'Porcupine’s Plan' | Ep. 157

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

Think about the last time you were a guest.

When someone invites us to be their guest, we should be gracious, courteous, and kind. But in today’s story, we’ll meet a guest who takes things in a whole other direction!

Our story is called “Porcupine's Plan.” Versions of this folktale come from tribes who originally lived in Siberia, a vast region covering much of Northern Asia.

Voices in this episode include Feodor Chin, Dawn Ursula, and Jacob Laval. Kids, check out Jacob Laval in the HBO Max film 8-Bit Christmas and the Netflix special John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch. Grown-ups, catch him in the HBO drama series, The Plot Against America. Jacob’s newest movie, Unbreakable Boy, premieres on March 18th, 2022.

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

Think about a time someone invited you to be their guest. Maybe it was a play date at a friend’s house, or a holiday dinner at a relative’s home. Think about your visit, and try to remember what your host did to help you feel welcome.

Next, find some paper and draw a picture of your visit. Draw you, and your host, and try to capture how you felt as a guest. When you’re done, show your picture to someone you have fun with.

Then if you’d like, show it to us! Grown-ups, you can send a photo of your young artist and their artistic creation to

Musical Spotlight: The Celeste  

The celeste is considered a classical instrument, with its “heavenly” bell-like tones played from a standard keyboard. (courtesy of Josephenus P. Riley)
The celeste is considered a classical instrument, with its “heavenly” bell-like tones played from a standard keyboard. (courtesy of Josephenus P. Riley)

The celeste (a.k.a. celesta) is a keyboard instrument that looks a lot like a piano, but instead of having strings inside, the celeste has metal bars - just like a xylophone or glockenspiel. These metal bars give the celeste a delicate, bell-like, magical sound, which is quite apt, since in French celeste means “celestial” or “heavenly”!

You can also hear the celeste in our episodes “The Friendship Orchard,” “The Fallen Sparrow,” “The Bearded Lake,” as well as our Shortie, “The Leaky Bucket.” And you can see the celeste in action in this video featuring the enchanting celeste solo from composer Ferde Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite.


NARRATOR: Long ago, in the earliest days of the world's existence, there were two supernatural siblings: Earth King and Sky Queen.

Earth King lived – you guessed it – on the earth. He made his home within a grand mountain, deep inside a dark and gloomy cave.

As for his sister, Sky Queen, she lived – you guessed it again – in the sky! She made her home in a splendid palace above the clouds, where she kept her two most prized possessions: the sun and the moon.

By day, the sun’s rays shone down from the palace and sent warmth and light to the earth below. By night, the moon cast its luminous glow over the land.

Both the sun and moon were glorious to behold, and it made Earth King crazy that Sky Queen got to own both!

EARTH KING: I am so jealous of my sister! She has the sun and the moon… and I want them so badly I can taste it! I must find a way to make them mine! But… how?

NARRATOR: Well, as luck would have it, an answer arrived the very next day… in the form of an invitation, delivered to Earth King by one of Sky Queen’s messengers.

EARTH KING: Ah! Let’s see what this invitation says! (clears throat) “Dearest brother. I know it isn’t customary for our two realms to meet. But I miss you, Brother. So I’m inviting you to my sky palace for a little party, just the two of us. I hope you can come. Signed, your sister, Sky Queen.”

SKY QUEEN: “Dearest brother. I know it isn’t customary for our two realms to meet. But I miss you, Brother. So I’m inviting you to my sky palace for a little party, just the two of us. I hope you can come. Signed, your sister, Sky Queen.”

NARRATOR: Earth King felt a shiver of delight. You see, back in those early, early days, there was a very special, and strict, custom. If someone invited you to be their guest, they must send you home with a gift – any gift you request – as a token of their hospitality. And Earth King knew exactly what his gift – or gifts – would be!

When Earth King journeyed up to Sky Queen’s palace, his sister welcomed him with open arms.

SKY QUEEN: Brother! It’s so wonderful to see you! How are things?

EARTH KING: (buttering her up) Much better now! It’s an honor to be here!

SKY QUEEN: And it’s an honor to have you. Come. Let’s go to the dining room. I’ve prepared all sorts of treats!

NARRATOR: As Sky Queen led Earth King through a maze of rooms, he kept his eyes peeled for the sun and moon but saw no sign of them.

EARTH KING: Boy, sis! This palace of yours sure is big! How many floors does it have?

SKY QUEEN: How many floors…? Well, let me see here… There are probably a good, what, one-hundred…? We’re on the bottom floor now, of course. And on the very top floor, high in a crystal tower, I keep my most prized possessions – the sun and the moon!

NARRATOR: Earth King tingled with excitement.

