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'The Dozen Loaves of Bread' | Circle Round 8318:01

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

Have you ever cheered someone up?

Maybe you made them laugh or you shared a kind word. Maybe you just offered a smile or a hug.

In today’s story, we’ll meet a woman who’s all about cheering people up — by filling their hearts - and their bellies!

Our story is called “The Dozen Loaves of Bread.” It comes from a classic Jewish folktale that dates back centuries.

Voices in this episode include Noah Lewis Bailey, Richard Epstein, Adam Mastroianni, Maurice Emmanuel Parent, Gamalia Pharms, Maizy Scarpa and Avery Trufelman. You grown-ups can hear Avery on a bunch of really great podcasts, including 99% Invisible, Articles of Interest, and Nice Try!

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Circle Round’s executive producer, Katherine Brewer. Circle Round’s 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

What’s one thing you can do to add kindness and good to the world?

Maybe you can write a thank-you note to your local librarian, or introduce yourself to a new student at school. Perhaps you can tell a family member or friend how much you appreciate them.

Think about your one act of kindness, then go out and do it! After that, do another, and another, and another! You might find it’s a wonderfully hard habit to break.

Musical Spotlight: Mandolin

A high-pitched (“soprano”) descendant of the ancient oud (which we featured in “The Unwelcome Guest”), the mandolin evolved in Italy during the 1600s and 1700s. As with the oud, you use a pick to pluck strings on the mandolin’s fingerboard. You’ll hear the mandolin in all sorts of music - from classical to bluegrass. A virtuoso in the latter genre is mandolinist Chris Thile, whom you grown-ups may recognize from Nickel Creek and the American Public Media program, Live From Here.


NARRATOR: In a cozy yellow cottage… on a windy green hill... high above a bright blue sea... lived Alice the baker.

Every morning, Alice rose with the sun and got to work... baking two-dozen loaves of bread.

One dozen of the loaves were ordered and paid for in advance, by people in town who couldn’t get enough of Alice’s braided challah, her seed-speckled rye, her sweet cinnamon-raisin.

But the other dozen loaves weren’t ordered, or paid for, at all. 

Instead… while the pre-ordered, pre-paid loaves were cooling on racks in the kitchen… Alice loaded this other piping-hot dozen onto her bicycle. Then, she pedaled down the hill and delivered the bread — for free — to anyone in town who could use some cheering up.

[sound effect to signal new house]

ALICE: Here you go, Mrs. Arnold. I know it’s been hard getting out since Mr. Arnold got sick. You two enjoy this whole wheat!

[sound effect to signal new house]

ALICE: Morning, Farmer Bloom! This bone-dry summer must be tough on your crops. Have a loaf of oat bread. It’s on me!

[sound effect to signal new house]

ALICE: Mr. Green! Sorry to hear about little Johnny’s broken leg. Bring him this pumpernickel, won’t you? I know it’s his favorite!

NARRATOR: As you can imagine, Alice wasn’t a rich woman. In fact, she made just enough money from her weekly pre-orders to purchase flour for that week’s bread.

But Alice couldn’t imagine living her life — or running her business — any other way. She was satisfied with what she had. And she loved how a fresh-baked loaf of bread could brighten someone’s day… and fill their stomach, too.

One morning... after Alice gave away her usual dozen loaves of bread… the baker biked back up to her cozy yellow cottage. When she reached the top of her windy green hill, she noticed it was especially windy! Peering down at the bright blue sea, she saw that the water was covered with frothy white caps.

ALICE: (standing outside her cottage) Oh my - look at those waves! Those ships out there better shorten their sails! (beat) Anyway, I’d better get inside and load up my pre-orders. Don’t want to leave my paying customers waiting!

NARRATOR: The door to Alice’s cottage led right into her kitchen. The moment she turned the latch, the wind swung the door open and slammed it against the wall!

SOT: [wind/door slam]

ALICE: Oh my!

NARRATOR: Gusts of air began whooshing through the room. Before Alice knew what was happening, those gusts of air whooshed so hard…

ALICE: (ad-lib sound of surprise/alarm)

NARRATOR: ...that they lifted her dozen pre-paid loaves of bread right off the cooling rack!

