'The Rooster in the Sky' | Circle Round 87

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

Have you ever heard someone complain?

Maybe you’ve even complained yourself!

We’ve all been there; it’s easy to start grumbling when we’re annoyed or frustrated or upset.

But in today’s story, we’ll meet a character who refuses to complain when things don’t go her way. Instead, she tries turning grumbles and groans into great big grins!

Our story is called “The Rooster in the Sky.” It was inspired by tales told in Russia. You’ll also hear versions of this folktale in Hungary, and across the Middle East.

Voices in this episode include James Konicek, Nick Sholley and Rachel Matthews.Rachel stars as Honeymaren in Frozen 2, now available on digital. You can find the hit animated film on Blu-ray starting February 25th.

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

The Rooster went to great lengths to help a new friend. Who’s someone in your life that you’d go out of the way to help if they were in a jam? Is it a family member? A friend?

Think about that person, then find a piece of paper and draw a picture of you helping them. After that, share it with them, and — if you’d like — share it with us! Ask a grown-up to post your picture on Instagram, and be sure to tag @circleroundpodcast.

Musical Spotlight: Gusli

(Rebecca Sheir for WBUR)
(Rebecca Sheir for WBUR)

The Gusli is the oldest multi-stringed instrument in Russia. The gusli is a lot like a harp or zither (a.k.a. autoharp): it consists of a shallow wooden box with strings strung across the top. To play the gusli, you use your left hand to mute the strings you don’t want to play, then you use your right hand to pluck the strings you do wish to play. The gusli’s sound is high-pitched, resonant and sweet; some even describe it as “silvery.” You can hear the gusli in another Circle Round story from Russia: season one’s Sadko and the Sea.


NARRATOR: Way out in the countryside… not far from a thick, green forest… lived a woman named Tatyana.

Tatyana lived all alone, in a drafty little hut with creaky wooden floors. Life was hard way out in the countryside. And with each passing year, Tatyana’s hut grew draftier... her floors grew creakier... and her cupboards grew emptier.

TATYANA: Ohhhh. There’s hardly a crumb left in this entire house. If I don’t find something to eat soon, I’ll starve! (beat, pulling herself together) But no use complaining; better to do something. Think, Tatyana. Think!

NARRATOR: It was a crisp autumn day, and as Tatyana gazed out her window, she spotted a furry brown squirrel scampering through a pile of crunchy, fallen leaves. Clamped between the squirrel’s sharp teeth was a shiny round acorn.

TATYANA: (a-ha moment) That’s it! Acorns! (beat) Granny was a baker, and I remember she used to say that if you ever ran out of flour, you could gather acorns from the oak trees, dry them on the stove, then grind them up in a handmill and bake good things to eat. (beat) Might as well give it a try!

NARRATOR: So Tatyana found a great big sack and carried it over to the thick, green forest. As she walked from oak tree to oak tree, she kept her eyes peeled for acorns. By the time she got back to her hut, the sack was so full it was bulging.

But the minute Tatyana stepped through her front door, she tripped on a loose board in the creaky wooden floor...

TATYANA: (ad-lib tripping sound) Woah!

NARRATOR: … and the sack went flying through the air!


NARRATOR: Acorns scattered everywhere. Most of the nuts rolled right through the cracks in the floor and disappeared beneath the house.

TATYANA: Uch! After all that hard work, look what happens! (beat, pulling herself together) But no use complaining. I still have some acorns left to grind. Better get to work!

NARRATOR: Tatyana went to the ramshackle shed behind her hut and found Granny’s old handmill. The hopper was dingy, the grinding wheel was rusty, and the crank needed a good oiling. But with some work, Tatyana was able to grind her remaining acorns into flour. Then she used the acorn flour to cook up a few golden-brown blini, or Russian pancakes.

TATYANA: (tasting it) Mmm! Not bad!

NARRATOR: For the first time in a long time, Tatyana went to bed with a nice, full belly.

But the next morning, when she got up to go gather more acorns from the forest...

TATYANA: (ad-lib shock/surprise) Oh my!!!

NARRATOR: ...she could hardly believe her eyes! One of the acorns that fell through the creaky wooden floor… had sprouted. And there... in the middle of her hut… was an oak tree! Its thick, gray trunk was growing right through the ceiling!

TATYANA: My goodness! With a tree growing through the ceiling, now it’ll be even draftier in this place! (beat, pulling herself together as she realizes the upside) But, no use complaining. Now that I have my very own oak tree, I won’t have to gather acorns from the forest! I’ll have all the acorns I need, right here. I just have to climb the tree and find them.

NARRATOR: So Tatyana grabbed her sack, and shimmied up the oak tree’s trunk. The tree was so tall, it took her a while to reach its branches. But when she did, she discovered they were all bare!

TATYANA: What? No acorns? (beat) Well, no use complaining. I just need to climb higher.

NARRATOR: Tatyana scrambled from one branch to the next, rising higher and higher. Each time she glanced down, her drafty little hut looked smaller and smaller. Eventually, she was so high up, she couldn’t see her house at all!

