The Story of Jumping Mouse
A Native American legend
retold by John Steptoe
Adapted by John Benford and Greg Ward

Download Script (51K)

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This story is a combination of four themes: a vision of a better day, moving beyond comfort, transformation and renewal and the arrival of spring. The story is connected to Christian and pagan stories which relate the four themes. A sacred chant helps tie them together. The seasons are represented by cut out symbols, which are included in the orders of service:
summer = sun
fall = leaves
winter = snowflakes
spring = flowers

The seating is circular. The chalice is in the middle of the opening. There is a floor mic in a small clearing at the perimeter of one end of the circle.

Symbols of season: equal numbers of suns, leaves, snowflakes and flowers.
Stick with bundle for Jumping Mouse’s journey
Bolt of blue cloth for river
Pillow for Fat Mouse’s belly

Service Leader
Story Teller
Jumping Mouse
The Old Ones (2)
Magic Frog (I & IV)
Fat Mouse (II)
Bison (Eyes-of-a-Mouse) (III)


We are on a journey from birth ‘til our last day.
The path may be hard,
But with the light cast by this chalice
We will find the way.

Welcome on this week in which both Passover and Easter fall to (Name of Church) where we celebrate amidst all ages our own perseverance and transformation....

HYMN 270 "O Day of Light and Gladness"

Our story begins on a warm summer day. To help us make a warm summer day, will the people who have suns hold them up so that we can feel the heat that the sun gives off. It’s the kind of day where light glistens on water, bees buzz around madly, birds are singing and young mice are known to be about.

Once there was a young mouse who lived in the brush near a great river.

During the day the young mouse hunted for food with the other mice. (Jumping Mouse and the Old Ones appear looking for food). At night they gathered to hear the Old Ones tell stories. (Jumping Mouse and the Old Ones sit in a half circle facing the congregation as if in a campfire so that the congregation completes the circle and they are listening as well.) The young mouse liked to hear about the desert beyond the river and the stories about the dangerous shadows that lived in the sky gave him shivers (Jumping Mouse looks scared and shivers). But his favorite was the tale of the far-off land (Jumping Mouse gets excited). The far-off land sounded so wonderful the young mouse began to dream about it. He would never be content until he had been there.

The Old Ones warned the young mouse that the journey would be long and dangerous, but he wanted to go anyway. (The Old Ones wag their fingers at Jumping Mouse warning him. Jumping Mouse dismisses them.) He set off early one morning, before the sun had risen. (Jumping Mouse moving around the outside of the room and eventually back towards the front).

Do you have a dream? What do you dream about? What is the place (the hope) that seems so far away to you? Have you ever wanted something so bad you would do anything to get it? (ask people). Jumping Mouse had that dream. And though sometimes he became tired or discouraged, he sang a song to himself that helped give him strength. The song went something like this....

I seek the far off land
And I will not stop ‘til I arrive.
The way may be hard
But hope is alive.
I will reach the far off land...

JUMPING MOUSE: (dismayed)
Everything I want is beyond this river. But it is so deep and wide and I am so small. How will I ever get across?
MAGIC FROG: (gravely voice)
Well, you could try swimming. That’s what we frogs do
frogWHT.gif (10009 bytes)

(Jumping Mouse looks around and sees the green frog)

JUMPING MOUSE: (a little surprised)
I don’t know how to swim. I don’t even know what swimming is. Who are you anyway?

I’m Magic Frog and this is swimming. (Frog jumps into the river and "swims." Music accompanies swimming).

Oh. I don’t think I can do that.

How bad do you want to get across the river? (Hops back on the bank. and waits for an answer)

Oh, very much! I want to go to the far off land. It’s a beautiful place where my dreams of how life should be are waiting for me to come and make them all true. To live a lifetime and not see it would be unbearable.

In that case you will need my help. What is your name?

I’m a mouse.

MAGIC FROG: (Laughs)
That’s not a name. I’ll give you a name that will come in quite handy on your journey. I name you Jumping Mouse.

As soon as Magic Frog said this, the young mouse felt a strange tingling in his hind legs. He hopped a small hop and, to his surprise, jumped twice as high as he’d every jumped before.

JUMPING MOUSE: (Surprised, and admiring of his new, powerful legs)
Thank You!

