Play #32: The Crone, a Fable

The coming of Spring is celebrated, in Eastern Europe, by the constructing, often by school children, of a female effigy of Winter, who is burned—as a beacon to summon the tardy Spring—and then thrown into the river to drown—as a way of finally getting rid the cold lingering hag.

In Poland, this pagan spring festival, during which the hag-effigy is burned and drowned, is called Marzanna (or sometimes Morena, death).  It is also the effigy‘s name.

The play is set by a river in Poland.  The townsfolk and their children have constructed a Marzanna of straw.  And even though she is The Crone of Winter, she nevertheless seems rather noble and still beautiful as a woman—especially to one agitated ten year old boy named Pavel.


Pavel’s Father: Hand me the matches, Pavel, it’s time to set fire to the Old Crone.

Pavel:  It’s really too bad.   She’s so beautiful!

P’s F:  There’s not much to be said for the beauty of Winter, my boy.  Haven’t you had enough of icy winds and billowing snow? Don’t you long for the birds and the flowers?  

Pavel:  Yes. But I want Marzanna too, papa.

P’s F:   Well, you can’t have them both.  Out with the old, Pavel.  Now let’s set her aflame!

Pavel (upset): No no, Papa.  I don’t want to.  I can’t.

P’s F (relenting slightly):  Alright then, let’s just slide her into the river and be rid of the old bitch!

[They launch Marzanna.  As she drifts out into the fast-moving water, Pavel is overcome with the loss of her and begins to weep]

Pavel: I’ll be back soon, Papa. There’s something I must do.

[he runs off]


[We see Pavel—who has hurried downstream—wading out into the icy water, grabbing hold of Marzanna as she drifts past, and pulling her to shore.  He then props her up on the river bank to admire her all over again.  He sits beside her, holding her wet straw hand]

Pavel (whispering in Marzanna’s straw ear):  I just couldn’t set fire to you, and I couldn’t let you drown.  I want you to be with me always.

[And suddenly it begins to snow—a little furtive flurry at first, which soon becomes a blizzard.  It snows and snows and snows.
It snows in Pavel’s village by the river, and it snows all over the rest of Poland, and all over Eastern Europe.  It snows all over the world.  And it never EVER stops.]