'The Horse of a Different Color' | Circle Round 120

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("The Horse of a Different Color" by Sabina Hahn)
("The Horse of a Different Color" by Sabina Hahn)

If you could make one wish — and have it come true — what would it be?

In today’s episode, we’ll hear a story about three wishes... three sisters... and one magical horse.

Our story is called “The Horse of a Different Color.” You’ll hear versions of this tale across the Spanish-speaking world, from Mexico and Guatemala to Puerto Rico and Spain. Variations also come from Poland and Norway.

Voices in this episode include Amy Brentano, Bindy Coda, Jessica Rau, Nick Sholley, Christina Anthony and Lindsay Mendez. Christina Anthony stars as Aunt Denise on the Black-ish spin-off series, Mixed-ish. Season two premieres January 26th on ABC. Tony Award winner Lindsay Mendez stars in the legal drama, All Rise, now in its second season on CBS.

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

Coloring Page

("The Horse of a Different Color" by Sabina Hahn)
("The Horse of a Different Color" 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

If you had three wishes, what would you wish for? Find a grown-up, and tell them what your three wishes would be. Then ask them to share what they would wish for. Who knows? If you play your cards right, those wishes just might come true.

Musical spotlight: The Vibraphone

Ever heard or seen a xylophone, marimba or glockenspiel? If so, then you already have an idea of what the vibraphone is like! As with its mallet-instrument cousins, the vibraphone (a.k.a vibraharp, vibes) is played with mallets: usually one or two in each hand. But here’s how the vibraphone differs. First, it has a damper pedal — like on a piano. Second, it has a motor! Underneath each of its tuned aluminum bars is a tube that amplifies the sound, and inside each tube is a fan disc. With help from the motor, the fan disc spins and spins, causing the tube to open and close. The opening and closing give the vibraphone a clear, ringing, dreamy “vibrato” effect. You can watch a virtuoso vibraphone performance in this NPR Tiny Desk concert featuring Gary Burton.


NARRATOR: On the outskirts of a bustling town… where the busy streets gave way to the quiet countryside... there stood a cornfield.

The cornfield belonged to a farmer and her three daughters — Greta, Maria, and Valentina.

While her daughters did chores around the house, the farmer spent long hours out in the field, weeding and watering the bright green stalks ‘til they were bursting with plump, golden ears of corn. Then, come harvest time, the farmer sold the corn at the market, and used the money to support her family through the harsh, frosty winter.

Early one morning… just before harvest time... the farmer came outside to discover that half of the cornfield was trampled flat… and hundreds of empty husks were scattered across the ground.

FARMER: (crying) Oh no!

NARRATOR: Her daughters were still in bed, so the distraught farmer called out to them.

FARMER: My daughters! Come quick! Come quick!

NARRATOR: The first daughter to come outside was Greta…

GRETA: (groggy, annoyed) What is it, Mother? I was fast asleep!

NARRATOR: ...then Maria…

MARIA: (groggy, annoyed) I was sleeping, too! And having the best dream!

NARRATOR: ...then Valentina.

VALENTINA: (alert, friendly) Is everything alright, Mother? Are you okay?

NARRATOR: The farmer gestured toward the corn field.

FARMER: Do you see this? Look at this disaster! So much of my hard work — gone! Just like that! (beat) Without a full harvest of corn, our farm could go out of business! Our family could lose everything! (beat) We must make sure the scoundrel who laid waste to our field doesn’t come back.

NARRATOR: The farmer turned to Greta.

FARMER: Greta, tonight I want you to stay up and watch for the thief. If they dare to return, you must catch them! (beat) What do you say?

NARRATOR: Greta wasn’t thrilled at the idea of sacrificing her sleep to keep watch all night. But she didn’t want to go hungry, either.

GRETA: (boastfully) I’ll do it, Mother! You can count on me to catch that thief!

NARRATOR: That evening, as the twinkling stars popped into the sky one by one, Greta went out to the cornfield with a lumpy mattress. She figured the mattress would be so uncomfortable that she’d stay wide awake.

But when the farmer came out to the field the next morning… she discovered that even more corn had been trampled and eaten! And Greta was curled up on the lumpy mattress, fast asleep.

