The Adventures of Ken Harris: Fictional Time Traveler. Episode 4.|
Each week, Ken Harris magically travels into a famous work of fiction to warn characters of impending danger. This week, Ken visits the Dr. Seuss classic, Yertle the Turtle.
THE SCENE: The far-away island of Sala-ma-sond. A narrator stands on the beach telling the story.
NARRATOR: On the far-away island of Sala-ma-Sond,
Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond.
A nice little pond. It was clean. It was neat.
The water was warm. There was plenty to eat.
(Suddenly Ken Harris wanders into the scene. The narrator turns to address him)
Excuse me there mister you seem to be lost.
Are you from the island?
KEN HARRIS: No, sir I’m from Boston.
That’s in the real world. My name is Ken Harris.
I drop in on storylines whenever there is
A fork in the road, perhaps danger impending,
And offer a path toward a happier ending.
I’m something akin to those clairvoyant sages.
I know what will happen in upcoming pages.
I hope you won’t mind if I just look around.
I’m seeking a turtle perched high off the ground.
NARRATOR: Given your status here’s non-residential,
Before I can grant you a travel credential,
I’m going to have to peruse your CV.
So if you don’t mind, could you show it to me?
KEN HARRIS: Of course, here it is won’t you please take a look?
You’ll see that I’ve visited many a book.
I recently helped both Snow White and Macbeth.
Had fun with the one, saved the other from death.
And I did my best to help Scarlett O’Hara,
But she wouldn’t listen, and so she lost Tara.
And this week it seems that a turtle’s my mission.
Like Lady Macbeth, he’s too full of ambition.
So if you don’t mind I’ll go chat with the lad
To warn him that pond life’s about to break bad.
He’s in a spot tighter than Miss Scarlett’s girdle,
So please tell me where I’ll find Yertle the Turtle.
NARRATOR: I’ve looked at your papers and all seems in order,
So you may cross over this fictional border,
And walk down that path to a place just beyond
That grouping of trees and you’ll come to a pond,
And there you’ll find turtles piled up in a stack.
The one on top’s Yertle, the bottom one’s Mack.
KEN HARRIS: Thank you narrator. I’ll do as you say.
Perhaps you can narrate as I make my way.
NARRATOR: (addressing Ken) Very well, Ken you may start ambulating,
While I fill the silence with expert narrating.
(Ken begins walking toward the pond while the narrator turns to address the readers)
Dear readers we have breaking news from the island,
A guy who’s called Kenneth from Boston dropped by, and
He’s now on his way to see Yert in the pond.
I wonder how Yertle is gonna respond
To Ken’s admonitions that danger is near…
KEN HARRIS: (Having arrived now at the pond, he interrupts the narrator)
Thank you Narrator, I’ll take it from here.
(Ken turns now to face Yertle who is perched atop a stack of turtles)
Hey, Yert, I’m Ken Harris and I’ve come to visit.
I’ve something to tell you.
YERTLE: Go on then, what is it?
I don’t have all day to talk to some fool.
I’ve got to survey all the things that I rule.
I’m Yertle the Turtle, Oh Marvelous Me!
For I am the ruler of all that I see!
KEN HARRIS: See -- right there’s what I came to warn you about,
The way that you primp and you preen and you shout.
You’ve got to tone down the whole ‘marvelous’ thing.
You’ve got to be humble to be a good king.
YERTLE: Why should I be humble when I am the best?
Look – I’m up on top and below are the rest!
KEN HARRIS: Just cuz you’re on top doesn’t mean that you’re smarter.
The guys at the bottom are kinder, work harder.
YERTLE: They’re “kind”, they “work hard” – dude, is that all you got?
At the end of the day, I’m still king and they’re not!
KEN HARRIS: Your hunger for power is large, so be wary it
Might spark resentment ‘mongst the proletariat.
I know that at present, the pond’s nice and quiet,
But keep on oppressing and there’ll be a riot.
YERTLE: A “riot” you say -- funny fellow, you slay me.
I am the king and they have to obey me.
Oh, some of the peons might grumble and rant,
But they can’t revolt because I said they can’t!
The laws say they follow wherever I lead them.
KEN HARRIS: But laws only work if the masses will heed them.
Remember, though you wear a cool diadem,
There’s just one of you, and there’s hundreds of them.
That ratio’s kind of important because
The masses might opt to not follow your laws.
And if that should happen, then what could you do,
When there’s hundreds of them, and there’s just one of you?
YERTLE: If laws will not work, why then I’ll use fear.
