Circle Round Circle Round

Support the news

'The Mountain Spring' | Circle Round 8820:19

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

Imagine what you would do if you could turn back time.

Would you rewind the clock to last week? Last year? Last century?

Story continues below

Subscribe to the podcast

We’re about to meet some people who get the chance to go back in time, in a way… thanks to some unexpected magic.

Our story is called “The Mountain Spring.” Versions of this folktale come from Japan and Korea, in East Asia.

Voices in this episode include Kevin Corbett, Greg Naughton and Kelli O’Hara. Tony Award winner Kelli O’Hara has starred in a bevy of Broadway musicals, including The Pajama Game, The Bridges of Madison County, South Pacific, Kiss me, Kate and The King and I. Grown-ups, look for Kelli in the new Netflix film, All The Bright Places, coming out February 28th. Greg Naughton wrote and directed The Independents, a film inspired by his folk-rock band, The Sweet Remains. And fun fact: Greg’s dad is Broadway legend James Naughton, who starred in our season-two episode, “The King and the Cobbler.”

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Virginia Marshall. Circle Round’s executive producer is 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 something you can do this week to show kindness, love and generosity? Perhaps you can share a book or a toy with a friend, strike up a conversation with a new student at school, or you can make a thank-you card for someone who showed generosity to you!

Musical Spotlight: Harp

Ann Hobson Pilot performs on the harp, accompanied by the Boston Symphony Orchestra during the opening night gala of Carnegie Hall's 119th season in New York, Thursday, Oct., 1, 2009. (Stuart Ramson/AP)
Ann Hobson Pilot performs on the harp, accompanied by the Boston Symphony Orchestra during the opening night gala of Carnegie Hall's 119th season in New York, Thursday, Oct., 1, 2009. (Stuart Ramson/AP)

Dating back 6,000 years, the harp is the second biggest string instrument in the orchestra (check out our story, Nilsa and the Troll, to see which one is the biggest!). Eric Shimelonis chose the harp to score “The Mountain Spring” because the instrument’s sound can be gentle, clear, brilliant, glittering, rushing, flowing, and cascading - not unlike a real stream flowing through the mountains! The sound can also be magical and mystical... just like the spring in our tale.


NARRATOR: Once upon a time… in a cozy cottage, high on a mountainside… there lived a woman and a man.

The woman and man were kind, loving and generous… unlike their gruff and grumpy neighbor who lived in the cottage next-door. Whenever the couple would smile and wave…

WOMAN: (younger voice) Hello, neighbor!

MAN: (younger voice) Beautiful day, isn’t it?

NARRATOR: … the neighbor would glare.

NEIGHBOR: (gruff) Is it a beautiful day? I hadn’t noticed!

NARRATOR: When the couple offered to share something…

WOMAN: (younger voice) Hey, neighbor! We’re about to have tea… and cookies!

MAN: (younger voice) Care to join us?

NARRATOR: … the neighbor would scowl.

NEIGHBOR: “Tea and cookies”? I have better things to do!

NARRATOR: Something else about the couple’s gruff, grumpy neighbor… no matter the season, he always bundled himself in shabby sweaters and scarves, with a ratty woolen cap pulled over his stringy hair.

The years went by, and the man, the woman and the neighbor all grew old. Their faces became wrinkled as roasted apples, their hair white as dandelion fuzz.

The neighbor didn’t like having creaky bones, a stooped back, and fingers gnarled like tree branches... but the kind, loving, generous couple didn’t mind old age one bit!

The only thing they felt they were missing… was a child. Even though the man and woman met when they were quite young, they never were able to have a child of their own.

Early one morning… just after dawn...

NARRATOR: ...the old woman was awakened by an odd sound.

WOMAN: (older voice) (intrigued) What could that be?

NARRATOR: The woman loved birds, and the trills, tweets and twitters they sang out in the surrounding trees. But this morning… at such an especially early hour... her ears detected a call she didn’t recognize.

Careful not to wake her husband, the woman lifted herself out of bed, pushed open the door, and ventured into the fresh morning air.

WOMAN: Hmmm. What bird could be making that magnificent sound? It’s not a woodswallow... or a lark. And it’s definitely not a starling or a magpie. Oh, I must see it for myself!

NARRATOR: The old woman couldn’t spot the bird, so she followed its song higher and higher up the tree-covered mountain. She was huffing and puffing as she shuffled through the forest, but she refused to give up!

At last, just as the old woman emerged into a beautiful clearing, the bird’s singing...

[SOT: bird song stops]

NARRATOR: ...stopped!

WOMAN: (disappointed) Oh! And I was getting so close! (sigh) Ah well. Might as well stop and take a rest. That was quite a climb!

NARRATOR: Slowly, the old woman lowered her frail body onto a broad, flat rock… right beside a crystal-clear spring that was burbling and gurgling down the mountainside.

