Shortie: 'The First Ring'

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

Think about someone in your life who has helped you. Perhaps a teacher helped you learn something new. Or a family member gave you a smile and a hug when you were having a rough day. When people help us out, it’s nice to return the favor, by doing something helpful for them.

But in this bonus edition of Circle Round, we’ll meet a character who forgets about that last part, even though his helper saved his life!

Today our story is called “The First Ring.” Versions of this tale have been told in Italy, Switzerland and Germany, as well as Russia and China.

If you’re looking for some extra creative fun while you’re listening, we have two activities for you.

Activity One: Coloring Page

Ask a grown-up to print out the coloring page for our story! Here it is:

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

Or here is the PDF of the coloring page. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on FacebookTwitterInstagram, 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.

Activity Two: Cards

Think about an older person in your life who means a lot to you... and who’s done a lot for you. Maybe it’s a grandma or grandpa, an uncle or aunt, or a family friend.

Then find some paper and something to draw with, and make that person a card! You can draw pictures on your card; you can even have a grown-up help you write a message about how much your person means to you.

After that, if you’re up for it, make a card for an older person you don’t know! The nonprofit group, Love For The Elderly, collects and delivers letters and cards to people in senior-care facilities across the country. All you have to do is sit down and make a card — or two, or three!

Once you’re done, seal each card in an envelope and ask a grown-up to mail the entire package to:

Love For The Elderly
P. O. Box 24248
Cleveland, OH 44124


NARRATOR: There once was a town. The town was much like any other town. It had women and men, girls and boys, cats and dogs, the occasional mouse. It had a town square, a town hall, some restaurants, a post office, a marketplace, a school.

But one thing that set this town apart from so many other towns… was its bell.

The bell was smack-dab in the middle of the town square. The bell was big, and made of brass, and had a long rope hanging down from it; the rope stretched all the way to the ground.

The mayor of the town had installed the big, brass bell for a very specific reason.

MAYOR: If anyone in this town ever feels wronged by somebody else... cheated by somebody else… offended or mistreated or dishonored by somebody else… all you need to do is grab the rope and ring this bell. Then, the people of this town will come together to settle the dispute and see that justice is served!

NARRATOR: Well, years went by, and guess what?

Nobody rang the bell!

It seemed that just having the bell in the middle of the town square encouraged the townspeople to deal fairly with one another.

One summer day… as the townspeople were going about their business... they received some very exciting news.

PERSON 1: (excited) Have you heard...? 

PERSON 2: Leonardo is back!

PERSON 3: Our beloved Leonardo!

PERSON 4: He’s returned from his battles in faraway lands!

NARRATOR: Leonardo was a local farmer who had left the town years ago to become a knight, and gallop off into battle in lands far, far away. Now, the valiant hero was finally coming home!

[SOT: crowd sounds]

NARRATOR: The day Leonardo was to arrive, everyone in town lined the streets so they could catch a glimpse of the gallant knight. Soon, the hero appeared… dressed in shining steel armor and riding a large horse… a magnificent creature with bright, watchful eyes... strong, muscular legs... and a smooth, sleek coat as black and shiny as a raven’s feathers.

[SOT: crowd sounds]

NARRATOR: The townspeople whistled, clapped and cheered as Leonardo and his horse trotted through the cobblestone streets. At last, rider and horse stopped at the town square, right in front of the big, brass bell.

LEONARDO: (addressing the people from on the horse) My dear friends... I thank you for such a warm welcome! (beat, sincere) But I must tell you, it isn’t me you should be cheering and applauding; it’s my horse! This noble creature is the reason I am alive today. While I was engaged in battle in lands far, far away, my steadfast companion carried me swiftly out of danger, time and time again. And for that, I will be grateful to her for the rest of her days!

[SOT: crowd cheering, etc.]

NARRATOR: The townspeople spent the rest of the day dancing and feasting and celebrating Leonardo’s return. That night, when Leonardo went back to his small farm in the hills at the edge of town, he led his beloved black horse to a straw-covered stall in the barn.

LEONARDO: (tender) Okay, my brave friend — here’s your new home! You’ll be nice and cozy here. (sincere) And I promise I’ll give you the very best of care. After all, where would I be without you?

NARRATOR: At first, Leonardo made good on his promise. He fed the horse fresh, sweet hay, right out of his hand…

LEONARDO: (tenderly) Here you go, friend. Yummy, yummy — right?

NARRATOR: He took her on long rides through the rolling hills...

LEONARDO: (exhilarated, a bit breathless) Wow! Way to canter up that hillside, friend! Let’s see how quickly we can gallop back down!

NARRATOR: And every night he brushed the horse’s sleek black coat until it gleamed.

LEONARDO: (finishing brushing) There! You look fantastic! (beat) Now, you get some sleep. I’ll see you first thing tomorrow, friend!

