'A Bird In The Hand' | Circle Round 58

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

Have you ever gotten a piece of advice?

It can feel wonderful when somebody offers a tidbit of wisdom to help guide your way.

But as we’ll hear in this story, in order for advice to truly work-- you first need to listen.

Our story this week is called “A Bird in the Hand.” Versions of this folktale go all the way back to ancient Greece, and have spread throughout Europe and Asia.

Some really great people came together to bring you our tale, including Broadway legends — and real-life husband and wife — Danny Burstein and Rebecca Luker. Between the two of them, they’ve starred in dozens of Broadway shows. Rebecca has starred in such Broadway classics as The Music Man and The Sound of Music. Right now, you can see Danny in My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center Theater. This summer, he returns to Broadway in Moulin Rouge.

This story 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
Let’s say you want to take someone under your wing, and offer some guidance. What’s one piece of wisdom you would share? One lesson, or bit of advice?

Find some paper, something to draw with, and turn your advice into a picture. Think about ways you can use your art to bring your lesson to life! Then, give that picture to somebody who might need it.  You can also send it to us so we can share it with other Circle Round listeners! Our email is


Musical Spotlight: Mandolin

(Chris Thile/Photo: Devin Pedde)
(Chris Thile/Photo: Devin Pedde)

If you heard our story, “The Unwelcome Guest,” then you’ll remember the sound of the folk lute known as an oud (meaning “wood” in Arabic). The mandolin is a high-pitched (“soprano”) descendant of the ancient oud, and evolved in Italy during the 1600s and 1700s. Like the oud, the mandolin is played by using a pick to pluck strings on a fingerboard. The mandolin has been used in all sorts of music - from classical to bluegrass. A virtuoso in the latter genre is mandolinist Chris Thile, whom you grown-ups may recognize from Nickel Creek and the American Public Media program, Live From Here.  Another favorite player of ours is Sierra Hull.  She's a grown-up now but check out her amazing Grand Ole Opry debut with Alison Krauss and Union Station at the tender age of eleven!

Story Transcript

NARRATOR: Once... there was a prince. He was the King and Queen’s only child, and they loved him with every ounce of their being.

They tried not to dote on the prince too much as he got older. And yet… by the time he had grown into a strong, young man… he’d also grown accustomed to getting every single thing he asked for.

A fancy silk shirt?

PRINCE: Tailor! Get over here!

NARRATOR: An emerald-encrusted ring?

PRINCE: Jeweler! I have a job for you!

NARRATOR: A private, seven-course meal?

PRINCE: Cooks? Listen up!

NARRATOR: All he had to do was snap his fingers, and voila: whatever he wanted would appear.

And if anyone tried encouraging the Prince to be kinder, or more patient, or more appreciative of what he already had...?

PRINCE:  Psssht! Don’t try telling me how to live my life! Your advice is for the birds!

NARRATOR: One morning, the Prince went wandering through the royal gardens. As he looked around at the perfectly-pruned trees, bushes and flowers… the many fountains flowing with crystal-clear water… he thought to himself.

PRINCE: Hmmm. You know what this garden needs? More fruit trees — just for me! Peach… pear… plum... all of my favorites! That way, I can eat as much fruit as I want!

NARRATOR: The prince was about to summon the royal gardener... to order her to plant a dozen more fruit trees... when suddenly, he heard…

BIRD: [beautiful singing; continues as the Narrator and Prince speak]

NARRATOR: ...singing.

BIRD: [beautiful singing continues]

NARRATOR: The prince turned his head this way and that.

PRINCE: That’s funny. I hear somebody singing, but I don’t see anyone, anywhere! I’ve got to find out where such beautiful music is coming from!

NARRATOR: The prince began dashing around the garden, glancing high and low. At last… right beside one of the flowing fountains… he came to a willow tree. Its droopy, twisty branches were swaying in the breeze. And perched on one of those branches… was a little brown bird.

BIRD: [abruptly stops singing] Hello, Prince!

NARRATOR: The Prince did a double take. He’d never seen a bird who could speak!

PRINCE: Um, did you really just talk to me?

BIRD: I did!

PRINCE: And before that... you were singing?

BIRD: I was!

NARRATOR: The prince felt his heart skip a beat. After all, remember: he was used to getting everything he wanted. And here he was, confronted by something super-desirable: a bird that sang... and talked!

Without wasting a second, the prince reached out... grabbed the bird…

BIRD: (sound of being grabbed)

NARRATOR: ...and cupped it in his hand.

PRINCE: Wow! I already have two dogs, four cats, six horses and eight rabbits, but you’re going to be the coolest pet ever! You can talk to me when I’m bored, and sing to me when I can’t sleep... I’ll have the royal blacksmith make you a big cage, and keep you right in my room!

NARRATOR: The bird shook her head.

BIRD: Come now, Prince. You’re always getting new things: new clothing, new jewelry, new toys… and once they’re no longer new, you move on to something else!

PRINCE: No, I don’t!

NARRATOR: The bird gave the prince a knowing look.

BIRD: Well, you’re bound to grow tired of me. A singing, talking bird? Seems pretty special right now, but give it a few days and I’ll be old news. (beat) I tell you what, though: if you let me go, I’ll give you something you’ll never grow tired of. (beat) Three things, actually.

NARRATOR: The prince’s eyes lit up.

PRINCE: Three things?!? Like, three wishes?!?

NARRATOR: Again, the bird shook her head.

BIRD: No, Prince. Wishes are no good... without wisdom. That’s why, if you let me go, I’ll give you three pieces of wisdom.

NARRATOR: The prince arched his eyebrows.

