'Dollars And Scents' | Circle Round 41

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

Wherever you are right now, I want you to take a deep breath in — through your nose.

Did you do it?

When you inhaled what did you smell?

Dinner simmering on the stove, maybe? Soap, left over from your bath?

Our noses can detect nearly a trillion different scents. And when the main character in our story smells just a handful of them he winds up in quite a mess!

Today, our tale is called “Dollars and Scents.” People have been sharing versions of this story all over the world from parts of West Africa and the Middle East to China and Japan, Burma and Cambodia and France and Peru!

Voices featured in this episode include: Laura Gardner, Delores King Williams, Max Casella and Derek Klena.

Derek Klena has starred on Broadway in Anastasia, The Bridges of Madison County and Wicked. He’s also appeared on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, on Netflix. Max Casella’s Broadway credits include The Music Man and The Lion King. Look for him on the big screen early next year, in the action-thriller, The Rhythm Section.

This episode was written by Rebecca Sheir and edited by Executive Producer Jessica Alpert.  Original music and sound design by Eric Shimelonis. Our intern is Gabi Mrozowski.  Circle Round's resident illustrator is Sabina Hahn.

ADULTS! PRINT THIS 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

Pick someone important in your life — a family member, a friend — and create a portrait of that person. You can use crayons, markers, colored pencils or, like Jacob, paint! Whatever you use, think about how you can bring your loved one’s image to life. And - don’t forget the nose!

Musical Spotlight: The Piano

(Courtesy of Pixabay)
(Courtesy of Pixabay)

It’s widely believed that Italian instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the first piano in the early 1700s. Cristofori had been making clavichords: keyboards that could play softly and lightly (piano in Italian). He’d also been making harpsichords: keyboards that could play loudly and strongly (forte). After a whole lot of tinkering, he created the piano: a keyboard instrument that could play all levels of dynamics! The secret lies in the felt-covered hammers that strike the wire strings inside the instrument. This striking action reminds us of the sound coins make when they tinkle and jingle against the sides of a glass jar: a familiar sound from this week’s Circle Round story!

Story Transcript
NARRATOR: Jacob the artist lived a simple life. His one-room cottage in the village contained a bed, a stove, a bath, and… Jacob’s most prized possession of all… his easel.

Hour after hour he’d stand in front of that easel… his paint palette in one hand, his delicate brush in the other… as he created beautiful portraits and landscapes. All of them were bursting with color... and so real-looking, you’d swear they could spring to life!

All summer long, Jacob had been working on a portrait... of his grandmother. He’d finished every detail in his grandma’s picture, except for one: her nose. He’d been trying to perfect that feature for weeks.

JACOB: Ugh. What’s wrong with me? I know Granny better than I know anyone else in the world, but I can’t seem to get her nose right! Okay, Jacob. You can do this. Just stop for a moment, and take a deep breath.

NARRATOR: As Jacob inhaled through his nostrils, he closed his eyes. Then, suddenly...

JACOB: (totally bowled over by the delicious scent he detects) Wow!

NARRATOR: ...he snapped them open again!

JACOB: What… is… that… smell?

NARRATOR: Sure enough, through the open window, there wafted in the most amazing aroma. It was sweet and buttery, like cookies and cakes… but also yeasty and warm... like the freshest of bread!

Jacob had been spending so much time tinkering with his grandmother’s portrait, that he hadn’t sold a painting in months. So, money was tight… and Jacob hadn’t eaten all day. As you can imagine, the smell coming from outside made his mouth water… and his stomach grumble.

JACOB: Mmmmm! I have to find out where that smell is coming from!

NARRATOR: Jacob put down his paintbrush and palette, and dashed through the door. He followed the smell to the building across the street, where a man was balanced on top of a ladder, and hanging up a new sign. It read: “Bruno’s Bakery.”

JACOB: Excuse me, sir. Is a bakery really moving into this building here?

NARRATOR: The man put down his hammer.

MAN: It already has! Bruno just fired up his ovens this morning. I tell ya - you really should try his cream puffs. They are out of this world!

NARRATOR: Jacob thanked the man and approached the bakery’s front window.
Through the glass he spied a snug little room with tables and chairs, and plain white walls. There were shelves of scrumptious-looking breads, cakes, cookies and pies… not to mention those cream puffs the man had recommended. Jacob felt his stomach growl again.

JACOB: (sigh) There’s no way I can afford any of these treats. (beat) But I guess it wouldn’t hurt... just to smell. After all, smells are free!

NARRATOR: Jacob closed his eyes and inhaled the mouth-watering scents floating out of Bruno’s Bakery. Suddenly, he felt a rough tap on his shoulder.

