'A Coconut a Day' | Ep. 155

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

Ever heard the expression “green with envy”?

Being green with envy doesn’t mean you turn the color of a tree frog, or a grasshopper, or an avocado!

It means you want something someone else has.

It can be normal to feel envious. But if we let that envy get the best of us — like the person we'll meet in today's story — we might find ourselves empty-handed!

Our story is called “A Coconut a Day.” It comes from the Burmese people of Southeast Asia.

Voices in this episode include: Robert Feng, Thais Harris, Hrishikesh Hirway, Edward Hong, Ken Jackson, Melissa Victor, and Jayne Houdyshell. Tony Award winner Jayne Houdyshell stars in the feature film, The Humans. You grown-ups also can check her out in the Hulu series Only Murders in the Building. Jayne is currently appearing on Broadway with Sutton Foster and Hugh Jackman in The Music Man.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by 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

The man in the little white house became envious of the seamstress. One way to combat envy… is gratitude! In other words, being thankful for what we have.

And one way to practice gratitude is to create a Gratitude Jar!

First, find a jar and decorate it however you wish. You can tie a ribbon around it, add some stickers, or glitter and glue.

Next, get a slip of paper and write down, or draw, something or someone you’re grateful for. Then put the slip of paper in the jar.

Repeat this process every single day. And next time you’re feeling envious of someone – or if you’re just feeling down – grab a slip of paper from your jar and take a look at it. It’ll remind you of what, and who, is good in your life.

Musical Spotlight: The Hadgini 

We chose the hadgini for this episode because this percussion instrument almost sounds like you’re tapping and rubbing an actual coconut! (courtesy of Eric Shimelonis)
We chose the hadgini for this episode because this percussion instrument almost sounds like you’re tapping and rubbing an actual coconut! (courtesy of Eric Shimelonis)

The hadgini is related to centuries-old percussion instruments like the tabla or udu. The hadgini has two chambers: a rounded chamber that makes lower sounds, and an almost triangular or cone-shaped chamber that produces brighter, higher sounds. You can play the hadgini by hitting any part of the drum with the palm of your hand or fingertips. You can also rub the hadgini’s textured surfaces, to create a more tonal sound.


NARRATOR: In a little white house in a little seaside town, there lived a very crafty — and very greedy — man.

The man in the little white house had something that none of his fellow townspeople had:

A coconut tree growing in his backyard!

But the problem was, the man couldn’t get his coconut tree to grow any coconuts!

MAN: What is going on with this silly tree of mine?!? No matter how much water it gets, or how much sun, it doesn’t grow any coconuts! Not a one!

NARRATOR: The man in the little white house knew you could make a decent living selling coconuts at the marketplace. But being a very crafty — and very greedy — fellow, he didn’t want to make a ‘decent living.’ He wanted to make a fortune!

And after much thinking, he knew just how he would do it.

Late one night, the man crept to the beach, where hundreds of coconut trees towered over the shore. He climbed one of the trees, plucked a coconut from the base of the long, finger-like fronds, and brought it back to his house.


He fetched a ladder and some rope, then tied the coconut to his coconut tree — nice and high where everyone in town would see it.

The next morning, as the townspeople streamed past his house on their way to school or work, the man climbed up his tree and cried out.

MAN: (laying it on thick, to grab attention) Oh my! Look at this beautiful coconut! Just yesterday my tree was bare as can be, and all of a sudden I have a perfectly round, perfectly ripe coconut! Imagine that!

NARRATOR: That evening, the man snuck back to the beach, picked another coconut, then attached that coconut to his tree!

The following morning, as the townspeople bustled past, the man climbed his tree and put on another show.

MAN: Oh my goodness! It’s another coconut! And just like yesterday’s big, glorious fruit, this one appeared out of nowhere! I’ve never seen such a thing!

NARRATOR: The crafty man repeated this routine over and over. In the dark of night, he would swipe a coconut from the beach and tie it to this tree. Then, the next morning, he would pretend the coconut had magically appeared!

Before long, people began to notice. They would pause on their way to work or school and crowd around the little white house, just to catch a glimpse of the wondrous coconut tree.

PERSON 1: Can you believe it? The tree’s grown another coconut! Overnight!

PERSON 2: Most coconut trees grow, what 50 nuts a year? Tops?

PERSON 3: But this guy’s tree grows a new coconut every single day! That’s three-hundred-and-sixty-five coconuts a year!

PERSON 4: It’s incredible!

NARRATOR: After a while, the townspeople weren’t just lining up to see the coconut tree — they were lining up to buy it!

PERSON 1: Listen, friend! I’ll give you fifty coins for your coconut tree!

