'Getting Skunked' | Ep. 144

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

There’s nothing like a little recognition: getting cheers and applause when you score a goal in your soccer game, being praised for how hard you worked on a project...

But as we’re about to hear, when our desire for recognition outweighs our ability to achieve it, things can backfire in unexpected ways!

Our story is called “Getting Skunked.” It was inspired by legends told by the Abenaki: Algonquin-speaking peoples from the northeastern part of North America.

Voices in this episode include author and Emmy-Award-winning actor Terrence Terrell, star of the CBS comedy B Positive. His series of children’s books includes Blacky, The Shes, The Crowned Kids, and My Little Black Book.

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

What’s one compliment you can give someone today?

Maybe you can compliment a teammate for trying so hard during a game. Or compliment a family member or neighbor, for baking such delicious brownies.

Think about your compliment and who you’ll give it to, then go out and do it! You’ll make someone else feel amazing – and I bet you’ll feel amazing too!

Musical Spotlight: The Slide Guitar

Eric Shimelonis used a metal slide to create the bendy, twangy, vibration-rich sounds in “Getting Skunked.” (Courtesy: Rebecca Sheir)
Eric Shimelonis used a metal slide to create the bendy, twangy, vibration-rich sounds in “Getting Skunked.” (Courtesy: Rebecca Sheir)

"Slide guitar" is the technique of using a glass or metal slide, instead of your fingers, to play different notes on the guitar. Instead of pushing your fingers down on individual strings to get different notes, you glide the slide smoothly over all the strings. The result is a twangy and bluesy sound, capable of smooth bends and interesting vibrations. Some guitars are specially designed to be played with a slide, but you can play any regular guitar this way!


NARRATOR: Way way back in the olden times, the most beautiful of all the animals… was Skunk.

In modern times, Skunk is black, with white stripes on his back and snout, right? Well, back when our story takes place, Skunk’s silky fur was pure snowy white.

Not only that, but Skunk didn’t spray! He didn’t have those glands under his tail that spritz out chemicals that smell like rotten eggs or rancid garlic.

This is the tale of how Skunk came to be the way he is today.

It all started one especially cold winter. The snow had been falling nonstop for months, and with no sign of spring on the horizon, the people were worried.

PERSON 1: Do you see how deep the snow is!?!

PERSON 2: And it’s getting deeper by the minute!

PERSON 3: Soon it’ll be higher than our rooftops!

PERSON 4: How will we hunt for food?!?

PERSON 1: How will we plant our crops?!?


PERSON 2: And how will we gather wood for warmth?!?

PERSON 3: ...Or for cooking?!?

PERSON 4: Our children will go hungry!

PERSON 1: Our houses will be icy!

PERSON 2: I say we talk to Gluskabe!

PERSON 3: Yes!

PERSON 4: He’ll know how to help us!

NARRATOR: Gluskabe was the kind, heroic giant who took care of the people and watched over them. So they approached Gluskabe and told him their problem.

GLUSKABE: I understand your troubles, my people. First thing tomorrow I will journey to the top of the tallest mountain and visit Snow Bird; she’s the one who controls the snow. I will talk with her, and see what I can do.

NARRATOR: But the next morning, just as Gluskabe was about to set off on his travels, who should pipe up…

SKUNK: Um, Gluskabe…?

NARRATOR: ...but Skunk!

GLUSKABE: Well, hello there, Skunk! Your fur is so white, I didn’t see you there in the snow! What’s up, little one?

SKUNK: Well, Gluskabe, I was wondering… is there any chance I could come with you to visit Snow Bird? Maybe help you sweet-talk her a little?

NARRATOR: Before we go on, something you should know about Skunk. Though he was regarded as the most beautiful and sweet-smelling of all the animals, that was about it. He wasn’t praised for his smarts, or his bravery, or  anything else, really.

But Skunk dreamt of being hailed as a hero. And he figured joining Gluskabe’s quest could make his dream come true!

