'The Farmer's Coin' | Circle Round 102

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

Think about a time somebody helped you.

Maybe a grown-up helped you tie your shoes, or a friend helped you learn a new game.

We’re about to meet a hardworking farmer who helps a whole bunch of people. And in return? Well, let’s just say she’s in for more than a few surprises!

Our story is called “The Farmer’s Coin.” It’s inspired by a folktale from the Korean peninsula: a piece of land in east Asia surrounded almost entirely by water.  Our adaptation continues our 2020 summer series with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and features musical accompaniment by BSO violist Danny Kim.

Voices in this episode include Kevin Corbett, Mark Saul, Kimberly Schraf, Alexia Trainor, Chris Tucci, Laura K. Welsh, Jin Ha and Greta Jung. Grown-ups, you can see Jin Ha on Devs on FX and Love Life on HBO Max. And you can listen to a bunch of audio books voiced by Greta Jung, including the young-adult novels I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee, When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller and Stand Up, Yumi Chung, by Jessica Kim.

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

What are some ways you can lend a hand to those in need? Maybe a grown-up can help you pack up books, toys and clothing to donate, or you can find a charity that could really use some of the coins in your piggy bank.

To find even more examples of easy ways you can volunteer from home, check out these suggestions from Youth Service America.

Musical Spotlight: Viola

Of the four common orchestral string instruments, the viola falls between the violin and cello in terms of size and tone. In this video, Boston Symphony Orchestra Youth and Family Concerts Conductor Thomas Wilkins speaks with this week’s soloist, BSO violist Danny Kim, about an instrument whose sound has been described as "dark,” "earthy," and "mellow.”


NARRATOR: There once was a rice farmer.

The humble and diligent woman worked so hard that every autumn, she would harvest at least a dozen bags of rice! That’s twelve heaping sacks of grain, filled all the way to the brim!

But one year, the growing season was especially difficult. It was either too cold… or too hot… too dry… or too wet. And come harvest time, the rice farmer had little to show for it. In fact, after scraping together all the rice grains she had painstakingly picked, she could barely fill a basket, let alone a bag!

FARMER: Oh dear... With so little rice, I’ll never make it through the long, cold winter ahead! Whatever will I do?

NARRATOR: The farmer lived beside a smooth, tranquil lake, in a small, thatched-roof cottage. Across the lake was the sprawling mansion of a wealthy landlord. The farmer didn’t know her prosperous neighbor very well, but suddenly she had an idea.

FARMER: I know! I’ll ask the landlord if he can help me out. He must have thousands of bags of rice in that enormous house of his! Surely he can spare just one bag for a neighbor in need…?

NARRATOR: The farmer climbed into her rickety rowboat and paddled across the lake to the mansion. A servant led her into the dining room, where the well-to-do landlord was lunching at a long table piled with enough delicious food to feed the entire village!

The landlord slurped some soup, then dabbed his mouth with a silk napkin as the farmer made her request.

LANDLORD: Soooo, let me get this straight. You’ve been a rice farmer for years and years and years — yet you’re asking me for one bag of rice...? (beat) Why?

NARRATOR: The farmer blushed.

FARMER: Well, you see, sir, the growing season was so difficult this year! I worked myself to the bone, day in and day out! But the weather just wouldn’t cooperate. It was either too cold, or too hot, or too dry, or — (gets interrupted)

LANDLORD: (cutting her off, dismissive) Right, right, right! I get it! (beat) Listen. I will give you one bag of rice, farmer. But I won’t give it to you for free. You must repay me with a dozen bags of rice... by the spring!

NARRATOR: The farmer was confused.

FARMER: But, sir... the next rice harvest isn’t until next fall! Practically a year from now! How can I get you a dozen bags of rice by springtime?

NARRATOR: The landlord sipped some hot tea and fixed the farmer with an icy stare.

LANDLORD: Well, you’re the farmer — not me. (beat, icy) You’ll figure it out.

NARRATOR: Then he snapped his fingers and had a servant escort the farmer out of the mansion. The farmer placed the landlord's bag of rice inside her rickety rowboat, and skimmed across the smooth, tranquil lake with a mind that was anything but smooth and tranquil!

FARMER: Ugh. How in the world am I supposed to scrounge up twelve bags of rice by the spring? Now that the growing season is over, it's not like I can grow more rice… and I definitely can’t afford to buy more rice… (sigh) Ah well. At least I have one bag of rice to help me weather the cold, long winter ahead!

NARRATOR: To the farmer’s surprise, that ‘cold, long winter’… turned out to be early! That very night, the temperature plummeted. Snow tumbled from the sky, and the smooth, tranquil lake between the farmer’s cottage and the landlord’s mansion began to freeze over!

