'Long Hair And The Waterfall' | Circle Round 107

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

Ever heard the phrase, “giving back to your community”?

When we give back to our community, we’re doing something to help the people around us.

In today’s story, we’ll meet a brave woman who helps the people in her village — and she goes to very great lengths to do it!

Our story is called “Long Hair and the Waterfall.” Versions of this story come from China.

Voices in this episode include Feodor Chin, Lisa Lord, and Rosalind Chao. You grown-ups might know Rosalind from such films as The Joy Luck Club, The Laundromat, and Disney’s live-action adaptation of Mulan, now available in many countries on Disney+ with Premier Access.

Coloring Page

(Courtesy Sabina Hahn)
(Courtesy Sabina Hahn)

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

Long Hair showed kindness to the people around her, and you can too — with help from your very own Kindness Wheel!

How do you make a Kindness Wheel? Well, first find something round that you can draw on: a paper plate, a cardboard disc, or a piece of paper cut in the shape of a wheel. Use markers or crayons to divide your wheel into wedges, like pieces of a pie. Inside each wedge, write the name of someone you care about, or draw their picture.
Next, ask a grown-up to help you cut an arrow shape out of something fairly sturdy, like an old cardboard box. Use some sort of fastener to attach your arrow to the middle of your wheel.

After that, spin the arrow! See which name it lands on, then decide what act of kindness you can do for that person. If they live far away, you can send them a card, or give them a phone call. If they’re with you at home, you can help them with a chore, or just give them a nice, warm hug.

Musical spotlight: Pipa

Eric Shimelonis on pipa (Rebecca Sheir for WBUR)
Eric Shimelonis on pipa (Rebecca Sheir for WBUR)

The wooden, pear-shaped, four-stringed lute known as the pipa is one of the oldest and most popular Chinese musical instruments. Originally, to play the pipa you’d held it horizontally across your body, like a guitar. As time went on, musicians began holding the instrument in a more upright position - as Eric Shimelonis did for this week’s magical Chinese folktale!


NARRATOR: Once upon a time... in a village nestled beneath a mountain… there lived a woman with the longest hair you’ve ever seen. Her glossy, raven-black locks flowed all the way from her head to her ankles, so the villagers all called her “Long Hair.”

One year, Long Hair’s village didn’t see rain for months and months. The nearby creeks and streams dried up, so everyone had to carry their buckets and pitchers to the river, which was five exhausting miles away. Then they had to trudge all the way back, being extra careful not to spill one drop of the precious liquid they had collected.

As Long Hair watched her neighbors’ gardens and fields wither… and their families waste away from hunger... she knew she had to do something.

LONG HAIR: I know! I’ll climb the mountain! The one that looms over the village! It’s so tall and foggy that no one dares to venture too far up. But perhaps if I get high enough, I’ll find a mountain spring! And I can bring fresh, clean water back to my people!

NARRATOR: Long Hair shared a small hut with her aging father. After tying her shiny black hair in a big knot on top of her head, she kissed her father goodbye, then clambered up the mountainside.

At first, the mountain seemed every bit as parched as the village was! Long Hair’s feet kicked up great clouds of dust as she scrambled among the rocks. She noticed that the few plants that sprouted among the jagged stones were wilted and brown — except...

LONG HAIR: (spotting the healthy plant) Oh!

NARRATOR: ...for one!

LONG HAIR: Well, would you look at that plant there! It’s so leafy and green! The other plants on the mountain are dried up and shriveled. But this one looks so moist! So healthy!

NARRATOR: As Long Hair gazed at the leafy, green plant, she decided she would take it back to the village. Maybe it was edible - and she could share it with her hungry neighbors!

But when she wrapped her fingers around the leaves and gave them a tug, the plant wouldn’t budge!

LONG HAIR: Hmmm… maybe if I pull a little harder…?

NARRATOR: Long Hair gritted her teeth and gave the leaves a good yank. And when she did, out of the ground popped a big, red radish, the size of a pumpkin!


NARRATOR: But what happened next was even more surprising. Because the moment Long Hair unearthed the radish, a stream of cold, clear water came gushing from the hole the radish left behind!

LONG HAIR: Wow! This is incredible! This radish must have been blocking up a spring! I can’t wait to tell the other villagers! (beat) But first, all that climbing made me so thirsty. I think I’ll take just one little drink…

NARRATOR: Long Hair laid the radish on the ground, then cupped her hands and brought some water to her lips. The cool liquid tasted as sweet as a summer peach!

She was about to take another sip when all at once...

[SOT: wind]

NARRATOR: ...she felt the wind pick up. As the air whooshed and howled around her...


NARRATOR: … a great gust lifted the radish off the ground...


NARRATOR: … and plugged it back into the hole! Stopping the flow of water!


