises turned out to be a scratchy little voice. Someone, or something, was saying 'Can you hear us?' And when at last the children shouted 'Yes!' they heard what sounded like a scratchy little sigh of relief.
From now on, your listeners are those children. Ask them to imagine the adventure happening to them; they are the only Earth-people with whom the Star-People can communicate.
If you are telling this story to only one child, ask her or him to choose an imaginary companion to share in the adventure: perhaps a best friend, or a character from a favourite book.
The first thing the children did, when they realised they could talk to the Star-People, was ask their names. They discovered that there were two Star-People, and they had mysterious, serious and strange names. The Star-People had to say them several times before the children got them right.
Then the Star-People told the children the name of the planet they had come from. They had set out from it many years ago. Since then they had been exploring space for many years, looking for living beings to talk to. Now at last they had found the children, and were very happy.
Ask the children what the names of the Star-People and their planet are. Can they agree on what they 'heard'? What other problems are there with language differences? What about differences within a language? How do language problems create quarrels? - and how can language help to end a quarrel?
The children told the Star-People all kinds of things about themselves. They talked about pets, and food, and music, and games, and school, and what it was like where they lived. The Star-People were deeply interested in everything the children told them, and asked a lot of questions. The children asked questions too, though not nearly so many - the Star-People were too eager to learn about life on Earth, and the daily tea-time links didn't last very long.
Improvise one or more of the conversations between the children and the Star-People. A child can play more than one character, using different voices, or simply narrate what was said in the imaginary chat. Encourage each character to show a different interest, temperament and perspective.
One of the hardest things was trying to describe themselves to each other. Both the children and the Star-People spent a lot of time puzzling this out. It was soon clear that the Star-People didn't look much like ET, or the space-beings in space adventure films. From what they told the children, the Star-People looked more interesting: mysterious, serious, and strange, like their names.
Ask the children to talk about what they think the Star-People looked like, and to draw or paint pictures of them.
With all this practice the children became very good at understanding the Star-People. As a result, they stopped thinking so hard and so carefully about what they were saying and how they were saying it. They forgot to think about the feelings of the Star-People, who were so mysterious, so serious, so strange, and so gentle and friendly.
One day, the children told the Star-People about films they had seen, films in which beings from space were enemies who had to be conquered. They talked about the games they could play on computers and playstations, hunting space monsters and 'aliens'. They started to say what fun it was to 'kill' the -
- but the Star-People had switched off.
Not only had they switched off, they had stopped sending messages altogether. There was no more interference on the screens at tea-time, and the scratchy voices no longer said 'Hi! Can you hear us? What we want to know today is - '
Suddenly this exciting adventure seems to have ended. Ask the children what they think has happened Could it have been prevented? Do things like this happen between Earth-people too?
Parents had been very surprised to find their children talking to their computers and television sets. At first they thought it was a game, but if so it was a mysterious, serious and strange one which the children had not played before. Around tea-time each day, the children would make sure that they were sitting close to computers or televisions and then start a whispered, one-sided conversation.
The news of the children's game spread among parents and their friends, and eventually came to the ears of the Prime Minister himself.
The Prime Minister invited himself round to talk to the children. And he was so sensible that the children, after discussing it privately, decided to tell him about the Star-People. He realised that the Star-People must be very clever indeed to have found a way of crossing a huge distance of space and time. They had even found a way to talk to people on Earth. And, from what the children said, it was clear that the Star-People were friendly explorers (although mysterious, serious, and strange) who meant no harm to anyone.
At first the Prime Minister was surprised that it was only the children who understood what the Star-People said. But when he thought about it he was not so surprised. He reckoned that the children were the only humans the Star-People could trust, and that made him rather sad.
The children were sad, too, but they didn't tell the Prime Minister about that.
Now there were problems to solve. The space ship was now much closer to Earth and had begun to circle, silently, round it. All the people were wondering what would happen next. The scientists, and the politicians, and the military leaders were all arguing about what to do. No-one except the Prime Minister knew that the children could talk to the space-ship.
And only the children knew that the space-ship had stopped talking to them.
Ask the children to imagine themselves in the in the shoes of
- the people waiting to see what was going to happen
- the scientists
- the politicians
- the military leaders
What do these people do and say? Act out some conversations before you go on with the story.
