'Fools Thrush In' | Ep. 143

Download Audio
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

Ever heard the expression, “Fools rush in?”

When we say “fools rush in,” we’re talking about people who make decisions a little too quickly, without a whole lot of thought, and wind up paying the price.

In today’s tale, we’ll meet someone who doesn’t just rush in — he flies there!

Our story is called “Fools Thrush In.” This tale has been told among the Mohawk and Oneida people: Native Americans who originally lived in the northeastern United States.

Voices in this episode include Jason Ennis, Robert Feng, Thais Harris, Faith Salie, Nick Sholley, Alexia Trainor, Dawn Ursula, and Anthony Alabi. Check out Anthony in the original Netflix sitcom, Family Reunion.

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

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

If you were a bird, and could create your own song, what would it sound like? Would it be high or low? Fast or slow? Long or short?

Once you’ve got an idea for your song, ask a grown-up to hit ‘record’ on any audio device, then let loose with your birdsong! When you’re done recording, share your birdsong with us! Your grown-ups can email your song to

Musical Spotlight: The Native American Flute 

(Eric Shimelonis for WBUR)
(Eric Shimelonis for WBUR)

To play the Native American Flute, you hold it in front of you, choose which holes you want to cover with your fingers, then blow. The flute has two chambers: the first collects your exhalation, and the second chamber creates sound. The sound can be smooth and flowing, even mystical and meditative. In fact, indigenous peoples in North America have often used the flute to accompany spiritual rituals and meditation. 


NARRATOR: In another time, long long ago, the birds of the sky were different than they are today.


Because they had no songs.

The feathered creatures could open their bills and beaks to chatter and laugh, cry and shout… but none of them could sing.

The only earthly beings who possessed the power of song… were humans. And every morning, the people would join their voices in harmony and serenade the rising sun.

NARRATOR: When the birds heard the people’s song, their hearts swelled with joy… and ached with sadness.

BIRD 1: Oh, what magnificent sounds the people can make!

BIRD 2: If only we birds could make them, too!

BIRD 3: But alas, that’s not how the Good Spirit created us.

BIRD 4: So we’re forever destined to just listen.

NARRATOR: It wasn’t long before the Good Spirit herself — the creator of all things — became aware of the birds’ sorrow. Not wanting any of her children to be unhappy, one day she came down to earth and called a meeting of all the winged and feathered creatures of the sky.

GOOD SPIRIT: My children. It has come to my attention that you are troubled and melancholy. That each and every one of you flies around this world with a heavy heart. Is this true?

NARRATOR: The birds frowned and nodded their feathered heads.

GOOD SPIRIT: I see. It has also come to my attention that the reason for your woe is a shared wish, a shared desire. It seems that each and every one of you yearns… to sing. Is this true?

NARRATOR: This time, the birds didn’t just nod their heads - they raised their voices!

BIRD 1: Yes, Good Spirit! It’s true!

BIRD 2: It’s very, very true!

BIRD 3: All of us wish we could sing…

BIRD 4: ...just like the people do!


NARRATOR: The Good Spirit looked from one bird to another.

GOOD SPIRIT: Well, my children. I have come here today to take your heavy hearts and make them light. I have come here to offer you the gift… of song.

NARRATOR: The birds’ eyes grew bright. From the tops of their heads to the tips of their tails, they began to quiver with excitement.

GOOD SPIRIT: Listen up, my children. Tomorrow morning… when the sun first shows its golden face in the eastern sky… I want all of you to spread your wings… and fly. I want you to fly and fly and fly — as far and as high as you possibly can. When you can fly no further, when you’re certain your wings are about to give out on you, that is when you will find your song. And one more thing...

NARRATOR: The Good Spirit pointed up toward the sky.

GOOD SPIRIT: The bird who flies the highest will find the most beautiful song of all. The most captivating. The one that will make everyone stop… and listen.

NARRATOR: And with that, the Good Spirit... vanished.

NARRATOR: Immediately, the birds began to jump around with joy.

BIRD 1: Can you believe it? The Good Spirit is giving us songs! Songs!!

BIRD 2: At long last, we’ll be able to sing!

BIRD 3: All we have to do is fly!

BIRD 4: And the one who flies the highest gets the most beautiful song of all!

NARRATOR: But there was one bird who didn’t share in the enthusiasm. The little fellow had a brown back, a red tail, and dark spots on his throat and chest. His name was Hermit Thrush.

HERMIT THRUSH: Oh, man. I wish I could get the most beautiful song of all. But I’m so tiny! With these miniature wings of mine, there’s no way I can fly higher than the other birds! If only I were as big and powerful as Owl… or Hawk… or Eagle! Eagle’s probably the strongest of us all! If I had his enormous wings, I could soar right through the clouds and straight up into the Spirit World!

NARRATOR: As Hermit Thrush fixed his bright, round eyes on Eagle, an idea came rushing into his pint-sized head.

HERMIT THRUSH: Wait a minute… maybe I can have Eagle’s enormous wings! And he’ll be none the wiser!

NARRATOR: What is Hermit Thrush going to do?

And will Eagle really be “none the wiser”? Or will he catch on to whatever crafty scheme the little bird is cooking up?

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


NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to Circle Round. Today our story is called “Fools Thrush In.”

NARRATOR: Before the break, the Good Spirit — the creator of all things — promised the birds they would get their own songs. All they had to do was wait until sunrise, then take off into the sky. The bird who flew the highest would get the most beautiful song of all.

Teeny-tiny Hermit Thrush knew he was too small to fly the highest… but he wasn't about to let that stop him!

That night, once the moon was out and the birds were asleep, Hermit Thrush snuck over to a towering cottonwood tree, where Eagle kept his nest.

