'Chief Know-It-All' | Circle Round 97

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

Ever heard the expression, “too big for your britches”?

If someone is too big for their britches, it means they’re cocky, conceited, anything but modest and humble.

We’re about to meet a character who’s way too big for his britches, until he meets someone who takes him down a notch!

Our story is called “Chief Know-It-All.” Versions of this tale come from Hawaii — the only American state in the Pacific Ocean... and the only one composed entirely of islands.

Voices in this episode include Doug Lockwood, Adam Mastroianni, Maurice Emmanuel Parent, Gamalia Pharms, Kimberly Schraf, Chris Tucci and Chris Sullivan. Chris Sullivan starred in the Cinemax drama, The Knick, and earned an Emmy nomination for his role in NBC’s This Is Us. He also writes and plays music under the name Joseph The Spouse. His new album, recorded with Taylor Goldsmith from the band Dawes, is expected to come out later this year.

Coloring Page

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

The chief learned a lot about what it means to be humble and modest — no longer “too big for his britches.”

What are some things you can do this week to be humble? Find a grown-up and ask them to help you make a list. Maybe you can help a younger sibling learn something new, you can hold the door open for someone, or you can simply say “thank you” when somebody says or does something kind.

Musical Spotlight: Ukulele

(Eric Shimelonis for WBUR)
(Eric Shimelonis for WBUR)

In the late 1800s, immigrants from Portugal came to Hawaii with a small Portuguese guitar known as the braguinha (or braginho). Because musicians could play the tiny guitar so swiftly and nimbly — their fingers jumping like fleas across the fingerboard — Hawaiians came to call their version of the instrument the ukulele, which translates to “jumping flea”! Nowadays, the ukulele is celebrated in Hawaii — it’s a staple of hula music — and has garnered fame far beyond the islands. In fact, visit Cranston, Rhode Island and you can find The Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum!


NARRATOR: Once upon a time… on a peaceful island full of sandy beaches, lush valleys and majestic mountains… there lived a chief.

The chief was the most powerful man around… and the most pompous... with a head so big it practically reached the mountain tops! The arrogant ruler was constantly singing his own praises, and bragging about how magnificent he was.

CHIEF: Oh, my subjects are so lucky to have me as their leader! (beat) I mean, has there ever been a head-honcho so hale and hearty? A sovereign so spectacularly smart…? (beat) I don’t think so.

NARRATOR: Now, the chief may have been a swollen-headed know-it-all. But the truth is, he was ‘spectacularly smart.’ He adored making up riddles, and could easily stump even his wisest advisors.

CHIEF: Okay… listen up, folks. See if you can solve this riddle. (carefully) If you beat my head, I work. If you do not beat my head, I do not work. Who am I? (beat, no one answer) Anyone...? No takers...? Really? (giving up on getting an answer) The answer is... a nail!


NARRATOR: But the chief didn’t just think he was the smartest, right?

He thought he was the strongest, too!

And the truth is, the chief was quite “hale and hearty.” He was an outstanding athlete, and once a year, he challenged his royal guards to a grand tournament: three contests of strength and skill.

The first was a bowling contest, where each challenger rolled a stone disc down a long, straight path, to see how far the disc could go.

[SOT: bowling]

NARRATOR: The second contest was a spear-throwing competition, where competitors took turns hurling a spiked pole through the air to strike a far-away target.

[SOT: spear]

NARRATOR: The third contest was lava sledding… where contestants took a running start, and hopped onto a narrow wooden sled. Then they hurled themselves, headfirst, down a steep slope made of crushed lava rock, in hopes of sliding faster than their opponents.

SOT: [sledding]

NARRATOR: Each and every year… with all three of these contests... can you guess who always emerged victorious?

That’s right!

The chief!

CHIEF: (making a big show of it) (feel free to ad-lib expression of triumph) Ha haaaa! The chief triumphs again! 

NARRATOR: But then… one bright, hot summer... everything was about to change.

It all started when a new guard joined the chief’s ranks. The fellow’s name was Caleb, and across the island he was known for his physical strength and skill… not to mention his kindness and modesty. Unlike the chief, you’d never hear Caleb bragging about his accomplishments!

Before Caleb’s first grand tournament, he approached two of his fellow guards as they warmed up and stretched.

CALEB: Excuse me, my friends — sorry to bother you. But I’m new to the royal guard. In fact, today is my very first time competing against the chief! And I can’t help but wonder... have any of the chief’s guards ever beat him in the grand tournament? Any of them?

NARRATOR: The two guards exchanged a look.

GUARD 1: (little chuckle) Are you for real, man? None of us have ever bested the chief!