BRUNO: And just what do you think you’re doing??!!?

NARRATOR: Jacob opened his eyes and saw… a man. His brown mustache and black apron were speckled white with flour. The man wore a white chef’s hat, embroidered with the name... “Bruno.”

JACOB: (caught off-guard) I - I’m sorry, sir — Bruno, is it? It’s just that I live across the street, and when I smelled the delicious smells coming from your bakery, I couldn’t help but come closer, to get an even better whiff.

NARRATOR: Bruno narrowed his eyes.

BRUNO: Well, why just take a whiff... when you can have a taste?

NARRATOR: Jacob hung his head.

JACOB: Well, that’s the thing. You see, I’m a struggling artist, and right now I can’t afford any of your sweets. But if you’d give me a little sample, I’ll go out and tell the entire village about your bakery! No doubt they’ll be lining up at the door!

NARRATOR: Bruno arched his eyebrows.

BRUNO: “A little sample”??!? Look, I’m starting a new business here — sorry, what’s your name?

JACOB: (nervous, but trying to stay friendly) Jacob...

BRUNO: I’m starting a new business here, Jacob. And I’m determined to make a fortune! How will I ever rake in a pile of cash if I give my stuff away for free? Though, come to think of it…

NARRATOR: Bruno stroked his flour-speckled mustache.

BRUNO: … I already have!

NARRATOR: Jacob cocked his head.

JACOB: What do you mean, you “already have”...?

BRUNO: I mean, I’ve already given something away for free: Smells! No - scratch that. I didn’t give the smells away. You stole them!

NARRATOR: Jacob threw up his hands.

JACOB: Please, sir. I’ve stolen nothing. All I did was breathe air through my nose! There’s no cost for that!

BRUNO: There sure is a cost! At least, when that air is brimming with smells from my bakery! So…

NARRATOR: Bruno stuck out his flour-smattered hand.

BRUNO: : up!

JACOB: Excuse me?

BRUNO: I said, pay up! By my calculations…

NARRATOR: Bruno glanced through the bakery’s window.

BRUNO: … you smelled six loaves of cinnamon bread, three loaves of rye, one carrot cake, one lemon cake, two blueberry pies, eight-dozen cookies, and half-a-dozen cream puffs! Now… pay up!!!

NARRATOR: Jacob didn’t know what to do. By now, his stomach was as empty as a mixing bowl, and he was having trouble thinking.

JACOB: I’m sorry, Bruno, but I don’t have a penny to my name right now. I just have to sell one painting, and I promise: I’ll come back to your bakery and buy as many sweets and treats as I can! In fact, with those plain white walls of yours, maybe you’d want to check out one of my paintings…? You know, to add some personality to the place…?

NARRATOR: Bruno’s face turned purple as his blueberry pies.

BRUNO: I do not want to buy your paintings, and I am not letting you off the hook! You’ve stolen my smells, Jacob, and for that, you must pay. I’ll see you tomorrow… in court!

NARRATOR: With that, Bruno stomped back into the bakery… leaving a trail of flour behind him.

JACOB:  Oh, man. Bruno’s put me in a tricky position. I’m flat broke, and I can’t sell another painting until I start another painting. And I can’t start another painting until I finish this painting of Granny… That’s it! Granny! She’s so wise, she’ll know what to do!

NARRATOR: Jacob ran over to his grandmother’s house, at the edge of the village. As she always did when Jacob visited, Granny sat him down and fed him a warm, hearty bowl of chicken soup.

GRANNY: Now, tell me, Jacob. Why the furrowed brow? What’s weighing on your heart, my child?

JACOB: Oh, Granny. I am in a pickle. A real pickle!

GRANNY: Tell me everything. Perhaps I can help!

NARRATOR: So Jacob told Granny what had happened with Bruno: how Jacob had enjoyed the bakery’s smells, and how Bruno now wanted to charge Jacob for them.

GRANNY:  Hmmm… You are in a pickle, aren’t you? But don’t you worry, Jacob. I will think of something. Come by first thing tomorrow, and we’ll head off to the court house… together. But first: take this pot of chicken soup home with you. A talented artist with a full imagination shouldn’t have an empty belly!

NARRATOR: Jacob wrapped his arms around Granny and gave her a big hug.

JACOB: Thank you, Granny. You’re the best!

NARRATOR: How do you think Granny will get Jacob out of trouble? Or will he have to pay dollars… for Bruno’s (s)cents?

We’ll find out what happens… after a quick break.


NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “Dollars and Scents.”

When we left off, Bruno the baker wanted to charge Jacob the artist for the smells coming from Bruno’s bakery… and Jacob didn’t have a penny to his name.

