'Counting Crocodiles' | Circle Round 126

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("Counting Crocodiles" by Sabina Hahn)
("Counting Crocodiles" by Sabina Hahn)

If one of your friends was in trouble, how far would you go to help them?

We’re about to meet a character who goes to great lengths to help her friends.

Not only does she go above and beyond... she goes over her enemies’ heads!

Our story is called “Counting Crocodiles.” Our version comes from tales told in the southeast Asian countries of Indonesia and Malaysia. You’ll also hear variations from Japan.

Voices in this episode include Elle Borders, Amy Brentano, Jason Ennis, James Konicek, Chris Tucci, and Tiya Sircar. You can hear Tiya Sircar in multiple Star Wars projects, including Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars: Forces of Destiny, and Disney Infinity 3.0. And grown-ups, you can see Tiya in The Good Place on NBC.

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

Coloring Page

("Counting Crocodiles" by Sabina Hahn)
("Counting Crocodiles" 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’s one thing you can do to help a friend?

Maybe you can feed their fish if they go out of town. You can let them borrow your favorite book. Or you can just offer an encouraging word if they’re feeling down.

Think about how you can help your friend, then go out and do it. They’ll feel great — and you will, too.

Musical spotlight: The Angklung

Eric Shimelonis playing an angklung, generously provided to Circle Round by Rya Cox. (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)
Eric Shimelonis playing an angklung, generously provided to Circle Round by Rya Cox. (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)

Now popular throughout Southeast Asia, the angklung originated in Indonesia. The word angklung comes from the words angka and lung: angka means “tone,” and lung means “broken” or “lost.” The angklung consists of bamboo tubes suspended in a bamboo frame and bound with rattan cords. The tubes are carefully whittled and carved to have a resonant pitch when struck and are tuned to octaves. To play the angklung, you hold the frame with one hand, while your other hand shakes the instrument from side to side. Because playing the angklung as an ensemble or orchestra requires so much cooperation and coordination, Indonensians believe the instrument promotes the values of teamwork, mutual respect and social harmony.


NARRATOR: In Indonesia and Malaysia, the word kancil has two meanings:

“Clever Person”...  and “Mouse Deer.”

In the story you’re about to hear, you’ll find out why.

But first, what exactly is a “mouse deer”?

Well, why don’t we let her explain?

MOUSE DEER: (excited/pleased to be asked) Oh! Okay! Well... as a mouse deer I look a lot like an actual deer, just a whole lot smaller — I’m no bigger than a rabbit! And while I don’t have antlers, I do have hooves, and four slender legs… though they’re no longer than a pencil! (beat) (to the narrator) Does that just about do it?

NARRATOR: That just about does it, Mouse Deer.

Now back to our story.

Long, long ago, Mouse Deer lived near a wide and winding river, in a lush, dense forest teeming with monkeys and bats, woodpeckers and lizards, moles and magpies.

Each and every day, Mouse Deer and her forest friends went down to the river to get a drink.

But each and every day, Mouse Deer and her forest friends feared for their lives.


Let’s just say it had a whole lot to do with this fellow:

CROCODILE: (delighted) Ha ha! That’s right! I’m Old Crocodile! I weigh as much as two whole cows combined! From head to tail, I’m as long as a giraffe is tall! And my appetite is bigger than an elephant — I’m always hungry! So when I spy a tasty critter coming to the river, I quietly cruise over… and then BAM! I open my massive jaws and I strike! (beat) Those foolish little creatures never see what’s coming. Ha ha ha!

NARRATOR: So, now do you see why Mouse Deer and her friends were so nervous when they came to the river for a drink?

One year, the summer was especially hot and dry, and all the lush green plants in the forest began to dry up and wither away. The forest animals were beside themselves with worry.

ANIMAL 1: Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!

ANIMAL 2: We haven’t seen a drop of rain in weeks!

ANIMAL 3: Without rain, there aren’t any plants!

ANIMAL 4: And without plants, there isn’t any food!

ANIMAL 5: Whatever will we do? (beat) Mouse Deer? Do you have any ideas?

NARRATOR: All eyes turned… to Mouse Deer. For while Mouse Deer was one of the smallest animals in the forest, she was also one of the cleverest.

MOUSE DEER: Actually, my friends… I do have an idea! Across the river… on the opposite shore… I spotted a rambutan tree!

NARRATOR: A rambutan is a round spiky fruit with sweet and creamy flesh inside.

MOUSE DEER: But get this, folks! Even though it hasn’t rained in ages, somehow the rambutan tree across the river was bearing fruit! Plump, juicy fruit, just ripe for the picking!

