Circle Round Circle Round

Support the news

'Naming The Tree' | Circle Round 10322:00
Download

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

Ever heard the saying, “Bigger is better”?

Story continues below

Subscribe to the podcast

Well guess what?

It’s not necessarily true!

In today’s story, we’ll meet a character who’s anything but big. But when it comes to patience, focus and creativity… she’s huge!

Our story is called “Naming the Tree.” Versions of this tale come from parts of Africa. Our adaptation continues our 2020 summer series with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and features musical accompaniment by BSO tuba player Mike Roylance.

Voices in this episode include Gabriela Fernandez Coffey, Kevin Corbett, Jessica Rau, Jefferson Russell, Chris Tucci, Craig Wallace, Laura K. Welsh and Chloe Coleman. Kids, you can see Chloe in Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made on Disney+. And grown-ups, look for Chloe in Upload on Amazon, Big Little Lies on HBO, as well as the feature film, My Spy.


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

Think about a time you felt strong - in body, or mind, or both.

Find a piece of paper and something to draw with, then create a picture that shows your experience. Once you’re done, show it to a grown-up in your life, and tell them all about it. Then ask your grown-up to describe a time they felt strong.


Musical Spotlight: Tuba

(Marco Borggreve/BSO)
(Marco Borggreve/BSO)

Appearing first in the mid-1800s, the tuba is one of the newer instruments in the modern orchestra. It’s also the lowest-pitched member of the brass family. Composer Eric Shimelonis chose the tuba to accompany this story because its deep, booming sound echoes the rich, low voice of Elephant - and suggests the slower, steadier pace of Tortoise!


Script:

NARRATOR: Long ago… back when animals ruled the earth… a great drought came to the land.

Not one drop of rain fell from the sky, so the ground grew scorched, baked and dusty… and the long, tall grass shriveled, withered and wilted.

The great drought led to a great famine, and the animals roamed the plains, searching for something — anything! — to fill their bellies.

But they couldn’t find a thing to eat.

Until...

ANIMAL 1: / ANIMAL 2: / ANIMAL 3: / ANIMAL 4: / ANIMAL 5: Wooooowwwwwww!

NARRATOR: Miraculously, sprouting up in the middle of the vast, sunburnt plains was a lofty, leafy tree, with a thick, gnarled trunk. The tree’s strong, sturdy branches were bursting with ripe, fragrant, juicy fruit — all of them different colors of the rainbow!

As the animals gaped at the tree with watering mouths, Elephant used his strong, grey trunk to grasp one of the plump fruits. He gave the fruit a tug… but it held fast to the branch.

ELEPHANT: Ahhhh… just as I suspected!

NARRATOR: Elephant let go of the fruit and turned to his fellow animals.

ELEPHANT: My friends! I’ve heard stories about this tree... Legend has it it’s a magic tree! And its rainbow-colored fruit will cling to its branches and never come off... unless we can say the tree’s name.

NARRATOR: The animals were intrigued.

ANIMAL 1: Okay…

ANIMAL 2: So, what’s the name of the tree, Elephant?

ANIMAL 3: Yes! What’s the name of the tree!?

ANIMAL 4: Tell us what it's called!

ANIMAL 5: Tell us the name!

ANIMAL 1: / ANIMAL 2: / ANIMAL 3: / ANIMAL 4: / ANIMAL 5: (ad-lib excited pleas to hear the tree’s name, to say the name and get fruit, how hungry they are, etc.)

NARRATOR: Elephant held up his trunk. The animals quieted down.

ELEPHANT: The truth is, my friends... I don’t actually know the tree’s name! The only one who does know is the king of the beasts himself — Lion! (beat) So... my question is… which one of you will go and ask Lion the name of the tree?

NARRATOR: The animals exchanged a nervous glance. All of them knew that Lion lived far across the plains, over the hills, and deep within the jungle! The great creature rarely emerged from his den, and he was always grouchy, grumbly and grumpy.

ELEPHANT: (encouraging) Oh, come now, friends! Surely one of you can visit Lion and find out the name of the tree...? So that we can enjoy this succulent, sweet-smelling fruit...? (beat) Anyone…? (getting discouraged/frustrated) Anyone…?

TORTOISE: I’ll do it, Elephant!

