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'The Extraordinary Pine Cone' | Circle Round 11120:30
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("The Extraordinary Pine Cone" by Sabina Hahn)
("The Extraordinary Pine Cone" by Sabina Hahn)

After you woke up this morning, what was the first thing you did?

Did you hop out of bed and brush your teeth? Did you rush to the kitchen and gobble down some breakfast?

Whatever it was, try to imagine doing it… one thousand times.

Because for some of the characters we’ll meet in today’s story, that’s exactly what happens!

Story continues below

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Our story is called “The Extraordinary Pine Cone.” Versions of this folktale come from Estonia and Finland: two European nations separated by the Gulf of Finland.

Voices in this episode include Kevin Corbett, Kelly Jenrette and John Carroll Lynch. Grown-ups, you might know John Carroll Lynch from American Horror Story on Netflix, and movies like Fargo, The Founder and Jackie. Emmy Award nominee Kelly Jenrette has appeared in The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu and Netflix's Uncorked.. And kids, check out the book Kelly wrote with her husband, Melvin Jackson, Jr.: The Adventures Of Jimmy the Fly.

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.


Coloring Page

("The Extraordinary Pine Cone" by Sabina Hahn)
("The Extraordinary Pine Cone" by Sabina Hahn)

ADULTS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, 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

How can you show kindness to the people around you?

Find a piece of paper, and write all the letters of the alphabet, with a horizontal line next to each one. Next, go through the alphabet and have a grown-up help you write one act of kindness that begins with each letter. So “A” might be “Ask a loved one how you might help them today.” “B” might be “Bring a handmade gift to a friend who’s feeling blue.” And so on and so on.

It might be a little tricky once you get to “X” or “Z,” but no worries! Just fill in the blank for as many letters as you can. Then, if possible, put your written acts of kindness into action!


“Eric Shimelonis playing an electric guitar custom built by Jay Pawar.” (courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)
“Eric Shimelonis playing an electric guitar custom built by Jay Pawar.” (courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)

Musical spotlight: Electric Guitar

Unlike the acoustic guitar, which has a hollow body and depends on the acoustic properties of its own materials to amplify the vibration of its strings, the electric guitar relies on electricity! The electric guitar is embedded with wire-wound magnets called “pickups,” which convert the vibration of the guitar’s steel strings into electrical current. The electric current then goes to an electronic device known as an “amplifier” (or “amp,” as it’s often called) which changes the current to the sound you hear in many musical styles, from blues, rock-and-roll and pop... to country, jazz, and Eric Shimelonis’ expressive score for this magical Circle Round story!


Script:

NARRATOR: It was wintertime in the village far up north. Sparkling snow blanketed the streets and houses like frosting on a cake, and the air was so frigid, the women’s cheeks and noses turned bright red, and the men’s mustaches and beards turned to ice!

One bone-chilling evening, a lone figure appeared at the edge of town. It was a tall, lanky stranger, his gangly body wrapped in a shabby, patched-up coat, his feet laced up in rough, beat-up boots, his hair plastered beneath a tattered woolen cap.

The stranger shuffled through the streets, passing house after house. He didn’t stop shuffling until he reached the grandest house of all — a mansion on top of a hill. It was the home of the village mayor, a selfish fellow who loved taxing the people and lining his pockets.

NARRATOR: The stranger lifted his gnarled walking stick and tapped on the front door.

[SOT: walking stick taps on mansion door]

NARRATOR: At first, nobody answered. But then…

MAYOR: (gruff, annoyed) (through the door) Who goes there?

NARRATOR: …a gruff voice barked out from the other side. The mayor’s gruff voice.

MAYOR: (even more annoyed) I said, who goes there?!? And what are you doing interrupting my dinner?

NARRATOR: The stranger leaned in and spoke through the large, closed door.

STRANGER: (calling through the closed door) If you please, sir... I’m a weary wanderer. I’ve been trudging through the snow all day long and I can barely feel my toes! (beat) I’m looking for a warm place to spend the night, and when I spotted your lovely house on top of this hill I thought you might have space for someone like me to — (gets interrupted)

MAYOR: (even gruffer) Look, man, don’t waste your breath!

NARRATOR: Now the mayor’s voice sounded even gruffer.

MAYOR: I’m not opening my door to a beggar like you. (beat) Now move along!

NARRATOR: So, the stranger turned around and hobbled back down the hill.

He soon came to another house — a humble, one-room cottage with peeling paint, crooked shutters, and the tinkling sound of laughter ringing through the frosty windows.

[SOT: laughter coming from inside]

NARRATOR: This time when the stranger lifted his gnarled walking stick and tapped on the front door…

[SOT: walking stick taps on cottage door]

NARRATOR: … the door swung wide open…

[SOT: door swings open]

[SOT: laughter gets louder/continues as door opens]

NARRATOR: … answered by a bright-eyed woman wearing a ragged dress.

