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'The Three-Legged Pot' | Circle Round 6319:22
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(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

Think about a time you helped someone out by giving.

Maybe you donated extra books or clothing to a charity. Or you gave your time, by volunteering at a community clean-up, or a fundraiser like a walk-a-thon or bake sale.

In this story, we’ll meet a man who has everything — but refuses to give anything — until a bit of magic intervenes.

Our story is called “The Three-Legged Pot.” Versions of this folktale come from Denmark, a country in northern Europe. You’ll also hear variations from the Middle East.

Voices in this episode include Elle Borders, Adam Mastroianni, Maurice Emmanuel Parent, Jeffrey Song, and Aparna Nancherla. Grown-ups, you can check out Aparna’s comedy on season two of The Standups, on Netflix. And watch for her on Corporate on Comedy Central.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir and edited by Jessica Alpert, founder of the podcast. Original music and sound design by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

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Story continues below

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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

You heard the farmhands and tailors talk about how ‘wasteful’ Felix was. If we’re not careful, the stuff we throw away or don’t use can actually harm the planet!

So, what’s one thing you can do to reduce waste? Maybe you can use reusable containers to pack your lunch, instead of baggies or plastic wrap. You can switch off the lights when you leave the room, or turn off the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth.

Find a grown-up and talk with them about one way you both can reduce waste. Then, put your plan into action! Try it for a day, then a week, then a month. Before long, you’ll both feel great - and the earth will feel better, too.

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Musical Spotlight: Steel Pan 

(joergens.mi)
(joergens.mi)

It’s often said that the steel pan (or steel drum) is the only instrument made from industrial waste - in this case, industrial oil drums! When the steel pan emerged on the island of Trinidad in the 1930s, it was common to see and hear everyday metal objects — like paint cans, biscuit tins and car parts — being used as percussion instruments. To make a steel pan, you pound out the bottom of an oil drum, then use hammers to form dents that create different notes. Thus, even though we sometimes call the steel pan a steel “drum,” it’s actually more like a gong!


Story Transcript

NARRATOR: Long ago, on opposite ends of a small town, there lived two brothers.

On one side of town… was Casper. Casper and his wife, Clara were struggling to get by. They had a tiny cottage, an even tinier yard... and one cow, named Clover. But by now, the sweet, hungry creature was so scrawny and weak, she could hardly let out a “moo.”

On the other side of town lived Casper’s older brother, Felix. Unlike Casper, Felix had everything he wanted... and then some. He owned a massive mansion, acres of farmland, and hired countless servants. In fact, rumor had it that Felix was so rich, so extravagant, if any of his silver coins were tarnished…? He tossed them into the trash can!

And yet… no matter how many times Casper politely asked his older brother for help… Felix never shared anything. Not even a tarnished silver coin.

It was autumn, and Casper and Clara were concerned about the long winter ahead. Their creaky cottage was drafty, and they didn’t have much in terms of food or warm clothing. Eventually, Clara made a decision.

CLARA: We have no choice, Casper. We have to sell Clover.

CASPER: But, my love! We’ve had Clover forever! She’s like family!

CLARA: I know, darling. But your older brother, Felix... he’s ‘family,’ too - and look how he treats us! (softening) I’m sorry, but you and I won’t make it through the winter if we don’t get money fast.

NARRATOR: So the next morning, Casper looped Clover’s halter over her bony head, and led the cow to market. On the way, he encountered a man with a white beard, a red cap and a gray woolen coat. The man was carrying a burlap sack.

STRANGER: (spirited) Good morning, sir! Where are you off to with that big, beautiful cow?

NARRATOR: Casper knew that skinny, scraggy Clover was far from “big.” But he did think his beloved cow was “beautiful,” and was pleased that this bearded stranger agreed.

CASPER: I’m taking her to market, thanks for asking. (beat, getting more emotional) Though it’s tough to see her go.