NARRATOR: But then, things began to change.

You see, now that Leonardo was back at his small farm in the hills, he threw himself into his work. From sun-up to sundown he tended his fields of wheat and corn. And when harvest time came, he sold his crops and used the money to buy cows and chickens.

Before long, Leonardo’s small farm in the hills was no longer so small. It was big, and bustling… and Leonardo was very busy.

So busy, in fact, that he barely paid attention to the black horse. Instead of feeding her fresh, sweet hay by hand, Leonardo just tossed some grain over the wall of her stall. He never took her out for rides through the hills. And as for brushing her every night…? Well, let’s just say it wasn’t long before the poor creature’s sleek, black coat was dingy, matted, and dull as a murky pond.

Time moved on, and the horse grew older. Her strong legs grew weak and her bright, watchful eyes grew dull. One morning, after her meager breakfast of tossed grain, the horse went in search of Leonardo, in hopes of having a bit more food — maybe even that fresh, sweet hay he used to feed her!

She found the busy farmer plowing the fields.

LEONARDO: (distracted, preoccupied) What do you want? Can’t you see I’m getting the fields ready for more corn plants? Then I have to milk the cows, and gather the eggs from the henhouse... (annoyed, thoughtless) Look - I don’t have time for you right now! I’m busy!

NARRATOR: The horse’s aging eyes couldn’t see very well, but one thing was abundantly clear:

She was no longer wanted.

The feeble old creature hung her head and turned away from Leonardo. Then she stumbled across the farm and staggered down the hill, toward the town.

It was the middle of the night, and the townspeople were all cozy and snug in their beds. The horse, meanwhile, was shivering in the cold as she limped through the shadowy cobblestone streets.

As she approached the town square, her weak eyes spotted something strange. It was long and slender and hanging down to the ground. Was it a grapevine...? Perhaps she could nibble on some plump, juicy grapes…?!

The horse shambled to the middle of the square and began nibbling on the vine.

But immediately she realized... it wasn’t a vine at all!

Can you guess what it was…?

[SOT: bell ringing]

NARRATOR: That’s right!

It was the rope of the bell!

The big, brass bell the townspeople were supposed to ring when they felt they’d been wronged!

The bell that had never been rung before!

At the sound of the first ring, the townspeople woke with a start. In an instant, they scrambled out of their beds, threw on robes and jackets, boots and slippers, and hurried outside.

PERSON 1: The bell!

PERSON 2: Someone is ringing the bell!

PERSON 3: Let’s see who’s calling for justice!

PERSON 4: Who is it?! Who is it?!

PERSON 1: / PERSON 2: / PERSON 3: / PERSON 4: [ad-lib excitement, confusion, etc.]

NARRATOR: The moment the people reached the town square, they froze right in their tracks. Because all of a sudden, they discovered that the “someone” who had rung the bell was none other than…

PERSON 1:Leonardo’s horse!?!

PERSON 2: The one he said he’d be grateful to…

PERSON 3:  ...for the rest of her days!

PERSON 4: Look what’s become of her now!!!

NARRATOR: The townspeople knew what they had to do. They sent a messenger to wake Leonardo from his slumber, and bring him to the town square right away.

LEONARDO: (disoriented) What’s going on? Why have you brought me here?

NARRATOR: The townspeople didn’t answer Leonardo’s question with words. Instead, they just pointed… to the horse.

As Leonardo stood there in his pajamas, he cast his eyes on the black horse. He stared at her for a moment.

Then another.

And another.

At last, he brought his hand to his mouth… then to his heart... and began to speak.

LEONARDO: (major epiphany, near tears, slowly) Oh, my brave friend… What have I done? (beat) When I was in battle, you saved me from danger after danger. You gave me my life, again and again! You took care of me!

NARRATOR: Leonardo walked over to the horse and stroked her tangled mane.

LEONARDO: (slowly, sincerely) You served me so well, friend… for so long... and how have I served you? (beat) By ignoring you, neglecting you, casting you aside… I just got so... busy…!

MAYOR: Everything you say is true, Leonardo.

NARRATOR: The mayor of the town stepped forward.

MAYOR: (slowly) So... the question is…… how can justice be served?

NARRATOR: Well, the busy farmer didn’t have to think hard about that one.

He took the black horse back home with him, to his farm in the hills, and laid some extra straw in her stall in the barn. Each morning he fed her fresh, sweet hay, and though her legs were too frail for rides up and down the hills, he brushed her black coat every night. He even sang the old horse a lullaby to help her fall asleep.

In short, Leonardo finally made good on his promise. Just as his brave and noble friend had taken care of him, he took care of her… for the rest of her days.


This week’s actors were Helen Barrington, Mike DelGaudio and Eric Shimelonis.

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.

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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