The Three Wishes

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The ancient folktale of The Three Wishes has been used as material for songs, poems, stories, plays, films and other entertainment over the ages.

Below are a few South African examples.

The Three Wishes by James Ambrose Brown

The original play

A play in two acts by James Ambrose Brown, inspired by an Arabian fairy tale. It tells the story of a dreamy Cape-Malay fisherman whose wife sends him to find the magic genie trapped in a bottle at the bottom of the sea. The text published by DALRO in 1978.

Translations and adaptations

Translated into Afrikaans as Die Drie Wense ("The three wishes") by Johan Bernard (text unpublished).

The Three Wishes was also broadcast as a radio play in several episodes by the SABC.


1954: First staged by Children's Theatre Incorporated in Johannesburg in 1954 with Anna Romain Hoffman as director, and in Cape Town in 1955 with Hansel Hewitt as director. The Cape Town production had a coloured cast which, rather uniquely at the time, played to multiracial audiences.

1965: Staged at the Library Theatre as the last production for Children's Theatre with Stanley Coghan, June Hern.

1968: Performed in Afrikaans as Die Drie Wense by the Nasionale Kinderteater, directed by Johan Bernard, stage managed by Johan Geyser, and featuring Lydia Theron. Taken on tour of the Transvaal.

Mid 1970s: A short sketch, based on the tale, was written by Ian Ferguson and performed as part of the PACT production of Ferguson's "entertainment" called Confetti.

The Three Wishes a sketch by Ian Ferguson

Originally written for and published in Confetti, an "entertainment" by Ferguson, performed in the mid-1970s and published by DALRO in 1978.

Published in the collection Lean Your Ear This Way, edited by C. Dyer and published by Academica Publishers in 1989.


DALRO text of The Three Wishes by James Ambrose Brown, 1978.

DALRO text of Confetti by Ian Ferguson, 1978.

Annotated script used for the 1980 PACOFS production, found in the Stellenbosch Drama Department archives in 2022.

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