'The Fallen Sparrow' | Circle Round 94

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

Ever heard of somebody “getting their just deserts”?

You might think that “getting your just deserts” has something to do with cookies or ice cream or pie, but no! When you “get your just deserts” it means you get what you deserve for your actions.

We’re about to meet two characters who get their just deserts, and lucky for one of them, those deserts are very sweet indeed!

Our story is called “The Fallen Sparrow.” You’ll hear versions of this tale across East Asia, in China, Japan, Korea and Tibet.

Voices in this episode include Kimberly Schraf, Molly Bloom and Jane Lindholm. Molly Bloom hosts the American Public Media podcasts Brains On! and Smash Boom Best. Jane Lindholm hosts But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids, from Vermont Public Radio.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Virginia Marshall. 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, 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

Have you ever made a bird feeder? It’s a fun and easy way to help out the feathered friends in our midst!

To make your bird feeder, first you’ll need an empty paper-towel or toilet-paper roll. Take the roll, then smear the outside with whatever nut butter or seed butter you and your family use at home. Once the roll is all covered and sticky, sprinkle it with birdseed! If you don’t have birdseed, you can use a combination of the following foods: uncooked oats, fresh pumpkin seeds, dried fruit like apricots or raisins, even plain, popped popcorn!

The next step is to get a long piece of string, and have a grown-up help you feed the string through one end of your roll to the other. Tie a knot in the string, then find a place outside, near your home, to hang your feeder. After that, sit back and enjoy the birds, as they come to enjoy the yummy treat you made for them!

Musical Spotlight: Celeste

The celeste (or ‘celesta’) is a keyboard instrument. It looks a lot like a piano, but instead of strings inside, the celeste has metal bars - just like a xylophone or glockenspiel. These metal bars give the celeste a delicate, bell-like, magical sound, which is quite apt, since in French celeste means “celestial” or “heavenly”! You can also hear the celeste in our season 2 story, “The Friendship Orchard.”


NARRATOR: Chloe and Zoe were twin sisters. But even though they looked very much alike, the two were very different.

Chloe lived in the grandest house in town, and had more money and riches than she knew what to do with.

Zoe lived in a tumbledown cottage in the country, and didn’t have much more than the clothing on her back.

Zoe struggled to get by, but she knew better than to ask Chloe for help. Because every time she worked up the courage to walk all the way to town and knock on her twin sister’s gold-plated door, the answer was always the same.

CHLOE: No way, Zoe — I won’t share anything with anyone! (beat) Look. We all get what we deserve... And clearly, you don’t deserve much!

NARRATOR: One morning, Zoe was sitting under the apple tree in her tiny little yard… reading a book and dreaming… when a brisk wind blew in from the north. The gust rattled her cottage’s rickety windows, and snapped a branch right off the apple tree! The heavy limb came crashing to the ground.

ZOE: Woah!

NARRATOR: Zoe leaned down to pick up the branch. And when she did, what should she see lying on the ground, but a brown and grey sparrow!

ZOE: (gasp) Oh no!

NARRATOR: The delicate bird’s chest was moving in and out as it breathed… but one of its striped wings was sticking out at an odd angle.

ZOE: Oh, you poor thing! You must have been sitting on that branch when it fell from the tree! And now you’ve taken a tumble and broken your wing! (beat) But don’t you worry. I’ll take care of you!

NARRATOR: Carefully, Zoe scooped up the sparrow and brought it inside her cottage. Day and night, she nursed the fragile creature back to health. And when the sparrow seemed ready to take to the skies again, Zoe carried the bird back to the apple tree and set it down on a branch.

ZOE: Here you go, little one. You look good as new! (beat) I have to admit… I’ll miss you. But maybe we’ll see each other again!

NARRATOR: The bird cocked its head, let out a chirp... then spread its wings and flew away.

The next week, Zoe was back under her apple tree… reading and dreaming… when she heard a familiar chirping sound.

She glanced up, and do you know who she saw perched on the tree’s top branch!

You guessed it! The brown and grey sparrow! The same one she had nursed back to health the week before.

ZOE: Sparrow! It’s you! I’m so happy to see you again!

NARRATOR: The sparrow opened its beak and dropped something toward the ground — something smooth and white. Zoe reached out her hand and caught it.

ZOE: What’s this? (beat) A pumpkin seed?

NARRATOR: Again, the sparrow opened its beak. Only this time…

SPARROW: You betcha!

NARRATOR: ... it spoke!

SPARROW: This pumpkin seed is for you, Zoe! Consider it a reward for all you’ve done. Plant it in your garden and see what grows.

