'Circle Round' Spotlight: Babayan And The Magic Star

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(Roger Bowman, illustration for Babayan and the Magic Star)
(Roger Bowman, illustration for Babayan and the Magic Star)

Imagine, for a moment, a monster. What does your monster look like? And act like? Is your monster fierce or funny?  Scary or sweet?

In this episode we’ll hear the story of a monster named Babayan, and how he changed in ways he never thought possible!

Our story is called “Babayan and the Magic Star.” It’s written by Kiku Adatto, who told this story to her own children when they were growing up. "Babayan and the Magic Star" is part of an international storytelling initiative—The Babayan Story Project— designed to ignite children’s moral and artistic imaginations.

Voices in this episode include Nik Walker, Maurice Emmanuel Parent, Melinda Lopez, Liliana Adatto Ishida, Michael Sandel and Yo-Yo Ma. Yo-Yo is currently touring “The Bach Project” in four-dozen locations around the world. Michael Sandel teaches political philosophy at Harvard. Nik Walker is currently playing Aaron Burr in the Broadway national tour of Hamilton: An American Musical.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Kiku Adatto, Virginia Marshall and Circle Round’s founder, Jessica Alpert. This episode was produced by Katherine Brewer. Original music and sound design was by Matt Reed.

Musical Spotlight: Modular Synthesizer

(Matt Reed/WBUR)
(Matt Reed/WBUR)

Modular synthesizers have been around since the 1960s. Each synthesizer is unique. Many have lots of buttons, knobs, blinking lights and colorful cables that connect everything together to make the sounds you heard in this episode.

Story Transcript

NARRATOR: There once was a monster named Babayan. He was big and fierce with a mane like a mighty lion and the body of a giant bear. When he stood on his hind legs, he was extra tall—and he had an enormous appetite!

Day and night, Babayan would eat everything in sight! Sheep for breakfast, cows for lunch, and even the roof off your house for dinner! One thing he never ate? People! It just wasn’t his thing.

And it wasn’t just Babayan’s appetite that was mighty. His roar was even mightier! Babayan’s roar would make everyone run for their lives! So, you can probably guess, Babayan didn’t have any friends. He kept to himself, and as the years passed, he became grumpier and grumpier. He spent most of his days sitting in front of his big, dark cave, growling.

BABAYAN: Could those birds outside my cave be tweeting any louder? And those cows--they’ve been mooing nonstop all day. Hmmm… speaking of birds and cows, I’m hungry!

NARRATOR: While Babayan was trying to decide which to eat first—the birds or the cows—there was a sudden burst of light, and the next thing he knew, his feet lifted off the ground… and he was tossed high into the sky! Babayan shot through a cloud, and began to tumble farther and farther into space. He might have tumbled forever, but he reached for the edge of a star—and held on with all his strength.

BABAYAN: [Panting] What just happened? Where am I?

NARRATOR: Everything around him was cold and dark. The air was still. The earth looked far away. For the first time in his life, Babayan was scared. So he roared his mighty roar.

But nothing happened. Hours passed, or it could have been days. And still Babayan dangled from a star. All alone.

Then from the darkness came a shower of light and the Queen of the Stars appeared in a brilliant blue robe and a crown of sparkling stars.

QUEEN OF THE STARS:  Babayan, Babayan!

BABAYAN: How do you know my name?

QUEEN OF THE STARS: I’ve been watching you for some time now. Your mighty roar makes the ground shake and terrifies everyone. All you ever think about is what’s next for dinner.

NARRATOR: Babayan hung his head.

QUEEN OF THE STARS:  But I can see that you’re more than a monster. I see the good in you, and I believe you can change.

BABAYAN:  But, how? I don’t know how to be different.

NARRATOR: Babayan felt his paws slipping. His heart began to race.  Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to try….

BABAYAN: Uh, Ok!  I’ll try.

QUEEN OF THE STARS:  Good. I’ll help you return to earth, but you will not be the same. You’ll learn to be strong in new ways.

And if you ever need my help, I will come.

NARRATOR: And with those words the Queen of the Stars disappeared, and Babayan began to tumble back to earth. As he glided down, Babayan’s worried face grew calm, his rough fur fell away, and he grew a new and lighter coat. Babayan fell past the Equator, and landed in a soft pile of palm leaves right in the middle of a tropical kingdom.