NARRATOR: The wind kept blowing, loosening Long Hair’s jet-black locks from their knot on top of her head. As her ankle-length hair swirled around her like a cape, she suddenly heard…

MOUNTAIN SPIRIT: (booming, deep, powerful) You!!!

NARRATOR: <… a voice!

MOUNTAIN SPIRIT: (slow, measured) Who are you? And why are you drinking my water?

NARRATOR: Long Hair swiveled her head this way and that, but she couldn’t see where the voice was coming from.

LONG HAIR: (nervous, not sure who she’s addressing) Um, well, sir... my name is “Long Hair” — or that’s what people call me, anyway — and I’m so sorry, but I didn’t know this was your water! You see, it hasn’t rained in months, and my neighbors and I are so thirsty! I figured I’d take just one little sip, then go back and tell the village all about — (gets interrupted)

MOUNTAIN SPIRIT: Oh, I wouldn’t do that if I were you! You see, I am the spirit of this mountain, and this water is mine! I have been guarding it for years and years. And if you tell anyone about my secret spring, trust me, Long Hair... you will regret it for the rest of your days!

NARRATOR: Then, before Long Hair knew what was happening, a blast of wind lifted her off her feet. Then it whisked her back to her tiny hut in the village, where she landed by the doorway in a heap.

The mountain spirit’s threat rang in Long Hair’s ears all day long — and all night, too! As her father slept in his bed, Long Hair paced around the hut, wringing her hands with worry.

LONG HAIR: What do I do? Everyone in the village is so thirsty… and hungry… if I told them about the mountain spring, it would change everything! (beat) Buuuut...

NARRATOR: She gazed at her father’s peaceful face.

LONG HAIR: ...the mountain spirit clearly has formidable powers! If I give away his secret, surely he’ll punish me dearly! And then, what will become of my poor father? He needs me!

NARRATOR: Days passed. The drought continued. And then, one morning, Long Hair noticed an old woman returning from the river with a big pot of water. The vessel was so heavy, the frail elder struggled to grip it in her bony arms as she trudged down the long, long road.

All of a sudden, the woman’s knees buckled, and she fell to the ground. The pot cracked open, and ribbons of precious water seeped into the parched earth. Long went hurrying over.

LONG HAIR: Ma’am! Ma’am! Are you alright?

NARRATOR: Long Hair wrapped an arm around the woman and helped her to her feet.

OLD WOMAN: Thank you, my dear! I’ve been toiling along this dry and dusty road every day for months. Five miles to the river… five miles back… I guess my tired legs just can’t handle the trip anymore! (beat) Well… looks like it’ll be a long, thirsty summer for me…

NARRATOR: Long Hair gazed at the woman. Then she gazed at the broken pot.

And she knew exactly what she must do.

She took a deep breath, then went sprinting around the village, calling out to her neighbors as she ran.

LONG HAIR: Listen, friends! Listen! I know where we can find water - and it’s closer than the river! Grab your knives and your chisels, and come with me!

NARRATOR: Brandishing their tools, the villagers followed Long Hair up the mountain. When they reached the radish, Long Hair yanked it from the earth, and the villagers clapped and cheered as clear, cool water came spewing from the hole.

LONG HAIR: Alright, friends! Now we must chop this radish into pieces! We must hack it to bits so that it won’t fill up the hole again!

NARRATOR: The villagers did as Long Hair instructed, and soon the radish was nothing more than a mangled clump on the ground.

LONG HAIR: Nice going, everyone! Now, please, return to the village. Watch this spring as it cascades down the mountain and becomes a waterfall… a waterfall that will bring sweet, wonderful water to our village forever!

NARRATOR: As Long Hair’s neighbors traveled back down the mountain, her heart was filled with happiness and joy… and then, with sadness and fear.

For she knew she had defied the Spirit of the Mountain and given away his secret… and now her fate was in his mighty and ferocious hands.

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: What do you think will happen to Long Hair?

We’ll find out what the Spirit of the Mountain has in store… 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 “Long Hair and the Waterfall.”

[theme music out]

NARRATOR: Before the break, a woman known as Long Hair discovered a spring guarded by the Spirit of the Mountain.

The mighty spirit warned her not to tell anyone his secret. But a drought was wreaking havoc on Long Hair’s village and the people were suffering. So Long Hair led her neighbors up the mountain and unplugged the spring.

Long Hair’s neighbors returned home, but she stayed on the mountain. All at once, the wind picked up and the mountain spirit’s voice rumbled in her ears.

MOUNTAIN SPIRIT: Long Hair! Didn’t I tell you to leave my spring alone? Didn’t I tell you not to breathe a word about it to your friends? You have defied me, and for that... for that… you must pay.

