Most of the scenes and characters in Li Naissance come from the Bible. But this scene featuring a farmer is unique to Belgian's marionette tradition of telling the story; dating back a couple centuries. Joseph and Mary are fleeing Herod. They come upon a farmer working in the field. They ask permission to cross his land.
The Belgium Nativity. This marionette play has been performed annually in Belgium for over two centuries. This is an abridged version which omits the courtship scenes between Joseph and Mary, and Mary's visit to Elizabeth.
Scene 1. Angel appears to Mary
ANGEL: Hail Mary, full of grace. The lord is with you.
MARY: (frightened) May the All Merciful defend me. If you fear the Lord, please leave me.
ANGEL: Mary, do not be afraid. You have won God's favor. Listen. You will give birth to a son. And you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and his kingdom shall have no end.
MARY: How shall I, whom no man has touched, have a son?
ANGEL: The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will cover you with it's shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this, too. Your cousin Elizabeth has in her old age herself conceived a son. And she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible to God.
MARY: I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Let what you have said be done to me. (exeunt)
Scene 2. Herod and his soldiers.
HEROD: Soldiers, follow me. Go throughout the kingdom. Tell all my subjects to register for the census of Caesar Augustus in the city of their birth.
SOLDIERS: Great King Herod. Your orders will get carried out promptly and exactly. (exeunt)
Scene 3. Mary and Joseph. Then Innkeeper.
JOSEPH: Mary, did you hear the order of Casesar Augustus?
MARY: Yes, Joseph. But that's alright. Let us be registered. Let us go to Bethlehem. (exeunt)
(soldiers cross the stage)
JOSEPH: (Mary and Joseph re-enter. Mary falters.) Mary, are you feeling the pains?
MARY: Joseph, I can go no further or I'm going to collapse. Knock at the door of the inn we just passed. Ask if there's any room. (Joseph knocks on door.)
INNKEEPER: Good evening, good evening. Ah, looks like you've been on the road a long time. But, if it's a place to spend the night you're looking for, I'm sorry but I was already booked up for tonight over a month ago. You know, these days it's smart to make your reservation well in advance.
JOSEPH: But, kind sir, can't you at least find a bed for my wife? You can see what state she is in.
INNKEEPER: Ah yes, I can see that this lady should be inside. But you've come at a bad time, you know, because of the festival.
JOSEPH: My friend, try and not leave us outside. It's so cold tonight.
INNKEEPER: I know that. But downstairs is full. Upstairs is full. Ho ho, there's the stable out back, but I can't put you in that.
MARY: Accept, Joseph.
JOSEPH: We accept, gratefully because I know you're offering us the best you have.
INNKEEPER: You've got to be kidding? You mean it? As you wish. Well, you will excuse me but the inn is full of guests. I'll send someone to sweep the stable out. Don't worry, you can stay back there as long as you like. (exit)
(Joseph helps Mary slowly offstage)
Scene 4. Three Wisemen. Herod.
(enter three wisemen)
1st WISEMAN: Come brethren, let us keep following this star.
2nd & 3rd WISEMEN: Let us follow the star. Let us follow the star.
3rd WISEMAN: But look, the star has just disappeared. What can that mean?
1st WISEMAN: That probably means that this is the place where the savior is born. Knock at that door. (knocks. Herod enters.)
HEROD: Greetings, astrologers!
ALL WISEMAN: Greetings, great King Herod. Your humble servants.
HEROD: And what may I do for such distinguished company?
2nd WISEMAN: Great King Herod, we have seen his star rise in the east and have come to adore the savior. And since the star has just disappeared here, I hope that you will show us the savior, the new King of the Jews. Will you, good King Herod?
HEROD: A new King of the Jews? (aside) Ha, I'll have to do something about that. (to them) No, good wise men, you are mistaken. This is not the place. But go, find out all about this child. What time was he born? Of whom? And where is he now? And when you have found him, come and let me know where he is so that I may go and do him hommage. (exit Herod)
3rd WISEMAN: Look, the star has re-appeared!
2nd WISEMAN: Shall we continue?
1st WISEMAN: Come, wise brethren, let us keep following this star. (exeunt)
Scene 5. In the manger.
JOSEPH: Look, Mary, the baby is sound asleep.
MARY: Yes, Joseph. You would think he didn't even feel the cold.
SHEPHERD: Hello, hello. Is this the place?
JOSEPH: Yes, my friend. This is the place.
SHEPHERD: I hope we're not intruding. We were told that the savior would be born here in a manger. He must be freezing. Oh, what a fine baby boy. Or is it a girl?
MARY: No, my friend. It's a boy.
SHEPHERD: It's a boy! He looks just like me. ha ha Oh, he's making eyes at me. No ni noo nah ni na noo nah. Denis, give the child our gift. Angels appeared to us and said we'd find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.
CHILD DENIS: Little Jesus. All I have to give you is this piece of cloth. But it's one more to help keep your feet warm.
MARY: Thank you, little shepherd. (shepherds withdraw to one side)
3rd WISEMAN: Come wise brethren. Here is the infant to whom the star has led us.
JOSEPH: Welcome, wise men.
2nd WISEMAN: You the Messiah. I lay at your feet a piece of gold. The riches of the sea will flow to you; the wealth of nations one day be yours to command.
