Do you remember the last time you saw a rainstorm?
Streaks of lightning… rumbles of thunder… the whole thing can be kind of scary, right? Do you sometimes want to hide under the covers?
Well, today we’ll hear one explanation of where all that thunder and lightning comes from. And the answer… may surprise you!
Today, our story is called “Thunder and Lightning.” It was inspired by a folktale that’s been told for years and years in Nigeria, a country in Africa.
Voices on this episode include Yetide Badaki ("American Gods"), Dayo Okeniyi ("Shades of Blue"), Chiazotam Ekekezie, Angel Blaise, and Josiah Akinyele. The story was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir and Jessica Alpert. Sound design and original music by Eric Shimelonis. Casting by Amy Lippens, CSA.
Things To Think About After Listening
Now that we’ve done our telling, it’s your turn to do some showing. Find a piece of paper, and something to draw or paint with, and create your own picture of Thunder the sheep and Lightning the ram. What do they look like? What are they doing? Where are they? Let your imagination run wild as you bring them to life.
NARRATOR: Once upon a time… near a lush, green forest and some tall, bumpy hills… there was… a village.
In most ways it was like any other village: it had houses, a school, a market, some farmland for crops, and many, many men, women and children.
And among the many, many men, women and children… there also lived a sheep… and a ram. The ram was the sheep’s son.
But this sheep and ram were very different from all other sheep and rams. For one thing, they talked.
RAM: Good morning, mother!
SHEEP: Good morning, son.
NARRATOR: Also, the sheep and ram didn’t live inside a barn, or out in a pasture. They lived... in a house.
SHEEP: What would you like for breakfast, my child?
RAM: The usual, please!
SHEEP: A nice bowl of soft grass?
RAM: With seeds sprinkled on top!
SHEEP: Coming right up!
NARRATOR: Something else that set the sheep and ram apart was… their names. The sheep’s name... was “Thunder.” And the ram’s name… was “Lightning.”
Thunder and Lightning were very good friends with… Rain. Any time the villagers needed water for their crops, Thunder and Lightning would climb up the tall, bumpy hills and call out for Rain.
Thunder would use her deepest, most booming voice… and Lightning would dash back and forth... so quickly that all you’d see was his white fleece streaking by.
As soon as Rain heard Thunder’s rumble, and spotted Lightning’s flash, she would drop down from the clouds and give the village all the water it needed.
Well, one summer, the weather was especially hot… and the farmlands were especially dry. The mayor of the village worried none of the crops would grow. So he summoned Thunder and Lightning to his house.
MAYOR: Thunder, Lightning: the crops are in trouble and only you can help us! Can you call for Rain today?
SHEEP: Of course, Mister Mayor!
RAM: It would be our honor!
NARRATOR: The entire village watched as Thunder and Lightning hurried up to the hills. Lightning dashed ahead, his white coat glinting bright. Thunder followed behind, her powerful voice bellowing low.
Before long... dark gray clouds formed in the sky, with Rain sitting right in the middle. When Lightning and Thunder saw their friend, they said hello – Lightning, with a flash of his fleece, and Thunder, with a rumble. And with that, Rain jumped out of the clouds and fell upon the farmlands.
The villagers were so happy, they cheered… dancing and splashing around in the puddles.
VILLAGER 1: Thank you, Thunder, for bringing us water!
VILLAGER 2: Thank you, Lightning, for saving our crops!
VILLAGER 3: Thank you both, for sending us Rain!
NARRATOR: Month after month, every time the village needed Rain, Thunder and Lightning would race up the hill to call for it.
And month after month, Thunder the sheep noticed that Lightning the ram was getting stronger and stronger… and faster and faster.
After gobbling up his breakfast of grass and seeds, Lightning would go outside to play. But he’d get so carried away that he’d smash right into houses and burst through doors. He’d even knock down walls!
Every time this happened, Thunder would scold him.
THUNDER: Lightning! How many times do I have to tell you? You must be more careful! You don’t know your own strength!
LIGHTNING: I’m sorry, Mother. It won’t happen again!
NARRATOR: And yet… it did. And the more damage Lightning caused, the more upset his neighbors became.
VILLAGER 2: Look at my door! It’s torn right through.
VILLAGER 3: Lightning struck it down!
VILLAGER 1: Look at my window. The glass is all gone.
VILLAGER 3: Lightning bolted through it!
