'After Midnight' | Ep. 167

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

Think about a time you worked hard on something. Maybe you built a grand castle out of blocks or Legos. Or maybe you just spent the afternoon cleaning your room.

We’re about to meet a character who’d rather not roll up her sleeves and get to work – until she meets a magical creature who gives her a real kick in the pants!

Our story is called “After Midnight.” This Irish legend features a mythical creature you may remember from our story, “The Piper and the Pooka”: the pooka! You’ll also hear variations from Scotland, where the magical being isn’t a pooka, but a “brownie.”

Voices in this episode include Ryan Dalusung, Fiona Glascott, and David Morse.

Fiona Glascott stars in the Oscar-nominated film Brooklyn, the Showtime comedy Episodes, the HBO Max show Julia, and the Fantastic Beast series, including the most recent installment, The Secrets of Dumbledore.

Emmy and Tony Award nominee David Morse is currently starring on Broadway in How I Learned To Drive. Grown-ups, you can also see David in a ton of film and TV shows, including The Chair, The Morning Show, The Deuce, John Adams, and The Hurt Locker.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Circle Round’s 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 you worked hard to achieve a goal. Maybe you got dressed all by yourself in the morning. Or you practiced a song on the piano until you had the first part down pat!

Find a grown-up, and tell them how it felt to achieve your goal. Were you proud? Excited? Exhausted? Next, ask your grown-up to talk about a time they worked hard to accomplish something.

We may stumble as we work toward our goals, we may want to give up, but in the end, we’ll always come out stronger – and reap the rewards.

Musical Spotlight: The Celtic Harp

(Courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker)
(Courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker)

The metal-stringed Celtic harp is a miniature harp traditional to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. It’s known as cláirseach in Irish, clàrsach in Scottish Gaelic, and telyn in Welsh. The harp is so beloved that it appears on Irish and British coins, as well as the coat of arms of the Republic of Ireland, the UK and Canada. Historically, the harp’s metal strings have been made from many types of wie, including brass and iron, even silver and gold. The Celtic harp’s bright yet mysterious tones easily conjure images and ideas of mystical magic – much like the magic the Pooka works in the story!


NARRATOR: There once was a tailor who ran a shop in the middle of a village. Behind the shop, he shared a cozy apartment with his daughter – and assistant – Sadie.
The tailor was a talented, hardworking man who spent many happy hours measuring

TAILOR: Fetch me the measuring tape, will you, Sadie?

SADIE: Yes, Father.

NARRATOR: …and cutting

TAILOR: Fetch me the scissors, will you, Sadie?

SADIE: Aye, Father.

NARRATOR: …and stitching.

TAILOR: Fetch me the needle and thread, will you, Sadie?

SADIE: Of course, Father.

NARRATOR: Sadie had been lending a hand in her father’s shop for as long as she could remember. But unlike the hardworking tailor, Sadie would much rather spend her days sleeping or lazing about, rather than measuring, cutting, or stitching.
So you can imagine Sadie’s alarm when her father announced one evening that he was taking a trip…

TAILOR: …and I’m leaving you in charge of the shop!

SADIE: You’re doing what?!?

TAILOR: I’m leaving you in charge! You see, I’ve received a letter from the King! Inviting me to stay at the royal castle for a month! And stitch new garments for everyone in his court! The lords, the ladies, everyone!

SADIE: That’s wonderful news, Father! But why leave me to run things when I can just come with you? You and I can close up the shop and –

TAILOR: We can’t close up the shop, Sadie! Think how disappointed our customers would be if we shut our doors for an entire month! Look. I know you’re not big on measuring, or cutting, or stitching. But once you give them a try, you may find they’re kind of fun!

SADIE: Fun?!?

TAILOR: Well, rewarding, at least. Sadie, I know you don’t believe it, but hard work brings rewards! Wonderful rewards!

SADIE: But Father! I –

TAILOR: No “buts”! It isn’t every day you get an invitation from the king. I’d be a fool to pass up this offer. So what do you say, Sadie? Will you mind the shop while I’m away? It would mean the world to me.

NARRATOR: Sadie let out a sigh. What else could she say except…

SADIE: Of course, Father. I’ll mind the shop while you’re away.

NARRATOR: So the next morning, the tailor took off for the castle, and Sadie took over the shop.

I say “the next morning,” but remember how Sadie loved sleeping? Well, that morning she slept in. Almost til noon! And by the time she unlocked the shop’s doors and changed the “Closed” sign to “Open".

[SOT: door unlock, bell tinkle as it opens, customers chatting] 

NARRATOR: … a flock of customers came bustling in, all of them asking Sadie to make or mend a jacket, suit, dress, shirt, or skirt.

SADIE: Alright, alright! One at a time! One at a time!

NARRATOR: Grudgingly, Sadie took the customers’ orders and sent them on their way. When the last customer filed out the door, Sadie breathed a sigh of relief.

SADIE: Finally! A moment of quiet!

NARRATOR: She plopped down on a chair behind the front desk. The top drawer was overflowing with all the orders Sadie had taken during the day.