WOMAN: Oh! All that walking has made me so thirsty! And this water looks so refreshing!

NARRATOR: The woman cupped her bony hands together, and scooped up some of the crisp, cool liquid. She brought the water to her weathered lips, and took a  sip.

WOMAN: (sipping/drinking) Mmmm! This is the most delicious water I’ve ever tasted! Why, it’s as sweet as honey!

NARRATOR: The old woman was about to take another drink when suddenly...

WOMAN: (ad-lib sound of light-headedness) Ohhhh!

NARRATOR: … she felt woozy.

WOMAN: Oh! I’m so dizzy! And tired! (falling asleep) Maybe I’ll just… lie here and… take a teeny-tiny rest… Then I’ll head home to my husband... He might... start to worry… about where I am...

NARRATOR: And just like that, she fell fast asleep.

Meanwhile, back at the cottage, the woman’s husband had started to worry about where she was. She was gone when the man woke up, and now several hours had gone by.

MAN: (older voice) Hmmm… It isn’t like her to just disappear like this! She didn’t even leave a note. (beat) I know! I’ll ask our next-door neighbor if he saw her pass by. I know he’s not the friendliest of fellows, but maybe she told him where she was off to.

NARRATOR: When the old man knocked on the door...

[SOT: knocking]

NARRATOR: ...the neighbor answered with a scowl.

[SOT: door opens]

NEIGHBOR: (annoyed, unfriendly, scowling) Yes...?

MAN: (worried about his wife, but trying to be friendly) Uh... hello there, neighbor! Sorry to bother you, but my wife… well... she seems to be missing! I wonder… perhaps you saw her pass by this morning?

NARRATOR: The neighbor’s eyebrows shot up so high, they disappeared beneath his ratty woolen cap!

NEIGHBOR: (disbelief) Are you serious?!? ‘Have I seen her pass by this morning’?!? (sarcastic) I’m pretty sure I have better things to do than keep tabs on your wife! What do you think I do all day? Just sit around, watching my neighbors’ comings and goings? Puh-leeeze!

NARRATOR: Then the neighbor slammed the door.

The old man’s eyes filled with tears as he trudged back toward his empty cottage. Just as he began to fear he’d never see his beloved wife again, he heard a sweet voice call out.

WOMAN: (younger voice again) Hello, darling!

NARRATOR: The voice was familiar, yet the man was sure he hadn’t heard it in years and years and years. When he turned around to see who the voice belonged to, he gasped.

MAN: What?!? It couldn’t be! (long beat) Could it….?????

NARRATOR: Who do you think the old man saw?

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


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

Before the break, we met a kind, loving, generous couple who’d been married for years and years. The woman and man were happy... though they’d always wished for a child of their own.

One morning, the old woman woke up especially early and followed a beautiful bird call up the mountain. She stopped to rest beside a cool, clear spring. She took one sip of water, then fell fast asleep.

Back at the cottage, when the old man woke up, he had no idea where his wife was. He asked his grumpy next-door neighbor if he’d seen her, but the unfriendly fellow just glared, grunted and slammed the door!

Suddenly, the old man heard a familiar voice. Bounding toward him like a deer… was a young woman. Her hair was black as the feathers of a raven, her skin smooth as the surface of a pebble. The man could have sworn he’d seen this young woman somewhere before, a very long time ago.

MAN: I’m sorry, miss… but do I know you?

WOMAN: (younger voice) (little giggle) Don’t be silly, love! (kind-hearted / joking) Have you forgotten me already? I wasn’t gone that long, was I?

NARRATOR: The old man began to tremble.

WOMAN: Sweetheart? Are you alright? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost!

MAN: Well, not a ghost, exactly… (beat) Listen... This might sound crazy… but you look exactly like my wife!

NARRATOR: The woman smiled.

WOMAN: (little giggle) Darling, enough with the tricks already! I ‘look exactly like your wife’… because I am your wife!

NARRATOR: The man shook his head.

MAN: No. You look like my wife did fifty years ago... when we first met!

WOMAN: Oh, my dear, you’re such a flatterer! But you know as well as I do that neither of us looks at all like we did when we first met! Our hair has whitened, our faces have wrinkled --

NARRATOR: The old man took the woman’s hand and pressed it to her cheek.

WOMAN: (feeling her face) Hmm! Actually... my face doesn’t feel wrinkly at all! Why, it’s as smooth as silk! (beat) And my hand...

NARRATOR: She wiggled her slender fingers.

WOMAN: ...It’s so soft! So strong! (beat) Wow. That must have been some nap I took! I sipped all that delicious water from the mountain spring, and then I got so very tired… (good-natured) Well, guess I really got my ‘beauty rest,’ huh?