STRANGER: (warmly, genuine) I can tell she means a lot to you! (beat) Tell me - how much money are you asking for — what did you say her name was? Clover?  

NARRATOR: Casper was mystified.

CASPER: (mystified) I - I didn’t say what her name was! (recovering) But, yes! It’s Clover! And as for how much money I’m asking, I don’t know. It’s hard to put a price on something so very precious and -

STRANGER: I tell you what.

NARRATOR: The man held up the burlap sack.

STRANGER: What if… in exchange for your cow… I give you something even more valuable than money? (beat) What if… I give you… this?  

NARRATOR: The stranger reached into the sack and removed a black, iron pot. It looked old and dingy, but it had an elegant curved handle, and three short, sturdy legs.

CASPER: (confused) I’m sorry. You want me to trade my cow for a pot? My wife and I are so poor we wouldn’t have anything to cook in it! (beat) What I need is money. You keep your pot.

NARRATOR: Casper turned to lead Clover away, when…

POT: Oh, come on. Come on! Just take me. Take me!

NARRATOR: Casper spun around.

CASPER: Um, who said that? Take what? Take who?

POT: Take me, silly! Take me!

NARRATOR: Casper gawked at the pot.

CASPER: You - you speak?

POT: Yup: I speak. I speak!

NARRATOR: Casper blinked at the man in the red cap and gray coat. He expected the fellow to be every bit as bewildered as he was. Instead, the stranger just stood there, stroking his long white beard.

STRANGER: (calm as can be) Listen, Casper.

CASPER: (too flummoxed to finish asking the question) Um, how did you know my…?

STRANGER: (carrying on as if Casper didn’t ask a question) Casper. I told you I could give you something even more valuable than money… and trust me: this three-legged pot is it!

POT: He’s right, you know. He’s right! I’m way more valuable, Casper. Way more valuable!

NARRATOR: Casper shook his head. A talking pot! He’d never dreamt of such a thing! But then it occurred to him: if this three-legged pot could speak, imagine what else it might do!

CASPER: (thinking, then deciding) Alright then, sir. You take the cow, I’ll take the pot!

NARRATOR: They shook on it, then the bearded stranger led Clover away.

CASPER: (quietly, watching Clover walk away) Goodbye, old friend. Wish it didn’t have to be this way. (beat, getting excited) But, boy! A talking pot! Clara will be blown away!

NARRATOR: Casper lifted the pot by its handle and carried it back to the cottage. Clara was waiting outside, with a confused look on her face.

CASPER: (brimming with excitement) Clara! I have such wonderful news! I went to sell Clover, just like you asked, but then this little guy came up, with this long, white beard, and he offered me this pot, and -

CLARA: (disbelief) You traded Clover… for a pot?!???

POT: Um, for your information, Clara, I’m not just any pot. Nuh-uh. Not just any pot!

CLARA: (ad-lib gasp/sound of surprise) You speak?!?

POT: You bet I speak. I speak! (beat, coy, mysterious) But hey - that’s not all I can do. And when you folks see me in action? … It will change your life. (slow, deliberate foreshadow) Change your life!

NARRATOR: What else do you think the three-legged pot can do?

We’ll find out, after a quick break.

[BREAK]

NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to Circle Round. Today’s story is called “The Three-Legged Pot.”

NARRATOR: When we left off, a poor man named Casper had traded his cow for a three-legged pot.

Well, not just any three-legged pot: this one spoke! It hinted to Casper and his wife, Clara, that it could do something else, too.

POT: Listen, folks, listen. As you can see, I’m kind of dingy. Really dingy. If you’d please… would you mind washing me, cleaning me, and putting me on the fire? Then… (coy, mysterious, playful) you’ll see what else I can do.

NARRATOR: Casper and Clara did as they were told. They scrubbed the pot’s insides til they gleamed, polished its outsides til they sparkled, and hung its handle over the crackling fireplace.

POT: Thank you. Thank you! And now...

