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What’s the strongest thing you can think of?
An elephant? A bear? Maybe a brick wall, or a stone house?
Well, what if I told you that the strongest thing of all could be ... you?
Today we’ll hear the story of a woman who discovered that being strong isn’t always about muscles and bones or bricks and stones.
Today, our story is called “Stella and the Dragon.” People have been telling versions of this tale for years in Eastern Europe, in the country of Romania. Some really great people came together to help bring this one to you, including Kathryn Hahn. She’s a great actor, who’s been in a bunch of movies and television shows, including the Amazon Original series "Transparent" and "I Love Dick."
So Circle Round, everyone, for “Stella and the Dragon,” featuring the voices of Kathryn Hahn, James Konicek and Mia Rillette. Story adapted for Circle Round by Virginia Marshall, Rebecca Sheir, and Jessica Alpert. Original music and sound design by Eric Shimelonis.
Adults: Print out this picture and let your listeners color along with the episode.
Things To Think About After Listening
What in your life makes you feel powerful? As we now know from hearing Stella’s story, it doesn’t have to be physical strength. Maybe there’s a skill you’ve worked especially hard to improve, or a person whose support makes you feel like you can do anything!
Think about it, then talk about it with someone you have fun with — a family member or a friend — and ask them to tell you what gives them strength.
Want More Of This Story?
We adapted "Stella and the Dragon" from the Romanian folktale "Stan Bolovan and the Dragon." Read a version of "Stan Bolovan" here.
NARRATOR: There once was a farmer named Stella. She and her husband, Ovi, lived in a house down a long, long lane in the village. The house was small but comfortable; Stella and her husband shared it with their friendly striped cat and their old faithful dog.
In the hills above Stella’s village lived a giant, green dragon. A very wealthy dragon, who had piles and piles of gold in his lair atop the hill. When he was hungry, the dragon would swoop down and pluck a cow or a sheep from the villagers’ fields. Many of Stella’s neighbors feared that someday the dragon would be hungry enough to swoop down and carry off a human!
But Stella and Ovi tried not to think about the giant, green dragon. They were busy growing their crops and tending to their animals on the farm. Thanks to their hard work, they had plenty to eat... a dry, warm house... They were happy. But one thing was missing:
Every night when Stella and Ovi finished working in the fields, they would join hands and walk down the long, long lane. And every night, Stella would lift her head and wistfully gaze up at the sky.
STELLA: Oh stars, I wish I had children of my own.
And yet... no children came.
One night, after wishing on the very brightest star, Stella walked down the lane with Ovi. As they approached the house, Stella thought she saw something... move.
STELLA: Hmmm. The farm animals are in the barn, and the cat and dog have long been asleep. What could that be over there?
NARRATOR: Still holding hands, Stella and Ovi began tiptoeing toward the house. As they got closer to home, they could see what it was… or who it was... that was moving around:
STELLA: Oh my! Children!
NARRATOR: Tall children, short children, boys and girls, all of them healthy and full of joy. Some were scampering around the yard, laughing and playing tag. Others were digging in the garden, planting flowers. Still others were inside the house, cooking a delicious dinner on the stove.
Stella and Ovi could hardly believe their eyes. As they stood there, frozen, a little girl in overalls came skipping toward them.
CHILD: Hello, mama! Hello, papa!
NARRATOR: Stella was so stunned, for a moment she could barely speak.
STELLA: Why, hello! Tell me: where is your home?
NARRATOR: The little girl looked at Stella as if she had two heads.
CHILD: My home is here, of course! All of us live here, with you!
NARRATOR: Stella’s heart skipped a beat. She squeezed Ovi’s hand tight.
STELLA: Is it true? Are all of these children... ours? Our wishes have been granted!
NARRATOR: Stella and Ovi had never felt such happiness. As they kissed each of their new children on the cheek, they counted them, to see how many they had.
STELLA: One, two, three, four…
NARRATOR: They counted and counted… coming at last to the final child.
STELLA: Ninety-six, ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety-nine… One-hundred! We have one-hundred children!
NARRATOR: For the second time that night, Stella looked up at the stars. The brightest one seemed to twinkle and shimmer more than ever.
STELLA: Stars, this is more than we bargained for! But you have granted our wish and for that, we are thankful. We will love each and every one of these children forever and ever.
