'Treasure Mountain' | Ep. 151

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

This episode is the third in a special three-part series recorded live with musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts, in front of a very excited audience of children and grown-ups. 

Ever heard the saying, “Curses, like chickens, come home to roost”?

It means that if someone does something mean, or selfish, they’ll eventually pay the price, and face the consequences.

And in the story we’re about to hear, those consequences last forever!

Our story is called “Treasure Mountain.” Versions of this tale come from China, in East Asia. Some really great people came together to bring you this story — at a really great place!

Joining us on stage at Tanglewood was a trio of musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra — Suzanne Nelsen on bassoon, Cindy Meyers on flute, and Rachel Childers on horn — plus a quintet of all-star actors: Karen Allen, Megan Boone, Scott Cohen, Mari Heller, and Peter Riegert.

Karen Allen’s many, many films include Raiders of the Lost Ark, Animal House, and The Perfect Storm. She’s also an acclaimed playwright, screenwriter and director!

Megan Boone is an actress known for The Blacklist and The Underground Railroad, as well as the dramatic film Leave Me Like You Found Me.

Scott Cohen has starred in such television hits as Gilmore Girls, Necessary Roughness, Allegiance and The 10th Kingdom, along with the romantic comedy Kissing Jessica Stein.

Mari Heller is a writer, director and actor who’s helmed such films as A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and Can You Ever Forgive Me. She also starred in The Queen’s Gambit.

Peter Riegert is an actor and director with nearly 100 film and television credits including Animal House, Crossing Delancey, and Local Hero. He also hosts the podcast, Peter Riegert’s Vocal Heroes.

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. Sound-recording engineering at Tanglewood provided by Matt Reed.

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 something that you treasure? A favorite toy, perhaps? A pet? How about a cherished friend or family member?

Draw a picture of you and your treasured item or person, then share it with someone you like to have fun with. And, if you’d like, share it with us! Your grown-ups can snap a photo of you and your drawing and email it to


NARRATOR: In a wide valley… beneath a great mountain... there lived a farmer named Willow, her beloved father, and their sturdy mule, Jade.

Every day, Willow and Father woke up in their small wooden hut and worked their small plot of land, growing wheat and beans. They kept part of the crop for themselves, then sold the rest at market.

But one year, the crops refused to grow. There was plenty of sun, plenty of rain, yet the wheat and beans wouldn’t even sprout.

Father was beside himself.

FATHER: Oh, Willow! Whatever will we do? Our wheat and beans are how we make money! Without them, we won’t have two coins to rub together! Let alone any food to eat!

WILLOW: Don’t you worry, Father. I’ll find a way for us to survive.

NARRATOR: Early next morning, Willow got on Jade’s back and went riding through the valley, searching for food in the wild.

WILLOW: Oooh, Jade! Look at these wild greens! And mushrooms! And garlic! I’ll also dig up some of this wild ginger here — and a few leaves of mint. They’ll add some wonderful flavor!

NARRATOR: That night, Willow and Father prepared a scrumptious — if humble — feast. But just as they were about to dig in, there was a knock at the door.

FATHER: Hmmmm… I wonder who that could be? Travelers rarely make their way through this valley!

WILLOW: Especially at night! I’ll go and see.

NARRATOR: When Willow answered the door, she found herself face to face with an old woman. The woman was stooped and frail... and her weathered hands clutched a long whittled walking stick.

OLD WOMAN: Good evening, young lady! (sniffs) Oh my! What is that glorious smell? I haven’t eaten since breakfast and my stomach is rumbling like thunder! Would you mind sharing some of your dinner?

WILLOW: Of course not, Ma’am! Please! Come in! And eat all you want!

NARRATOR: The old woman hobbled to the table and gulped down bite after bite. When she was finished, there was nothing left for Willow and Father!

OLD WOMAN: Thank you for the wonderful food, friends! But I seem to have devoured every last morsel!

WILLOW: Not to worry, Ma’am. Father and I are always happy to help a stranger in need. But tell me, where are you headed this evening? Perhaps my mule and I can give you a ride?

