Encore: The Beggar and the Baker’s Daughter

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

Think about something nice that someone has done for you.

Maybe a friend let you borrow a favorite toy, or a family member took care of you the last time you were sick.

In today’s story, we’ll meet a woman who doesn’t do nice things - for anyone. Until a mysterious stranger arrives and changes everything!

Our story is called “The Beggar and the Baker’s Daughter.” Versions of this tale originally come from England.

Voices in this episode include Elle Borders, Amy Brentano and Margaret Cho. Margaret Cho is an Emmy- and Grammy-nominated comedian who recently launched a new stand-up comedy tour. Margaret also hosts her own podcast, The Margaret Cho, where she interviews people you know, and people she thinks you should know, if you don’t already.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. Circle Round’s 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 FacebookTwitterInstagram or Pinterest, 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 about the last time you helped someone, and did something kind. Then find some paper, and something to draw with, and make a picture of you helping that person. Share that picture with someone you love, and, if you’d like, share it with us! Ask a grown-up to take a photo of your artwork and email it to

Musical Spotlight: Violin 

Violinist Regina Carter. (Robin Lubbock / WBUR)
Violinist Regina Carter. (Robin Lubbock / WBUR)

Since its invention in Italy in the 16th century, the violin has been a significant player in many styles of music. The violin is the smallest member of the string family, which also includes the viola, cello and bass. All members of the string family most often are played by drawing a bow over the strings, but you also can  pluck the strings with your fingers, in a technique called pizzicato. This episode of Circle Round demonstrates both the bowed and plucked sound of the violin. (And special thanks to violinist Christian Hebel for accompanying this week’s episode! You also can hear Christian’s violin-playing in our season-one story, “The Magpie With Salt On Her Tail.”)


NARRATOR: There once was a baker who was every bit as sweet as her cakes, tarts, cookies and pies.

The moment you entered her cozy shop in the middle of town, the good-natured baker always greeted you with a smile.

BAKER: Well, hello there! Don’t you look well today!

NARRATOR: She offered you a free sample…

BAKER: Try a slice of this bread I just baked. You will love it!

NARRATOR: And if you were a few coins short at the cash register...

BAKER: Oh, don’t you worry about it, friend; this one’s on me. Take your treats home and enjoy!

NARRATOR: The kind, generous baker rose at the crack of dawn, then worked hard all day long. At night, she returned to the cottage she shared with her daughter, Phoebe… and the two of them could not have been more different.

While the baker’s heart was warm as an oven... Phoebe’s heart was cold as an ice box. The young woman was mean-spirited and cross… not to mention selfish and greedy.

Every now and again, the baker would get sick, or have to run an errand, and the baker’s daughter would take her mother’s place at the shop. And as you can guess, when Phoebe was standing behind the glass counter, she did not greet you with a smile. She did not offer you free food. And if you didn’t have enough coins to pay for your treats...?

PHOEBE: (dismissive, huffy) What?!? You’re a ‘few coins short,’ you say? (harumph!) Not my problem! Pay up or get out!

NARRATOR: Well, years went by…the baker grew wrinkled and grey… and when her fingers were too gnarled and stiff to bake any more treats, her daughter, Phoebe, took over the business.

On Phoebe’s first day running the bakery, business was brisk. Customers didn’t stop streaming into the shop til just before closing time. When the last person finally waltzed out the door, clutching their box of shortbread and scones, Phoebe slumped on the glass counter and laid her head in her hands.

PHOEBE: Oy! I don’t know how Mother worked this hard her entire life! I am so exhausted. And having to deal with those chatty customers all day...?!? How in the world did Mother have time to --

[SOT: sound of door opening/bell jingling/etc.]

NARRATOR: The sound of the front door opening gave Phoebe a start. She turned, and who did she see hobbling into the bakery but a stooped old woman... dressed in a tattered black cloak, and leaning on a rickety wooden cane.

PHOEBE: (rude) Um, excuse me — we’re about to close.

NARRATOR: The old woman shuffled to the counter. She held up a weathered hand.

OLD WOMAN: I’m so sorry, Miss. But before you close, I wonder if you could spare some bread for a poor beggar woman?

NARRATOR: Now… if the kind, generous baker had still been there... you know what she would have said, right? Yes! Of course! Have all the bread you like!

Well, needless to say… that’s not what the baker’s daughter said.

PHOEBE: (huffy, rude) Um, I’m sorry — could I “spare some bread”? Like, for free? The answer is no! Besides, we’re all sold out. Business was crazy today. I sold my last loaf an hour ago.

NARRATOR: But the old woman wouldn’t give up.

