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When’s the last time you worked hard on something?
Maybe you spent all morning making breakfast-in-bed for a grown-up, you practiced and practiced to get all the way across the monkey bars, or you learned how to tie your own shoes.
In today’s story, we’ll meet a fellow who’s not a fan of hard work — at all. Until he meets a magical creature who helps him sing a different tune!
Our story is called “Lazy Jack and the Leprechaun.” Versions of this tale come from Ireland: an island nation on the westernmost edge of Europe.
Voices in this episode include A.J. Buckley and Euan Morton. Grown-ups, you might recognize A.J. Buckley from "SEAL Team" on CBS. And theater lovers, Euan Morton is playing King George in the Broadway production of "Hamilton." (And fun fact: Euan is father to another actor you’ve heard on Circle Round! Click here and listen to Iain Armitage star in “The Most Powerful Of All.”)
This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir and edited by Katherine Brewer. Original music and sound design by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn. Circle Round’s founder is Jessica Alpert.
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
Think about a time you persisted: a time when you kept going, even when things seemed impossible!
Maybe you were setting out to read a book all by yourself for the first time. Perhaps you were determined to ride that two-wheeled bike. Maybe you were trying really hard to get along with a sibling!
Now, find a grown-up and tell them what it felt like to persist — to challenge yourself and keep on going. Then, ask them about a time they persisted. In the end, maybe both of you reached your goal, maybe you’re both still working on it. But either way, you were brave enough to try.
Musical Spotlight: Irish Flute
If you’ve listened to traditional Irish folk music, you’ll recognize the pure, mellow notes of this three-piece wooden instrument. Unlike classical flutes, where you press keys to change notes, the Irish flute has open holes. To change notes, you cover up certain holes with your fingers -- not unlike the recorder you might learn to play in music class at school!
NARRATOR: Some time ago… on a small farm in Ireland... there lived a young man named Jack.
Jack’s parents worked hard growing pumpkins and squash, carrots and turnips.
But Jack… did not.
Oh, he’d tag along in the fields as Ma and Dad planted and tilled and dug… but rarely did he join in and help. In fact, more often than not, Jack didn’t even bring anything to plant or till or dig with!
JACK: (totally lying) Whoops! Looks like I forgot the ol’ spade again! Whatever was I thinking? Guess I won’t be of much use today...
NARRATOR: So... instead of working... Jack spent his days loafing, lounging and lazing in the fields. Sometimes, he’d plop down and take a nap. Other times, he’d stick his hands in his pockets… wander up and down the rows of vegetables… and daydream.
And that’s exactly what Jack was doing one morning when he heard something...
[tap-tap-tapping, continue throughout]
JACK: (curious) Hmm. I’ve never heard a sound like that out here in the fields! Where could that tapping be coming from?
NARRATOR: Overcome with curiosity, Jack cupped his hand to his ear, and began following the sound toward the far end of the vegetable fields.
As Jack stepped over row after row of pumpkins and squash, carrots and turnips, the tapping grew louder.
Now, Jack wasn’t stepping over the vegetables; he was leaping over them! Faster and faster and faster, until…?
JACK: (ad-lib gasp/expression of surprise and wonder) Woah!
NARRATOR: … he discovered where the tapping was coming from.
...Or, rather, who!
On the far end of the vegetable fields… in the shade of a pumpkin vine... what did Jack spot but a wee little man wearing a wee leather apron and using a wee metal hammer to tap-tap-tap away… at the sole of a wee brown shoe.
JACK: (wonder) Wow! A leprechaun!
NARRATOR: A leprechaun, you may know, is a kind of Irish fairy. He’s famous for mischief and trickery… and for the pots of gold he keeps hidden away.
As you may also know, if you catch a leprechaun and ask him where he’s buried his gold… he has no choice but to tell you.
But what you may not know is that the leprechaun isn’t just a trickster. He’s a cobbler — a shoemaker — for all of the fairies!
The leprechaun Jack spotted was wearing high-heeled shoes with shiny silver buckles. His three-cornered hat was cocked to one side, and his tiny nose was as red as his crimson coat. Because, you see, something else you may not know about leprechauns: traditionally, they didn’t wear green. They wore red!
JACK: (to himself, so Leprechaun won’t hear) Oh, oh, oh! I can hardly believe my luck! Everyone knows if you see a leprechaun, he’s got a pot of gold tucked away somewhere! But be careful, Jack. They say if you take your eyes off the leprechaun — even for a second — the little fellow will vanish in a flash!
NARRATOR: So Jack fixed his gaze on the leprechaun, cleared his throat, and smiled.
JACK: Well! How’s it going there, neighbor?
NARRATOR: The leprechaun put down his hammer and glanced up at Jack.
