The Hell Butterfly

The Most Lamentable Tragedy of the Lotofus

I am not a playwright and I am not from Edwardian England. I did however take a crack at writing a play in Shakesperian English. The task was to write a piece in any form so long as it was an adaptation of an existing piece. I chose a Spike Mulligan poem. The result was a 5 Act Shakesperian play-pantomime that fit into just over 2000 words. This is one of the creative pieces I am most proud of having written and, as this was submitted for my degree module last year I feel it has been long enough to justify posting it without any plagiarism repercussions. I hope you enjoy this and, should any of you be aspiring stage actors, I am open to seeing a re-enactment of this. Nudge nudge.

The layout of this is a little all over the place. Spaces aren’t where they are meant to be and, while in part this is down to my lack of knowledge of the correct formatting, it is largely the fault of the WordPress site itself. Many lines are out of sync with each other but the content is all in the correct places. I have, for the purpose of making it stand out, made the character names bolder. I hope this helps.

So here it is, The Most Lamentable Tragedy of The Lotofus.


Chorus: In this, the story of the Lotofus

And his fear of the monster in the dark,

The tragedy of the Hippopotamus

Is told through how this fear did miss the mark.

With jaws and body, teeth so large to see,

No animal would venture forth to know

That the giant they shunned eternally

Could be a friend, but also be a foe.

The fatal fear projected on the creature

Allowed for the destruction of his friends,

And though his power was his biggest feature,

‘Twas fear of this unknown brought tragic ends.

The power he did have, and could have used,

Yet he did not, and thus he was abused.



Forest. Enter LOTOFUS and PUSSY CAT along with mice and rats.

LOTOFUS:   Hark, friend! How do you do?

PUSSY CAT:                                           I am well, friend.

LOTOFUS:   And here, I see you brought along some lunch!

PUSSY CAT: A snack or two, should the occasion rise.

LOTOFUS:   A wise decision! Pray, what hour is it?

PUSSY CAT: Eight, Lotofus. He will not rise till nine.

LOTOFUS:   An hour then. Good. Yet how I fear the hour.

It brings such dreadful things that make me weak

And tremble where I stand.

PUSSY CAT:                                        We shall be gone by then.

LOTOFUS:   And pray we are. Terrific creatures dwell

In these parts. Like the Hippopotamus.

I do not fear you Pussy Cat, oh no,

For you eat mice and rats and leave me be.

You are my friend. But he could eat me whole.

In this I fear.

PUSSY CAT:                  Don’t fret. Here is no harm

If we do not disturb the river. Peace.

LOTOFUS:   Alas, you are correct. I’ll shake no more.

PUSSY CAT: Hear, hear. Now I am hungry. Shall we dine?

LOTOFUS:   We shall. But pray that we be gone by nine.                           [Exit.


River. Enter HIPPOPOTAMUS on the river bank.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: To use the power in my jaw to kill,

To kill for food, to satisfy my hunger?

Whether ‘tis nobler for a one as I

To use my strength to keep myself alive

Against the hunger that my size requires;

To hurt the ones I wanted to befriend

In here, this solitary place of woe

Where I am big, they small, and me alone;

To snap my jaws and with my teeth destroy them

For a mere morsel? To destroy: perchance to lose:

Ay, there’s the rub. If I did use my power

To destroy the creatures of the forest

I would lose my chance to gain a friend at last,

For if I were to eat a one of them,

The others would all run in fear of me

And I would be mere Hippopotamus

Alone, lost on this river ever-more.


Yet soft: the noble Pussy Cat here comes,

And who with him? I shall enquire the name

Of the stranger at his side. Good day, good Cat!

LOTOFUS:            Ay me! He sees us! But why does he wake

When ‘tis not yet nine? What shall we do?

PUSSY CAT:                                                                         Stay here.

I’ll venture forth and ask what he desires.

Good day, old chap.

HIPPOPOTAMUS:                                 Good day. May I enquire,

Who is that creature that you bring this way?

PUSSY CAT:         A friend.

HIPPOPOTAMUS:              A friend!

PUSSY CAT:                                      A friend of mine

And one that frightens easy in this clime.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: May I meet him?

PUSSY CAT:                                    I doubt he will accept

Your invitation. Yet I will ask and if

He does deny you, please, good fellow, yield.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: [Aside.] A friend of noble Pussy Cat that I

Have yet to meet? Haply he’ll be mine too.

