When you think about being a “good friend,” what does that mean to you?
Maybe it means saving a space for a buddy on the bus. Or helping out when a pal is sad, or has a problem. Maybe it just means having a whole lot of fun together.
In this story, we’ll meet two women who prize friendship above all else… until that friendship is tested, by an unexpected discovery.
Our tale is called "The Friendship Orchard.” This story originally comes from Kazakhstan, in central Asia.
Voices featured in this episode include NPR legends Linda Wertheimer and Susan Stamberg. Our cast also includes Maurice Parent and Craig Wallace. Susan is a special correspondent for NPR, and Linda is senior national correspondent. You can hear amazing reporting by both of them, by tuning in to your local public radio station.
ADULTS! Print THIS OUT 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 After Listening
Think about one thing you can do this week to be a good friend.
Can you invite a buddy over to play? Share half your sandwich at lunch? Maybe you can let a friend take the first turn in a board game or puzzle.
Talk about your plan with a grown-up… and have that grown-up tell you something he or she will do to be a good friend this week. Then make a deal that you’ll both go out and do it… and plant the seeds of your own friendship orchard.
Musical Spotlight: Celeste
The celeste (or celesta) is a keyboard instrument. It resembles a piano, but instead of strings inside, it has metal bars - just like a xylophone or glockenspiel. These metal bars give the celeste a delicate, bell-like, magical sound (celeste means “heavenly” in French!). We chose the celeste for this story because by the end of the tale, our main characters realize how truly magical friendship can be!
NARRATOR: Veronica and Victoria were as close as two friends could be.
Ever since they were little, they vowed they’d always look out for each other. And even now… with their hair silver, and their hands weathered with age… the women had each other’s backs… no matter what.
Together, Veronica and Victoria pooled their money to buy a farm in the hills. Veronica owned the land where they lived and grew vegetables. Victoria owned the sheep and cows.
Winter was especially cruel in their part of the world. So life was often difficult, and the women earned very little.
One particularly cold December, there was such a vicious snowstorm that all the sheep and cows… disappeared! The animals simply vanished in the massive snow drifts.
Victoria took it especially hard.
VICTORIA: Oh, Veronica! I worked my tail off to scrounge up enough money to buy those animals. I spent so much time and care keeping them healthy and strong. And now… I’ve failed. I might as well quit.
NARRATOR: Veronica couldn’t believe her ears.
VERONICA: Come on, Victoria! It isn’t your fault the sheep and cows disappeared! And you can’t go off and leave me here to run this place by myself. Who will help with the garden when the spring comes? Who will tell me wonderful stories around the evening fire? You belong here, on this land, with me.
VICTORIA: I know, but -
VERONICA: (interrupting) No “buts”! We always said we’d look out for each other. So... listen. I’m going to make you the owner of half of our land. You’ll take the lower half, and I’ll keep the upper half.
NARRATOR: Victoria reached out and gave Veronica a hug.
VICTORIA: Oh, Veronica! You’re the truest friend ever. Thank you.
NARRATOR: The following spring… after the snow had melted and the winds had died down… Victoria was digging in her half of the field when her hoe struck something… hard.
NARRATOR: As she dug into the rich, black soil, she unearthed a small, iron chest. And when she opened it…
NARRATOR: … her eyes were nearly blinded by the glint of gold coins. Thousands of them!
VICTORIA: Oh my goodness! I must show Veronica!
NARRATOR: Victoria found Veronica on her half of the field, also digging with a hoe. Victoria was nearly out of breath from running.
VICTORIA: Veronica! Veronica! You’re rich, my friend! Rich!
NARRATOR: Victoria told Veronica all about the iron chest filled with gold pieces.
VERONICA: But, Victoria. You found the gold in your half of the field - not mine! The treasure is yours, and yours alone.
VICTORIA: Oh, you’re too generous! But don’t you see? You’re the one who convinced me not to quit! You’ve given me my life back! How can I take anything more?
VERONICA: No, no, no. Clearly, fortune meant for you to find the gold. Take it, my friend!
VICTORIA: Oh, Veronica, I can’t do that!
VERONICA: Yes, Victoria, you can!
VICTORIA: But, really, I insist: it’s yours!
VERONICA: Well, I insist more!
NARRATOR: The two women went back and forth like this for quite some time. Eventually, they both grew rather… annoyed.
VICTORIA: Quit being so stubborn! Just take the gold!
VERONICA: “Stubborn”? At least I’m not the one being ridiculous! The gold is yours!
VICTORIA: No, it’s yours!
VERONICA: No! It’s yours!
VICTORIA: You’re impossible!
VERONICA: You’re impossible!
NARRATOR: The friends bickered long into the night. By morning, they were exhausted.
VICTORIA: (sigh) It’s clear we’ll never settle this argument on our own, Veronica.
VERONICA: I actually agree with you on that one, Victoria! Come: let’s go to the village and meet with the judge. He’s the wisest man around. Maybe he’ll know what we should do.
