Ever heard the phrase “live by your wits”?
If you live by your wits, then you’re using your cleverness and cunning to get by. In today’s tale we’ll meet a character who doesn’t just live by his wits; he uses them to outwit a not-very-nice guy!
Our story is called “Of Beans and Bunnies.” Versions of this tale come from much of the Spanish-speaking world, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, and Spain.
Voices in this episode Kevin Corbett, Hrishikesh Hirway, Edward Hong, Nick Sholley, Amory Sivertson, Mike Smith, Alexia Trainor, Dawn Ursula, and Efren Ramirez, whom you grown-ups may recognize from Napoleon Dynamite. Efren stars in the animated adventure film Lightyear, coming out in June 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.
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
Across the planet, many people are working to right the wrongs they see in this world. What’s one thing you can do to join them?
Maybe you can clean up litter in your favorite park. You can donate clothing, books, or toys to children in need. Or you can just spread kindness and love, wherever you go. Find a grown-up, and talk with them about how you can do your part to improve our world.
Musical Spotlight: The Charango
This member of the lute family is popular in much of South America. Resembling a small guitar with a rounded back, the charango usually has ten strings in five double courses: i.e. each pair of strings plays the same note. The charango was originally made from the shell of an armadillo (for a legend about why, check out our story, "Armadillo's Song"), though modern charangos are typically made from various varieties of wood. A charango player is called a charanguista.
NARRATOR: Long, long ago, if you lived in a certain small town in a certain faraway land and you ran into money trouble you needed cash to buy food, say, or pay a bill then you would go to the town banker to ask for a loan.
TOWNSPERSON 1: Please sir, my crop didn’t do well this season and my family is hungry. May I borrow some gold coins?
NARRATOR: The banker was always happy to grant such requests.
BANKER: Why of course you can borrow some gold coins!
NARRATOR: There was just one catch. If you were the least bit late in paying back the money you owed?
TOWNSPERSON 1: I’m sorry, sir, but I’m going to be late with the money I owe!
NARRATOR: Then the banker would get his revenge.
BANKER: You’re going to be late, you say?!? Unacceptable! For every day you’re late in paying me back, I will double the amount you owe me. Double!
NARRATOR: So let’s say you owed the banker twenty gold coins. The first day you were late with your payment you would owe him forty gold coins. The second day, you would owe him eighty. Then 160, and so on!
So as you can imagine, the townspeople lived in fear of the banker, who showed no mercy when somebody fell on hard times.
BANKER: You owe me double! And you! And you! And you!!
NARRATOR: Now, it just so happens that one day a traveler made his way to the banker’s town. His name was Pedro.
And though Pedro carried not much more than the clothes on his back and the brains in his head—those brains were remarkable! For Pedro, you see, was as sharp and clever as they come. So even though he rarely had more than two coins in his pocket, he always had his wits.
When Pedro got to town he happened to overhear the banker talking with one of the townspeople who owed him money.
TOWNSPERSON 2: I’m sorry, Mister Banker. But I can’t pay back your loan!
BANKER: You can’t pay back my loan, you say? Then tomorrow, first thing in the morning, I’ll be back. And you’ll owe me double! Did you hear me? Double!
NARRATOR: Pedro was aghast at the banker’s words. And at the way those words left the townsperson in tears!
TOWNSPERSON 2: (ad-lib crying)
PEDRO: Gosh! That banker is awful! I should do something to teach him a lesson. The question is... what?!?
NARRATOR: Pedro’s clever mind mulled over the various tricks he could play. And at last…
NARRATOR: He came upon a brilliant idea!
As the sun began to set, he rummaged through his satchel and fished out his coin purse. He loosened the drawstrings and peered inside.
PEDRO: Ah, just as I thought. I’m down to my last gold coin. But no matter. I’ve got something more valuable than that: my wits!
NARRATOR: Pedro put away his coin purse, hoisted his satchel over his shoulder, and raced over to the grocer’s shop.
[SOT: door open/bell tinkle]
GROCER: Greetings, sir! How may I help you?
PEDRO: If you please, Madam Grocer, I’d like one clay pot, one cup of dry black beans, and one wooden spoon. Oh! And some charcoal! A whole bag, if you have it. I’ll give you one gold coin for it. I’m afraid it’s all I have.
GROCER: One gold coin?
NARRATOR: The grocer scratched her chin.
GROCER: Well, times have been hard, and I owe a certain banker a boatload of money. So one gold coin is better than no gold coins! You may have your one clay pot, your one cup of dry black beans, your wooden spoon, and your charcoal.