You’re welcome. Now step onto this leaf and we’ll cross the river together.
(They cross the "river," with the swimming music, till they reach the other side).
You will encounter hardships on your way, but don’t despair. You will reach the far-off land if, in your heart, you keep hope alive.

But once on the other side, as Magic Frog hopped out of sight, Jumping Mouse realized he felt dreadfully alone. He thought about his dream of the far-off-land and how far away it was. He wasn’t ready to give up, but it occurred to him that he could use some help. And as he began to sing his chanting song he wished he had others to help him.
(Jumping Mouse starts to sing. The choir joins in, then the congregation joins in on the second time around).

I seek the far off land
And I will not stop ‘til I arrive.
The way may be hard
But hope is alive.
I will reach the far off land...

Jumping Mouse has a dream. A far off dream. A difficult dream. But a dream too precious to let go of.

Others have had such dreams, dreams of a better world.

Moses dreamed of a time where people wouldn’t be slaves, of a world that would welcome them and where they were free to worship and live with dignity.

Jesus had such dreams... dreams that all people, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile would serve and be served by the same rule - the rule of equal love for neighbor and for self.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. That one day all people , black and white, Christian and Jew, young and old, would all arrive at the promised land and find that it was built from the scraps of love they had gathered piece by piece along the way.

We are no different. We yearn for a better life. A better way. More justice. More compassion. More love

(Background melody comes from piano playing "There is More Love, Somewhere.")

We are all on a journey,
following our vision,
seeking life’s meaning.
We gather here,
bringing our love and our resources together,
to support one another.
We will now receive this morning’s offering.

HYMN 95 "There is More Love, Somewhere"

It is now fall in our story. Will those people who have leaves hold them up to show the many colors, or let them fall to remind us of what time of year it is. The leaves have turned and many have begun falling from the trees. The sun sets sooner each day. The harvest is coming in. And one mouse we know, is already on a journey.

(Jumping Mouse begins moving around the outside of the room, running and hopping in spurts as if from bush to bush. On his way he picks up children who can hop with him. He looks up a lot, watching for the "shadows in the sky." He eats occasionally.)

The shadows circled above, but Jumping Mouse hopped quickly along from bush to bush and avoided being seen. He ate berries when he could find them and slept only when he was exhausted. Days passed. Though he was able to travel quickly, he began to wonder if he’d ever reach the far off land on the other side of the desert. Then he came upon a stream that coursed through the dry land. Under a large berry tree as he was reaching for a particularly plump berry attached to a long vine, his hand grabbed something alive. And then he heard a shout.

Hey, who’s got my tail?

Excuse me!!! I was hungry and I was hoping to stop and rest and have some berries, and I guess I thought you were a berry when I grabbed your tail.

Well, that’s the first time anyone’s called me a berry. Allow me to help you... (Fat Mouse pulls out a basket of berries and shares them with Jumping Mouse).

These are delicious, thank you.

....I’ve been tending these vines for a long time. I’ve gotten pretty good at growing berries. (He looks closely at Jumping Mouse’s legs). Say...... you’ve got some pretty sturdy hind legs there. Can’t say as I’ve ever seen a mouse with such big legs.

They were a gift from Magic Frog when she named me.

FAT MOUSE: (Curiously)
What good are they?

They’ve helped me come this far across the desert. And they’re going to get me to the far-off-land. But right now, I’m a little tired. May I rest here for a while (Climbing up next to Fat Mouse with a begging look and "his hat in his hand.")

Indeed you may. In fact, you can stay forever.

Thank you. I appreciate the offer, but if it’s alright, I’ll be off again after I’m rested. I’ve seen the far-off-land in my dreams and I must be on my way as soon as I’m able.

FAT MOUSE: (Scornfully)
Dreams.... I used to have such dreams, but all I ever found was desert. Why go jumping about the desert when everything anyone needs is right here?

That certainly sounds like a good question. And I can’t say as I can answer it. I just know that it’s something that I have to do. Haven’t you ever felt like that?

FAT MOUSE: (Snorts again)
No! And if you’re smart you’ll stay here too. A snake lives on the other side of the stream. But he’s afraid of water, so he’ll never cross over here. As long as you stay with me, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Life was easy beneath the berry bush, and Jumping Mouse was soon rested and strong. He and Fat Mouse ate and slept and slept and ate. And Fat Mouse talked Jumping Mouse into staying an extra day or two. The safety and the food and the rest and the coolness of the season was comforting. Jumping Mouse got up each morning and looked at the road leading away and it looked tricky.... a little tiring. And for a few days, he was able to put off his journey. And during that time he and Fat Mouse become friends.