GUARD 2: Yeah! I don’t know how that guy does it, but he is in amazing shape! I mean, no matter how much we practice and train and work out, the chief always comes out on top. Always! 

[SOT: sound to indicate tournament is starting]

GUARD 2: Oh! Time for us to get started! Best of luck, man.

GUARD 1: Yeah. Best of luck.

NARRATOR: Caleb joined his fellow guards as they lined up and marched across the palace grounds. Thousands of spectators clapped and cheered as the guards strode over to a stage festooned with flowers, where the chief was waiting.

CHIEF: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to this year’s grand tournament! (pause for applause) As usual, we will engage in three traditional games, with me competing against my fine, strapping royal guards here. (beat) May the best man win!

NARRATOR: The crowd roared as the chief held up a smooth disc made of black lava rock.

CHIEF: Our first game today… is bowling! As usual, we’ll all take turns rolling our discs down this course here, then see whose disc travels the farthest. (beat) I, of course, will go first!

NARRATOR: The chief clutched the disc to his heart and took a deep breath. He swung his arm back, then forward, then sent the disc rolling down a track of smoothly-packed dirt.

CHIEF: (urging the disc, feel free to ad-lib) Go, go, go, go, go!

NARRATOR: Everyone’s eyes were glued to the chief’s disc as it rolled farther and farther and farther... eventually coming to a halt at the thirty-yard line.

CHIEF: (faux-modest/faux-humble) Thirty whole yards — not bad, not bad! (beat, smug) Try beating that one, men!

NARRATOR: One by one, the guards sent their discs hurtling down the course. As usual… none of them came anywhere near the chief’s disc.

At least, not at first!

The last guard to bowl... was Caleb. The new recruit took his time as he grasped his disc of white sandstone and gazed down the narrow course. Then he extended the disc behind his body, swung it forward, and let go.

Caleb’s disc went rolling down the course. Rolling… rolling… rolling… until… at last… it came to a stop at the forty-yard line! Ten whole yards ahead of the chief’s!

The crowd went wild. The chief turned to his advisors with a snarl.

CHIEF: (snarling) Who is that guard?

ADVISOR 1: Why, that’s Caleb, Your Highness!

ADVISOR 2: He just joined your ranks last week!

ADVISOR 3: He’s quite the athlete, isn’t he?

CHIEF: (snappish) Quite! He’s the first guard ever to beat me in bowling! (beat) But that rookie has only bested me in one game. We still have two more to go.

NARRATOR: The chief straightened himself up and tried his best to smile as he addressed the crowd.

CHIEF: (uncomfortable but trying not to show it) Ladies and gentlemen! I commend our new recruit on his wonderful stroke of luck! Because if he beat me in a contest, it must have been luck, right?

[SOT: crowd politely laughs]

CHIEF: But enough dilly-dallying. Onto the next game… spear-throwing!

NARRATOR: The chief held up a long wooden spear decorated with shark’s teeth and feathers.

CHIEF: On the other side of this field is a banana tree. In the middle of the tree’s trunk is a target. We’ll each take turns hurling our spears at the tree, then see who comes closest to striking the target! (beat) I, of course, will go first.

NARRATOR: The chief lifted his arm and bent it behind his head. He took a step, then launched his spear forward.

CHIEF: (ad-lib words and/or sound as he throws spear)

NARRATOR: The chief’s spear whizzed through the air, before driving deep into the banana tree’s trunk, smack-dab in the middle of the target.

CHIEF: (faux-modest) Well, what do you think of that? A bullseye! (beat, smug) Try getting closer than that, men!

NARRATOR: The guards took turns flinging their spears toward the banana tree.

Many of the spears punctured the tree’s trunk, though none of them hit the target like the chief’s did.

Then… it was Caleb’s turn.

Caleb clutched his spear, then launched it into the air, straight at the banana tree. And do you know what happened? Not only did Caleb’s spear pierce the center of the target... but it drove all the way through the tree’s trunk... until it stuck out the other end!

The astonished crowd erupted with cheers and applause. The chief, meanwhile, felt his face burn with embarrassment… and anger. He glared at Caleb, then took a deep breath, and grinned through clenched teeth.

CHIEF: (angry but trying not to show it) Ladies and gentlemen! Once again fortune has smiled on our newest recruit. But let’s see what happens with our next game… lava sledding! (beat) I, of course, will go first! 

NARRATOR: The chief grabbed his oiled and polished wooden sled and headed to the top of a steep hill made of crushed lava. He sprinted forward, then launched himself onto the sled... belly-down, head-first... and sped across the course.