PERSON 2: I’ll give you a-hundred!

PERSON 3: I’ll give you a hundred-fifty!

PERSON 4: I’ll give you two-hundred-fifty! And I’ll throw in a couple of cows!

NARRATOR: But the very crafty — and very greedy — man said no.

MAN: I’m sorry, folks, but I won’t take fewer than a thousand coins for this tree here. It’s too precious to accept any less.

NARRATOR: Most of the people in town were humble peasants — farmers or bakers or candlemakers. And none of them could afford to shell out a thousand coins.

But there was one woman who could. She was a seamstress. But after a lifetime of hard work, she couldn't really sew anymore. She was getting older, and her tired hands didn’t work as well as they used to.

Luckily the seamstress had always been smart with her money. Through the years, she regularly set aside part of her income. And now that she was retired, she had a savings of one-thousand coins.

It was a decent pot of money, but not enough to keep her comfortable for the rest of her days. So one morning, as she passed by the little white house and looked at the man’s palm tree, she began to think.

SEAMSTRESS: Hmmm… What if I used my one-thousand coins to buy that man’s palm tree? It wouldn’t be long before I made my money back — and gained even more! After all, if I sold one coconut a day… that’s 365 coconuts a year! I could support myself for a very long time!

NARRATOR: When the seamstress approached the man with her offer, his eyes glittered with greed.

MAN: You have yourself a deal, good lady! I’ll get your one-thousand coins, and you’ll get my tree. I’ll even throw in a freebie and help you dig it up and replant it!

NARRATOR: But once the tree was replanted in the seamstress’s yard, she noticed something strange. Morning after morning, when she came out to collect her one coconut, the tree was bare!

SEAMSTRESS: That’s funny... The man in the little white house had a new coconut each and every day! I wonder why it’s not working for me!?

NARRATOR: The seamstress tried everything. She watered it...

SEAMSTRESS: Here you go, tree! Drink up!

NARRATOR: She fertilized it...

SEAMSTRESS: I’ve got some extra kitchen scraps today, tree. Bon appetit!

NARRATOR: She even sang to it!

SEAMSTRESS: (sings song)

NARRATOR: … but the tree wouldn’t produce any coconuts!

SEAMSTRESS: (frustrated groan)

NARRATOR: The seamstress decided to go back to the little white house and tell the man her problem. But when she did, the conniving fellow just shook his head.

MAN: I don’t know what to tell you, ma’am. I was able to pick a coconut off that tree every single day! Perhaps you’re just not deserving of such a treasure… and the tree knows it!

NARRATOR: The seamstress trudged home, dejected as could be. But as she was plodding down the road, her head was hanging down so low that she accidentally…


NARRATOR: ...bumped into someone!

SEAMSTRESS: I am so sorry! I should have been watching where I was going!

NARRATOR: The seamstress lifted her gaze. Standing before her was a funny little man dressed all in red — red cap, red robe, red slippers. In one hand he held a red walking stick; in the other he held a red bag.

MAN IN RED: My dear lady! You seem awfully down in the dumps! Whatever is the problem?

NARRATOR: So the seamstress told the man in red all about the coconut tree. How she had spent her life savings buying it, and how, unlike its previous owner…

SEAMSTRESS: ...I can’t get it to grow a thing! So now I don’t have any coins… and I don’t have any coconuts. I’m ruined!

NARRATOR: The little man shook his red-capped head.

MAN IN RED: Goodness gracious! No wonder you’re troubled! But you’re in luck, madam. For I know just how to help you!

NARRATOR: The little man reached into his bag and began rummaging around.

MAN IN RED: Here’s what you must do. You must go back home, go out to your coconut tree, then water it...

NARRATOR: He pulled out a slim red bottle.

MAN IN RED: ...with this.

NARRATOR: The seamstress squinted her eyes.

SEAMSTRESS: But what is it?

MAN IN RED: It’s water! Magic water, from a shimmering lake atop the tallest mountain in the world! Water your tree with this, wait one day, and I guarantee… you will get your coconuts.

NARRATOR: The seamstress was beside herself with joy.

SEAMSTRESS: Dear man! Thank you so much! I can hardly wait to give it a try!

NARRATOR: When the seamstress got home, she sprinkled the magic water all around the coconut tree’s trunk.

And the next morning, when she went outside, her eyes grew nearly as big as two coconuts. Because what she saw was nothing like she’d expected.

Nothing at all!

NARRATOR: What do you think the seamstress saw?

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


NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “A Coconut a Day.”

NARRATOR: Before the break, a greedy man tricked a seamstress into buying a coconut tree that didn’t grow any coconuts! And what’s worse, the poor woman spent her last thousand coins on it!