ALICE: (ad-lib gasp/expression of surprise)

NARRATOR: The baker watched helplessly as the dozen pre-ordered, pre-paid loaves rose up into the air… and flew out the door!

ALICE: Oh no! My pre-orders! Wait, wind! Please! Bring back that bread!

NARRATOR: Alice raced out of the cottage and onto the green hill. But it was too late. The wind had carried her bread far out over the bright, blue sea.

Alice knew she couldn’t simply bake another dozen loaves. After all, she used all the money from her weekly pre-orders to purchase flour for that week’s bread.

Now, she was all out of flour… and all out of cash.

ALICE: (trying to be confident) Well, guess I’ll just bike back to town and tell my customers the truth: I baked their bread, and... the wind took it! (beat, growing doubtful) They’re bound to understand… right?

NARRATOR: What do you think? Will Alice’s customers understand her dilemma?

We’ll find out what happens, after a quick break.


NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “The Dozen Loaves of Bread.”

NARRATOR: When we left off, Alice the baker had a problem.

You see, every morning… in a cozy yellow cottage… on a windy green hill... high above a bright blue sea… Alice baked two dozen loaves of bread. One dozen she gave away for free; the other dozen loaves had been ordered and paid for in advance, by people in town.

But one particularly gusty morning, after Alice delivered her dozen free loaves, the wind on her green hill picked up suddenly, and whisked her pre-ordered, pre-paid loaves through the door and out to sea!

Alice didn’t have enough money to whip up another dozen loaves of bread. So she decided she would tell her paying customers what had happened. They were sure to understand her dilemma... right?

Well... as Alice bicycled from house to house… it turns out her customers were anything but understanding.

PERSON 5: (ad-lib sound of disbelief) Uch! Are you serious?!?!??

PERSON 6: The wind… took my bread?!??

PERSON 1: I already paid you for those loaves!!!

PERSON 2: And now I get nothing in return???

PERSON 3: This is absurd!

PERSON 4: I’m taking you

PERSON 5: … to court!

PERSON 6: … to court!

PERSON 1: … to court!

PERSON 2: … to court!

PERSON 1: / PERSON 2: / PERSON 3: / PERSON 4: / PERSON 5: / PERSON 6: (slower, deliberate) court!!!!!

NARRATOR: So, what else could Alice do… but go to court?

The judge listened carefully as both sides told their stories. Alice’s customers went first. They shot Alice a withering glance as they listed every kind of bread the baker owed them:

PERSON 1: (indignant) Two loaves of oat bread!

PERSON 2: (indignant) Three loaves of spelt!

PERSON 3: (indignant) Four cinnamon raisin!

PERSON 4: (indignant) One sesame...

PERSON 5: (indignant) One rye...

PERSON 6: (indignant) ...And one loaf of braided challah bread! With raisins!

NARRATOR: Next, it was Alice’s turn. Her customers slumped in their seats and scowled as she recounted everything that happened that morning. How, as usual, she’d given away a dozen loaves of bread. Then, when she returned to her cottage to pick up her dozen pre-orders...

ALICE: ...the wind swept them away! Right out the door! (beat) I can’t afford to bake another batch, Your Honor, so… well… here I am.

NARRATOR: Alice’s mouth felt drier than a cup of flour as she waited for the judge to respond. Much to her surprise — and relief — he smiled.

JUDGE: Alice. You are, by far, the most generous baker this town has ever seen — one of the most generous people, even! Giving away a dozen loaves of bread each and every day is a selfless and charitable act. (beat) But...

NARRATOR: The judge’s smile... turned into a frown.

JUDGE: ...I also know that your paying customers here make a valid argument! They gave you money for your bread, and you didn’t deliver. You owe these people something, Alice. (beat) Either their bread... or their money.

NARRATOR: Before Alice could say a word, her customers leaped from their seats and waved their hands in the air.

PERSON 1: Oh, just give us the money!

PERSON 2: Yeah! The money!

PERSON 3: Money’s way more valuable than bread!

PERSON 4: Bread’s just bread, after all!

PERSON 5: Just flour and water!

PERSON 6: When it all comes down to it, what good is that???