Gluskabe, however, wasn’t exactly jazzed by the idea.

GLUSKABE: Listen, Skunk, I appreciate the offer. But look at you. You’re so small! And this snow is so deep! If you join me on this journey, how will you keep up?

SKUNK: I can do it, Gluskabe! I can! Please let me come along...? Pleeeeeeeeeease????

NARRATOR: So Gluskabe gave in and he and Skunk took off toward Snow   Bird’s mountain. As they ventured north, the blanket of snow grew deeper and deeper, and Skunk found himself leaping from one of Gluskabe’s footprints to the next.

SKUNK: (leaping from footprint to footprint)

NARRATOR: But the hulking giant had such a long stride that Skunk would occasionally miss a footprint...

SKUNK: (jumping and missing)

NARRATOR: … then he’d go plummeting under the snow...

SKUNK: Um, help….?

NARRATOR: ...and Gluskabe would have to pull him back out.

SKUNK: Phew! Thank you!

NARRATOR: By the time the duo reached the peak of Snow Bird’s mountain, Skunk wasn’t feeling very heroic. Icicles hung from his white fur, and his teeth were chattering so hard he could barely speak!

But when he and Gluskabe arrived at Snow Bird’s perch, the giant did all the talking.

GLUSKABE: Snow Bird!

NARRATOR: The massive white bird craned her neck toward Gluskabe. Tumbling down from her outstretched wings were millions of snowflakes.

GLUSKABE: Snow Bird! You must close your wings and stop making all this snow! I mean, don’t get me wrong — the world needs your snow. It keeps the soil warm and moist until it’s time for planting crops. It keeps the lakes and rivers full of water. But this year you’re making too much! Look at my little friend here!

NARRATOR: Gluskabe lifted Skunk by the scruff of his frozen neck.

GLUSKABE: ...He’s practically an ice cube! It’s time for spring to come, Snow Bird! It’s time for warmth, time for things to grow! So please… will you close your wings?

NARRATOR: Snow Bird gave Gluskabe a long look. Then she nodded her head… folded in her wings… and the snow stopped.

Now that their mission was accomplished, Gluskabe and Skunk made their way back down the mountain. By the time they reached the bottom, the sky was a shimmering blue and patches of grass were visible through the melting snow.

When the people caught sight of Gluskabe, they clustered around him and cheered.

PERSON 1: You did it, Gluskabe!

PERSON 2: You got Snow Bird to close up her wings!

PERSON 3: And now spring can come!

PERSON 4: And we can plant!

PERSON 1: And we can hunt!

PERSON 2: And our children can run around play!

PERSON 3: You’re our hero, Gluskabe!

PERSON 4: We will always be grateful!

PERSON 1: Thank you!

NARRATOR: While the people sang Gluskabe’s praises, Skunk stood off to the side and grumbled.

SKUNK: Oh, so Gluskabe’s the big hero, huh?!? I’m the one who froze my tail off to reach that kooky bird on top of her mountain, but Gluskabe gets all the glory?!? Instead of me?!?? No respect! No respect at all!

NARRATOR: Skunk sighed and gazed up at the sky — the bright blue sky. And as he did, his mind suddenly clicked.

SKUNK: Wait a minute! I know how to make them respect me! ‘Cuz I’m gonna do something they’ll never forget!

NARRATOR: What do you think Skunk is planning?

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


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

NARRATOR: Before the break, Gluskabe trekked to the top of the tallest mountain and convinced Snow Bird to close her wings and stop the snow. Sweet-smelling, white-furred Skunk insisted on coming along.

But when Skunk and Gluskabe returned from their mission, the grateful people hailed Gluskabe as their hero — and ignored Skunk completely!

SKUNK: No respect! No respect at all!

NARRATOR: Craving attention — and admiration — Skunk began concocting a plan. He found a big ball of twine, and set off toward a mountain nearly as tall as Snow Bird’s.

