'The Chattering Clams' | Circle Round 75

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

Have you ever heard a rumor?

A rumor, basically, is gossip: a story about someone, or something, that gets passed from one person to another. And that story, by the way, isn’t necessarily true!

We’re about to meet some characters who love spreading rumors — until their tales come back to bite them!

Our story is called “The Chattering Clams.” It’s based on a Native American legend from the area we now know as Washington state, in the northwestern United States.

Voices in this episode include Elle Borders, Gamalia Pharms, Maizy Scarpa, Chris Tucci, Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas. Mindy and Guy are the hosts of "Wow in the World," the NPR podcast that encourages families to say “Wow!” about the amazing things happening in the world of science, technology and innovation.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn. Laney Ruckstuhl helped adapt this story for web.

ADULTS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on FacebookTwitterInstagram 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

The clams went around saying mean things about others behind their backs. So what if you do the opposite? Think of something nice you can say about someone. Then find that person, and tell them to their face. Chances are that face will light up with a smile!

Musical Spotlight: Balafon

(Courtesy of Modjou via Wikimedia Commons)
(Courtesy of Modjou via Wikimedia Commons)

Originally from West Africa, the balafon is the ancestor of the marimba, xylophone and vibraphone. This tuned percussion instrument usually has 16 to 27 keys made of very hard wood.

Beneath the keys are small gourds which vibrate and buzz to create a distinctive sound that’s both percussive and melodic — not unlike the clams in our story, who scuttle and click-clack around, while speaking with funny, sing-song voices.

Story Transcript

NARRATOR: Long ago, before people roamed the earth, animals ruled the planet.

Back then, all the animals talked. And the most talkative, chattery and chit-chatty of all of them were --

CLAM 1: (interrupting) Wait! It’s us, right?

CLAM 2: It’s totally us!

NARRATOR: As I was saying, the most talkative, chattery and chit-chatty of all were: the clams!

CLAM 3: (proudly) Ha! We knew it was us!

CLAM 4: We’re total chatterboxes!

CLAM 1: Or would it be chatter-shells!? Get it? Like ‘clam shells’ — so, ‘chatter-shells’?

CLAM 1/CLAM 2/CLAM 3/CLAM 4: (giddy laughter)

NARRATIVE: But back then, you wouldn’t find clams buried beneath the sandy beach or under the muddy bottom of the sea like you would today.

Instead, the clams walked around on two little feet sticking out of their shells.

And all day long, those shells clicked and clacked like crazy as the clams engaged in their favorite activity: spreading rumors.

Or starting them, really. The clams went around making up stories that simply were not true — just to cause trouble. For instance, one day Bear was heading to the river to catch fish when the clams scuttled his way.

CLAM 1: Hey, Bear! You’ll never guess what Elk said about you!

BEAR: (curious) Oh? What did she say?

CLAM 2: Well, we really shouldn’t tell. But since you asked…

CLAM 3: ...we heard her say she can run way faster than you can.

BEAR: (suspicious) She did?

CLAM 4: Yeah! She said that if you two ran a race…

CLAM 1: could bear-ly keep up with her!

CLAM 1/CLAM 2/CLAM 3/CLAM 4: (giddy laughter)

BEAR: (growling)

NARRATOR: Then there was the time Frog was settling down on her lily pad, gearing up for a long night of croaking.

FROG: (ribbiting)

CLAM 1: Good evening, Frog. Nice croaking!

FROG: (proud) Why, thank you!

CLAM 2: Yeah! Really nice croaking! You know — we have no idea why anyone would say it’s “annoying."

FROG: (surprised) Wait — somebody called my croaking ‘annoying’?

CLAM 3: (coy) Well, Owl stays up all night, you know!

CLAM 4: And even if she did call you ‘annoying’...

CLAM 1: ...why should you give a hoot what she thinks?

CLAM 1/CLAM 2/CLAM 3/CLAM 4: (giddy laughter)

FROG: (upset/hurt) Ribbit!

NARRATOR: Bear, Elk, Frog and Owl had been friends. But thanks to the clams, they stopped speaking. They stopped hanging out. In fact, they started avoiding one another altogether! All because of the clams’ vicious rumors.

Now, there was one animal who kept his head down and stayed out of the fray. And once he learned what was going on — boy, those clams were in for a big surprise!


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

When we left off, the chattery, rumor-spreading clams had turned all the animals against each other. Well, all of them but one: Beaver.

BEAVER: That’s me!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta get back to work.

