Have you ever felt small?
Maybe you couldn’t keep up with the bigger kids during a game. Or you weren’t quite tall enough to go on a ride at the amusement park.
We’ve all been there. And in today’s story we’ll get reacquainted with a character who doesn’t let her tiny size slow her down.
Our story is called “A Trio of Tricks.” Versions of this tale come from the Southeast Asian countries of Malaysia and Indonesia, and feature a character you may remember from our episode, “Counting Crocodiles”, Mouse Deer: the clever trickster with the body and face of a mouse, and the legs and tail of a deer!
Voices in this episode include Evan Casey, Feodor Chin, Dawn Ursula, and Della Saba. Della stars on Physical on Apple TV, and has voiced characters in many animated movies, including Zootopia, Steven Universe, and Ralph Breaks The Internet. This summer, listen for her voice in the Netflix series Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight.
This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Circle Round’s supervising producer Nora Saks. 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
Mouse Deer is a master at thinking outside the box, and using her creativity to figure things out.
You too can think outside the box by playing the Outside The Box game!
Wander around your house and pick up some common objects, the cardboard tube from a roll of paper towels, a jump rope, a sock… stuff like that.
Gather a family member or two, then pick an object and take turns listing all the different things that one object could be. A cardboard tube, for instance, could be a flute, or a baseball bat, or a telescope! Go from object to object, person to person, and have fun seeing where your imaginations take you!
Musical Spotlight: The Angklung
Now popular throughout Southeast Asia, the angklung originated in Indonesia. The angklung consists of bamboo tubes suspended in a bamboo frame and bound with rattan cords. The tubes are carefully whittled and carved to have a resonant pitch when struck and are tuned to octaves.
To play the angklung, you hold the frame with one hand, while your other hand shakes the instrument from side to side. Because playing the angklung as an ensemble or orchestra requires so much cooperation and coordination, Indonensians believe the instrument promotes the values of teamwork, mutual respect and social harmony.
NARRATOR: As one of the smallest animals in the forest, Mouse Deer was always in danger of one thing: Becoming a larger animal’s next meal! She knew she couldn’t outrun the larger animals. So instead, she had to outwit them. And lucky for Mouse Deer, what she lacked in size she made up for in smarts. Because Mouse Deer was a trickster. And this story is about how she tricked not one… not two… but three of the larger animals in the forest.
NARRATOR: It all began early one morning when Mouse Deer ventured out of her burrow to find breakfast. It had rained the night before, so the ground was wet and muddy, and the forest was thick with fog.
MOUSE DEER: Oh boy! It’s so misty and hazy out here! I can hardly see a thing! But not to worry. I’ll let my keen nose lead me to some tasty fruits, buds, and shrubs!
PYTHON: (menacing) Did sssssomeone say… “tassssty”...?!??
NARRATOR: Mouse Deer froze. With all this fog she couldn’t see much… but she would recognize that sinister voice anywhere.
MOUSE DEER: Uhhhh, Python! Is that you?
PYTHON: You bet it’s me, Mouse Deer! I was just hunting for breakfast! And it looks like I’ve found it!
NARRATOR: Mouse Deer knew Python could easily swallow her whole! But as her tiny heart began to race… so did her clever mind! And as she shifted from foot to tiny foot in the squishy mud, a plan suddenly sprang into her head!
MOUSE DEER: So… uh… Python! Are you saying that you want to eat me for breakfast?
PYTHON: That’s exactly what I’m saying, Mouse Deer! You’ll make for a scrumptious start to my day!
MOUSE DEER: But Python! Don’t you realize that if you eat me for breakfast, you’re going to upset… the king?
NARRATOR: Through the mist Mouse Deer could see Python cock his scaly head to one side.
PYTHON: Wait a second. What do you mean ‘if I eat you for breakfast I’m going to upset the king’?
MOUSE DEER: I mean you’ll upset Leopard! The king of the forest! His royal highness has given me a very important job. And if you eat me, I’ll never be able to follow through!
NARRATOR: Now Python cocked his head the other way.
PYTHON: So you’re saying the king of the forest has given you a “very important job”...? What kind of “very important job”...?
