'Three Clever Brothers' | Circle Round 57

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

Have you ever heard... of Sherlock Holmes?

He’s a fictional detective created by the British author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Sherlock Holmes solved mysteries… by noticing things. He’d find all sorts of teeny-tiny clues... then put them all together to figure out ‘whodunit.’

The characters in today’s story are a lot like Sherlock Holmes. But when they use their powers of observation in a particular case…? They become the suspects!

Our story is called “Three Clever Brothers.” Versions of this tale come from a number of places… including Tunisia in North Africa… Uzbekistan in central Asia… plus India, Iraq, and Siberia!

Voices in this episode include: Evan Casey, James Konicek, Adam Mastroianni, Maurice Emmanuel Parent, Jeffrey Song and Alexandra Billings. Grown-ups, you may recognize Alexandra from Transparent on Amazon Video. She also has a new movie out: Paddleton, co-starring Mark Duplass and Ray Romano.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir and edited by Executive Producer Jessica Alpert. Original music and sound design by Eric Shimelonis. 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
Look around you right now, and pick one object you can see. But don’t tell anyone what it is! Instead, brainstorm three clues that will help someone else figure out what your object is: three hints to help guide their way.

Once you have your three clues, share them with a family member or friend. Then, see if they can use their Sherlock Holmes skills to name your object!


Musical Spotlight: Rhodes Piano
Harold Rhodes invented his electric piano to teach recovering soldiers during World War II, but it reached real popularity in 1970s jazz and funk (e.g. Herbie Hancock), rock (e.g. The Doors), pop (e.g. Stevie Wonder), even TV theme songs (e.g. Taxi)! While traditional pianos generate sound when keys hit hammers and hammers hit strings, the Rhodes piano makes music when the hammers strike thin metal tines; electricity then amplifies the sound like a guitar. The result is a pure, mellow, bell-like tone. To quote one music writer: “If the piano is a steamship, then the Rhodes is a sailboat on a cloudless day, tooling effortlessly around the lake.”

Story Transcript
NARRATOR: In a small village, there lived a teacher.

The teacher was never rich. But he made enough money at the local school to keep his three sons comfortable. There was the oldest son, Adam…

ADAM: (friendly, to listener) Hello there!

NARRATOR: ...the middle son, Aziz…

AZIZ: (friendly, to listener) Nice to meet you!

NARRATOR: ...and the youngest son, Amir.

AMIR: (playful, to listener) Spoiler alert…? You’re going to love this story.

NARRATOR: Thanks to their father, the one thing Adam, Aziz and Amir treasured above all else… was learning. Their dad taught them to pay close attention… to everything. To observe the world carefully... let nothing escape their notice… and see what they could learn.

Eventually, the teacher grew too old and weak to stand in front of a classroom all day. So, he retired. Soon after, he called his sons to his side.

TEACHER: (frail but loving) Adam, Aziz, Amir... You three are the lights of my life.  But as you know, I’m drawing closer to the end of that life. And when I go, there isn’t much I can leave you in the way of worldly riches. No acres of farmland, no herds of cows, no piles of gold... That’s why I ask you to promise me one thing.

ADAM: Anything, Father!

AZIZ: You name it…

AMIR: ...we’ll do it!

NARRATOR: The old man’s eyes twinkled.

TEACHER: (smiling) Alright, then. I ask that each and every day, you work on building up those wonderful minds of yours. Because cleverness… curiosity… wisdom... those are the true riches. And armed with such riches... you will never, ever be at a loss.

NARRATOR: The three brothers gladly made their promise. And after their father breathed his last breath, they set off for the capital city, to see what their future might bring.

Adam, Aziz and Amir trekked through fields and valleys... climbed over hills and mountains… and observed the world around them all the while. Every little detail.

At last, they drew near to the capital city. On the outskirts of the bustling metropolis, along a dusty, dirt road, they encountered... a man. He had curly black hair and was wearing a long black cloak. He was kneeling down in the grass… and crying!

Adam reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief.

ADAM: Excuse me, sir. Are you okay?