With the wind howling outside, the farmer took her meager basket of rice and poured it into the landlord’s bag. Next, she lit a crackling fire. Then, she reached into the bag, scooped some grains of rice into a pot, and set the pot to boil. Minutes later, she ladled the fluffy, fragrant clumps of steaming rice into a bowl.

But before she could tuck in to her dinner...

[SOT: knock on door]

FARMER: Hmm. Who’d be out at this hour? In this weather?

NARRATOR: The farmer undid the latch of the door and found a spindly old woman, shivering in the snow.

WOMAN: Thank you for answering the door, young lady! I was out walking and I lost my way... My fingers and toes have gone positively numb, and I’m so very hungry.

NARRATOR: The farmer fetched a blanket and wrapped it around the woman’s trembling shoulders.

FARMER: Com, sit at the table! I just cooked up a nice, warm bowl of rice and you’re more than welcome to have it!

WOMAN: Thank you!

NARRATOR: The farmer watched with wide eyes as the wispy old woman devoured the entire bowl.

WOMAN: Mmm! That was delicious! (beat) But I still feel so weak… May I please have some more?

NARRATOR: So the farmer scooped some more rice from the landlord’s bag, and boiled up another bowl…

WOMAN: More, please…?

NARRATOR: ...then another…

WOMAN: Just a bit more, please...?

NARRATOR: ... and another!

Before the farmer knew it, she was all out of rice! The landlord’s entire bag… was empty!

At last, the old woman rose to her feet.

WOMAN: Oh, good farmer, I am so grateful for your hospitality! (beat) To show you my thanks, I offer you… this.

NARRATOR: The woman clutched the farmer’s fingers and placed something in her palm.

WOMAN: (mysterious) ...I believe it may come in handy.

NARRATOR: Then the woman shuffled out the door, and disappeared into the frosty night.

The farmer looked down to see what the old woman had given her. It was a smooth, dull coin, and it was covered with strange writing; the farmer had no idea what it said, or where it was from.

But now that she was all out of rice… and she still owed the landlord twelve whole bags…

FARMER: ...I guess I might as well take this coin to market tomorrow! Maybe I’ll find a collector who’d like to buy it. (beat) But first, I’d better hit the hay. Since I skipped dinner, perhaps a good night of sleep will help me forget about my grumbling belly!

NARRATOR: As the farmer headed off to her bedroom, she tossed the strange coin into the empty rice bowl, where it landed with a clink.

[optional SOT: clink]

NARRATOR: The next morning, when the farmer came to the kitchen, she was greeted by a surprising sight. Her rice bowl was still on the table, but it was no longer empty. Instead, it was piled high with fluffy, fragrant, steaming rice!

FARMER: Hmmm. I could have sworn this bowl was empty last night! That old woman gobbled up every grain of rice I had!

NARRATOR: As the sweet, enticing aroma of steamed rice filled the farmer’s nose, she felt her mouth water… and heard her stomach growl. Then she hunched over the table, and scarfed down the rice by the fistful!

When the rice was all gone, she spotted something in the bottom of the bowl.

FARMER: What in the world...?!?

NARRATOR: The farmer reached into the bowl, and picked up something hard… and round… and smooth.

Any guesses what it was?

That’s right! It was the coin the old woman had given her! The strange one that the farmer had tossed into the rice bowl before going to bed!

FARMER: (putting two and two together) Wait a minute. The old woman told me this coin would “come in handy.” But could a dull, tarnished coin with weird writing actually fill a bowl with…???? (coming to her senses) No! What am I talking about? That’s way too good to be true! (beat, unsure) Right…???

NARRATOR: What do you think?

Is it “too good to be true”?

We’ll find out… after a quick break.


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

NARRATOR: When we left off, a farmer had dropped a mysterious, old coin into an empty rice bowl… and the next morning, she found the bowl piled high with fluffy, cooked rice!

The famished farmer scarfed down the rice until the bowl was empty. Then, she got an idea.

FARMER: (excited, eager) What if…?

NARRATOR: She snatched up the coin from the bottom of the empty bowl, then plunked it back in.

[optional SOT: plink/clink]

NARRATOR: And do you know what happened?

Just like that, the bowl filled up again with fluffy, fragrant, steaming rice!

FARMER: Woah! This coin the old woman gave me is magic! (beat, getting an idea) Wait a minute…

NARRATOR: The farmer fished the coin out from the bowl of rice. Then she sprinted to the tiny and cluttered back room where she kept her farming gear.

She grabbed an empty rice bag, and dropped the coin into the bag. Within seconds, the bag was bursting with glistening grains of rice, fresh as if they’d just been harvested!

FARMER: (a-ha moment) That’s it! I know just what I’ll do!

