'The Bright Yellow Hat' | Ep. 148

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

Think about the last time you picked a flower.

What color was it? What shape? What did it smell like?

We’re about to meet a character who’s wild about flowers: growing them, picking them, even talking to them – in hopes that eventually they’ll talk back!

Our story is called “The Bright Yellow Hat.” Variations of this folktale come from many places, including Japan and Tibet, France and Canada, Morocco and Peru.

Voices in this episode include Chelly Li, Jessica Rau, Alejandro Ruiz, Dawn Ursula, and Jona Xiao. Kids, listen for Jona in Disney's animated film Raya and the Last Dragon, available on Disney+. And grown-ups, watch for Jona in Hightown on Starz.

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

Flora was ga-ga about growing flowers. What’s an activity that you enjoy doing regularly? Do you love baking? Painting? Building with blocks or Legos?

Find a piece of paper and draw a picture of you doing your favorite activity. Then, if you’d like, share it with us! Ask a grown-up to take a picture of you and your drawing and send it to Grown-ups, you can also post all Circle Round-related art on Instagram. Be sure to tag our handle, @circleroundpodcast, so that we can check it out!

Musical Spotlight: The Vibraphone 

The vibraphone has tuned metal bars and is similar in shape to a xylophone. (courtesy of Dan Allison)
The vibraphone has tuned metal bars and is similar in shape to a xylophone. (courtesy of Dan Allison)

Ever heard or seen a xylophone, marimba or glockenspiel? If so, then you already have an idea of what the vibraphone is like! As with its mallet-instrument cousins, the vibraphone (a.k.a vibraharp, vibes) is played with mallets: usually one or two in each hand. But here’s how the vibraphone differs. First, it has a damper pedal — like on a piano. Second, it has a motor! Underneath each of its tuned aluminum bars is a tube that amplifies the sound, and inside each tube is a fan disc. With help from the motor, the fan disc spins and spins, causing the tube to open and close. The opening and closing give the vibraphone a clear, ringing, dreamy “vibrato” effect.


NARRATOR: There once was a flower farmer whose name was Flora.

Each morning, Flora woke up in her cottage in the countryside, then strolled up and down the rows of her garden to decide which flowers she would sell at the marketplace that day.

FLORA: Good morning, my marvelous marigolds! And how are you, my precious petunias? Your pink and purple petals look so pretty! Oh, but my sweet sunflowers… you’re looking a bit droopy today. I wonder if you’ve been getting too much sun...

NARRATOR: Flora chatted with her flowers as if they were old friends. Granted, the flowers never chatted back, but Flora didn’t mind. She loved taking care of her garden, and took pleasure in watering it, and weeding it, and fertilizing it with food scraps from her kitchen.

FLORA: Here you go, my little lovelies! Fresh egg shells and coffee grounds! Your favorite!

NARRATOR: Flora was equally chatty with her customers — and equally generous. She always was giving flowers away for free, whether someone was feeling under the weather...

FLORA: Sorry about the broken leg, Mrs. Miller! Have a dozen begonias! They’re on me!

NARRATOR: ...or having a rough day…

FLORA: I heard about the runaway horse, Farmer Craig. Maybe this bouquet of pansies will cheer you up!

NARRATOR: ...or celebrating a milestone.

FLORA: Happy birthday, Doctor Smith! These geraniums are for you! On the house!

NARRATOR: Not that Flora was rich, by any means... but she was comfortable. Her business brought in just enough money to keep food on her table, clothing on her back, and a roof over head.

Until one summer… when everything went wrong.

The entire month of June, it was rainy and wet.

FLORA: Goodness gracious! Another rainstorm! My flowers are going to drown!!!

NARRATOR: The entire month of July, it was sunny and hot.

FLORA: Holy smokes! What I wouldn’t give for some of that rain we had last month! The flowers that survived the storms are going to wither in this heat!

NARRATOR: And the entire month of August, it was unusually brisk and chilly.

FLORA: Oh, heavens! How I wish that warm, golden sun would come back! The few flowers I have left will never survive this cold snap!

NARRATOR: By summer’s end, not one of Flora’s flowers was left standing. The poor things were withered and wilted and strewn across the soil, as if they had fainted dead away. As Flora wandered up and down the desolate rows of her garden, her eyes brimmed with tears.