PERSON 1: / PERSON 2: / PERSON 3: / PERSON 4: / PERSON 5: / PERSON 6: (ad-lib sounds/words of complaint)

SOT: (fade down complaints and maintain beneath the following narration)

JUDGE: (banging his gavel to quiet everyone down) Order in the court! Order in the court!

NARRATOR: Suddenly, the back doors of the courtroom swung open, and who should come bursting through… but a man. The man’s clothing was fancy and fine… yet it was also full of holes... and dripping with water.

A hush fell over the room as the soaking-wet stranger approached the Judge.

MERCHANT: I apologize for interrupting, Your Honor. But I wonder if you can help me.

NARRATOR: The judge raised his eyebrows.

JUDGE: ‘Help you’? With what?

NARRATOR: The man held up a large wooden chest.

MERCHANT: With my chest of gold! You see, I need to give it to someone... to the person who saved my life!

NARRATOR: The judge did a double-take. As did everyone else in the room.

JUDGE: I’m sorry, sir… What do you mean?

NARRATOR: The man put down the chest and took a deep breath.

MERCHANT: Your Honor... I am a merchant from a far-away land. This morning, my crew and I were sailing near your town’s harbor when the wind started blowing something fierce! It was swirling and spinning and tossing our ship this way and that! (beat) We tried shortening the sails, but it was no use — we were sinking! We could see a huge hole in the side of the boat… and water was pouring in fast!

NARRATOR: The judge leaned in closer.

JUDGE: (intrigued) So…? What happened next?

MERCHANT: Well, just as we were fearing for our lives, certain the end was near… something came flying through the air, right toward us! We couldn’t make out what it was,but it landed in the water, right beside our ship. Soon after that, like magic, the boat stopped sinking! And when we looked at the side of the boat, where the hole was... we saw it was all stopped up!

NARRATOR: The judge narrowed his eyes.

JUDGE: (very intrigued now) “All stopped up,” you say? By what?

MERCHANT: Well, this is going to sound crazy...

NARRATOR: The merchant shrugged.

MERCHANT: … but it was bread!!!! A dozen loaves of bread!

NARRATOR: The crowd gasped. Alice the baker felt her heart beat faster than a bread mixer.

JUDGE: I’m sorry, sir. Bread, you say? It was bread that stopped up the hole in your boat?

MERCHANT: Yes, Your Honor! Bread!

JUDGE: (putting two and two together) And, uh, do you happen to know what kind of bread was stopping up the hole?

MERCHANT: Actually, I do, Your Honor. It was such an astonishing sight, I wrote down a list... which I have right here.

NARRATOR: The man pulled a soggy piece of paper from his pocket, and began to read.

MERCHANT: (reading the soggy paper, slowly) Okay… two loaves of oat bread… three loaves of spelt… four cinnamon raisin… one sesame... one rye…

ALICE: (delighted) ...and — let me guess — one loaf of braided challah bread? With raisins?

NARRATOR: The merchant’s jaw dropped open.

MERCHANT: (disbelief, bemused) Why, yes! One loaf of braided challah bread! With raisins! (beat) How did you know?

NARRATOR: Alice blushed.

ALICE: Because I, dear sir, am Alice the baker. And I am the one who baked those loaves.

NARRATOR: The merchant beamed at Alice.

MERCHANT: (with a smile) Then you, dear woman… you are the one who saved my life! And the lives of my crew!

NARRATOR: He reached down and picked up the chest.

MERCHANT: Alice the baker, this chest of gold is yours!

NARRATOR: And so… it was.

Alice used a bit of the gold to pay back her customers. She used the rest to open up her own bakery, right in the middle of town.

Every morning… in her cozy yellow cottage… on her windy green hill... high above that bright blue sea, Alice rose with the sun and got on her bicycle. Then she pedaled down to her bakery to bake bread. She spent the rest of the day selling that bread to people who couldn’t get enough of her braided challah, her seed-speckled rye, her sweet cinnamon-raisin.

But every day Alice set aside a dozen loaves... which she gave away, for free, to anyone who might need food in their belly, or a smile on their face.

Because Alice the baker knew what we all should know. That whatever kindness and good you put out into the world… it just might come back to you.

And that might be the best thing... since sliced bread.

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