NARRATOR: The farmer used the magic coin to fill twelve bags of rice. But even though that’s exactly what she owed the landlord, she didn’t bring the rice across the frozen lake to his massive mansion. Instead, she pulled on her snow boots and carried the bags to the marketplace, where she handed them out to other hardworking villagers who might struggle through the freezing winter months.

PERSON 1: An entire bag of rice...?

PERSON 2: For me…?

PERSON 3: This will last all winter!

PERSON 4: My family will be so happy!

PERSON 5: Thank you!

PERSON 6: Thank you!

PERSON 1: / PERSON 2: / PERSON 3: / PERSON 4: / PERSON 5: / PERSON 6: Thank you!

FARMER: You’re very welcome, friends. I’m so pleased I can share my good fortune with you. Enjoy!

NARRATOR: The farmer returned to the marketplace day after day, giving a bag of rice to anyone who needed it.

And when the landlord caught wind of what she was doing, he was mad… and mystified! 

LANDLORD: Who does that farmer think she is? She owes me a dozen bags of rice, yet she’s giving rice away to the other peasants?!? For free?!? How is that possible?!?

NARRATOR: By now, the lake between the landlord’s luxurious mansion and the farmer’s little cottage was frozen solid. So the landlord laced up his boots and carefully crossed the slick ice until he reached the farmer’s door.

[SOT: aggressive knocking]

[SOT: door opens]

FARMER: (smiling) Oh! Hello! You must be here for your dozen bags of rice. Come on in! I’ll be right back.

NARRATOR: The farmer sat the landlord down at her table, then disappeared into the cluttered back room and shut the door.

The landlord was curious.

LANDLORD: Hmmm. What is she up to back there? (beat) Only one way to find out!

NARRATOR: The landlord tiptoed to the back-room door and pushed it open a crack. When he peeped through the opening, he was astonished by what he saw!

The farmer was taking a strange, dull coin and dropping it into empty bag after empty bag. Each time she plopped it in, the empty bag filled up... with rice! After the farmer had filled twelve bags of rice, she placed the coin in a little tin box on the shelf.

The landlord scurried back to the table. He hopped into his chair just as the farmer emerged from the back room.

FARMER: Here you go, sir! One dozen bags of rice.

LANDLORD: (faux-innocent) Well, what do you know? Here I was, thinking you’d never be able to pay me what you owed, and yet look at these big, beautiful bags. Why, it’s almost like… magic!

FARMER: (little giggle) Something like that...!

NARRATOR: The landlord picked up the bags and carried them across the slippery, frozen lake. Though the wind whipped his cheeks, and he kept losing his balance under such a heavy load, the selfish man couldn’t help but grin from ear to greedy ear.

LANDLORD: Ha ha! Now I know the farmer’s secret! That magic coin will be mine! All mine!

NARRATOR: Back at his mansion, the landlord scoured his servants’ closets for the most raggedy clothes he could find. Once night fell, he put on the clothing, then crept across the frozen lake to the farmer’s cottage and knocked on the door.

[SOT: knock]

NARRATOR: When the farmer answered, she didn’t recognize this shabby man clad in rags.

FARMER: Good evening! May I help you?

LANDLORD: (disguising his voice) I hope you can! I’m a poor fellow who’s fallen on hard times. I would give anything — anything -- for a nice, steaming bowl of rice! (beat, faux-innocent) Any chance you have some?

FARMER: Actually, I do! (beat) Give me just one minute!

NARRATOR: The farmer led the disguised landlord to the table. Then she grabbed an empty bowl and darted to the back room. When she came out, the bowl was filled with fluffy, fragrant, steaming rice.

The disguised landlord wolfed down the rice, then gazed at the farmer with twinkling eyes.

LANDLORD: (disguising his voice) That was delicious! Thank you! (beat) You know, in exchange for your generosity, I’d like to do a little something for you. A bit of clean-up, perhaps? Sweeping...? Dusting...? Doing the dishes…?

NARRATOR: The farmer thought for a moment.

FARMER: That’s a very nice offer! If you insist, I guess the back room could use some sprucing up. But no need to go crazy. Just some light sweeping will do.

NARRATOR: So the disguised landlord grabbed a broom and disappeared into the back room. Some time later, he reappeared, thanked the farmer for her kindness, then dashed out the door.

Little did the farmer know, but clutched tight in the landlord’s hand… was the dull, tarnished coin! The greedy man had stolen it!

LANDLORD: (ad-lib villainous laughter) Ha ha! With this magic coin, I’ll make tons and tons of rice, then sell it for tons and tons of money. I’ll be the wealthiest man in the world! (ad-lib more villainous laughter)

NARRATOR: The landlord was eager to get back to his mansion and take the coin for a spin. So instead of crossing the frozen lake slowly and carefully… as he usually did… he began sprinting across the smooth, slick ice.