CHIEF: (ad-lib words and/or sound as he speeds on sled)

NARRATOR: The chief and his sled looked like a blur as they streaked farther and farther. By the time the chief reached the finish line, he had zipped across the course in just 59 seconds! 

CHIEF: My, my, my! 59 seconds — that’s less than a minute! Definitely a new record. (beat, smug) Good luck breaking that one, men!

NARRATOR: One by one, the guards zoomed down the lava slope. And, as you can probably guess, no one completed the course in just 59 seconds, as the chief did.

Then it was Caleb’s turn.

Quick as a wink, the young man cast himself onto his sled and surged down the hill. When his sled crossed the finish line, he had clocked in at 49 seconds! Ten seconds fewer than the chief!

The crowd jumped to its feet and exploded with hoots, hollers and whistles. Caleb’s fellow guards lifted him onto their shoulders and paraded him around the tournament grounds. But the defeated chief clenched his fists and stalked off to the palace, with his advisors in tow.


[SOT: fade out cheering crowd]

CHIEF: This is outrageous! Atrocious! Abominable! How dare this brand new recruit beat me?!?? In all three contests??!???

ADVISOR 1: Well, like we said, Your Highness, Caleb is quite an athlete!

ADVISOR 2: Yes! This young man is unlike anything we’ve ever seen!

ADVISOR 3: I mean, did you see the way he flew on that sled just now?

ADVISOR 1: Yes! And the way he flung that spear!

ADVISOR 2: Not to mention the way he bowled! Wasn’t it amazing how he managed to — (gets interrupted)

CHIEF: (angry) Enough! 

NARRATOR: The chief was so furious, the veins in his neck were throbbing.

CHIEF: Look, people! I was humiliated out there! Humiliated! I have been winning these tournaments for years — years!!!! — and suddenly this rookie, this novice, this new kid on the block shows up and runs circles around me?!? (beat) It’s a disgrace! After all, I’m the head-honcho who’s hale and hearty! The sovereign who’s spectacularly smart — (a-ha moment) (gasp) Wait a minute!

NARRATOR: The chief fell quiet for a moment. The advisors leaned in, waiting for him to continue.

CHIEF: (figuring out a plan) That’s it! … Don’t you see? I am spectacularly smart! The spectacularly smartest, in fact! (beat) That’s how I’ll show this newbie who’s boss.

ADVISOR 3: (clueless) But, Your Highness, aren’t you already the boss?

ADVISOR 1: Right! I mean, you are the chief and all, so - (gets interrupted)

CHIEF: (frustrated) Ugh, it’s a figure of speech, people! (beat) Listen. First thing tomorrow, bring this Caleb person to the palace. Tell him I wish to meet with him. (beat) That newcomer may have bested me in body… but I’m about to best him... in brains! 

NARRATOR: What do you think “Chief Know-It-All” is planning?

Will he succeed in “besting” Caleb “in brains”?

We’ll find out, after a quick break.


NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to Circle Round. Today our story is called “Chief Know-It-All.”

NARRATOR: When we left off… for the first time ever... a new guard named Caleb beat the cocky island chief in the annual grand tournament.

So, the outraged chief cooked up a plan to get revenge.

The morning after the tournament, he summoned Caleb to the palace, and challenged the young man to another contest. A riddling contest!

CALEB: I have to admit, Your Highness, I don’t know much about riddles — telling them or solving them. (beat) But if it is your royal wish, I will try.

CHIEF: It is my royal wish, Caleb. And if you solve my riddle by tomorrow morning… I will promote you to captain of the royal guard!

NARRATOR: Caleb’s heart skipped a beat.

CALEB: That’s very generous of you, Your Highness! (beat) But, what if I can’t solve the riddle…?

NARRATOR: The chief’s eyes gleamed.

CHIEF: If you can’t solve my riddle, Caleb, then you will be booted out of the royal guard… forever! (beat) So… are you ready?

NARRATOR: Butterflies flitted around Caleb’s stomach. What else could he say, except…?

CALEB: (nervous, but trying not to show it) I’m ready.

CHIEF: Good! Now, listen up and listen well, for here is my riddle. (beat, carefully) In the morning, I have four legs. At noon, I have two legs. In the evening, I have three legs. Who am I???

NARRATOR: As Caleb left the palace, his mind was reeling. The chief’s riddle sounded like utter nonsense!

But Caleb was determined to find the answer. So on his way home, he studied everything around him, in hopes that something would help him solve the chief’s riddle. He gazed at the glittering blue sea, stared at the sandy beach, took in the towering mountains. He peered at papaya trees, observed orchids, he even sized up the sea turtles and gawked at the geckos.... but no inspiration came.

