'The Basilisk’s Stare' | Circle Round 114

Download Audio
("The Basilisk's Stare" by Sabina Hahn)
("The Basilisk's Stare" by Sabina Hahn)

Do you remember the last time you found yourself in a tricky situation?

In a bind? In a jam? In a real pickle…?

In today’s story, when a young woman winds up in a tight spot, she realizes it’s actually her moment to shine!

Our story is called “The Basilisk’s Stare.” Versions of this folktale come from Poland, a country in Central Europe.

And what is a “basilisk,” you may ask? We’ll find out soon!

Voices in this episode include Elle Borders, Feodor Chin, Kevin Corbett, Thais Harris, Precious Hollaway, Edward Hong, Nick Sholley, Evan Whitten and Nabiyah Be.

Grown-ups, you may know Nabiyah Be from Black Panther; watch for her in the upcoming Amazon Video series, Daisy Jones and the Six. Evan Whitten has starred in such TV shows as Mr. Robot on The USA Network and The Resident on Fox; look for him in the upcoming feature films Words on Bathroom Walls, Dino Dina, and Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

Coloring Page

("The Basilisk's Stare" 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

Think about a time you found yourself in a tricky situation, and you needed to find a solution.

Maybe you were baking muffins, but you discovered you were missing an ingredient. Perhaps you were building a super-tall tower out of blocks or Legos, and it kept falling down.

Whatever your problem was, do you remember how you tried to solve it? And what you learned from it?

Find someone you like to have fun with — a family member, a friend — and tell them what happened. Then ask them to tell you about a problem they encountered, and what they took away from the experience.

Musical spotlight: Diatonic Accordion

The diatonic accordion is a box-shaped reed instrument

Circle Round composer Eric Shimelonis plays the diatonic accordion. (Courtesy of Eric Shimelonis)
Circle Round composer Eric Shimelonis plays the diatonic accordion. (Courtesy of Eric Shimelonis)

with pleated bellows in the middle and buttons on either side. You push and pull the bellows with your arms and hands while pressing the buttons with your fingers, and when you do, the reeds inside the accordion vibrate to produce notes.

But get this: with the diatonic accordion, the notes you’re playing will change depending on whether you’re pushing or pulling. This added challenge makes the diatonic accordion one of our composer Eric Shimelonis’s favorite instruments to play.


NARRATOR: Once upon a time, there was an armorer named Martin.

Martin spent his days working with metal.... using it to create glistening swords, sparkling shields, and full suits of, yes, glittering armor.

And everyone agreed that of all the armorers in the city, Martin was the greatest.

CUSTOMER 1: Oh! You should see the sword Martin made for me last week! It shimmers like moonlight on the water!

CUSTOMER 2: Well, you should see the shield he made for me! It glistens like the stars!

CUSTOMER 3: I don’t doubt it! The suit of armor he made for me is so shiny, so bright, it reflects like a mirror!

NARRATOR: Martin lived with his children, Natalia and Konrad, in a tidy house at the edge of town. Martin’s shop was in the basement, and Natalia and Konrad loved traipsing down the steps to watch their father work.

First, he would tie on his thick leather apron. Then, he would heat up his metal until it glowed a fiery, yellowish-orange, and grew soft and bendable. After that he would use a heavy iron hammer to forge the metal into all different shapes. Then he would let the metal cool, and he’d polish it... rubbing and scrubbing until, indeed, it ‘reflected like a mirror’!

One summer morning, Martin told Natalia and Konrad that he would be gone for the day on business.

MARTIN: Listen, you two. I need to deliver a full suit of armor to a customer who lives far off in the countryside.

NARRATOR: He turned to Natalia.

MARTIN: Natalia, you’re the oldest. So I want you to look after your little brother while I’m gone.

NATALIA: Of course, Father! I’d be happy to!

NARRATOR: Konrad rolled his eyes.

KONRAD: Oh, come on, Father! I don’t need my older sister to babysit me! I’m a big kid now!

MARTIN: I know you’re a big kid, Konrad. And getting bigger every day! But, for now, you’ll do as your sister says. (beat) Okey-dokey. I have a long trip ahead of me and need to skedaddle. Have fun today, my dears!

NARRATOR: Martin kissed his children goodbye and headed out the door. As he disappeared down the street, Natalia turned to Konrad with twinkling eyes.

NATALIA: I have an idea, little brother.... The circus is in town. They’re performing in the market square, right in the middle of the city! (beat) Would you like to see it?

NARRATOR: Konrad’s face broke into a grin.