NARRATOR: We’ve all heard the expression, “busy as a Beaver,” right? Well, it’s no joke!

Beaver slept all day, but come night, he got to work! He started by chopping down a tree. He stood upright, gnawing the trunk with his teeth and using his long, flat tail as a kind of kickstand to hold him up.

Then he dragged the tree to the river to build — sorry, what’s it called again, Beaver?

BEAVER: A dam! Now, like I said, I really need to get back to work!

NARRATOR: Of course you do! Get to it!

A beaver dam is basically a plug that slows down the flow of a river. As a result, a new pond forms within that river! And in the middle of that new pond, Beaver used mud and stones and wood to construct his home, which is also known as — remind us what it is, Beaver?

BEAVER: A lodge! Now, seriously, I really need --

NARRATOR: get back to work. I know, I know. Thank you for your time.

Now, here’s a really cool thing about Beaver’s dams and lodges. When Beaver did his work, Elk got to nibble all the bark and branches on the fallen trees! Owl used those same trees as a safe place to nest. Frog laid her eggs in the nice, shallow pond the dam created. And Bear used the pond to catch fish who’d paused in the still water to rest.

But at some point, Beaver noticed he hadn’t seen any of his friends in quite a while.

BEAVER: This is weird! I’ve got all these nice fallen trees for Elk and Owl. I’ve got this lovely shallow pond for Frog and Bear. But nobody’s come around to the river lately! What’s going on?

NARRATOR: Well, we know what was going on, right? Clams’ vicious rumors had torn apart their friendships, and now Elk, Owl, Frog and Bear were steering clear of one another.

The one place they knew they’d run into each other was near Beaver’s dam. So, they began avoiding the river.

But Beaver had been so busy working, he didn’t know that.

BEAVER: Boy. I sure do miss everybody. I wish I knew why they’re staying away!

CLAM 1: (coy) Maybe they don’t like you anymore!

NARRATOR: Beaver spun around. Guess who was skittering toward him.

That’s right: The clams!

BEAVER: Wait — what are you talking about?

CLAM 2: We’re just saying, maybe the other animals are done with you!


CLAM 3: Well, you are pretty anti-social, Beaver.

CLAM 4: Sleeping all day, working all night.

BEAVER: But that’s how I operate! You know the expression “busy as a beaver”?

CLAM 1: Well, we also know the expression “busy as a bee”.

CLAM 2: And it looks like your friends have made like a bee…

CLAM 3: ...and buzzed off!

CLAM 1/CLAM 2/CLAM 3/CLAM 4: (giddy laughter)

NARRATOR: As the clams scurried away, Beaver was more confused than ever.

BEAVER: The other animals know I’m too busy to chit-chat, right? Are they really angry with me?

NARRATOR: Now, in addition to “busy as a beaver,” there’s another expression we use when talking about beavers.

Has anyone ever called you an “eager beaver”? Well, Beaver was eager to learn if what the clams said was true. Instead of getting angry at his fellow animals, or avoiding them, he sent each one of them a message, and asked them to meet him by the river at sunset.

When Bear, Elk, Frog and Owl arrived, Beaver noticed they seemed uncomfortable. The usually friendly creatures weren’t talking, or even making eye contact.

BEAVER: (suddenly sheepish) Hey, everyone. Thanks for meeting me here. But based on your behavior, I’m going to assume that the clams were right and you’re all mad at me.

NARRATOR: Bear, Elk, Frog and Owl were confused.

BEAR: Mad at you?

ELK: The clams told you that?

FROG: Why would we be mad?

OWL: We don’t know what we’d do without you!

NARRATOR: Now Beaver was confused.

BEAVER: But — why have you all been staying away from the river, then? The clams said it’s because you don’t like me anymore!

BEAR: Well, I’ve been staying away because Elk doesn’t like me.

FROG: And I’ve been staying away because Owl doesn’t like me!

ELK: Wait, what?

OWL: Whooo said that?

ELK: I thought you didn’t like me!

OWL: And I thought you didn’t like me!

[the lines that follow are layered beneath the narration, to comprise the “squabbling”]

BEAR: What?! Come on! I heard what you told the clams, and it just isn’t fair. It doesn’t matter which one of us runs faster! So if you’re going to treat me that way, then I’m going to stay away from you. Our friendship is over. Kaput!

FROG: Hey! Don’t play dumb, Owl! The clams told me how much you despise my croaking, so I’ve been avoiding you. Why in the world would I want to hang out with someone who thinks so little of me? That’s just not nice at all!