NARRATOR: Instantly, Long Hair felt a tingling sensation all over her head. As the wind whipped her ankle-length hair around her face and body, she realized that her jet-black locks… were no longer jet-black. They were snowy-white!

MOUNTAIN SPIRIT: From now on, Long Hair, you shall lie on the side of this mountain… beneath this waterfall… with your hair hanging over the precipice. And as the foamy white water rushes over you, it will pour down through your long white locks! Forever!

NARRATOR: Long Hair shivered, but stood strong.

LONG HAIR: I will do what you say, Mountain Spirit. I will suffer for the sake of my friends and neighbors. But please, grant me one favor. Allow me to go back to the village so I may bid farewell to my father.

NARRATOR: Long Hair braced herself for the mountain spirit’s response.

MOUNTAIN SPIRIT: Alright. You may say goodbye to your father. But if I don’t see your long white hair drifting over the edge of the falls by sundown, I will unleash all the water in this mountain and flood your entire village!

NARRATOR: Long Hair hurried to the bottom of the mountain, where the majestic waterfall had created a deep, shimmering pool. She saw her neighbors filling their buckets and pots, all of them excited to water their crops and give their families a long-overdue drink.

Long Hair rushed past the villagers and returned to her hut. With tears in her eyes, she told her beloved father she had to go away. The old man was shocked to see his daughter’s frosty white hair, but he gave her a hug and a kiss and wished her well.

But just as Long Hair began trudging back toward the mountain...

OLD WOMAN: Long Hair? (calling out) Oh, Long Hair!

NARRATOR: … she heard a familiar voice. And as she turned around, she spotted a familiar face. It was the old woman who had dropped her heavy pot of water on the dry and dusty road! The frail elder Long Hair had helped back to her feet!

LONG HAIR: (friendly, but glum/gloomy) Well, hello there. I’m glad to see you’re doing well after that fall you took. Anyway, I’d love to stop and chat, but there’s somewhere I need to be.

OLD WOMAN: (mysterious, knowing) Oh, I know where you need to be…

NARRATOR: Long Hair tilted her head.

LONG HAIR: You do….? You mean, you know about the mountain spirit’s punishment? How he wants me to live beneath the waterfall forever and ever, with my white hair hanging over the edge?

OLD WOMAN: Why, yes! I do! And that’s why I’m here! To help you! (beat) Come with me.

NARRATOR: The old woman led Long Hair to a shack deep within the woods. Inside the rickety structure, a big cloth was draped over something tall and slender.

Long Hair watched as the old woman reached up, pulled off the cloth, and revealed...


NARRATOR: ...a statue!

But not just any statue. This statue looked exactly like…

LONG HAIR: … like me! (beat) But why…? What’s it for?

NARRATOR: The woman’s lips crinkled into a grin.

OLD WOMAN: Don’t you see, Long Hair? We’re going to use this statue to fool the Spirit of the Mountain! We’ll lay this stone carving down at the top of the waterfall, so he thinks it’s you! That way, the stone statue will take the eternal punishment of icy-cold water — not you!

NARRATOR: Long Hair took a closer look at the statue.

LONG HAIR: I appreciate your help, ma’am… but isn’t there something missing? (beat) The statue doesn’t have any hair! The head — it’s bald!

OLD WOMAN: (mysterious) So it is… but not for long!

NARRATOR: The old woman waved her hand. Long Hair felt a tickling sensation as her silky white locks lifted off of her head...


NARRATOR: … then floated over to the statue! In an instant each and every hair took root, and flowed all the way down to the stone carving’s delicate ankles.

OLD WOMAN: You see, Long Hair? When the Spirit of the Mountain spots these long white locks flowing over the foaming, churning edge of the waterfall, he’ll be none the wiser! He’ll see a waterfall of white hair — your white hair!

NARRATOR: Long Hair ran a hand over her smooth, bare head. She hadn’t been this bald since she was a newborn baby!

LONG HAIR: This is unbelievable! You must tell me how I can repay you. But first, let’s take this statue up the mountain. It’s a long way up and we --

NARRATOR: Before Long Hair could utter another word, the old woman hoisted the statue over her shoulder, then zipped toward the mountain at lightning speed!

LONG HAIR: What…!????

NARRATOR: But what happened next was even more amazing than that!

As Long Hair watched the woman bolt up the mountain, her head felt another tingle. Next thing she knew, something soft and familiar was swishing down her back. Just like that, her long, lustrous locks had grown back — and once more, they were as black as a raven!

With a smile on her face and a spring in her step, Long Hair went back to the village. Back to her father, whom she loved with all her heart. Back to her neighbors, for whom she had nearly given up her life.

And the rest of her days flowed happily, and peacefully... just like the crystal-clear water — and snowy-white hair — that would tumble down the mountainside forever.
This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by 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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