Perhaps this is what they did:
The people who had watched the space-ship's approach with excitement went on being excited about it. They wanted the visitor to be welcomed. They suggested that radio messages of greeting should be sent to them. They suggested making huge chalk patterns on hillsides, spelling out PLANET EARTH WELCOMES FRIENDLY FLYERS.
But the people who had been frightened went on being frightened. They wanted warning messages to be sent instead, saying EARTH IS ARMED: BEWARE, and SPACE SQUATTERS NOT WANTED.
The scientists were very busy. They were trying to find out what the space-ship was made of, what was in it, how it worked, where it came from, and why. But they weren't coming up with any answers. For a start, the space ship was made of materials the scientists had never come across before.
The politicians argued with each other, as usual. Some of them wanted a space-shuttle to be sent from Earth to the visiting spaceship, carrying important people and crates of champagne. Some others thought the space-ship had come to start a war. They said that vast underground shelters should be dug immediately, to protect the people when the space war began.
The military leaders thought there was going to be a space war, too. They wanted the money spent on getting weapons ready, never mind shelters. They imagined lots of exciting explosions, not many people killed, and a captured alien space-ship. Some even thought they should attack the space-ship straight away, with rockets, just in case. All of them badgered the scientists, night and day, with questions about the space-ship, and the scientists got thoroughly fed up with them.
The Prime Minister was worried by what the scientists, and the politicians, and the military leaders, were saying. He told the children that it was time to talk. If the Prime Minister could say he had spoken with the Star-People, he could explain to everyone that the Star-People were friends. So he needed the children's help.
But he had no idea that the children had upset the Star-People, and that maybe they weren't friends now. What could the children do to put things right?
Ask your listeners to discuss what to do to make friends with the Star-People again.
Whether the children's plan worked, or whether the Star-People decided of their own accord to make friends again, no-one could say. But one tea-time the fuzzy screens and the scratchy little voices did come back, and the first thing the children said to them was 'Sorry'.
Everything happened quickly after that.
The Star-People had a small space-shuttle specially designed to bring them to Earth from their space-ship, and they needed to know where they could land. The children immediately knew what to suggest -
What was it? An airfield? A sports stadium? A beach? The playground?
- and since the Star-People refused to come down at all if the children weren't there, the Prime Minister agreed that the Landing Place should be the children's choice.
The Landing itself was to be a very special occasion. There was a good deal of quarrelling and ill-feeling about who should be invited. The scientists, the politicians and the military leaders all wanted to be there. TV and radio teams had to be there, of course, and some pop stars were asked to do a special concert to entertain the Star-People.
Ask the children who they think should be invited to the Landing, and what else they think should happen around the event. They could rehearse some of their suggestions where practicable, and write welcoming songs and tunes to sing and play. What speeches might be planned for such important visitors? What might their school do to mark the occasion?
At last the evening of the Landing arrived. The Landing Place was surrounded by police and ambulances and fire engines. There were helicopters flying about above, and hidden among distant trees were tanks and rocket launchers: not all the military leaders believed that the Star-People were friendly, and they didn't like anyone who was mysterious, let alone serious and strange.
TV and radio teams and famous newsreaders were busy setting up their equipment, and on a specially-built stage the pop stars were rehearsing their numbers. The scientists and politicians and the military leaders (at least, the ones who had been invited) sat in special seats in a specially-made viewing stand. some of them looking up at the sky with binoculars. Frowning men with broad shoulders and sunglasses were walking about, talking snappily into mobile phones. There were -
Ask the children to say what else was going on.
Ask them to make drawings and paintings of the scene, and to improvise interviews with some of the people - choose some from the invited guests and some from the people who are there to deal with anything that goes wrong. As before, aim at a wide variety of people and points of view.
The children, however, had not been given special seats. They had been unceremoniously put in the back of a truck, as far as possible from the centre of the Landing Place. However, in the truck with them was a TV set, plugged into a long piece of extension cable, so at least they could see what was happening on the screen. They could also keep in touch with the Star-People if need be. All the same, they thought they were being treated most unfairly. The Prime Minister, who had seemed all right, had let them down.