NARRATOR: The animals all stared… at Tortoise.

TORTOISE: I’ll go and ask Lion the name of the tree!

NARRATOR: Elephant knelt down, lowered his trunk, and gave Tortoise’s tiny head a gentle pat.

ELEPHANT: (almost condescending) Oh, Tortoise. I appreciate your offer. … But look at you! You’re so small! So slow! By the time you return from Lion’s den, all of us will have wasted away from hunger!

NARRATOR: Elephant got back to his feet.

ELEPHANT: No. We want to send someone who’s swift... and nimble! Someone like…

NARRATOR: His eyes darted from animal to animal.

ELEPHANT: … like Hare! (beat) Hare, why don’t you go across the plains, over the hills and into the jungle to ask Lion the name of the tree?

NARRATOR: Hare wiggled her slender ears and twitched her whiskery nose.

HARE: (flattered, becoming more confident) Well… I am swift and nimble! The swiftest and nimblest, in fact! (beat) You know what? I’ll do it!

NARRATOR: So swift, nimble Hare jumped across the plains, hopped over the hills, and leaped through the jungle, all the way to Lion’s den.

HARE: (cheery, chirpy) Hi there, Lion! Do you have a minute?

NARRATOR: Unbeknownst to Hare, Lion was about to settle down for a nap. The great beast lifted his shaggy, golden head and rolled his big, amber eyes.

LION: (tired, grumpy) I suppose I have a minute - but that’s all! (beat) (grudging) What is it, Hare?

HARE: Well, Lion… It hasn’t rained in ages, and the animals are very hungry. But we found the magic tree in the middle of the plains! The one that grows juicy, rainbow-colored fruits! So I wonder, could you please tell me… the tree’s name...?

NARRATOR: Lion opened his mighty jaws and let out a yawn.

LION: (yawn) So… you wish to know the name of the magic tree in the middle of the plains that grows juicy, rainbow-colored fruits...? (beat) The name of the tree is… (slowly) UWUNGELEMA [uh-WOONG-uh-LAY-muh]. [note: the “oo” is like “spoon” or “moon.”]

HARE: (slowly repeating) Uwungelema…? [uh-WOONG-uh-LAY-muh] [note: the “oo” is like “spoon” or “moon.”]

LION: That’s right! Say that name and you and the other animals can eat as many juicy, rainbow-colored fruits as you want. (beat) Now beat it, Hare. I have a cat nap to take.

NARRATOR: Hare’s heart and legs were racing as she scurried away from Lion’s den.

HARE: (as she runs, super-excited) Oh boy oh boy oh boy! We’ll be stuffing ourselves on juicy, rainbow-colored fruit in no time — thanks to my swift, nimble feet! (beat) Let’s see how fast these babies can go!

NARRATOR: Hare began sprinting faster...

HARE: Woo-hoo-hoo!

NARRATOR: ...and faster…

HARE: Look at me!!!

NARRATOR: ...and soon she was going so fast that as she burst out of the jungle and headed toward the hills...

HARE: (gasp)

NARRATOR: ...her paw got snagged in a vine hanging from a baobab tree!

HARE: Oh no!

NARRATOR: Hare wriggled this way and that as she scrambled to untangle herself from the creeper.

HARE: (fighting to untangle) Oh, come on! Come on!

NARRATOR: And when she finally broke free…

HARE: Whew!

NARRATOR: ...she sped back over the hills and across the plains at such a breakneck pace, her slender body looked like a blur.

When Hare returned to the magic tree, Elephant and the other animals leaned in with hopeful eyes and bated breath.

ELEPHANT: Well, Hare…? Tell us! What’s the name of the tree?

NARRATOR: Hare grinned.

HARE: (proudly) Okay, everybody. The name of the tree is… (realizing she’s unable to remember)... is… ummmm…

NARRATOR: Hare wracked her brain, trying to remember what Lion told her. But her unexpected tango with the vine had knocked the tree’s name right out of her head!

HARE: The name is... uhhhh… ummmm… (beat) (defeated, sheepish) I forgot!!!

NARRATOR: The animals’ faces dropped. Elephant shrugged.

ELEPHANT: That’s okay, Hare, that’s okay. We’ll just have to send someone else.