But one day, when he went to the stream for a cool drink of water, he caught sight of his reflection. (Jumping Mouse climbs down with difficulty. He waddles to the edge of the stream and looks at his reflection). He was almost as fat as his friend Fat Mouse.

It’s time for me to go on. I didn’t come all this way to settle down under a berry bush and eat berries.

Just then, Jumping Mouse spotted an old branch which had fallen from a tree. It was large enough to cross the whole stream. And just at the end of the branch Jumping Mouse caught a glimpse of a snakes tail as it slithered ON THIS SIDE OF THE STREAM.

Oh my goodness! Now the snake has gotten across the stream. I’d better warn my friend Fat Mouse. FAT MOUSE!!! FAT MOUSE!!! HURRY!!! THE SNAKE IS COMING!!!

Jumping Mouse ran around looking for Fat Mouse... but he was nowhere to be found. Then he stopped and sniffed in the air and he noticed a strange smell.


All at once, Jumping Mouse knew what happened.

I’m too late. Poor old Fat Mouse. He lost hope of finding his dream and now his life is over.

And then he realized that if he didn’t want to end up like his friend Fat Mouse he had best not forget that he was on his way somewhere. He remembered his dream. He remembered the far-off-land. And he looked out at the road leading away. It was a little darker... a little more frightening.... He knew there was more danger out there... perhaps even worse than snake. But he also knew he had to go. And as he went he recalled the sacred chant.

I seek the far off land
And I will not stop ‘til I arrive.
The way may be hard
But hope is alive.
I will reach the far off land...

(Jumping Mouse hurries away. All action and music stop during the next part, to set the mood for the meditation.)

Life was comfortable under the berry bush, and it was important for Jumping Mouse to have a place to rest and grow stronger for the next part of his journey. But Fat Mouse didn’t have a vision like Jumping Mouse. He just wanted to stay in one place and be comfortable. He thought it was safer to stay still than to move, but he found that there is no place that is completely safe.... and... he never realized his own dreams.

Moses chose the uncomfortable road over playing it safe. He could have had a life of leisure in the kingdoms of Egypt. But his dream wouldn’t let him enjoy that comfort.

What Jesus experienced was similar. He predicted that he would be killed. He could have stopped teaching, stopped being a leader. He could have played it safe and perhaps he wouldn’t have been killed. But his dream, too, was too powerful to ignore.

Dr. King also knew he would likely be killed. All during his protests and speeches his life was threatened. But his vision was too important to set aside for comfort or personal gain.

Like Jumping Mouse, all these people had a dream which was too powerful to ignore. And no comfort in the world could keep them from trying to make it come true.

In the cycle of the seasons, this is like fall. Fall is the time of harvest and abundance. The hot, sticky days of summer are over, and the weather is more comfortable. It is beautiful; the sky is crisp and clear and all the trees turn bright colors. But we know it won’t stay that way. The days start getting shorter, and the weather starts getting colder as we move closer to winter.

Is there a dream you’ve given up on? Have you ever settled for what was comfortable and easy instead of what you really wanted, or thought was right? Have you ever stopped to rest at a berry bush, and ended up just staying? Where is the dream still alive in you? Where is your vision leading you?


For the concerns that burden, the joys that sustain, the dreams that lead us on and the relationships that are part of it all, we light these candles in thanksgiving and hope.

It is winter now. Who has a snowflake? Hold it up so we can feel the cold wet snow. There is cold and we shiver. Fog and we cannot always see very far. We move slower, feel more alone.

Jumping Mouse traveled all the way through the night. The next morning he saw that he had reached a snowy plain. Exhausted, he hopped toward a larger boulder where he could rest in safety. But as he got closer he became more curious at what he saw. It was not a boulder he spied. It was a shaggy bison lying in the snow. (Bison climbs onto the stage, laboriously and collapses in the middle). Every once in a while the bison groaned in pain. Jumping Mouse shivered at the terrible sound.

JUMPING MOUSE: (Trying to sound brave)
Hello large friend. I’m Jumping Mouse, on my way o the far-off-land. Are you hurt? Why do you lie here in the snow as if you are dying.