PEDRO: Thank you! Thank you very much!
NARRATOR: Pedro dropped the clay pot, dry black beans, wooden spoon, and charcoal into his satchel, then made his way to the banker’s big, grand house.
It was nighttime by now, so no one was about. And right there, beneath a tree on the side of the road, Pedro rolled out a blanket and went to sleep.
NARRATOR: A few hours later, just before daybreak, Pedro woke back up again.
PEDRO: Okay! Come sunrise, that stingy banker will be striding out of his house to collect his debts. I’d better act fast!
NARRATOR: Working quickly and quietly, Pedro took the dry black beans he purchased the night before, and tossed them into the clay pot he’d purchased the night before.
[SOT: beans fall into pot]
NARRATOR: Then he filled the pot with water from his canteen.
[SOT: water pours]
NARRATOR: After that he laid the charcoal on the side of the road and lit a fire.
[SOT: lights fire]
NARRATOR: Beside the fire he dug a small hole. Once the fire died down a bit, Pedro shoveled the glowing coals into the hole.
[SOT: shoveling coals]
NARRATOR: Then he placed the pot of beans over the coals so that you couldn’t see them; it looked like the pot was just resting on the ground.
As the water began to boil and the beans began to cook, Pedro used his wooden spoon to stir the pot, as he recited a little rhyme.
PEDRO: Magic pot! Make some heat! Give me something good to eat! (beat) Magic pot! Make some heat! Give me something good to eat! Magic pot! Make some heat! Give me something good to—
BANKER: Excuse me, sir!?
NARRATOR: Pedro looked up. Standing before him, in a fancy suit and shiny shoes, was the banker!
BANKER: I heard you saying your little poem as I walked out of my house just now. Given that you are on my property I demand to know. Who are you?!? And what are you doing?!?
NARRATOR: Pedro gave his steaming pot a stir, then gave the banker a smile.
PEDRO: My name is Pedro, sir. And can’t you see? I’m cooking breakfast!
BANKER: But how?!? There’s no fire! The water in that pot is boiling, and I can smell the aroma of black beans cooking, yet I don’t see so much as a flame!
PEDRO: That’s because it’s a magic pot, sir! It doesn’t need any fire or flames! You just put your food in, you place the pot on the ground, you say the magic words – Magic pot! Make some heat! Give me something good to eat! – and it begins to cook! Just like that!
BANKER: Well, butter me up and call me a biscuit! That is amazing!
NARRATOR: As the banker watched the pot bubble and boil, his eyes grew wider and wider, and Pedro knew exactly what the greedy man was thinking. He was envisioning all the delicious foods he could make if this magic pot were his – or all the money he could make if he sold such a treasure!
BANKER: Listen, uh, Pedro, was it?
PEDRO: Yup! Pedro!
BANKER: Pedro. This magic pot of yours, how much do you want for it?
NARRATOR: Pedro’s heart skipped a beat. Just as he’d hoped, the banker was falling for his trick.
PEDRO: I’m sorry, sir, but my pot isn’t for sale! There’s not another pot like it in the whole wide world!
BANKER: I’ll give you one-hundred gold coins for it!
PEDRO: One-hundred gold coins? That’s it? For an extraordinary pot like this one?
Frankly, sir, I am insulted!
BANKER: Two-hundred, then?
BANKER: How about we raise it to five-hundred!?
BANKER: Double it to a thousand? One-thousand gold coins for your magic pot? What do you say?
NARRATOR: Pedro pretended to sigh.
PEDRO: (big over-dramatic SIGH) Alright, fine. You win. One-thousand gold coins it is.
BANKER: Splendid! I’ll just go inside and collect my money! Stay right where you are! I’ll be back in a flash!
NARRATOR: As the banker disappeared into his house, Pedro ate some beans from his so-called “magic” pot.
PEDRO: (eating beans) Mm-mm-mm! I have to say – this banker fellow might be made of money, but he certainly isn’t made of brains! He’s totally fallen for my trick!
NARRATOR: Moments later, the banker came back, holding a big silk purse.
BANKER: Here you go, Pedro! One-thousand gold coins! In exchange for your magic pot!
PEDRO: Thank you, sir! Something tells me my pot is in just the right hands.
NARRATOR: And with that, Pedro ran off down the road, one-thousand gold coins in hand.
The banker, meanwhile, began gobbling up the black beans in the clay pot.