NARRATOR: The man took the handkerchief, blew his nose, then looked at the brothers with swollen, red eyes.

MERCHANT: (stops crying) Thanks for asking, but I’m afraid I’m not okay at all! You see, I’m a traveling merchant. And today I lost my best friend in the whole entire world! Last night we set up camp here, at the side of the road. And when I woke up this morning… he was gone!

NARRATOR: Aziz and Amir frowned.

AZIZ: We’re so sorry!

AMIR: That sounds rough!

MERCHANT: It is! I’ve known my friend since I was a little boy, and we’ve been inseparable ever since! Well - until now! (starts crying again)

NARRATOR: Adam placed a hand on the merchant’s shoulder.

ADAM: This might sound crazy… but by any chance… is your friend… a camel?  A beige-colored camel?

NARRATOR: Immediately, the merchant stopped crying.

MERCHANT: (surprised, brightening up) How did you know? Yes! Yes! He’s a camel! As beige as the desert sand!

NARRATOR: The three brothers exchanged a look.

AZIZ: (knowing) And, uh, this beige-colored camel of yours… is he lame in his right hindleg? Walks with a bit of a limp?

NARRATOR: The merchant raised his eyebrows at Aziz.

MERCHANT: Actually, yes! My camel is lame in his right hindleg! He’s quite old now, and his legs aren’t what they once were.

AMIR: And is your camel blind in one eye? The left one...?

NARRATOR: The merchant beamed at Amir.

MERCHANT: Correct again! He is blind! In the left eye! Like I said, he’s very old...  You three clearly know so much about him. (hopeful) Can you tell me where he is?

NARRATOR: The brothers... shrugged.

ADAM: Sorry, sir.

AZIZ: I’m afraid we can’t.

AMIR: We’ve never even seen your camel before!

NARRATOR: The merchant was taken aback.

MERCHANT: But, but, somehow you knew I was missing a camel! And you described him so perfectly! His beige color… his lame leg… his blind eye… How would you know all that if you’ve never laid eyes on him? (beat, a-ha moment) Wait a minute. You’ve stolen my camel, haven’t you?!? And now you’re adding insult to injury by making fun of me!

NARRATOR: The brothers threw up their hands.

ADAM: No, good sir!

AZIZ: That’s not the case at all!

AMIR: (starting to explain) You see, it just so happens that my brothers and I, we -

MERCHANT: (interrupting) No, no, no! I don’t want to hear your excuses! In fact, I don’t want to hear another word from the three of you until we’re standing before the judge. I’m taking you to court!

NARRATOR: What will happen when they stand before the judge?

And how did the brothers know so much about the merchant’s missing camel?

We’ll find out… after a quick break.


NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “Three Clever Brothers.”

When we left off, a merchant was taking three brothers to court. He believed Adam, Aziz and Amir had stolen his lifelong friend: an old camel.

The judge took careful notes as the merchant told his side of the story.

JUDGE: (reading her notes) Alright… so… based on what you’ve told me... you are missing one camel. He’s beige in color, lame in his right hindleg, and blind in his left eye. Is that correct?

NARRATOR: The merchant smiled.

MERCHANT: (politely) That’s correct, Your Honor.

JUDGE: (consulting her notes) And further... based on what you’ve told me... these gentlemen were able to list every one of those details... Yet they claim they’ve never seen your camel before?

NARRATOR: The merchant glared.

MERCHANT: (glaring, angry) That’s correct, Your Honor.

JUDGE: I see. So... Adam? Aziz? Amir? What do you have to say for yourselves?

NARRATOR: The oldest brother, Adam, approached the judge’s bench.

ADAM: We stand by our claim, Your Honor. (beat) You see, our father… he was a teacher. And ever since we were little, Father taught us to observe, and learn. To let nothing go unnoticed! That’s why we knew the merchant was missing a camel… and what it looked like!

JUDGE: (intrigued, but remaining impartial) Interesting…. So, let’s start with the camel itself. How did you know the merchant was missing a camel… and a beige one, at that?