NARRATOR: So Veronica and Victoria headed to the village, to speak with the wise judge. They brought the chest of gold coins with them… taking turns carrying it because it was so heavy.
When the women arrived at the judge’s chamber, they hoisted the heavy chest onto his desk. Then they took a deep breath... and shared their story.
When they were finished, the judge nodded slowly. He looked at the coins. He looked at the women. Then… he closed his eyes. When at last he opened them again, his face broke into a broad grin.
JUDGE: (smiling) Alright, friends. I know exactly what you must do!
[theme music in]
NARRATOR: What do you think the judge will say? Will he solve Victoria and Veronica’s dilemma?
We’ll find out… after a quick break.
[theme music out]
[theme music in]
NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir, welcome back to Circle Round. Today our story is called “The Friendship Orchard.”
When we left off, two lifelong friends… Victoria and Veronica… had asked the wise judge to solve... a problem.
The women shared land on a farm. One of the women… Victoria... uncovered a chest of gold coins on her half of land. But since the land was a gift from Veronica, Victoria felt Veronica should have the coins! Veronica, on the other hand, thought Victoria should keep the gold: after all, finders keepers.
After considering the women’s case, the judge took a deep breath… and spoke.
JUDGE: Victoria. Veronica. Here is what you must do. Take this gold to the marketplace, and buy the highest-quality fruit seeds you can find. Bring those seeds back to your farm and plant them on your land. The orchard that grows will be an orchard… of friendship. Let its fruits feed those less fortunate… let its shade help cool a weary traveler… and let its beauty remind everyone how truly spectacular nature can be. Rather than let the gold divide two lifelong friends, let it unite as many people as possible.
NARRATOR: Victoria and Veronica loved the idea. They thanked the judge, and together they carried the chest of gold coins to the marketplace.
The friends walked up and down the aisles, but couldn’t find anyone selling fruit seeds. Soon, their legs and arms ached.
VICTORIA: Veronica, why don’t we call it a day and try again tomorrow?
VERONICA: I couldn’t agree more, Victoria. Let’s go home.
NARRATOR: As Victoria and Veronica left the marketplace, they heard a strange sound.
VERONICA: Are those…?
VICTORIA: ...birds? It sounds like…
VERONICA: ...thousands of them!
VICTORIA: Let’s go take a look!
NARRATOR: The women turned a corner and came upon a dozen horse-drawn carriages, each one holding cage after cage... of exotic birds. The brightly-colored creatures had been captured in the thick forests and high mountains, and would be sold at the market as very expensive pets.
Veronica looked at Victoria with sad eyes.
VERONICA: Oh, it isn’t right for those wild birds to be locked in a cage!
NARRATOR: Victoria nodded in agreement.
VICTORIA: Maybe there’s something we can do to save them!
NARRATOR: The women approached the merchant leading the caravan of horses and asked the price of the birds. He took one look at their muddy overalls and work boots... and laughed.
MAN: You want to know how much money for these birds here? Far more than you have, I’m afraid.
NARRATOR: The two friends exchanged a look. Veronica undid the clasp on the chest of gold coins.
VERONICA: Release the birds back to the wild, and all this gold is yours!
NARRATOR: The man’s eyes practically bugged out of his head.
MAN: Yes! Yes! Whatever you say! Men! Release those birds at once!
NARRATOR: Victoria and Veronica heard the sound of a thousand clinking locks… then the sound of two-thousand wings flapping happily up into the air.
Now that the friends had given their chest of coins to the man, their load was lighter as they strolled back to their farm. But their hearts… were heavy. Now they’d never have their friendship orchard.
The next morning… after a long night’s sleep… Victoria and Veronica woke up to another odd sound.
VERONICA: Victoria, do you hear something outside?
VICTORIA: I do! A kind of… scratching, maybe? I think it’s coming from the field!
NARRATOR: The friends hurried to the field and were greeted with an astonishing sight! The thousand exotic birds from the marketplace the day before were standing on the ground… and scratching at the dirt.
In each bird’s beak… was a seed. And as Victoria and Veronica watched in wonder, the birds dropped the seeds into the loose, rich soil. Then they used their feet to smooth over the dirt and cover the seeds.
Next thing the friends knew, the thousand birds had flapped their wings and taken off into the sky. As the rainbow-colored cloud of birds flew off into the distance, an actual cloud rolled in, bringing with it drop after drop… of rain.
Miraculously, the moment the water hit the ground, the seeds began to sprout… and grow! The friends looked on in amazement as… all of a sudden… the field was covered with apple trees and pear trees and apricot trees… all of them boasting long leafy branches and bursting with plump, juicy fruit.
Victoria put a hand on Veronica’s shoulder.
VICTORIA: Well, old pal, it looks like the judge was right after all. We got our friendship orchard.
NARRATOR: Veronica smiled.
VERONICA: Or, maybe, we’ve had it all along.
[theme music in]