'The Bearded Lake' | Circle Round 132

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("The Bearded Lake" by Sabina Hahn)
("The Bearded Lake" by Sabina Hahn)

If you could have an endless supply of something — something you really love — what would it be? Perhaps it would be your favorite food, or something you collect, like stickers or rocks or seashells.

Now at first, it might be really fun to have this endless supply. But more often than not, when we have too much of a good thing, it might not seem so “good” anymore.

And we’re about to meet a farmer who learns that trying to have too much of a good thing can spoil everything!

Voices in this episode include Kevin Corbett, Maizy Broderick Scarpa, Nick Sholley, Alexia Trainor, Chris Tucci, and Tony Award winner Owen Teale. Grown-ups, you may know Owen as Ser Alliser Thorne on Game of Thrones. Owen’s newest film, Dream Horse, will be released in the United States on May 21, 2021.

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 Bearded Lake" by Sabina Hahn)
("The Bearded Lake" 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

Farmer Davies wasn’t content with what he had; he wasn’t satisfied! But a great way to feel content is to practice gratitude.

Being grateful helps you focus on what you do have, rather than what you don’t.  So next time you sit down for a meal, kick things off with a gratitude circle. Have each person say one thing — or person, or place, or experience — that they’re grateful for. And then, when everyone’s done, you can enjoy your meal with even more thankfulness in your heart.

Musical spotlight: The Celeste

The celeste (a.k.a. celesta) is a keyboard instrument that looks a lot like a piano, but instead of having strings inside, the celeste has metal bars - just like a xylophone or glockenspiel. These metal bars give the celeste a delicate, bell-like, magical sound, which is quite apt, since in French celeste means “celestial” or “heavenly”! You can also hear the celeste in our season 2 story, “The Friendship Orchard,” our season 3 tale, “The Fallen Sparrow,” as well as our Shortie, “The Leaky Bucket.” And you can see the celeste in action in this video featuring the enchanting celeste solo from composer Ferde Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite.


NARRATOR: In the northwestern part of Wales… up in the high country, where the rugged, windswept mountains give way to sloping, rolling hills and green, grassy knolls… there lies a lake.

It’s known as “The Bearded Lake,” because of the thick reeds and rushes that fringe its shores, like a bushy brown beard.

In the summer, The Bearded Lake is covered in water lilies — all of them as bright and white as a pearl.

But once upon a time, nothing covered the surface of The Bearded Lake. The brown reeds and rushes sprouted around a body of water that was as smooth and clear as a mirror.

Until one man… changed everything.

According to legend, he was a farmer — a cattle farmer whose land stretched all the way to the edge of The Bearded Lake. We’ll call him Farmer Davies.

Every morning, Farmer Davies awoke at the crack of dawn…

FARMER: (ad-lib stretch/yawn) (enthusiastic) Alright! Time to get to work!

NARRATOR: ...then he pulled on his boots and headed out to the old red barn. First he would milk the cows…

FARMER: What lovely milk you’re giving today, Clover! You too, Daisy!

NARRATOR: ...then he would drive the cattle up and down and around the hills.

FARMER: Come now, loves! I’ve found some delicious grass over this way!

NARRATOR: As the sun went down, Farmer Davies would lead the herd back to the barn, then return to his snug stone farmhouse, where he’d polish off a simple supper of meat pie or vegetable stew...

FARMER: Mmm mmm mmm!

NARRATOR: … before crawling into bed and falling fast asleep.

FARMER: (ad-lib sleeping/snoring sounds)

NARRATOR: Farmer Davies wasn’t a rich man, but he was comfortable. An honest and humble fellow who was content with his lot in life.

Then one winter... everything changed.

Come December, the temperatures fell, and so did the snow — great, frosty clumps of it — clobbering the high country so hard and fast you couldn’t see your hand if you held it out in front of your face!

The snowdrifts grew so high, Farmer Davies had nowhere to lead his cows to graze. The herd began wasting away, too scraggy and gaunt to give milk.