MOUSE DEER: Well, if you must know…NARRATOR: Mouse Deer quietly scooped some wet, squishy mud into a big, gooey pile.
MOUSE DEER: … he has tasked me with guarding his royal cake.
PYTHON: His royal cake?!?
MOUSE DEER: Oh yes! You think I’m delicious? Leopard’s royal cake has the most exquisite flavor in the world! It’s no wonder the king doesn’t want anyone else to eat it.
NARRATOR: Python squinted his piercing dark eyes, trying to get a better look at this ‘exquisite’ cake. He could scarcely make it out through the haze.
PYTHON: Hmmmm… I usually feast on things like lizards and turtles and furry critters like you. But if this cake is as delectable as you say, then I must have a bite!
MOUSE DEER: Oh, I could never allow that, Python! The king will be very angry with me!
PYTHON: Look, Mouse Deer. Either I eat the cake… or I eat you. Which one will it be?
NARRATOR: Mouse Deer pretended to think it over.
MOUSE DEER: Wellllll… Ohhhhh… Alright. You don’t give me much choice, so fine. You can eat the cake. But listen, Python – if anyone sees me letting you eat the king’s cake, I’ll be in big trouble! So let me run away first, and then you can eat as much as you want. Deal?
NARRATOR: Quick as a wink, Mouse Deer ran away from Python.
After she’d gone, Python flicked his tongue, opened his jaws, and swallowed the entire "royal-cake" in one gulp. But as the so-called “cake” slipped down his throat and into his stomach… Python had a nasty realization.
PYTHON: YUCH! BLECH! This isn’t cake! This is mud!!! Mouse Deeeeer!!!!!
NARRATOR: Python tried slithering off after Mouse Deer, but through the fog and mist he couldn’t find where the little critter went! So he spit out one last clump of sticky mud…then slunk away. Mouse Deer, meanwhile, bolted to another part of the forest, where she gobbled up some tasty fruits, buds, and shrubs.
MOUSE DEER: Well then! Now that I’ve eaten my breakfast in peace, I’ll go back to my burrow for a nap; all that trickery has me pooped! I’ll wake up again for lunch.
NARRATOR: So Mouse Deer went back to her burrow for a nap.
NARRATOR: When she woke up for lunch and scurried outside, she noticed the fog had not yet lifted.
MOUSE DEER: Oh boy! The forest is every bit as misty and murky as it was before! But not to worry. I’ll let my keen nose lead me to some tasty fruits, buds, and shrubs!
HAWK: Did someone say “tasty”...?!??
NARRATOR: Mouse Deer stopped short. The fog was too heavy to see much, but she would know that menacing voice anywhere.
MOUSE DEER: Uhhhh, Hawk! Is that you?
HAWK: You bet it’s me, Mouse Deer. I was just hunting down lunch! And it looks like I’ve found it!
NARRATOR: Whatever she did, Mouse Deer had to come up with a way to avoid Hawk’s sharp beak – and big stomach! The wheels in her brain begin to turn… and turn… until suddenly, she knew just what she would do!
NARRATOR: What scheme will Mouse Deer cook up next? What would you do to outsmart Hawk if you were Mouse Deer? We’ll find out what happens after a quick break.
NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “A Trio of Tricks.”
NARRATOR: Before the break, it was a hazy, misty morning in the forest when Mouse Deer tricked Python into not eating her for breakfast. Instead, she fooled him into thinking a pile of mud was a royal cake! Come lunchtime, however, the tiny critter stumbled into another creature intent on gobbling her up:
MOUSE DEER: So… uh… Hawk! Did you say that you want to eat me for lunch?
HAWK: That’s precisely what I said, Mouse Deer! You’ll make for a most delicious midday meal!
MOUSE DEER: But Hawk! Don’t you realize that if you eat me for lunch, you’re going to upset… the king?
NARRATOR: Through the mist Mouse Deer could see Hawk shrugging her great wings.
HAWK: What do you mean ‘if I eat you for lunch I’m going to upset the king’?
MOUSE DEER: I mean you’ll upset Leopard! The king of the forest! His royal majesty has given me a very essential job. And if you eat me, I’ll never be able to follow through.