But he returns!

PUSSY CAT:                               He will not venture near.

He is too scared of your great size and jaws

To come closer. Yet don’t be sad, good chap,

For I will speak with him and see if I

Cannot arrange a meet another time.

For now be still.

HIPPOPOTAMUS:                            And on your word I will.

Good day.                                                           [Exit LOTOFUS and   PUSSY CAT]

So friendless and alone I stay.            [Exit.



Another part of the forest. Enter PUSSY CAT and LOTOFUS.


LOTOFUS:       O, dear Pussy Cat! See how close he came!

I saw it. Like a prophecy, I saw

Those teeth open up as he ran at me,

And my head, entering those savage jaws.

O, why does such a creature here dwell?

PUSSY CAT:                                                                           Peace,

Good fellow, peace. Let me explain it all.

That creature you call savage bears no harm.

He chooses not to eat the folk that live

In and amongst the trees and waters here.

A friend is all that he desires, and so

He starves himself in pursuit of a one

Who will not fear him. Lotofus, please come

And meet him. Do not be afraid, I plead,

For he is but a woeful giant. Heed.

LOTOFUS:        I cannot. He has the power to kill

Me in one blow. And what becomes of me?

I have done no wrong. I don’t deserve to die.

But he, I know, could kill me where I stand.

I shall not go.

PUSSY CAT:                                      Good Lotofus, please hear.

The Hippopotamus should not be feared.

LOTOFUS:       It can’t be so. He is too big for me.

That is my last. I shall not speak again.

PUSSY CAT:    So it shall be. Clownfish, come to my side.


CLOWNFISH:  I’ll come to your front as I am forced to swim.

What is it you want?

PUSSY CAT:                                    A message I have

To send up-river, yet I cannot leave my friend.

You are the swiftest in these waters.

CLOWNFISH:                                                         True.

A quick lap I could muster up for you.

And the message?

PUSSY CAT:                             Tell Hippopotamus

That he shall not meet with the Lotofus.

His fear of his great size does overpower

His will to make acquaintance with his person.

CLOWNFISH:  So it is true. Size really does matter.

I shall relay this message, but beware:

The calm of hungry, lonely men is rare.

PUSSY CAT:   Lotofus, will you not explain to him

Yourself? [Pause] I take your silence as a no.

Clownfish, tell him of this and then return.

CLOWNFISH: And while he turns yellow, I, the big man spurn.                 [Exit.



River. Enter CLOWNFISH moving up-river.


CLOWNFISH:        Could, would, should: the great debate. Which is right?

The Hippopotamus could eat him if he might

But would he if he could, but so he can,

So would he, will he, when it hits the fan?

And should he, as he could and would no doubt

If eating him, no good could bring about?

He could. I think he would. But should he kill?

He’s hurt again. My God, I think he will.


Here comes my man; the giant they all fear;

The one the yellow-bellied won’t go near.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: Good day, good clown.

CLOWNFISH:                                          As good as any round.

I bring you word, and such a word I bring

From Pussy Cat that surely has to sting.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: And what word is that, ho?

CLOWNFISH:                                               The word is ‘no’.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: “The word is ‘no’”? Whatever do you mean?

CLOWNFISH:       That in your presence the Lotofus won’t be seen.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: He will not come? Does Pussy Cat say why?

CLOWNFISH:       He says a ‘y’ but not a why you’ll like.


CLOWNFISH:                       The ‘y’ is ‘yellow’. Cowardice.

And by this ‘y’ your friendship he’ll dismiss.

HIPPOPOTAMUS: Dismiss me, without even meeting me?

The fool! The coward! Heartless! How he mocks

My way of living in a foreign land

Without a gram of discontent at it.

He cannot understand my pain, the daily

Suffering that keeps me weak though I look

The part as I am large. I cannot bear

Another day of it. My fast is over. Done.

Let the hunt begin. The Lotofus is first.

Mock me, spurn me, now taste the strength of me.

It’s time to let my jaws do what they will.         [Exit HIPPOPOTAMUS]

CLOWNFISH:       I thought they would. Now he shall foot the bill. [Exit.



Forest. Enter LOTOFUS and PUSSY CAT.