I’ll say there’s a rogue group of tortoises near.
They’ll come in our pond and they’ll dirty our waters.
They’ll kill all our sons and they’ll rape all our daughters.
I’ll tell ‘em the tortoises mean to enslave us,
And I, only I, have the wisdom to save us.
And once I’ve said that, then the turtles will see
That they need to support good old marvelous me.
KEN HARRIS: You don’t think the turtles might just have a hunch
That you’re lying?
YERTLE: The turtles drink whiskey for lunch.
As long as I tell them what they want to hear,
They’ll come to my rallies. They’ll clap and they’ll cheer.
I’m Yertle the Turtle, O Marvelous me!
And all of the drunk stupid turtles agree
That life in the pond has never been greater.
KEN HARRIS: Mack doesn’t think so.
YERTLE: Well, Mack’s just a hater.
The others all love me and they all agree
That I’m the best ruler there ever could be.
You should have seen just how well my last speech went.
KEN HARRIS: Oh really, then why all this talk of impeachment?
YERTLE: Impeachment? Bah humbug that talk’s just fake news,
A left, or a right-wing conspiracy ruse.
They’d never impeach me. The turtles adore me.
Why else do you think that they all voted for me?
KEN HARRIS: Well actually, they didn’t, but I can’t begin
To explain why the one with more votes doesn’t win.
So let me just say you’re in danger – it’s true.
I know cuz I read it on page twenty-two.
YERTLE: Page twenty-two?
KEN HARRIS: Yes page twenty-two.
YERTLE: Something bad happens?
KEN HARRIS: And happens to you.
YERTLE: How can you know what the future will bring?
KEN HARRIS: Cuz I’ve read ahead and I’ve seen everything.
I’ve read the whole book about six dozen times.
I’ve seen all the pictures. I know all the rhymes.
And I’m tellin’ ya, way down below in the stack
Is a plain little turtle whose name is just Mack.
And right in the middle of page twenty-two,
Do you know the turtle named Mack’s gonna do?
YERTLE: What could he possibly do? He’s a twerp.
KEN HARRIS: I’ll tell you what he’s gonna do – he’ll just burp.
And when old Mack burps, the whole stack will come down.
You’ll lose your position, your view and your crown.
And all of the turtles that you’ve been oppressing
Will cheer right out loud when they see your down-dressing.
”Yertle the Turtle: A Marvelous Dud”
That’s what they’ll call you when you hit the mud.
YERTLE: Well, we just can’t have that, and so it’s imperative
That we get a pen and we rewrite the narrative!
We’ll start by rewriting that page twenty-two.
Here, you write this down while I dictate to you.
KEN HARRIS: I fear your blue pencils will be of no use,
Your beef’s not with me, it’s with some guy named Seuss.
The story’s been written, the ending is his.
A fait accompli… but maybe there is…
YERTLE: …What?... There is what?... Still time to change?
An alternate ending I still can arrange?
Tell me please, Ken -- can I still change my fate?
Can I keep my crown? Please don’t say it’s too late!
Perhaps, Ken from Boston, you’ve come as a savior
To talk to the masses and change their behavior.
KEN HARRIS: I came to change someone – yes that much is true,
But Yertle, the one who needs changing is you.
I know life is great up on top of the stack,
But what if you traded positions with Mack?
I don’t think that you would enjoy that too well,
Having such weight piled up on your shell.
This is the point -- that you should do unto
Others the way that you’d like to be done to.
Having great power won’t make you a hero,
Think of the way hist’ry vilifies Nero.
So maybe it’s time to treat Mack as an equal,
Otherwise someone might author a sequel
Called “Yertle the Turtle Does Time in the Pen”.
Is that what you want?
YERTLE: No, I do not, Ken.
KEN HARRIS: Then don’t you think maybe you need to atone?
YERTLE: I do, and for starters I’ll give up my throne.
I’ll tell all the turtles they’re finally free.
I’ll drop the “O Marvelous” and just be “Me”.
KEN HARRIS: That’s marvelous, wonderful, magical, news,
To see you’ve embraced more magnanimous views.
(Now turning toward where the narrator had been standing)
You still there, Narrator? I think my work’s done here.
Now all of the turtles again can have fun here.
Since I’ve other business I should be attending,
I’ll leave it to you then to narrate the ending.
NARRATOR: So, Yertle the Turtle learned how to be humble,
Saving himself from an unpleasant tumble.
And peace was restored to the small turtle pond
On the faraway island of Sala-ma-sond.
As with most of these, the few lines before Ken Harris appears are take from the original work.