As part of Appendix A, this is the sixth of seven role-plays entitled “Travel through Time with the Story Genie: A Role-Playing Unit on the life and times of Christopher Columbus.”
This Creative Master’s Thesis I completed as part of the requirements for my master’s degree in Elementary Education with a specialization in storytelling. The purpose of this study was to create a role-playing program of the life and times of Christopher Columbus for use with fifth-grade social studies students. It was intended that this creative unit may either be used as a substitute for or in conjunction with a textbook approach. These seven role-plays are also appropriate for grades three and four. The links to all role-plays, tests, and teacher scripts will be included.
Please note: The links to the downloadable PDF files of the teacher script and the student role-play are included at the end of this article.
Travel through Time with the Story Genie: A Role-Playing Unit on the life and times of Christopher Columbus
© 1989 re-told by Debbie Dunn; © 2010 revision re-told by Debbie Dunn
Part Six of the Seven-Part Program
Genie: Hello, boys and girls. Today is the next to the last time that you will see Christopher Columbus. Let’s bring him in as quickly as possible. Who remembers the magic trick?
Good. Let’s do it. All of you should cross your legs and fingers as you touch the magic jewel in my crown and say “Christopher Columbus” as fast as you can.
Keep those fingers and legs crossed as you point to the magic jewel in my crown and say his name three times.
All: Christopher Columbus! Christopher Columbus! Christopher Columbus!
Genie: Yeah! We did it! Thanks, everybody, for your help.
C.C.: Hi. I just got back a little while ago from my first voyage. Does anyone want to guess how old I am?
Good. I’m 42 years old. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain want me to return to India as soon as possible. We will leave in June of 1493. That will give me some time to spend with my son Diego, my son Ferdinand, and the woman I love–Beatrice. I also want to spend time with the good monks of La Rabida in Palos, Spain, who took care of Diego for me for six years and who helped me to get in touch with the Queen. I have much to thank them for.
Story Genie wants to bring her visitors in now. I will see you again soon.
Genie: Today, we will see Columbus on his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th voyages. I’ll need thirteen volunteers: 2 Narrators, Christopher Columbus on his Second Voyage, Christopher Columbus on his Third and Fourth Voyages, King Ferdinand of Spain, Queen Isabella of Spain, Francis de Bobadilla, Brave Sailor named Diego Mendez, Sailor 2, a Captain of a Ship, a Cook, a Governor, and a Brave Man.
Script for Lesson Six on the life and times of Christopher Columbus
Narrator 1: In June of 1493, Columbus left Spain once again. This time, he had 17 ships and 1200 men. Some of these men were sailors, some settlers, and some adventurers in search of gold and excitement. He also had 50 horses, five servants, six priests, and a pack of attack dogs. There was much cheering from the crowd as the ships left Spain this time. What a happy time that was!
Narrator 2: All were happy on their way back to the country that everyone thought was India. They stopped at several islands looking for gold. On one island, they found cannibals instead. Cannibals are people who like to eat other people. They did not stay on that island for very long. They also found pineapple on one of the islands.
Narrator 1: Columbus was in a hurry to get back to the island of Hispaniola where their fort, La Navidad was located. He was anxious to see the 39 sailors left there and see how much gold they had gathered. He also wanted to see his good friend, the Indian chief, again.
Narrator 2: The 17 ships arrived at the island of Hispaniola on November 27, 1493. They fired a cannon to let the 39 sailors know that they were arrived from Spain at last.
Narrator 1: There was no response from the fort. They all landed and went to the fort. They found it burnt and in ruins and the 39 men were nothing but skeletons. All the people from Spain were saddened and shocked. It was not a very good start to their new life.
Narrator 2: Columbus went to find his Indian chief friend. The Indian chief cried when he saw Columbus. He told Columbus that a neighboring Indian tribe of 3000 men had attacked the fort and killed the 39 men. The Indian chief said that he and his tribe had tried to help, but it was no good. In fact, the Indian chief had been injured himself.
Narrator 1: Columbus asked the Indian chief why the other tribe had wanted to attack the Spanish sailors. The Indian chief admitted that the Spanish sailors had stolen things from that neighboring tribe and mistreated their women.