LEPRECHAUN: Grand, thank you kindly.
NARRATOR: Then he lowered his miniature head and went back to his cobbling. Jack, meanwhile, continued to stare at the leprechaun, like a cat stares at a mouse. He was determined to get that gold!
JACK: Say! That’s a mighty fine shoe you’re cobbling there!
NARRATOR: Again, the leprechaun put down his hammer. But this time, when he lifted his head… he frowned.
LEPRECHAUN: You know, instead of pestering me, young man, you ought to be going home to fetch your spade! And helping your Ma and Dad in the fields! While you’re idling away your time here, your folks are roasting in the sweltering sun. Why, I can see their sweat dripping from here!
NARRATOR: Jack started to turn his head.
JACK: Really?!? You can see my parents all the way from over here...??? (realizing he’s being tricked) Wait a minute! You just want me to look away so that you can dash off! And not have to give me your gold!
LEPRECHAUN: ‘My gold’? And what, may I ask, would a young lad like you want with my gold?
JACK: (laughs) “What would I want with your gold”?!? I know how rich you leprechauns are! If all that treasure were mine, I’d never have to work another day of my life! I could give up this boring, back-breaking farming stuff and do as I please. Sleep as much as I want, eat as much as I want, and have nothing but fun all the while! My fortune would be made!
NARRATOR: The leprechaun was quiet for a moment. Then, he put down his hammer and shoe, wiped his hands on his apron, and nodded his tiny head.
LEPRECHAUN: Ahhhhh, I see. So, you think your “fortune would be made,” would it? What if I told you my treasure is far more trouble than it’s worth to a fellow like you?
JACK: (scoffing) I’d say you’re mad as a box of frogs! There’s no “trouble” in being rich as a king! All my “troubles” would go away! Starting… now!
NARRATOR: With a gleam in his eye, Jack reached down and scooped the leprechaun into his hand. At first, the tiny shoemaker squirmed, trying to break free… but then he stopped moving and hung his head.
LEPRECHAUN: (pretending to be resigned) Well, now you’ve got me. And I have no choice but to take you to my gold. But I hope you’re wearing your walking boots. We have quite a journey ahead!
NARRATOR: What do you think will happen next?
Is Jack’s ‘fortune really made’…?
Or does the leprechaun have another trick up his bright red sleeve?
We’ll find out, after a quick break.
NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “Lazy Jack and the Leprechaun.”
When we left off, a fellow named Jack had captured… a leprechaun!
Jack should have been working that morning, helping his parents plant and till and dig their vegetables. But Jack was a real lazybones. And that day… as usual… he didn’t even bring a spade to the fields. Instead, he was daydreaming among the pumpkins and squash, carrots and turnips when he heard a mysterious tapping sound.
Jack set out to investigate… and soon discovered a wee little man cobbling a wee brown shoe.
It was, of course, a leprechaun!
Legend has it that where there’s a leprechaun… there’s gold. And if you catch him, he has to tell you where the treasure is.
So, as Jack clutched the itsy-bitsy shoemaker in his hand, the pint-sized fellow told Jack he would take him to the gold. As they walked, the leprechaun called out command...
LEPRECHAUN: Up over this hill now!
NARRATOR: ...after command…
LEPRECHAUN: Through this bog!
NARRATOR: ...after command!
LEPRECHAUN: Across this ditch, then along this hedge!
NARRATOR: Jack did his best to keep up…
LEPRECHAUN: Turn left!
LEPRECHAUN: Turn right!
NARRATOR: ...the poor fellow was tired!
LEPRECHAUN: No, no! Your other right!
JACK: (exhausted) I’m sorry, but we’ve been walking for ages and I’m pure knackered! I don’t know how much farther I can go!
LEPRECHAUN: You do want that gold, don’t you?
JACK: I do! You know I do!
LEPRECHAUN: Then keep walking! We’re almost there!
NARRATOR: Jack stumbled over his own two boots as he followed the leprechaun’s orders. Eventually, they reached a field bursting with delicate white flowers. Each five-petaled blossom grew from a tall, slender stem; the blooms stretched all the way to the horizon.
The graceful flowers were known as “Fairy Flax.” Visit certain parts of Ireland in the summer, and you can see them for yourself!
LEPRECHAUN: Alright, young man! We have arrived!
JACK: (tired, out of breath) This is where your gold is hidden? In this field of flowers?
LEPRECHAUN: Aye! It is! Under this very flower right here.
NARRATOR: The leprechaun pointed a teeny finger at one of the elegant white blossoms.
LEPRECHAUN: But... here’s the thing. I’ve buried the gold very deep beneath the ground — very! So you’d best get digging!
NARRATOR: Jack gawked at the flower. He didn’t move.