When Babayan opened his eyes he didn’t know where he was. The sun was warm on his fur, and he looked around. The trees, flowers, and even the butterflies, looked larger than any he’d ever seen before.

BABAYAN: Wait. Have I gotten smaller? Or is everything just bigger around here?

NARRATOR: Then something caught Babayan’s eye. He looked toward the sea and saw fire rolling over the waves. He heard loud, ferocious roars. Sea dragons came charging toward the beach breathing smoke and fire.

Birds and beasts ran past Babayan, shouting, “Hurry, hurry to the hiding cave.”

But, Babayan didn’t want to hide. He ran to the water’s edge and he…roared!

NARRATOR: And the roar made the earth shake. Suddenly, the sea dragons’ scaly bodies trembled. They spun around, flipped their tails, and swam away.

Babayan didn’t know it, but the group of animals that had whizzed by him earlier were watching him now. They were glad the sea dragons were gone, but they didn’t know what to make of this new creature. Would he roar at them too? Or would he be a friend?

They decided that someone needed to go and investigate.  But, will anyone volunteer? Or will they be too afraid? We’ll find out….in a minute.


NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round, I’m Yo-Yo Ma.

When we left off, a monster named Babayan found himself on a mysterious island and had just scared away some sea dragons with his mighty roar. The other animals on the island didn’t know whether Babayan would be friendly or mean, and they needed a volunteer to check out the new visitor. Kookatu, a brave little parrot, raised a wing.

KOOKATU: Me! Me! Me! I can go!

NARRATOR: Kookatu flew to the highest part of a mango tree and watched Babayan as he was happily snacking on bananas and coconuts.

KOOKATU [Whispering to herself]: Wow is he big! He’s as tall as a young palm tree. He seems to like fruit, but what if [shuddering] he also likes to eat parrots?

KOOKATU [to herself]: Hmmm, he does have kind eyes.

NARRATOR: Before she could lose her courage, Kookatu flew down, and hovered right in front of Babayan’s face.

KOOKATU:  Hey! Are you gonna eat me?

BABAYAN: Nope. I’d rather eat fruit.

KOOKATU: Phew! That’s a relief!

NARRATOR: Kookatu called the other animals, who were poking their heads out of the cave.

KOOKATU: Come on out! He’s friendly!

NARRATOR: The animals made a circle around Babayan, and their wise leader stepped forward.

GRANDFATHER MONKEY: I’m Grandfather Monkey. Welcome to the Shayma Bayma Islands.

BABAYAN: The Shayma what?

GRANDFATHER MONKEY: The Shayma Bayma Islands! We are among the lost islands of the earth.  Life is peaceful here, but we do have trouble with invaders from time to time. Those sea dragons were a regular problem until you came along.

NARRATOR:  Babayan wasn’t used to getting compliments. The little bird had called him friendly. Now Grandfather Monkey was thanking him for chasing the sea dragons away.

GRANDFATHER MONKEY: May I ask your name and where you are from?

BABAYAN: I am Babayan. And, I just fell from a star.

GRANDFATHER MONKEY:  Well then, Babayan. Welcome to the Shayma Bayma Islands.

NARRATOR: Babayan repeated the name to himself—the Shayma Bayma Islands. He liked the sound of it. He looked at the animals gathered around him. They all looked so happy, and Babayan felt happy too. He no longer remembered his old home, or that he used to be a fierce monster.

Grandfather Monkey walked off by himself. He opened a special book that recorded how each creature came to the Shayma Bayma Islands. He came to the page with the title “Fell From a Star” and wrote…

GRANDFATHER MONKEY: “Babayan.” Now how do you spell that?


NARRATOR: The next day Kookatu, the spunky little parrot, took Babayan on a grand tour of the Shayma Bayma Islands. They passed the islands of the flying turtles and the golden kangaroos. Then they came to Big Cat Island. Lions, tigers, leopards, and pumas were lying on the ground and in the trees. Sometimes their wide mouths opened as they snored and their sharp teeth glistened. Kookatu darted from one big cat to another, looking at each sleeping face.

BABAYAN: Aren’t you afraid of being eaten?

