Encore: 'The Skylark'

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

Have you ever felt frustrated?

Try as you might, you can’t solve a problem... or make something happen... even though you really, really, really want to?

Well, in today’s story we’ll meet a fellow who couldn’t feel more frustrated… all because of a seemingly harmless creature... with feathers.

This week, our tale is called “The Skylark.” This story originally comes from Portugal, in southern Europe.

Voices in this episode include Thom Whaley, Evan Casey, Mitchell Hebert, and Miriam Shor. Grown-ups, you can see Miriam on the TV Land show, “Younger,” and the FX series, “The Americans.” She’s also the proud mom of two young daughters! This story was adapted 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 OUT 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

Think about a time you had to be patient. Just like Daniel, you had to wait until things worked themselves out.

Find someone you like to have fun with — a family member, a friend — and tell them your story. Describe what you had to wait for, how it felt while you were waiting, and how things turned out in the end. Then ask them to tell you a story about being patient!

Musical Spotlight: The Flute

(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The flute is the oldest instrument archaeologists have found in their explorations; some of the flutes date back as far as 43,000 years! The flute is a member of the woodwind group. But unlike its siblings (e.g. the clarinet, the oboe, the bassoon), the flute is not played with a reed. Instead, the flute player — most commonly known as a flutist or flautist — produces sound by blowing air across an opening. The resulting sound can be airy, light, bright, graceful, even whistling - just like a bird!

Story Transcript

NARRATOR: When Cora’s two children grew up and moved away, she realized that her large house in the countryside had never felt so big… or so empty.

So, Cora sold the house and bought a smaller one. The new place was comfortable, and charming. And though it didn’t boast acre after acre of farmland... as the old house had… there was a small field right behind the cozy back porch.

Cora took one look at that field behind the house and decided it would be perfect… as a vegetable garden. All she had to do was clear away the brush and trees.

It just so happened that Cora’s nephew, Daniel, owned a landscaping company. Daniel was fresh out of college and had yet to settle down and start a family. He dedicated his heart and soul to his business… often going weeks without a day off... so Cora asked if he would help.

CORA: There’s not much to clear from the field - just a lot of tall grass and wildflowers - oh, and there’s this little group of trees in the corner. But really, it shouldn’t take long.

DANIEL: Not a problem, Aunt Cora. I’m happy to help. I’ll send one of my guys over first thing tomorrow!

NARRATOR: The next day, Cora went off to her job as principal of the local elementary school. When she got home that afternoon, Daniel was standing in front of the house… his face as red as a beet!

CORA: Daniel! Are you okay? What happened?

DANIEL: (enraged) It’s your field! It looks exactly the same as it did yesterday. My guy didn’t clear it!

NARRATOR: Cora laid a hand on Daniel’s shoulder.

CORA: I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for why the work hasn’t been done. Come. Let’s go see what’s up.

NARRATOR: So Daniel and Cora walked behind the house, to the field. There stood the worker, his straw hat in his hands.

DANIEL: Well?? What do you have to say for yourself? Why isn’t the field cleared?

NARRATOR: The worker looked down at his shoes.

WORKER: With all due respect, Daniel… I tried to do the work — I really did! — but… I couldn’t. Every time I raised my axe to a tree… I was attacked.

NARRATOR: Daniel and Cora were taken aback.

CORA: “Attacked”...?

DANIEL: By whom?!?

NARRATOR: The worker looked up at them sheepishly.

WORKER:  A skylark.

NARRATOR: Daniel could hardly believe his ears.

DANIEL: A skylark…?!? But a skylark is a small, harmless, singing bird. How could a small, harmless, singing bird keep a grown man like you away from your work?

WORKER: I’m telling you, this was no ordinary skylark! This skylark was fierce. This skylark was savage! She kept diving at my head and pecking at my face, my arms, my legs… She wouldn’t let me get anywhere near those trees.

NARRATOR: Daniel looked at Cora. She shrugged her shoulders. Then he turned back to the worker.

DANIEL: Alright. I’m sending you and two more guys out to the field tomorrow. I want the whole thing cleared by sundown.

NARRATOR: As the worker drove away in his truck, Daniel shook his head and rolled his eyes.

DANIEL: Can you believe it, Aunt Cora? I don’t know why I hired this guy! Obviously he has no idea what he’s doing.

NARRATOR: Cora reached out and gave Daniel a hug.

CORA: Daniel, I really don’t think it’s his fault. Something tells me things will sort themselves out. All we need to do is keep everyone away from the field for a little while.

DANIEL: What do you mean, “keep everyone away”?!? I want you to have your vegetable garden, Aunt Cora! And besides, you don’t solve problems by avoiding them.

NARRATOR: Cora smiled at her nephew.

CORA: Alright, Daniel. As you wish.  Now I need to go inside and call your cousin. He was having trouble with something, and as his mother, I promised him we’d talk it through before dinner!

NARRATOR: The next day, Cora went off again to work at the elementary school. When she came home, she could hear Daniel yelling from behind the house. As she crept back toward the field, she could hear what he was saying.

[theme music in]

We’ll hear what he was saying, too — after a quick break.