NARRATOR: The Mayor heard the villagers’ complaints, and immediately sent for Thunder and Lightning.
THUNDER: You called for us, Mister Mayor?
RAM: Does the village need Rain?
MAYOR: Not this time, my friends. That’s not what I called you here for. It’s your neighbors. They’re starting… to complain.
THUNDER: About us?
RAM: Haven’t we summoned Rain quickly enough when they need it?
MAYOR: Oh, of course you have! Everyone is very happy with the way you call for Rain. The problem… is the damage.
NARRATOR: Thunder sighed. She had a feeling this was coming.
THUNDER: Lightning, I’ve been trying to tell you: you can’t keep bolting and barreling around the village! You don’t know your own strength, and it’s causing harm!
NARRATOR: Lightning hung his head.
LIGHTNING: I know, I know. I’m sorry!
MAYOR: I’m sure you are, my boy. But I’m afraid that’s not good enough. I need a guarantee that the village will stay just as it is: no knocked-down and busted-up buildings. And for that, there is something you both must do.
NARRATOR: Thunder and Lightning braced themselves. What would the Mayor say? Would Lightning have to apologize to the villagers? That was easy enough to do! Perhaps he and Thunder could even fix their houses!
LIGHTNING: Whatever it is, we’ll do it, Mister Mayor!
THUNDER: You name it, we’ll make it happen!
MAYOR: Well, then, my friends…
NARRATOR: The Mayor leaned forward.
MAYOR: What you must do… is this. Thunder, Lightning: you must leave the village.
NARRATOR: The sheep and ram were stunned.
THUNDER: You want us… to leave?
LIGHTNING: But, Mister Mayor, this is our home!
MAYOR: I know, I know. And you’ve been such honored members of this village, bringing down Rain whenever we’ve needed it. But we can’t have any more walls, windows or doors falling down. You must go out past the edge of town, and live among the lush, green trees of the forest. We’ll still call you when we need you to bring Rain, but the forest must be your new home.
NARRATOR: So, Thunder and Lightning moved out to the forest.
They built a hut out of branches and leaves, and found that living in the woods… was nice. The air was fresh, and the tall trees were wonderfully shady when the sun grew hot. Plus, Thunder and Lightning were close enough to the hills to scamper up and call for Rain when the village needed it.
But after a while, Lightning… grew bored.
LIGHTNING: Mother, it’s so dull out here among the trees. I liked it better back in the village. There was so much to see! So much to do!
THUNDER: This is our home now, my child, and we must make the most of it. Why not go exploring, and make a new friend? A good number of animals live here. Antelopes, gorillas, even elephants spend their days in the forest. Go out and play! Have fun!
NARRATOR: So Lightning went off into the woods. And before long, he met all the animals his mother told him about. He raced with the antelope…
NARRATOR: He sprinted below the gorillas, swinging from tree to tree…
NARRATOR: And he ran circles around the elephants as they waved their trunks.
NARRATOR: But remember: Lightning was growing faster and stronger — by the minute! So as the young ram raced, sprinted and ran, he started colliding with trees, knocking them clear down! It was just like in the village. Only instead of a door or window or wall, dozens of big, strong trees ended up flat on the ground.
The young ram was having so much fun, he didn’t even notice. He just ran faster. So fast, in fact, that sparks started to fly from his bright white fleece! When the sparks landed on the grass, bushes and trees, they began to smolder. Pretty soon, the forest was on fire!
LIGHTNING: Oh no! What have I done? Mother! I have to make sure Thunder is alright!
NARRATOR: Lightning moved faster than ever as he streaked off to find his mom.
Luckily, sheep have excellent noses. So back in the hut, Thunder smelled the smoke right away.
THUNDER: Is that… smoke? It is! Fire! There’s a fire! I must find Lightning!
NARRATOR: Just as she was darting out of the hut, Lightning was dashing back in.
LIGHTNING: Mother! Mother! We must leave the forest! It’s on fire!
THUNDER: Let’s go back toward the village. We’re sure to find safety there!
NARRATOR: When Thunder and Lightning reached the village, they stopped to catch their breath.
LIGHTNING: Oh, mother. I was so worried. Thank goodness you’re safe!
THUNDER: And thank goodness you’re safe, my son! But… what happened? Do you know what started this fire?
NARRATOR: Lightning did not answer. Instead, he hung his head low.
THUNDER: Oh, Lightning… Did you do this?
