'All The King's Dogs' | Circle Round 122

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("All The King’s Dogs" by Sabina Hahn)
("All The King’s Dogs" by Sabina Hahn)

Have you ever missed out on something?

Maybe you finally found the perfect sled… after the last snow of the winter. Or you went to order your favorite meal from a restaurant… but they had just sold out.

In Hungary, a country in central Europe, they have a special phrase for these kinds of situations.

They say, "The dog market at Buda happened only once." 

In this week’s episode, we'll hear the story of how that Hungarian proverb came to be!

Our story is called “All The King’s Dogs.” Versions of this folktale come from Hungary.

Voices in this episode include Elle Borders, Nick Sholley, Mike Smith, Rory Culkin and Jeremy Sisto. Grown-ups, you might know Jeremy Sisto from Six Feet Under on HBO, Law and Order on NBC, and FBI on CBS. Rory Culkin has appeared in City On a Hill on Showtime and Waco on the Paramount Network; watch for him in the upcoming Netflix miniseries, Halston.

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

("All The King’s Dogs" by Sabina Hahn)
("All The King’s Dogs" 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

What “golden opportunity” would you like to have?

Perhaps you’d like to have dinner with one of your heroes, fly a plane around the world, or just hug a friend or family member whom you haven’t seen in a very long while.

Find some paper and draw a picture of your golden opportunity. Share your drawing with someone you love... and then, if you want to, share it with us! You grown-ups listening can post all Circle Round-inspired art on Instagram, remember to tag us @circleroundpodcast.

Musical spotlight: The Hurdy-Gurdy (Symphonia)

The hurdy-gurdy (a.k.a. symphonia) is a hand-cranked medieval string instrument. (courtesy Eric Shimelonis)
The hurdy-gurdy (a.k.a. symphonia) is a hand-cranked medieval string instrument. (courtesy Eric Shimelonis)

The hurdy-gurdy — a.k.a. “symphonia” — may sound a bit like the bagpipes, but it’s actually a stringed instrument: a hand-turned wooden wheel rubs against the strings just like a bow rubs against the strings of a violin, cello or bass. You play the melody with your left hand, by pressing wooden keys that stop the melody strings short. Up to four unstopped strings — known as “bourdons” — make the drone-like sound you hear. The hurdy-gurdy dates back to the 15th century in Medieval Europe, when it was played by traveling musicians. Some modern musicians refer to hurdy-gurdy music as "medieval rock’n’roll”! To see the hurdy-gurdy in action — played by Robert Mandel, the luthier who built the instrument Eric Shimelonis used in this episode — check out this video.


NARRATOR: If you visit the Hungarian capital of Budapest, you’ll see a breathtaking castle overlooking the Danube River.

The castle is known as Buda Castle. And long ago it was home to King Matthias. He was known as “King Matthias the Just,” because of the fair and honest way he ruled his people.

This story is about two of those people… Laszlo and Vidor.

Laszlo and Vidor were both farmers. They lived in the same village outside the capital city.

But life had dealt each man a very different hand.

Laszlo had inherited many acres of lush, fertile land from his parents. He had also inherited a full staff of workers to harvest corn, wheat and potatoes, and to raise pigs, sheep and chickens. So Laszlo’s farm business was booming!

Then there was Vidor. Vidor had scraped together enough coins to buy a small patch of earth… but it was so sandy and shady, he was lucky if he could grow one measly stalk of wheat! As for animals, all Vidor and his family had was a lazy barn cat, who spent most of her time stretched out on a bale of hay, fast asleep.

Before long, Vidor was down to his last penny. He knew he needed to make some money fast, or his children would go hungry.

As he stood outside his tumbledown cottage, worrying about what to do, who should come trotting down the road on horseback, but Laszlo… with a big bag of gold coins slung over his shoulder.

[SOT: horse comes to a stop]

LASZLO: Good day, Vidor! (noticing Vidor’s expression/demeanor) Say — why the long face, neighbor?

NARRATOR: Vidor heaved a great sigh.