NARRATOR: Now, think about it: Stella and Ovi had zero children… and now they had one-hundred! Can you imagine what it would be like to have one-hundred children? You’d have one-hundred sets of clothing to wash. One-hundred blankets, one-hundred beds… And think of all the shoes! With one-hundred children, you would need two-hundred shoes!
Stella and Ovi worked especially hard to support their new family. The older kids helped out, too. But with so many mouths to feed, it wasn’t long before food began to grow scarce. Stella knew something must be done.
One morning, after a breakfast of one-hundred pancakes, one-hundred bananas, and one-hundred cups of milk, Stella pulled Ovi aside.
STELLA: Ovi, we must find a way to support this family! Please keep your eye on the children while I go out into the world to find an answer.
NARRATOR: She gave Ovi a hug, and kissed each of her one-hundred children on the cheek. Then she set off down the long, long lane.
She walked all day long. When she came to the hills, she stopped to rest. As she sat in the grass, she watched some sheep grazing peacefully on the hill. Suddenly, the sheep started baaaa-ing and running away. Stella looked to see what they were running from, and over the top of the hill what did she see… but the giant, green dragon! The one with all the gold in his lair!
The dragon flew down toward the sheep, his wings outstretched. As Stella watched orange flames shoot from his nose, she thought she should run away, too. But then, it hit her.
STELLA: Gold! The dragon has piles and piles of gold! I could use that gold to buy food for my one-hundred children, and then they will not go hungry!
NARRATOR: Stella didn’t know how she would get the gold from the giant, green dragon... but she had to try.
She stood up and waved her arms.
STELLA: Hey! Dragon! Dragon! Over here!
NARRATOR: The giant, green dragon heard Stella. He turned his scaly head.
DRAGON: Who is that shouting at me?
NARRATOR: Stella’s mind raced.
STELLA: It is I... Stella the powerful!
NARRATOR: Stella wasn’t sure where she was going with this, but the dragon seemed interested.
DRAGON: “Stella the powerful,” eh? And why, “Stella the powerful,” are you shouting at me? Don’t you know I could eat you in just one bite?
NARRATOR: Stella tossed her head back and laughed.
STELLA: Me? No, dragon, you could not possibly eat me. For I am much stronger than you are!
NARRATOR: The dragon snorted, sending more flames sparking from his nose. With one of his sharp claws, he snatched up a sheep and swallowed it whole. Stella had to stop herself from crying out.
DRAGON: Alright, “Stella the powerful,” it’s time to see how powerful you really are. For this dragon is ready for dessert!
NARRATOR: The giant, green dragon lunged toward Stella. As he opened his mouth, Stella saw his bright-red tongue and sharp, pointy teeth. She was frightened, but… thinking of her one-hundred children...she took a deep breath… and didn’t move a muscle.
The dragon stopped right there in his tracks.
DRAGON: Why aren’t you screaming and running away from me? Everyone screams and runs away from me! I am the most-feared dragon in the land!
STELLA: Why? Because I know that I am stronger than you… and I can prove it!
NARRATOR: The proud dragon roared. He was so close to Stella, the hot air from his mouth made her sweat.
DRAGON: Can you now? What do you say we make a bet? If I can prove that I am stronger than you are... I get to eat you.
NARRATOR: Stella’s heart began to pound.
STELLA: And if I can prove that I am stronger than you...?
NARRATOR: The dragon thought for a moment.
DRAGON: ...then you can have all the gold in my lair.
NARRATOR: Stella pictured the dragon’s piles and piles of gold… and her dozens and dozens of children.
STELLA: Alright, agreed. Now, how will we prove our strength?
NARRATOR: The dragon thought hard. If there was one thing he was good at, it was throwing things. He looked around and spotted two enormous boulders, each one the size of a house.
DRAGON: Those boulders over there… they are heavy and big. Whoever can throw one the farthest is clearly the strongest. I will go first.
NARRATOR: The dragon scooped up the first boulder, reached it high up into the sky, and threw it with all his might. The boulder soared over the sheep and the trees. It sailed over two hills and landed on a third, with a distant thud.
DRAGON: Ha! Now it’s your turn, “Stella the powerful.” Let’s see if you can beat that.