NARRATOR: Hawk snapped her sharp beak.
HAWK: So you’re saying the king of the forest has given you a very essential job…? What kind of “very essential job”...?
MOUSE DEER: Well, since you asked…
NARRATOR: Mouse Deer glanced around. Then she pointed through the fog toward a wasp’s nest up in a tree.
MOUSE DEER: … the king has asked me to guard his royal drum.
HAWK: His royal drum?!?
MOUSE DEER: Oh yes! Leopard’s royal drum makes the most glorious sounds! Unlike any drum you’ve heard before! It’s no wonder the king doesn’t want anyone else to play it…
NARRATOR: Hawk craned her neck, trying to get a better look at this amazing drum. She could barely make it out through the mist.
HAWK: Huhhhhh… You know, I have always thought of myself as a bit of a musician! If this drum is as glorious as you say, then I must play it!
MOUSE DEER: Oh, I could never permit that, Hawk! The king will be furious with me!
HAWK: Listen, Mouse Deer. Either I play the drum… or I eat you. Which one do you choose?
NARRATOR: Mouse Deer pretended to mull it over.
MOUSE DEER: Wellllll… Ohhhhh… Alright. You can play the drum. But listen, Hawk – if anyone sees me letting you play the king’s drum, I’ll be in hot water! So let me scamper away first, and then you can play the drum as much as you want. Deal?
NARRATOR: Without missing a beat, Mouse Deer scampered away from Hawk.
After she’d gone, Hawk flapped her wings, soared up toward the trees, then struck her beak against the so-called royal drum. The great bird was hoping to hear it make its beautiful sound. But instead...
HAWK: Yikes! Yow! Ouch! I’m being stung all over! This isn’t a drum! This is a wasps’ nest! (beat) (angry, as if shaking fist in air) Mouse Deeeeer!!!!!
NARRATOR: Hawk swooped down and tried flying after Mouse Deer. But even though her eyesight was very good, through the haze she couldn’t see where the scheming little critter went! So the great bird fought off one last stinging wasp…
HAWK: Ouch! I'll get my revenge Mouse-Deer, just wait!
NARRATOR: …then soared back to her nest.
Mouse Deer, in the meantime, dashed off to another part of the forest, where she wolfed down some tasty fruits, buds, and shrubs.
MOUSE DEER: Mmm mm! Now that I’ve eaten my lunch in peace, I think I’ll go back to my burrow for another nap; all this craftiness is exhausting! I’ll wake up again for dinner.
NARRATOR: So Mouse Deer went back to her burrow for a nap.
NARRATOR: By the time she woke up for dinner and went outside, the air was clear and a moonless night had spread its dark blanket over the forest.
MOUSE DEER: Wow! Even though the fog has lifted, now that it’s night it’s so dark outside! But not to worry! I’ll let my keen nose lead me to some tasty fruits, buds, and shrubs!
TIGER: (menacing) Did someone say “tasty”...?!??
NARRATOR: Mouse Deer stood stock still. She could hardly see a foot in front of her, but she would know that deep, growling voice anywhere.
MOUSE DEER: (trying to play it cool) Uhhhh, Tiger! Is that you?
TIGER: You bet it’s me, Mouse Deer. I was just hunting down dinner! And it looks like I’ve found it!
NARRATOR: For the third time that day, Mouse Deer felt her heart skitter and her mind spin. She had found a way to trick Python and Hawk into not eating her. But how could she pull the wool over Tiger’s glittering golden eyes… and escape his scissor-sharp teeth?
MOUSE DEER: (launching her scheme) So… uh… Tiger! Did you say that you want to eat me for dinner?
TIGER: That’s 100-percent what I said, Mouse Deer! You’ll make for a most appetizing end to the day!
MOUSE DEER: But Tiger! Don’t you realize that if you eat me for dinner, you’re going to upset… the king?
NARRATOR: Through the darkness, Mouse Deer could see Tiger wiggle his whiskers.
TIGER: What do you mean if I eat you for dinner I’m ‘going to upset the king’?