NARRATOR: But before the ram could say anything, he and his mother found themselves surrounded by their former neighbors from the village. They were all looking at the forest… with sadness and fear.
VILLAGER 3: Our beautiful forest!
VILLAGER 1: Going down in flames!
VILLAGER 2: What a sad, sad day!
NARRATOR: Lightning was sad, too.
LIGHTNING: I’m so sorry. I never intended to do such harm!
THUNDER: Well, you still don’t know your own strength, my son. But now, let’s use that strength for good. What’s the best thing for putting out a fire?
NARRATOR: Lightning lifted his head. A smile spread across his face.
LIGHTNING: Water! Of course! Mother, let’s go up the hill and call for Rain!
THUNDER: Excellent thinking, my son. Let’s go!
NARRATOR: So Thunder the sheep and Lightning the ram sprinted up to the hills. Thunder let our her deep bellow and Lightning flashed his bright white coat. When Rain heard and saw her two friends, she immediately dropped down from the clouds.
As drop after drop of rain cascaded from the sky, they doused the flames until the fire was out. But the villagers did not cheer, or dance and splash around in the puddles. Because after the smoke cleared... much of the forest was gone. The lush, green trees had been replaced by stumps, their bark scorched and charred.
VILLAGER 2: All those trees.
VILLAGER 3: They stood so tall!
VILLAGER 1: They looked so majestic!
MAYOR: And now… they’re burnt to a crisp.
NARRATOR: As soon as Thunder and Lightning came back down from the hills, the Mayor called them over.
MAYOR: Thunder, Lightning. We thank you for bringing Rain to stop this raging fire. But it was your carelessness that brought this fire in the first place! After you damaged those houses in the village, I thought it was enough to move you to the forest. But now… I’m afraid you must move somewhere else.
NARRATOR: Thunder sighed.
THUNDER: We understand, Mister Mayor. We will go wherever you’d like.
LIGHTNING: No. I will!
NARRATOR: Thunder was surprised at her son’s words. She noticed the young ram was struggling to hold back tears.
LIGHTNING: Mister Mayor: you should know… it wasn’t Thunder who caused this fire. It was me: Lightning! I was running around and not being careful. It was all my fault. If anyone has to move, it should be me - not my mother.
NARRATOR: The Mayor paused for a moment, and furrowed his brow. Shrugging his shoulders, he looked at the sheep.
MAYOR: Well, Thunder? What do you say? Would you like to stay?
THUNDER: Mister Mayor, I thank you for your offer. Lightning doesn’t know his own strength; he probably never will.
NARRATOR: Thunder nuzzled her son’s fleecy nose. Gently, she wiped a tear from his eye.
THUNDER: But Lightning and I, we’re in this together. And not just when we call for Rain. You see, Thunder and Lightning… we’re a team! And a team we shall stay.
MAYOR: Very well. You’re a loyal and dedicated mother, Thunder. And Lightning: your mother’s right: you’ll probably never realize how strong you are. You definitely have a wild streak, but you’re a loyal and dedicated son. And the two of you make a wonderful pair. So now…
NARRATOR: The Mayor lifted his arm, and motioned upward.
MAYOR: …I present you with your new home.
LIGHTNING: The sky!
THUNDER: We’ll be living in the sky!
MAYOR: Something tells me you’ll like it. After all, you’ll be uniting with an old friend!
NARRATOR: As Thunder and Lightning glanced up, they saw a dark grey cloud float by. Peeking out from behind it was their longtime pal, Rain. Smiling, she reached out and tossed down a puffy ladder made of clouds. Thunder and Lightning ran over to the ladder, and climbed right up.
After that, Thunder and Lightning still helped the villagers when their crops needed water. The sheep and ram no longer needed to dash up into the hills to call for Rain. But Rain had gotten so used to listening for Thunder’s deep roar and watching for Lightning’s white streak that she wouldn’t drop out of her cloud without them.
As for Lightning, he grew to be so fast and strong that even though he lived in the sky, his sparks sometimes shot down to the earth… leading to a burnt tree here, a knocked-down wall there. And, as always, right afterward, Thunder would scold him with her low rumble.
And that’s why… when there’s a rainstorm… first you’ll see a bolt of lightning, then you’ll hear a crash of thunder. Some people say it’s just a playful young ram causing mischief… and his loving mother, reminding him of his own mighty strength.