OLD WOMAN: How sweet of you, dear! With these worn-out bones of mine, I’ll gladly take you up on the offer.

NARRATOR: She pointed a wrinkled finger at the top of the mountain.

OLD WOMAN: I’m headed up there. To the summit of the mountain!

NARRATOR: The summit was very high, and very far, but Willow led the old woman to Jade’s stable, helped her climb onto the mule’s back, then led her across the valley to the mountain.

They walked up the mountain for hours, ascending twisting, narrow trails with a steep cliff dropping off to one side.

At last they reached the summit. It was flat, like a plateau. And it had a huge boulder on it — so big it looked as if you could step inside it, like a cave! Beside the boulder was a cozy cabin made of rough-hewn logs.

OLD WOMAN: Well? Here we are! Home sweet home!

NARRATOR: Willow helped the woman down from Jade’s back.

OLD WOMAN: Thank you, dear. You’ve been so generous. Now it’s time for me to return the favor!

NARRATOR: The woman reached into her cloak and pulled out two keys. One gold. One silver.

OLD WOMAN: Listen close, my dear. Inside this massive boulder here… is a cave! On the outside wall you’ll find a lock made of stone. Use this gold key to open that lock. Once you’re inside the cave... and the stone door closes behind you... you will see treasures. Treasures beyond your wildest dreams! Take what you will. And when you’re done, use the silver key to open the stone lock on the inside wall. But take care not to lose this silver key, because without it, you will be stuck inside the cave for the rest of your days! Do you understand?

WILLOW: I understand. Thank you!

OLD WOMAN: And thank you!

NARRATOR: With that, the old woman grasped her walking stick and went shuffling into her cabin.

Willow could hardly wait to bring home the gold and silver keys. When she returned to the hut, Father’s eyes grew brighter and brighter as he listened to her story.

FATHER: My goodness, Willow! What a generous gesture! You and Jade should visit the cave first thing tomorrow. But I’ll stay home. That way, you can load all of your treasure onto the mule’s back!

NARRATOR: Willow woke with the sun, placed the gold and silver keys in her pocket, then rode Jade up to the mountaintop. When they reached the summit, Willow walked up to the old woman’s cabin and gave a knock at the door…

WILLOW: Hello? Ma’am! I’m back!

NARRATOR: ...but no one answered. So, Willow did as the old woman instructed.

She used the gold key to open the lock on the boulder…and the moment she stepped inside the cave, the stone door slammed shut behind her.

Now… you’d think it would be completely dark inside a sealed-off cave, right? But this cave was glittering and twinkling with light! Because it was filled with piles of sparkling gold, silver, and diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and rubies.

But what caught Willow’s eye the most wasn’t these shimmering gemstones. It was something else entirely.

WILLOW: There, in the corner… is that a hand mill? It’s got a good-sized hopper and grinding wheel, and a nice, sturdy crank. Once our crops start growing again, I could use the mill to grind wheat! And make flour! All these other treasures are pretty, but the hand mill is more practical. That’s what I’ll take home.

NARRATOR: So, with the hand mill tucked under her arm, Willow fished the silver key from her pocket and opened the cave door.

As she stepped outside it slammed shut behind her.

When she returned home and told Father about her adventures, he clapped his hands with joy.

FATHER: I’m so proud of you, daughter! This hand mill was a fine choice! You know, we still have a few grains of wheat stuck at the bottom of our storage bags. What do you say we take our new mill for a spin? And make a bit of flour?

NARRATOR: Willow and Father plucked the rest of the wheat out of the bags and placed a handful of grains in the hopper. But as Willow turned the crank, her jaw dropped wide open.

Father’s dropped even wider.

Because what they saw was impossible to believe!

NARRATOR: What do you think happened when Willow turned the hand mill’s crank?

We’ll find out, after a quick break.


NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir, and welcome back to Circle Round, live at Tanglewood Music Center! Today our story is called “Treasure Mountain.”