So when spring rolled around, Farmer Davies still arose at the crack of dawn…

FARMER: (ad-lib yawn stretch) (not enthusiastic at all) Ugh. Time to get to work.

NARRATOR: He still tried to milk the cows…

FARMER: Oh come on, Clover! Not even one drop…?!? Nor you, Daisy?

NARRATOR: … and he still tried to drive them up, down and around the hills…

FARMER: Hurry up, you dawdlers! You’re moving slower than cold molasses!

NARRATOR: But once he led the herd back to the old red barn and returned to his stone farmhouse, he found his “simple supper” growing depressingly simpler: meat pie was now a crust of bread, vegetable stew was now a boiled potato.

FARMER: Uch. My stomach’s as empty as a bird’s nest in January!

NARRATOR: After supper, Farmer Davies no longer crawled into bed and fell fast asleep. Instead, the wretched fellow paced around his bedroom, wringing his hands and fretting about his future.

FARMER: Oh dear me! If my cows don’t give milk, my farm is doomed! Doomed!

NARRATOR: One particularly sleepless night, Farmer Davies burst out of his bedroom, put on his coat and boots, then stepped out of the stone farmhouse and into the cool moonlit night.

The air was so brisk the farmer’s teeth chattered as he wandered around his farm. He was so distraught he lost all sense of time and direction, and eventually he found himself at the edge of his property, way on top of a hill.

Spread out before him, quiet and still, lay The Bearded Lake.

The lake’s surface was so clear and calm, it reflected every twinkling star in the sky, not to mention the shimmering, milk-white moon. Farmer Davies gazed down at the smooth, sparkling water… then he sank to his knees and burst into a sob.

FARMER: (sobbing) Oh, what am I going to do??? I’ve been working harder than a salmon swimming upstream! And for what? For what?!? I’m ruined. I’m done for. If only somebody, anybody, could help me out!

FARMER: (ad-lib crying to cover the narration that follows)

NARRATOR: Now... it just so happens that in Wales, where our story takes place, it’s common belief that lakes can be a doorway to the “Otherworld” — the mysterious, non-earthly realm where magical, mystical creatures reside.

Magical, mystical creatures... like fairies!

And little did Farmer Davies know it, but The Bearded Lake was home to a whole host of fairies. And from their dwelling place way down on the lake’s bottom, the enchanted sprites were hanging on to the desperate man’s every word.

Farmer Davies couldn’t hear it... but as he knelt at the water’s edge, bawling his eyes out, a curious sound began to rise from the lake.

[SOT: magical voice]

NARRATOR: The sound was high, and sweet, like a woman singing — but not like any woman who ever walked this earth. There was something otherworldly about it.

And as the otherworldly sound echoed across the hills, the normally placid surface of The Bearded Lake began to ripple and quiver, bubble and churn — but Farmer Davies was too overcome to see it. He cried and he cried, and by the time he got back to his feet and staggered home, the sound had faded away.

[SOT: magical voice out]

NARRATOR: The next morning, when Farmer Davies rolled out of bed, pulled on his boots, and headed out to the old red barn, he was greeted by a most astonishing sight.

One that stopped him right in his tracks.

FARMER: What the dickens am I seeing…?!?? … It couldn’t be! Could it...?!??

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: What do you think the farmer saw outside the old barn?

We’ll find out what it was… 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 Bearded Lake.”

[theme music out]

NARRATOR: Before the break, Farmer Davies was in trouble. After a particularly savage winter, his herd of cows was weak and sickly, and the future of his farm looked bleak.

One sleepless night, the farmer wandered up to The Bearded Lake — a smooth, clear body of water bordered by reeds and rushes. He fell to his knees and broke down crying, calling out to someone, anyone, for help.

Little did Farmer Davies know, but the lake was home... to fairies! The magical sprites heard his plea, and the next morning they had a gift waiting for him.

A rather extraordinary gift.

It was...

FARMER: A cow!?!??!!