OLD WOMAN: Well, could you spare a small piece of dough, then? My eyes aren’t what they used to be, but I believe I spy some lovely dough rising on those racks over there…

NARRATOR: The woman pointed a trembling finger toward the back of the shop, where the baker’s old baking racks were stacked with trays full of rising, yeasty dough. Phoebe rolled her eyes.

PHOEBE: Um, lady, I need that dough so I can bake tomorrow’s bread. (pointed) And sell it to my paying customers. (impatient/annoyed sigh) Look, lady. This is a business! Either you pay up... or you get out!

NARRATOR: Phoebe jerked her thumb toward the door. But the old woman wouldn’t budge.

OLD WOMAN: (carefully, pointed) You know, miss... your mother never would have said something like that — to anyone... let alone a poor beggar! (as if shaking her head) What would she say if she saw you now?

NARRATOR: At the mention of her mother, Phoebe felt the tiniest twinge of remorse in her heart. But just a pinch — like the eensy-weensy pinch of salt her mother used to sprinkle in her pie dough.

PHOEBE: (grudgingly) Alright. Listen, lady. I’ll give you one little piece of dough. But that’s it!

OLD WOMAN: Oh, thank you, miss! Thank you!

NARRATOR: Phoebe grunted, stomped back to the baking racks, tore off a tiny ball of bread dough and brought it to the woman. The ball of dough was no larger than a plum.

OLD WOMAN: I truly appreciate this, miss. But I wonder… could you bake this dough in your oven? I have no oven of my own!

NARRATOR: Phoebe was quiet for a moment. Then, she let out a laugh.

PHOEBE: (laughing) Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo! Ohhh! I get it! You’re joking with me! Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo! I mean, if I turn on the oven and bake this puny ball of dough, it’ll burn to a crisp! Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo! Very funny, lady. Very funny! Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo!

NARRATOR: Phoebe expected the old woman to start laughing, too — or at least to crack a smile.

But... she didn’t.

OLD WOMAN: Miss... like so many other people in this town, I had the privilege of knowing your mother. She was a fine, fine woman. (very disapproving) Who knew the apple could fall so far from the tree…?

NARRATOR: The woman shook her head, then began shambling toward the door. Again, Phoebe felt that tiny pinch in her heart.

PHOEBE: (feeling a teeny bit guilty) Wait! Don’t go! (grudging) Look. I’ll bake your silly dough. Let me go heat up the oven.

NARRATOR: There was a twinkle in the old woman’s eye as Phoebe trudged to the oven in the back of the bakery.

Phoebe and the woman waited and waited… and nearly an hour later, the smell of fresh bread began wafting through the air.

PHOEBE: Ugh! Finally! Why in the world did it take so long for that tiny smidge of dough to bake??? I’m surprised it’s not charred to a crisp by now!!

NARRATOR: Phoebe put on a baking mitt, then knelt down and pulled open the oven door. And when she did…

PHOEBE: (ad-lib surprised sound/expression/gasp/etc.)

NARRATOR: ...her jaw dropped.

Her eyes widened.

And despite the heat pouring out of the oven, a chill ran down her spine.

She could hardly believe what she was seeing!

NARRATOR: What do you think the baker’s daughter saw?

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


NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome to Circle Round. Today our story is called “The Beggar and the Baker’s Daughter.”

NARRATOR: When we left off, the baker’s selfish, ill-tempered daughter, Phoebe, had taken over her kind, generous mother’s bake shop.

On Phoebe’s first day at the bakery, an old, hunched woman in a ragged cloak came begging... and convinced Phoebe to bake her an itsy-bitsy ball of dough, the size of a plum.

Phoebe expected the tiny pellet of dough to burn immediately. But when she opened the door of the oven in the back of the bakery, what did she find but a regular-sized loaf of bread -- puffy, fluffy and golden-brown!

As the old woman stood patiently at the counter… waiting for her bread... Phoebe was kneeling in front of the oven and stroking her chin.

PHOEBE: (to herself) Hmmmm… I don’t know what’s going on here, but surely that beggar woman doesn’t deserve such a big, gorgeous loaf of bread! (making a decision) No. I’ll sell this loaf tomorrow, and make some good money. I’m not giving it away for free!

NARRATOR: Just then, from the front of the shop, the old woman called out to Phoebe.

OLD WOMAN: (calling out, playing dumb) Miss? Are you alright back there? Is the bread ready?

PHOEBE: (calling out to old woman) Ummmm…

NARRATOR: Phoebe’s selfish mind raced.