NARRATOR: Suddenly, the pot leaped to the ground!

POT: ...you’ll see what else I can do: skip and skip! Wheeeeeee!

NARRATOR: Indeed! Before Casper and Clara knew what was happening, the pot had ‘skipped and skipped’ to the door, and clickety-clacked out on its three short legs.

The pot skipped all the way to the other side of town… to the grand estate of Casper’s older brother, Felix!

The pot zipped into the red barn, where two of Felix’s farmhands were busy threshing wheat. They’d spent the morning separating the grains — the part you can eat — from the stalks, then storing the grain in big bags.

FARMHAND 1: Uh-oh. We’re all out of bags! And we’ve got bushels more wheat to thresh!

FARMHAND 2: More like hundreds of bushels! Sheesh. Why does Felix need all this grain, anyway?

FARMHAND 1: Beats me! I mean, can the guy really eat that much bread?!? I’ll bet he ends up throwing most of this stuff away.

FARMHAND 2: Yeah. What a waste!

NARRATOR: The farmhands didn’t notice the three-legged pot standing beside them. Until…

FARMHAND 1: (noticing the pot) Hey - where’d that pot come from?

FARMHAND 2: I don’t know! But I’ll bet it could fit a whole lot of grain!

FARMHAND 1: Let’s try it!

NARRATOR: The farmhands poured bushel after bushel of wheat into the pot. Once it was filled to the brim, its three short legs began to twitch.

POT: Time to skip and skip! Wheeeeeee!

NARRATOR: The farmhands watched with astonishment — and amusement — as the pot clickety-clacked to the door, and dashed back to the other side of town.

When the pot returned to Casper and Clara’s cottage, they couldn’t believe their eyes.

CASPER: Wow! With so much grain, we’ll be baking bread all winter!

CLARA: ...and all spring, summer and fall, too! Thank you, Pot!

CASPER: Thank you!

POT: You’re welcome! So welcome. But listen, folks — listen. All that skipping made me grimy again. Grossly grimy. So if you’d please... would you mind washing me, cleaning me, and putting me on the fire?

NARRATOR: Again, Casper and Clara did as they were told. They scrubbed, polished, and hung the pot in the fireplace.

POT: Thank you. Thank you!

NARRATOR: Just as before, the pot sprang to the ground...

POT: Time to skip and skip! Wheeeeeee!

NARRATOR: …and clickety-clacked out the door.

For the second time that day, the pot hopped over to Felix’s estate. This time, it shimmied through a window in the luxurious mansion. It scuttled to the tailors’ room, where Felix’s garment makers were unwrapping a new shipment of fancy fabric.

TAILOR 1: Oh my! Did you see this cashmere? Felix must have ordered a thousand yards!

TAILOR 2: Well, I’m pretty sure he ordered a-million yards of this silk! And this velvet!

TAILOR 1: There’s absolutely no way we can make clothing out of all this fabric!

TAILOR 2: ...Let alone find space to store it! Our shelves are bursting! (beat) I’ll bet he winds up throwing most of this stuff away.

TAILOR 1: Indeed. What a waste!

NARRATOR: The tailors didn’t notice the three-legged pot standing beside them. Until…

TAILOR 2: (noticing the pot) Say! Where’d that pot come from?

TAILOR 1: Not a clue! But it’s a perfect place to store all this fabric!

TAILOR 2: Let’s do it!

NARRATOR: The tailors stuffed yard after yard of cashmere, silk and velvet into the pot, and when it was filled to the brim, can you guess what happened?

That’s right!

Its legs began to twitch!

POT: Time to skip and skip! Wheeeeeee!

NARRATOR: The tailors watched with surprise — and satisfaction — as the pot clickety-clacked out the door, and scampered back to the other side of town.

When the pot returned to Casper and Clara’s cottage, they could hardly contain themselves.

CASPER: Oh, Pot! Is that cashmere?!? And silk?!? And velvet?!?

