'The Star Fruit Tree' | Circle Round 61

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

Have you ever seen, or tasted, a star fruit?

This smooth, waxy, golden fruit is shaped like an oval, but it has five ridges running down the sides. So, when you cut a slice of it, it has five points… just like a star!

Today we’ll hear about a star fruit tree that bears sweet fruit, but teaches an even sweeter lesson.

Our story is called “The Star Fruit Tree.” Versions of this tale originally come from Vietnam, a country in southeast Asia.

Voices in this episode include Elle Borders, James Konicek, Lisa Yuen and Stephanie Hsu. If you’re a musical-theater fan, you might recognize Stephanie from SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, and from Be More Chill, the hit show running now at New York’s Lyceum Theatre.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. 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

Over the next week, what’s one thing you can do to share? Maybe you can share your time, by volunteering at a bake sale, or visiting a relative you don’t see very often. Perhaps you can share a book, or a toy, or half your sandwich at lunch.

Think about what you’re going to share, and tell a grown-up about it. Then have them tell you something they will share over the next week. And once the week is over, meet up again and tell each other how it felt to share with others.


Musical Spotlight: The Lap Harp 

The Lap Harp
The Lap Harp

The lap harp — or Celtic harp — is a miniature harp traditional to Ireland and Scotland. Eric chose the lap harp to score this Vietnamese folktale because of the vibrant, ringing sound you get when you pluck the strings. The lap harp’s bright tones easily conjure images and ideas of mystical magic, fabulous flight, and glittering, glistening gold… all of which you’ll find in “The Star Fruit Tree.”

Story Transcript

NARRATOR: Not long ago, in a far-off land, two sisters lived on a farm with their mother. The sisters’ names were Sang and Kim.

Thanks to Mother’s good business sense, the farm was very successful. It grew acre after acre of rice and corn... and its ducks and chickens laid hundreds upon hundreds of eggs.

When Mother grew very old, she told Sang and Kim what they must do once she was gone.

MOTHER: My children. Please… promise me that when I leave this earth, you will divide all of my possessions equally, between the two of you. The money, the land, the house, the crops, the birds, everything I have - you must split all those things fifty-fifty.

NARRATOR: The sisters were quick to answer. First the older one, Sang:

SANG: Of course we will, Mother!

NARRATOR: ...then the younger one, Kim.

KIM: You have our word.

NARRATOR: But here’s the thing:

Only one of the sisters was telling the truth.

You see, the younger sister, Kim... she was kind and generous, content with her lot in life and always happy to share.

But her older sister? Sang? She was greedy and selfish, constantly grasping for more, so she could keep it all to herself!

So... when it came time to split Mother’s inheritance, what did the older sister do?

She took everything for herself!

Well, almost everything. She allowed her younger sister, Kim, to have a tiny sliver of land on a far and forgotten edge of the farm.

But Kim did not complain. Instead, she journeyed out to her new property to take a look. Once there, she saw two things: a tiny run-down shack, and a lonely little star fruit tree.

The shack’s windows, she noticed, were shattered, and the roof was caving in. As for the star fruit tree, its scrawny branches were bare, and its skinny trunk was tangled with weeds.

Suddenly, Kim had an idea.

KIM: I know! I’ll water and weed that sad little tree until it bears fruit. Then I’ll sell the fruit at the market, and make enough money to fix up the shack. It could make for a nice cozy cottage when all is said and done!

NARRATOR: The first part of Kim’s plan went like a dream. Under her loving care, the star fruit tree grew tall and strong. Soon, its branches were drooping under the weight of hundreds of bright, golden star fruit.

But before Kim had a chance to gather that fruit and take it to market, do you know what happened?

An enormous raven swooped down from the sky, landed on the star fruit tree, and began nibbling the fruit with his pointy black beak.

KIM: Good morning, Raven! I was about to pick those fruits to sell at the market today, so that I can start fixing up this shack. (sincere) But... you must be hungry. So, go ahead. Have a nibble!

NARRATOR: Soon, though… that nibble turned into a gobble. And next thing Kim knew, the raven was devouring every single star fruit in sight!

KIM: Um, Raven? Go easy, won’t you?

NARRATOR: But the Raven seemed to pay no attention. He just kept on eating…

KIM: Raven…?