NARRATOR: But not just any cow. For this cow wasn’t black or brown or spotted like all the other cattle in the barn — or all the other cattle in the country, for that matter!


This cow… was white. So white, she practically sparkled in the sun!

FARMER: My goodness! Look at you! You’re as white as the neck of a swan! The fleece of a lamb! The pearl of an oyster! But who ever heard of a pure white cow in Wales?!? Where did you come from, precious one?

NARRATOR: Farmer Davies tingled with excitement. Unlike his own sickly herd, this pearl-white cow had such a bright gaze, such a plump body, such a full udder

The farmer reached out a trembling hand and stroked the cow’s alabaster side.

FARMER: My, my! Your coat is as soft as a patch of moss! And your udder is fuller than a piper’s bag! I daresay you could do with a good milking, my friend.

NARRATOR: The cow turned her glimmering white head and blinked her wide, bright eyes at Farmer Davies. The farmer couldn’t help but smile.

FARMER: (smitten) Alright, precious one. How about this. You’ll stay with me and my herd for a little while, and if somebody comes to claim you, well, it was enchanting to make your acquaintance. But if no one shows up at my door, you can consider yourself part of the family!

NARRATOR: So the milk-white cow settled into the old barn with the farmer’s herd. He named her Blodwen, which in Welsh means “white flower.”

As the weeks went by, no one came to claim Blodwen. And Farmer Davies was elated! Not only did sweet, gentle Blodwen have the best temperament of all his cows, she had the best milk — and plenty of it! Blodwen could produce more milk in one day than the rest of the herd gave in a month!

And oh, how rich and pure that milk was! Richer and purer than any Farmer Davies had ever tasted — than anyone had ever tasted, it turns out! The first time the farmer bottled the milk and set up a stall at the market, the shoppers went wild!

PERSON 1: Oh, Farmer Davies! This milk is heavenly!

PERSON 2: Delectable!

PERSON 3: Ambrosial!

PERSON 4: Divine!

NARRATOR: The farmer began selling bottle after bottle of Blodwen’s sweet milk. Before long, he was selling case after case — and fetching quite a handsome price.

PERSON 1: Farmer Davies! I’ll give you fifty silver coins for a case of your milk!

PERSON 2: I’ll give you one-hundred!

PERSON 3: I’ll give you two-hundred!

PERSON 4: I’ll give you three-hundred!

NARRATOR: And when Farmer Davies started using Blodwen’s milk to make butter, cheese and cream, the demand grew even higher. Soon, customers were flocking to the market hours before opening time, just so they could be first in line at Farmer Davies’ stall.

PERSON 1: I’ve been waiting here since five a.m. to buy the farmer’s thick, heavy cream! 

PERSON 2: Oh yeah...? Well, I’ve been waiting since four to buy his fine, golden cheese!

PERSON 3: And I’ve been waiting since three to buy his soft sweet butter!

PERSON 4: Well, I’ve been waiting here all night to buy all that stuff! So there!

NARRATOR: For the first time in his life, Farmer Davies was prospering. And when Blodwen started giving birth to calves — all of them as gleaming-white as their mother, and producing the same rich, sweet milk — it was like he’d hit the jackpot!

Now the farmer didn’t have just one stall at the market — he had four! One for selling milk, one for selling butter, one for selling cheese, and one for selling cream. Business was booming, and it wasn’t long before Farmer Davies was the richest farmer in all of Wales.

But he was no longer the humblest.

You see, instead of waking up at the crack of dawn, the farmer now lazed in bed until noon.

FARMER: (ad-lib sounds of lounging/lazing in bed)

NARRATOR: Instead of pulling on his boots to milk the cows and drive the herd up, down and around the hills, he hired a team of farmhands to do all the labor.

FARMER: (disinterested) Well done, men. Keep it up.

NARRATOR: And instead of returning to his farmhouse and having a simple supper, he wolfed down a five-course feast… personally prepared by his brand new cook.