CLARA: Our old clothing is so threadbare and torn. Now, we can make new clothes for the winter. Thank you, Pot!

CASPER: Thank you!

POT: You’re welcome! So welcome. (beat) But listen, folks — listen. All that skipping made me grubby again. Way too grubby. So if you’d please... would you mind washing me, cleaning me, and putting me on the fire?

NARRATOR: Once more, Casper and Clara scrubbed, polished, and hung the pot over the fire.

POT: Thank you, thank you!

NARRATOR: Again, the pot jumped to the ground...

POT: Time to skip and skip! Wheeeeeee!

NARRATOR: ...and, yes, clickety-clacked right out the door.

By now it was evening, and can you guess where the pot skipped this time?

That’s right! Back to Felix’s estate!

Only now, it slipped into the counting house: the sturdy brick building where Felix hoarded his gobs and gobs of money.

Now... do you remember that rumor we mentioned at the beginning of the story? The one about Felix being so extravagant, that he threw out any silver coins that were tarnished?

Well, as the pot crept inside the counting house...

FELIX: (ad-lib sound of disgust) Uch! (flings coin into the nearly-full trash can)

NARRATOR: ...Felix was sitting at his table...

FELIX: Disgusting! (flings coin)

NARRATOR: ...hurling coin after tarnished coin...

FELIX: Abominable! (flings coin)

NARRATOR: ...into a trash can!

FELIX: Ugh. This is pathetic! Why do these blasted silver coins tarnish so quickly?!? I’ve tossed away so many of the beastly things, my waste basket is overflowing!

NARRATOR: Felix didn’t notice the three-legged pot standing by the door. Until…

FELIX: (noticing the pot) Huh! How’d that dingy pot get here? Never mind. The grimy and grubby thing is the perfect vessel for these detestable coins. (starts flinging coins into the pot)

NARRATOR: Once the pot was filled to the brim, you know what happened, right?

POT: Time to skip and skip! Wheeeeeee!

NARRATOR: But, before it could skip a step...

FELIX: (angry) Not so fast!

NARRATOR: ...Felix grabbed the pot’s curved handle.

FELIX: (enraged) Listen, you bewitched creature! You can “skip and skip” all the way to the North Pole, if you want! (determined) Just give me those coins!

NARRATOR: Felix jumped into the air… flung himself onto the three-legged pot…

FELIX: (ad-lib flinging on to pot)

NARRATOR: ...and stuck there!

FELIX: (ad-lib being stuck) Bahhh!

NARRATOR: Cheerfully, the pot began clickety-clacking forward - with Felix glued to its side!

FELIX: (ad-lib sounds as the pot skips, with him stuck to it) Yikes! Ah! Yow! Eeee! Ooh! Ah!

POT: (rhetorical, playful, as it skips with Felix attached to its side) So, Felix...! The North Pole, eh...?

FELIX: (bouncing along) What?!? How did you - ? What did you - ?

POT: You did say I “can skip and skip all the way to the North Pole,” right? Right??!? Well... you know what, Felix? You know what…? (relishing this moment) I can. I can!

NARRATOR: Next thing Felix knew, the pot switched direction and raced northward. And it didn’t stop until it reached… you guessed it: The North Pole! The northernmost point on Earth!

The pot gave a little shake, then dropped a very stunned — and exhausted — Felix into the snow.

Then the pot clickety-clacked back to Casper and Clara’s cottage. It tumbled across the floor, spilling tarnished — but perfectly usable — silver coins everywhere.

CASPER: / CLARA: (in unison) Thank you, Pot! Thank you!

NARRATOR: Casper and Clara never saw the pot again; when they woke up the next morning, it was gone.

But now, they had all they needed for the winter… and then some! In fact, for the first time in their lives, they could help out other people who were struggling to get by. Just like a certain cheerful, rambunctious, three-legged pot did for them.

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