Shortie: 'The Money Tree'

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

When’s the last time you tried really hard to do something? The last time you put in a whole lot of effort to achieve a goal? Working hard can be exhausting, but also rewarding!

But in this bonus edition of Circle Round, we’ll meet a character who just wants the reward without the hard work!

Today our story is called “The Money Tree.” Versions of this tale originally come from China.

These days we’re all spending more time at home, so if you’re looking for extra fun while you listen, 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: “I Did It!” Jar

Working hard and accomplishing something can feel amazing! A fun way to keep track of your own efforts and achievements — and celebrate them — is making an “I Did It!” Jar.

First, find a large jar. If you don’t have a jar, you can use a bowl or a pitcher - anything that’s big enough to fit your hand in.

Next, have a grown-up help you make slips of paper that ask the following questions:

What's one thing I accomplished today?” 

“How do I feel about it?”

Leave the slips of paper next to your empty jar, along with something to write with. Then, at least once a day, fill out a slip of paper, and drop it in your “I Did It!” Jar. And remember: the accomplishments you write about can be as simple as ‘I cleaned my room all by myself.’ Or ‘I told someone I loved them.’

At the end of the week, take your slips of paper out of your jar, then read what they say; a grown-up can help with this, of course. And as you read each one, take a moment to celebrate everything you’ve done and learned.

When the week is up, you can start a new “I Did It!” Jar, but save your accomplishments from the previous week. Reflecting on all the things we’ve experienced and achieved reminds us how much we’ve grown!


NARRATOR: Big Brother and Little Brother lived with their mother on a large farm in the country.

Every day, Little Brother woke at the crack of dawn, laced up his work boots, and helped Mother feed the pigs, collect eggs from the chickens, and tend the fields of wheat, potatoes and corn.

Big Brother, on the other hand, preferred to sleep in and let his hardworking family keep the farm running.

As Mother grew older, she asked her sons to promise that once she was gone, they would divide the farm equally between the two of them.

But when the time came to split the farm, Big Brother had other ideas.

BIG BROTHER: Look, Little Brother — I know what Mother said before she passed away… But as the eldest son, it’s obvious that I deserve a bigger share of the farm! So I will take the house, the fields and all the animals. You can have that piece of land up and over the hill… the one Mother always said was too rocky and stony for farming.

NARRATOR: Little Brother smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

LITTLE BROTHER: Whatever you say, Big Brother!

NARRATOR: Then he packed up his belongings and moved them to the piece of land up and over the hill. He built a cozy hut, and spent long days hoisting rocks and stones off the ground and carting them away in a wheelbarrow.

Soon the land was nice and clear. Little Brother plowed the earth, then planted wheat, potatoes and corn. Come harvest time, he kept some of the crops to eat, and sold the rest at the market. He used the money he made to buy some pigs and chickens. He also started a fruit orchard, with rows of peach, plum and apricot trees.

Thanks to his hard work, Little Brother was living more comfortably by the day.

Big Brother, meanwhile, was living less comfortably! After a lifetime of lounging around, he had no idea how to do any of the jobs required to keep the farm running. So now his fields were turning barren and his animals were hungry.

BIG BROTHER: Well, this isn’t fair! I live in this fine house on this fine land… yet my farm is falling apart! Little Brother lives in a rickety shack on a hilly, rocky piece of earth... yet I hear he’s doing great! Prospering, even! (beat, getting a (paranoid) idea) Could it be that Mother secretly left him something that she didn’t leave me? I must find out!

NARRATOR: So Big Brother made the journey up and over the hill. His eyes widened when he saw Little Brother’s flourishing crops, healthy animals, and leafy orchard.

BIG BROTHER: Little Brother! All I gave you was a forgotten sliver of land covered with rocks. How do you have all these things? (beat) Tell me the truth. Did Mother leave you something special? Some sort of treasure that I don’t know about? If so, I want my share of it! Now!

NARRATOR: Little Brother watched his older sibling enviously eye the wheat, potatoes and corn… the pigs and chickens… the rows of fruit trees.

Suddenly, he got an idea.

LITTLE BROTHER: (hatching a plan) Big Brother, you ask whether Mother left me something special. Some sort of... treasure. (beat) The truth is… she did!

BIG BROTHER: I knew it! (beat) Tell me, Little Brother… what is it? What is this wonderful treasure you inherited?

LITTLE BROTHER: (enjoying this, slow) Well, you may not believe this... but she left me... a money tree!

BIG BROTHER: A money tree?!??? 

NARRATOR: Big Brother’s selfish heart skipped a beat.

BIG BROTHER: (getting excited but trying to act casual) ...And, uh, what does this “money tree” look like?

LITTLE BROTHER: (slow/clear) Well, it has a sturdy trunk with two strong and healthy limbs. Sticking out of each limb are five branches. (beat) And as long as I take care of this money tree, I’ll have everything I need! (pause) My fortune is made.