At last he reached the thatched-roof hut he shared with his great-aunt and his baby daughter. Aunty [ANN-tee] Ona [OH-nuh] was sitting on her rocking chair. By her side was her trusty cane. In her lap was Caleb’s squirming, wriggling daughter.

ONA: Welcome back, Caleb! How did your meeting go with the chief?

CALEB: Not well, Aunty [ANN-tee]. Not well at all. Turns out the chief is going to kick me out of the royal guard, unless I can solve... a riddle.

NARRATOR: Aunty Ona raised a silvery-gray eyebrow.

ONA: A riddle, eh…? And what might that riddle be?

NARRATOR: So Caleb told Aunty Ona the chief’s riddle. The old woman listened carefully.

ONA: Soooo… (slowly/carefully repeating what she’s just been told) “In the morning, I have four legs. At noon, I have two legs. In the evening, I have three legs.” (beat) That’s it? That’s the chief’s riddle?

CALEB: That’s it! Do you know the answer, Aunty?

NARRATOR: A grin spread across Aunty Ona’s wrinkled face.

ONA: (mulling it over for a second) Actually, my boy... I do know the answer to the chief’s riddle!

NARRATOR: Caleb’s heart fluttered.

ONA: ...But I’m not going to tell it to you.

NARRATOR: Caleb’s heart fell.

CALEB: What do you mean, Aunty? If I don’t give the chief an answer, then there’s no way that I can — (gets interrupted)

ONA: Oh, don’t you worry, Caleb! You’ll give the chief an answer. But that answer must come from you... not me! (carefully, mysteriously) The most I can do is tell you that the solution to your riddle… can be found in this very room. The rest is up to you.

NARRATOR: Aunty Ona reached up and handed Caleb his baby daughter.

ONA: Now take this adorable child of yours and let me make some lunch. We’re having coconut pudding for dessert! Your favorite!

NARRATOR: As Caleb held the baby in his arms, she began squirming her little arms and legs. So Caleb set the restless child on the rug. Immediately, she began to crawl, cooing and babbling as she scooted around the room on all fours.

Aunty Ona, meanwhile, lifted her creaky bones out of her rocking chair, took hold of her cane, and leaned on her wooden stick as she shuffled toward the stove.

Just then, the clock struck twelve...

[SOT: clock strikes 12]

NARRATOR: ...and a thought struck Caleb.

CALEB: (figuring it out) Wait a minute - four legs in the morning... two legs at noon... and three legs in the evening. Four legs… two legs… three legs… (beat, a-ha moment) That’s it. That’s it!

NARRATOR: The next day, Caleb hurried to the chief’s palace. The chief was waiting on his throne, with his arms crossed and his face smug.

CHIEF: (skeptical, smug) Well, Caleb...? Were you successful in finding an answer to my riddle...?

NARRATOR: Caleb took a deep breath.

CALEB: (slowly) I was, Your Highness.

NARRATOR: As you can imagine, these were not the words the chief expected to hear.

CHIEF: (flummoxed, but trying to cover) Oh, you have, have you? Well, then. Let’s hear it. Tell me the answer to my riddle!

CALEB: I’d be happy to tell you, Your Highness. But I’d much rather show you! (beat) First, may I present… morning.

NARRATOR: Caleb let out a whistle. At once, who should appear… but Caleb’s baby daughter! The tiny infant crawled right through the door, then scooted over to Caleb... on all fours!

CALEB: Here are your four legs in the morning, Your Highness! A sweet young baby, at the dawn of her life and just learning to crawl. (beat) Which brings us… to noon!

NARRATOR: Caleb gestured toward himself, as he stood straight as an arrow on the palace floor.

CALEB: Here, Your Highness, are your two legs at noon. A strong young man standing tall in the prime of his life. (beat) And finally… we have evening.

NARRATOR: Caleb waved his hand toward the door, and can you guess who appeared? It was Aunty Ona! She hobbled into the room, her feet shuffling as she leaned on her cane.

CALEB: These, Your Highness, are your three legs in the evening. A wonderful, wise elder in her golden years, using her walking stick to help her get around.

NARRATOR: The chief was speechless. Caleb had cracked his riddle… and trounced him in the grand tournament… two things the chief had never dreamed possible.

For the first time ever, the great ruler felt humbled.

After that day, Caleb was promoted to captain of the royal guard. And every time the chief saluted his new captain... you can be sure his swollen head shrunk down a few sizes… while his respect for others… grew.

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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