VIDOR: Well, since you asked... my family and I are in trouble, Laszlo. The farm isn’t doing so well, and I’m trying to find a quick way to make some cash! (beat) But hey, it looks like you’re doing great! That bag of gold coins is practically bursting at the seams! Were you off doing business in the capital city today?

NARRATOR: Now, before we go on, something you should know about Laszlo.

Through the years, the richer he got, the cockier he got… and the more he looked down on anyone who wasn’t as well-off as he was. In fact, one of Laszlo’s favorite things was playing tricks on people who were less fortunate.

And one of those people was standing before him right now! So the devious fellow couldn’t resist hatching a new scheme!

LASZLO: (hatching a plan to play a trick) Well, neighbor… You asked if I was doing business in the capital city today... and in fact, I was! (beat) It just so happens I went all the way up to Buda Castle. And I sold something to the king himself!

VIDOR: You did?!? 

NARRATOR: Much to Laszlo’s delight, Vidor immediately took the bait.

VIDOR: (believing him, in awe, impressed) You actually sold something to King Matthias the Just...?

LASZLO: (relishing this as Vidor takes the bait) I did! And you’ll never guess what it was!

VIDOR: (thinking) Hmmmm… let me see...

NARRATOR: Vidor stroked his chin.

VIDOR: ...Well, you do have acres and acres of corn, wheat and potatoes on your farm. Far more than I could ever dream of growing! (beat) Did you sell any of those?

LASZLO: (relishing this) Nope! (beat) Guess again!

VIDOR: (thinking) Okay… how about pigs, sheep and chickens! I’ve always admired your hale and hearty pigs, sheep and chickens! (beat) Did you sell any of those?

LASZLO: (loving this) Nope! (beat) Guess again!

NARRATOR: Vidor was stumped. What else did Laszlo raise on his farm, other than corn, wheat and potatoes, and pigs, sheep and chickens?

VIDOR: I don’t know, Laszlo. If it wasn’t crops… and it wasn’t animals… then I’m not sure what it could possibly — (gets interrupted)

LASZLO: Not so fast, Vidor! (sly, coy, mysterious) I never said it wasn’t animals… 

NARRATOR: Vidor cocked his head.

VIDOR: But that’s exactly what you said! You told me that you didn’t sell any pigs, sheep or chickens!

LASZLO: Indeed! That’s because I sold a different kind of animal altogether! (beat) I sold…

NARRATOR: Laszlo’s eyes twinkled.

LASZLO: ...dogs.

VIDOR: Dogs?!?

NARRATOR: Vidor’s eyebrows shot up.

VIDOR: You sold... dogs?!?

LASZLO: (totally lying as he continues his scheme) I did! (beat) You may not have heard... but King Matthias has grown awfully fond of dogs! He’s just wild about them! So he’s inviting all of his royal subjects to come to Buda Castle and sell him their dogs… at a very generous price. As a result, you’ll find quite a dog market at Buda! 

VIDOR: (totally believing him) A dog market at Buda!?!

NARRATOR: By now, poor Vidor was completely taken in.

VIDOR: So tell me, Laszlo — did you make all that money by selling dogs to the king?

LASZLO: You bet I did, Vidor! I spent all week rounding up dogs, then I took them straight to Buda Castle. I sold each and every one to the King… and now look!!

[SOT: coin jingle, as if Laszlo is jingling his bag of money]

LASZLO: ...My bag is overflowing with gold coins!

NARRATOR: Laszlo glanced to his left, then to his right. Then the conniving farmer leaned down and lowered his voice, as if he were letting Vidor in on a very special secret.

LASZLO: (leaning down/lowering voice, as if imparting special knowledge) Listen, my friend. Who knows how long the dog market at Buda will last…? If you and your family are in need of money, I suggest you get some dogs, you take them to Buda Castle, and you sell them to the King. You’re bound to make a fortune. (beat) I know I did!

NARRATOR: And then... with his bag of coins jingling over his shoulder... Laszlo started up his horse and galloped away.