NARRATOR: The animals’ mouths watered at the thought of gobbling down plump, juicy rambutans.

There was just one problem.

ANIMAL 1: But Mouse Deer...!

ANIMAL 2: You say the rambutan tree is across the river…?!?

ANIMAL 3: On the opposite shore…?!?

ANIMAL 4: How can we get over there…

ANIMAL 5: ...without running into Old Crocodile?!??

NARRATOR: The mere mention of Old Crocodile’s name sent shivers down everyone’s spine.

Everyone’s spine, that is, except for Mouse Deer.

MOUSE DEER: Oh, don’t you worry about that big bully. I just need to test out a few things… and then we’ll all be eating delicious ripe rambutans in no time!

NARRATOR: The next morning, Mouse Deer ventured out of the forest and crept toward the river, where — as usual — Old Crocodile lay in wait, his long body submerged beneath the water. All that stuck out was a portion of his back, bumpy and dark and glistening.

MOUSE DEER: (to herself) Okay. First I need to see how easy it is to trick Old Crocodile. I’ve heard he has a particularly small brain, but let’s see how small his mind is!

NARRATOR: Mouse Deer took a deep breath, then raised her voice and called out.

MOUSE DEER: (launching her plan, purposely loud, laying it on thick) Oh, how thirsty I am for some water! It’s a good thing Old Crocodile is nowhere to be found! Why all I see floating out there on the river is a wooden log! And as everyone knows, wooden logs always drift upstream... against the current... while crocodiles always float downstream!

NARRATOR: Now, of course, what Mouse Deer said was not true. It’s actually the opposite. A wooden log would float downstream in the river! It’s the crocodile who can swim upstream, against the current.

And yet, right before Mouse Deer’s very eyes, the so-called “log” in the river began to move… yes… upstream.

MOUSE DEER: (to herself) (amused) Well, that was easier than I thought! Old Crocodile totally fell for my trick! (beat) But I think I’ll test him one more time - just to see how much I can get away with.

NARRATOR: So the next morning, Mouse Deer returned to the river. Her bright, brown eyes traveled from one side of the water to the other.

MOUSE DEER: (to herself) Hmmm... I don’t see any signs of Old Crocodile! But that doesn’t mean he isn’t lurking around here somewhere. (beat) Let’s find out!

NARRATOR: Just like yesterday, Mouse Deer took a deep breath, then raised her voice and called out.

MOUSE DEER: (hatching another plan, laying it on thick) My, my, my! What a scorching-hot morning it is! I sure could use some water! I think I’ll wade my skinny little legs into the river, and take a nice big drink!

NARRATOR: But instead of ‘wading her skinny little legs into the river,’ do you know what Mouse Deer did?

She snapped a skinny little twig off a nearby bush, then plunged one end of the slender stick into the water.

In an instant, just as she’d hoped, something grabbed onto the stick and held on tight.

Any guesses what that “something” — or someone — was...?

That’s right!

It was Old Crocodile!

Believing the twig truly was one of Mouse Deer’s legs, the greedy fellow had snuck over and clamped his mighty jaws around it!

Mouse Deer tried not to laugh as she continued her ruse.

MOUSE DEER: (overly dramatic, continuing her scheme) Oh no!!! Something is biting my leg! Hard! (beat) I’m a goner! I’m a goner! Goodbye, world...!

NARRATOR: Then, with a big smile on her face, Mouse Deer let go of the twig and went scurrying back to the forest.

MOUSE DEER: (pleased with herself) Ha ha ha! It’s official! Old Crocodile has a small brain and a small mind! My friends and I will be feasting on ripe rambutans in no time. (beat) (slowly, dramatically, relishing the thought) There’s just one last trick to go.

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: What do you think Mouse Deer’s final trick will be?

And will it work?

We’ll find out, 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 “Counting Crocodiles.”

[theme music out]

NARRATOR: When we left off, a drought was raging and the forest animals were hungry. Clever little Mouse Deer promised her friends ripe rambutans from across the river. But first she had to outwit Old Crocodile: the ferocious, hungry beast who guarded the water!

Mouse Deer played two tricks on Old Crocodile, and the fierce — but foolish — creature fell for them both.

Now, Mouse Deer was preparing for her third and final ruse.

One bright, hot morning, Mouse Deer grabbed a big sack, and pranced over to the river. When she saw Old Crocodile’s spiky, glistening back protruding from the water’s surface, she put a big smile on her face and called out in a friendly voice.

MOUSE DEER: Oh, Crocodile! Crocodile! I have some wonderful news for you!

NARRATOR: Old Crocodile lifted his long, pointy snout out of the water.