KONRAD: You bet I’d like to see the circus! Let’s go!

NARRATOR: When Natalia and Konrad reached the market square, they were greeted by all sorts of enchanting sights: agile walkers tip-toeing on towering tightropes, graceful acrobats swinging from flying trapezes… plus nimble-fingered jugglers, funny-faced clowns, and lionhearted riders standing brave and tall on the backs of gleaming, galloping horses!

During a break in the show, Natalia and Konrad wandered around the square and saw vendors selling all sorts of goodies — toys, books, candies. But then...

KONRAD: Hey, Natalia!

NARRATOR: ...something else caught Konrad’s eye.

KONRAD: Look over there! Look!

NARRATOR: Konrad pointed toward a jagged heap of stones in a shadowy, narrow alley off the square.

KONRAD: There’s the old stone building! The one where they say the basilisk lives!

NARRATOR: Natalia felt her blood run cold. Everyone in town knew the legend of the basilisk!

It was said that the basilisk had the body of a dragon, the head of a rooster, and the tail of a serpent. Down in the dank, dark cellar of the old stone building, the basilisk stood guard over a magnificent treasure. And if you stared into the basilisk’s glowing red eyes, you would immediately turn to stone!

KONRAD: So, sister…

NARRATOR: Konrad’s mouth lifted into a mischievous smile.

KONRAD: Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

NARRATOR: Natalia’s eyes grew wide.

NATALIA: Wait a minute, brother! You’re not thinking of actually going in there, are you? (beat) What about the basilisk?

KONRAD: Oh, basilisk, shmasilisk! Don’t be such a fraidy cat, sis! Like Dad said, I’m a big kid now… and I’m going to prove it!

NARRATOR: Then Konrad spun on his heel and took off toward the rubble of rocks.

NATALIA: Konrad! Wait!

NARRATOR: But Natalia’s little brother did not wait. Instead, he bolted straight to the old stone building, and disappeared through the dilapidated doorway.

Without missing a beat, Natalia sped over to the shadowy alley. When she reached the old stone building and crept through the doorway, she found herself at the top of a steep, narrow set of uneven stairs.

NATALIA: (calling down the stairs) Konrad? Konrad!

NARRATOR: When no answer came, she clenched her fists, then began descending the crumbling steps.

Down, down, down she went... the air growing chillier and the stones growing damper. The one shaft of sunlight that filtered from above grew weaker and weaker the farther Natalia descended.

Eventually, she found herself in a drafty stone cellar. A burning candle hanging on a wall sconce in the corner provided a bit of light, but Natalia saw no signs of Konrad.

NATALIA: Konrad! Konrad? Where are you?

KONRAD: (from the next room) I’m in here!

NARRATOR: Konrad’s voice seemed to be coming from the other side of the wall.

KONRAD: (from the next room) Feel around for the wooden door, Natalia! It leads to another room… and it is so cool! There’s this massive iron chest, and it’s filled with all sorts of treasure! Diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, amethysts, there’s even a huge pile of gold coins that — (gets interrupted)

BASILISK: (from the next room) Cock-a-doodle-doo!!!!

NARRATOR: All of a sudden, Konrad fell silent.

And as shivers quivered down Natalia’s spine, she knew exactly why. That eerie, sinister crowing could only mean one thing.

NATALIA: (not too loud, very scared) The basilisk! (beat) It’s real! It must have snuck up on Konrad and turned him into stone!

NARRATOR: Natalia knew it was just a matter of time before the basilisk found her, too. But not if she could help it! Her heart and mind raced as fast as her feet as she bounded up the stone steps two at a time.

When she emerged into daylight, the sun shone warm on her skin... but her palms felt cold and clammy, and all of her hairs were standing on end.

NATALIA: (scared, adrenaline pumping) I can’t believe this! Konrad must have stared into the glowing red eyes of the basilisk! And now my brother is a statue! (thinking fast) There must be some way I can turn him back into a living, breathing boy! (beat) The question is… what??!??

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: Will Natalia figure out how to save her brother?

What would you do if you were Natalia?

We’ll find out what happens next, 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 Basilisk’s Stare.”

[theme music out]

NARRATOR: When we left off, Natalia’s younger brother, Konrad, turned into stone after looking into the glowing red eyes of the basilisk… a legendary creature with a dragon’s body, a rooster’s head, and a serpent’s tail.

Fearing the basilisk would turn her into stone too, Natalia darted back to the house she and Konrad shared with their father, an armorer named Martin. Martin was famous for crafting swords, shields and suits of armor that were so bright and shiny they reflected like a mirror!

