'The Golden Flask' | Circle Round 51

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

Think about the last time you did something brave.

Were you nervous? Or did you feel like, “Hey! I’ve got this!”

Either way, it takes a lot of guts to use our courage. And in today’s story, we’ll meet a character who doesn’t just have guts… she has a heart of gold.

Today, our story is called “The Golden Flask.” Versions of this folktale originated with the Inca people of the Andes Mountains, in South America.  Voices featured in this episode include Jon Bell, Evan Casey, MaConnia Chesser, Keith Mascoll, Adam Mastroianni, Maurice Emmanuel Parent, Igor Shimelonis and Allison Strong. Kids, you may know Allison’s voice from Dora and Friends on Nickelodeon. And grown-ups: you may recognize Allison from the Netflix film The Week Of, co-starring Adam Sandler. You can also check out Allison's Spanish-English album, March Towards the Sun.

This week’s story, “The Golden Flask,” was adapted by Rebecca Sheir, and edited by Circle Round’s executive producer, Jessica Alpert. Eric Shimelonis does our original music and sound design. Our artist 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

When’s the last time you used your courage? Maybe you asked a new friend to play with you… you crossed the street by yourself… or you spoke up for something you believe in. Whatever it was, describe that moment to a grown-up in your life. Then ask them to tell you about a time they were brave.

Musical Spotlight: Ocarina

(Musiking for Pixabay)
(Musiking for Pixabay)

If you play video games, you may recognize the ocarina from “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.” But this “vessel flute” was popular well before the 1990s: experts say people were playing the instrument as many as 12,000 years ago! Among those people were the Mayans and Aztecs in Central America and the Incas in South America; these nations developed clay ocarinas shaped like birds (and other animals). We chose the ocarina to score this week’s story because of those cultural connections - and because of the pivotal role played by a certain bird!

Story Transcript

NARRATOR: The mighty emperor ruled over a vast empire. And as such, he was rich in many things: gold… silver… jewels… and sadness.

You see, the emperor had one son.... a young prince who was very sick. So sick, all he could do was lie in bed all day, his skin growing paler, and his body growing frailer. The emperor summoned the best doctors to cure the boy, but none of them could help.

As the emperor often did when he felt troubled, he took a walk through the royal gardens.

EMPEROR: What am I going to do? Here I am… an emperor, with all these lavish riches.... and yet none of them can make my boy healthy again. If only someone could show me the answer!

NARRATOR: Suddenly, something swooped down from the sky. It was a giant condor: the largest flying bird in the world! As the condor landed, its black and white feathers glinted in the sun.

CONDOR: Good afternoon, your majesty.

NARRATOR: The emperor was so shocked to be in the presence of a talking bird, he couldn’t speak.

CONDOR: I heard your plea for help, your highness... and I have come to answer that call.

NARRATOR: Slowly, the emperor began finding his voice.

EMPEROR: You - you know the solution to healing my son? To making the prince well again?

CONDOR: I do! At the end of the world… lies a lake. A magic lake. And if the prince drinks the sacred water from this lake… he will be healthy again.  But I must warn you: this lake is guarded by three fierce creatures. And only a person who is pure of heart can get past them, and bring back the water you seek.

NARRATOR: Then... before the emperor could ask any questions... the condor spread its mighty black-and-white wings, and flew away.

Once it had disappeared over the palace walls, the emperor saw the bird had left something behind: a flask... made of pure, glittering gold.

The emperor picked up the golden bottle and brought it inside the palace.

EMPEROR: I know! I will issue a proclamation: whoever can bring back water from the magic lake at the end of the world… and fill this flask and heal my son... that person will be richly rewarded!

NARRATOR: Many of the emperor’s subjects tried searching for the magic lake, but no one could find it. Weeks went by... the golden flask remained empty… and the prince remained sick as ever.

Now, the empire was so enormous, it took a while for the emperor’s proclamation to reach the far-off countryside. There, two brothers lived on a small farm with their aging father and younger sister. The family scraped together a meager living by raising some animals, and growing corn and potatoes. As the harvest approached, the brothers caught wind of the emperor’s challenge.

BROTHER 1: Father, what if the two of us went off in search of the magic lake? We promise we’ll be back in time for the harvest!

FATHER: I don’t know, boys. You both are strong, and brave, but journeying to the end of the world…? It sounds awfully dangerous.

BROTHER 2: Please, father...? Besides, the emperor says whoever brings back the water will be “richly rewarded”! The way this family struggles to make ends meet each year, we sure could use some ‘rich rewards’!

FATHER: Hmmm. You do have a point...

NARRATOR: As the boys spoke with their father, their younger sister returned from feeding the chickens.

SISTER: Wait! If my two brothers are going, I want to go, too! Isn’t it our duty to help the emperor and prince?

FATHER: Oh, my dear. You’re so young! Look. You stay here with me, we’ll get things ready for the harvest, and we’ll see how things go when your brothers return.

SISTER: (sigh) Alright.

NARRATOR: So, the brothers took some food, clothing and a big jar, stuffed them into a couple of knapsacks, and set off to find the magic lake at the end of the world.