As for Vidor, the desperate fellow spent the next days wandering through the village, gathering up as many stray dogs as he could find.

[SOT: dogs]

NARRATOR: The humble farmer found big dogs, little dogs, and medium dogs… He found striped dogs, speckled dogs, and spotted dogs. It was a bit of challenge to keep all the dogs from chasing his barn cat

[SOT: cat]

NARRATOR: … but once he had rounded up a sizable pack, he set off for Buda with dozens of leashes clutched in his hands.

[SOT: dogs, duck under then continue]

VIDOR: (friendly) Come along, my friends! We’re off to see the king!

NARRATOR: Vidor led the dogs to the capital city, then over the river and up to Buda Castle.

As he and the dogs approached the magnificent palace, Vidor was surprised — and delighted — to see he was the only dog seller there.

VIDOR: This is great! I don’t have any competition at the dog market today! I’m sure to make a mint!

NARRATOR: By the time Vidor reached the royal guards standing by the castle gates, the dogs were all riled up... yipping and barking, jumping and rolling, and getting their leashes tangled up in knots. It was quite a sight… and quite a sound!

Vidor flashed the guards a sheepish smile.

VIDOR: Apologies for all the commotion, dear sirs. But I’m here for the dog market at Buda…?

NARRATOR: The guards exchanged a quizzical look.

GUARD 1: The what market now...?

GUARD 2: The dog market…?!?

VIDOR: Yes! That’s right! I was told His Majesty is interested in buying some dogs…?

NARRATOR: The guards exchanged another look.

GUARD 1: Listen, buddy. I don't know where you got your information…

GUARD 2: ...but the king isn’t looking to buy any dogs!

NARRATOR: Vidor shook his head.

VIDOR: But, but what about the dog market?!? I was told King Matthias will pay a very generous price for dogs! … And I was depending on it! (beat) (sincerely, not knowing the King is listening in) You see, I’m a humble farmer... and though I’ve been working really hard, my family and I are down to our last penny... and I can’t bear to see my children go hungry. So when my wealthy neighbor told me he made a boatload of money at the dog market at Buda, I spent all week wrangling up every single stray I could find! And now I’ve brought the dogs here so that His Royal Majesty can — (gets interrupted)

GUARD 1: Look, buddy!

GUARD 2: We’ve heard enough from you!

GUARD 1: There isn’t any dog market at Buda!

GUARD 2: (making a joke) So why don’t you make like a dog… and flea?! (beat) (feel free to ad-lib here) Get it?? Because dogs have fleas…?!? So, “flea” / “flee”...??!?

GUARD 1: / GUARD 2: (ad-lib laughter, commenting on how funny the joke is, etc.)

NARRATOR: As the guards collapsed in hysterics, tears sprang to Vidor’s eyes. His cheeks burned with embarrassment.

VIDOR: Well, this is humiliating! The king isn’t looking to buy dogs at all! Laszlo was playing a trick on me! A mean trick! And I fell for it. (beat) Uch. How in the world am I going to support my family now?!?

NARRATOR: Vidor slumped his shoulders and began leading the dogs away. But all of a sudden, he was halted in his tracks...

KING: (calling out) Excuse me!

NARRATOR: a deep voice.

KING: You there! Sir! (beat) You’re coming with me. (slowly, to raise intrigue for the listener) I believe we have some business to attend to.

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: Who do you think is calling out to Vidor?

And what do you think they want?

We’ll find out what happens… 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 “All The King’s Dogs.”

[theme music out]

NARRATOR: Before the break, a wealthy farmer named Laszlo played a not-so-nice trick on a poor farmer named Vidor.

Laszlo told Vidor about the so-called dog market at Buda. Laszlo claimed the king at Buda Castle — King Matthias the Just — was looking to buy dogs, for a very generous sum.

Vidor and his family were on the verge of going hungry... so the desperate man decided he would give it a shot. He worked hard rounding up every stray dog he could find. But when he brought the boisterous canines to Buda Castle, in the capital city, the royal guards laughed and ordered him to leave.

