Encore: The Princess and the Egg20:02

(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

When’s the last time you made a promise?

Maybe you gave your word that you’d help wash the dinner dishes. Or you borrowed a friend’s book, and told her you’d return it by the end of the week.

When we make promises, we’re giving the message that we’ll do what we say.

In this favorite tale from Circle Round Season 2, we meet a princess who makes an important promise. But when she tries to keep that promise, she’s thrown for a real loop!

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Our tale is called “The Princess and the Egg.” You’ll hear versions of this story in many places, from Portugal and Denmark in Europe, to the Mediterranean world and Middle East, to the island nation of Haiti!

Voices in this episode include Luis Negron, Jeff Song and Amber Stevens West. Grown-ups, watch for Amber on the CBS sitcom, Happy Together, as well as the Starz comedy, Run the World.

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

This episode was originally released on October 23, 2018.

Coloring Page

(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

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 of a promise you’ve made.

What was your promise?

And who did you make it to?

Now, find someone you like to have fun with — a family member or friend — and tell that person all about your promise and whether you did, indeed, follow through!

Musical Spotlight: Harpsichord

(Courtesy of The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, Wikimedia Commons)
(Courtesy of The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, Wikimedia Commons)

The stringed keyboard instrument known as the ‘harpsichord’ is shaped like a grand piano, and most likely was developed in the late Middle Ages.

The harpsichord can have one keyboard or two; either way, when you hit a key, a small piece of material known as a “plectrum” plucks a metal string and voila! You have sound. The problem is, you don’t have control over how loud or soft that sound is, so when the more dynamic piano came along, that more modern instrument pretty much superseded the harpsichord. Still, you’ll hear plenty of the harpsichord’s charming, elegant, even “formal” sound in renaissance and baroque music — and in 1960s “baroque pop” songs by such bands as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.


NARRATOR: All her life Princess Pearl dreamed of traveling the world. She wanted to see new places, try new foods, and meet new friends.

But what she didn’t want was to have people bowing down to her at every port of call, just because she was royalty. So she swore that when she finally got to embark on her adventure, she would never wear her crown. No one would know she was a princess.

Once Princess Pearl finished all of her schooling, the King and Queen surprised their daughter with a swift, sturdy sailboat to whisk her around the high seas, and a brand new atlas, so she wouldn’t lose her way.

PEARL: Oh, Mother! Father! Thank you for these gifts! I can’t wait to start my journey. I promise I’ll send you a letter from every port I visit!

NARRATOR: But Princess Pearl was not able to fulfill that promise.

On her very first night at sea, do you know what happened? A massive storm blew in, and gusts of wind and rain tossed her sailboat this way and that!

Pearl clung to the boat’s ropes as wave after wave frothed and foamed across the deck. The next thing she knew, it was morning… and she and her ship were washed up on an empty beach.

PEARL: Well, this trip isn’t off to a very good start. (as she looks at boat) Yikes - look at this boat! What a wreck. I should thank my lucky stars it got me to shore!

NARRATOR: Pearl pulled off her soggy shoes and jumped down from the splintered remains of her sailboat. As her bare feet touched the soft, warm sand, the princess looked around her. Her heart leapt when she spotted a quaint seaside town in the distance.

PEARL: Oh boy! Civilization!

NARRATOR: Pearl sprinted across the beach. When she got to town, she stepped inside the first establishment she saw: a tiny little bed and breakfast. That’s a small hotel, or inn, where people can spend the night and enjoy a nice morning meal.

The innkeeper narrowed his eyes as Pearl entered. He wrinkled his nose as he beheld her torn, drenched clothing and bare feet - not to mention the seashells and seaweed sticking out of her soaking-wet hair!

INNKEEPER: May I help you?

NARRATOR: Pearl flashed her warmest smile.

PEARL: Why, yes, you may - thank you! Do you serve breakfast? I’m so hungry I could eat a life preserver!

NARRATOR: The innkeeper sniffed.

INNKEEPER: Well, it just so happens we do serve breakfast... given that we’re a bed and breakfast and all. But we’re about to close the kitchen.

NARRATOR: One thing you should know about the innkeeper: he was a very greedy man. So although the kitchen was closing, he suddenly realized he had one last chance to make a few extra bucks. He softened his tone.

INNKEEPER:  Look. I tell you what. I’ll have the cook whip up something for you - something fast and simple. How about... a scrambled egg?

NARRATOR: Pearl’s mouth watered.

PEARL: Oh - that would be lovely! My stomach’s rumbling so loudly, you’d think I’ve got an orchestra in there! Not a very good one... the timpani is way too loud and the tuba is hopelessly out of tune... but -

INNKEEPER: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Have a seat. One scrambled egg, coming right up.

NARRATOR: As you can imagine, that one scrambled egg was the best scrambled egg Pearl had ever tasted! Within seconds, her plate was empty. She raised her hand and called the innkeeper over.

INNKEEPER:  What now?