After two weeks of wandering, they began to give up hope.

BROTHER 2: I don’t know, brother. We’ve been walking all over the place… and we’ve seen a lot of lakes... but none of them were at the end of the world.

BROTHER 1: And harvest time is around the corner! We promised our father and sister we’d help; they’re depending on us. Wait. What if - what if we take our jar and fill it with water from the next lake we see? Even if the water doesn’t cure the prince, we’ve traveled so long… and so far… surely the emperor will give us something for our troubles!

NARRATOR: So, the brothers dipped their jar into the next lake they came across, and brought the jar to the emperor.

When they arrived at the palace, the emperor poured the jar’s contents into the golden flask. But… the golden flask would not hold the water. No matter how much he poured into it, it remained empty.

The emperor glared at the brothers.

EMPEROR: You! You’ve tried to deceive me! This jar doesn’t hold water from the magic lake at the end of the world!  Guards! Detain these men at once!

NARRATOR: As the guards led the two brothers away, the emperor made a decision.

EMPEROR: I will issue one more proclamation across the land. And if no one can bring me water from the magic lake… and my son never gets well… these men will never see their family again.

NARRATOR: The emperor was a stern man… but he allowed the brothers to send a message to their family. When their father heard what had happened… he was devastated. Their younger sister, on the other hand… was determined.

SISTER: Father. You must let me search for the magic lake. Otherwise, the king could lose his son… and you could lose both of yours. For the sake of this empire… and this family… please... let me go!

FATHER: How can I argue with that? Yes, my darling. You may go.

NARRATOR: So the girl filled a knapsack with some food, clothing, and a dented old tin flask. She kissed her father goodbye and set off to find the magic lake at the end of the world.

[theme music in]

Will our heroine reach her destination? We’ll find out… after a quick break.

[theme music out]


[theme music in]

NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir and today our story is called “The Golden Flask.”

[theme music out]

Earlier in our tale, a condor told the emperor what he would need to heal his ailing son: water from a magic lake at the end of the world. But, the great bird added, the only person who could find the water had to be pure of heart. The condor then flew away... leaving behind a golden flask.

Two brothers tried finding the magic lake, but they gave up and offered the emperor plain old water instead. He discovered they were lying, and declared that if someone didn’t find the magic lake soon, the brothers would be in trouble.

So their younger sister set out to find the magic lake. She walked all day, and by the time the sun went down, she was tired… and hungry.

SISTER: I can’t wait to dig in to this roasted corn I packed. But I shouldn’t eat it on the ground. Come to think of it - I shouldn’t sleep down here, either! Too many big animals around. I know! I’ll eat and sleep in the treetops! The branches are so leafy and broad; I’ll be safe up there!

NARRATOR: So she shimmied up the nearest tree trunk, nestled herself in the branches, and took out her pouch of roasted corn. She was just about to gobble up a handful when who should glide down onto the branch right next to her… but the giant condor! The same one who’d visited the emperor!

CONDOR: Good evening!

NARRATOR: Now, the girl had spent a lot of time around animals on her farm. She talked to them constantly… and always wished they could talk back.

SISTER:  Good evening, great condor! What a pleasure to hear your voice!

CONDOR: And what a pleasure to make your acquaintance! You know, I couldn’t help but notice that delicious roasted corn you have there. I’ve been flying around all day, and I am ravenous. Any chance you’d share your food with a new friend...?

SISTER: It’d be my honor. You know? Miraculously, I don’t feel hungry anymore! So, go ahead. It’s all yours.

NARRATOR: The bird scarfed down the corn til every last bit was gone.

CONDOR: Thank you, my child! And now, it is my turn to share something with you.

NARRATOR: The girl watched as six of the condor’s black-and-white feathers magically lifted off its body… and landed in her hand.

CONDOR: I know you’re trying to find the magic lake at the end of the world. Take these feathers and hold them together like a fan. Do that, and they will do whatever you wish them to do. They’ll also protect you from harm. Because remember: the lake is guarded by three fierce creatures.

SISTER: I understand. And I thank you! I will do just as you say… starting right now!

NARRATOR: The girl pulled a ribbon from her hair and used it to tie the condor’s feathers into a fan. She held it in front of her face.

SISTER: Feathers, please take me to the magic lake at the end of the world!

NARRATOR: Next thing the girl knew, she was standing on the shore of a sparkling lake.

SISTER: Wow. The magic lake!

NARRATOR: There was just...

SISTER:  Oh no...

NARRATOR: problem.

SISTER: My flask!

NARRATOR: You see, the girl had left her knapsack… the one carrying all her things, including the dented tin flask... behind! In the treetops!

But then she realized what she could do. She held up her fan.

SISTER: Feathers, please bring me my flask, so I may fill it with water from the magic lake!

NARRATOR: Suddenly, what should drop down from the sky and into the girl’s hands… but a flask! Only, it wasn’t her old, dented one. It was the golden flask: the same one the condor had given the emperor!

Grasping the gleaming flask, the girl dashed to the water’s edge. But before she could dunk the flask in the crystal-clear water...

CRAB: What business do you have at the magic lake?!?

