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The Three Strangers

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The Three Strangers

by Thomas Hardy

Genre: Comedy
Format of Original Source: Short Story
Recommended Adaptation Length: Two Hours

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising


“A prisoner escaped from the jail–that’s what it means.”


All listened. The sound was repeated, and none of them spoke but the man in the chimney-corner, who said quietly, “I’ve often been told that in this county they fire a gun at such times; but I never heard it till now.”


“I wonder if it is  my  man?” murmured the personage in cinder-gray.


“Surely it is!” said the shepherd involuntarily. “And surely we’ve zeed him! That little man who looked in at the door by now, and quivered like a leaf when he zeed ye and heard your song!”


“His teeth chattered, and the breath went out of his body,” said the dairyman.


“And his heart seemed to sink within him like a stone,” said Oliver Giles.


“And he bolted as if he’d been shot at,” said the hedge-carpenter.


“True–his teeth chattered, and his heart seemed to sink; and he bolted as if he’d been shot at,” slowly summed up the man in the chimney-corner.


“I didn’t notice it,” remarked the hangman.


Thomas Hardy’s The Three Strangers might make an interesting musical because of the moody atmosphere and the party setting.  Set on a stormy night in the 1820’s, a group of country people gathers to celebrate a baby’s christening, but throughout the evening, three strangers arrive (one at a time) to take refuge from the storm, and enjoy the host’s food and drink, much to his wife’s dismay.  One of the strangers is a hangman on his way to Casterbridge Jail to execute a prisoner accused of sheep stealing.  When it is learned the doomed prisoner has escaped - and that one of the strangers might be the accused, the party turns into a mob scene, complete with torches, pitchforks, and a search for the escapee.  You might have some really have fun adapting the story - updating it a bit, expanding the characters, etc.  Worth checking out.

Warning:  Hardy writes dialogue in accent/phonetics, and it makes for slow reading….


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