Narrator 2: Columbus believed his Indian chief friend, but the 1200 Spanish people that came with him did not. They did not want to settle near where the fort had been. So they all went to a new location, a place they called Isabella after the queen. Columbus wants to talk now.
C.C.: I am the Governor of this place. People do not seem to like to take orders from me since I am an Italian. They would like me better if I had been born in Spain. The people I have brought with me are greedy. They do not want to work. All they want to do is look for gold. Many of them have been stealing and fighting for gold. Some of them would probably kill for gold. We are running low on food and medicine. People will not farm the land and grow food. They are too interested in gold, gold, gold. They will not listen to me. When we run out of food, they will blame me for not being able to make them work. It is so frustrating!
Narrator 1: They did not choose a very good place to live. They were far from fresh water and near some swamps. There were many mosquitoes that carried the dread disease of malaria. Many grew ill and died.
Narrator 1: Columbus had promised to send 12 of the 17 ships back to Spain as soon as they got to the fort. They were supposed to be loaded down with the gold and spices that the 39 men at the fort had collected.
Narrator 2: Of course, the 39 men were dead and there was not that much gold to send back to Spain. The best that Columbus could do was to scrape up some gold and some spices. He also sent back 60 parrots and 26 cannibals to be sold as slaves.
Narrator 2: We know that Columbus could not find much gold since he was not really in India as he thought, but he was in America. Think how frustrated he must have been!
Narrator 1: After some time had passed, Columbus went off exploring. When he found one particular island, he thought that it must be Japan. They found some gold there, but no gold mine. Then they sailed in search of the mainland of China.
Narrator 2: Columbus found a land that he felt sure was China. It was really the island of Cuba. Who would like to find Cuba on the world map? (Choose a volunteer.)
Narrator 1: The Queen wanted Columbus to make sure that the land he found was not just another island. He followed the coastline of Cuba for a long time until he felt certain that it was not another island. However, he did see many islands in the process. In fact, in one day, they counted 164 islands that they saw.
Narrator 2: Columbus was positive that Cuba must be China. He made every man of his crew sign an oath that what they found was a continent. He even told them that if they ever said that it was not a continent that they’d found, he’d cut out their tongue.
Narrator 1: On their way back to Isabella, Columbus got very sick. They returned to Isabella only to find the colony in havoc. Some of the ships had even been stolen. The Spaniards who stole the ships went back to Spain to tell bad things about Columbus.
Narrator 2: When Columbus got better, he knew he had to do something to help the King and Queen of Spain to approve of him again. Since he couldn’t send gold back, he sent 500 heathen Indians to Spain to become slaves. Many of them died on the way.
Narrator 1: Then Columbus started a new law. He said that every Indian over 14 years old had to find a thimble full of gold every three months or be punished. Some of the Indians hid in the hills. Some left to go to other islands.
Narrator 2: From 1494 to 1496, one third of the Indians were either killed, sold into slavery, or scared away. What an unhappy time!
Narrator 1: Columbus wanted to go back and explore the country that he thought was China but was really Cuba. However, there wasn’t time. He had to go back to Spain and get more food and medicine. Also, he had to talk to the King and Queen of Spain in person to defend his actions that he felt forced to take.
Narrator 2: Since there was not much treasure to bring back with him, he could only bring back captured Indians to be sold into slavery.
Narrator 1: Columbus put on a brown monk robe and a rough shirt next to his skin because he felt like he had failed the queen. He was hoping that they would give him another chance.
Narrator 2: He went limping to court with his arthritis bothering him. On the way, he had a parade of parrots, Indians, and men carrying gold samples. But no one cheered. Instead, they either ignored him or called him the “Admiral of the Mosquitoes.”
Narrator 1: Listen to what happened at the castle of the king and queen.
C.C.: Your Majesties. I am sorry that I could not bring back much gold. The people do not want to work. We also haven’t gotten to China yet. I have found it, but was not able to explore it as they needed more food and medicine in Isabella. We named the land after you, Queen Isabella.