[theme music in]

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

When we left off, Cora had hired her nephew… a landscaper named Daniel… to clear the field behind her new house. She wanted to turn the field into a vegetable garden.

But when Daniel sent one of his workers to do the job… he couldn’t! The worker said he’d been attacked by a vicious skylark, and she wouldn’t let him and his axe get anywhere near the trees.

So the next day, Daniel sent a few more guys. And when Cora came home from her job as principal of the elementary school, she overheard him talking to his team.

DANIEL: (exasperated) I don’t get it, guys! I just don’t get it! For the second day in a row, I tell you to clear this field, and for the second day in a row, it isn’t cleared! Every flower, every blade of grass, every tree is right where it was yesterday. Can somebody please explain what’s going on here?

NARRATOR: The workers exchanged a nervous look. One of them took a big gulp, and spoke up.

WORKER 2: We’re sorry, Daniel, but it was impossible to clear the field. It’s that skylark! She is a piece of work, I tell ya. Every time we’d raise an axe, she’d freak out! Diving at our heads, pecking at our hands... she is fast, and she is furious. We couldn’t drive her away. Please forgive us.

DANIEL: “Forgive” you?!? I should fire you! I should -

NARRATOR: Suddenly, Daniel realized Cora was standing right next to him.

DANIEL: Oh! (trying to regain composure, a little) Hi, Aunt Cora.

CORA:  Hello, Daniel. What’s going on here?

NARRATOR: Daniel sighed.

DANIEL: Your field… it’s still not cleared. The guys here say it was that skylark again.

NARRATOR: He turned back to the workers.

DANIEL: Okay, if that skylark is truly so ferocious, I’m gonna send all of you back to the field tomorrow, along with half-a-dozen other guys. No ridiculous little bird is going to keep my company from clearing this field!

NARRATOR: Once the workers had gone home, Cora made her nephew a hot cup of tea.

CORA: Daniel, I’m telling you. It’s going to be just fine.

DANIEL: “Just fine”?!? How are we going to build you that garden if my guys can’t even clear a few measly trees?

NARRATOR: Cora smiled.

CORA: Nephew, we are going to clear those trees, and we are going to build that garden! We just need to leave the field alone a little bit longer. The problem will vanish soon enough.

DANIEL: No offense, Aunt Cora, but you really don’t know much about the landscaping business. I’m sending more guys tomorrow.

NARRATOR: Cora gave her nephew a peck on the cheek.

CORA: Alright, Daniel. As you wish. Now, I need to jump on the phone with your other cousin. It was her first day at a new job, and I want to hear all about it!

NARRATOR: The next morning, Cora went off to work again. She stayed a little later than usual, and when she got home, can you guess who was waiting outside her house?

That’s right:


DANIEL: Oh, Aunt Cora! I’m so glad you’re finally here. But I’m not so glad to share the news. Your field… it’s still not cleared.

CORA: (knowing) Oh…?

DANIEL: (thinking they’re both on the same page) I know, right??? According to my guys, the skylark was back, and she attacked them - more ruthlessly than ever! This time, they tried throwing sticks at her — rocks, even! — but it was no use. She was too quick.

NARRATOR: Daniel dropped his shoulders and sighed.

DANIEL: The bird has won, Aunt Cora. You’ll never have your garden.

NARRATOR: Cora smiled.

CORA: Oh, I’ll have my garden, Daniel. The skylark will be gone in just a few days. Then we can clear and plant.

NARRATOR: Daniel wiped a tear from his eye.

DANIEL: You really think so?

CORA: I really do.

NARRATOR: So, Daniel told his workers to stay away from the field, and come back in seven days.

The sixth day was a Sunday. Daniel was determined to get some extra work done at the office, but Cora convinced him to take the day off and come over for breakfast.

She made her famous cinnamon pancakes: a big favorite when Daniel was growing up. He used to visit Cora and her kids on Sunday mornings, and they’d all laugh, talk and joke over piles and piles of Cora’s pancakes.

This morning, Cora suggested she and Daniel eat outside, on the back porch. And as they poured their syrup and gazed out upon Cora’s field, do you know what happened?

They saw the skylark… fly away!

But... she wasn’t alone.

Behind her… flapping their tiny wings as fast as they possibly could… were three baby birds.

Daniel jumped up from his chair.

DANIEL: Well, whuddya know? You were right, Aunt Cora! I’m going to call my guys and have them come clear your field today! Right now!

CORA: No need to call them this minute, Daniel. It’s the weekend. Please, stay and enjoy your breakfast.

NARRATOR: Daniel hesitated, but then sat back down. He looked at his aunt with curiosity.

DANIEL: Aunt Cora… I have to ask. How did you know the skylark would eventually leave?

NARRATOR: Cora smiled.

CORA: Well, Daniel. It seemed to me that a creature willing to fight so hard to keep others away must be... protecting something. In this case... her children. It also seemed that… once the children were old enough to spread their wings and fly… she would do what she could to lead them to safety.

NARRATOR: Daniel reached over and gave Cora a huge hug.

Perhaps what he’d said before was true: maybe she didn’t know much about the landscaping business. But she certainly knew a heck of a lot about the parenting business. And maybe… just maybe… some day he would, too.

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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