LEPRECHAUN: Well? What are you waiting for? Get to it! Now!
NARRATOR: Jack’s face crumpled.
JACK: But I have no spade! How can I “get to it” without a spade?
NARRATOR: The leprechaun shrugged.
LEPRECHAUN: Well, you can always go fetch one from home, can’t you?
JACK: I can… but when I return, I’ll be lost! There’s Fairy Flax growing as far as the eye can see! And each plant looks just like the other! How will I know which flower has the treasure buried beneath it?
NARRATOR: The leprechaun sighed.
LEPRECHAUN: I was right, then. My treasure really is far more trouble than it’s worth to a fellow like you.
JACK: No, no! It’s no trouble at all! I’ll think of something!
NARRATOR: Jack stared at the ground, furrowing his brow and racking his brain for a solution. Just then, he caught a glance… at his boots.
NARRATOR: The boots were brown, with bright red laces. Both boots were spattered with mud and muck from all the traipsing through ditches and bogs. And on the right boot… the shoelace had come untied.
JACK: (a-ha!) That’s it! I’ll take my red shoelace and tie it around the stem of the white flower. That way, I’m sure to see it when I come back with my spade!
LEPRECHAUN: Well, there’s a plan!
JACK: And a mighty fine one, if I do say so myself!
NARRATOR: Jack reached down to pull the lace off his right boot. Then he remembered: one of his hands was clutching a leprechaun!
JACK: Alright. I need two hands for this job, so I’m letting you go now. But before I do, promise me: you won’t run off with the gold while I’m away… and once I tie this shoelace to the Fairy Flax, you won’t touch it!
NARRATOR: The leprechaun grinned.
LEPRECHAUN: What do I need with your shoelace? I’m a cobbler to the fairies! I have thousands of shoelaces! Millions, even!
JACK: (confident) Good. And you won’t touch my gold, either?
LEPRECHAUN: You have my word. Now, may I kindly have my freedom?
JACK: You may. And good luck to you.
NARRATOR: The leprechaun arched an eyebrow.
LEPRECHAUN: Good luck to you, too, young man. May your fortune truly be made.
NARRATOR: Then, quick as a wink, the tiny shoemaker disappeared.
Jack scurried to tie his shoelace around the Fairy Flax stem. Then, as swiftly as his tired legs would go, he raced home. Along the way, he took note of every hill, bog, ditch and hedge, so he could find his way back to the field of Fairy Flax.
Once Jack reached his family’s farm, he dashed into the barn and grabbed a spade. The sun was setting by the time he returned to the flowers, but in the dimming light, he found he was able to spot a bright red shoelace!
NARRATOR: And another…
NARRATOR: And another!
NARRATOR: Suddenly, Jack realized he was able to spot “thousands of shoelaces. Millions, even!”
JACK: Oh my!
NARRATOR: Because tied around every single stem of every single Fairy Flax blossom… was a red shoelace. For as far as the eye could see.
And can you guess which wee little trickster put them there?
JACK: The leprechaun!!!!
NARRATOR: Now, given what you know about Jack — and his habit of loafing, lounging and lazing — you probably think he gave right up and trudged back home, right?
Well, guess what? That’s not what happened!
JACK: No use grumblin’, Jack. You’ve gotten this far. Let’s get digging! Hmm. I think this was the flower where the leprechaun’s gold is buried…?
NARRATOR: Jack plunged his spade into the earth. But all he turned up was a clump of dirt.
JACK: Hmm. Maybe this flower, then...?
NARRATOR: But again…
JACK: (ad-lib sound of frustrated disappointment) Gah!
NARRATOR: ...no gold.
NARRATOR: Jack dug to the east. He dug to the west. He dug to the north and south.
By the time the sun came up, he had dug at least a-thousand holes! And for a loafer like Jack, that was a thousand more holes than he’d ever dug in his entire life!
You know what, though?
He enjoyed it!
He enjoyed the heft of the spade in his hands… the satisfying crunch of the earth as the blade broke through the ground.
Finally, Jack gave up on finding the leprechaun’s treasure. And do you know what he did instead?
He spent the rest of the day re-planting all the Fairy Flax he’d dug up… making sure each and every delicate white blossom was back in its rightful place.
When he returned to his family’s farm, he apologized to his parents for all the years he’d spent loafing, lounging and lazing in the fields. He promised that from this day forward, he’d do his share to help with the pumpkins and squash, carrots and turnips.
And... he did.
Soon, the family’s fields were bursting with more crops than they ever had before.
And after all his hard work and effort, Jack was bursting with more pride than he ever had before.
So in a way, Jack was right.
Thanks to the leprechaun, his fortune was made.
Just not in the way he expected.
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