Before Tatyana knew it, she reached the top of the oak tree. Surrounding her were pillowy white clouds, in a vast expanse of shimmering blue.

TATYANA: The sky! I’ve actually reached the sky! (beat) Still no acorns to be found... but no use complaining. I did my best, after all. Guess I’ll just climb back down and go back to the forest for more --

ROOSTER: Cock-a-doodle-doo! See what I have for you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! See what I have for you!

NARRATOR: Tatyana turned her head. To her surprise, perched next to her in the oak tree was a plump yellow rooster with a bright red crest.

TATYANA: (surprised, but not overly so, given that she’s just climbed a magic tree…) Well, hello there! (curious, good-natured) And tell me, Rooster, what is it you have for me…?

NARRATOR: The yellow rooster lifted a glossy wing. Tucked underneath was a gleaming new handmill… made entirely of gold! The hopper, the grinding wheel, the crank… every single part of the mill sparkled and glittered in the sun!

TATYANA: (gasp) What a spectacular handmill! And it’s really for me...? I mean, goodness knows I could use a new handmill... Granny’s old one is absolutely falling apart... but this one’s so fancy… too fancy, even… (beat, comes to her senses) Oh, why am I complaining? Thank you, Rooster! (beat) Tell me — how can I repay you for such a magnificent gift?

NARRATOR: The plump yellow rooster blinked its beady copper-colored eyes.

ROOSTER: Cock-a-doodle-doo! Take me home with you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! Take me home with you!

NARRATOR: Tatyana thought about how lonely it was way out in the countryside, and how nice it would be to have a companion. So she placed the golden handmill in her sack, scooped her new feathered friend under her arm, then  climbed back down the tree to her hut.

She put the golden handmill on the shelf, and headed for the door.

TATYANA: Well, Rooster. Since I didn’t find any acorns up in the oak tree, I’d better go back to the forest and gather some more. Why don’t you make yourself comfortable while I --

ROOSTER: Cock-a-doodle-doo! Give the crank a turn or two! Cock-a-doodle-doo! Give the crank a turn or two!

NARRATOR: Tatyana stopped in her tracks.

TATYANA: (puzzled, but game) Turn the crank, you say? (beat) Alright. I’ll give it a go.

NARRATOR: Tatyana took the handmill off the shelf, grasped the glistening gold crank, and gave it a turn. And can you guess what happened?

Oh! You know what that music means...

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


NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “The Rooster in the Sky.”

When we left off, Tatyana had climbed a massive oak tree up to the sky… where she found a talking yellow rooster with a bright red crest! The rooster gave Tatyana a sparkling gold handmill for grinding flour… and when Tatyana brought the bird and mill back to her house, her new feathered friend encouraged her to turn the mill’s crank.

So, she did. After one turn, out popped a blini...

TATYANA: Ooooooh!

NARRATOR: … the same golden-brown Russian pancake she’d cooked up yesterday!

After another turn, out popped a bublik… [like “should”]

TATYANA: Ahhhhhh!

NARRATOR: ...sort of a Russian bagel.

And after yet another turn, out popped a pirog

TATYANA: Ohhhhh!

NARRATOR: ...a kind of stuffed Russian pie!

TATYANA: Well, well, well! No use complaining about anything anymore! Thanks to this golden handmill, I’ll never go to bed with an empty belly again!

NARRATOR: She flashed the rooster a grin.

TATYANA: And either will you, friend. Thank you for this marvelous gift!

NARRATOR: For the next week, Tatyana and the rooster used the handmill to feast on blini, bubliki and pirogi to their heart’s content.

...Until one fateful night... when Tatyana heard a knock at the door. It was very late, and the rooster had long ago gone to bed.

TATYANA: Hmmm... who could possibly be at the door? No one ever travels this far out in the countryside. Perhaps someone has gotten lost.

NARRATOR: Indeed, someone had gotten lost… a wealthy merchant, who was journeying home from a long trip abroad. Tatyana welcomed the man into her hut.

MERCHANT: Sorry to bother you, Madam. But my horse must have taken a wrong turn and we’ve been wandering the countryside ever since! He’s been grazing on grass, but I’ve never been so hungry in my entire life. Any chance you could share a bite to eat?

TATYANA: Oh, I can do better than that! Sit down.

NARRATOR: Tatyana took the golden handmill off the shelf, and gave it a crank. As dozens of blini, bubliki and pirogi popped onto the merchant’s plate, his eyes practically popped out of his head!

MERCHANT: (amazed) What a remarkable contraption! (beat) I must have that handmill! Name your price.

NARRATOR: Tatyana shrugged.

TATYANA: This handmill isn’t for sale, sir. It was a gift, and I could never part with it.

NARRATOR: Now… what Tatyana didn’t know is that the merchant was a very greedy man… and he knew that handmill could make him a fortune! He could earn gobs of money selling endless blini, bubliki and pirogi… or he could sell the handmill itself, and retire with more gold than a king.

So, the merchant took a deep breath, and put on his warmest smile.