NARRATOR: Before the break, an old woman thanked Willow for her generosity by giving her a gold key and a silver key. The gold key would let Willow into a cave full of treasure. The silver key would let her out. But as the old woman warned:

OLD WOMAN: Take care not to lose this silver key, because without it, you will be stuck inside the cave for the rest of your days! 

NARRATOR: Willow could have taken home gold, silver, and diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and rubies. But instead she chose... a hand mill. She thought it would be more practical.

She and Father only poured a few grains of wheat into the mill’s hopper. But as Willow turned the crank…

WILLOW: Oh my!

NARRATOR: ...the impossible occurred!

For an abundance of soft, smooth flour came flowing from the hand mill.

And it didn’t stop!

Even after the last bit of wheat was gone, more and more flour came pouring out of the mill... until it was overflowing all over the floor of Willow and Father’s hut!

FATHER: Willow! It’s a miracle! This hand mill must be enchanted!

WILLOW: Indeed! But what will we do with all this flour? There’s far too much for us to use alone. We should share it with our neighbors in the valley!

NARRATOR: So they did. And it wasn’t long before word of this miraculous hand mill reached the emperor and empress.

The emperor and empress owned more riches than all of their people combined… yet they were always raising the people’s taxes, and making their lives hard.

EMPEROR: Oh Empress, we must have that hand mill for ourselves! It could make us worlds richer than we already are!

EMPRESS: Ooooo, I like the sound of that! Guards! Go out and bring us that hand mill!

NARRATOR: The guards immediately mounted their horses, galloped to the small wooden hut, and seized the hand mill — much to Willow and Father’s dismay.

WILLOW: You can’t do this!

FATHER: This hand mill was a gift!

NARRATOR: But when the guards brought the hand mill back to the emperor and empress, the moment the greedy rulers turned the crank…

EMPEROR: What on earth…?!?!??

EMPRESS: What’s going on?!?

NARRATOR: ...they began to sputter and cough.

EMPEROR: (sputtering/coughing) Uch! This hand mill isn’t producing flour!

EMPRESS: It’s producing — chalk dust!

EMPEROR: It’s in my lungs!

EMPRESS: It’s in my eyes!

EMPEROR: Guards?!? Take this hand mill away!

EMPRESS: Clearly, it’s useless!

NARRATOR: Meanwhile, back in the valley… now that Willow and Father had lost their hand mill… they decided they would give the gold and silver keys another try.

When Willow returned to the summit of the mountain, again she knocked at the old woman’s cabin door.

WILLOW: Hello? Anyone home?

NARRATOR: But, again, nobody answered.

So Willow used the gold key to unlock the cave. Once the stone door slammed shut behind her… she considered the treasures arrayed before her.

WILLOW: Those gemstones sure are beautiful… but what’s that over there? A steel shovel?! Hmmmm… our farm’s soil can be pretty rocky, given how close we live to the mountain. That steel shovel could do wonders for us!

NARRATOR: So Willow took the shovel, used the silver key to open the stone door, then let it shut behind her as she headed down the mountain.

Back at the small wooden hut, Willow showed the shovel to Father.

FATHER: Look at that fine steel blade! Let’s take it out to the fields and give it a try!

NARRATOR: But the moment Willow plunged the shovel into the soil, do you know what happened?

A bean plant burst up from the earth and began to grow and grow and grow — until it was as tall as Willow was! She dug the shovel into the ground again…and another bean plant sprang up!

WILLOW: This is amazing!

NARRATOR: Soon, the entire field was covered with tall, hearty bean plants. Willow and Father picked the beans, set aside some for themselves, then distributed the rest among their neighbors.

Well, as you can guess, it wasn’t long before news of this extraordinary shovel reached the emperor and empress.

EMPEROR: Guards!

EMPRESS: Go out and bring us that shovel!

NARRATOR: So… they did — much to Willow and Father’s chagrin.

WILLOW: You can’t take this from us!

FATHER: It wasn’t meant for you!