FARMER: (ad-lib gobbling-down food sounds)

NARRATOR: Then Farmer Davies would climb into his king-sized feather bed and fall fast asleep, before doing it all again the next day.

One afternoon, as Farmer Davies sat by the window, watching his farmhands graze the cattle, he was struck by an idea.

...Sure, he was making a mint selling his cows’ milk, butter, cream and cheese… but what if he actually sold one of the cows themselves?

The farmer stuck his head out the window and gave a whistle. One of the farmhands came running inside.

FARMHAND: Can I help you, sir?

FARMER: Farmhand, do you see that cow over there?

NARRATOR: The farmhand looked to where Farmer Davies was pointing.

FARMHAND: Oh! You mean Blodwen, sir? Our own “white flower”?

FARMER: Yes. Blodwen. We’ve had the old girl for quite a while now, and I worry it’s just a matter of time before she stops giving milk. (beat) I want you to take her to market and see how much you can get for her.

NARRATOR: The farmhand fell quiet as he gazed out the window. Then he turned to Farmer Davies with a sheepish look.

FARMHAND: With all due respect, sir... Blodwen is as stout and sturdy as ever! It’s almost like she’s enchanted — she hasn’t aged a day since she arrived here! (beat) But if you really think Blodwen is past her prime, sir… why not let her just wander the fields for the rest of her days, and graze to her heart’s content?

NARRATOR: Farmer Davies’ eyes flashed.

FARMER: No. My mind is made up; I’m selling that cow. I want you and the other workers to prepare her for market at once! That’s an order!

NARRATOR: ...And the workers followed that order.

They fetched a horse-drawn cart and loaded it with hay. But the moment they looped a rope around Blodwen’s neck and began leading her toward the cart, the usually docile cow began lowing and mooing.

[SOT: lowing/mooing]

NARRATOR: Blodwen kept pulling away from the farmhands and staring at Farmer Davies, her sparkling eyes wider and brighter than ever.

FARMER: Come now, you meddlesome creature! Quit making such a fuss!

NARRATOR: But Blodwen wouldn’t ‘quit’. She kept lowing and mooing, pulling and staring, until… all of a sudden...

[SOT: lowing/mooing stops]

NARRATOR: ...she stopped.

For at that moment, a sound began ringing out across the hills.

[SOT: magical voice]

NARRATOR: It was a mysterious sound — high, and sweet, like a woman singing. It was the same otherworldly sound that had risen from the lake so many years ago… on that fateful star-filled night when an honest, humble farmer fell to his knees and begged someone, anyone, for help.

And now… all this time later… as the sound grew louder and louder... do you know what happened?

Blodwen let out a snort…

[SOT: snort]

NARRATOR: ...then she lunged forward and broke away from the farmhands! Her shimmering white tail swung back and forth as she trotted across the fields and up a hill. She was heading toward the lake at the edge of Farmer Davies’ property.

The Bearded Lake. 

The mysterious sound grew even louder now, and before anyone knew what was happening, Farmer Davies’ other cows… all of Blodwen’s children, and grandchildren… they, too, took off toward the hill, their glimmering white bodies streaming out of the old barn so fast they looked like a streak of lightning.

Farmer Davies whirled toward his farmhands, his eyes blazing.

FARMER: (flustered) Well, men?! Let’s not just stand here! Follow them!

NARRATOR: So they did. They broke into a sprint as they went chasing after the runaway cows.

But when the men reached the lake, they were too late.

Led by Blodwen herself, each and every cow was walking into the water, slowly treading deeper and deeper… first up to their flanks, then their backs, then their necks, then the tops of their gleaming white heads.

And the moment each cow vanished beneath the lake’s surface, do you know what happened?

Right at the spot where the creature went under, there emerged a tiny water-lily... each bright, star-shaped blossom as white as the neck of a swan, the fleece of a lamb, the pearl of an oyster!

And ever since, come summer time, the Bearded Lake has been covered in water-lilies. An eternal reminder of Blodwen, “the white flower”... and the farmer who was foolish enough to let his humility wither.

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



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