NARRATOR: As you can imagine, Big Brother liked the sound of the word “fortune”!

BIG BROTHER: (starting to scheme) Alright… so, uh, tell me, Little Brother... where, by chance, do you keep this money tree? (beat) You’re not hiding it, are you?

LITTLE BROTHER: Oh, no! (beat) In fact, you can see it right now!

NARRATOR: Big Brother’s greedy eyes swept the rows of peach, plum and apricot trees in Little Brother’s orchard.

BIG BROTHER: I can see the money tree right now?!? Really?!?

LITTLE BROTHER: Really! My money tree is in plain sight, Big Brother. (beat, playful, mysterious) Right before your very eyes.

NARRATOR: Big Brother burned with jealousy. He had to get his hands on that money tree!

So he went back up and over the hill to his fine house and spent the rest of the day plotting and planning. And that night... under a full, yellow moon... he crept back to Little Brother’s orchard. Little Brother was sound asleep in his hut, so he didn’t see his older sibling tiptoeing among the peach, plum and apricot trees.

BIG BROTHER: (sneaky/quiet) Hmmm.... Little Brother said his money tree has two limbs, with five branches each. Let’s see which one of these trees fits that description… (beat) No, not that one. Not that one... (pause) Wait a minute...

NARRATOR: Big Brother’s gaze fell on a hearty apricot tree, its trunk, limbs and branches bathed in moonlight.

BIG BROTHER: (observing the tree) Let’s see… Two limbs? Check! Five branches each? Check! (beat, excited) This must be it! This must be the money tree!

NARRATOR: Big Brother fell to his knees and dug the tree out of the ground. Then he dragged the tree back to his farm and planted it right next to his house.

Over the weeks that followed, Big Brother watered the tree every morning. And every evening, he checked the tree’s branches for signs of…

BIG BROTHER:! (beat, frustrated) Where is that money?? If this truly is a money tree, surely it will start sprouting money any time now!

NARRATOR: But the tree did not sprout any money. Just plump, orange apricots!

So Big Brother stomped back across the farm and up and over the hill. When he reached Little Brother’s orchard, Big Brother’s face was flushed and his jaw was clenched.

LITTLE BROTHER: Hello, Big Brother! (beat, notices his distress) What’s wrong?

BIG BROTHER: (seething) I’ll tell you what’s wrong! It’s that money tree of yours! Surely you noticed it’s missing…?

NARRATOR: Little Brother shook his head.

LITTLE BROTHER: (playing dumb) Actually, no! I didn’t!

BIG BROTHER: Well, the last time we saw each other... I snuck back to your orchard in the middle of the night, and I found a tree whose sturdy trunk had two strong and healthy limbs. Sticking out of each limb were five branches! Then I dug the tree up, took it home, and planted it by my house! (beat) But even though I’ve watered that tree every single day since, it hasn’t sprouted any money. Not even a coin! (beat) You said Mother left you a money tree, Little Brother. Were you telling me the truth?

NARRATOR: Little Brother smiled.

LITTLE BROTHER: I was telling you the truth! Mother did leave me a money tree. (beat) But there’s no way you stole it, Big Brother. There’s no way anyone can steal it! (beat) You see... my money tree is none other than...

NARRATOR: He gestured from his head to his toes.

LITTLE BROTHER: (big reveal) ...ME! 

NARRATOR: Big Brother furrowed his brow.

BIG BROTHER: (super confused) I, I don’t understand...

LITTLE BROTHER: Well, Big Brother… I told you that the money tree had a sturdy trunk with two strong and healthy limbs... Right?

BIG BROTHER: (not yet getting it) Right…

LITTLE BROTHER: ...And I also told you that each limb of the tree had five branches... Right?

BIG BROTHER: (still not getting it) Right…

LITTLE BROTHER: (carefully) Don’t you see? The sturdy trunk… is my body! The two strong and healthy limbs… are my arms! And the five branches on each of those limbs… are my five fingers! My hands! (beat) I use my body, arms and hands to plant trees, and tend crops, and take care of animals… And as a result, I have everything I need! (pause) My fortune is made.

NARRATOR: Big Brother was too bewildered to say a word. Little Brother reached out and gave his older sibling’s shoulder a gentle pat.

LITTLE BROTHER: (gently, encouraging) Listen, Big Brother. The good news is... I’m not the only one who has a money tree! (pause) You have a money tree, too!


LITTLE BROTHER: Yes! You always have! Look at you! You have a fit, able body... you have strong arms and hands… (beat) All you have to do is put them to use!

NARRATOR: And wouldn’t you know it, for the first time in Big Brother’s entire life, that’s exactly what he did!

But he didn’t do it alone. Instead, he finally followed Mother’s wish, and equally shared the farm with Little Brother. And as the siblings worked side by side, their money trees brought them everything they needed… and, together, their fortune was made.


This week’s actors were 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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