PEARL: Well, first, thank you for the egg, sir. It was delicious! But, you see, when I rushed over here for breakfast, I kind of forgot one teensy-weeny little thing. I don’t have any money.

NARRATOR: The innkeeper’s eyebrows shot up so high, they disappeared into his hairline.

INNKEEPER: Come again?

PEARL: I said, I don’t have any money. You see, yesterday, I set out on a sailing trip around the world. Then this massive storm blew in, and I was sure I was a goner. But the winds blew me to your lovely town... and when I came to your inn for breakfast, I didn’t even think about the fact that my money — everything I own, actually — got lost at sea!

NARRATOR: The innkeeper took a deep breath.

INNKEEPER: Okay… So how, then, do you propose paying for that one scrambled egg? It costs two gold coins, you know!

PEARL: I know. And I promise: I will return to this town, and when I do, you will get your money.

NARRATOR: The innkeeper glanced again at Pearl’s bare feet and soggy clothing… and the seashells and seaweed sticking out of her hair.

INNKEEPER: And why should I believe you’ll actually come back and pay up?

NARRATOR: Pearl shrugged.

PEARL: Let’s just say I have some savings back home. Thanks again for the egg, sir. Have a good day!

NARRATOR: As Pearl waltzed out of the bed and breakfast and onto the street, the innkeeper grumbled to himself.

INNKEEPER: “I have some savings back home.” Sure ya do! Ugh. What a waste of a perfectly good egg. I bet I’ll never see that ragamuffin again!

NARRATOR: As it turns out, the innkeeper was right… and very, very wrong.

NARRATOR: What do you think will happen? Will the princess come back to settle her debt?

We’ll find out, after a quick break.


NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “The Princess and the Egg." When we left off, Princess Pearl had promised a greedy innkeeper that she’d come back and pay for one scrambled egg. Her sailboat had crashed in the innkeeper’s quaint seaside town, so she wasn’t able to give him the two gold coins necessary to cover the meal.

After her shipwreck, Princess Pearl eventually found her way back to her own kingdom. The king and queen hugged their daughter extra tight when she got home. Then they surprised her with an even bigger boat, with even more sails — so that she could try again with her world travels.

And… she did.

Several months into her journey, she found herself back at the quaint seaside town: the one where she’d been shipwrecked… and where she had a debt to settle with the owner of the bed and breakfast.

But this time when she stepped into the cafe, she was not barefoot; on her feet she wore a pair of fine leather boots. Her clothing was well-tailored and trim. And her hair wasn’t disheveled and strewn with sea life; it was tucked neatly beneath a green velvet cap.

As you can imagine, the innkeeper did not recognize her.

INNKEEPER: May I help you?

PEARL: Yes, I think you may! Several months ago, I got into a shipwreck and was unable to pay you for one scrambled egg: a humble breakfast that cost two gold coins. I promised I’d come back and pay for that delicious meal. And... here I am!

NARRATOR: The innkeeper stared at Pearl with disbelief. Was this really the same ragamuffin from all those months ago? She looked so fancy, so elegant!

PEARL: And further, sir, to thank you for your generosity — and your patience — I intend to pay you double. No - make it quadruple. So, instead of two gold coins, that would be, what, eight…?

NARRATOR: The innkeeper thought for a moment. Why should this prosperous woman pay a mere eight gold coins when obviously she could pay so much more?

INNKEEPER: I’m sorry. Eight gold coins, you say? No, no! You owe me far more than eight gold coins.

NARRATOR: Pearl was confused.

PEARL: I do…?

INNKEEPER: You bet you do! Think about it. If I hadn’t served you that one scrambled egg, that egg would have hatched into a chick! And then that chick would have grown up and laid eggs and hatched a dozen more chicks! And each one of those chicks would have gone on to lay eggs and hatch a dozen more chicks! You see where I’m going with this?

NARRATOR: Pearl shook her head.

PEARL: Um, I’m not sure I -

INNKEEPER: Long story short... you don’t owe me eight gold coins. You owe me…

NARRATOR: He pulled out a pencil, grabbed a napkin, and began scribbling.

INNKEEPER: (to himself, as he scribbles his calculations on the napkin) Let’s see… multiply this times this, add up that and that… Okay… uh-huh… alright. You owe me eight-million gold coins.

PEARL: I’m sorry — eight-million?!?!

INNKEEPER: Yup! Eight-million! I mean, give or take a few thousand. I rounded down. Figured I’d give you a bit of a discount.

NARRATOR: Pearl could hardly believe what she was hearing.

PEARL: But sir, I can’t pay you eight-million gold coins!

NARRATOR: The innkeeper scowled.

INNKEEPER: Really? You can’t pay…?

NARRATOR: He gestured toward Pearl’s fancy clothes and shoes.

INNKEEPER: ...or you won’t pay?

NARRATOR: Pearl’s mind raced. She reached into her purse.

PEARL: Look. What do you say I give you a hundred gold coins and we call it a deal.

