The Purim Story for Small Children
Posted 8 March, 2011on:
If you’ve taken the time to read the whole megillah, the Purim story of Esther is neither a simple nor a pleasant tale. Last year I sat down to summarise it so I could read it to a group of 3-year olds, and realised it was way too long and complicated, not to mention violent, and needed serious editing. Even my summary was quite long, although I tried to make it easier to understand the main concepts and characters by omitting some of the plot complications. Also I decided that small children really don’t need to know that people occasionally want to kill us.
However even that wasn’t really enough. A year later, my daughter (now nearly four) still burst into tears in the middle of my summarised Megillat Esther when I started reading it to her today. So it was back to the editing desk, and I am now proud to present the even more abridged, even more expurgated version of the story, for the enjoyment (hopefully!) of small and slightly sensitive children everywhere. And I made up the last line, but it does segue neatly into a snack break at the end of your megillah reading!
The Shabbat Tot Megillat Esther
(The even more abridged and expurgated version)
Once upon a time in a town called Shushan, there lived a man called Mordechai. He was a very good man, and always tried to help people and do the right thing. Mordechai lived with his niece Esther, and they were Jewish, just like you. (That means they liked eating challah and lighting Hanukkah candles and singing Shabbat songs, just like you!)
In the same town there was a king called King Ahashverosh. He lived in a big palace and had lots of money, but he was a bit lonely. He needed a new queen to come and live with him in the palace. He looked everywhere and eventually he decided that the one person he liked most of all was Esther, who was not only pretty but also kind and very smart.
So Esther said goodbye to her Uncle Mordechai and went to live in the palace with the King and become his queen, but she didn’t tell him she was Jewish.
Now there was a man who worked in the palace who was not very nice. His name was Haman. He expected everyone to do exactly what he said, and to bow down to him when they saw him, and he got angry if someone didn’t do exactly what he wanted.
One day Haman met Mordechai, and Mordechai did not bow down to him. Haman became very cross and he went to the King and said, “There are some people around here who do things differently from other people, and I think you should make them go away.”
The King didn’t really know what Haman was talking about, but he said “OK, you can tell those people to go away, the ones who do things differently”.
What Haman wanted to do was to get rid of Mordechai and Esther and all their Jewish friends!
The Jewish people were very sad, because they liked living in the kingdom and they didn’t want to go away. What could they do?? Mordechai sent a message to Esther at the palace, and the message said “Esther we need your help! That nasty Haman wants to get rid of us all! Please talk to the King and ask him to stop Haman.”
Queen Esther thought “I must be very brave” and she made a special dinner for the King, with all his favourite foods. Then she invited the King and Haman to come and have dinner with her. The King thought dinner was delicious, and he was so happy that after he finished eating, he said to Queen Esther “What can I do for you, to say thank you?”
Queen Esther said “Oh please, I need you to help me and my uncle Mordechai and all our friends, because someone wants to make us go away”.
“That is terrible!” said the King, because he really liked Esther and he didn’t want her to go away. “Who wants to get rid of you and your family and friends?”
Esther pointed at Haman and said “It’s him! Haman wants to get rid of us!”
“Oh no!” said the King, and he was very angry indeed. He called his guards and said “Take away Haman and get rid of him instead!”
Then the king asked Mordechai to come and work at the palace and do Haman’s job – but of course Mordechai was much nicer than Haman! And nobody had to go and live anywhere else if they didn’t want to.
So after that, everyone lived happily in the Kingdom. Mordechai did a really good job working for the king, and Queen Esther made delicious biscuits called Hamantaschen.
You can make this into a “real” megillah by formatting the text in columns and then printing it onto paper in the landscape (not portrait) setting and wrapping it around a cardboard roll. Then just unfurl it with a flourish and resist the temptation to say “Hear ye, hear ye” before reading your Purim story.