Queen: Thank you, Christopher. I am honored by the name; however, we are not very happy with all the reports that we have heard about you. People say that you are not a good governor and that you do not know how to keep order.
King: Also, you did not send us the gold you promised us. Instead, you keep sending these Indians to be slaves.
Queen: Christopher, were you able to convert many of these Indians to become Christians?
C.C.: Not too many, I’m sorry to say. Those are the ones I sent here to become slaves. Perhaps their Christian masters will be able to influence them.
King: Christopher, you have been gone two years and eight months. We expected to see much more gold by this time.
Queen: Christopher, we will give you one more chance. But I want no more Indians to be turned into slaves. Try to keep better order in Isabella. And work hard to find that gold that you promised us.
C.C.: Thank you, your Majesties. I will try my very best!
Narrator 2: It was almost two more years before Christopher actually got to go back. Some of the rumors about Columbus were true though. Christopher was a wonderful sailor and explorer. But Christopher was not a very good governor.
Narrator 1: On May 30, 1498, Christopher was finally on his way back to what he thought was India but was really America. The ship that he was on contained food and medicine. He also brought many convicts to mine the gold.
Narrator 2: Christopher would like to tell you about his third trip to the land that he discovered.
C.C.: After almost two years, I am finally on my way back to India. We are going to take a more southerly route. We have seen many new lands that we do not have the time to explore. We must hurry to Isabella to bring them this food and medicine. I am dedicating this new voyage to the Holy Trinity. The first island I saw I called Trinidad because it had three mountain peaks on it.
Narrator 1: What Columbus didn’t know was that the island of Trinidad was right across from the continent of South America. He didn’t realize at first that what he saw was a continent as it didn’t fit into his idea of geography. He decided that it must be the Garden of Eden at the end of the Orient.
Narrator 2: Something awful happened on that voyage. There was one week of great heat. The casks of wine and water burst open. The wheat caught fire and the bacon and meat got roasted to a crisp. So much for the food that they brought!
Narrator 1: When Columbus arrived back at Isabella, people did not want to obey his orders. They did not want a governor or to be governed by anyone. They wanted to do whatever they wanted.
Narrator 2: Columbus stayed for two years and did his very best. There were lots of complaints about Columbus that made it back to the ears of the king and queen. They decided to send somebody to investigate. Unfortunately, by this time, the king and queen believed most of the bad things that they heard about Columbus.
Narrator 1: In 1500, Queen Isabella sent a new governor to the island. His name was Francis de Bobadilla. He arrived on August 23, 1500. The first sight that greeted his eyes was that seven Spaniards were hung by the neck on the gallows. Francis de Bobadilla was furious! He didn’t think that the Italian Columbus had the right to hang any Spanish man, no matter what he might have done wrong.
Narrator 2: Listen to what happened between Francis de Bobadilla, Christopher Columbus, two sailors, a captain of a ship, and a cook.
C.C.: Who are you?
Francis de Babadilla: I am Francis de Bobadilla. I am the new governor of Isabella.
C.C.: New governor??? But I am the governor here.
Francis de Babadilla: Not anymore. I have orders written by the King and Queen of Spain that I am now the governor. Now, Columbus, we are not at all happy with what we see. How dare you hang any of our Spanish citizens! You have no right to do that!
C.C.: But they are criminals!
Francis de Babadilla: I repeat, you have no right! Christopher Columbus, you are under arrest! Now who will put the chains on Columbus here?
Sailor 1: Not I!
Sailor 2: I will certainly not put chains on our leader. No way!
Captain: I will not put the chains on him either.
Cook: Oh, I’ll do it. I’m the cook and it doesn’t bother me one way or the other. Give me the chains. Sorry about that Columbus, but orders are orders. I can serve one master as well as another.
Narrator 1: Columbus was kept chained and in jail for two months. Then he was sent back to Spain in chains. While on the ship, the captain of the ship and Columbus had a conversation.
Captain: Columbus, it’s a darn shame what that Francis de Bobadilla did to you. Now, I’m the captain of this ship. What I say, goes. So I will take these chains off you.