TORTOISE: Well...? What about me?

NARRATOR: Once again, all eyes turned… to Tortoise.

TORTOISE: I told you, Elephant! I’ll do it! I’ll go ask Lion the name of the tree!

NARRATOR: Elephant shook his head.

ELEPHANT: That’s very sweet of you, Tortoise. But like I said, you’re just too small and slow! And besides, after what happened with Hare, we need someone who will actually remember what Lion tells them... Someone who won’t forget... Someone who — (beat, a-ha moment) wait a minute!

NARRATOR: His eyes lit up.

ELEPHANT: That’s me! Elephants never forget!

NARRATOR: It was true! Elephant had an excellent memory.

So, with his wrinkly, grey tail swinging behind him, Elephant set off for Lion’s den, to find out the name of the magic tree.

NARRATOR: What do you think will happen next?

Will Elephant learn the tree’s name… and remember it?

We’ll find out, after a quick break.

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “Naming the Tree.”

NARRATOR: Before the break, during a great drought and famine, the animals found a magical tree that was actually bearing fruit!

But the animals couldn’t pick the fruit until they said the name of the tree… and the only one who knew the tree’s name was Lion, who lived across the plains, over the hills, and deep within the jungle.

First, Lion told the name to Hare, but the swift, nimble creature rushed away so quickly that she got caught in a vine! And the name vanished from her head!

So Elephant volunteered.

The massive creature tromped across the plains, tramped over the hills, and trundled through the jungle, all the way to Lion’s den.

ELEPHANT: Good day, Lion! Can we talk?

NARRATOR: After Hare left Lion’s den, the king of beasts was finally able to conk out and grab some Zs. So he was none too pleased when Elephant lumbered in and roused him from his snooze.

LION: (tired, grumpy) Uch! What is it, Elephant? I’m trying to sleep!

ELEPHANT: I’m sorry, Lion… It’s just that we haven’t seen rain in forever! And all the animals are famished! And — (gets interrupted)

LION: (snappish) Let me guess! (annoyed to do this again) You wish to know the name of the magic tree in the middle of the plains that grows juicy, rainbow-colored fruits…! (beat) The name of the tree is… (slowly) UWUNGELEMA [uh-WOONG-uh-LAY-muh].

ELEPHANT: (slowly repeating) Uwungelema…? [uh-WOONG-uh-LAY-muh] [note: the “oo” is like “spoon” or “moon.”]

LION: (annoyed to have to go through all of this again) You’ve got it. Say that name and you and the other animals can eat as many juicy, rainbow-colored fruits as you want. (beat) Now leave me be. I’ve been trying to get my forty winks and I have at least thirty-nine more to go!

NARRATOR: Elephant was beaming from big, floppy ear to big, floppy ear as he stamped away from Lion’s den.

ELEPHANT: (super-excited) Oh, this is wonderful! We’ll be devouring that juicy, rainbow-colored fruit for days and days, thanks to my marvelous memory! (beat) (very self-congratulatory) My mind is as tight as a drum! It’s as sticky as a spider web!

NARRATOR: Elephant picked up his pace as he chuckled to himself.

ELEPHANT: My mind’s as sharp as a tack! As absorbent as a sponge! (self-congratulatory laughter) Ha ha ha ha!

NARRATOR: Elephant was so busy praising his “marvelous memory” that as he stomped out of the jungle and headed toward the hills, he didn’t notice a fallen log blocking his path. Before he knew what was happening, he stumbled over the log...

ELEPHANT: Woooooaaaaahhhhh!

NARRATOR: ...and his huge, grey body came crashing to the ground.

ELEPHANT: Oof!

NARRATOR: Elephant gritted his teeth as he struggled to stand up.

ELEPHANT: (fighting to get to his feet) Oh dear, oh dear!

NARRATOR: And when he was finally back on his feet...

ELEPHANT: Thank goodness!

NARRATOR: ...he waddled back over the hills and across the plains as quick as his wrinkly, grey legs could carry him.

When he returned to the tree, the other animals were trembling with anticipation.

ANIMAL 1: Elephant!

ANIMAL 2: You’re back!

ANIMAL 3: Do you know the name of the tree?

ANIMAL 4: You have to tell us what it is!