But before he knew it, his feet started slipping…

LANDLORD: (ad-lib slipping sounds) Woah! Woahhh!

NARRATOR: ...and sliding…

LANDLORD: (ad-lib sliding sounds) Yikes! Yow!

NARRATOR: ...until they skidded out from under him...

LANDLORD: (ad-lib losing balance) Yahhhhh!

NARRATOR: ...and he landed right on his rear-end!

LANDLORD: (ad-lib landing sound) Ooph!

NARRATOR: The landlord hit the ice so hard that two things happened.

First, the ice cracked.

[SOT: ice cracking]

NARRATOR: Second, the magic coin he’d been clutching flew out of his hand… and went rolling across the ice!

[SOT: rolling]

NARRATOR: The coin went rolling and rolling and rolling… until it reached the jagged crack. Then, it fell right through.

[SOT: plop]

NARRATOR: The landlord plunged his hand into the frigid water, but it was too late.

The magic coin was gone.

LANDLORD: Nooooooo!

NARRATOR: Meanwhile, back at the farmer’s cottage, the humble woman didn’t have an inkling about the landlord’s dirty deed.

So the next morning, she did the usual, and headed to her back room to fill up more bags of rice with her magic coin. She’d gotten so accustomed to this routine that she didn’t even glance at the coin as she lifted it from the tin box and dropped it into the first bag.

So, you can imagine her surprise...

FARMER: What…??!?

NARRATOR: ...when nothing happened!

FARMER: What’s going on!??

NARRATOR: The farmer grabbed the coin and examined it.

FARMER: How odd! The magic coin the old woman gave me was all dull and tarnished and had that strange writing on it…yet this coin is so shiny! And new! 

NARRATOR: The farmer tried to remember the last time she used the magic coin.

FARMER: (remembering) Let’s see… That poor man dressed in rags came by last night… and he asked for some rice… then he offered to come back here and do some tidying up… and then — (beat, realizing what happened) Oh no! 

NARRATOR: The farmer’s heart sank as she realized what had happened. Whoever that “poor man” was, he had made off with her magic coin!

FARMER: Well, this is swell. Now I’m all out of rice and it’s still the middle of winter! Without my magic coin there’s no way that I can feed myself! Not to mention my fellow villagers!

NARRATOR: Just then…

[SOT: door knock]

NARRATOR: ...there was a knock at the door. When the farmer undid the latch, who should be standing there… but a cluster of her fellow villagers! The ones she’d been giving free bags of rice to all winter long!

And each and every one of those villagers was carrying a basket… of food.

PERSON 1: These baskets are for you, friend!

PERSON 2: We’ve brought fruits, vegetables…

PERSON 3: ...breads, cheeses…

PERSON 4: I even brought the carp I caught yesterday while I was ice-fishing on your frozen lake!

NARRATOR: The farmer was practically speechless.

FARMER: But… but… why? Why bring me all of these wonderful things?

PERSON 5: Well, we wanted to thank you for all the generosity you’ve shown us!

PERSON 6: With your free bags of rice!

NARRATOR: All at once, the farmer’s heart leapt… and fell. She was touched by the villagers’ kindness, but she knew that without her magic coin, her days of giving out free bags of rice were over.

FARMER: (not letting on) Well, that’s very kind of you, friends. More than you know. (beat) Thank you!

PERSON 1: No, friend!

PERSON 1: / PERSON 2: / PERSON 3: / PERSON 4: / PERSON 5: / PERSON 6: Thank you!

NARRATOR: Then the villagers loaded their baskets into the farmer’s cottage, and went back home.

FARMER: My goodness! Such wonderful people… and such wonderful food! Maybe I’ll cook up some of that carp the fisherman caught in the frozen lake! What a delicious dinner that will be!

NARRATOR: The farmer reached into one of the baskets and picked up a big, glistening fish with large, thick scales. She laid the carp on the table and lifted her knife. But the moment she sliced into the fish’s plump belly...

FARMER: (ad-lib expression/gasp of surprise) Oh!

NARRATOR: ...the blade struck something hard!

FARMER: Hmmm! The carp must have swallowed something while it was swimming around under the ice! I wonder what it could be…?

NARRATOR: The farmer looked inside the carp’s belly, and discovered something very familiar.

And do you know what it was?

Here’s a hint.

It was round… and dull… and tarnished… and covered in strange writing.

FARMER: Oh my goodness! It’s the magic coin! 

NARRATOR: Months later, the snows of winter finally gave way to the blossoms of spring, and the farmer got back to work in the rice fields.

And if the weather got too cold… or too hot… too dry… or too wet… well, she had her magic coin as a back-up. But otherwise, the farmer worked hard, day in and day out.

As a result, she always had full bags of rice, and a full belly. And thanks to her generous spirit, the rest of the village did, too.

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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