NARRATOR: Adam’s eyes sparkled.

ADAM: That’s easy, Your Honor! When we encountered the merchant this morning, we noticed the grass next to him was all squashed down… as if a sleeping camel had been lying there! (beat) Plus, the merchant’s black cloak was covered in beige-colored hairs… all of them straight as an arrow. But as you can see, the merchant’s own hair is black! And curly as a fiddlehead! So the beige hairs must have belonged... to the camel.

JUDGE: How about the lame, right hind leg, then? How did you know about that one?

NARRATOR: Now Aziz approached the bench.

AZIZ: One word, Your Honor: footprints! As we walked along the dusty, dirt road, we noticed the most intriguing set of tracks. They looked like they should have been made by a creature with four hooves... but we only saw footprints from three hooves! The fourth hoof… the one on the back right side…? It looked like it had been dragged across the ground as the animal made its way along the road. So that leg must have been lame!

JUDGE: And what about the blind left eye? What led you to that conclusion?

NARRATOR: Amir joined his older brothers at the bench.

AMIR: You see, Your Honor, lush grass and leafy trees lined both sides of the road we were on. But on the right side, every now and again we noticed that the grass had been eaten clear away! And the trees were bare! Like they’d been nibbled by an animal! Meanwhile, the grass and trees on the left side of the road hadn’t been touched — almost like the animal hadn’t seen them!

NARRATOR: The judge gazed down at the three brothers. She was about to say something... when the merchant piped up.

MERCHANT: (frustrated) With all due respect, Your Honor… none of this proves that the brothers are innocent! They still might have stolen my camel! (beat) I say, put these three fellows to the test - right here, right now. Have them describe something they’ve definitely never seen!

NARRATOR: The judge mulled over the merchant’s suggestion.

JUDGE: Alright then. Let there be a test!

NARRATOR: The judge leaned over and whispered something to her two court clerks. Immediately, the pair rushed out of the room. When they returned, they were carrying a large chest. They set it down on the floor, right in front of the three brothers.

JUDGE: Adam, Aziz, Amir… inside this chest is one object. A very particular object, which I’d like you to describe to me right now.

NARRATOR: The brothers went into a huddle. When they came out a moment later, they were grinning from ear to ear.

ADAM: Well, Your Honor, by our observations... the object is small…

AZIZ: ...and round…

AMIR: ...and green!

ADAM: Therefore, it must be none other than…

ADAM / AZIZ / AMIR: unripe pomegranate!

NARRATOR: The judge motioned for her clerks to open the chest.

The lid swung open, and indeed… at the very bottom… was one unripe pomegranate.

The judge clapped her hands with delight.

JUDGE: (delighted) Well done, gentlemen! Please! Tell us how you figured that out!

ADAM: Well, Your Honor… From the way your clerks carried the chest, we could tell it wasn’t very heavy. Neither of them was struggling or straining at all! And when they set the chest down on the floor, we heard the sound of something rolling from one end to the other.

AZIZ: We also noticed that the clerks’ shoes were covered in fresh grass clippings. As we entered the courthouse today, we observed a pomegranate orchard beside the building… and the grass had just been mowed!

AMIR: Furthermore, at this time of year pomegranates aren’t yet ripe! So instead of being big and red, the fruits are small and green! And so… what else could it be, but…?

JUDGE: (finishing Amir’s sentence) An unripe pomegranate! Of course! (beat) I hereby declare this case… dismissed!

NARRATOR: After the trial, the merchant apologized to the brothers. He definitely saw the error of his ways. And when he left the courthouse and returned to his campsite, can you guess what he found there?

Or who, rather?

That’s right!

His camel!

Turns out the old creature had wandered off in search of more water. By the time the animal had limped back, his best friend in the whole entire world had leapt to some very false conclusions, and zipped off to court!

Now, as for Adam, Aziz and Amir, they decided to settle down in the capital city. They became teachers, just like their father. And each and every day, the three clever brothers helped their students build up the greatest riches of all:

Their minds.

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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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