NARRATOR: Stella knew she was in trouble. How could she throw a boulder the size of a house… let alone pick one up? She simply did not know. But one thing she did know?
She had to think fast.
So... what did Stella do?
She walked over to the big, heavy rock… and pointed her finger off into the distance. The dragon was confused.
DRAGON: What are you pointing at? I want to see you throw that boulder!
STELLA: Well, I would throw it, dragon… but do you see that full moon rising over there, beyond that third hill?
DRAGON: Yes. What about it?
STELLA: Well, I am so strong that if I throw this boulder now, it might hit the moon and knock it out of orbit.
NARRATOR: The dragon tried to picture a toss so powerful that the moon would stop revolving around the earth!
DRAGON: It would go that far?
STELLA: It certainly could.
NARRATOR: Stella was telling the truth. For there was a teeny-eensy-weensy chance the boulder would hit the moon. Maybe one in a million. It was far more likely that Stella couldn’t even lift the boulder. But the dragon didn’t know that.
STELLA: Think about it. The moon is right there, just over that hill. If I hit the moon with this boulder, who knows what would happen? Pieces of the moon could come flying off and hit us, right here!
NARRATOR: Suddenly, the dragon was scared. Pieces of the moon hurtling toward earth?
DRAGON: No, don’t hit the moon! Not while it’s just over that hill!
STELLA: Alright, then. I will wait for the moon to rise higher in the sky before I throw this boulder.
NARRATOR: The dragon sat down beside Stella. As they watched the moon creep higher and higher in the sky, the dragon got more and more nervous. He jumped up and huffed a blast of fire from his nose.
DRAGON: Listen: you should not throw this boulder because if you do, you might hit the moon, and that would be bad. And since I cannot throw this boulder and hit the moon, you have won the contest… Stella the Powerful.
NARRATOR: Stella smiled.
STELLA: So I have. And now I get your gold!
NARRATOR: Stella hopped on the dragon’s back and they flew up the hill to his lair. Inside, she saw fifty sacks of gold, piled from the floor to the ceiling!
DRAGON: Well, here they are. All fifty sacks of gold... are yours.
NARRATOR: Stella was excited. But now... she had a new problem: The sacks of gold were so big, and so heavy, no human could possibly lift even one! But she needed the dragon to believe she was “Stella the Powerful.” Otherwise, surely he would devour her on the spot!
STELLA: Dragon… there is something you should know.
DRAGON: And what’s that...?
STELLA: Well... I have one-hundred children… each one as strong as I am.
NARRATOR: It was true. Her children were as strong as she was. Strong in the mind: every one of them was quick-witted and brave.
STELLA: You see, if my one-hundred children see me coming home with this gold, they might want to get more for themselves. They might come after you!
NARRATOR: The last thing the dragon wanted was to have one-hundred strong little humans coming after him... especially since this was all the gold he had!
The dragon began to tremble. Stella noticed.
STELLA: Listen, dragon. Here is what we’ll do. We’ll go back to my house, together. You will carry all the gold yourself. And you will tell my children that it’s all the gold you have. There isn’t any more.
NARRATOR: The giant, green dragon agreed, and piled the fifty sacks of gold on his back. They were so heavy he couldn’t fly, so he walked behind Stella as she led the way to her house. They walked for hours. When the sun began to rise, they arrived at the end of Stella’s long, long lane.
In the distance, the dragon could hear children laughing and playing. But he was so frightened of Stella’s kids that to him, it sounded like vicious screaming and fighting.
DRAGON: Are those your children?
NARRATOR: Again, the dragon began to tremble. Again, Stella noticed.
STELLA: Oh yes! It’s almost breakfast time, so they are probably very hungry.
NARRATOR: Just then, Stella’s one-hundred children came running down the lane. They were so excited to see their mother, they yelled and waved their arms, eager for a kiss and a hug.
But that’s not what the giant, green dragon saw. What he saw were one-hundred hungry, screaming children... looking to eat him for breakfast! Without a word, he shoved the fifty bags onto the ground, stretched out his wings, and swiftly flew away. He didn’t stop until he reached his lair on top of the hill.
Together, Stella and her children carried the gold into their home, one handful at a time. After counting it, they realized they had just enough so that they’d live comfortably and never go hungry... all thanks to “Stella the Powerful.”
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