But then a little man dressed in red gave the seamstress a bottle of magic water and told her to sprinkle it around the tree’s trunk. This she did, and when she woke up the next morning and went outside, she could hardly believe her eyes.

Sprouting from the top of the tree… was a coconut! But not just any coconut. This one was made entirely of…

SEAMSTRESS: (awe) Gold!

NARRATOR: Indeed, instead of being brown and hairy, just like a regular coconut… this coconut was glittering and gold, its bright surface reflecting the dazzling rays of the morning sun.

SEAMSTRESS: This is amazing! A golden coconut! I don’t know who that man was, but boy, that magic water of his sure worked!

NARRATOR: Much to the seamstress’s delight, the tree grew another golden coconut the following day…


NARRATOR: ...and the day after that…


NARRATOR: ...and the day after that! And before long, everyone in town was talking about it.

When the greedy man in the little white house caught wind of the seamstress’s good fortune, he was flabbergasted. He couldn’t get the tree to grow one measly coconut… and now this seamstress was getting it to grow golden coconuts? Every single day?


Furious, he rushed to the woman’s house and demanded she return his tree.

SEAMSTRESS: Return your tree? But I bought it! Fair and square!

MAN: Then I’ll buy it back!

NARRATOR: The truth is, there was no way the man could buy it back; he’d already spent all the seamstress’s money on fancy clothing, food, and furniture!

But no matter. The seamstress wasn’t interested.

SEAMSTRESS: Look, sir. I bought this tree and now it’s mine! You know, when I complained to you that this tree wasn’t growing any coconuts, you told me it was because I didn’t deserve it. But I’m thinking you knew this tree was fruitless! Every bit as fruitless as your attempt to buy it back! Good day, sir!

NARRATOR: The greedy man was purple with rage, and green with envy.

So early the next morning… before anyone in town was awake… he tiptoed back to the seamstress’s house and crouched in her yard.

MAN: (quietly, so as not to waken anyone) Okay, you tricky tree. Let’s see the treasure you grew overnight!

NARRATOR: The man grabbed onto the trunk and began to climb. When he reached the top, where the long, finger-like fronds stretched out from the trunk, his face broke into a grin.

MAN: (quietly, so as not to waken anyone) Ha HA! There it is! A golden coconut! And it’s going to be mine. All mine!

NARRATOR: The man plucked the golden coconut from the tree, cradled it in his palm, then made his way back down the trunk. But the second his feet touched the ground…

MAN: What on earth…!???

NARRATOR: ...his heart sank.

MAN: This can’t be! It simply can’t!

NARRATOR: You see, the golden coconut he just picked… was no longer golden. Instead, it was brown and hairy, just like a regular coconut!

Furious, the man threw out his arm to fling the coconut across the yard.

But the coconut didn’t fling.

It didn’t even move! It stayed right in his hand - as if stuck with glue!

MAN: What??!?

NARRATOR: The man wiggled his fingers. He wriggled his fingers. He twitched and jerked and jiggled his fingers!

But, alas, the coconut did not budge.

Desperate, the man started smashing the coconut against the trunk of the tree. He banged... he hammered… he walloped… he whacked… and eventually, all the ruckus woke up the seamstress, who came running outside.

SEAMSTRESS: What’s going on here? (gasp!) You’re stealing one of my golden coconuts!

NARRATOR: The flustered man shook his head.

MAN: No, no, no! I am not stealing one of your golden coconuts! Because this coconut isn’t golden at all! It’s brown and it’s hairy! And what’s worse, I can’t get the darn thing off my hand! Now it’ll be stuck forever!

MAN IN RED: I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

NARRATOR: Out of nowhere, who should suddenly appear… but the little man in red!

MAN IN RED: It just so happens I know exactly how you can get that coconut off your hand.

MAN: You do...?!??

NARRATOR: The greedy man began to quiver.

MAN: How?! How?! Tell me how!


NARRATOR: The man in red scratched his bearded chin.

MAN IN RED: can give it back.

MAN: Give it back?!?

NARRATOR: The greedy man’s brow creased like an accordion.

MAN: How can I give the coconut back if it’s stuck to my --

MAN IN RED: (cutting him off) Oh, don’t worry about that. Just try it.

NARRATOR: The greedy man took a breath, let it out, then held his hand — and the coconut — out to the seamstress.

The seamstress wrapped her fingers around the brown, hairy coconut... and… just like that… it became unstuck!

But that’s not all.

The moment the coconut was in the hands of its true, rightful, and deserving owner, it immediately turned back... into gold. 

So, the greedy man trudged back to his little white house, empty-handed.

And the seamstress got her coconut a day... for the rest of her days.

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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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