3rd WISEMAN: I bring frankincense. In you earth meets heaven.
1st WISEMAN: And here is oil of myrrh to annoint you king of kings.
JOSEPH: Thank you excellent Wise Men.
1st WISEMAN: Thank you noble father and blessed mother. Come wise brethren, let us keep following this star. (exeunt wise men)
SHEPHERD: Come along Dennis. Remember, tell the child to pray for us. (exeunt shepherds)
JOSEPH: Look Mary, you see the wise men have come, the shepherds have come.
MARY: Yes Joseph. But did you see their poverty? And yet look at the gifts. (Joseph yawns) Sleep, Joseph.
JOSEPH: It's been a long journey. (He sleeps.)
Scene 6. As above, plus Angel.
ANGEL: Joseph, get up. Take the child and his mother and escape into Egypt. And stay there until I tell you because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.
JOSEPH: Mary, come. We must flee. (exeunt)
Scene 7. The Farmer.
(The lights come up, indicating it's the next day. A farmer comes onstage planting seeds
out of a sack he is holding.)
FARMER: And a few seeds along this row. A few seeds along this row. And a few seeds here. Now, I've put in a good day's work. (enter Jospeph and Mary carring the baby)
JOSEPH: Farmer, let us cross quickly through your field. We are being followed.
FARMER: Whoa, not so fast. I cannot let you walk on this field. I have just planted my wheat. Ah, if only you had come a few minutes earlier.
JOSEPH: My friend, let us cross through and I promise you as soon as we are out of danger your wheat will be ready to harvest.
FARMER: Ah ha ha ha ha. Pulling my leg are you? No, I'm not going to let you trample the field I've just planted. (Looks at Jesus.) Oh, the little one. How he looks at me. He makes me feel such pity. Just a baby in his mother's arms and he's being followed? (Farmer cries.) This is too much. Go ahead, you may cross through the field.
JOSEPH: Thank you my friend. We shall always remember you.
(exeunt Joseph and Mary)
FARMER: What's this? The wheat is
starting to sprout! He was telling the truth. It's still growing.
Everything is growing. The trees have strawberries. The telephone
poles are growing apples! To harvest, to harvest. (He returns with
scythe and starts cutting the wheat.)
Scene 8. Same as above plus Herod.
HEROD: You there, peasant. Have you seen an old man and a woman carrying a child go by?
FARMER: Oh, milord King, when I saw them go by I was just planting the seeds. You can see for yourself how long ago that was. Now I'm cutting the wheat. (He resumes cutting.)
HEROD: So, the bird has flown the nest. Well, that won't stop me. I'll give the order to have every male child two years old and under put to the sword. What do you think of that?
FARMER: Doesn't bother me. I don't have any. (exit)
SOLDIERS: Yes, great king Herod.
HEROD: You will put to the sword every male child two years old and younger.
SOLDIERS: Yes, great king Herod. Your orders will be carried out promptly and exactly.
(exit Herod. Soldiers remain. A father enters.)
Scene 9. Same as above plus Father.
SOLDIERS: Stop in the name of the law. Do you have any children?
FATHER: Well, no I don't have any. But my wife has about a dozen. ha h..say, where are you taking me?
SOLDIERS: Come with us. We're taking you home.
(They drag him offstage.)
FATHER:(re-enters) Oh, no, no, no, no. I can't believe it. No,not my little one.
I'm going to tell the King. (He runs off)
(Soldiers return and a woman knitting a small blue sweater enters.)
Scene 10. Same as above plus Woman knitting.
SOLDIERS: Woman, what are you doing?
WOMAN: I'm knitting.
SOLDIERS: What are you knitting?
WOMAN: A sweater.
SOLDIERS: Who's it for?
WOMAN: (suspicious) It's, it's for my grandfather.
SOLDIERS: To match his baby blue eyes. Come with us. We're taking you home. (The soldiers drag her offstage. They return with a baby they are fighting over.)
SOLDIERS: Give him to me. - No, you go the last one. - It's my turn again. - Careful,
you're going to hurt him. (exeunt struggling over baby)
Scene 11. (Mary enters alone carrying the baby Jesus.)
MARY: Would that I had died before this and become a thing forgotten.
ANGEL: Nay, do not sorrow. Your Lord has planted a brook that runs at your feet.
And if you shake the trunk of the palm tree it will drop fresh ripe dates in your lap. Therefore
rejoice. Eat and drink; and should you meet any mortal say to him "I have vowed a fast to the
All Merciful and will not speak with any man today." (exit Angel)
Scene 12. (Old man enters and sees Mary with a baby.)
OLD MAN: (he walks past Mary and does a double take) Mary, the daughter of Ann, with a child? Mary, thou surely hast commited a monstrous act. Thy father was not a wicked man, nor was thy mother a woman unchaste. (she gestures) What's that? You want me to speak with a baby? Oh, no, I cannot speak with a baby.
VOICE OF JESUS AS CHILD: I am the servant of God. He has given me the Gospel. He has commanded me to give alms to the poor as long as I shall live and to honour my mother. And He has not made me arrogant nor unprosperous.
VOICE OF JESUS AS GROWN MAN: I was blessed on the day I was born. And blessed I shall be on the day of my death. And may peace be upon me on the day when I shall be raised to life. (The lights fade down as the Old Man is falling to his knees to pray.)