MERCHANT: (laying it on thick; hatching a plan) I’m sorry, madam! Please — forget I said anything about buying that handmill of yours. I won’t bring it up again. (beat, totally playing her) But listen… it’s late... and it’s dark… and my horse and I don’t have anywhere to spend the night. After this scrumptious meal of blini, bubliki and pirogi, could we sleep out back in your shed, perhaps?

NARRATOR: Not suspecting that the merchant was up to no good, Tatyana nodded.

TATYANA: Absolutely! You and your horse can stay here as long as you’d like.

NARRATOR: But the next morning… when Tatyana and the rooster woke up... the merchant and his horse... were gone. And… much to Tatyana’s dismay... so was the golden handmill! Tatyana felt her eyes burn with tears.

TATYANA: Oh, Rooster! That greedy man stole our handmill! This is horrible! What are we going to do?

NARRATOR: The rooster jumped up and began strutting toward the door.

ROOSTER: Cock-a-doodle-doo! I’ll bring the mill back to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! I’ll bring the mill back to you!

TATYANA: ‘Bring it back’?!? That thief is long gone by now, Rooster! You’ll never --

NARRATOR: Before Tatyana could say another word, the plump yellow rooster with the bright red crest hurried out the door and down the road.

Somehow the rooster knew just where to go. After traveling for days and days, it reached the merchant’s enormous mansion. Then the bird hopped onto the grand iron gate, and began crowing with all its might.

ROOSTER: Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you!

NARRATOR: Hearing the commotion, the merchant came bursting through the front door. He was wearing a fancy coat, and his eyes were big and round as a pair of bubliki.

MERCHANT: Listen, you pesky creature! That mill does belong to me! I took it, and now it’s mine!

NARRATOR: The greedy man clapped his hands. Immediately, a team of servants came scurrying out of the house.

MERCHANT: Servants! As you know, I am entertaining guests in the dining room and can’t be bothered with this nonsense. Take this irritating yellow rooster and throw him into the well!

NARRATOR: As the merchant stormed back inside, the servants grabbed the rooster, brought it to the well, and chucked the bird over the edge.

But the moment the rooster hit the water, it began to crow.

ROOSTER: Cock-a-doodle-doo! Drink the water I’ve been thrown into! Cock-a-doodle-doo! Drink the water I’ve been thrown into!

NARRATOR: And, would you believe it, the plump yellow rooster drank up every drop of water in that well, until it was completely empty. Then the bird shook its feathers, flew to the top of the well, and began to crow.

ROOSTER: Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you!

NARRATOR: The furious merchant stomped back outside. His face was redder than the rooster’s crest. This time, the greedy man let out a whistle.

MERCHANT: [whistling sound]

NARRATOR: Immediately, a team of cooks came running out of the house.

MERCHANT: Cooks! Take this bothersome yellow rooster and throw him into the stove! I have a party to host!

NARRATOR: As the merchant strode back inside, the cooks seized the rooster, brought it to the kitchen, then flung it into the stove.

But the moment the bird’s feathers touched the flames, it began to crow.

ROOSTER: Cock-a-doodle-doo! Soak the flames right through! Cock-a-doodle-doo! Soak the flames right through!

NARRATOR: And, would you believe it, the plump yellow rooster spit out every drop of water it had swallowed in the well, until it had soaked all the flames… and the fire in the stove fizzled out. The bird flapped its wings, then glided out of the kitchen and into the dining room, where it landed quietly in a corner.

In the middle of the room, dozens of party guests sat clustered around a massive table. All of the guests wore elegant clothing — silken gowns, festive suits — and everyone was feasting on porcelain plates piled high with smoked salmon and salted herring… cabbage rolls and caviar… plus blini, bubliki and pirogi!

And do you know where those blini, bubliki and pirogi came from?

That’s right!

The golden handmill!

Standing at the head of the table was the merchant, proudly showing off the mill to the astonished crowd.

MERCHANT: Can you believe it, folks? All you have to do is turn the crank, and out come all these delectable treats! First, a blini [buh-LEE-nee], then a bublik [BUB-lik] [“u” sounds like “should” or “book”], then --

NARRATOR: Suddenly, the yellow rooster with the bright red crest fluttered its wings and flew out of its hiding place in the corner. Then the bird began swooping and diving around the room, crowing all the while.

ROOSTER: Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! The mill doesn’t belong to you!

NARRATOR: Immediately, the frightened guests leapt from their seats and raced out the door. The merchant chased after them.

MERCHANT: Wait! Please! Don’t go! I can explain! Come back! Come back!

NARRATOR: But the guests did not come back. After all, they didn’t want to be associated with a dishonest thief… which the merchant clearly was!

The rooster, meanwhile, snatched up the golden handmill and carried it all the way back to the countryside… and into the hands of a very appreciative Tatyana.

ROOSTER: Cock-a-doodle-doo! I brought the mill back to you! Cock-a-doodle-doo! I brought the mill back to you!

TATYANA: So you did, Rooster. (slowly, sincerely) So you did!

NARRATOR: From then on, the two friends lived peacefully and comfortably in the little hut near the thick, green forest. Sure, they occasionally found things to complain about. But even if they did belly-ache every now and again, thanks to their magic handmill, they never went to bed with empty bellies again.

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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