'The Charming Flute' | Circle Round 104

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

Do you have a favorite instrument?

If so, how does hearing that instrument make you feel? Happy? Calm? Maybe it just makes you want to get up and dance!

In today’s story we’ll hear about an instrument with a sound so powerful, it teaches one man to sing a very different tune!

Our story is called “The Charming Flute.” It was inspired by tales told among the Uyghurs: a Turkic-speaking people from Central Asia. Our adaptation continues our 2020 summer series with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and features musical accompaniment by BSO flutist Elizabeth Ostling.

Voices in this episode include Feodor Chin, Robert Feng, Mark Saul and Amy Hargreaves. Grown-ups, check out Amy in 13 Reasons Why, now in its fourth and final season on Netflix. And watch for her in all eight seasons of Homeland, the hit spy-thriller series on Showtime.

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

Do you have an instrument at home that you like to play? If so, we’d love to hear it!

Pick a song — or make one up — and ask a grown-up to use video, or the voice-memo app on a smartphone, to record you playing. Then, they can send the recording to us! Our email address is

Musical Spotlight: Flute

(Marco Borggreve for the Boston Symphony Orchestra)
(Marco Borggreve for the Boston Symphony Orchestra)

The flute is a member of the woodwind group. But unlike its siblings (e.g. the clarinet, the oboe, the bassoon), the flute is not played with a reed. Instead, the flute player — most commonly known as a flutist or flautist — produces sound by blowing air across an opening. The resulting sound is airy, light, bright, graceful, and ever so charming!


NARRATOR: There once was a woman named Anastasia.

Anastasia had very little in the world, other than the clothing she wore, and the flute she played.

Anastasia’s flute was a simple instrument... just a long, slender tube she had crafted from the reeds that sprouted in the swamps... but it brought her endless joy.

Not only that, but Anastasia’s flute-playing seemed to have enchanting powers. Every time she brought the instrument to her lips and began to play…

[SOT: flute music]

NARRATOR: ...any person within earshot would feel compelled to drop what they were doing, and sway to the beautiful music.

The only person who seemed immune to the charms of Anastasia’s flute…

[SOT: flute music stops]

NARRATOR: ...was the wealthy landowner who hired Anastasia to herd his sheep.

The landowner possessed thousands of acres of meadows, hills and fields. But though the man was rich in money… he was poor in kindness. He underpaid all his workers. And he resented the joy his laborers got from hearing Anastasia’s flute ring out as she herded the sheep to and fro.

One sunny morning, as Anastasia was grazing the landowner’s sheep in one of his many pastures...

ANASTASIA: (fondly) Enjoy your breakfast, Fluffy! Snowy, you bully! Don’t step on Buttercup’s grass!

NARRATOR: ...she suddenly heard hoofbeats approaching. She looked up, and who should be riding over on his horse, but her boss! The landowner!

ANASTASIA: (surprised, nervous) Uh, good morning, sir! To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?

LANDOWNER: (haughty/scoffing) “Pleasure”...?!? Oh, this visit is anything but a pleasure, Anastasia.

NARRATOR: The gruff fellow hopped off his horse and stuck out his hand.

LANDOWNER: (icy) Give me your flute.

NARRATOR: Anastasia blinked her eyes. Had she heard her boss right?

ANASTASIA: Pardon me, but my flute...?!? Why should I give you my flute?

LANDOWNER: Haven’t you noticed!? Every time you play that vexatious instrument of yours, my farmhands stop farming, my gardeners stop gardening, and my cattle drivers stop driving cattle! They’re all so bewitched by that troublesome thing that none of them get a lick of work done! So… (stern) give me your flute.

NARRATOR: Anastasia shook her head.

ANASTASIA: I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t part with my flute! Besides your darling sheep, it’s the only thing in the world that brings me joy! It’s the only thing that — (gets interrupted)


NARRATOR: Next thing Anastasia knew, the landowner snatched the reed flute right out of her satchel. Then the callous man clutched either end of the fragile instrument, and snapped it in two!

LANDOWNER: Try playing your flute now, Anastasia! (beat) And you can forget about my “darling sheep.” (beat) You’re fired.

NARRATOR: Then he jumped back on his horse and trotted away. Anastasia felt her eyes swim with tears.

ANASTASIA: (near tears) I can’t believe this! First I lose my flute, then my job…?!! What am I going to do?

NARRATOR: With her head hung low, Anastasia scratched the ears of her beloved sheep and wished them goodbye. But just as she was dragging her feet away from the meadow and onto the road...


NARRATOR: ...she bumped into someone!

ANASTASIA: I’m sorry!

NARRATOR: Glancing up, Anastasia saw an old man with a long, flowing beard. The man was stooped with age and clutching a cane, but his eyes were eager and alert.

MAN: It seems your head is a thousand miles away, young lady! Why so distracted?

NARRATOR: So Anastasia told the old man everything that happened — how the landowner took away her flute, then her job...

ANASTASIA: ...and now I have no idea how I’ll ever play music again! Let alone support myself! And those dear, dear sheep… I’ll miss them so much. (beat) What do I do?

NARRATOR: The old man stroked his silvery whiskers.