NARRATOR: But when the emperor and empress stuck the shovel into the soil of the palace’s grand garden...

EMPEROR: Oh no!!!!

EMPRESS: Oh dear!!!

NARRATOR: ...they began to yelp and yowl.

EMPEROR: This shovel isn’t growing beans!

EMPRESS: It’s growing prickly thorns! Brambles!

EMPEROR: Ouch! My fingers!

EMPRESS: Ouch! My fingers!

EMPEROR: Guards! Take this shovel away!

EMPRESS: Obviously, it’s worthless!

NARRATOR: As the guards took the shovel away, the much aggrieved emperor and empress made a decision.

EMPEROR: That was the last straw.

EMPRESS: The very last straw!

EMPEROR: Guards! Go out and bring us the people from whom you took these so-called “treasures.”

EMPRESS: We’d like to have a word with them.

NARRATOR: So the guards galloped back to the small wooden hut, and brought Willow and Father to the palace.


EMPRESS: You’re the ones who tricked us, eh? 

EMPEROR: Fooled us into believing you had a magic hand mill…?

EMPRESS: And a mystical shovel…?

WILLOW: With all due respect, Your Excellencies — we weren’t fooling you. The hand mill and shovel worked perfectly well for us! Those treasures were gifts... in exchange for the kindness we showed an old woman.

EMPEROR: “Kindness,” eh…? I must say we don’t know the slightest thing about kindness.

EMPRESS: But we do know about treasures! And we hereby order you to take us to the place where you got your treasures!

EMPEROR: If you refuse…

EMPRESS: …you will be banished from this land.

NARRATOR: Well, what else could Willow and Father do? With the emperor and empress in tow, they began winding their way up the mountain.

EMPEROR: Uch! Are we there yet? I’m sweating so much my velvet robes are soaking-wet!

EMPRESS: And I’m sweating so much my crown keeps slipping off my head!

NARRATOR: When they finally reached the top, Willow glanced toward the old woman’s cabin. She thought she saw a face peering through the window, but when she looked again, it was gone.

Willow reached into her pocket and pulled out the gold key.

WILLOW: Your Excellencies. This gold key will unlock a secret door in the cave. Once you get inside, you will find all sorts of treasures. I have to warn you, though. Unless you take this other key --

NARRATOR: But that’s all the emperor and empress heard. The greedy rulers had already snatched the gold key from Willow’s hand, unlocked the stone wall, and raced into the cave, with the door slamming shut behind them.

Willow and Father exchanged a look. They knew they were both thinking the exact same thing: the over-eager sovereigns hadn’t taken the silver key! And now they would be locked inside the cave… for the rest of their days!

The next morning, back at the small wooden hut, Willow was troubled by a nagging thought.

WILLOW: Father! The old woman’s gold key... It was a gift... for us… but now it’s lost forever! Stuck inside Treasure Mountain! I feel so badly.

FATHER: You have a kind soul, daughter. But the old woman was kind as well. I say you take Jade and return to the cabin. Apologize for the key’s loss, then ask forgiveness. I’m sure she’ll understand.

NARRATOR: So Willow mounted her mule and rode to the summit of the mountain. But when she reached the plateau…

WILLOW: What?!??

NARRATOR: ...the cozy cabin made of rough-hewn logs… had vanished!

Instead… where it once stood… there lay a brand new hand mill, and a brand new steel shovel.

Beside them was a note. Willow picked it up to read it. In elegant, if somewhat shaky, handwriting, the note said, simply:

OLD WOMAN / WILLOW: Thank you.

NARRATOR: Well, after that, Willow and Father never had to worry about their crops not growing. Thanks to the hand mill and steel shovel, they always had what they needed… and shared the rest with those in need.

As for the greedy emperor and empress... well?

No one ever saw them again.

But they do say that if you come to a certain mountain… and you ascend the twisting, narrow trail to the summit… you’ll come across a stone door that nobody can open… with treasures that only two miserly — and miserable — people can enjoy… locked deep inside.

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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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