WOMAN: Hello, sir! Gosh! What are you doing outside on such a frigid night? Please! Come in!

NARRATOR: The woman led the stranger into the cramped cottage, where a gaggle of giggling children were gobbling boiled potatoes and nibbling scraps of bread around a rickety wooden table. The stranger noticed the children’s overalls and jumpers were every bit as threadbare and faded as the woman’s dress was.

STRANGER: I thank you for your kindness, madam! After trudging through the snow all day, I’m seeking a warm place to spend the night… But I can see you don’t have room to spare. So perhaps I should just get going and — (gets interrupted)

WOMAN: Nonsense!

NARRATOR: The woman took a chipped plate down from the cupboard.

WOMAN: You’re staying with us tonight. And joining us for dinner. (humble, sincere) We don’t have much, but please…

NARRATOR: She handed the plate to the stranger.

WOMAN: ...help yourself!

STRANGER: Thank you! Thank you so much!

NARRATOR: The next morning, after the children went off to school, the stranger put on his patched-up coat, beat-up boots and woolen cap and told the woman it was time for him to go.

WOMAN: Really? Leaving so soon? … Well, I’m sure you have places to go and things to do. (beat) As for me...

NARRATOR: She motioned toward a pile of folded linen on the table.

WOMAN: … I have a full day of work ahead. (beat) You wouldn’t know it from the scruffy stuff my kids and I wear, but I’m a dressmaker by trade. Today I’m sewing a brand new dress for a customer and I’m using this linen — provided I have enough of it! Times have been hard, and fabric is so expensive… (with a sigh/smile) Anyway. We’ll see.

NARRATOR: The stranger nodded as he picked up his gnarled walking stick.

STRANGER: It sounds like you’ll be plenty busy, madam. (beat) But before you get to work, I’d like to give you something… a small token for everything you’ve done since I first knocked at your door.

NARRATOR: He reached his hand into his coat pocket and pulled out… a pine cone.

STRANGER: This pine cone may look like an ordinary pine cone. But trust me — there’s nothing ordinary about it. (carefully) With this pine cone in your possession, the first work you do each day will be increased by a thousand!

NARRATOR: The stranger lay the pine cone next to the pile of folded linen and began moving toward the door.

The woman was touched by the stranger’s gift… if somewhat perplexed.

WOMAN: (grateful but confused) Um, I appreciate the gift, sir! Thank you!

NARRATOR: The stranger turned and looked the woman in the eye.

STRANGER: No, madam… thank you.

NARRATOR: Then he pushed the door open and staggered into the snow, before disappearing down the road.

The woman pinched the pine cone between her fingers. As she turned it around and around, she thought about what the stranger had said.

STRANGER: (with reverb, to show flashback) With this pine cone in your possession, the first work you do each day will be increased by a thousand!

NARRATOR: Could it possibly be true?

There was only one way to find out!

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: What do you think will happen next?

We’ll find out, after a quick break.

[theme music out]

[MIDROLL]

[theme music in]

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

[theme music out]

NARRATOR: Before the break, a kind woman invited a tired wanderer to have dinner and spend the night in the cramped cottage she shared with her children.

The next morning, the stranger offered an unusual gift of thanks: a pine cone that he claimed would take the first work you do each day, and increase it by a thousand.

The woman was a dressmaker by trade, and a customer had just ordered a new linen dress. So the first work the woman planned to do that day was measure her linen to make sure she had enough for the dress. Grabbing her measuring tape, she sat down at the table.

WOMAN: Okay. Let’s see how much linen we’ve got here…

NARRATOR: The woman began unfolding the pile of linen and measuring the fabric. She kept on going, unfolding and measuring, unfolding and measuring, unfolding and measuring.

WOMAN: Hmmmm… seems I have more than enough linen to make this dress! (beat, perplexed) Way more, actually! Somehow, this pile of linen just keeps going and going! It’s like I have a thousand times more linen than when I started! (beat) (ad-lib gasp)

NARRATOR: The woman dropped her measuring tape and gaped at the pine cone.

WOMAN: My goodness — it’s true! The pine cone works! It works!

NARRATOR: The woman spent the rest of the day unfolding and measuring, unfolding and measuring. By the time her children came home from school she realized she had enough linen to make clothing for not just one dress, but a thousand!!!

It wasn’t long before word of the woman’s good fortune spread through the village. Soon, the story of the mysterious stranger and the extraordinary pine cone traveled up the hill to the greedy ears... of the mayor.

MAYOR: Sooooo, wait a minute. If I would have let that beggar spend the night at my mansion, then that pine cone would be mine...?!? And I could fulfill my every desire...?!? (beat) (ad-lib frustrated grunt or groan) I must find that vagabond and bring him back!

NARRATOR: The mayor sent his servants out to look for the stranger, but they couldn’t track him down. It was as if he had vanished completely!

Well, winter gave way to spring… then summer… then fall… and as the first snow of a brand new season began tumbling from the sky, the mayor heard a familiar tapping on his front door.