KOOKATU: Eaten? Naw. We have a ‘no eating’ rule here. We gave up on the idea of predator and prey a long time ago.…

NARRATOR: Kookatu walked up to a blue puma and pecked him gently on his cheek. He looked back at Babayan.

KOOKATU: This is my friend Paw.

PAW: Kookatu, you’re always waking me up!

KOOKATU: Maybe because you’re always sleeping!! I want you to meet my new friend Babayan. He fell from a star and landed on Shayma Bayma yesterday.

NARRATOR: Paw woke up and stretched his back.

PAW: Hi there. Babayan is it?  Welcome.

BABAYAN: Thanks.

KOOKATU: Are you ready for an adventure?


PAW: I kinda wish it was a napping adventure.

KOOKATU: Oh c’mon Paw, let’s show Babayan around.

NARRATOR: Kookatu hopped on Babayan’s shoulder. As they splashed through the warm waters of the Shayma Bayma Sea Kookatu’s wings began quiver.

KOOKATU: The winds are shifting. Remember Grandfather Monkey’s warning. This is when the creatures from the Wild Islands stir.

NARRATOR: Babayan wanted to ask about the Wild Islands, but the shifting winds made his stomach churn and his shoulders tremble. He couldn’t explain the feeling---but he wanted to run and roar! But then Kookatu made him laugh—by hanging upside down in the air—and Babayan felt calm again.

After their grand tour of Shayma Bayma, Kookatu and Paw made a delicious tropical stew for Babayan with coconut pie for dessert. Babayan loved it! His stomach didn’t miss the sheep or the roofs of houses that he used to gobble up.

Later, Kookatu and Paw helped Babayan build a hut out of leaves and vines. Every day was a new adventure. Kookatu and Paw showed Babayan where to find the best shells and buried treasure.

But some nights, when the winds from the Wild Islands rustled through the palms, Babayan had strange dreams about playing hide and seek with monsters.

One night, after waking up from another bad dream, Babayan decided to confide in Grandfather Monkey.  He found him on the beach looking at the stars.

GRANDFATHER MONKEY: Hi, Babayan. Have a seat.

BABAYAN: Thanks, Grandfather Monkey.

GRANDFATHER MONKEY: You have a worried look on your face. Tell me what’s wrong?

BABAYAN: When I listen to the winds from the Wild Islands, it makes me feel troubled inside. What are the Wild Islands like? And why do they give me bad dreams?

GRANDFATHER MONKEY: That is something you’ll have to discover for yourself. Now you are ready to make the journey. We’ll help build you a boat. It has been many years since a member of our kingdom has sailed so far away.

NARRATOR: The next morning Babayan told his friends about his plan to go to the Wild Islands.

KOOKATU: Is this something you have to do, Babayan?

BABAYAN: Yes. I can’t explain it, but I really have to go.

KOOKATU: Well, then, we’ll just have to go with you!

PAW: We will?

BABAYAN: You don’t have to. . . It might be scary. It might be dangerous.

KOOKATU: With your mighty roar, I’m not worried.

PAW: Hey, roar or no roar. We’re not letting you go alone.

NARRATOR: When Babayan’s sailboat was completed, and the full moon was high in the sky, all the animals of Shayma Bayma gathered on the beach to watch Babayan and his friends set off on their journey.  As Babayan’s boat passed through the island kingdom, the big cats roared and the tall palms bowed.

For weeks the winds carried Babayan’s boat over the sea. Babayan and his friends played games on the deck and sipped water out of coconuts.

But one day, the air became still.  The sea grew wide and empty, and they began to drift. The tides moved in one direction and then another, but they never moved the boat closer to the Wild Islands.

Paw’s head drooped and so did his magnificent tail.

PAW: There are no clouds to shield us from the sun.

KOOKATU:  And at night the clouds are so thick, we can’t read the stars.

NARRATOR: Kookatu’s throat was so dry she could not even chirp.

KOOKATU: Let’s turn back.

NARRATOR: But the wind would not let them turn back. It pounded against the sails and drove the boat towards the dark horizon.

Babayan pulled his friends close to him. He knew that even though he was a mighty beast, his roar was not stronger than the wind and his arms were not stronger than the waves. Then he remembered the words of the Queen of the Stars: If you ever need my help, I will come.