PRINCE: Wisdom? No offense, but what kind of wisdom could possibly come from a bird brain? (laughs at his own joke)

BIRD: [good humored] Very funny, Prince. But if you set me free, I give you my word: you can use this wisdom forever.

NARRATOR: The Prince thought for a moment.

PRINCE: [after mulling it over] Forever, huh? Alright then. Give me your three pieces of wisdom, bird... and I’ll let you go free.

NARRATOR: The bird quivered with delight.

BIRD:  You promise?

PRINCE: I promise!

NARRATOR: The bird straightened herself up as best she could, took a deep breath, and looked the prince right in the eye.

BIRD: Okay, Prince. Listen up, and listen good. Because this little ‘bird brain’… is about to change your life!

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: What three pieces of wisdom do you think the bird will give the prince?

We’ll find out… after a quick break.

[theme music out]


[theme music in]

NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today, our story is called “A Bird in the Hand.”

When we left off, a spoiled prince had caught… a bird. A talking and singing bird, who promised the prince that if he let her go, she’d give him three pieces of wisdom that he could use the rest of his life.

After mulling it over, the prince agreed. So the bird began to fulfill her promise.

BIRD: The first piece of wisdom, Prince, is this: Never regret what has already happened.

PRINCE: (repeating, so that he’ll remember) “Never regret what has already happened.”  Okay… What’s the second piece of wisdom?

BIRD: The second piece of wisdom is: Do not believe foolish words.

PRINCE: “Do not believe foolish words.” Okay, so “No regrets”... “Don’t believe in nonsense”... What’s the third?

NARRATOR: The bird cocked her head. Her little eyes sparkled.

BIRD: The third is the most precious of all. More precious than any treasure! I tell you what: you free me right now, and I’ll tell you the third.

NARRATOR: The Prince smiled.

PRINCE: Bird, you had me at “treasure.”  Off you go!

NARRATOR: The prince raised his hand high in the air. The bird lifted off and happily soared around the garden.

PRINCE: (calling up to her) Okay, bird! You’re flying free. So, what’s piece-of-wisdom number three?

NARRATOR: The bird swooped onto the tallest branch of the willow tree and peered down at the Prince. The Prince held his breath in anticipation.

But... much to his dismay... instead of sharing the third piece of wisdom, the little bird opened her beak, and began...

BIRD: [laughing]

NARRATOR: … to laugh!

BIRD: [laughing continues]

NARRATOR: The Prince... was confused.

PRINCE: Wait! What’s so funny! Why are you laughing?

BIRD:  I’m laughing because of how easily I won my freedom! You have no idea what you lost by letting me go free, dear Prince. But now — alas — it’s too late.

NARRATOR: Now the prince was even more confused!

PRINCE: What do you mean, I “lost” something by letting you go free! Explain yourself, bird!

BIRD: Well, you see, if you had captured me and kept me in a cage, as you originally planned to do, in a few short days I would have laid an egg. An egg the size of an ostrich egg... and made of pure gold! Then you would have had a talking and singing bird... and another jewel for your collection!

NARRATOR: The prince imagined what an ostrich egg made of pure gold would look like. How it would shimmer and sparkle and shine… bigger and brighter than any of his other jewels.

Then he gazed at the bird, and tried using his very sweetest voice.

PRINCE: Sweet, sweet bird. Beautiful, beautiful bird. Now that I think about it, I have so much more wisdom to learn from you! How about we revise our little bargain and you come live in my palace? I’ll give you the best food, the purest water, the most comfortable cage... it’ll be worlds better than living outside! You won’t have to worry about the rain, or the cold… or finding your next meal… What do you say?

NARRATOR: The bird stared at the Prince.

BIRD: ‘What do I say’? I say you’ve forgotten my advice far too quickly! What was the first piece of wisdom I gave you? “Don’t regret anything that has already happened.” And here you are, already regretting giving me my freedom. Who’s the “bird brain” now, Prince?

PRINCE: (frustrated) Why, I oughtta…

NARRATOR: Clenching his jaw, the strong prince began climbing up the willow tree. But the higher he rose, the higher the bird flew! At the very top of the tree… as the bird fluttered in the air, just out of reach... the Prince lost his footing and went tumbling down...

PRINCE: [tumbling down out of tree]

NARRATOR: ...into the fountain!

PRINCE: [landing with a splash]

NARRATOR: As water streamed down the prince’s hair and face, the bird drifted down from the tree.

BIRD: (kindly) Oh, Prince. Don’t you remember my second piece of wisdom? “Do not believe foolish words”! I told you I would lay a golden egg the size of an ostrich egg… and yet I am no bigger than an ostrich egg! Why, I fit right in the palm of your hand!

NARRATOR: The prince looked at his hand - the one that had been holding the bird. Then he lifted it to his eyes and tried wiping away some of the water.

PRINCE: (defeated) Alright, bird. You were right.  But you never told me: what was the third piece of advice?

NARRATOR: The bird flapped her wings and flew out of sight for a moment. When she came back, she had one of the gardeners’ rags in her beak. She gave it to the Prince, who used it to mop his brow.

BIRD: The third piece of advice, dear Prince, is never give advice to somebody who won’t hear it! It’s no use imparting wisdom to someone… who’s asleep.

BIRD: [begins singing again, same song as before]

NARRATOR: And with that, the little brown bird spread her wings and took off toward the sky. Then she flew over the garden wall and disappeared… her beautiful voice trailing behind her.

From then on, the Prince was a different person. He was kinder… more patient… and definitely more appreciative of what he had.

All because of a wise little bird who… for a few short, precious minutes… had taken him under her wing.

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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