SADIE: Uch. I know I should get started on all these orders. But after dealing with all those customers I’m too exhausted to do a thing – other than sleep! I reckon I’ll close up the shop for a few hours and take a nap. What harm could a little shut-eye do?

NARRATOR: So Sadie locked the shop’s doors, changed the “Open” sign to “Closed,” then went to the apartment behind the shop and collapsed into bed. Within seconds, she was out like a light.

SADIE: (Snores)

NARRATOR: Sadie had intended to get just “a little shut-eye,” but as the sun went down and the moon came up, she was still snoozing away! Until… just after midnight… a curious sound roused her from her slumber.

[SOT: door unlocks, above-door tinkle, door opens]

SADIE: (Wakes up abruptly) What was that noise? If I didn’t know better, I’d say somebody was opening the shop’s front door!

[SOT: steps across floor]

SADIE: And now it sounds like they’re coming inside! I’d better go investigate!

NARRATOR: Sadie hopped out of bed and cracked open the door that led to the shop. What she spied on the other side made her jaw drop so low, it practically hit the floor!

SADIE: (Keeping voice low) Goodness gracious and gracious sakes! Is that… a goat?!?

NARRATOR: Indeed, it was! A big black male goat! The goat’s four hooves clicked and clacked as he made his way into the shop.

Sadie could hardly believe her eyes. But what happened next made her hardly believe her ears! Because when the goat reached the front desk, the creature opened up his mouth… and began to speak!

POOKA: My goodness! Look at all the orders bursting from this drawer!

NARRATOR: The goat used his mouth to pull the drawer open.

POOKA: Let’s see... a torn jacket, a suit to alter, a new fancy dress, a new shirt, a new skirt… this is quite a pile! But no use dallying. Better get to work!

NARRATOR: Next thing Sadie knew, the black goat was standing on his hind legs. He used his front legs to fetch the measuring tape, some scissors, some fabric, and a needle and thread. Then, he sat down at the sewing table… and got to work!
And that’s when Sadie realized the goat wasn’t just any goat. It was…

SADIE: …A pooka! I used to read about pookas when I was a wee girl! But I had no idea they’re actually for real!

NARRATOR: Pookas are mythical, shape-shifting animal spirits … and this one was here to help! The pooka worked swiftly, creating a whirlwind of activity as he measured and cut and stitched.

By daybreak, the pooka had plowed through the entire stack of customer orders: making and mending every single jacket, suit, dress, skirt and shirt, and hanging them on the wardrobe rack in the corner.

POOKA: Well, that should do it then! My work here is done! Till tomorrow, anyway.

NARRATOR: And with that, he trotted out the front door.

[SOT: bell tinkle]

NARRATOR: Once the pooka was gone, Sadie came running from the apartment.

SADIE: I can’t believe it! I’ve just seen a real pooka with my own two eyes! And I’ve seen him work his magic!

NARRATOR: Sadie flipped through the jackets, suits, dresses, shirts and skirts the pooka left behind.

SADIE: Look at these garments! They’re flawless! The hem on this sleeve is perfect! The buttons on that dress are expertly stitched! Why, I couldn’t have done better work myself! And if that pooka really does come back tomorrow, as he said he would… perhaps I won’t have to do the work myself! Ever again!

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: Will the pooka come back tomorrow?

And will Sadie really never have to work again?

We’ll find out, after a quick break.

[theme music out]


[theme music in]

NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to Circle Round. Today our story is called “After Midnight.”

[theme music out]

NARRATOR: Before the break, a tailor left his daughter, Sadie, in charge of his shop.
Sadie was not big on hard work. So the first day, she slept in, opened the shop late, closed it early, and went right back to bed. But then, just after midnight, a mystical animal spirit called a pooka showed up and completed every order she’d received that day - much to Sadie’s delight.

The following morning, Sadie slept in – again. Then, just like yesterday, she unlocked the shop’s doors, changed the “Closed” sign to “Open,” and let in all the customers who were waiting outside. She took a bunch of new orders, handed out the finished ones, and the minute the shop was empty and quiet, she locked the doors again.

SADIE: Whew! That’s enough work for one day! Granted, I have a whole new stack of orders on my hands, but I won’t have to lift a finger! After all, didn’t the pooka say he would come back tonight? That magical goat will take care of everything!

NARRATOR: Sadie spent the rest of the day lounging around. And indeed, just after midnight, what should she hear from her bedroom but…

[SOT: bell tinkle, door open, walking]

SADIE: The pooka! He’s back! I must take another peek!

NARRATOR: Sadie ran to the door and peered into the shop. Sure enough, there was the pooka! Sitting at the sewing table and measuring, cutting, and stitching up a storm!

SADIE: I feel luckier than a farmer growing four-leaf clovers! With this pooka coming to the shop each night, I can forget about all the work and do as I please!

NARRATOR: And that’s exactly what she did! Each day she slept in, opened the shop for an hour or two, then closed the doors and goofed off. Then she’d leave her customer’s new orders in the desk drawer and just after midnight the pooka would come in and take care of everything!

As the weeks went by, Sadie found herself growing more and more curious about her nightly visitor.