BANKER: (ad-lib gobbling up beans in pot)
NARRATOR: Before long, the pot was empty.
BANKER: Oh! That hit the spot! Those beans were scrumptious! But I have a hankering for some more.
NARRATOR: So the banker raced into his house, grabbed a fistful of dry beans, then dashed out and plunked them into the pot.
BANKER: Okay, what were those magic words again? (beat) (trying to remember)
Magic pot, make some heat. give me something good to eat! (beat) Hmmm. Nothing’s happening. Let me try again.
(clears throat) Magic pot! Make some heat! Give me something good to eat! Still nothing? Hmmm...
NARRATOR: The banker spent the next hours reciting the magic words again…
BANKER: (desperate, tired) Magic pot! Make some heat! Give me something good to eat!
NARRATOR: …and again!
BANKER: Magic pot! Make some heat! Give me something good to eat!
NARRATOR: But the pot refused to cook! At last, the banker reached down and lifted the pot off the ground. And the moment he did…
BANKER: (shocked) Well, fry me in butter and call me a catfish! There are coals underneath this pot! And they’re black and cold as can be!
NARRATOR: The banker felt his stomach clench. His jaw, too. And all at once, he realized: the magic pot wasn’t magic at all!
BANKER: That settles it. I will get revenge on this Pedro fellow. And oh, victory will be sweet!
[theme music in]
NARRATOR: What do you think the banker will do next?
And will Pedro get away scot-free? Or will he have to pay the piper?
We’ll find out… after a quick break.
[theme music out]
[theme music in]
NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “Of Beans and Bunnies.”
[theme music out]
NARRATOR: Before the break, a hardhearted banker gave mischievous, quick-witted Pedro one-thousand gold coins for a magic pot – which, as it turned out, wasn’t magic at all!
Pedro took the gold coins and handed them out to all the townspeople who couldn’t afford to pay back the banker’s loans.
TOWNSPERSON 1: Thank you, Pedro!
TOWNSPERSON 2: Thank you, Pedro!
TOWNSPERSON 3: Thank you!
TOWNSPERSON 4: Thank you!
TOWNSPERSON 5: Thank you!
NARRATOR: Pedro knew the banker would be furious once he learned the magic pot wasn’t really magic. So the clever fellow decided to cook up another scheme.
Keeping a handful of coins for himself, he visited a farm on the edge of town and told the farmer he’d like to buy two...bunnies.
PEDRO: Those twins over there! The little gray ones that look exactly alike! I’ll take them both!
NARRATOR: Pedro brought the twin bunnies to a nearby boarding house and rented a room. Then he asked the owner of the boarding house if she could do a certain favor.
PEDRO: Dear lady, I wonder if, for dinner tonight, you can prepare a feast in the dining room. The finest meal you can muster. Roasted meat, luscious stew, perhaps a nice fried fish? Say, five o’clock? I’ll give you several gold coins for your trouble.
NARRATOR: The woman agreed. So Pedro left one of his new bunnies at the boarding house, then tucked the other identical bunny into his satchel and made his way into town.
Just as he expected, as he wandered down the road, he came face to face—
BANKER: (furious) Pedro!???!!!!
NARRATOR: …with the banker!
BANKER: I’ve been searching all over for you, you scoundrel! You told me that clay pot of yours was magic! And yet it was nothing of the sort!
PEDRO: (hatching another scheme, so pretending to be remorseful) I’m sorry, sir.
NARRATOR: Pedro hung his head.
PEDRO: What I did was wrong. So wrong. So please: allow me to make it up to you?
BANKER: “Make it up to me”?!?? And how do you propose doing that?!?
PEDRO: By having you over for dinner! I’ll serve you the finest foods! You do like fine foods, don’t you? Roasted meat? Luscious stew? Nice fried fish?
NARRATOR: In fact, the banker did like fine foods. And he couldn’t resist Pedro’s offer.
BANKER: Alright, fine! I’ll join you for dinner!
PEDRO: Wonderful! Just hang on a sec.
NARRATOR: Pedro reached into his satchel… and took out the little gray bunny! He stroked its ears as he leaned in close to its furry face.
PEDRO: (to bunny) Okay, Little Helper. Here’s what you must do. Run back to the boardinghouse and tell the proprietor we’re having company. Tell her to prepare plenty of roasted meat… luscious stew… and nice fried fish. Now, off you go!
NARRATOR: The banker watched as the spry little creature hopped off down the road.
