'Three Wishes' | Circle Round 25

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(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

When’s the last time… you helped someone?
Perhaps you set the table... or watered the plants. Maybe you introduced yourself to someone new at school. Or you just gave somebody a big hug, when he or she needed it most.

The people we’ll meet in today’s story are all about helping other people… but when a mysterious stranger offers them some help, you won’t believe what happens!

This episode's folktale is called “The Three Wishes.” For many years, people have been telling different versions of this story in many countries around the world, from France to Sweden to Puerto Rico.

Voices in this episode include Kimberly Schraf and a real-life husband and wife, Patrick and Mandy Fabian. Grown-ups: you may recognize Patrick from the AMC original series, “Better Call Saul.” And Mandy is a writer and director who helped create the new Amazon comedy: “Dropping the Soap.”

This story was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir and edited by Jessica Alpert.  Original score and sound design by Eric Shimelonis.

ADULTS! Print out this picture so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it! To access all the coloring pages for past episodes click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.

Things To Think About
Think of three things in your life that make you content. And when I say “things,” that also includes people… even animals! Draw a picture of yourself with the three things that bring you happiness. And ask a grown-up in your life to draw a picture of their three things! Once you’re both done, you can share your pictures with each other. And talk about why you drew what you drew.

Story Transcript
NARRATOR: Once upon a time… in a cozy, little house... in the middle of a forest… lived a woodsman… and a seamstress.
The woodsman spent his days chopping down trees and building sturdy tables and chairs to sell in the village. The seamstress spent her days sewing colorful dresses and coats; she sold those in the village, too.
Both the woodsman and seamstress were very skilled at their crafts. And yet, they found it hard to make enough money for food and other things they needed to survive.
WOODSMAN: So, dear wife: how did you do in the village today? Surely, a crowd of people lined up to buy your beautiful clothes?
SEAMSTRESS: Not today, my husband. I sold just one handkerchief!
WOODSMAN: Just one?
SEAMSTRESS: Yes! The rest I gave away to a poor man who had the worst cold! He was sneezing and sniffling and couldn’t scrape together enough pennies for something to wipe his nose!
WOODSMAN: Well, that was kind of you, my dear. But then, you’ve always been the most generous woman I’ve ever known.
SEAMSTRESS: Thank you, my love. (beat) And you? How did you do today? That desk you carried into the village must have sold within minutes!
WOODSMAN: Actually, it didn’t. Nobody wanted to buy the desk – or anything else! In the end, I wound up giving a dozen chairs to the local school, so the children could have a place to sit during storytime in the library.
SEAMSTRESS: How sweet of you!
WOODSMAN: Well, you know how I am. I may not have much, but I’ll do my best to help someone in need.
WOODSMAN: That’s why we’re such a good match! Our lives may be humble, but at least we’re lucky enough to have this cozy house, a light in the fire, and… most importantly… each other!
SEAMSTRESS: That’s right, my darling. I wouldn’t wish for anything more!
NARRATOR: One day, while the woodsman was chopping trees at the far edge of the forest… and the seamstress was sewing a magnificent jacket at home… she heard a gentle knocking at the door.
NARRATOR: Standing outside the cozy, little house was a woman… an old woman with bright green eyes and long, silvery hair. Her clothing was tattered and torn. But her smile was big and warm.
OLD WOMAN: Hello, my child! I’m sorry to bother you, but I hope you can help me. I’ve been traveling alone in the woods, and I have lost my way! My walking stick fell into the river, and I’ve been wandering around and around and around on my tired, old feet. I haven’t eaten anything for days and days and days and I am so hungry. Could you please spare some food?
NARRATOR: Now, remember: the seamstress and the woodsman constantly struggled to make ends meet. So their kitchen didn’t have a lot of food. But that didn’t stop the seamstress from inviting the woman inside.
SEAMSTRESS: I am always happy to help a person in need, and you look very hungry! We don’t have much, other than some bread and cheese, but please: take all you want!
OLD WOMAN: Thank you, my child. Thank you.
NARRATOR: The seamstress brought out half a loaf of bread and some slivers of cheese. The old woman gobbled the food up hungrily.
OLD WOMAN: Oh, this is delicious! I am grateful for your hospitality. But then, I shouldn’t be surprised. Word has traveled about how kind and generous you and your husband are. And as a reward for this generosity and kindness, I am going to give you a gift.
SEAMSTRESS: But my husband and I, we don’t need anything! We just like helping people who need it!
OLD WOMAN: Well, then, help me help you! The gift I’m offering is this: Starting immediately… right here, right now… any three wishes you or your husband make, will instantly come true.
NARRATOR: The seamstress’s eyes widened. She could hardly believe what she was hearing. After all these years of struggling to get by… coming home empty-handed from the village… living on bread and cheese and water… she and her husband could have anything they wanted!
All they had to do was wish for it. What do you think the seamstress and woodsman will wish for? What would be on your list if someone offered to grant three of your wishes?
We’ll find out what happens… after a quick break.


NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today’s story is called “The Three Wishes.”
When we left off, an old woman with tattered clothing and silvery hair had given a seamstress... a gift. As a reward for all the kindness and generosity the seamstress… and her husband, the woodsman… had shown others, the old woman would grant three of their wishes.
The seamstress was home alone at the time. And when she heard the old woman’s words, she was very surprised.
SEAMSTRESS: I can hardly believe this is true! Three wishes?!? And they’ll all come true?!? If only my husband were in this house right now, to hear all of this!
NARRATOR: The last word had scarcely left her lips when POOF! Who should instantly appear in the cozy little house, but the woodsman… his axe still in his hands!
WOODSMAN: What… where… who… what’s going on, my dear? I was just about to chop down the perfect tree for a new bench, and suddenly, I’m here!
NARRATOR: The seamstress gave her husband a big hug and explained everything: how she’d helped the old woman who’d lost her walking stick, and now the couple had three wishes to use however they saw fit.
WOODSMAN: But, wait. You say we have three wishes. By wishing that I could be in this house right now… didn’t you just use up our first wish?
NARRATOR: The seamstress thought for a moment.
SEAMSTRESS: Oh. I was just so excited about having three wishes! (beat) I guess I did use up the first one, didn’t I.
NARRATOR: She turned to the old woman.
SEAMSTRESS: Can I, um, take it back…?
NARRATOR: The old woman smiled another of her big, warm smiles.
OLD WOMAN: No, my child. You cannot.
WOODSMAN: Well, that’s hardly fair! We should have made all three wishes together! Now the first wish is done and gone, and it wasn’t even for anything useful!
NARRATOR: The seamstress turned to her husband with a furrowed brow.
SEAMSTRESS: Wait a minute. “Useful”…?!?
WOODSMAN: Yes! You could have wished for more food in the house! Or for more people to buy your clothing, and my furniture! You could have just wished for more money in general! Something we could actually use!
NARRATOR: The seamstress had never seen her husband so angry. In fact, she’d barely seen him get upset over anything! All his life he’d been a kind and generous man. But suddenly, the possibility of having anything at all… anything in the whole wide world… it seemed to have turned his head!
SEAMSTRESS: My husband! Listen! Why get so upset? We still have two more wishes! We can make them together!
NARRATOR: The woodsman began pacing around the room. The old woman with the silvery hair hobbled over to the corner and eased herself into a chair.
WOODSMAN: No, we will not make them together! I’ll make the next wish myself! And it’ll be for something good – no, something grand!
SEAMSTRESS: But what do we need with “grand”? It’s like we always say: “at least we’re lucky enough to have this cozy house, a light in the fire, and… most importantly… each other”! Isn’t that enough?
WOODSMAN: “Enough”?!? “Enough”?!? You just don’t get it, do you? We could have anything in the world! We could be a king and queen! And all this talk about having “enough.” You’re acting so ridiculous right now... may you grow the ears of a donkey!
NARRATOR: Well, as you might have guessed, no sooner had the woodsman uttered those words than his wife’s ears began to grow… and grow.
SEAMSTRESS: (gasps) My ears!
NARRATOR: Her ears got furrier and furrier, too, until... yes…. they had changed into the pointed ears… of a donkey!
SEAMSTRESS: Oh no! What have you done?
NARRATOR: The woodsman stopped his pacing and stared at his wife… and her furry, pointed donkey ears.
WOODSMAN: I guess I just used up our second wish, didn’t I.
NARRATOR: He turned to the old woman in the corner.
WOODSMAN: Um… no takebacks?
OLD WOMAN: No takebacks.
WOODSMAN: So… just one more wish?
OLD WOMAN: Just one more wish.
NARRATOR: For a long while, the woodsman didn’t say a word. When at last he opened his mouth, he gazed directly at his wife, who was now weeping quietly at the table.