FLORA: (on the verge of crying) Well, there goes my livelihood! But even worse — there go my friends! My lovely larkspurs! My petite primroses! My enchanting impatiens!  I wish I could have protected you all from the rain, sun and chill! I wish I could have found a way to keep you safe from all that --

HAT PEDDLER: Excuse me! Miss?

NARRATOR: Flora whirled around. Shuffling toward her cottage was a man carrying a long pole. Hanging from the pole were dozens upon dozens… of hats.

HAT PEDDLER: Sorry to disturb you, miss, but I’m a poor hat peddler and I’m afraid I lost my way. I was trying to get to the marketplace, to sell some of my hats... but I took a wrong turn and have been wandering around on my tired feet ever since! I’m awfully exhausted, and terribly hungry… any chance I could rest inside your cottage? And maybe have a bite to eat?

NARRATOR: The peddler’s face broke into a hopeful smile. After not selling any flowers all summer, Flora knew her cupboards were practically bare... but her generous heart went out to the poor stranger.

FLORA: Of course you can rest in my cottage, sir. Come in, have a seat, and I'll bring you some food.

HAT PEDDLER: Thank you, miss. Thank you!

NARRATOR: Flora rummaged through her cupboards and found a bit of bread and cheese. The hat peddler put down his pole of hats, collapsed into a chair, then gobbled up the snack with gusto.

HAT PEDDLER: Oh, this positively hits the spot! I feel worlds better already! I wish I could pay you for your generosity, miss, but all I have are my hats here! Perhaps I can give you one?

NARRATOR: Flora smiled.

FLORA: Oh, that won’t be necessary, sir! Your hats are beautifully made... but you needn’t give one to me.

HAT PEDDLER: Please! I insist!

NARRATOR: The man picked up his pole and began rifling through the hats.

HAT PEDDLER: Now let’s see. Which one is the hat for you? There’s this one here… No… How about this one? No… A-ha! Here it is!

NARRATOR: The man held up a bright yellow hat with a wide round brim.

HAT PEDDLER: What do you think? It’s woven from palm leaves, so it’s nice and light, and won’t make your head all sweaty. Plus the wide brim will keep out the sun. It’s the perfect hat for growing flowers in a garden... wouldn't you say?

NARRATOR: Flora was taken aback.

FLORA: “Growing flowers in a --”!?? But how did you know I grow flowers? After this summer’s terrible weather my garden is decimated!

HAT PEDDLER: Oh, I could tell. And I think this hat will be perfect for you. Please…

NARRATOR: The man held out the hat.

HAT PEDDLER: ...Take this hat and wear it. It just might bring you the luck you need — provided you keep your ears open.

NARRATOR: Then, with a newfound spring in his step, the peddler hoisted up his pole, waltzed to the door, and set out across the countryside.

FLORA: Well that was awfully nice of him to give me this hat! Not sure what he means by ‘keeping my ears open,’ and ‘bringing me luck’… but he’s right: this would be the perfect hat for growing flowers! Of course, how am I supposed to grow flowers if I don’t have seeds? I can’t afford to buy them, but perhaps there’s another way…

NARRATOR: Flora gazed out the window. When her eye fell on a patch of wildflowers across a large meadow, she suddenly had an idea.

Popping her new yellow hat on her head, she grabbed a basket and took off toward the wildflowers.

FLORA: Oooh! Look at those goldenrods! And those snapdragons! I’ll collect some of their seeds, then take them home and dry them. Once the seeds are ready for planting, I can start my garden all over again! This is going to be great!

NARRATOR: And as we’ll soon hear, it was going to be more than “great” – because Flora was about to receive the surprise of her life!

Because she was about to receive the surprise of her life!

NARRATOR: What do you think will happen next?

We’ll find out, after a quick break.


NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “The Bright Yellow Hat.”

NARRATOR: Before the break, Flora the flower seller worked out a way to replace the beloved flowers she’d lost over the summer. Putting on the bright yellow hat she received from a mysterious hat peddler, she scampered over to a patch of wildflowers to collect their seeds.

FLORA: Well hello there, lovelies! You goldenrods look absolutely gorgeous! And you snapdragons! You are simply superb!

SNAPDRAGON: Don’t you mean, “spectacular”?

NARRATOR: Flora froze.

FLORA: What?!? Who said that?