[SOT: walking stick taps on mansion door]

NARRATOR: The mayor barreled to the door and flung it open. And who should be standing there, shivering in his shabby, patched-up coat, rough, beat-up boots, and tattered woolen cap, but the stranger!

MAYOR: (over-the-top solicitous) Well, hello, friend! Greetings! Salutations! Come in! Come in!

NARRATOR: The stranger followed the mayor into the banquet hall. The dining table reached all the way from one end of the high-ceilinged room to the other, and was covered with gleaming silver platters of delicious, delectable foods.

MAYOR: Please, sit down and help yourself to anything you’d like. And if you don’t see what you’d like, my cooks will whip up whatever you ask. Just say the word.

NARRATOR: After dinner, the mayor led the stranger up a marble staircase to a spacious, wood-paneled bedroom.

MAYOR: This room is yours, friend. The feather bed is so soft, you’ll think you’re sleeping on a cloud! And if you need anything during the night, just ring this bell here; one of my servants will scurry over, quick as a wink!

NARRATOR: The next morning, after a hearty breakfast at the mile-long banquet table, the stranger began putting on his patched-up coat, beat-up boots and woollen cap.

MAYOR: (faux-disappointment) Ohhhhh… leaving already, friend? And we were having such a good time! (beat) Ah well. Perhaps it’s for the best. (leading) I do have an awful lot of work to do today! So much work, in fact, that I don’t know where to start… my work!

NARRATOR: The stranger nodded as he grasped his gnarled walking stick.

STRANGER: (seeing right through the Mayor’s ruse) It sounds like you have plenty to do, sir. (beat) But before you get to work… I’d like to give you something… a small token for everything you’ve done since I first knocked at your door.

NARRATOR: The mayor’s eyes glittered as the stranger reached into his coat pocket and pulled out… a pine cone!

STRANGER: This pine cone may look like an ordinary pine cone. But believe me — there’s nothing ordinary about it. With this pine cone in your possession, the first work you do each day will be increased by a thousand!

NARRATOR: The mayor was too excited to speak. He grabbed the pine cone and waited with trembling hands until the stranger shambled out the door.

MAYOR: (villainous laughter) Ha ha! At last! The pine cone is mine! Mine! (beat) Now let’s take this baby for a spin!

NARRATOR: The mayor bolted out of the mansion and into the freezing-cold air; he didn’t even bother putting on his coat or boots.

His feet crunched deep in the snow as he hurried toward his counting house, the big square building where he kept all of his money.

MAYOR: (as he crunches through the show) This is perfect. If the first work I do today will be increased by a thousand, then I’ll start by counting my gold coins in the counting house! That way, I’ll have a thousand times more gold coins than I had to begin with! (ad-lib villainous laughter)

NARRATOR: The mayor beamed from ear to chilly ear as he scrambled through the snow.

But when he got to the counting house…

[SOT: trying to open locked door, continues below]

NARRATOR: ...he discovered that the door wouldn’t open!

MAYOR: (frustrated grunt) Ugh! It’s so cold out, the door must have frozen shut! Hmm. Maybe if I just fiddle and futz with the handle...

NARRATOR: So the mayor fiddled and futzed...

MAYOR: (ad-lib grunts/groans of effort/hard work)

NARRATOR: Then he tweaked and twiddled…

MAYOR: (ad-lib grunts/groans of effort/hard work)

NARRATOR: Then he yanked and tugged!

MAYOR: (ad-lib grunts/groans of effort/hard work)

NARRATOR: But the door simply would not budge!

MAYOR: (finally giving up) Ugh — this is impossible! I’ll just go back to the mansion and order one of my servants to get this blasted thing open.

NARRATOR: But here’s the thing.

When the mayor tried letting go of the door handle to go back to the mansion, do you know what happened?

MAYOR: (ad-lib expression of startled confusion) Huh?!???

NARRATOR: He couldn’t!

MAYOR: (totally freaked out) What’s going on??!??

NARRATOR: No matter how much the mayor tried breaking away from the door, his hands kept fiddling and futzing, tweaking and twiddling, yanking and tugging.

MAYOR: (ad-lib grunts/groans of effort/hard work)

NARRATOR: And do you know why...?

Well, think about what the stranger said: once you have the extraordinary pine cone, the first work you do each day will be increased by a thousand… right?

And on this particular day, the mayor’s first work wasn’t counting coins, as he had planned.

Instead, it was trying to open a door that was frozen shut!

MAYOR: (ad-lib frustration/alarm/etc.)

NARRATOR: Well, as you can guess, the mayor’s work went on all morning... and afternoon... and evening. His teeth chattered, his fingers turned blue, his mustache and beard were covered with ice… but he kept fiddling, futzing, tweaking, twiddling, yanking and tugging until his one-thousand times were up.

So, it just goes to show... when you close your door, and your heart, to a stranger in need... you may very well be left out in the cold.
 

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

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