PHOEBE: (calling out, making it up as she goes along) Actually… looks like I opened the door too soon — the bread still needs more time in the oven! I’m going to let it sit a little while longer. (faux-kind) Thanks for your patience!

NARRATOR: Without missing a beat, Phoebe pulled the loaf from the oven and hid it in a cupboard. Then she grabbed another ball of dough from a tray on the baking racks — this ball even itty-bittier than the first… about the size of a cherry.

PHOEBE: There’s no way a ball of dough this small will expand like the first one did. Once it’s done baking, I’ll give it to the old woman and send her on her way!

NARRATOR: Phoebe and the woman waited another hour.

But… the minute Phoebe smelled bread baking, and squatted down to open the oven door…

PHOEBE: (ad-lib surprised sound/expression/gasp/etc.)

NARRATOR: … her mouth fell open. For what should she see inside, but another golden-brown loaf… this one twice as big as the one she’d hidden in the cupboard!

PHOEBE: (to herself) Okay, this is just plain nuts. The second ball of dough was even smaller than the first one! Yet it baked into a loaf of bread twice as big…? What gives???

NARRATOR: Phoebe scratched her head.

PHOEBE: Hmmm... I don’t know what’s going on here, but I do know this — if this loaf is twice as big… I can sell it for twice as much! Which means even more money for me! (laughs to herself) Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo! [ad-lib additional laughter for coverage below the following]

OLD WOMAN: (calling out, playing dumb) Miss? What’s happening back there? Are you laughing...?

NARRATOR: Again, Phoebe thought fast.

PHOEBE: (calling out) You know… believe it or not… the dough still isn’t done baking! I guess it needs even more time! It shouldn’t be much longer!

NARRATOR: Quick as a wink, Phoebe yanked the loaf from the oven and shoved it into the cupboard with the first loaf. Then she plucked yet another ball of dough from a tray on the baking racks — this one even punier than the first two. Seriously, it was no bigger than a pea!

PHOEBE: Okay. This ball is so super-tiny, it couldn’t possibly expand like the others did! I’ll bake it, give it to the old woman, then go home.

NARRATOR: But… the moment Phoebe smelled bread baking... and pulled open the oven door... can you guess what happened?

PHOEBE: (ad-lib surprised sound/expression/gasp/etc.)

NARRATOR: That’s right! She saw yet another golden-brown loaf! Only this one was even bigger than the first two. It was so big, in fact, it was practically bursting from the oven!

PHOEBE: This bread is absolutely beautiful! It may have come from a ball of dough no bigger than a pea… but it’s going to make me a fortune tomorrow! A fortune! Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo! [ad-lib additional laughter for coverage below the following]

NARRATOR: As Phoebe laughed to herself, the old woman called out to her. Again. 

OLD WOMAN: (calling out, playing dumb) Miss? I’m no baker, but surely the bread is ready by now…!? And why do you keep laughing?!?

NARRATOR: Phoebe stopped laughing and took a deep breath. She plastered on a smile and sauntered to the front of the shop.

PHOEBE: (with a fake smile) Listen... I am so sorry, lady… but in the end, I baked your bread for far too long! By the time I opened the oven door, the dough was burnt to a crisp! Absolutely scorched! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a shop to close.

NARRATOR: She rubbed her hands together.

PHOEBE: (seeing dollar signs) Something tells me tomorrow is going to be a big day. … Cha-ching!!! Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo!

NARRATOR: As Phoebe doubled over in laughter… you’d think the beggar woman would finally give up and hobble off into the night... right?

Well, that’s not what she did.

At all.

Instead, the woman clutched her rickety, wooden cane and took a few shuffling steps in Phoebe’s direction.

OLD WOMAN: Soooo... my bread was “burnt in the oven,” eh…? And all you have to say about it is (imitating Phoebe, as Phoebe continues laughing) “Hoo hoo hoo hoo”??? 

NARRATOR: The baker’s daughter was hooting and howling so hard, she didn’t answer.

OLD WOMAN: Very well. If that’s all you have to say, miss… then that’s all you’ll ever say… Ever! 

NARRATOR: The woman lifted her cane in the air and tapped Phoebe gently on the head. All of a sudden, the baker’s daughter... was gone!

In her place…

[SOT: owl hooting]

NARRATOR: … was an owl. The feathery bird frantically flapped its wings, and began zooming around the bake shop, knocking over cake dishes and bumping into walls.

As the owl scrambled about the room, the old woman crept to the front door and swung it wide open. After much zigging and zagging, the flummoxed owl finally found its way out of the bakery and glided into the dark of the night, hoo-hoo-hooing all the while.

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



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