NARRATOR: ...and eating…

KIM: You can stop any time now!

NARRATOR: … and eating!

KIM: Ohhhhhh….


KIM: Oh my goodness! There’s nothing left! Raven, you’ve eaten every single fruit on the tree! Well, I’m glad I could provide a decent meal. (beat) I just don’t know how I’ll survive this winter without my nice cozy cottage!

RAVEN: Oh…. you’ll survive, Kim.

KIM: Excuse me?!? Who said that?!? And how do you know my name?!?

NARRATOR: Kim spun around and looked every which way, but there was no one in sight. Well, no one except for…

KIM: Raven?!?!? Was that you?

RAVEN: It was!

NARRATOR: The big, black bird spread his wings, flew out of the tree, and perched on Kim’s shoulder.

RAVEN: You showed an awful lot of kindness to me just now, Kim. Most people would have shooed me away: a big, pesky, black bird, gobbling up all their fruit. But not you!

NARRATOR: Kim smiled.

KIM: Well, you looked hungry.

RAVEN: I was! And in exchange for your generosity... you will be rewarded.

NARRATOR: Kim listened with wide eyes as the raven explained.

RAVEN: Here’s what I want you to do, Kim. Find… a sack. Any sack will do — provided it’s no more than three feet long. First thing tomorrow, bring that sack to this star fruit tree. Then, you will get your reward.

NARRATOR: And with that, the raven took off into the bright blue sky.

Much to Kim’s delight, she found a burlap sack hanging on a hook inside the run-down shack. When she measured the bag, she found it was just under three feet!

The next morning, she brought the sack to the tree, where the raven was waiting.

RAVEN: Wonderful, Kim! All you have to do now is hop on my back. You and I are taking a little trip!

NARRATOR: Kim slung the sack over her shoulder and held on to the raven’s neck. Then… they took off... gliding over villages and rivers, mountains and waterfalls, before soaring over the sea.

RAVEN: (flying) We’re almost there! Hold on tight!

NARRATOR: The bird dove downward and began to descend. When he and Kim landed on a small island, Kim could hardly believe her eyes. The island’s beach was covered entirely... with gold!

RAVEN: Listen, Kim. Take your sack, and fill it to the brim. You’ll have enough gold to rebuild your shack and live comfortably for the rest of your life!

NARRATOR: Kim shook her head.

KIM: But, Raven! Won’t filling the sack with gold make it too heavy to fly home?

RAVEN: Don’t you worry. Your sack is exactly the right size: no more than three feet long. I can hold it in my talons and fly us back, easy-peasy!

NARRATOR: So Kim filled the sack with gold. And sure enough, the raven easily picked it up with his talons. After they reached Kim’s cottage swiftly and safely, she tried thanking the bird....

KIM: Wow! I don’t know what to say, Raven! I am just so appreciative that you -

NARRATOR: ...but before she could say another word, there was a great flapping of wings, and the raven was gone.

The next day, Kim heaved her sack of gold into a wheelbarrow, and headed to town. First, she bought wood, nails and other supplies to fix up the shack. Then she picked up some ducks and chickens for eggs, plus seeds to grow rice and corn.

Before long, she had herself a nice, cozy cottage, and more rice, corn and eggs than she could possibly eat. So she donated her extra food to the less fortunate people in town.

When news of Kim’s prosperity reached her older sister… Sang was very perplexed… and very jealous.

SANG: Wait! How can my little sister possibly be doing so well?!? All I left her with was that rickety old shack! And that sorry little star fruit tree! (beat) I must find out her secret… and steal it for myself!

NARRATOR: Will Kim’s older sister succeed in her scheme?

We’ll find out… after a quick break.


NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “The Star Fruit Tree.”

When we left off, a raven had given a young woman named Kim a reward for her kindness: a sack full of gold.

With her newfound wealth, Kim was able to rebuild the tiny broken-down shack on her tiny piece of property. She also started a farm, and donated food to people who needed it.

Her greedy older sister, Sang, was eager to learn the secret of Kim’s prosperity. So, she rushed over to Kim’s place.

SANG: Little sister! What’s going on here? This cottage... these crops... those ducks and chickens! Where did it all come from?