GRETA: (ad-lib snoring sounds)

NARRATOR: So the farmer asked Maria to stay up and catch the thief. Like Greta, Maria would much rather snooze than stand guard all night. But she didn’t want to starve, either!

MARIA: (boastfully) I’ve got this, Mother! I’ll catch the thief!

NARRATOR: So that evening, as the moon cast shadows across the countryside, Maria went out to the cornfield with a big pot of strong coffee. She figured all the caffeine would keep her wide awake.

But when the farmer came out to the field the next morning… she observed that even more corn had been trampled and eaten… and Maria was huddled next to the empty coffee pot, fast asleep.

MARIA: (ad-lib snoring sounds)

NARRATOR: So the farmer asked her third daughter, Valentina, to stay up and catch the thief.

VALENTINA: Oh, don’t you worry, Mother. I’ll catch the one who’s been eating our corn. Leave everything to me.

NARRATOR: That night, Valentina went out to the cornfield carrying a hammock, a book, a cowbell, and a rope tied into a lasso.

First she found two trees beside the cornfield, and strung her hammock between them. Then she settled into the hammock, hung the cowbell around her neck, opened her book, and began to read.

The book was an action-adventure tale, and it kept Valentina fairly alert, but it was getting late. And that’s where the cowbell came in! Every time her head began to droop, the cowbell would ring…

[SOT: bell]

NARRATOR: ...and the clamor would startle her awake!

The hour grew later, the air grew colder, and still, no thief appeared. Then, just as the clock struck midnight, Valentina tilted her head and cupped a hand to her ear.

[SOT: approaching hoofbeats]

VALENTINA: What do I hear in the distance? Is it… hoofbeats? (beat, as the hoofbeats grow louder) Yes! It sounds just like… a horse! … But it’s the middle of the night! Who would let their horse roam about at this hour?!?

NARRATOR: Valentina squinted her eyes into the darkness. Sure enough, a magnificent horse was galloping over the hill and straight toward the cornfield!

Only this horse looked different from any horse Valentina had ever seen. So different, in fact, that she had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming!

Because this horse wasn’t the usual brown, white, black or dapple gray.

Instead, to Valentina’s astonishment and amazement…

VALENTINA: ...That horse glows! With every color of the rainbow! Its head is as red as a ruby! Its mane is bright orange, its neck is sunshine-yellow and its body is glittering green! Its legs are sapphire blue and deep indigo. And that tail! It’s vibrant violet!

NARRATOR: As the rainbow-colored horse trotted through the cornfield… stomping on stalk after stalk, and devouring cob after cob... Valentina lifted her lasso, then hurled the rope toward the horse.

To Valentina’s delight, the rope looped right around the horse’s orange neck! But to Valentina’s surprise, the horse didn’t buck or rear or flare its nostrils; instead, the animal stood perfectly still.

Valentina stepped forward and stroked the horse’s ruby-red forehead.

VALENTINA: (good-natured) Well, hello there! Sorry we had to meet like this, but I couldn’t let you keep ruining our field! My family needs this corn to survive!

HORSE: (sincere) I’m sorry, Valentina!

NARRATOR: Valentina froze.

VALENTINA: What was that..?!? You talk...?!? And you know my name...?!? (beat)

HORSE: I do! And I’m sorry for devouring so much of your family’s corn, Valentina. It’s just that it’s the best corn I’ve ever tasted, and I simply couldn’t resist! (beat) But... if I promise never to eat it again… will you set me free?

NARRATOR: Valentina thought for a moment.

VALENTINA: Well… if I truly have your word that you’ll leave our corn alone... then yes... I will set you free.

NARRATOR: The horse whinnied with delight.

[SOT: whinnying sound]

HORSE: (delighted) Thank you, Valentina! (beat, sincere) You know, if most people found a talking, rainbow-colored horse, they wouldn’t set it free! They would take it to the market and sell it for pots and pots of money! Or they would lock it in a cage and sell tickets for everyone to come and gawk at it!

NARRATOR: The horse looked Valentina up and down.

HORSE: But you’re not like “most people,” are you...? (slowly, dramatically) So... in exchange for what you’ve done for me, I... will do something... for you.

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: What do you think the horse will do for Valentina?

We’ll find out what it is, after a quick break.