ZOE: (touched) I will, friend! (beat) Thank you!

SPARROW: (matter-of-fact but also a bit mysterious) Of course!

NARRATOR: Then the bird fluttered its wings and sailed off into the sky.

Zoe did as the sparrow instructed and planted the seed. She watered it every day, and soon, what should come bursting from the ground… but a leafy green pumpkin vine! By the time autumn rolled around, the vine sprouted one enormous pumpkin, as bright and round as a full moon.

ZOE: My goodness! What a beautiful pumpkin! It’ll be just right for pumpkin pie. Mmmm...

NARRATOR: So Zoe snipped the pumpkin from the vine…

ZOE: (ad-lib as she snips) There we go!

NARRATOR: ...hauled the massive gourd into her cottage…

ZOE: (ad-lib as she struggles to haul the enormous pumpkin inside) This thing’s gonna make a whole lot of pie!

NARRATOR: ...and hoisted it onto the table.

ZOE: (ad-lib hoisting sound) Oof!

NARRATOR: Now, if you’ve ever made pumpkin pie, then you know that first you carve around the pumpkin’s stem, then you pull off the top, then you scoop out the mushy mess of strings and seeds inside. But when Zoe sliced around the stem of this pumpkin, and pulled off its top, she didn’t see mushy strings or seeds. Instead, she saw something else entirely. And that “something” made her eyes grow wider than the colossal pumpkin she had just sliced open!

Any guesses what Zoe saw?

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


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

Before the break, Zoe had nursed a wounded sparrow back to health. As a reward, the sparrow gave her a pumpkin seed. When Zoe planted the seed, a big, plump pumpkin sprouted from a thick, green vine.

Zoe decided to use the pumpkin to make pie. But when she sliced off the top of the gourd and looked inside, do you know what she saw?

ZOE: (seeing the contents for the first time) Gold coins!!!??!!

NARRATOR: Indeed, the pumpkin was chock full of sparkling, glittering gold coins. More money than Zoe had ever seen before!

And she knew just how she’d spend it.

She carted the coins to town, then bought a big load of wood and nails.

ZOE: With these supplies, I can replace my falling-down cottage with a cozy new one!

NARRATOR: Next, she picked up a bunch of soil, fertilizer and seeds.

ZOE: I can’t wait to start a lush, green garden — and grow my own food!

NARRATOR: Now remember — Zoe had a twin sister named Chloe. A very wealthy, very stingy twin sister named Chloe, who believed ‘we all get what we deserve.’

And when Chloe learned of Zoe’s sudden prosperity, she definitely didn’t think her twin sister deserved it! So Chloe jumped into one of her many horse-drawn carriages and went galloping across the countryside, to Zoe.

CHLOE: (bursting with envy) Zoe! How did you get this cozy cottage? And this abundant garden? You have to explain how you got all this wealth!

NARRATOR: So, Zoe told her twin sister the story of how she mended the fallen sparrow’s wing… then received a pumpkin seed as a reward.

ZOE: … and when I planted that seed, it sprouted a huge pumpkin! The biggest I’ve ever seen! When I cut the pumpkin open, it was full of gold coins!

CHLOE: I see…

NARRATOR: Chloe’s greedy mind began to race.

CHLOE: (plotting) And tell me again - how exactly did that sparrow break its wing...?

ZOE: Well, the wind snapped a branch off the apple tree, and the bird went tumbling down! (beat, remembering) Oh, you should have seen it, sister. The poor creature was barely breathing, and tears sprang to my eyes when I saw just how -

NARRATOR: But that’s all Chloe heard. She had already sprinted out the door and back to her carriage.

The next morning, Chloe hopped out of bed extra early and crept into her spacious yard. Her gardeners had planted the yard with all kinds of flowers, bushes and trees. Chloe tiptoed to one of the apple trees and squinted at its branches.

CHLOE: (to herself) Hmmm… surely one of these branches has a sparrow on it… right?

NARRATOR: Just then, she heard a loud chirp. She glanced up.

CHLOE: Ha! That looks just like the bird Zoe described!

NARRATOR: Without missing a beat, Chloe grabbed the trunk of the apple tree and began… to shake it! She shook and shook and shook… until at last, one of the branches snapped off!

The limb came tumbling to the ground… bringing with it the brown and grey sparrow! Chloe squatted down and plucked the bird out of the grass.

CHLOE: (faux-sympathy) Oh dear! However did this happen? You poor little thing. You’re lucky you have me to take care of you!