SNAPDRAGON: I did! Because you called our petals “superb”! While I admire the alliteration, I would go with something more dramatic. Like “spectacular”... or “stunning”... or “sensational”! “Superb” is just kind of meh, you know...?

NARRATOR: Flora stared down at the flowers.

FLORA: Wait a minute! You talk?!?

SNAPDRAGON: Oh, all of us flowers talk! You’ve just never been able to hear us!

GOLDENROD: That’s right!

NARRATOR: Now a goldenrod piped up.

GOLDENROD: And it isn’t just us flowers. It’s all the plants! The trees, the bushes, everybody!

NARRATOR: Flora pinched herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.

She wasn’t.

FLORA: But I don’t understand! I’ve been growing flowers for years — and talking to them all the while! How is it I’m only hearing you now? Did I somehow get supersonic hearing? I mean — (gasp) Wait.

NARRATOR: Suddenly, the hat peddler’s words rushed across Flora’s brain.

HAT PEDDLER: Take this hat and wear it. It just might bring you the luck you need — provided you keep your ears open.

FLORA: Oh my gosh! It’s the hat! It allows me to hear the flowers talking! Which means I can probably hear the bushes and trees, too! This is amazing!

SNAPDRAGON: Well, speaking of bushes and trees...

GOLDENROD: ...there’s one tree you absolutely must hear.

SNAPDRAGON: The poor thing has been moaning with misery…

GOLDENROD: ...but his cries have fallen on deaf ears!

NARRATOR: Flora leaned down toward the flowers.

FLORA: Which tree do you mean? And what happened to him?

SNAPDRAGON: Well, if you really want to know… it’s a cedar tree.

GOLDENROD: In the mayor’s backyard!

SNAPDRAGON: The tree was tall and strong and hearty once…

GOLDENROD: But the mayor chopped him down so she could build a guest house behind her mansion!

SNAPDRAGON: Thing is, she didn’t tear up the tree’s roots!

GOLDENROD: And tree roots aren't like flower roots, you know.

SNAPDRAGON: Tree roots stretch deep and wide!

GOLDENROD: So the poor cedar tree is writhing in pain!

NARRATOR: Flora held a hand to her heart.

FLORA: Well, that’s just horrible!


GOLDENROD: It gets worse!

SNAPDRAGON: The tree has cast a spell on the mayor’s son!

GOLDENROD: And made him very ill!

SNAPDRAGON: So now, if the mayor doesn’t dig up the tree…

GOLDENROD: ... and plant it where it can grow…

SNAPDRAGON: … the tree will cease to live...

GOLDENROD: … and the boy will, too.

NARRATOR: Flora felt her heart clench.

FLORA: But that’s not right! Someone should do something!

SNAPDRAGON: Well, we flowers wish we could do something to save them both…

GOLDENROD: ...but we’re rooted to the ground!

SNAPDRAGON: A human being like you, however…

GOLDENROD: ...walking around on those two legs of yours…

SNAPDRAGON: could save the tree!

GOLDENROD: ...and save the boy!

NARRATOR: Flora realized the flowers were right. She was likely the only person on earth who knew why the mayor’s son was sick. But what was she supposed to do? March over to the mayor’s mansion and explain that she learned the answer from two talking flowers? Surely, the mayor would think she was loopy and throw her out!

No. Flora would have to think of some other way to be heard and believed.

And suddenly, she had the answer.

Bidding farewell to the flowers, Flora rushed back to her cottage and dressed herself in a long silk robe. Then she placed her bright yellow hat on her head, and set out for the mayor’s mansion.

When she reached the front gate of the grand house, she called out in a disguised voice.

FLORA: Everybody, young and old! Come and have your fortune told! I see the future, I see the past! Your fortune I’ll reveal at last!

NARRATOR: All of a sudden, the mansion’s gate opened and the mayor came bursting out.

MAYOR: You’re a fortune-teller, are you? Then perhaps you can help! My son is gravely ill, and I’ve called every doctor in town but they’re absolutely flummoxed! Please! Follow me!

NARRATOR: The mayor led Flora through the front door, down a long corridor, and into a dark room. Lying stock-still on a tall feather bed was a small boy. His eyelids were closed and his frail body was trembling and covered in sweat.

MAYOR: We’ve tried every cure there is — medicines, herbs, potions. But my son won’t get well. Tell me, fortune teller! What are we doing wrong?