BISON: (Groaning)
I lie here in the snow because I AM dying. I drank from the poisoned stream. Now I am blind. I can’t see to find my way through the snow to where the grass is still growing and where the good, sweet water still flows. With the winter cold upon me, I shall surely die.

It makes me sad to hear your tale... to see such a beautiful and powerful animal such as yourself so helpless. When I began my journey, I had a friend named Magic Frog who helped me when I felt helpless. He gave me a name and strong legs to carry me here. My magic is not nearly as powerful as hers, but I do know one thing I can do to help you. As I was named, so can I name you. I shall call you , Eyes-of-a-Mouse.

As soon as he had spoken, Jumping Mouse heard the bison snort, power returning to his enormous frame. He heard the spirit of joy and amazement in the breath of the bison. He heard... but he could not see a thing... for he had given this stranger his own sight.

I cannot see. In my wish for you I must have given you the only sight I could. My own sight.

Your gift has saved my life. I cannot say any words to convey my thanks. But I know that if you are blind you will not survive the bitter cold that is coming. If you hope along beneath me, the shadows of the sky won’t see you.

But how can I travel beneath you.

Listen to the sound of my hooves and learn their rhythm. Follow my steps and I will protect you.

Jumping Mouse did as he was told. He hopped to the rhythm of his friend’s hooves, and in this they traveled together toward the far-off-land.

Jumping Mouse gave away his eyes so that his friend Eyes-of-a-Mouse would live. Have you ever given something up so that someone else could have what they needed? (Ask people).

In time, Bison and Jumping Mouse came to a wide and open plain. There were other Bison there and they came rushing over to their friend Eyes-of-a-Mouse. He snorted and stood up on his hind legs to keep the other bison back. He didn’t want them to accidentally crush Jumping Mouse. Then he turned to his new friend, sadly and spoke:

I owe you more than I can repay. But I am an animal of the plains, so I must stop here. I am worried for you. How will you manage when you can’t see.

So many times I have been frightened and felt I was at the end of my quest to find the far-off-land. But I had the courage to begin and the strength to continue. Now I can feel my dream so near. I must do what I have always done: sing the sacred chant knowing not how I will get through, but trusting that importance of my dream will allow me to survive.

And so as Eyes-of-a-Mouse pointed him in the direction of the hills on the far side of the plain, Jumping Mouse set off, singing his chant.

I seek the far off land
And I will not stop ‘til I arrive.
The way may be hard
But hope is alive.
I will reach the far off land...

Jumping Mouse went as far as he could before he grew tired and weary. Then, not able to take another step, he dug a hole and went to sleep.

Jumping Mouse gave away his eyes so that the bison would live. He knew he wouldn’t be able to see any more. This made his journey harder, and meant that when he got tot the far off land, he wouldn’t be able to see how wonderful it was. During the winter of his journey across the desert, Jumping Mouse sacrificed other parts of himself for others trying to keep them and their dreams alive as well as trying to keep his own dream alive.

Moses gave up forty years of his life to help free the Israelites from their captivity in Egypt.

Jesus taught and led the poorest of people to try and find the goodness and the glory of their lives amidst the cruelty around them.

Dr. King led the blacks and the people who suffered from racism to a place of understanding their own worth, dignity, and right to equal freedom and equal justice.

Each of these people wanted others to hear their message of freedom, love and justice. They wanted people to be good to one another. Find the goodness in themselves. All of them died, or were killed while trying to help others. All of them sacrificed their lives so that others could live more fully in that far-off-land they knew was possible.

Winter comes every year. Winter comes to all our lives. We know winter is going to come, but there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s a hard time of year, but we always face it. Because we believe there is something within it - and beyond it - that is important to see.

HYMN 127 "Can I See Another’s Woe?"

Eventually, winter becomes spring. The frost and the ice melt away, the hours of the day increase as the sun returns. With it comes life. New leaves, a new generation of animals and spring flowers. Everyone with flowers hold them up so we will know the rebirth of the season.

Jumping Mouse’s journey across the plain passed through the winter. One bright morning as his sleepy thoughts contemplated crawling out of his winter hole, he realized he no longer needed to: the snow which had formed the biggest part of the hole had melted. Jumping Mouse found himself at the edge of the great plain and the beginning of a lush meadow.