MAN: Hmmmm… I think I know just how to help you. (beat) Come this way.

NARRATOR: Anastasia followed the old man into a forest. When they reached a clearing surrounded by trees, the man walked over to a tree, pulled off a nice, long branch, and used his pocket-knife to fashion the wood into an elegant flute!

MAN: Here you go, young lady! Give it a try.

NARRATOR: Anastasia took the wooden flute, brought it to her lips, and began...

[SOT: music]


The notes that drifted from the flute were sweeter than any Anastasia had ever played before… rich and brilliant and bright.

And as the flute’s music filled the forest, do you know what happened? The monkeys stopped chattering, and the birds stopped tweeting. The tigers stopped prowling, and the deer stopped grazing.

But what happened after that was something Anastasia never expected… not in a million years!

[SOT: music fades out]

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: What do you think happened when Anastasia played her new flute in the forest?

We’ll find out, after a quick break.

[theme music out]


[theme music in]

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

[theme music out]

NARRATOR: Before the break, a cruel landowner fired Anastasia the shepherdess and cracked her beloved reed flute in two!

Then, a mysterious old man led Anastasia to a clearing in the forest, where he fashioned a new flute from the branch of a tree. And the moment Anastasia lifted her new flute to her lips and began to play…

[SOT: music]

NARRATOR: ...every single animal in the forest ran, crawled or winged its way to the clearing! Bears and foxes, monkeys and tigers, doves and deer… all of them!

Then the creatures just sat there, transfixed, as the music washed over them.

And when the music stopped…

[SOT: music stops]

NARRATOR: ...they all hurried away.

As Anastasia watched the animals go, she turned to the old man with wide eyes.

ANASTASIA: Did you see that? All those wonderful animals! Listening to my music! (beat) Sir, this flute is incredible. Thank you!

NARRATOR: From then on, Anastasia spent all day playing her flute. In the mornings, she went and played in the town square, where people gathered around, swaying to the music and plunking handfuls of coins into her upturned hat.

Then, once Anastasia made enough money to buy her daily bread, she went to the forest and played for her beloved animals.

Now that Anastasia was making a real living as a musician... and getting to spend time with critters and creatures of all shapes and sizes... she was more content and comfortable than ever.

Meanwhile, her former boss — the unkind landowner — was more discontented and uncomfortable than ever!

You see, one dark night, the selfish fellow... had a dream. A very vivid dream, one that he just couldn’t shake. The next morning, he called his son to his side.

LANDOWNER: Son, you must help me. In my dream last night I saw the most amazing thing, and I simply must have it. It was...

NARRATOR: He took a deep breath.

LANDOWNER: ...a rabbit.

NARRATOR: The landowner’s son cocked his head.

SON: A rabbit…?! But you have thousands of rabbits on this property already, Dad! What was so special about this one?

LANDOWNER: Oh, it wasn’t just “special,” my boy… It was spectacular! Its body was white — as white as freshly-fallen snow on New Year’s Day! And on top of its head it had a perfect circle of black fur — as black as the mountains at midnight! (beat) Find me this rabbit, son, and I’ll make you my business partner. I’ll give you half of all the money I make.

NARRATOR: The young man’s face lit up.

SON: You’ve got it, Father! I’ll get you that rabbit. You can count on me!

NARRATOR: The landowner’s son spent all day searching for a white rabbit with a perfect circle of black fur atop its head. By sundown, he was running out of energy… and hope.

Just then, he spied an old man with a long, silvery beard shuffling toward him on the road. It was the same old man who had carved a new flute for Anastasia, but the landowner’s son didn’t know that.

MAN: Good evening, young man. Why the long face?

SON: Well, it might sound crazy, but I’ve been looking high and low for a white rabbit with a perfect circle of black fur on top of its head.

NARRATOR: The old man’s eyes twinkled.

MAN: Well... if it’s an animal you’re looking for... I know someone who can help. She lives in the bright red cottage at the end of this lane.

NARRATOR: He pointed a bony finger down the road, then wrapped his hand around his cane and ambled away.

When the landowner’s son knocked at the door of the bright red cottage, who should answer it... but Anastasia! Here’s the thing, though — the son and the shepherdess had never met each other! They’d never crossed paths back when she worked for his father!

The landowner’s son explained his situation, and Anastasia listened intently.

ANASTASIA: (reflecting on what he just told her) Okay… soooo... you’re looking for a white rabbit, with a black circle on its head… I must say, that’s a very specific request!

SON: Well, it’s for my father. He’s determined to find one. (beat) You see, Dad owns thousands of acres of land, and if I find this rabbit for him, I’ll own them, too — well, half of them anyway. He’s going to make me his business partner!

NARRATOR: All of a sudden, Anastasia realized who this young man was… and who his father was. Remembering how the landowner had treated her, she decided to cook up a plan. She flashed the landowner’s son a smile.

ANASTASIA: (hatching a plan) Well... you’ve definitely come to the right person! Meet me in the middle of the forest at sunrise. And I promise: you will see your rabbit.