MOUSE DEER: I mean you’ll upset Leopard! The king of the forest! His royal majesty has given me a very crucial job. And if you eat me, I’ll never be able to see it through!
NARRATOR: Tiger tilted his striped head.
TIGER: So let me get this straight. You’re saying the king of the forest has given you a very crucial job…? What kind of “very crucial job”...?
MOUSE DEER: Well, if you’d really like to know…
NARRATOR: Mouse Deer squinted her eyes and glanced around. The truth is, she had no idea what stunt she could pull this time. Had her luck finally run out?
But then – all of a sudden – her eyes landed… on Python! The very first animal who had tried eating her that day! The giant snake was sleeping beneath a nearby tree, his long scaly body coiled up in a ring.
TIGER: Mouse Deer! I’m waiting! And I’m hungry! So tell me – what kind of job has the king given you?
NARRATOR: A smile spread across Mouse Deer’s face.
MOUSE DEER: Well… since you’re so curious… the king has asked me to guard his royal belt.
TIGER: His royal belt?!?
MOUSE DEER: Shhhh! (lowers her voice) The king wants to keep it a secret! After all, Leopard’s royal belt is the fanciest, most beautiful belt you ever did see! There’s never been another belt like it! It’s no wonder his royal highness doesn’t want anyone else to wear it…
NARRATOR: Tiger stepped forward, trying to get a better look at this extraordinary belt. He could barely see it through the darkness.
TIGER: Hmmmmm… I’ve always considered myself a snappy dresser, and a new belt would go so well with my stripes! If this belt is as beautiful as you say, then I must wear it!
MOUSE DEER: Oh, I could never let you do that, Tiger! The king will be enraged with me!
TIGER: (voice lowered) See here, Mouse Deer. Either I wear the belt… or I eat you. Which one will it be?
NARRATOR: Mouse Deer pretended to think it through.
MOUSE DEER: Wellllll… Ohhhhh… Alright. You can wear the belt. But listen, Tiger – if anyone sees me letting you wear the king’s belt, I’ll be in a bad way! So let me sprint away first, and then you can wear the belt for as long as you want. Deal?
NARRATOR: In the twinkling of an eye, Mouse Deer sprinted away from Tiger.
After she’d gone, Tiger walked over to the tree, picked the so-called belt up off the ground, then wrapped it around his waist.
And do you know what happened when he did?
Python woke up with a start – and began tightening his scaly body around Tiger’s furry belly!
TIGER: Ow! Owwwww! I’m being squeezed around the middle! This isn’t a belt! This is a snake! Yikes!
NARRATOR: Before Python could coil himself all the way around Tiger's belly, the giant cat gave the giant snake a good yank. And Python fell to the ground.
PYTHON: Owwww! What’d you do that for?
TIGER: You were squeezing the air out of me!
PYTHON: Well what kind of fool wraps a snake around their body?
TIGER: Mouse Deer told me you were a belt!
PYTHON: She did, huh? Well, she told me a pile of mud was a cake!
HAWK: And she told me a nest full of wasps was a drum!
NARRATOR: All the commotion had woken up Hawk, who it just so happens had been nesting in the trees above!
TIGER: Wait a minute! Hawk – did she tell you this drum was the king’s drum?
HAWK: She did!
TIGER: And Python! Did she tell you this cake was the king’s cake?
PYTHON: She did!
TIGER: So that conniving critter duped all of us!
HAWK: Yeah, she did!
PYTHON: She did!
TIGER: / HAWK: / PYTHON: Mouse Deeeeer!!!!!
NARRATOR: All at once, the three big, fierce creatures took off through the forest. Bounding…
TIGER: We’re gonna get you, you snippersnapper!
NARRATOR: And flying…
HAWK: We’re gonna gobble you up, you pipsqueak!
NARRATOR: And slithering.
PYTHON: …So you’ll never play tricks again, you runt!
NARRATOR: Tiger, Hawk, and Python bounded, flew, and slithered all night long. But when dawn broke, the three animals gave up their search, and went back home, dejected and hungry.
Because thanks to clever little Mouse Deer, the only thing the big, fierce creatures had eaten… was humble pie.