C.C.: No thank you. I appreciate your loyalty. But I will wear these chains back to Spain. I will not have them taken off until the King and Queen of Spain says that they can come off. I want them to see me in the chains that they ordered. I am so insulted! After all that I have done for Spain, and they send me back in chains. Some gratitude!
Narrator 2: When Columbus was back in Spain again, he was stiff with arthritis. He remained in chains for six weeks until the king and queen had time to see him. Columbus spent those six weeks loudly complaining to anybody who would listen as to how he had been mistreated. He was now 49 years old.
Narrator 1: Finally, the King and Queen of Spain would see him. They were greatly distressed that Columbus had been put in chains. Listen to this conversation.
C.C.: Your Majesties, here I am in the chains that you ordered put on me.
Queen: My dear Christopher, we never ordered that chains be put on you. Francis de Bobadilla was supposed to replace you as governor and send you home. But he was not supposed to put you in chains. Guards, release Columbus from the chains at once.
C.C.: Thank you, Your Majesty. If you don’t mind, I would like to keep the chains. I will put them on my fireplace mantel, and I will be buried with them.
King: Columbus, now calm down. Bobadilla will be punished, and we will replace him with another governor. And you, Columbus, will still get ten percent of the profits. Now go home and rest. We are sorry that you were put in chains.
Narrator 2: Christopher was relieved that the chains were not the idea of the king and queen, but he was still unhappy. The king and queen did not mention anything about him being able to return to India. By now, Columbus had white hair and was stiff with arthritis. He went home to wait.
Narrator 1: Many things happened while he waited. Five different men went over the ocean leading their own expeditions. One of these men was Amerigo Vespucci. He had helped Christopher in the past.
Narrator 2: England sent out an explorer by the name of John Cabot. He thought he had reached the land of the Great Khan as described in Marco Polo’s book. Instead he had found Newfoundland. Newfoundland is located in the northeastern part of Canada.
Narrator 1: Portugal sent out Vasco da Gama in 1496. He sailed all the way around Africa, through the Indian Ocean and finally made it to India. In India, he saw civilized people who wore clothes. He returned in 1496 with spices and stories that matched some of the stories told in the book of Marco Polo.
Narrator 2: In 1502, Portugal was going to send Vasco da Gama to return to India for a second time. Listen to Columbus.
C.C.: I have been back in Spain for two years now. I keep waiting for the king and queen to decide that they’ll let me go back a fourth time. Vasco da Gama is on his way back to India for the second time. I just know he is going the long way. He must have landed on a different section of India than I have led the Spanish to. If only the king and queen would let me return and I can prove that my shortcut is the best way to reach India.
Narrator 1: At last, the king and queen decided. They did not like the idea of Portugal getting the better of them, so they decided to give Columbus one more chance.
Narrator 2: Columbus left Spain for his 4th and last voyage in March of 1502. The king and queen ordered him to find the mainland of India with the golden palaces.
Narrator 1: He was given four ships and 135 men. One man was an Arabic Interpreter that they thought could talk to the kings of India, China, and Japan. He was also given a letter of introduction to be given to Vasco da Gama.
Narrator 2: The king and queen of Spain set two rules for Columbus to follow. He must not turn any more Indians into slaves. Also, he was not allowed to set foot on the island of Hispaniola that now had a new governor.
Narrator 1: The king and queen believed that Columbus could sail straight to India. On his way home to Spain, then and only then would he be allowed to stop at Hispaniola. The king and queen restored all Columbus’ privileges, but Columbus felt that this was lip-service only. He no longer felt appreciated by the king and queen.
Narrator 2: Columbus and his crew ran into many storms and hurricanes. They charted many islands. However, every time they landed, there was no gold. Columbus wants to speak now.
C.C.: I am calling this voyage, the HIGH VOYAGE, because this might be my last chance to sail to India. I am getting older. Also, the king and queen do not have as much faith in me as they once did.
Narrator 1: After many storms and hurricanes, Columbus and his crew had 21 days of calm and smooth sailing. Then, just as they neared the island of Hispaniola, Columbus knew that a horrible hurricane was about to hit. Columbus had a plan. Listen to Columbus talk to one of his sailors named Diego Mendez.