WOODSMAN: With just one more wish, I might make myself a king. A great king, living in a great palace. I could wish for servants, and delicious feasts. I could wish for many horses and lots of land for races. I could wish for fancy parties each and every night. I could wish for a brand-new life! To begin everything again, and leave all this…
NARRATOR: He gestured around the cozy, little house.
WOODSMAN: …leave it all behind.
NARRATOR: Still sitting in the corner, the old woman smiled.
OLD WOMAN: Everything you say is true. You could use this one last wish for riches, and power. For a brand new life! So… is that what you wish for?
NARRATOR: The seamstress stared at her husband. Smoothing down her furry, pointed donkey ears, she stood up and began walking toward him.
SEAMSTRESS: My darling. My dear. My love. We’ve always said we’re so “ideally matched.” We’ve always said we “wouldn’t wish for anything more.” But if that’s truly what you want – riches, and power — I cannot stop you. But I will always miss… and be sad for… the kind and generous man I have always known you to be.
NARRATOR: The woodsman glanced over at the old woman. Then he looked at his wife. His gaze softened, and his shoulders relaxed.
WOODSMAN: Well, I have just one more wish. And like I said, I might wish to be a great king, living in a great palace.  But... I do not wish to be a great king in a great palace... not without my love. I do not wish to begin everything again without you. I want you to know happiness.  So now you must decide: do you wish to be my queen, with servants, and feasts, and grand parties each and every night… all the while wearing donkey ears? Or do you wish to be what I’ve always known you to be: the most gifted seamstress in the world… and the most kind and generous woman in the universe?
NARRATOR: The seamstress smiled. The woodsman smiled back. And off in her corner, the old woman smiled, too.
SEAMSTRESS: My husband, my darling, my love. Something tells me we can make this last wish together.
NARRATOR: And with that, they joined hands, pulled each other close and… together… wished that the seamstress could go back to the way she always had been.
No sooner had they said these words than the donkey ears disappeared with a POOF! The woodsman and seamstress hugged each other tightly.
WOODSMAN: Oh, my sweet! Please forgive me for becoming so selfish, so greedy! I’m sorry I became so thoughtless and mean!
SEAMSTRESS: It’s amazing what the mere possibility of riches and power can do. Let’s try to remember the important things in life… even when it’s hard.
NARRATOR: The old woman with the silvery hair shuffled out of her corner and approached the happy couple.
OLD WOMAN: My children. What you’ve gone through today was a test. A test to see if you can understand that we can find happiness in living humbly... just as we can find unhappiness in living with all the riches in the world. And, I am pleased to say, you’ve passed that test. May you know happiness together for the rest of your lives.
NARRATOR: Just as the old woman was about to open the door to leave the house, the woodsman stopped her.
WOODSMAN: Wait. We cannot thank you enough for the gift you’ve given us. You’ve helped us see things in a whole new way. But, it’s nighttime now, and it’s cold outside. Your clothing has seen better days; perhaps my wife can give you this magnificent jacket she’s been sewing?
SEAMSTRESS: Why, of course! It will fit you to a T. And earlier you mentioned your walking stick: the one you lost in the river. Perhaps my husband can offer you one of the sticks he has crafted from the finest trees in the forest?
WOODSMAN: It would make me very happy to do so.
OLD WOMAN: And it would make me very honored to accept.
NARRATOR: So the seamstress and the woodsman fetched the coat and the stick, and sent the old woman on her way.
They never became rich.
They never lived in a great palace, or threw grand parties each and every night.
But... they were happy.
They had each other.
And who could wish for anything more?

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Rebecca Sheir Host, Circle Round
Rebecca Sheir is the host "Circle Round," WBUR's kids storytelling podcast.



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