At the top of this mountain… was Day Eagle.

And if Snow Bird brought the snow, what do you think Day Eagle brought?

That’s right! The day!

When her great, wide wings were open, light came streaming out of them, and bathed all of earth. When she closed her wings, the light disappeared and the whole world was dark.

By the time Skunk reached Day Eagle’s lofty perch, the enormous bird had tucked in her wings and nodded off for the night. Squinting through the darkness, Skunk began wrapping his twine around Day Eagle’s wings.

SKUNK: Ha-ha! This will teach them not to underestimate me!!!

NARRATION: Skunk worked swiftly and silently, wrapping the twine this way and that, tying it in knot after knot. Then he scurried back down the mountain.

The next morning… there was no morning! Day Eagle’s wings were bound so tightly, she couldn’t open them and shine light upon the earth!

But the people didn’t know that.

PERSON 1: The light!!

PERSON 2: Where is the light?!?

PERSON 3: Why hasn’t Day Eagle opened her wings?!?

PERSON 4: Will it be dark on earth forever?!??

NARRATOR: Gluskabe was every bit as worried and puzzled as the people were. He headed straight to the top of Day Eagle's mountain, where he found her wrapped in twine! The poor bird was contorting her body as she tried to unknot the string with her break.

GLUSKABE: Day Eagle! What has become of you? Who tied you up like this?

DAY EAGLE: I don’t know, Gluskabe! Someone must have snuck over while I was asleep!

NARRATOR: Gluskabe set to work undoing the knots, but there were so many, and they were tied so tightly, he could only free one of Day Eagle’s wings!

GLUSKABE: I’m sorry, Day Eagle. It’s the best I can do! From now on, I’m afraid one half of the world will be light, while the other half is dark. All I ask is that you keep turning around on your mountaintop so that both sides of the earth get their fair share. Can you do that?


NARRATOR: And indeed, ever since, when it’s daytime on one side of the earth, it’s nighttime on the other. And vice-versa.

As Gluskabe rolled the twine back into a ball, he noticed something. Stuck to the string were bits of fur.

White, silky fur.

GLUSKABE: A-ha! Skunk!!! 

NARRATOR: Gluskabe went barreling down the mountain and straight to Skunk’s den. The silky white critter was curled up next to a crackling bonfire, and was snoozing away.

GLUSKABE: Skunk! What were you thinking?! You nearly threw the world into nighttime forever!!

NARRATOR: At the sound of Gluskabe’s deep voice, Skunk’s eyes snapped open.

SKUNK: Gluskabe! What are you doing here? And why is it so light outside? I thought that when I tied up Day Eagle, I — Oops.

GLUSKABE: So you did do it, you little rascal!

NARRATOR: All at once, Gluskabe grabbed a handful of ashes from the fire and smeared them across Skunk’s face and back.

SKUNK: My fur! My beautiful white fur!

GLUSKABE: From now on, just one glance at you and everyone will remember your mischief, my friend. And as for that sweet smell of yours...

NARRATOR: Gluskabe breathed in some of the fire’s smoke... then blew it all over Skunk’s body.

GLUSKABE: From now on you will smell of rotten eggs and rancid garlic! People will see you and run away, for fear of getting your stink!

NARRATOR: But Gluskabe!

GLUSKABE: No “buts!” However... since you did want to bring on never-ending darkness, from now on you will only come out at night. No one will see you during the day. Of course, given your smell, I doubt they’ll want to see you, anyway!

NARRATOR: Skunk hung his streaked head. All he had wanted was to be admired and adored. Instead now he had a striped body, a nocturnal sleep cycle, and a smell so strong, it would send anyone running… and so it is to this day.

Now to be fair, Skunk only sprays his spray when he feels threatened, or in danger. But, word to the wise? Unless you’re a big fan of rotten eggs or rancid garlic… I wouldn’t get too close.

Headshot of Rebecca Sheir

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



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