NARRATOR: The old man didn’t say a word. Instead, he shuffled into the cottage. When he came back, he was holding a small mirror. He handed the mirror to the woman, and when she saw her reflection in the glass…

WOMAN: (ad-lib gasp)

NARRATOR: ...she couldn’t believe her eyes.

WOMAN: (seeing her youthful reflection) Oh my goodness! You’re right! I do look like I did the day we met! Come to think of it, I feel like it, too! After I woke up by the spring, my body felt so limber, so light! Like I had all the energy in the world!

MAN: But how, my love? How did this happen?

NARRATOR: The woman thought for a moment. Suddenly, her youthful face lit up.

WOMAN: The spring! It must have been the spring! I drank some of its crystal-clear water and now look at me! I can run! I can sprint! I can gallop!

MAN: Yes…

NARRATOR: The old man frowned.

MAN: ...but look at me. I can’t even remember the last time I ran somewhere, let alone sprinted or galloped! My dear… now that you’re young again, there’s no way I can keep up with you!

WOMAN: Well, there’s only one thing to do, then. (beat)

NARRATOR: She placed her hands on her husband’s shoulders.

WOMAN: You’ll have to drink from the magic spring, too!

NARRATOR: Now, little did the man and woman know… but all this time, someone had been watching their every move... and listening, too!

That “someone” was huddled by his window and peeking through the curtains, and he was bundled up in sweaters and scarves, with a ratty woolen cap pulled over his stringy white hair.

Any guesses who it was?

That’s right!

The unfriendly next-door neighbor!

NEIGHBOR: (watching from the window) Look at her! She’s so young, so beautiful! I want to be young and beautiful, too! I must try this magic spring for myself!

NARRATOR: The neighbor crept behind as the woman led her husband up the mountain, toward the magic spring. They made their way through the winding forest, until they emerged into a clearing.

The neighbor crouched behind a bush and watched the woman kneel down on the broad, flat rock beside the burbling, gurgling spring.

NEIGHBOR: (observing from behind the bush) Let’s see... What is she doing? She’s cupping her hands in the spring… she’s bringing the water to the old man’s lips... Alright, now he’s taking a sip… he’s lying down on the rock… Huh! He’s fallen fast asleep!

NARRATOR: What happened next made the neighbor’s jaw drop. As the old man slept on the rock, his hunched back… which had been arched like a rainbow… relaxed and uncurled. His snow-white hair turned black as night. And his wrinkled skin became smooth as a summer cherry.

Suddenly, the man woke up. He leapt to his feet and embraced his wife. Then the kind, loving, generous and youthful couple joined hands and skipped back down the mountainside.

NEIGHBOR: That was unbelievable! Now it’s my turn. Youth will be mine again! All mine!

NARRATOR: The neighbor staggered over to the spring. He fell to his knees... plunged his hands in the water… and brought handful after handful of the cool, clear liquid to his leathery lips. He gulped and slurped, slurped and gulped until his belly was so full you could hear the water sloshing around inside.

Then, he fell into a deep, deep sleep.

Meanwhile, the kind, loving, generous couple were celebrating their newfound youth. They were singing and dancing all around their cottage when suddenly...

NARRATOR: ...the woman froze in her tracks.

MAN: (younger voice) Darling? What’s wrong?

NARRATOR: The woman pointed out the window.

WOMAN: (younger voice) Sweetheart! Do you hear that? It’s that bird again! The one who led me to the magic spring this morning! (beat) Come! Maybe now we can find out what kind of bird it is!

NARRATOR: She grabbed her husband’s hand and they dashed outside. They followed the bird song through the forest and up the mountainside.

Eventually, though, the bird’s song disappeared… only to be replaced by something else entirely.

WOMAN: Darling! Do you hear... a baby crying?

MAN: I do! It’s coming from the clearing! Where the magic spring is!

NARRATOR: The couple joined hands and raced over to the water.

Just as they’d suspected… there on the broad, flat rock… was a tiny baby boy. The woman reached down and scooped the child into her arms.

WOMAN: What in the world is this baby doing here? Who could he belong to?

NARRATOR: The man’s eyes widened as he pointed toward the rock where the baby had been lying.

MAN: Um… that might be a clue!

NARRATOR: The woman followed her husband’s gaze. On top of the broad, flat rock... was a pile of clothing! A large heap of shabby scarves and sweaters, plus a ratty old woolen cap.

And do you know who they belonged to?

Do you?

That’s right! The couple’s unfriendly next-door neighbor!

The gruff and grumpy fellow had guzzled so much water from the magic spring that he didn’t just become a young man… he’d become a helpless little baby!

Well, the kind, loving, generous couple knew exactly what they would do. They took the baby back to their cottage and raised him like he was their own. And thanks to their kind, loving, generous care, he grew into a kind, loving, generous boy… and stayed that way, all the rest of his days.

+Join the discussion

Support the news