And just as Hermit Thrush had hoped...

EAGLE: (snoring)

NARRATOR: ...the mighty bird was snoozing away.

Careful not to make a sound, Hermit Thrush climbed onto Eagle’s back, crept onto his head and nestled himself inside the silky white feathers.

The little bird was still there in the morning, when Eagle woke up. And to Hermit Thrush’s delight — and relief — the great bird took no notice!

EAGLE: Boy, oh boy! What a fabulous day to get a song! And with these colossal wings of mine, I’m bound to get the most beautiful song of all! Let’s do this!

NARRATOR: Eagle joined his fellow birds as they made their way to the tops of the trees.

EAGLE: Good morning, everyone! Good morning! Good morning!

NARRATOR: Before long, the beeches, maples, aspens and oaks were teeming with birds.

The birds waited… and waited… and the moment the dazzling sun peeked its head over the eastern hills, there was a loud flutter of wings…

NARRATOR: … as each and every bird took off toward the sky.

The birds flew and flew. And after some time, the smaller, weaker ones were running out of steam.

The first to give up was eensy-weensy Hummingbird.

HUMMINGBIRD: Uch! I can’t do this anymore!

NARRATOR: Hummingbird didn’t make it very far, but she did get her own song — a chirpy series of “chips” that you usually hear around daybreak.

NARRATOR: The next bird to call it quits was chickadee.

CHICKADEE: Oy! Am I pooped!

NARRATOR: And to this day, Chickadee has a very simple, very pure song — a little whistling tune of “fee-bee” or “hey, sweetie”!

NARRATOR: And so it went, bird by bird.

One by one, they tired out…

BIRD 1: Ugh!

BIRD 2: Uch!

BIRD 3: Ohhhh!

NARRATOR: ...then came back to earth with their song.

NARRATOR: As the sun rose higher and higher, fewer and fewer birds were left.

By evening, it was down to just the larger, strong-winged birds: Owl…

OWL: I can do this, I can do this!!!

NARRATOR: ...Hawk…

HAWK: I’m not giving up! Not giving up!

NARRATOR: ...and, of course, Eagle.

EAGLE: I’ve got this! I’ve got this!

NARRATOR: Before long, though, even the big, powerful birds began to peter out.

First Owl…

OWL: Oh, bother!

NARRATOR: ...and then Hawk…

HAWK: Oh, drat!

NARRATOR: ...but both of them came back to earth with some pretty interesting songs. You’ve no doubt heard all the neat ways that Owl can hoo-hoo-hoo…

NARRATOR: ...and as for Hawk, his hoarse, screaming song isn’t quite so musical…

NARRATOR: …but it is kind of cool!

NARRATOR: So... now that mightier birds like Owl and Hawk were out of the game, can you remember who was left?


NARRATOR: Eagle, of course!

EAGLE: This settles it! The most beautiful song of all will be mine! Mine!!!

NARRATOR: But here’s the thing… Eagle wasn’t alone, right?

Hidden inside his fluffy head feathers was that crafty rascal, Hermit Thrush.

But Eagle didn't know that!

The majestic bird flew higher and higher…

EAGLE: Can’t wait to get my song! Can’t wait to get my song!

NARRATOR: ...and grew wearier and wearier...

EAGLE: ...Can’t… wait… to get… my… song! Can’t… wait… to get… my… song!

NARRATOR: But before long he realized he didn’t see another bird anywhere!

EAGLE: Ha HA!!! Could it be?!? Have all the other birds given up and turned back? That means I’ve flown the highest! That means I’ll get the most beautiful song!

NARRATOR: And with that, Eagle swerved around and started soaring back toward Earth.

But the moment he did, do you know what happened?

Little Hermit Thrush — still concealed under Eagle’s feathers — let out a smug, scornful laugh.

HERMIT THRUSH: (self-satisfied, smug, scornful laugh)

NARRATOR: Eagle heard the laughter, but it was too late. Hermit Thrush had already spread his tiny wings, hopped off Eagle’s head, and begun his upward flight.

EAGLE: What in the world...?!?? Hermit thrush!!!!!

NARRATOR: Eagle tried changing direction, and chasing after the little bird... but he was too fatigued! He had no choice but to shoot one last withering glance at Hermit Thrush before dipping back down to earth with his brand new, high-pitched song.

NARRATOR: Hermit Thrush, meanwhile — utterly refreshed and full of energy — kept winging his way up and up and up.

He soon came to a hole in the clouds… and on the other side he found himself in the Spirit World.


NARRATOR: As Hermit Thrush glided around this glorious, light-filled land, he heard…

NARRATOR: … a song.

But not just any song.

It was a sweet and serene song… an enchanting and ethereal song… a song unlike any he had heard before.

And when Hermit Thrush learned the song and flew back down to the world below, he could hardly wait to show it off to all the other birds.

But as he drew closer, he realized that the other birds did not look happy. All of them were glaring at him with angry eyes — and Eagle’s were the angriest of all.

EAGLE: There he is! There’s the one who stole my song! The one who --

NARRATOR: But that’s all Hermit Thrush heard. For in that instant, his glowing feeling of glory was replaced by a rush of remorse... and as fast as his tiny wings could carry him, he flitted off deep into the woods.

He hid under the branches of the largest tree he could find… and he stayed there.

Some say he’s still there today. That’s why you rarely see a hermit thrush out in the open.

But you do hear him.

NARRATOR: If you’re in the right place, at the right time, you can hear his sweet and serene, enchanting and ethereal song.

It’s often called the most beautiful song of all.... and the most melancholy. The song of the little brown bird who stole the music… and as a result, had to face the music, too.

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



More from Circle Round

Listen Live