As the downtrodden fellow trudged away, a deep voice stopped him in his tracks.

And when Vidor whirled around, who should he come face-to-face with but…

VIDOR: (spotting the king) Your Majesty...?!????

NARRATOR: …the King! King Matthias the Just!

Vidor bowed down on one knee — which was none too easy, given that dozens of rambunctious dogs were scampering all around him.

VIDOR: Your Excellency! I am honored to be in your presence!

KING: And I am honored to be in yours!

NARRATOR: Vidor was confused.

VIDOR: You are…????

KING: Yes! (beat) You see, young man... when you arrived at my castle just now, the sound of all those dogs barking and yapping traveled right through the walls! I couldn’t help but run to the window! And when I did, I heard the story you told my guards. Each and every word. (beat) Which is why I’m offering you… this.

NARRATOR: The king reached out and handed Vidor a soft velvet bag full of coins. It was even bigger and more overflowing than the bag Laszlo had been jingling around!

KING: These coins are for you, young man. (beat) Provided you’re willing to part with your dogs, of course.

NARRATOR: Vidor’s face broke into a grin.

VIDOR: (surprised, delighted) Of course! Yes, Your Majesty! I’ll give you all these dogs for those coins! (beat) Thank you! Thank you so much!

NARRATOR: Now as you can imagine, it wasn’t long before word of Vidor’s newfound wealth spread all over the village. When Laszlo heard that his down-and-out neighbor had become so well-to-do, he was thunderstruck.

LASZLO: Well, this isn't fair! That whole dog market thing was just a trick!! Vidor wasn’t supposed to get rich! He was supposed to get laughed away from the castle!

NARRATOR: Immediately, Laszlo knew what he must do. He began racing through the village... scurrying up and down the roads, streets and lanes... buying up as many dogs as he could find.

[SOT: dogs, duck down then continue]

NARRATOR: Then, grabbing ahold of their leashes, he herded the dogs to the capital city, and over the river and up to Buda Castle.

LASZLO: (not very friendly, as he tries to corral them) Come along, you miserable flea bags! I’ve got a fortune to make, and I haven’t got all day!

NARRATOR: By the time Laszlo reached the palace gates, the dogs were barking and howling and causing quite a ruckus.

So much of a ruckus, in fact, that they caught the attention of a certain someone, who happened to be sitting in his throne room.

And do you know who that “someone” was...?

You guessed it!

King Matthias the Just!

The mighty monarch rose from his throne and went striding to the window. The moment he laid eyes on Laszlo, he knew this must be the mischievous scamp who had bamboozled the humble farmer!

The king ordered his guards to bring Laszlo and his dogs inside the castle and into the throne room. As Laszlo walked through the door, he flashed the king a simpering grin.

LASZLO: Thank you so much for seeing me, Your Majesty! I’ve come here today because — (gets interrupted)

KING: (interrupting) Oh, I know why you’re here. (beat) You’re here for the dog market at Buda… Are you not?

NARRATOR: Laszlo eyed the king’s jewel-encrusted crown, his glittering gold sceptre. He could hear the jingling of coins already!

LASZLO: Indeed I am, Your Excellency! I am here for the dog market at Buda! (totally full of it) A very dear friend of mine, a fellow farmer... he told me you’ve been looking to buy dogs! So I thought, “Hey! What better way to serve my beloved king than to sell him some of my beloved pooches?” And… here I am!

NARRATOR: King Matthias the Just glanced to his left, then to his right. Then the wise sovereign leaned down and lowered his voice, as if he were letting Laszlo in on a very special secret.

KING: Listen, my good sir... I appreciate you coming by today. … But I’m afraid you’re far too late. (beat) You see, the truth... is this: (pause, slowly) The dog market at Buda happened only once.

NARRATOR: Then the king snapped his bejeweled fingers and the guards escorted Laszlo — and his dogs — out of the castle.

And ever since then… in the country of Hungary… whenever someone misses out on a golden opportunity, or fails to jump at a chance that will not come again… the people say the same thing.

“The dog market at Buda happened only once.”

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



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