PUSSY CAT:     I hope the news did not upset him much.

His is a gentle soul. On this I trust.


                        What does he say?

CLOWNFISH:                              A lot for which he’ll pay.

PUSSY CAT:   My apprehension grows. What were his words?

CLOWNFISH: A few he spoke before he went berserk.

PUSSY CAT:   Berserk? Clownfish, tell me, is he insane?

CLOWNFISH: He is in something but it’s more like pain.

PUSSY CAT:   Where is he now? I must apologise.

CLOWNFISH: He looks for the Lotofus. Tonight he dines.

PUSSY CAT:   Good God. And so he comes for him?

CLOWNFISH:                                                           He comes.

For him; revenge; perdition; yes, he comes.             [Exit CLOWNFISH]

PUSSY CAT:   You hear what Clownfish says? He comes for you.

I doubt that now my words will have effect

Sufficient to dispel the rage he feels,

And yet I have to try. For his sake and

For yours I have to try. Stay here, my friend.

This bush will well conceal you from harm.

I will return.                                                             [Exit PUSSY CAT]

LOTOFUS:                            He left me on my own!

He means to talk him down but that won’t work.

A brute his size knows nought but savagery.

I shan’t stay here. Instead, from him I’ll flee.         [Exit.


Another part of the forest. Enter PUSSY CAT front of stage.


PUSSY CAT:       I have to find the Hippopotamus

Before the pent up anger of his past,

Friendships unrequited, and his hunger

Break the peace in which he lived so long.

I fear I am too late, but I must try

To save both prey and hunter from demise.

[Enter HIPPOPOTAMUS behind. Crosses stage]

If only I knew where he was, I could

Stop him from bringing pain into the woods. [Exit HIPPOPOTAMUS]

I shall look elsewhere. He must not be near. [Exit PUSSY CAT other way]

[Enter LOTOFUS below stage]

LOTOFUS:           O God, save me from this untaméd beast!

I am too good to end up that thing’s feast.

[Enter HIPPOPOTAMUS onstage. Approaches LOTOFUS from behind]

O, Pussy Cat, why would you leave me now

With that almighty hunter on the prowl?

[HIPPOPOTAMUS tries to grab LOTOFUS. LOTOFUS steps aside and HIPPOPOTAMUS misses. LOTOFUS does not notice him]

I dare not stay too long. He’ll find me soon,

And then I’ll end up dead, or worse, his food. [Exit LOTOFUS]

HIPPOPOTAMUS: He thinks that he can hide from me. More fool!

What impudence to say that he is good,

Better than I, when he’s the one who threw

Distempered greetings at my feet. The swine.

No matter, Lotofus. You’ll soon be mine.         [Exit HIPPOPOTAMUS]


LOTOFUS:             Perhaps I was a little overhasty

In my judgement of him. I should have stayed

A while. Haply I would have charmed the brute

And then he would not have it out for me.

I should have tried. But it’s too late. I’m done.

Can I, for my wrongs, repent? Let him come.


Here is the beast! I spoke too soon. I am

Not ready for him.

HIPPOPOTAMUS:                           I found you at last.

Too many times have I been put down by

The ones whose eyes did fuel their fear. Too long

Did grave starvation grip my sides in anguish

As I sought a friend in food. Now I feast

Upon the coward that called ‘beauty’ Beast!     [Chases LOTOFUS offstage and a scream is heard.



River. Enter PUSSY CAT and HIPPOPOTAMUS in chains on river bank along with mice and rats.


PUSSY CAT:    Old chap, I heard of your foul crime. You ate

My friend, the Lotofus, and now the wood

Calls for a reprimand. Your heinous deed

Has brought such chaos to our midst that all

Around are petrified. I cannot hope to quell

The anger in your heart, nor gloom in mine.

The only method I have thus devised

To keep the peace among the people is

Exile. Down river on the muddy plain

You’ll spend your final days in solitary.

Neither food nor friend you’ll find around.

This is your punishment. Let it be said:

The Hippopotamus is banishéd.                                  [Exit HIPPOPOTAMUS with mice and rats in escort]

And so the fear of one brought on his woe,

While the anger, uncontrolled, of his foe

Did strike him down in blows almost as low.

Take heed, the story of the Lotofus,

And, too, that of the Hippopotamus.                                     [Exeunt.


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