[theme music out]


[theme music in]

NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to Circle Round. Today our story is called “The Horse of a Different Color.”

[theme music out]

NARRATOR: Before the break, a farmer discovered that someone was sneaking into her cornfield at night and eating up her corn! Two of the farmer’s daughters, Greta and Maria, tried staying up to catch the culprit, but both fell asleep.

Then the farmer’s third daughter, Valentina, volunteered to keep watch. And as the clock struck midnight, she spotted the thief:

A talking, rainbow-colored horse!

Valentina offered to let the horse go free if it stopped eating her family’s corn. The horse agreed, then offered Valentina something in return.

HORSE: I will grant you three wishes, Valentina. All you have to do is call out — “Rainbow Horse, Rainbow Horse, I set you free! Now it’s your turn to come and help me!” — and I will come and grant your wish.

NARRATOR: Then, before Valentina could even say ‘thank you,’ the horse whirled around and galloped away.

VALENTINA: (still pretty amazed at what just transpired) Wow! That was amazing! (realizing) But look at this field. The horse promised it wouldn’t eat any more of our corn, but so much of it is already ruined. There’s no way we’ll sell enough corn this year to make ends meet.

NARRATOR: Suddenly, Valentina’s face lit up. Three wishes! The horse had promised her three wishes! She cupped her hands around her mouth and called out.

VALENTINA: (summoning the horse) “Rainbow Horse, Rainbow Horse, I set you free! Now it’s your turn to come and help me!”

NARRATOR: In the blink of an eye, the rainbow-colored horse came cantering back.

HORSE: Well, that was fast! Are you ready to make your wish? Don’t you want to think about it for a while?

VALENTINA: No. I know exactly what I want to wish for. (beat) I wish you could bring all of our corn back to life! Every last stalk and cob! Our farm will go out of business if we don’t have a full harvest… and it’s breaking my mother’s heart.

NARRATOR: The horse cocked its scarlet head.

HORSE: You know... if most people found a talking rainbow-colored horse who offered to grant them three wishes, they would forget about the corn and wish for money! Power! Fame! (beat) But, like I said, you’re not like “most people,” Valentina. I will grant your wish.

NARRATOR: There was a great, rainbow-colored puff of smoke, and next thing Valentina knew, the field was brimming with tall, hearty stalks bursting with plump, golden ears of corn.

HORSE: There you go — your first wish, granted! (beat) When you’re ready to make another, you know what to do!

NARRATOR: Then the rainbow horse spun around and raced away, its violet tail swinging and swishing behind it.

The next morning, when Valentina’s mother and sisters came out to the cornfield, they could hardly believe their eyes!

FARMER: How did you do it, Valentina? How did you bring back all the corn?

GRETA: Yeah, sister!

MARIA: What’s your secret?

NARRATOR: Valentina hesitated. Would Greta and Maria ever believe she’d actually met a talking rainbow-colored horse?

VALENTINA: (deciding not to tell about the horse) Um, you know... how all the corn came back isn’t important. What is important is that we can sell all of it and keep this farm going!

NARRATOR: Time passed, and, eventually... so did the farmer. She left her daughters a bit of money, with the request that they all run the farm together now that she was gone.

But it wasn’t long before Valentina found herself doing all the work... cooking the food, cleaning the house, tending the cornfields. Greta and Maria, meanwhile, spent their days frolicking around town, riding the fancy new horses and wearing the fancy new clothing they had splurged on with their mother’s money. Before long, they spent the farmer’s entire inheritance on themselves, leaving nothing for Valentina.

One evening, as Valentina served up dinner, Greta and Maria began chatting about some news they heard in town.

GRETA: Oh. My. Gosh. Can you believe this contest the governor is holding...?

MARIA: I know! It’s totally bonkers! (beat) (rudely) Um, Valentina? You forgot to bring the salt! Again!

NARRATOR: Valentina fetched the salt from the cupboard.

VALENTINA: So, sisters — the governor is holding a contest, you say...? What kind of contest?

NARRATOR: Greta and Maria dumped the salt into their soup.

GRETA: Well, you know how the governor is wild about horses...?

MARIA: And he’s always bragging that he’s the greatest horseman in all the land?

NARRATOR: Valentina nodded. She had heard the governor was more than a little horse-obsessed.

