'The Fire On The Other Side Of The World' | Circle Round 76

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

Think about a time you faced a challenge.

Did you think you would overcome that challenge? Or did your faith in yourself start to slip a little?

Well, we’re about to meet a tiny character who believes in herself, big time… even when others don’t.

Our story is called “The Fire On The Other Side Of The World.” Versions of this tale come from the Cherokee people: Native Americans who originally lived in the southeastern woodlands of the United States.

Voices in this episode include Amy Brentano, Maurice Emmanuel Parent, Chris Tucci and Yeardley Smith. Yeardley plays Lisa Simpson in the FOX animated series, The Simpsons, now in its 31st season. And for you grown-ups who adore those true-crime podcasts, Yeardley hosts and produces a fascinating podcast about private investigators in Small Town, USA.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Virginia Marshall. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

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

Think about a task you’d like to accomplish. Then find a grown-up and talk with them about what you’d like to do, and how you’ll make it happen. Be as creative as you can... just like our itsy-bitsy, pottery-making spider!

Musical Spotlight: Native American Drone Flute

(Eric Shimelonis for WBUR)
(Eric Shimelonis for WBUR)

In a way, playing the Native American drone flute is like having your own choir: because of its two wooden tubes, the flute plays two notes at the same time! One side of the flute plays the melody, while the other plays a constant note (or “drone”). Traditionally, Native American peoples have played the flute as accompaniment in spiritual rituals and meditation. In our episode, we use it to accompany action and adventure!

Story Transcript

NARRATOR: Long ago… the world was a cold, dark place. There was no sun… no stars… no light or fire whatsoever.

Back in those early times, animals ruled the earth… and the poor creatures were always stumbling around, unable to see where they were going in the chilly, inky blackness.

One day… or was it night?... the chief of the animals — Raven — glided down from the sky… and made an announcement.

RAVEN: My friends! You’re not going to believe this, but... I’ve found it!

NARRATOR: The animals stared at Raven — or tried to stare at Raven, because, well, they were surrounded by darkness and couldn’t really tell what they were looking at. The first to speak… was Possum.

POSSUM: Um, that’s great, Raven... But, what are you talking about? What have you ‘found’?

NARRATOR: Raven blinked her round, black eyes... and smiled.

RAVEN: ‘What have I found?’ (coy, proud) Oh… you know… just a little something called... light! And heat!

NARRATOR: The animals gasped. Buzzard fluttered his long, broad wings.

BUZZARD: Aw, surely you’re joking, Raven! Everyone knows the world is dark as a dungeon! Cold as one, too!

RAVEN: I know! But it doesn’t have to be that way! Not anymore! (beat) You see, today I flew way, way up in the sky… higher than I’ve ever flown before. And when I did, I saw something strange on the other side of the world. It was hot… and bright... and glorious! It’s called… fire!

POSSUM: / BUZZARD: “Fire”!?!!!!

RAVEN: Yes! (beat) And as I swooped down toward that fire, it got so hot, and so bright, I had to turn around! But maybe one of you can go to the other side of the world… and bring back some fire! Whuddya say?

NARRATOR: The animals were quiet for a moment. Just then, a small voice piped up...

SPIDER: I’ll do it! 

NARRATOR: ...but the voice was so small... nobody heard it!

RAVEN: Oh, come on, folks! Surely one of you can try!

NARRATOR: Again, the small voice cried out...

SPIDER: I saidI’ll do it!

NARRATOR: ...but again, nobody heard.

RAVEN: Alright, if no one will volunteer themselves, I’ll pick someone. Possum! You’re a clever fellow. Can you bring us fire from the other side of the world?

NARRATOR: Possum wiggled his pointy snout.

POSSUM: Well… I suppose I could give it a go!

RAVEN: That’s the spirit!

NARRATOR: So Possum took a deep breath, and waddled his way to the other side of the world. And what did he see when he got there...

POSSUM: Oooooh!

NARRATOR: ...but a blazing ball of red and orange and yellow!

POSSUM: (mesmerized) Fire!!

NARRATOR: The roaring, crackling flames were so hot, Possum began to worry about how he would transport any of them back home.