NARRATOR: Flora gazed down at the boy. Then she closed her eyes and placed her hands over her face.

FLORA: Let me see now… I’m getting a message… yes… Something about… a guest house? In your backyard?

NARRATOR: The mayor nodded.

MAYOR: Yes! I built a guesthouse in my backyard ! About a year ago!

FLORA: And your son… he’s been sick for about a year, too?

MAYOR: He has! Come to think of it, he fell ill the day they broke ground for construction! Dozens of workers came to chop down this old cedar tree that was growing there; it took forever! Why do you ask?

NARRATOR: Flora uncovered her face, then opened her eyes and fixed them on the mayor.

FLORA: Before I say more, Madam Mayor, I must visit your guest house. Alone. Is that alright?

MAYOR: Yes! Of course! Whatever you need!

NARRATOR: The mayor escorted Flora to the guest house and left her at the door. As Flora sat in the main room…

CEDAR TREE: (moaning)

NARRATOR:... she heard a moaning sound coming from beneath the floorboards.

CEDAR TREE: (moaning)

NARRATOR: Flora got down on her knees and put her face near the floor.

FLORA: Cedar tree! Is that you?

CEDAR TREE: Yes! It’s me! I’m in pain! Such pain!

FLORA: I know you are. And I’ve come to help you. Leave everything to me.

NARRATOR: Quick as a wink, Flora leaped to her feet and raced outside, where the mayor was waiting. When the mayor saw Flora, her eyes lit up.

MAYOR: Well, fortune teller? Can you please tell me what’s going on? Do you know how to make my son well again?

NARRATOR: Flora took a breath and let it out slowly.

FLORA: I do, Madam Mayor.

MAYOR: Well? What is it?

FLORA: To make your son well again… you must tear down the guest house! Knock down the roof! Pull down the walls! Then lift up the floor boards and tend to the tree.

MAYOR: The tree?!?

NARRATOR: The mayor cocked her head.

MAYOR: You mean, the cedar tree?!? But my workers chopped it down last year!

FLORA: That’s just the thing, Madam Mayor! They chopped down its trunk but its roots are still in the ground! The tree is in terrible pain, so your son is in pain. If you replant the tree and let it grow strong again, your son will grow strong again too.

NARRATOR: The Mayor paused for a moment… then she clapped her hands and a crew of assistants came running over.

MAYOR: Listen, people. I want you to summon my workers and have them tear down this guest house at once. And please — summon my gardeners as well. I have a very important job for them.

NARRATOR: And so, that very morning, the mayor’s workers demolished the guest house and uncovered the cedar stump below. Then the gardeners carefully lifted the stump and roots from the ground, and moved the tree to a big green garden on the mayor’s property.

When the gardeners replanted the cedar in the moist, fertile earth, Flora could hear the other trees, bushes and flowers cheer with triumph...

NARRATOR: ...and she could hear the cedar sigh with pleasure.

CEDAR TREE: Ahhh! At last I can grow again! Thank you, dear lady. Thank you.

NARRATOR: Flora tipped her bright yellow hat.

FLORA: You’re very welcome!

MAYOR: (thinking Flora is talking to her) I’m very what?!? But I haven’t even said ‘thank you’ yet!

NARRATOR: Flora spun around to find the mayor standing right behind her. She was beaming from ear to ear and holding hands with her son – who now looked all healthy and hale.

MAYOR: Thanks to you and your powers, fortune teller, my son here is well again! The moment they replanted that cedar tree he opened his eyes, hopped out of bed and ran straight into my arms! It was like a miracle!

NARRATOR: The mayor gave her son a loving squeeze, then she turned back to Flora.

MAYOR: So, fortune teller. Tell me. What can I give you to show my thanks? Bags of gold? Sparkling jewels? You name it, it’s yours.

NARRATOR: Now, if you were Flora, what answer would you give the Mayor?

Would you ask for gold or jewels? Or something else?

Well, as it turns out, Flora asked for something else entirely. And can you guess what it was?


Flower seeds, so she could start growing her garden again.

The mayor obliged, and when Flora returned to her cottage in the countryside, she planted all of her new seeds.

And thanks to her bright yellow hat, every time she talked to her burgeoning, blossoming buds...

FLORA: Good morning, my lovely lilies! How goes it, my adorable asters?

NARRATOR: … she could always hear them talk back.

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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