GRETA: Well, now he’s inviting everyone to bring their horses to his palace...

MARIA: ...gallop at full speed past his balcony…

GRETA: ...and toss an apple into his lap!

MARIA: Anyone who succeeds gets a chest full of gold!

NARRATOR: Valentina’s heart fluttered. A chest full of gold! Now that her sisters had frittered away their mother’s money on horses and clothing — and now that she was so busy cooking, cleaning and tending the cornfields — a chest of gold would come in mighty handy! She pulled up a chair and sat down with her sisters.

VALENTINA: So, are you going to enter the contest?

GRETA: We sure are! Those new horses we bought are the best!

MARIA: One of us is sure to win!

GRETA: Too bad you don’t have a horse of your own, Valentina.

MARIA: But hey, you can show up tomorrow to cheer us on!

NARRATOR: Valentina smiled to herself. She knew she could do much more than cheer her sisters on.

The next morning, after Greta and Maria put on their finest outfits and trotted off to the governor’s palace, Valentina leaped into action. She grabbed a red apple from the kitchen, hurried outside, and uttered the words she’d been waiting a very long time to say.

VALENTINA: Rainbow Horse, Rainbow Horse, I set you free! Now it’s your turn to come and help me!

NARRATOR: In an instant, Valentina heard a familiar sound…

[SOT: hoofbeats]

NARRATOR: … and saw a familiar figure. And do you know who it was?

You guessed it!

It was the rainbow horse!

HORSE: Valentina! Long time, no see! Are you ready for your second wish?

NARRATOR: Valentina told the horse all about the governor’s contest. The horse nodded its crimson head up and down.

HORSE: Alright, then. Let’s get you to the palace! But first…

NARRATOR: There was a great puff of rainbow-colored smoke, and suddenly Valentina found herself clad in a magnificent suit of armor, complete with a sparkling steel helmet topped with a rainbow-colored plume.

HORSE: Much better! (beat) Now, let’s go!

NARRATOR: Valentina hopped on the horse’s back and off they galloped, swift as the wind.

[SOT: crowd]

NARRATOR: The governor’s palace was thronging with spectators. The governor sat high on a balcony, surrounded by guards, while men and women on horseback went speeding past, tossing apples into the air.

Some of the apples went soaring over the palace roof…

[SOT: soar over roof]

NARRATOR: Others went splatting against the palace walls...

[SOT: splat against wall]

NARRATOR: When it was Greta’s turn, her apple went careening into the crowd of onlookers!

[SOT: apple careening into crowd]

NARRATOR: And while Maria’s apple did reach the balcony, it turned into applesauce on one of the guards’ shields!

[SOT: another splat]

NARRATOR: At last, it was Valentina’s turn. The crowd let out a gasp as the luminescent horse and armored rider went rushing past the balcony in a blur of color. And when Valentina lifted her arm, held up her apple, and tossed it into the air...


NARRATOR: ...where should the bright red fruit land…


NARRATOR: ...but right in the governor’s lap!

The surprised man jumped up from his chair and held the apple high.

GOVERNOR: Ladies and gentlemen, I can hardly believe it… but we have a winner! (beat) Rider… please remove your helmet and show us who you are!

NARRATOR: Valentina took hold of her helmet, and pulled it off her head. Every single person in the crowd let out a cheer… save for Greta and Maria, who were so dumbfounded to see their sister that they fell to the ground in a faint.

GRETA: / MARIA: (ad-lib fainting sound)

NARRATOR: When Greta and Maria finally came to, Valentina told them all about the rainbow-colored horse, and how the kind creature offered her three wishes when she offered to set it free.

Realizing it was Valentina’s good nature that helped her win the chest of gold, Greta and Maria apologized for slacking off at the farm. They promised to help keep it running, just as their mother had requested… and they followed through on that promise.

So now Valentina had money in the bank and helping hands at home. She also had one last wish from the rainbow-colored horse. But when she summoned the colorful creature for the third and final time…

VALENTINA: Rainbow Horse, Rainbow Horse, I set you free! Now it’s your turn to come and help me!

NARRATOR: ...she didn’t wish something for herself.

Instead, she asked the horse to grant three new wishes… to someone else who might need them.

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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