But they when they looked up and over the trees and the viewing stand, they could see the Star-People's space shuttle as it dropped slowly down the sky. It was beautiful. It glowed softly in the evening light, and sank down, like the sun, like a settling bird, and came to rest.
There was a long silence. Even the TV commentator was quiet. Even on the TV screen, the Landing was magical.
Then the shuttle gave a little quiver and shake, like a cat in its sleep, or a horse twitching its skin, and out of the shuttle came two brightly shining oval shapes. The shapes were taller than the tallest person, but not as tall as the tallest tree; at their widest they were wider than your arms will stretch, but not as wide as mine.
At least, that is what most people saw. The children saw more than that, even though it was on the screen of a TV set in the back of a truck. They saw, inside the tall and glowing oval shapes, the creatures they had once tried to describe. They saw the Star-Peoples' friendly smiles. Yes, mysterious, serious and strange as the Star-People were, they had smiles. Then the screen went fuzzy, and they heard the Star-People's voices saying scratchily, 'We're here!'.
In the Landing Place a band began to play. The Prime Minister stepped forward to greet the brightly-shining oval shapes. He pointed to a red carpet leading to a pavilion where egg sandwiches and champagne were waiting. The watching children sighed. It was SUCH a pity they couldn't be there.
Then they leaned forward in astonishment. The TV screen showed that the bright oval shapes were ignoring the red carpet, the Prime Minister, the band, the pop stars, and all the invited guests. They were moving steadily across the Landing Place. The guests and the policemen moved back to let them - and the TV cameras filming them - go by. There were whispered cries of 'Alert!' down mobile telephones (but the phones had stopped working). The Star-People moved on, unconcerned, and made their way directly to -
- the very spot where the children's truck was parked. 'Hi!' they all said together, smiling.
The Prime Minister, the TV teams, and a lot of worried-looking people came hurrying up. The Prime Minister looked at the brightly shining visitors and at the grinning children. Then he shrugged his shoulders and laughed. 'OK, we'll talk here. It seems they want you around. Actually, it's probably a good thing,' he added so that the TV microphones could hear.
While the meeting arrangements were being re-sorted, the children and the Star-People talked together, saying things like 'You're not what I'd imagined!' and 'What does that bit do?' and generally getting better acquainted. They had made the most wonderful discovery: now that the Star-People were on Earth, they didn't need the televisions and computers any more. They could talk to each other silently, just by thinking. Only giggling and exclamations made an actual noise, and their mysterious, serious, strange friends could certainly giggle - a very peculiar sound which made the children giggle even more.
When the rearranging was complete, the talks began. The Prime Minister's assistants, who had thought the children could be got rid of, had been quite wrong. They had forgotten that the children were the only people who could talk to the Star-People. Now, though, the children were officially appointed Translators, and everyone had to talk to the Star-People through them. Not all of them took this well.
The following conversation can be a 'live' dialogue, with the children saying and sharing the appropriate lines. This may need rehearsal, and will need to be taken slowly. Alternatively, you may prefer to read the rest of the story once, and then go through it from this point once more, inviting the children to answer the military's questions.
After the Prime Minister had welcomed the space-guests, the military leaders (who had tossed a coin with the scientists earlier, and won) eagerly stepped forward. There was a general, an admiral and an air chief marshal.
The general began briskly. 'Right. Good evening. I hope your journey was comfortable. Now let's talk about weapons. What sort of weapons do you have on your space-ship?'
One of the children said, 'They don't know what weapons are.'
'Really?' said the general, amazed. 'Well, the, er, things you use to attack your enemies. You do have enemies, I suppose?'
A child translated. 'Yes. From what we've seen of Earth so far, we probably have the same enemies as you do. Earthquakes, storms, droughts, floods. Hurricanes.' The children added others. 'Typhoons.' 'Twisters!' Avalanches! - '
'Yes, yes,' interrupted the air chief marshal, ' Natural disasters. But what we're asking you about is the sort of guns you use. Show them a gun, someone - but don't point it!'
A men came panting up, carrying a pistol, and held it in front of the shimmering twin ovals. After a pause a Translator said, 'We have something like the smaller one. Mountain-climbers use them to send up flares to show where they are when they're in trouble. We use them to start races on our sports grounds, too, because of the banging noise they make.'