CROCODILE: (intrigued but suspicious, and vice-versa) “Wonderful news,” you say? What kind of “wonderful news”?

NARRATOR: Mouse Deer’s smile grew even bigger.

MOUSE DEER: Well, Old Crocodile… I’ve heard it through the grapevine that the king of the forest — great Leopard himself — is throwing a party… a grand feast… and everyone is invited!

NARRATOR: Old Crocodile smacked his razor-sharp jaws.

CROCODILE: “A grand feast,” huh...? I like the sound of that!

MOUSE DEER: (pleased her plan is working) I thought you would! (beat) But the king wants to make sure he has enough luscious, delectable food for everyone. So I thought I’d help him out and see how many animals plan on attending. You know - so that His Majesty knows how much scrumptious, mouth-watering food he should prepare…

NARRATOR: Old Crocodile pictured table after table covered with luscious, delectable, scrumptious, mouth-watering food. His massive belly began to rumble.

CROCODILE: You can count us in, Mouse Deer! My fellow crocodiles and I would be honored to attend the king’s feast!

MOUSE DEER: Fantastic! I’m sure the king will be delighted to see you! (beat) Now then. How many of you will be coming?

NARRATOR: Old Crocodile narrowed his glittering, yellow eyes.

CROCODILE: Hmmm… let’s see here… there’s me, of course… plus all my brothers and sisters… and all their husbands and wives… not to mention all the children… and all the grandchildren… Oh dear! I’m afraid it’s far too many for me to count!

NARRATOR: Mouse Deer shook her head.

MOUSE DEER: Oh, not to worry, not to worry! I’d be happy to do all the counting for you. (beat) How about if you summon your fellow crocodiles, then you all line up across the river, so I may walk across your heads and take an accurate tally?

CROCODILE: That’s a splendid idea!

NARRATOR: Old Crocodile raised his tail into the air, then splashed it down into the water.

He repeated this motion several times, and within minutes, the river was swarming with crocodiles. Big crocodiles, little crocodiles, young and old.

One by one, the creatures lined up side by side, their spiny bodies stretching all the way from one side of the river to the other.

MOUSE DEER: Wonderful, folks! Wonderful! (beat) Now, let’s start that count.

NARRATOR: Still clutching her sack, Mouse Deer hopped onto the head of Old Crocodile, who was first in line…


NARRATOR: ...then she hopped onto the head of the second crocodile…


NARRATOR: ...then the third.


NARRATOR: From crocodile to crocodile Mouse Deer hopped...

MOUSE DEER: ...Twenty-eight… twenty-nine… thirty...

NARRATOR: On and on and on...

MOUSE DEER: Fifty-four… fifty-five… fifty-six...

NARRATOR: ...And when, at last, she counted the final crocodiles…

MOUSE DEER: ...seventy-three… seventy-four… seventy-five! There are seventy-five crocodiles!

NARRATOR: ...she leaped onto the opposite riverbank and flashed the creatures a warm grin.

MOUSE DEER: Thank you, my friends! That was so very helpful. But to make sure my number is accurate, I’d like to take just one more count. If you’ll give me a moment, I’ll come back across the line and count all of you again.

NARRATOR: Quick as can be, Mouse Deer made a beeline for the rambutan tree. She picked as many rambutans as she could, and stuffed them into her sack.

Then she dragged the bulging sack back to the riverbank, and made her way back across the line of crocodiles...

MOUSE DEER: One… two… three...

NARRATOR: ...counting all the while…

MOUSE DEER: ...forty-six… forty-seven...forty-eight…

NARRATOR: ...until, once again, she counted the last few...

MOUSE DEER: ....seventy-three… seventy-four… seventy-five!

NARRATOR: ...and sprang down to the bank.

MOUSE DEER: Okay! That settles it! There are officially seventy-five crocodiles!  (beat) (self-satisfied, playful) Well, thanks for the lift, folks. And see you later, alligator! Or, should I say, after a while, Crocodile...?!??!??

NARRATOR: Before Old Crocodile and his family could say a word, Mouse Deer went flouncing back into the forest, where she shared her bounty of fruit with her hungry forest friends.

ANIMAL 1: Thank you, Mouse Deer!

ANIMAL 2: These rambutans are delicious!

ANIMAL 3: But how did you do it?

ANIMAL 4: How did you get across the river?

ANIMAL 5: How did you get past Old Crocodile?

NARRATOR: And so… as the animals scarfed down their ripe, delicious fruit… Mouse Deer — or Kancil, which you may recall also means “clever person” — told her friends everything that happened.

She told them how Old Crocodile had believed her ruse about the king’s party… how the greedy creature had fallen for her story and swallowed it whole… without swallowing her.

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



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