Martin was out on business for the day, so the house was empty when Natalia got home. She collapsed in a chair in the kitchen.

NATALIA: Oh, what do I do? How can I save Konrad?

NARRATOR: She bit her lip as she drummed her fingers on the table.

NATALIA: All my life I’ve heard stories about some person or other encountering the basilisk and turning into stone. But not once have I heard a story about stone turning back into a person! (beat) I mean, all anyone talks about is how you stare into the basilisk’s eyes... and then, boom! You’re a statue! Just one look at those fierce, glowing, red eyes and you’re — (sudden a-ha moment) (gasp!) Wait a minute…!

NARRATOR: Natalia’s gaze fell on the stairs that led to the basement, where Martin built his workshop.

Without missing a beat, she hurried down the steps and ran to the middle of the room. And just like that, she found herself surrounded by hundreds and hundreds… of Natalias!

NATALIA: (knowing what she’ll do) Yessss!!!!!

NARRATOR: ...Well, hundreds and hundreds of reflected Natalias, anyway. Because scattered and stacked all around the workshop were glistening swords, sparkling shields, and full suits of glittering armor… each and every one of them as clear and reflective…

NATALIA: a mirror! (beat) I know just how I’ll save Konrad!

NARRATOR: Natalia picked up a glistening round shield with a wooden handle. When she held the shield in front of her, it was so big it covered her body from her head to her waist!

Clutching the shield tightly, Natalia hurried out of the house and back to the old stone building where the basilisk kept its lair.

At the bottom of the crumbling steps, Natalia found the dank, dark cellar just as it was before — one glowing candle in the corner, a big wooden door on the wall.

Holding her shield in front of her, she called out in the darkness.

NATALIA: (calling out) (taunting) Basilisk! Oh, Basilisk! I’ve come to steal your treasure!

NARRATOR: Then she dove beneath the stairs… and waited. A bead of sweat dribbled down her back. The big round shield shook as she gripped it in her trembling hand. But Natalia didn’t move a muscle.

Before long…

[SOT: footsteps]

NARRATOR: ...she heard footsteps through the wall.

Scuttling, skittering footsteps that grew louder and louder and louder until at last...

[SOT: closer footsteps]

NARRATOR: ...the wooden door swung open…

[SOT: wooden door swings open]

NARRATOR: ...and the basilisk came bursting into the room!

BASILISK: Cock-a-doodle-doo!

NARRATOR: Confused to find no one there, the menacing creature began stomping around, looking for the intruder trying to steal its treasure.

BASILISK: Cock-a-doodle-doo! Cock-a-doodle-doo!

NARRATOR: Natalia knew what she must do. She took a deep breath...

BASILISK: Cock-a-doodle-doo!

NARRATOR: ...gripped her shield in front of her face...

BASILISK: Cock-a-doodle-doo!

NARRATOR: ...then leaped out from under the stairs!

BASILISK: Cock-a-doodle — (gasp/shriek/etc.)

NARRATOR: That was the last sound Natalia heard from the basilisk.

Because when Natalia put down her shield, she saw that the frightful fiend… had turned to stone!

Just as Natalia was breathing a big sigh of relief, who should come rushing into the room...

KONRAD: Natalia! Natalia!

NARRATOR: ...but Konrad! Natalia put down her shield and wrapped her little brother in a hug.

Suddenly, a woman came running in.

WOMAN: You saved us!

NARRATOR: ...then a man...

MAN: You brought us back to life!

NARRATOR: ...then a whole bunch of people!

PERSON 1: We’re no longer made of stone!

PERSON 2: We’re alive again! Alive!

PERSON 3: How will we ever thank you?

PERSON 4: And how did you do it?

PERSON 5: Yes! How?

NARRATOR: Quickly, it dawned on Natalia that all of these people were other victims of the basilisk’s savage stare. She flashed them a smile, then lifted up her father’s shield.

NATALIA: Well, friends... My father is an armorer. And everything he makes — like this shield here — is so shiny and bright, it reflects like a mirror! Everybody says so! And now…

NARRATOR: She pointed to the stone with the dragon’s body, rooster’s head and serpent’s tale.

NATALIA: …the basilisk would say it, too! (beat) If he could talk, that is. But now that he’s seen his own reflection… and looked into his own glowing red eyes... I’m pretty sure we’ve heard the last from him!

NARRATOR: And as everyone “reflected” on what this bright young woman had so brilliantly done… they knew she was right.

Headshot of Rebecca Sheir

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



More from Circle Round

Listen Live