'Hey!' cried the admiral, 'You have sports grounds? That's brilliant! We obviously have more in common than we thought!'
'Our sports aren't what you are used to, from what we have heard.' The children laughed as they translated this. Some of their most difficult and funniest conversations had been explaining Earth's games and sports to the Star-People.
'We're not getting anywhere with guns,' said the general. 'What about tanks?'
'I can't explain a tank,' said one of the children. 'Can you show them a picture of one?'
'We do, er, have one here, actually,' said the general, embarrassed. He ordered one of the hidden tanks to be uncovered. Everyone jumped nervously. Even the Star-People's oval transporters quivered.
The Translators squared their shoulders and got on with their job. 'It's hard to tell. We have something like this which we use for moving heavy rocks and stones. Why does it have a gun attached to it?'
'You do HAVE an army, don't you?' said the general, frowning.
'Yes. We train people to help in the earthquakes and floods we were talking about. They mend injuries and provide food and repair damaged things.'
The children were beginning to get tired. One said, 'They give them everything the army needs to put things right when their planet's climate is angry.'
'Aid agency work, you mean,' said the air chief marshal. 'But what about their work as an army?'
The child's clear voice spoke for the 'Star-People. 'When there aren't any disasters to deal with the army looks after the forests and gardens, and helps star-people who are injured or old. Oh, and they run the schools. They teach about nature and stuff.'
'Oh for goodness' sake,' cried the general. 'Are these children really up to this? What do these creatures think they are being asked, I wonder. Look, ask them how their army gets ready for battle, not against the damn weather but against hostile personnel, er, enemy beings.'
'By enemy beings, we think you must mean the angry people among us. As long as people are different from each other, which it's right they should be, they'll get angry sometimes and disagree. The army does deal with that, yes. They look out for such quarrels and help the people involved to sort them out, without the violence we have in our weather.'
'But what about all-out WAR?' cried the admiral and the general and the air chief marshal together.
The brilliant light of the oval shapes seemed to dim, and the children sighed.
One of them said, 'We've got to stop this. You don't seem to understand: they don't HAVE war. They don't even know what it is. They don't kill each other. They live without wars. We could learn how to live without wars, too. But war is all you want to know about. You ought to be ashamed.'
Somebody on the edge of the group began to clap. Then somebody else joined in. The applause spread, until it filled the Landing Place. A quick-thinking TV producer set up a string of camera links to where crowds had gathered to watch the Landing on giant screens - the crowds were all applauding, too. Everywhere there was the sound of clapping, and everywhere people were smiling.
If you were there, in the midst of all the clapping and smiling, you'll have seen the children talking earnestly to the Star-People. The Star-People's oval shapes were bending slightly as if to listen to the children more closely. The children were explaining to them - the Star-People have no hands - what clapping is.
After that there was an enormous party.
The military leaders got quite excited by the idea of being heroic in natural disasters. The scientists were very pleased to stop inventing new and nastier weapons. So the politicians had to join in as well, and they started banning war as though it had been their idea in the first place.
After the Star-People had been shown some of the things they had come to see, such as forests, mountains, and schools, and had actually liked some of the music of Earth, the Star-People went off again on their travels through space. But they managed, even over vast distances, to keep in touch with the children, and soon with children all over Earth. Across space their message travelled, every day at tea-time: MAKE YOUR WORLD SAFE! Have you heard it yet?
These now depend on who the listeners are and the circumstances in which you have been telling the story.
Ask the listeners
- what aspects of Earth they would like to show to visiting Star-People
- whether they think this story should be changed in any way, and how, and why
- if they think the presence of weapons and armies might make visitors nervous and distrustful
- how they might persuade military leaders (and politicians) to ban war (with or without the help of Star-People)
If the story is being told in school, after discussion and art-work plans can begin for making the story into a play. Simple props and appropriate symbols for the characters to carry can be devised. When you're ready, go ahead! - and invite the audience to discuss the topics raised, as well.
If the story is being told at home, go through it again when your listener/s are ready, and then, another time, invite the listener/s to tell the story to you.