EARTH KING: Ah! So that’s where you keep them!

SKY QUEEN: Yes! The crystal tower is one-hundred-percent transparent, so the sun and moon can send their light down to earth… the sun by day and the moon by night.

NARRATOR: At long last, Sky Queen and Earth King reached the dining room. They sat at opposite ends of a long, golden table as Sky Queen’s servants brought out plate after plate of delicious treats.

EARTH KING: These confections are positively delectable, sister! You’ve truly outdone yourself!

SKY QUEEN: Well, it’s not every day I get to spend time with my dear brother! But the best is yet to come.


SKY QUEEN: Yes! Everyone knows that hospitality is a sacred custom! So, now that you’ve visited my palace, I ask you – what gift would you like to take home, to remember this delightful visit? Name anything, anything at all, and it’s yours!

NARRATOR: This was the moment Earth King had been waiting for. He pretended to think it over…

EARTH KING: Well… Hmmm… That is a tough one!

NARRATOR: But then he could no longer help himself. He opened his mouth and blurted out:

EARTH KING: (blurting) The sun and the moon! I want the sun and the moon!

NARRATOR: Sky Queen was taken aback.

SKY QUEEN: The sun and the moon?! You want the sun and the moon?!

EARTH KING: In fact, I do! And everyone knows it would be extremely bad manners for you to refuse, dear sister.

NARRATOR: Sky Queen knew her hands were tied. If her guest was asking for her two most prized possessions, she must give up her two most prized possessions.

So she asked her servants to visit the crystal tower and retrieve the sun and the moon.

SKY QUEEN: But be sure you put them in a tightly closed box. Then my brother may take the box back home with him, to earth.

NARRATOR: Earth King was quivering with anticipation as he returned to his gloomy cave in the mountain. And the moment he opened the tightly-closed box…

EARTH KING: Woaaaaahhhhhh!

NARRATOR: …his gloomy cave wasn’t so gloomy anymore! It was flooded with the radiance of the sun and the moon! So blazingly bright, Earth King had to shield his eyes!

EARTH KING: This is amazing! The sun and the moon! Mine! At last! (laughter)

NARRATOR: Earth King was overjoyed about his new possessions. But everyone else on earth… was not. You see, because the sun and the moon were now locked away in Earth King’s cave, the earth was plunged into darkness. No one could tell night from day, or day from night. Not only that, but without the sun’s warmth, the world turned frosty and cold.

High above the clouds, Sky Queen saw everything that was going on. She decided something must be done. So she sent one of her servants down to earth, with instructions to bring back the cleverest, most cunning soul around. And within days…

SKY QUEEN: Porcupine!

NARRATOR: …he arrived!

PORCUPINE: Hi there, Sky Queen! Good to see you!

NARRATOR: Now, you may be surprised that the cleverest, most cunning soul around was a stocky little brown-and-black creature with sharp quills sticking out all over his body. But it was true! Back in those times, everyone agreed that Porcupine was as wise and wily as they come.

PORCUPINE: Did you summon me here, Sky Queen, because the sun and moon have mysteriously disappeared from the sky, thereby leaving the world cold and dark twenty-four seven?

SKY QUEEN: Bingo! You see, my brother Earth King asked for the sun and moon as a token of hospitality. You know how sacred a custom it is.

PORCUPINE: It’s terribly bad manners to refuse a guest’s request!

SKY QUEEN: Exactly! So I gave them to him! But as you can see from the dark, cold world below, I must get them back! Porcupine! Whatever will we do?

NARRATOR: Porcupine scratched his sharp head with one of his sharp legs. Then, slowly, a twinkling smile spread across his sharp face.

PORCUPINE: (with a smile) Actually, Sky Queen… I know exactly what we’ll do. (dramatic, slow, with intrigue) Just leave everything to me!

NARRATOR: Will Porcupine succeed in bringing back the sun and moon?

How would you accomplish this feat if you were Porcupine?

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


NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to Circle Round. Today our story is called “Porcupine's Plan.”

NARRATOR: Before the break, Sky Queen gave the sun and the moon to her brother, Earth King.

Back in those early, early days, tradition dictated that a host must send their guest home with a gift – whatever gift the guest requested – as a token of hospitality.

But now that Earth King had locked the sun and moon away in his cave in the mountain, the world grew dark! And cold!

Sky Queen asked clever, cunning Porcupine to come up with a solution. So Porcupine paid a visit to Earth King’s mountain.

PORCUPINE: Hello, Earth King? You in there? It’s me! Porcupine!

EARTH KING: Oh! Porcupine! What a pleasure! Hang on, I'll get the door. But come in quickly – I don’t want my magnificent light and heat to spill out!