BANKER: I’m sorry, Pedro, but will that little gray bunny actually convey your message?
PEDRO: Come on over and find out! Dinner starts at five!
NARRATOR: Several hours later, as the clock struck five on the nose, who should come knocking at the boarding house door.
[SOT: knock, open door]
NARRATOR: But the banker! Pedro was thrilled.
PEDRO: Welcome, Mister Banker! I was hoping you would come. And you’re just in time. The food is ready!
NARRATOR: Pedro gestured toward a table loaded with roasted meat, luscious stew, and fried fish.
PEDRO: Lucky for us, my Little Helper sent the message on time. Otherwise dinner would be running ever so late!
NARRATOR: Pedro gestured toward a little gray bunny nibbling lettuce in the corner.
PEDRO: There’s not another bunny like him in the whole wide world!
NARRATOR: Now, this little gray bunny in the corner, as you may have guessed, it was not the same little gray bunny Pedro had pulled from his satchel out on the road.
That bunny didn’t know its way back to the boarding house, so it was probably in a forest or field somewhere, nibbling grass and clover to its heart's content!
So who was this bunny then? The other bunny’s twin, of course!
Because Pedro had bought two bunnies from the farmer, right? So this bunny was the one Pedro had left at the boarding house before heading out toward town.
But the banker didn't know any of that! So as dinner was served, the greedy man kept sneaking glances at the little gray bunny, wondering how he might make this supposedly miraculous creature his own!
BANKER: Pedro, if you sell me that little gray bunny of yours, I’ll let bygones be bygones, and I’ll forgive you for the stunt you pulled with that so-called magic pot. So, how much do you want for it?
NARRATOR: Pedro smiled to himself. This was just what he hoped would happen!
PEDRO: (playing along) I’m sorry, sir, but my little gray bunny isn’t for sale! That said, I could consider parting with it, on one condition.
BANKER: Oh? And what might that “one condition” be?
PEDRO: That you forgive all of the townspeople’s debts! Everyone who owes you money? You consider their loans null-and-void!
BANKER: Forgive all the townspeople’s debts?!? I couldn't possibly!
PEDRO: No deal, no bunny.
NARRATOR: The banker gritted his teeth.
BANKER: Alright, fine. You win. I’ll forgive all the townspeople’s debts. Every last one of them! Just give me that bunny!
NARRATOR: So after dinner, once the dishes were cleared, Pedro gave the banker the bunny.
The next day, the banker invited the mayor, the judge, and the schoolmistress – the three most important people in town – to go riding with him. As they galloped along on horseback, the banker took the little gray bunny out from his cloak.
BANKER: Behold this little gray bunny, friends! There’s not another bunny like him in the whole wide world!
NARRATOR: The banker stroked the bunny’s ears and leaned in close.
BANKER: (to bunny) Okay, Little Helper. Here is what you must do. Run back to my house and tell the cook we’re having company. Tell him to prepare a big lunch of smoked sausages, roasted meat pies, and chocolate truffles for dessert. Now, off you go!
NARRATOR: The banker let the gray bunny go, and the mayor, judge and schoolmistress watched as the nimble creature hopped off into the forest.
MAYOR: (skeptical) Mister Banker, is that bunny really going to deliver a message to your cook?
JUDGE: (skeptical) Surely such a thing is not possible!
SCHOOLMISTRESS: (skeptical) It’s just a bunny, after all!
BANKER: So you say, friends. But come on over and find out! We’ll ride for another hour, then we’ll head back to my house for a real feast!
NARRATOR: An hour later, when the banker led his friends into his dining room...
BANKER: Well?? Here we are!
NARRATOR: He received a big surprise.
BANKER: Wait a minute! Where’s lunch?!? (beat) Cook?! Where is our food? The table is bare!
NARRATOR: The cook came running out of the kitchen.
COOK: Of course it’s bare, sir! I never received instructions about what you wanted to eat! And I didn’t know you were expecting company!
BANKER: But the little gray bunny! Didn’t it tell you?
COOK: The little gray what, sir?
NARRATOR: The banker’s eyes swept across the room. Indeed, there was no little gray bunny to be seen anywhere!
And that’s when he realized—
NARRATOR: He had been duped!
And now the banker had no debts to collect, no bunny to do his bidding, and – much to his grumbling stomach’s dismay, no lunch to eat.
As for Pedro, well, the clever and mischievous traveler was long gone. Off to another town or country where there were wrongs to be righted, and tricks to be played.