ELK: Well, you started avoiding me, not even giving me the time of day, and I couldn’t understand it! So, I started avoiding you! I figured, if you’re going to give me the cold shoulder, then two can play at that game. Yes, indeedy!

OWL: This is absurd! You began giving me all those dirty looks when we were out at night, and I had no idea what was going on! So I fought back with more dirty looks! Then you totally disappeared on me, so I disappeared on you! I don’t need to be treated that way!

NARRATOR: The animals began squabbling over who said what, and what said who. Meanwhile, Beaver stood off to the side, his flat tail softly thumping as his eager mind engineered a plan.


BEAVER: Enough!

[squabbling comes to a stop]

NARRATOR: ...he spoke up.

BEAVER: Listen, everybody! I think it’s clear what all these arguments have in common — the clams! The clams are making up stories about us, and tearing our friendships apart. We have to stop them! And I believe we can, if we work together.

You with me?

NARRATOR: At first, the other animals eyed each other suspiciously, then sheepishly. But then…

BEAR: Count me in!

ELK: Roger that!

FROG: I’ll help, Beaver!

OWL: Me too!

BEAVER: Alrighty, then! Listen up. Here’s the plan...

NARRATOR: The animals went into a huddle. When they came out of it, they were grinning from ear to ear.

BEAVER: Okay, everybody. You know what to do. See you tomorrow!

NARRATOR: The next day, as the sun was setting, Bear and Elk met at the river. Just as they’d hoped, the clams immediately scampered over, their shells clicking and clacking away.

CLAM 1: (trying to cause trouble) Wait — so you two have made up?

CLAM 2: You’re friends again?

CLAM 3: Even after all the awful things Elk said?

CLAM 4: And the horrible way Bear handled it?

NARRATOR: Bear and Elk exchanged a look.

BEAR: Actually, yes.

ELK: We’re friends again.

BEAR: But you know who we’re not friends with?

ELK: Little creatures who are much smaller than us…

BEAR: ...who we could easily eat for dinner!

NARRATOR: The clams let out a collective squeal…

CLAM 1/CLAM 2/CLAM 3/CLAM 4: Eeeeeek!

NARRATOR: … as Bear and Elk took off after them. The clams ran and ran on their tiny legs as Bear and Elk chased them away from the river and through the forest.

And who should be waiting for them at the forest’s edge but Owl. She flashed Bear and Elk a smile.

OWL: I’ll take it from here, friends!

NARRATOR: Then she gathered the clams up in her talons, and soared up...

CLAM 1/CLAM 2/CLAM 3/CLAM 4: Woah!

NARRATOR: ...and up…

CLAM 1/CLAM 2/CLAM 3/CLAM 4: Ahhhh!

NARRATOR: ...and up…

CLAM 1/CLAM 2/CLAM 3/CLAM 4: Yowwwww!

NARRATOR: ...and all the way to the ocean! When she reached the seaside, she dropped the clams onto the beach… one by one.

CLAM 1: Oo!

CLAM 2: Ah!

CLAM 3: Eee!

CLAM 4: Oh!

NARRATOR: The clams were scattered all over the shore. And before they could move, um, a ‘mussel’ — who should come hopping along but Frog!

FROG: Thanks for the delivery, Owl! I’ve got this!

NARRATOR: Frog began leaping around the shore. Every time she reached a clam, she would jump on top of it...

CLAM 1: Agh!

NARRATOR: ...and use her weight to smush it down in the sand.

CLAM 2: Bffff!

NARRATOR: Finally…

BEAVER: You rocked that one, Frog!

NARRATOR: was Beaver’s turn.

BEAVER: Now I’ll finish this job!

NARRATOR: Beaver raced from clam to clam. He used his long, flat tail…

BEAVER: (smacks tail) A-ha!

NARRATOR: …to smack each clam even further beneath the shore.

BEAVER: (still smacking) A-ha! A-ha! Aaaaa-ha!

NARRATOR: Soon, all the clams were buried deep beneath the sand.

BEAVER: That’s the last we’ll hear of your mean-spirited stories, clams!

NARRATOR: And, it was.

That’s why, today, if you walk along the beach, you might see little spurts of water, squirting up around your feet.

Those are the clams spitting out the sand and seawater they’ve swallowed while trying to spread their spiteful tales.

This is the license for the image courtesy of Modjou via Wikimedia Commons.

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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