BABAYAN: Queen of the Stars, help us. The waves are sinking our boat.

NARRATOR:  A flash of light appeared over the boat, and Babayan heard a kind, familiar voice.

QUEEN OF THE STARS: Babayan, I’m here.

NARRATOR: The Queen of the Stars formed a circle of light around Babayan’s boat, and it sailed calmly through the storm to the last island in the Shayma Bayma Kingdom. Just beyond were the Wild Islands. The Queen of the Stars lulled Babayan and his friends into a deep, enchanted sleep.

The next morning, Babayan, Kookatu, and Paw woke up in a quiet cove.

KOOKATU: Hey, let’s find a way to look at the Wild Islands.

NARRATOR: Kookatu was so excited she began to jump up and down on Babayan’s head.

BABAYAN: Why don’t you both stay and protect the boat. I will go up that mountain alone. From the top, I should be able to see everything.

PAW: Okay. We’ll wait for you.

KOOKATU: I’ll be the lookout.

NARRATOR: The climb was long, but Babayan kept going. He knew he would find what he was looking for if he could just see the Wild Islands. As Babayan approached the top of the mountain, he heard a familiar chirp behind him.

BABAYAN: Kookatu, Paw, what are you doing here?

KOOKATU: We followed you. We just had to.

NARRATOR: Then the ground began to shake and a burst of red and yellow flames shot up over the sea.

PAW: That’s the call of the volcanoes. It wakes up the creatures from the Wild Islands.

NARRATOR: The ground shook again. Kookatu hid behind Babayan, and Paw crouched low to the ground.

KOOKATU: Don’t let those creatures see you.

BABAYAN:  I’m not afraid.

NARRATOR:  With his friends following behind him, Babayan reached the top of the mountain. From there he could see the Wild Islands. Giant sea serpents guarded the waters. Dragons curled their tails around the emerald hills. Great predator birds circled over the sea.

Babayan looked out at the Wild Islands, and all of a sudden, he began to remember his past life. He saw a dark cave. He felt a cold wind. He heard a mighty roar. He remembered his old hunger for sheep.

BABAYAN: I was a wild monster once like those wild monsters on the other side of the sea.

NARRATOR: Babayan trembled. He put his head in his paws.

KOOKATU: What’s wrong, Babayan?

BABAYAN: It’s all coming back to me. I used to eat birds like you all the time! I used my roar to scare all kinds of innocent creatures.

KOOKATU: But Babayan, you’re a kind beast now, not a monster.

PAW: We couldn’t ask for a better friend.

NARRATOR: Babayan’s heart lifted. He realized how much he had changed. The winds from the Wild Islands would never trouble him again. With Kookatu and Paw by his side, he calmly walked back to the boat, and the three friends set sail.

As night fell, the boat rested in the water. A few stars sparkled between the clouds. Then the clouds began to part. Babayan, Kookatu and Paw looked up. The Queen of the Stars appeared, her kind eyes sparkling. She walked down toward the boat on a shimmering staircase.


BABAYAN: Here I am.

QUEEN OF THE STARS: You’re no longer the monster I once knew.

BABAYAN: I’ve learned that being big and strong is not enough. Friendship is a much stronger power. Thank you for seeing the goodness in me that no one else could see.

NARRATOR: As the Queen of the Stars turned toward Kookatu and Paw, tiny stars from her crown danced down Paw’s back and glided over Kookatu’s wings. Then she placed her hand on Babayan’s shoulder.

QUEEN OF THE STARS: Now the light of your star is inside you. Your eyes cannot see it, but it will guide you wherever you journey.

NARRATOR: Babayan felt a peacefulness in his mighty body that he had never felt before. He wanted to speak, but no words came. The Queen of the Stars smiled, and with a graceful bow of her head, she disappeared.

The sun rose above the sea. The wind filled the sails. Kookatu and Paw took their posts. Babayan lifted his arms in the air and did what he had always done when he was filled with feeling. He roared!

Except this time, it was a great, joyful roar that rolled and danced over the wave. Babayan and his friends followed the joyful roar all the way home.

Headshot of Katherine Brewer

Katherine Brewer Managing Producer, Podcasts & New Programs
Katherine Brewer is coordinating producer of podcasts and new programs at WBUR.



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