Shortie: The Leaky Bucket

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

Have you ever had a toy that broke? A book that lost its pages? A shirt or sock that got a big old hole in it?

When our belongings get damaged or dinged up, sometimes we have to let them go.

Sometimes, we can try and fix them.

But as we’ll hear in today’s bonus edition of Circle Round, sometimes, if we use our imaginations, we can find a way to reuse them altogether!

Our bonus story is called “The Leaky Bucket.” Versions of this folktale originally come from China.

Voices in this episode include Amy Brentano, Eric Shimelonis and Alexia Trainor.

If you’re looking for some extra creative fun while you’re listening, we have two activities for you. Or you can try Circle Round Bingo and our other new activity pages!

Activity One: Coloring Page

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

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: Draw Your Favorite Person

Pick someone who’s important to you: a family member, a neighbor, a friend. Then get some paper, and write or draw all the ways this person rocks. All the ways they bring more beauty to the world.

Meanwhile, ask your person to do the same for you.

Once you’re both done, exchange your creations — virtually or, if possible, in person. And as you look at all the great qualities your person sees in you, hopefully you can see them, too!


NARRATOR: In a tidy, cozy cottage... on a tall, grassy hill... above a babbling, silvery brook... there lived a washerwoman.

The washerwoman had two wooden buckets, which she hung from either end of a sturdy pole. Each morning, the woman woke up, had a bite to eat, then hoisted the pole with the buckets onto the backs of her shoulders.

WASHERWOMAN: Alright, my dear buckets. Time to fill you up!

NARRATOR: Then, with her wooden buckets balanced across her back, she followed a long dirt path down the tall, grassy hill to the babbling, silvery brook, where she used the buckets to collect water for her laundry.

But one morning, after filling her buckets and climbing the dirt path back up the hill to her cottage, the woman discovered that one of the buckets...


NARRATOR: ...was only half full!

WASHERWOMAN: Hmmm. I’m certain I filled you all the way to the top, dear bucket! (beat) What happened to you?

NARRATOR: The washerwoman squinted her eyes and took a closer look. And that’s when she saw it! Running down the bucket’s wooden side was a slender, jagged crack.

WASHERWOMAN: Ah... now I understand! Thanks to that crack, dear bucket, you must have been dripping and dribbling water all the way up the hill!

NARRATOR: The washerwoman scratched her head.

WASHERWOMAN: Hmmm… what to do, what to do? I can’t afford to buy a new bucket, but let me see… (a-ha moment, to the bucket) Oh! I know! I’ll seal your crack with glue! A bit of glue, dear bucket, and you’ll be good as new!

NARRATOR: So the woman sealed the bucket's crack with glue.

But the next morning, after the washerwoman filled her buckets in the brook and walked back up the hill, she noticed that, once again...


NARRATOR: ...the bucket was only half full!

WASHERWOMAN: Oh, dear bucket. You’re still leaking, are you? Well, I guess glue won’t do… (beat) But, no use fretting! … I’ll just have to make do with what I have.

NARRATOR: For years, the washerwoman kept carrying her buckets to the brook and back, to the brook and back... down the path and up again, down the path and up again.

And all the while, the leaky bucket… was miserable. When the washerwoman wasn’t around, the cracked vessel would turn to its un-cracked counterpart... and complain!

LEAKY BUCKET: Ugh. I swear this crack is getting bigger and bigger. What do you think?

UN-LEAKY BUCKET: I think you look fine!

LEAKY BUCKET: No, seriously! You don’t think this crack makes me look tacky?

UN-LEAKY BUCKET: I said, you look fine!

LEAKY BUCKET: Whatever. I may “look fine,” but I sure don’t feel fine! Whenever the washerwoman plunges us into the water, I hope against hope that today’s the day I’ll hold it all in. But by the time we reach the top of the hill, I’ve dripped and dribbled all the way from the brook to the cottage! And I wind up half empty!

UN-LEAKY BUCKET: Don’t you mean, “half full”...?