KIM: Well, the truth is…

NARRATOR: Kim pointed at the star fruit tree.

KIM: ...I owe everything to that tree!

NARRATOR: As Kim told the story of the star fruit and the raven, Sang became desperate to meet the raven herself… and to visit the island of gold.

SANG: Oh, Kim. I am so happy for you! And I’m so sorry for not splitting everything fifty-fifty, as Mother requested. (beat) To make it up to you, dear sister, how about we trade?

KIM: Trade?

SANG: Yes! I’ll give you everything I own — my money, my house, my animals, my acres and acres of land — if you give me the cottage…

NARRATOR: Her eyes flashed toward the star fruit tree.

SANG: ...and the tree.

NARRATOR: Kim was content with her simple life, but she agreed to the trade. She relocated to the big family house, and Sang moved her things into the cottage.

Every day, Sang stood under the star fruit tree and waited for the raven to appear. Then, one morning, she heard a great flapping of wings… and there was the big, black bird! Just as before, he landed in the tree and began gobbling up the golden star fruit.

SANG: Hey! Not so fast, bird! That’s my star fruit you’re wolfing down! You have to give me something in return! Like... a reward!

NARRATOR: The raven’s eyes glittered as he peered down at Sang.

RAVEN: Ohhhh! A reward! (beat) Of course! Of course!

NARRATOR: Just as he did with Kim, the raven gave his instructions. Sang must find… a sack. Any sack, provided it didn’t measure more than... how long?

Do you remember?

That’s right!

Three feet!

RAVEN: First thing tomorrow, bring that sack to this star fruit tree. Then... you will get your reward.

NARRATOR: The next morning, when the raven returned, Sang was waiting under the tree. Tucked under her arm was a neatly-folded sack.

SANG: Alright, bird! Let’s get going!

NARRATOR: The raven eyed Sang’s sack. Even though it was folded up, the bird could tell it was longer than three feet. Much longer! More like six feet!

But he didn’t say a word.

Sang jumped on the bird’s back and away they went, gliding over villages and rivers, mountains and waterfalls. When they reached the sea, the raven swooped down to the island of gold.

After they landed, Sang giggled and squealed as she crammed her six-foot sack with riches.

SANG: [giggling/squealing]

NARRATOR: Even when it seemed the bag might burst at the seams, Sang jammed in even more treasure!

SANG: [giggling/squealing]

NARRATOR: At last, she dragged her overflowing sack over to the raven and hopped on his back.

SANG: Okay, bird. Let’s get out of here!

NARRATOR: The raven clenched his talons around the heavy sack and spread his wings. He strained, he stumbled, he staggered. And then, finally, with great effort, he lifted off the ground.

He didn’t lift very high, though. The sack hovered mere feet above the water as the raven struggled to fly over the sea.

Suddenly, the wind picked up and the waves began to crash. Their frothy peaks were close enough to splash the sack of gold — and soak Sang’s feet.

SANG: Ach! Bird! What are you doing?!? Fly higher!

NARRATOR: The raven flapped his wings harder, but all he could do was sway and dip, dip and sway. Now the sack of gold in his talons was sopping wet… and so were Sang’s legs!

SANG: Ugh! What’s wrong with you, bird? Didn’t you hear me? Fly higher!

NARRATOR: The raven swayed and dipped again.

RAVEN: So, let me get this straight. You want me to “fly higher,” do you...?

SANG: Yes! That’s an order!

NARRATOR: The great black bird cocked his head.

RAVEN: Very well then...!

NARRATOR: And with that, he loosened the grip of his talons and the sack of gold plopped into the water with a splash! Sang watched in horror as all that treasure sank to the bottom of the clear, blue sea.

Freed from the extra weight, the raven flew higher. But then there was another splash, and Sang was in the water! Flailing her arms and kicking her legs, she swam with all her might, back to the island of gold.

And you know what? It’s said that she lives there still — all alone — surrounded by sparkling, glittering gold. And she doesn’t have to share it with anyone.

Her younger sister, Kim, meanwhile, is all about sharing these days. She donates money to the less privileged, and she’s planted an entire orchard of star fruit trees. She invites everyone for miles around to come pick the ripe, juicy fruits: each one as sweet — and as golden — as her heart.

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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