NARRATOR: The girl spun around and saw a massive crab scuttling her way. It was the size of a horse, with bright-red snapping claws!

Immediately, the girl took the fan of feathers and thrust it toward the crab’s face. Within seconds, the beast was crumpled on the ground, sleeping like a baby!

SISTER: Well, that was a close call!

NARRATOR: Once more, the girl was about to dip the golden flask into the magic lake. But before she could finish…

ALLIGATOR: What business do you have at the magic lake?!?

NARRATOR: Swimming toward the girl was a hulking, green alligator, its jaws snapping.

The girl waited until the alligator swam a bit closer, then she waved the fan of feathers in front of its large snout. In an instant, the animal conked out and sank beneath the water.

SISTER: Okay. The condor said there’d be three ferocious beasts. I’d better wait until the third one gets here before I -

SERPENT:  What business do you have at the magic lake?!?

NARRATOR: Flashing her eyes upward, the girl spotted something flying right at her: a colossal, winged serpent!

The girl took a deep breath and held up her fan. Just like that, the serpent drifted to the ground, closed its beady eyes, and fell fast asleep.

The girl clutched the golden flask and poised it above the water.

SISTER: Alright - let’s do this!

NARRATOR: She plunged the flask into the water of the magic lake. Once the vessel was full, she held up her fan of feathers.

SISTER: Feathers, please take me to the emperor’s palace!

NARRATOR: When the girl arrived at the palace gate… and the guard saw she was carrying the emperor’s golden flask… he immediately led her inside, to the prince’s chambers.

The boy was lying stock-still on a tall feather bed. His eyes were closed and his breath was quick and shallow. Holding his small hand was the emperor himself. When the ruler spotted the girl, he stared at her with teary eyes.

EMPEROR: Is it true? Are you the one who has brought water from the magic lake at the end of the world?

NARRATOR: The girl handed the emperor the golden flask.

SISTER: It is true, Your Excellency.

NARRATOR: The emperor held the flask to the prince’s mouth. After a few drops of water passed the boy’s lips, his breath slowed… the color returned to his cheeks... and his eyes popped wide open. When he saw his father, his face lit up.


NARRATOR: The emperor reached down and enveloped his son in a hug. Then he looked at the girl with curiosity.

EMPEROR: Young lady, what you’ve done is extraordinary. Simply extraordinary! But I have to know... how did you find the lake at the end of the world? And how did you get past the three fierce creatures guarding it?

SISTER: Well...

NARRATOR: The girl held up her fan.

SISTER: ...This certainly helped!

NARRATOR: The emperor’s eyes twinkled as he recognized the black-and-white feathers of his friend... the giant condor.

EMPEROR:  I have it on good knowledge that only someone with the purest of heart can pull off what you did. So now, tell me. What reward do you seek? I’ll give you anything. Anything at all!

SISTER: Oh, generous emperor. If it isn’t too much, I seek three rewards.

EMPEROR: For you, I’d grant three-hundred! What is the first?

SISTER: Well, first, I wish for you to free my two brothers. I know they deceived you. And what they did was wrong. But they were only trying to help our family.

NARRATOR: The emperor gazed lovingly at his son.

EMPEROR: And as we all know, nothing is more important than family.  Guards? Free the men at once!

NARRATORS: As the guards rushed out to free the brothers, the emperor asked the girl to name her second reward.

SISTER: For my second reward, I would like my family to have a bigger farm. Not a lot bigger, but just enough so we can raise more animals and grow more vegetables and not have to struggle so hard to get by each year.

NARRATOR: The emperor nodded.

EMPEROR: The reward is yours. I will have my workers start building straight away. We’ll also get you the very best cows, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens - and the healthiest crop seeds, too! (beat) But for now… you still have one more reward to claim. What will it be? Jewels, perhaps...? My royal treasury is bursting with silver, gold, diamonds, emeralds and rubies!

SISTER: With all due respect, Your Majesty, I don’t wish for any of those things. No. For my third reward...

NARRATOR: The girl pointed to the fan of feathers.

SISTER: ...I would like this fan to go back to its owner, the giant condor. Without her generosity, none of this would have happened.

NARRATOR: The emperor smiled.

EMPEROR: Well, I’m not sure how I can grant you that particular reward, but -

NARRATOR: Suddenly, a breeze fluttered the lace curtains, and the fan lifted right out of the girl’s hand.


NARRATOR: She and the emperor watched in wonder as the black-and-white feathers glided out of the open window and whooshed up toward the sky.

EMPEROR: Well, it looks like your wish has been granted! But I can’t say I had anything to do with it. Is there anything else you want?

SISTER: If it please your excellency, all I want right now… is to go home. I miss my family, and I can’t wait to hug them all again.

EMPEROR: Now that’s a wish I can grant! I’ll have a carriage waiting for you outside!

NARRATOR: So… along with her two brothers... the girl left the palace and went back home. Just like he promised, the emperor helped them build a bigger farm, with more animals and more land.

Soon, the girl and her family were living more comfortably than ever. They also were living more happily than ever. Because though they didn’t have silver, gold, diamonds, emeralds or rubies, they had something even more valuable.

Each other.

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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