LEAKY BUCKET: Whatever! (beat) The point is, I can’t hold water to save my life. (beat, downtrodden) I guess it’s time for this bucket… to kick the bucket. I think the washerwoman should just throw me away.

NARRATOR: But the washerwoman did not throw the leaky bucket away. Instead, day after day, she filled the bucket from the brook... and day after day, the bucket dripped and dribbled all the way up the path to the cottage.

One morning, just as the washerwoman knelt down beside the brook to collect her water, the leaky bucket finally spoke up.

LEAKY BUCKET: Um, excuse me...? Washerwoman...? Can I talk to you for a second?

NARRATOR: The washerwoman froze.

WASHERWOMAN: Who said that? Who’s there?

LEAKY BUCKET: It’s me! (beat) Your bucket!

WASHERWOMAN: My... bucket...?!??

NARRATOR: The washerwoman creased her brow.

WASHERWOMAN: ...Which bucket?

LEAKY BUCKET: (ashamed) (sigh) The leaky one...

NARRATOR: The washerwoman leaned down and stared at the leaky bucket. After all these years of talking to her “dear buckets,” she could hardly believe that, at long last, one of them was talking back!

WASHERWOMAN: (getting used to the idea of a talking bucket, tender) Alright then… So, my dear bucket. What can I do for you?

LEAKY BUCKET: Well… I wasn’t going to say anything, but I just had to speak up. (beat, decisive) I think you should throw me away.

WASHERWOMAN: Throw you away? Why should I throw you away?

LEAKY BUCKET: Well, think about it! When you first got me, I was shiny, and new, and I carried a full load of water all the way up the path on the hill! (beat) But now… thanks to this horrendous crack in my side... I drip! I dribble! I leak half my water all the way up the path on the hill! (beat) (slower / downtrodden) So... don’t you think it’s time you got rid of me? … I’m trash! … I’m garbage! (beat) I’m worthless!

NARRATOR: The washerwoman was quiet for a moment.

Then… to the bucket's surprise… the woman smiled!

WASHERWOMAN: (slowly) Oh, my dear bucket. You’re not ‘worthless’ at all! (beat) You’re priceless! 

LEAKY BUCKET: (totally lost here) I am...?!?


NARRATOR: Quick as a wink, the washerwoman unhooked the bucket from its end of the sturdy pole. Then she held the bucket high in the air.

WASHERWOMAN: Look, dear bucket! Look at the path on the hill! Tell me what you see!

NARRATOR: The bucket had been so busy grumbling and grousing about the crack down its side that it hadn’t paid attention to anything else in a very long time, least of all the path on the hill.

But the bucket did as the washerwoman instructed and took a look.

And when it did, it could hardly believe what it saw!

You see, one side of the path looked very different from the other, because that side of the path was covered in…

LEAKY BUCKET: (slowly, in awe) Flowers!!!!

NARRATOR: Thousands of flowers! Delicate lilies… cheerful peonies... fluffy chrysanthemums... the flowers formed a bright, brilliant ribbon of color all the way from the brook to the cottage.

LEAKY BUCKET: Wow! What a spectacular sight! (beat) But I don't understand. Why are the flowers only growing on one side of the dirt path? What about the other side? Why is it just plain grass?

NARRATOR: The washerwoman grinned.

WASHERWOMAN: Don’t you see, dear bucket? (beat) (slowly, sincerely, carefully as she explains) When I realized I couldn’t fix your crack, I decided I would work with it, make the best of things. So all these years, as I’ve walked down the path on the hill, I’ve been sprinkling seeds on one side! … And every day, when I walk up the path on the hill, (echoing the Bucket) you’ve been dripping and dribbling and leaking half your water on that side… and helping those seeds grow! (beat, moved) And look at them now.

NARRATOR: The leaky bucket gazed at the rainbow of flowers… the rainbow of flowers that its flaw, its imperfection, its supposed shortcoming, helped create.

And then… all of a sudden… for the first time in a long time... the leaky bucket felt absolutely full.


This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Circle Round’s executive producer, Katherine Brewer. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

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



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