James Reaney’s marionette play Apple Butter

Written for children attending the Western Fair in London, Ontario, the first performances of James Reaney’s marionette play Apple Butter took place in a tent on the fairgrounds in September 1965.

Marionettes Hester Pinch, Solomon Spoilod, and Apple Butter

In this final scene from the play, orphan hero Apple Butter calls on RAWBONE (a bone fairy) to vanquish his adult oppressors.

APPLE BUTTER: These are words to think upon, Miss Pinch. Rawbone!

A huge whalebone brush enters and chases them about. MOO COW enters and bears VICTOR NIPCHOPPER off on her horns.

“Moo Cow” courtesy Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau, PQ.

MOO COW: The very idea of you pretending to be me, Victor Nipchopper. I never caught my tail in a fence in my life. For I always jump over them neat and clean just the way I’m going to jump with you – over the moon.

MOO COW and VICTOR NIPCHOPPER disappear up. SOLOMON SPOILROD and MISS PINCH kneel for mercy in front of APPLE BUTTER.

MISS PINCH:   Forgive us, Apple Butter. We’ll never try to spank you, or any other orphan child again.

APPLE BUTTER: What about you, Solomon Spoilrod? Are you going to be so unmerciful to your scholars ever again?

SOLOMON SPOILROD: No. Just don’t let that Giant Hairbrush at me again.

APPLE BUTTER: Now you know what it feels like to get birched and strapped, don’t you?


APPLE BUTTER: It bears thinking upon, doesn’t it? Now – another thing. Are you going to marry Miss Pinch here, like you keep promising to do every time you get tiddly on her chokecherry wine and mysteriously win all the games of King Pedro?



Either TREE WUZZEL appears or a tree falls down on SOLOMON SPOILROD.

SOLOMON SPOILROD: Yes! If I say yes, will he stop frightening me?

MISS PINCH:   Oh, Solomon, I never knew you really cared that much. Apple Butter, you aren’t going to leave us now. Why, we’ll adopt you as our first child and we’ll will the farm to you, come what may. I don’t know how I could be so cruel to such a wise, innocent child.

APPLE BUTTER: Thank you very much, Miss Pinch. But now that the apples are getting ripe, I think I’d better walk around and look at all the orchards to help the people that own them make their apple butter and their apple cider.

MISS PINCH:   Where will you sleep? Back at the orphanage?

APPLE BUTTER: No. I only stayed there for a while to help out. I like sleeping out best – under a wild apple tree. Goodbye, folks, and maybe I’ll come to see you in the spring when the apple blossoms are out and bring you a blossom baby.

MISS PINCH AND SOLOMON SPOILROD: Goodbye, Apple Butter. We can just feel how you’ve changed us.

SOLOMON SPOILROD: I feel sweeter inside. And more loving.

MISS PINCH:   I don’t feel like Miss Pinch anymore. I feel like Mrs. Spoilrod.


APPLE BUTTER: How far will you walk with me, Tree Wuzzel and Rawbone?

TREE WUZZEL AND RAWBONE: As far as you’re going, Apple Butter.

APPLE BUTTER: As far as I’m going…. That bears thinking on.

Apple Butter at the Western Fair in London, Ontario, September 1965.


August 1965 in Leith, Ontario: James Reaney holds Apple Butter with his children James, John, and Susan.

For more about Apple Butter and especially Jay Peterson’s role in commissioning the play and helping create the marionettes, see Marionette Plays and also Apple Butter off to the Western Fair Summer 1965.

August 1965 in Leith, Ontario: James Reaney (right) holding Apple Butter with his daughter Susan (left).