JUMPING MOUSE: (Excitedly)
I’m here!!! I feel the earth beneath my paws. I hear the wind rustling leaves on the trees. I can feel the sun’s warmth on my back. I am finally here in the far-off-land. (Suddenly he slumps down). But I cannot see it. I know I should be happy to be here. I have come so far and been through so much. But it’s so disappointing to know that I’ll never be the same as I was. How will I ever manage? (Jumping Mouse begins to cry).

Last one in the swimming hole is a dirty old mouse!!!

JUMPING MOUSE: (Swallowing his tears and smiling)
Magic Frog!?! Is that you?

It’s me. And from the looks of it, none too soon. What’s wrong my fuzzy friend?

It took everything I had to get here. It was much harder than I thought. Most of the time I didn’t know if I was going to make it. Then I had to give up my sight. Now that I’m here, I don’t even know if it’s worth it because I can’t see how beautiful everything around me truly is.

My friend, you already know how beautiful everything around you is. Your care for Fat Mouse and Bison have shown that. Your courage to face the dark and cold have shown that. Your willingness to risk your own dreams for the dreams of others has shown that. What you are now just learning to see is how beautiful everything inside you is. LOOK! Jumping Mouse. LOOK and jump high!

JUMPING MOUSE: (Protesting)
But I .....

LOOK WITHIN, Jumping Mouse. Look to the vision that brought you here. You were able to see beyond difficult times, see beyond comfort, see beyond sacrifice. That is your true gift of sight. Use your powerful legs to jump in your dreams. JUMP, JUMPING MOUSE!

JUMPING MOUSE: (Hesitating)

MAGIC FROG: (Encouragingly)

JUMPING MOUSE: (Jumping without having his feet leave the ground)
I... I... I can... I can jump.

Yes you can. You have been using this sight all along. Jump high now...

Weeeeeeeeeeee..... Look at all the things I can see....

Soar with the eagles. Look down on the land you have traveled. See all the creatures you have met.

JUMPING MOUSE: (Holding out his hands as if blind, with his eyes closed)
I can see!!! And look there is Fat Mouse! and Bison!

You mean Eyes-of-a-Mouse.

Yes. I can see all of them.

Jumping Mouse, today I give you a new name. You are now called Eagle, and you will live in the far-off-land all of your days. You have lived there in your heart, and in your courageous vision. Now you may soar in its majesty forever.

And as Jumping Frog soared, as Magic Frog laughed and encouraged him from the marsh below, they both sang the sacred chant

I sought the far off land
And did not stop ‘til I arrived.
The way was very hard
But hope was always alive.
And I reached the far off land...

After the trials and journeys, traveling in the heat and the cold, dark and the light, the spirit of Jumping Mouse became an eagle. His transformation was a blossoming of all that had developed inside him. Because of his courage, his diligence, his sacrifice, and because he never gave chasing a worthy dream, Jumping Mouse was able to find the far-off-land. It didn’t happen the way he thought it would. But it happened just the same.

The people of Israel found their way back to their land. Moses was not with them. But they would never have made it if it were not for his sacrifice, courage, guidance and faith.

The poor and lonely, the outcast and forgotten were reminded of hope and the goodness of life when Jesus stood with them, worked with them, taught with them, prayed with them, laughed with them and cried with them. Jesus was sacrificed long before the love of his message was realized by millions of people.

Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis before he reached the promised land. But because of his message, because of his courage and struggle and his words and deeds, millions of black Americans found meaning, dignity and hope.

When these people died that could have been the end of the message they carried. But instead it was a new beginning as those around them picked up their dreams and brought them to life in ways far greater than even they could have seen or imagined. Even in great tragedy, there is always hope.

(Music comes in for Hymn 141 comes in softly and slowly under the words)
In the cycle of the seasons, winter ends and spring comes again. The snow melts and the flowers begin emerging from the ground. Trees that have lost their leaves in the fall begin to grow new ones. Eggs hatch. Birds sing. Life that was once a tiny bud in some holy imagination comes into bloom. What else happens? Our hearts open again and we see things in new ways. We realize we are more than we thought. We have a new name. That name is hope... and renewal... and life!

HYMN 141 "I’ve Got a New Name"

What we call a beginning is often the end
and to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

We shall not cease from exploration
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.
- T.S. Elliot

CLOSING SONG 390 "Gaudeamus Hodie"