NARRATOR: Chloe brought the sparrow inside and spent the next days looking after it… but not because she had a kind heart like Zoe did.

CHLOE: Ugh; it feels like I’ve been taking care of this bird forever! (beat) But no matter — it’ll be worth it when that reward is mine, all mine! (ad-lib greedy laughter)

NARRATOR: When the sparrow finally seemed well enough to fly again, Chloe carried the bird outside and plopped it onto the grass.

CHLOE: (not the least bit warm/cuddly) Alright. Off you go. (beat, super-entitled) But remember — if it weren’t for me, you would never fly again! Don’t you forget that, bird!

NARRATOR: The sparrow cocked its head, let out a chirp, then flapped its wings and flew away.

The next week, Chloe was inside her house… counting her money... when she heard a loud chirping sound through the window.

CHLOE: Uch! What’s with these ridiculous birds in my yard? How am I supposed to focus on counting all of my beautiful money if those pesky creatures keep tweeting and chirping and — (gasp, realizing) Wait a minute!

NARRATOR: She dashed outside and looked up at the apple tree. Can you guess who was perched on one of its branches?


The brown and grey sparrow!

CHLOE: A-ha! You’re back! (huffy) It’s about time.

NARRATOR: The sparrow opened its beak and a smooth, white pumpkin seed dropped to the ground.

SPARROW: This pumpkin seed is for you, Chloe. Consider it a reward for all you’ve done. Plant it in your garden and see what grows.

CHLOE: Oh, you bet I will, bird! I earned this one!

SPARROW: (knowing, mysterious) Of course!

NARRATOR: Then the bird beat its wings and soared up to the sky.

Chloe ordered her gardeners to plant the pumpkin seed in the yard. Very soon… much to her delight... what should emerge from the earth but a leafy green pumpkin vine! And by the time autumn came, the vine sprouted not one enormous pumpkin… but three!

CHLOE: Ha! I knew that sparrow liked me better than my twin sister! It gave me three pumpkins instead of just one!

NARRATOR: Chloe seized the first pumpkin and chopped it off the vine.

CHLOE: Hmmm… what could be in there? Gold coins, like Zoe got? Or maybe diamonds! Or emeralds! Or rubies! (ad-lib giddy, greedy laughter)

NARRATOR: But when Chloe sliced around the pumpkin’s stem and lifted off the top, she didn’t see gold coins, or diamonds, or emeralds, or rubies. Instead, she saw…

CHLOE: Ewwwww!!!


CHLOE: Gross!

NARRATOR: Sticky, sludgy, ooey-gooey mud... oozing out of the pumpkin and dribbling all over Chloe’s fancy clothes!

CHLOE: (distressed, disgusted) Yuck! There must have been a mistake! After all I did for that bird, surely it will give me the reward I deserve! (beat) Maybe it’s inside this second pumpkin!

NARRATOR: Chloe lunged toward the second pumpkin and hacked it from the vine. But when she sliced off the top, she began to cough...

CHLOE: (ad-lib coughing)

NARRATOR: ...and sneeze…

CHLOE: (ad-lib sneezing)

NARRATOR: ...and wipe her eyes!

CHLOE: (still coughing and sneezing)

NARRATOR: And do you know why?

Because the pumpkin was filled… with pepper! Spicy black pepper!

CHLOE: (coughing, sneezing, confused, irritated, frustrated) This can’t be my reward for all I’ve done! Let me check this third pumpkin!

NARRATOR: So Chloe slashed the third pumpkin from the vine and carved around the stem. But just as she was removing the top...

CHLOE: (hearing the buzzing) Oh no…

NARRATOR: ...she heard the sound of buzzing. Lots and lots of buzzing!

CHLOE: Yikes!

NARRATOR: Before Chloe knew it, a noisy swarm of bees rose up out of the pumpkin and started buzzing right toward her!

CHLOE: (ad-lib distress) Yahhhhhhh!

NARRATOR: Chloe leaped to her feet and began to run. She raced through the yard, down the street and all the way across town. Some say she’s still running today. But then, ‘we all get what we deserve’… right?

Chloe’s twin sister, Zoe, meanwhile, continued to live comfortably… and happily. Her cottage got even cozier and her garden got even bigger. She grew her own pumpkins… full of mushy strings and seeds... and became famous for her delectable pumpkin pies, pumpkin cake, and pumpkin pudding.

So, it just goes to show you. Practice a little kindness and generosity... and you too can get your just “desserts.”


Rebecca Sheir Host, Circle Round
Rebecca Sheir is the host "Circle Round," WBUR's kids storytelling podcast.



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