POSSUM: Hmmm… what to do, what to do... (a-ha moment) I know! I’ll grab one of the flames and carry it in my furry, bushy tail!

NARRATOR: Now, if you’ve ever seen a possum, you know their tails aren’t “furry” or “bushy” at all, right? They’re skinny and pink!

But back when our story takes place… Possum’s tail was covered with thick, fluffy fur. Thick, fluffy fur that was… the moment he tucked some fire into it... slowly getting sizzled.

But Possum didn’t notice. And by the time he returned to the other side of the world…

POSSUM: Here I am, folks!

NARRATOR: ...the fire he’d tucked into his tail had gone out.

RAVEN: Possum! Where’s the fire?

BUZZARD: And what’s that... smell?

NARRATOR: Possum reached back and grabbed his tail. That’s when he realized the fire was gone… and his tail was no longer fluffy or bushy. It was bare! And pink! The smell Buzzard was talking about was burnt fur!

Raven sighed.

RAVEN: Well, thanks for taking a crack at it, Possum. (beat) Anyone else want to try and capture some fire?

SPIDER: Me, me, me!

NARRATOR: There was that tiny voice again! But, just as before…

RAVEN: No takers? Really?

NARRATOR: ...nobody heard it.

RAVEN: Fine. I’ll choose someone else. (beat) Buzzard! What about you? You can fly far... and fast! Will you bring back fire from the other side of the world?

NARRATOR: Buzzard snapped his hooked beak.

BUZZARD: Well… I suppose I could give it a shot!

RAVEN: Attaboy!

NARRATOR: So Buzzard flapped his wings, and soared to the other side of the world.

BUZZARD: Yikes, this fire is hot! How in the world will I bring it home? (beat, a-ha moment) I know! I’ll snatch one of the flames and stash it inside the long, lovely feathers on my head!

NARRATOR: Now, if you’ve ever seen a buzzard, you know their heads don’t have long, lovely feathers on top. In fact, their bald, dark heads don’t have any feathers at all!

But back when our story takes place, Buzzard’s head was covered with a thick, glossy tuft of plumage. A thick, glossy tuft of plumage that... the moment he stuffed fire into it… was getting scorched.

But Buzzard didn’t notice. And by the time he returned to the other side of the world…

BUZZARD: Ta-da!!!

NARRATOR: ...the fire on his head had gone out.

RAVEN: Buzzard! What did you do with the fire?

POSSUM: And why do I smell something weird?

NARRATOR: Buzzard stretched out a wing and tapped his head. That’s when he realized the fire was gone… and it had singed off all of his long, lovely feathers! And now his dark head was completely bald!

Raven shrugged.

RAVEN: Well, Buzzard, thanks for giving it a whirl. (beat) I hate to say it, folks… but maybe we should just give up.

NARRATOR: Yet again…

SPIDER: No, no, no!

NARRATOR: ...the small voice chirped out. And, yet again…

POSSUM: Raven’s right.

BUZZARD: We should give up!

NARRATOR: ...nobody heard it.

RAVEN: I mean, look, we’ve done what we can, right? It’s obvious that this fire is just too hot for any of us to possibly --

SPIDER: (fed up, more loudly/forcefully) Oh, for crying out loud!!!

NARRATOR: Raven cocked her head.

RAVEN: I’m sorry… did somebody say something?

SPIDER: Yes, somebody said something! I’ve been ‘saying something’ all along! (beat) I’ve been saying that I’ll go and bring back the fire! Me!

NARRATOR: Raven realized the tiny voice was coming from somewhere close to the ground. She stooped down as far as she could, until her beak got caught in something stringy and sticky.

RAVEN: (ad-lib reaction to getting caught in spider web) Blech! Yech! Yuck!

NARRATOR: That’s when Raven realized exactly whose voice she’d been hearing. But this teeny-tiny critter couldn’t bring back fire from the other side of the world… Could she…?

Which animal do you think Raven finally heard?

We’ll find out who it is, after a quick break.


NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to Circle Round. Today our story is called “The Fire On the Other Side of the World.”

When we left off, the animals were trying to bring back fire from the other side of the world.

Possum tried… but he burnt the fur off his big, bushy tail and was left with a bare, pink one.

