We would like to tell you the story of Peter and the wolf. Each character in this tale is represented by a different instrument of the orchestra:
Peter, by the strings;
the wolf, by three french horns;
the grandfather, by the bassoon;
the rifle shots, by the kettle drum and the bass drum;
the bird, by the flute;
the cat, by the clarinet;
the duck, by the oboe.
Now let’s begin the story.
Early one morning Peter opened the gate and went out into the big green meadow.
On the branch of a big tree sat a little bird, Peter’s friend. ‘All is quiet’, chirped the bird gaily.
Just then a duck came waddling round. She was glad that Peter had not closed the gate, and decided to take a nice swim in the deep pond in the meadow.
Seeing the duck, the little bird flew down upon the grass, settled next to her and shrugged his shoulders. ‘What kind of a bird are you, if you can’t fly?’ he said. To this the duck replied: ‘What kind of a bird are you, if you can’t swim?’ and dived into the pond.
They argued and argued, the duck swimming in the pond, the little bird hopping along the shore.
Suddenly, something caught Peter’s eye. He noticed a cat crawling through the grass.
The cat thought: ‘The bird is busy arguing, I’ll just grab him.’ Stealthily she crept towards him on her velvet paws.
‘Look out!’ shouted Peter, and the bird immediately flew up into the tree, while the duck quacked angrily at the cat from the middle of the pond.
The cat walked round the tree and thought: ‘Is it worth climbing up so high? By the time I get there the bird will have flown away.’
Grandfather came out. He was angry because Peter had gone into the meadow: ‘It is a dangerous place. If a wolf should come out of the forest, then what would you do?’
Peter paid no attention to his grandfather. Boys like him are not afraid of wolves.
But grandfather took Peter by the hand, locked the gate and led him home.
No sooner had Peter gone than an enormous grey wolf did come out of the forest.
In a twinkling the cat climbed into the tree.
The duck quacked, and in her excitement jumped out of the pond.
But no matter how hard the duck tried to run … the wolf ran faster. He was getting nearer and nearer, catching up with her, and then he got her, and with one gulp, swallowed her.
And now, this is how things stood: the cat was sitting on one branch of the tree, and the bird on another … not too close to the cat.
And the wolf walked round and round the tree looking at both of them with greedy eyes.
In the meantime, Peter, without the slightest fear, stood behind the closed gate watching all that was going on. He ran home, took a strong rope and climbed up the high stone wall. One of the branches of the tree, round which the wolf was walking, stretched out over the wall. Grabbing hold of the branch … Peter lightly climbed over onto the tree. He said to the bird: ‘Fly down and circle round the wolf’s head; only take care he doesn’t catch you.’
The bird almost touched the wolf’s head with his wings while the wolf snapped angrily at him from this side and that.
How the bird worried the wolf! How the wolf wanted to catch him! But the bird was much too clever, and the wolf simply couldn’t do anything about it.
Meanwhile, Peter made a lasso with his rope and, carefully letting it down … caught the wolf by the tail and pulled with all his might.
Feeling himself caught, the wolf began to jump wildly trying to get loose.
But Peter tied the other end of the rope to the tree … and the wolf’s jumping only made the rope round his tail tighter.
Just then … hunters came out of the woods … following the wolf’s trail and shooting as they came.
But Peter sitting in the tree said: ‘Don’t shoot! The bird and I have already caught the wolf. Now please help us to take him to the zoo.’
So there we are … imagine the triumphant procession:
Peter in front;
after him, the hunters leading the wolf;
and winding up the procession, grandfather and the cat. Grandfather tossed his head discontentedly: ‘Well, and if Peter hadn’t caught the wolf? What then?’
Above them flew the bird, chirping merrily: ‘My, what a fine pair we are, Peter and I! Look what we have caught!’ And if you listened very carefully, you could hear the duck quacking inside the wolf, because the wolf in his hurry had swallowed her alive.