C.C.: Okay, I need you to take a small boat and go to Hispaniola.
Brave Sailor named Diego Mendez: Why can’t you go to Hispaniola? You’re the one who discovered it!
C.C.: That’s true, but the king and queen has ordered us to not land on the island of Hispaniola until we are on our way home back to Spain. They say that we must find the mainland of India and the golden palaces first.
Brave Sailor named Diego Mendez: What do you want me to do in Hispaniola?
C.C.: Tell the governor of Hispaniola that a horrible hurricane is about to hit. Ask him if we may drop anchor in their harbor so that the hurricane won’t smash us to bits. Tell him that the hurricane will begin tomorrow.
Brave Sailor named Diego Mendez: Aye, Aye! Right away, sir!
Narrator 2: The sailor immediately got a small boat and rowed to the island of Hispaniola. He went to the governor. Listen to their conversation.
Governor: What do you want?
Brave Sailor named Diego Mendez: My name is Diego Mendez. I am from one of the four ships belonging to Christopher Columbus. He says that a hurricane will hit tomorrow. We would like permission to drop anchor in your harbor so that we will not be smashed to bits.
Governor: No! He may not step foot in Hispaniola and he may not enter my harbor. Besides, that is utter nonsense about a hurricane coming tomorrow. I know that it is just a trick on Columbus’s part.
Brave Sailor named Diego Mendez: Governor, it is no trick. We had several hurricanes on our way here from Spain. Columbus was always able to predict when they were going to come, and he was always right.
Governor: Nonsense! Why, tomorrow, I am sending 20 ships home to Spain. One of those ships even has all the belongings of Christopher Columbus as he is never to set foot on Hispaniola again.
Brave Sailor named Diego Mendez: But, Governor . . .
Governor: I have no more time to talk to you. I am a busy man with important things to attend to. The answer is no!
Brave Sailor named Diego Mendez: But . . .
Narrator 1: Columbus was furious when he heard what the sailor had to say. He managed to find a protective cove and sheltered his four ships there. The hurricane did indeed hit the next day, just as Christopher had predicted. All of Columbus’s crew and Columbus himself survived safely.
Narrator 2: The Governor didn’t listen to the sailor. He believed that Columbus was just trying to trick him. He sent the 20 ships on their way to Spain. Francis de Bobadilla was a passenger on one of those 20 ships. They were out on the ocean when the hurricane hit. Nineteen of the ships sank. Francis de Bobadilla was one of the 500 men who drowned.
Narrator 1: Guess which ship made it back to Spain? (You should get a response from class.)
Narrator 2: The only ship that survived was the one that had all of the possessions of Christopher Columbus.
Narrator 1: After that hurricane was over, Columbus and his four ships moved on. They went to the coast of what we now know as Central America. Then there was a 28-day storm.
Narrator 2: During that storm there was much wind and rain. Then there was a huge column of water that sucked up all that was in its path. Columbus, with a Bible in his left hand and a sword in his right hand, traced the cross in the sky.
Narrator 1: Then he drew a large imaginary circle with his sword that was meant to enclose his four ships in safety. Eventually, the water column dissolved and all was safe again. Columbus has something to say.
C.C.: Our four ships are getting old and are close to falling apart. We will have to stop on this one island and hope we can repair them somehow. It is Christmas Day. I remember another Christmas Day when the Santa Maria sunk on my first voyage.
Narrator 2: They landed on the island of Panama. What they did not know was that they were only 32 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Of course, their ships were too old to cross another ocean, even if they did reach the Pacific.
Narrator 1: North of Panama, they found good signs of gold. They spent the winter and spring there and built a fort and trading post. Columbus will tell you about the natives.
C.C.: The Indians are most strange and unfriendly here. They insist on always turning their back to us and will not look at us at all. It is hard to use sign language with people who will not look at you and who turns their back.
However, we found good signs of gold north of here. We have built a fort and trading post. We will spend the winter here.
Narrator 2: On April 6, 1503, 400 natives attacked the fort. Twelve of Columbus’ men were killed.
Narrator 1: Christopher Columbus was ill with malaria at the time. He stayed on the ship during this battle. He had a dream or vision that though he was an old man, there were still good things in store for him.