ANIMAL 5: Please! Tell us!

ELEPHANT: (proudly) Alright, friends. The name of the tree is… (realizing she’s unable to remember)... is… uhhhhh...

NARRATOR: Elephant scanned his brain, trying to recall what Lion said. But the surprise trip over the log had erased his memory!

ELEPHANT: The name is... uhhhh… errrrr... (beat) (defeated, sheepish) I forgot!!!

NARRATOR: Elephant bowed his head.

ELEPHANT: I’m sorry, friends. But just because Hare couldn’t remember the tree’s name, and I couldn’t remember the tree’s name, it doesn’t mean that nobody can remember the tree’s name! (beat) Surely, somebody else can give it a go…?

NARRATOR: For a moment, all the animals were quiet. And then…?

TORTOISE: (frustrated) Oh, for pete’s sake!

NARRATOR: ...Tortoise spoke up.

TORTOISE: (frustrated, indignant, but not mean-sounding) How many times do I have to tell you, Elephant???? I’ll do it! I’ll ask Lion the name of the tree! (beat)

NARRATOR: She cocked her tiny head.

TORTOISE: ...And I’ll remember it, too!

NARRATOR: Then, with her short green legs inching along, Tortoise crawled across the plains, crept over the hills, and plodded through the jungle. She traveled all night, and when she reached Lion’s den, it wasn’t yet dawn… and the king of beasts was still fast asleep!

TORTOISE: Excuse me? Lion? I hope I’m not disturbing you!

NARRATOR: When Lion heard Tortoise’s voice, he peeled one eye open and scowled.

LION: Actually, you are disturbing me, Tortoise! I was just having the most wonderful dream!

TORTOISE: I apologize, Lion… But --

LION: (no more patience) No, no, no! I know exactly what you’re going to say! You wish to know the name of the magic tree in the middle of the plains that grows juicy, rainbow-colored fruits…! (beat) Well, for the last time, the name of the tree is… (slowly) UWUNGELEMA [uh-WOONG-uh-LAY-muh].

TORTOISE: (very slowly repeating) Uwungelema… [uh-WOONG-uh-LAY-muh] [note: the “oo” is like “spoon” or “moon.”]

LION: (annoyed to have to go through all of this again) Indeed. Say that name and you and the other animals can eat as many juicy, rainbow-colored fruits as you want. (beat) Now, please, go away. This beast needs his beauty rest!

NARRATOR: Tortoise repeated the tree’s name as she crept away from Lion’s den.

TORTOISE: Uwungelema… [uh-WOONG-uh-LAY-muh] Uwungelema… Uwungelema…

NARRATOR: She repeated it one way as she inched through the jungle...

TORTOISE: (ad-lib singing in a style) Uwungelema! Uwungelema! Uwungelema! (etc.)

NARRATOR: ...then another way…

TORTOISE: (ad-lib singing in another style) Uwungelema! Uwungelema! Uwungelema!  (etc.)

NARRATOR: ...then another way!

TORTOISE: (ad-lib singing in another style) Uwungelema! Uwungelema! Uwungelema!  (etc.)

NARRATOR: And when she left the jungle and shuffled over the hills...

TORTOISE: (ad-lib singing in another style) Uwungelema! Uwungelema! Uwungelema!  (etc.)

NARRATOR: ...the name was etched into her memory.

TORTOISE: (ad-lib singing in another style) Uwungelema! Uwungelema! Uwungelema!  (etc.)

NARRATOR: After many hours, Tortoise finally returned to the tree.

By the time she arrived, the other animals were sprawled out on the sunbaked earth, their eyes closed, their bellies empty.

But when Tortoise raised her head, puffed out her chest, and called out…

TORTOISE: UWUNGELEMA!!!!

NARRATOR: ...everyone rose up. And as they did, the juicy, fragrant, rainbow-colored fruits popped right off the tree’s branches and fell toward the ground.

The animals sang, the animals cheered, the animals ate rainbow-colored fruit ‘til their bellies were bursting.

And that was the last time they looked down on Tortoise for having a scrawny body. Instead, they looked up to her for having a strong mind. And rather than pooh-pooh her slow feet... they praised her steady ones.


Credits:
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.

Support the news