Buzzard tried… but he scorched all of his long, lovely head feathers, and became bald.

Then, Raven… the chief of the animals… heard a voice. A wee little voice that had been trying to pipe up all along. When Raven bent down to hear better, her beak got caught in a stringy, sticky web!

RAVEN: (realizing who it is) Ohhhh! Spider! Is that you? I’m sorry! You’re so small, none of us heard you talking!

SPIDER: I know! But now that I have your attention, I’m telling you -- I’m the one who can bring back fire from the other side of the world.

NARRATOR: For a moment, everyone was silent. Then, Possum and Buzzard burst out laughing.

POSSUM: (laughing) That’s hilarious, Spider! You’re so small! And weak!

BUZZARD: (laughing) You really think you can succeed where we big, strong animals failed?

NARRATOR: Spider crossed her arms. All eight of them.

SPIDER: Actually, yes! I can succeed. I know I can. (beat) Just you wait.

NARRATOR: Unlike the animals before her, Spider didn’t leave for her journey right away. Instead, she crawled over to the river, where she reached into the earth and dug up some wet clay. Then she molded the clay into a small pot with thick walls. She dropped a twig inside, and covered the pot with a snug clay lid.

Next, Spider spun a web that reached all the way to the other side of the world. Strand by strand, she crept over to where the fire was, with the moist clay pot balanced on her back.

As Spider inched forward, the air sucked the moisture out of the clay pot. By the time Spider spotted the red, orange and yellow flames, the pot on her back was nice and dry. Spider removed the pot’s lid and gazed at the fire.

SPIDER: (sincere) Mighty Fire... I thank you for your glorious light, and your wonderful heat. With your permission, may I please have one humble flame to place in my clay pot?

NARRATOR: Just then, a tiny flame leapt from the blaze. It landed in Spider’s clay pot… and set the twig inside on fire!

SPIDER: Yes!!!

NARRATOR: Spider dropped the lid over the pot and climbed her web back home. As she traveled, the burning twig kept the fire in the clay pot going… and the fire cooked the pot until it was solid and strong.

SPIDER: Well, everyone! I’m back!

NARRATOR: Possum and Buzzard rolled their eyes.

POSSUM: Sure, she’s back, but where’s the fire?

BUZZARD: I told you she was too puny to succeed!

SPIDER: Oh, on the contrary!

NARRATOR: Spider removed the clay pot from her back and lifted up the lid. Immediately, all the animals were bathed in light and heat.

For the first time ever, Raven could see her friends clearly. She gazed into Spider’s eyes. All eight of them.

RAVEN: You did it, Spider! You brought back fire from the other side of the world!

NARRATOR: Through the flickering flames, Possum and Buzzard smiled... sheepishly.

POSSUM: (sheepish) Way to go, Spider!

BUZZARD: (sheepish) Sorry we doubted you.

SPIDER: Well, the important thing is that I never doubted myself! (beat) But listen… if we’re going to make this fire last, I need your help, friends. Quick as you can, please fetch me some dry wood! Leaves, too!

NARRATOR: The animals sprang into action, grabbing branches and sticks, twigs and leaves, and stacking them higher and higher. Carefully, Spider opened her clay pot and tossed the smoldering twig onto the towering pile of kindling. Immediately, the entire thing caught fire.

RAVEN: / POSSUM: / BUZZARD: (mesmerized, impressed) Woah!!!!

NARRATOR: But Spider wasn’t done. She plucked a fiery stick from the raging bonfire and placed it inside her clay pot. Then she whispered something in Raven’s ear.

RAVEN: You’ve got it, Spider! I’m on it!

NARRATOR: Raven clutched the clay pot in her talons and flew to the top of a tall mountain. She opened the lid and hurled the flaming stick high into the sky. Then, she took the sparks from the bottom of the pot and tossed those into the sky, too.

And do you know why…?

Well… the flames from the stick… became the sun!

And the sparks from the bottom of the pot… became the stars.

So… according to legend… today we have fire on earth... and in the skies. We also have pottery… the art of molding wet clay, drying it out, then cooking it with fire to make pots, bowls, jugs, and other useful things.

And to think: it all began with an itsy-bitsy creature whose enormous spark of faith never burnt out.

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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