Narrator 2: Once Columbus got better, they abandoned the fort, the trading post, and the gold mine. They set sail for Hispaniola. One of the four ships got stuck on a sandbar, and they had to abandon it. Then in a few days, they had to abandon a second ship as it had rotted and gotten quite eaten-up by shipworms.
Narrator 1: For two months Columbus and his men toiled along in the two remaining ships and pumped and bailed, pumped and bailed.
Narrator 2: Finally the two remaining ships were no longer safe. They had to give up the idea to go to Hispaniola. They found an island that we now know as Jamaica. It was now June 25, 1503. Columbus will tell you what happened on Jamaica.
C.C.: The ships are not seaworthy anymore. Diego Mendez once again volunteered to row a boat to Hispaniola and to try to bring help. Hispaniola is a long way off. I don’t have much hope that he will make it there alive. He is a brave and courageous man! There is no gold on this island. The Indians are not very friendly.
Narrator 1: The land was not healthy. Columbus and some of the others got malaria. The Indians brought food to Columbus and his men for awhile. But they found that the Spaniards ate as much in one day as each Indian would eat in a week. They finally refused to feed Columbus and his crew any longer.
Narrator 2: Columbus will tell you the clever trick that he played on the Indians.
C.C.: The Indians brought us food for awhile; but now, they refuse to bring us any more food. I know that there is an eclipse of the moon coming soon. I will tell the Indians that the gods are angry that they are not still bringing any food to me and my men. I will tell them that I will make the moon disappear to punish them. Then they will be afraid. They’ll beg me to bring the moon back. I will only agree if they consent to keep on bringing us food as long as we are on this island. Then, right before the eclipse is due to end, I will wave my arms and pretend that I am allowing the moon to return. I think this trick will work; at least, I hope so.
Narrator 1: The trick did work. The Indians agreed to keep on bringing them food for as long as they were on the island.
Narrator 2: They were stranded on the island for one year and five days. Half of the men mutinied and refused to obey Columbus any longer.
Narrator 1: You’re probably wondering what happened to the Diego Mendez, the man who was brave enough to row to Hispaniola. Well, you will now find out from that man himself.
Brave Sailor named Diego Mendez: Hi. My name is Diego Mendez. I left in a canoe in July to try to row all the way to Hispaniola to bring help. I made it there safely. The governor was not in any particular hurry to do anything nice for Columbus. He waited a whole year. It was not until June of 1504 before he decided to send a ship to help Columbus and his men. That governor is one tough cookie!
Narrator 2: Columbus was 53 when he was finally rescued. He was in bad health. Once he got back to Hispaniola, there were many delays such as bad weather. Finally, he was able to return to Spain. He arrived in Spain on November 7, 1504.
Narrator 1: Columbus was hoping beyond hope that he might go back one more time. However, the queen died November 26, 1504, just a few days after he got home.
Narrator 2: King Ferdinand had no desire to be bothered with Christopher any longer. The queen was the main one who wanted to help Columbus. Columbus wanted to at least collect his due rewards. But the king would not listen.
Narrator 1: Columbus was so sick at heart and body that some days he was too crippled with arthritis to leave his bed. It is said that Columbus was a wealthy man, for he had received a portion of the profits over the years. Columbus was not satisfied with this.
Narrator 2: He wanted more so that he could leave his family in comfort. He wanted more because he believed he deserved it. He wanted more because that was what he had been promised. After all, he maybe never found the mainland of India, but he had reached the islands of India. That is what Columbus truly believed.
Genie: Well, that’s all for today. I will be coming one more time with Columbus. He will be an old man the next time that you see him. Farewell!
THE END of the Student Role-Play
Links to Teacher Scripts and Role-Plays
* TEACHER SCRIPT: Teacher Script for Lesson 6: The Life and Times of Christopher Columbus
* STUDENT SCRIPT: Role-Play #6 of 7: The Life and Times of Christopher Columbus
* PUPPETS PART 1 to color and laminate (pp. 1 to 23)
* PUPPETS PART 2 to color and laminate (pp. 24 to 46)