NARRATOR: The side of the mountain opened a crack and Porcupine scurried inside.

PORCUPINE : Wow, Earth King! Usually this cave of yours is so gloomy! Talk about a home makeover!

EARTH KING: Yeah… I figured I’d brighten up the place, you know? Add a little spark? But anyway, it’s lovely to see you, Porcupine. Why don’t we sit down? Have a little snack?

NARRATOR: Porcupine settled down on a big rock while Earth King set out a tray of food.

EARTH KING: So, tell me, Porcupine… how have you been?

PORCUPINE: Well, since you asked, Earth King… not so good. Without the sun or moon in the sky, the world is dark all the time! The crops are failing… nobody knows when it’s time to sleep or wake up… and everyone is freezing their tails off!

NARRATOR: Earth King grew quiet. After he locked the sun and moon away in his cave, he hadn’t gone outside again. So he hadn’t realized what chaos he had thrown the world into!

EARTH KING: I’m sorry to hear what’s going on, Porcupine. But look – the sun and the moon are mine now. I asked for them as tokens of my sister’s hospitality, and it would have been rude of her to refuse my request.

PORCUPINE: I know! You’re right! Hospitality is a sacred custom, and we mustn’t mess with it. Look, I’m sorry to start things off on such a bummer note. Let’s lighten things up! Heard any good jokes lately?

EARTH KING: I’m sorry – any good jokes, you say?

PORCUPINE: Yeah! Because I heard one you’re gonna love. Listen to this. ‘Why did the sun feel so dizzy?’ Huh? Any guesses? ‘Because he felt light-headed!’ (amused laughter)

NARRATOR: As Porcupine hooted with laughter, Earth King cracked a little smile.

PORCUPINE: Ah, you liked that one, huh? Then how about this?! ‘Why didn’t the moon finish its dinner?’ Hmm? ‘Because it was full’!!! (amused laughter)

NARRATOR: Porcupine began to tell joke…

PORCUPINE: ‘Why doesn’t the sun go to college?’ ‘Because it already has a million degrees!’ (laughter)

NARRATOR: …after joke...

PORCUPINE: ‘Why does no one trust the man on the moon?’ ‘Because he has a dark side!’ (laughter)

NARRATOR: And in no time at all…

EARTH KING: (aughter)

NARRATOR: …Earth King was in hysterics!

EARTH KING: (laughing) Oh, Porcupine! You crack me up! Tell me another!

PORCUPINE: Actually, Earth King. It’s time for me to get going. But this really has been a lot of fun.

EARTH KING: What?! Going already? Well, please. Let me send you home with a gift, so you’ll remember this delightful visit. What can I give you as a token of my hospitality?

NARRATOR: Porcupine had been waiting for this moment. He smiled, then gave Earth King a shrug.

PORCUPINE: Ohhhh, I don’t need anything, Earth King. I’m good.

EARTH KING: But I insist you take something!

PORCUPINE: Well… if you insist… how about… a mirage? You know – one of those images in the air that looks real? Like a body of water in a desert? May I have one of those?

NARRATOR: Earth King cocked his head to one side.

EARTH KING: But a mirage is nothing but a reflection of light on the air! I can’t give you that!

PORCUPINE: Oh. Very well, then. How about… an echo?

EARTH KING: An echo…?

PORCUPINE: Exactly! A sound that repeats after you say it!

NARRATOR: Earth King was getting flustered.

EARTH KING: But an echo is just a sound wave reflecting off a surface and bouncing back to you! I can’t give you an echo! Porcupine, ask for something I can give you! Something you see here in my cave!

NARRATOR: Porcupine smiled to himself. His plan seemed to be working!

PORCUPINE: Something I see here in your cave, you say... Well, in that case…

NARRATOR: He pointed to the sun and the moon.

PORCUPINE: …I want those.

NARRATOR: Earth King’s face fell.

EARTH KING: The sun and the moon??? You want the sun and the moon?!

PORCUPINE: I do! As tokens of your hospitality. Because, like you yourself said, it would be rude of you to refuse my request. … Would it not?

NARRATOR: Earth King hung his head. For he knew his hands were tied.

EARTH KING: Fine, Porcupine. Take the sun and the moon. They’re yours now.

NARRATOR: So Porcupine took the sun and the moon.

But as you can probably guess, he did not keep them for himself. He brought them high above the clouds, back to Sky Queen’s palace… and returned them to the crystal tower where they rightly belonged.

These days, we no longer have a custom where a guest can choose any gift they want. But we do have light and warmth during the day, and darkness and cool at night.

And we owe our thanks to Porcupine: a wise and wily creature with a sharp body, and an even sharper mind.

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



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