NARRATOR: The landowner’s son did as Anastasia instructed. The next morning, when the sun came up, he found Anastasia sitting cross-legged on a tree stump in the clearing, her flute in her hands. She lifted the instrument to her lips, and the second she began to play…

[SOT: music]

NARRATOR: ...the landlord’s son was astonished to see animals from all corners of the forest come running, crawling and flying to the clearing, then cluster around Anastasia and her flute!

Among those animals was, yes, a rabbit as white as freshly-fallen snow on New Year’s Day, with a circle on its head as black as the mountains at midnight! The landowner’s son gasped when he saw it. Anastasia saw it, too. She brought her song to a close…

[SOT: music ends]

NARRATOR: … then stretched out her hand, and scooped the rabbit into her arms.

ANASTASIA: Here! Take this rabbit and hold on to it tightly! If it runs away, I can’t help you find it again.

NARRATOR: With the rabbit tucked under one elbow, the landowner’s son spun on his heel and began scurrying home, excited about the bounteous acres of land his grateful father would bestow on him. But just as the young man was exiting the forest…

[SOT: music starts]

NARRATOR: … what should he hear, but the sound of Anastasia’s flute! Again!

And do you know who else heard it?

You guessed it: the rabbit!

Its whiskers twitched, its snow-white ears perked up, then the little creature wriggled free from the young man’s grasp. It leapt to the ground, then  bounded into the forest, toward the clearing.

The landowner’s son broke into a sprint, in hot pursuit.

But by the time he reached the clearing…

[SOT: music stops]

NARRATOR: ...Anastasia had ceased her flute playing, and all the animals had vanished.

SON: (out of breath) Anastasia...!! The rabbit…!! Did it come scampering this way?

ANASTASIA: It did! But when the music ended, it ran off! (beat) Didn’t I warn you to hold on to it tightly? … Guess you won’t be owning those thousands of acres of land any time soon…

NARRATOR: The landowner’s son trudged home with empty hands and a heavy heart. When he told his father what happened, the landowner began…

LANDOWNER: (ad-lib laughter)

NARRATOR: laugh!

LANDOWNER: (laughing) Alright, son... let me get this straight... You found the rabbit with help from an enchanted flute player...? Some mystical woman who charms all the animals with her music...? Sounds like poppycock to me! (more laughter)

NARRATOR: Obviously, the landowner wasn’t thinking at all about Anastasia, the shepherdess whom he fired for the captivating effect her flute-playing had on his farmhands, gardeners and cattle drivers.

LANDOWNER: (calming down) Look. I tell you what, son. I’ll go out and find this flute-playing ‘sorceress’ and bring back the rabbit myself!

NARRATOR: So the next morning, at sunrise, the landowner ventured into the forest.

Before long…

[SOT: flute music]

NARRATOR: ...he heard the sound of a flute.

He cupped his hand to his ear and followed the music through the trees and bushes, until finally, he emerged into the clearing.

And who should he find sitting cross-legged on a tree stump, playing a wooden flute, but…?

LANDOWNER: (suddenly recognizing her) Anastasia! 

NARRATOR: Thing is, his former shepherdess wasn’t alone. Clustered around her were all the creatures of the forest… bears and foxes, monkeys and tigers, doves and deer.

When Anastasia spotted her former boss, her eyes blazed. Then, without missing a note, she tilted her flute in the landowner’s direction.

And the minute she did, do you know what happened?

Every single animal, large and small, got up, and began creeping toward the alarmed man. The terrified fellow began to tremble.

LANDOWNER: Anastasia! Anastasia! Get these wild animals away from me! Stop your playing!

NARRATOR: But Anastasia did not stop her playing. The animals drew closer.

LANDOWNER: Seriously! Anastasia! I’ll give you whatever you want! Just put down your flute!

NARRATOR: But Anastasia did not put down her flute.

LANDOWNER: Anastasia! I beg you! Please don’t be as cruel to me as I was to you. Stop your playing! (beat) Please!

NARRATOR: All at once… much to the landowner’s relief...Anastasia put down her flute.

[SOT: music stops]

NARRATOR: She held up one hand, and the animals froze in their tracks. Then she looked the landowner right in the eye.

ANASTASIA: Listen, mister. I will stop my playing and send these animals away... on one condition.  

NARRATOR: The landowner clasped his hands and fell to his knees.

LANDOWNER: Anything, Anastasia! You name it, I’ll do it!

ANASTASIA: Very well. You must give half of your wealth away... to those who need it! To the farmhands, gardeners and cattle drivers whom you underpay, to the people in town who are struggling to get by each day! (beat) Will you do that?

NARRATOR: The landowner nodded his head vigorously.

LANDOWNER: I will! I promise!

NARRATOR: Anastasia held the landowner’s gaze for a moment. Then, slowly, she lowered her hand. And just like that, every single animal — the bears and foxes, monkeys and tigers, doves and deer — ran, crawled or flew away.

[SOT: flute music]

NARRATOR: From then on, Anastasia played her flute for anyone who would listen, whether they had legs or paws, wings or claws.

And as for the landowner... well, he made good on his promise. Rather than give half his wealth to his power-hungry son, the prosperous fellow faced the music, changed his tune, and shared his riches with those in need.

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.

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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