NARRATOR: The innkeeper fixed Pearl with a steely gaze. He crossed his arms.

INNKEEPER: Nope. Eight-million gold coins, or I see you in court. Tomorrow.

NARRATOR: Pearl sighed.

PEARL: Alright, then. See you in court.

NARRATOR: As Pearl sat down to dinner that night… in another hotel, blocks away from the bed and breakfast… she was so distraught could hardly eat. She picked at her boiled peas… took half-hearted nibbles of her steamed corn… and by the time dessert was served — a warm bowl of roasted chestnuts — she couldn’t even take a bite.

She stared at her plate of food, wondering what in the world she would do tomorrow in court.

Then, suddenly, it hit her.

PEARL: I’ve got it! The answer is in the peas! And the corn! And the chestnuts! I’d better get some sleep; tomorrow is going to be a big day.

NARRATOR: The next morning, Pearl was the first person to arrive at the courthouse.

Before long, the courtroom began filling up with people. Word of the greedy innkeeper’s complaint had spread around town, and everyone wanted to hear the judge’s verdict.

The innkeeper was the first to plead his case. The judge listened intently as the man went on and on about the eight-million gold coins Princess Pearl owed him for the one scrambled egg. The innkeeper even brought along the napkin on which he’d scribbled his calculations, and offered it as evidence.

Then it was Pearl’s turn to offer her defense.

PEARL: Your Honor, the innkeeper has presented his evidence for the case. If it may please the court, I’d like to offer up my own.

NARRATOR: The judge nodded.

JUDGE: You may proceed.

NARRATOR: Pearl reached into her bag, and lifted out three clay flower pots. Each one was filled to the brim with dark, crumbly soil.

PEARL: Your Honor. The innkeeper claims I owe him eight-million gold coins for one scrambled egg. Each of these flower pots contains something that will convince you I owe nothing of the sort. May I approach the bench?

JUDGE: (intrigued) You may.

NARRATOR: The assembled crowd — innkeeper included — watched with wide eyes as Pearl placed all three flower pots in front of the judge. Then she reached back into her bag and took out... a watering can. Slowly, she drizzled each pot with cool, clear water.

PEARL: Thank you, Your Honor. Now, all we have to do is wait for each one of these flower pots… to grow.

NARRATOR: The innkeeper leaped out of his seat.

INNKEEPER: Wait for them to grow?! That’s ridiculous, Your Honor!

NARRATOR: The judge waved his hand in the innkeeper’s direction.

JUDGE: No, no, I’ll allow it. We’ll all sit here… and wait.

NARRATOR: And… they did.

Minutes passed. Then hours. By the end of the day, everyone’s eyes were tired from staring so hard… and their stomachs were empty from skipping lunch.

As the people in the courtroom began grumbling amongst themselves, the innkeeper spoke up.

INNKEEPER: With all due respect, Your Honor. We’ve been sitting here all day and we haven’t seen anything grow! Not one little sprout!

NARRATOR: The tired — and hungry — judge nodded at Pearl.

JUDGE: The innkeeper does have a point. What in the world is in those pots… and when in the world will it start to grow?

NARRATOR: Princess Pearl’s eyes sparkled.

PEARL: That is an excellent question, Your Honor. And I’m happy to answer it. You see, last night, right after dinner at my hotel, I took the liberty of planting a few things in these flower pots. A handful of boiled peas… a few kernels of steamed corn… and one or two roasted chestnuts.

NARRATOR: The grumbling in the courtroom immediately transformed... into laughter.

For the second time that day, the innkeeper shot up from his seat.

INNKEEPER: What’s this, now? Is this woman out of her mind?

NARRATOR: The judge banged his gavel.

JUDGE: Order! Order in the court!

NARRATION: Immediately, the courtroom quieted down. The judge turned to Pearl.

JUDGE: Alright, let me get this straight. You say you planted boiled peas...? And steamed corn...? And roasted chestnuts...? It’s a well-known fact that anything boiled, steamed or roasted won’t grow to produce anything - except for disappointment! Whatever were you thinking?

PEARL: Well, Your Honor…

NARRATOR: The corners of Pearl’s mouth lifted into a smile.

PRINCESS: ...As I was sitting in my hotel last night… and thinking about the court case I’d be facing in the morning… something occurred to me.

NARRATOR: She fixed her eyes on the innkeeper.

PEARL:  It occurred to me that boiled peas, steamed corn and roasted chestnuts could most certainly produce a most bountiful crop… if a scrambled egg could actually produce a chicken!

NARRATOR: Once again, everyone in the room burst into laughter. Well, everyone except the innkeeper. He slumped down in his seat, his cheeks blazing bright red. The judge smiled at Pearl.

JUDGE: That settles it! The Court finds that all you owe for your breakfast of one scrambled egg... are two gold coins. This case is dismissed!

NARRATOR: From that day forward, the innkeeper thought twice before allowing greed to rule his actions and decisions. Because more often than not… when you do?... you’ll wind up with egg all over your face.

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