SADIE: I don’t mean to look a gift horse in the mouth – or a gift goat, perhaps I should say. But what’s the story with this pooka? Why does he come to this shop again and again? I must find out!

NARRATOR: That night, instead of going right to bed, Sadie drank an entire pot of coffee and stayed up, waiting for the pooka. And then… just after midnight…

[SOT: door tinkle, open]

NARRATOR: At the sound of the door, Sadie burst into the shop. The pooka had his back to her as he used his front hooves to rummage through a box of thread.

SADIE: Excuse me! Uh… (not sure what to call the pooka) sir…?

NARRATOR: At the sound of Sadie’s voice, the pooka turned around.

POOKA: Good evening, miss! Pleased to finally make your acquaintance! This fine establishment is yours, I presume?

SADIE: Well, yes! Sort of. My father runs the place, and he put me in charge. And I’ve been wanting to ask you… Why do you visit this shop night after night and finish all my work for me?

POOKA: What, is my work not to your liking?

SADIE: Oh no! Of course it’s to my liking! It’s exquisite! I just want to know why you’ve been doing it!

POOKA: Well… if you really want to know, then I’ll tell you my story. Sit down.

NARRATOR: Sadie took a seat at the front desk as the pooka began his tale.

POOKA: Way, way back, long, long ago, I was a human being, just like you. I was raised by a hardworking mother and father – humble farmers who toiled day and night to keep bread on our table and clothing on our backs. But I? I never lifted a finger! When they were sowing seeds, I was sleeping. When they were harvesting, I was out having fun. Then one day my Ma died and it was just me and my Dad. But even then I didn’t get off my lazy backside! I expected my Dad to do everything. And then he passed away.

SADIE: And what did you do?

POOKA: I went to live with my grandmother. The poor woman was so ancient she could hardly see, let alone walk. Yet I continued my lazy ways, leaning on her for all the cooking, the washing, the shopping. And then, just before she passed on… she cast a spell on me.

SADIE: A spell?!?

POOKA: Turns out my old granny was touched with magic! She cast a spell to punish me for my laziness, and she turned me into what you see now!

SADIE: A pooka!

POOKA: That’s right. A pooka who must spend every night working, as hard as can be! Just after midnight, I must find a place to labor and toil away, till all the work is done.

SADIE: What a wretched fate!

POOKA: But it gets worse! Once I’m done with my work, I can’t go to sleep in a nice, snuggly, warm bed. Oh, no! I must sleep outside! In the cold! And oh, how cold this country can be! More often than not, I’m shivering down to my hooves!

NARRATOR: Sadie felt her heart go out to the pooka. Suddenly, she had an idea.

SADIE: Wait a minute! What if I gave you a nice, warm blanket to wrap yourself in? That would keep out the chill!

POOKA: Do you mean it? You would give me such a gift?

SADIE: Consider it a reward for all you’ve done for me! After all, thanks to you I haven’t had to measure or cut or stitch a thing since my father left! And he’s been gone now for, what? One week, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks – by golly, it’s been nearly a month! In fact, he’ll be coming back here tomorrow!

POOKA: Well, if you really mean it, I’ll take you up on your generous offer!

SADIE: Wonderful! Wait here.

NARRATOR: Sadie ran to the apartment and fetched a wooly plaid blanket, which she wrapped around the pooka’s body.

POOKA: Ooooo! I feel better already! I’m much obliged to you, Sadie! You’ve done me a great service. A very great service. And now, I will bid you goodnight.

NARRATOR: The Pooka started for the door.

SADIE: Wait! You’re leaving too soon! What about all my new customer orders? Aren't you going to sit down and get to work?

POOKA: “Get to work”…?!?

NARRATOR: The Pooka stopped and turned around.

POOKA: “Get to work,” you say?!? Ha! That’s a good one!

SADIE: What do you mean?

POOKA: What I mean is… I’ll never have to “get to work” again! That spell my grandmother cast… my punishment was only supposed to last until my labor paid off – and somebody gave me a reward for my hard work! And now that I have this warm, wooly blanket here, it looks like you’re that “somebody”! So I bid you goodnight, Sadie. And good luck. Looks like you’ve got your work cut out for you.

NARRATOR: Then, with his head held high and his blanket wrapped tight, the pooka walked out the door. But when Sadie looked out the window, she saw not a black-haired goat, but a black-haired man! He was running down the cobblestone street and laughing – a wooly plaid blanket flapping behind him like a flag in the wind.

POOKA: (Laughs)

[SOT: outside, getting farther away]

NARRATOR: Sadie took a deep breath and let it out.

Then, she fetched the measuring tape.

And some scissors.

And some fabric.

And a needle and thread.

Then, she sat down at the sewing table… and got to work.

It was slow-going at first. But after a while, she began to get the hang of it. In fact, as she hemmed sleeves and mended tears and stitched brand new beautiful pieces of clothing, she even found it to be a little bit… fun.

And the next morning, when Sadie handed the completed garments over to her customers… and saw the grateful smiles on their faces… she realized that the pooka wasn’t the only one who had received a reward.

Finally, at long last, she had gotten rewarded, too.

Headshot of Rebecca Sheir

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



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