So he asked his grandmother for help. Over a bowl of warm, hearty chicken soup, she told him to come by the next day, so she could accompany him to court.

When Jacob woke up that morning, he gobbled up the rest of the soup Granny had sent home with him... put on his one shirt that wasn’t covered in paint... and headed over to Granny’s.

As they strolled to the court house, Jacob carried Granny’s big wool purse for her. He swore the purse felt heavier than usual... but perhaps it was just his heart that was heavy!

When Jacob and Granny arrived in the courtroom, Bruno was already there, a satisfied smirk across his face. Jacob leaned in toward Granny.

JACOB: Look at him over there. I’m sure he thinks he’s going to win this case.

GRANNY:  Don’t you worry, Jacob. I told you I’d get you out of this mess… and I will!

NARRATOR: Jacob, Granny and Bruno all stood up as the judge entered the room, her long black robe flowing behind her.

JUDGE: The court will now come to order! Bruno the Baker. Welcome to town! Now, please, present your case.

NARRATOR: Bruno told the judge everything that had happened the day before. As he was finishing, he raised a finger in the air, then pointed it right at Jacob.

BRUNO: That man filled his nose with the smells from my bakery... and for that... he must pay!

NARRATOR: Jacob felt his heart beat faster.

JUDGE: Well, Jacob? What would you like to say in your defense?

NARRATOR: Jacob swallowed hard. It felt like a swarm of butterflies was fluttering around in his belly.

JACOB:  Your Honor. What Bruno says is true: I did fill my nose with the smells from his bakery. But my belly was so empty... and I was so overwhelmed by those delicious scents!  Look. I wish I could pay Bruno for some of those amazing treats — just one cream puff, even! — but I don’t have the cash. I’m just an artist trying to make a living, Your Honor. I beg your mercy.

NARRATOR: The judge looked at Jacob. She was about to open her mouth to speak... when suddenly Granny jumped to her feet.

GRANNY: Your Honor! If I may please approach the bench…?

NARRATOR: The judge was surprised.

JUDGE:  Very well, then. You may approach.

NARRATOR: All eyes were on Granny as she hoisted her big wool purse over her shoulder and shuffled toward the Judge.

GRANNY: Your Honor. Before you issue your verdict, I have something to say. It may be true that Bruno owns the smells from his bakery… and that my grandson, Jacob, breathed in those smells with neither permission nor payment. And therefore...

NARRATOR: She reached inside her purse and began rummaging around.

GRANNY: … I will pay Bruno his just compensation!

NARRATOR: Everyone stared as Granny yanked her hands free… and held up... a jar. A shiny glass jar... filled with coins!

GRANNY: Your Honor. I will pay what Jacob owes with the money I’ve saved in this pickle jar.

NARRATOR: Jacob started to rise from his seat.

JACOB: Oh, Granny. You don’t have to do that!

GRANNY: Yes I do, Jacob. Like I said: I’m getting you out of this ‘pickle’!

NARRATOR: Granny held up the pickle jar for all to see. Then… she gave it... a shake. Immediately, the courtroom echoed with the tinkling and jingling... of coins.

GRANNY: Your Honor… I wonder if Bruno the baker can hear the coins jingling in my pickle jar?

BRUNO: Of course I can hear the coins! I have ears, you know!

GRANNY: Good. My grandson filled his nose with the smells from your bakery, Bruno... and now you have filled your ears with the sound of my money! Your Honor? The baker has been paid.

NARRATOR: The Judge couldn’t help but smile.

JUDGE: And so he has! Case dismissed!

NARRATOR: Jacob ran over to his grandmother and squeezed her tight.

JACOB: Oh, Granny! However can I thank you?

GRANNY: I can think of one way, child: finish that portrait!

NARRATOR: And so… he did. After all of his adventures — or misadventures — in the smelling department, Jacob had no problem putting the final touches on Granny’s nose.

Now that he was free to work on other things, he began painting… and painting… and painting! Within days, Jacob’s studio was crammed with so many finished canvases, he could barely move around!

So… do you know what happened?

Well, after the trial, Bruno the baker became a lot more... generous. He started hiring local villagers to help in the kitchen, and he handed out free samples to anyone who asked. He even gave free cream puffs to children on their birthdays.

And when Bruno spotted the stacks of paintings cluttering up Jacob’s cottage across the street, he offered to buy all of them! And hang them on his bakery’s plain white walls!

Now, Jacob had a new gallery… and a new friend. A friend who now understood that there are so many more important things in the world... than dollars and (s)cents.

Headshot of Rebecca Sheir

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



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