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The Tale of Koala's Tail | Ep. 17526:52
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What’s one thing you’re proud of?

Maybe you’ve been practicing your gymnastics and can do a mean cartwheel. Perhaps you can play your favorite song on the piano. Maybe you’re proud of how independent you are, or how kind.

Being proud of ourselves can feel really good. But we’re about to meet a character who’s so proud, she winds up losing her pride and joy!

Our story is called “The Tale of Koala’s Tail.” Versions of this folktale originally come from the Aboriginal peoples of Australia.

Voices in this episode include Amy Brentano, Ryan Dalusung, Jeffrey Song, Dawn Ursula, and Kaniehtiio Horn.

You grown-ups may recognize Kaniehtiio Horn from Letterkenny and its spin-off series Shoresy on Hulu, as well as Rutherford Falls on Peacock. She also stars in Reservation Dogs, now in its second season on FX/Hulu.

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.


Coloring Page

Sabina Hah
Sabina Hah

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 the last time you were part of a team. Maybe it was a sports team, maybe it was a group project at school, maybe it was family pizza or taco night – and each of you helped out making dinner.

Find some paper, and use a pen, pencil, crayon, or marker to divide your paper in half. On one side, draw a picture of you and your team working together. On the other side, draw a picture of what you achieved or accomplished together.
Once you’re done, share your drawing with someone you like to have fun with – and, if you’d like, share it with us! Grown-ups: our email address is circleround@wbur.org. You can also post all Circle Round artwork on Instagram, and tag @circleroundpodcast.


Musical Spotlight: The Flute

Eric Shimelonis playing the flute, a woodwind instrument divided into three sections, or “joints”: the head joint, middle joint and foot joint. (courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)
Eric Shimelonis playing the flute, a woodwind instrument divided into three sections, or “joints”: the head joint, middle joint and foot joint. (courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)

The flute is a member of the woodwind group. But unlike its siblings in the orchestra – such as the clarinet, oboe, and bassoon – the flute is not played vertically with a reed. Instead, the flute player (a.k.a. flutist or flautist) produces sound by holding the flute horizontally and blowing air across a mouthpiece. Flutes are usually made from metals like nickel or silver, but you’ll also find flutes made from wood. Composer Eric Shimelonis chose the flute for this episode because of the way its light, bright, playful sound supports the light, bright, playful story!


Script

NARRATOR: In another time… long, long ago… there lived a koala.

You may have heard koalas referred to as “koala bears.” But guess what? They’re not bears! They’re actually marsupials, like kangaroos! The females have a pouch on their bellies, where they carry their babies, or joeys, after they’re born.
But in this other time… long, long ago… Koala didn’t just have a special pouch. She had a special tail: a long, glossy, bushy tail which she was always bragging about to the other animals.

KOALA: Hey there, Wombat! (sarcastic) Nice tail! It’s just a stump compared to my swishing, swooshing beauty!

WOMBAT: (sarcastic, tired of this taunting) So you told me yesterday, Koala. And the day before. And the day before…

KOALA: And Emu! Look at your tail! The feathers on your tail are all stiff and spiky, while the fur on my tail is soft as silk!

EMU: (sarcastic, tired of this taunting) Thanks for the reminder, Koala. You told me the exact same thing this morning, and I nearly forgot!

KOALA: Oh, and Echidna! I’m afraid to even mention your tail, it’s so short, stubby, and hairless! Unlike mine, of course. So long, glossy, and –

ECHIDNA: (interrupting, sarcastic, tired of this taunting) Let me guess! …and bushy???

KOALA: (bright, clueless) Why, yes! How did you know I was going to say that? Have I mentioned it before?

ECHIDNA: (eye roll, big groan) Uuuggggghhhhh!

NARRATOR: Now, for the record, Koala was not the only animal with a spectacular tail.
Tree Kangaroo had a pretty remarkable tail of her own.
Tree Kangaroos, by the way, are like land kangaroos – only much smaller, and, yes, they live in trees. To help them balance up in the branches, they have these incredible tails – strong and powerful, furry to the touch, and longer than their heads and bodies combined!

But unlike Koala, Tree Kangaroo never bragged or boasted about her tail. She was a wise, modest creature to whom the other animals turned when they had a problem.
And one summer, the animals found themselves with a very big problem.

WOMBAT: Oy! Can you believe this heat?

EMU: Tell me about it, Wombat! (as if turning to Echidna) Can you remember the last time it rained, Echidna?

ECHIDNA: I can’t, Emu! And now all the rivers and streams are drying up!

WOMBAT: Not to mention how the trees are wilting… the plants are wilting…

KOALA: Even my tail is wilting!

WOMBAT: Okay, Koala – can you for once not make this about you and your tail?

KOALA: (meek) Sorry.

WOMBAT: The point is, folks, we are in trouble! We’re either going to die of starvation or thirst! Whichever comes first! (beat) I say we go and talk with Tree Kangaroo, and see if she has any ideas.

KOALA: Tree Kangaroo?!? You mean, the one animal whose tail even remotely rivals mine?! I mean...in my opinion...my tail is still wayyyy better, but –(gets interrupted)

WOMBAT: (interrupting) For the last time, Koala! Can you for once not make this about you and your tail?

KOALA: (meeker) Sorry.

WOMBAT: I say we talk with Tree Kangaroo because she’s wise! She might know how we can survive this drought!

NARRATOR: So the animals went and found Tree Kangaroo, and asked for her guidance.

TREE KANGAROO: Listen, friends. I do have one idea for how we can survive this drought that has fallen upon our land. But first, let me tell you a story.

KOALA: Don’t you mean, tell us a “tale”?!? (beat) (actor can feel free to ad-lib here) Get it? “Tail”? Like “tale”? A story? Only it’s a tail? Like the fabulous appendage I have hanging off my backside…???

WOMBAT: Koala! I beg you! Can you please – for once – not make this about you and your – (gets interrupted)

KOALA: (finishing his sentence) …about me and my tail? Sorry. I just can’t help myself sometimes. (beat) (trying to get serious) You were saying, Tree Kangaroo…?

TREE KANGAROO: I was saying I would tell you a story. One that might help us with our problem. (beat) You see, back when I was a teeny-tiny joey, I remember a terrible drought just like this one. I was still in my mother’s pouch at the time, and Mama was so dehydrated, she couldn’t even give me milk! So she came down from the trees and ventured across the scorched and dusty land, searching for a drop of water, a trickle – anything to help her baby survive!

EMU: And did she find it?

TREE KANGAROO: Well, Emu… Yes – and no.

ECHIDNA: What do you mean?

TREE KANGAROO: I mean, Echidna, that she did find water. But not at first. (beat) With me in her pouch, she made her way to a big, dried-up river bed. She stepped into that cracked and dusty bed, and leaning on her strong tail to help her balance – (gets interrupted)

KOALA: Oh! So Tree Kangaroo is allowed to talk about tails, and I’m not?

WOMBAT: (fed-up, warning) Koala…

KOALA: (meek) Sorry. (beat) Carry on, Tree Kangaroo.

TREE KANGAROO: (continuing) Leaning on her tail to help her balance, she used her powerful front paws… to dig. (beat) She dug, and she dug. Until, at last… an itty-bitty trickle of water gurgled up from deep in the ground! And formed a little puddle! Mama kept digging, and the puddle got bigger and bigger, and then she took a nice big drink. Enough to quench both of our thirsts.

NARRATOR: Once Tree Kangaroo finished her story, the other animals’ eyes lit up.

WOMBAT: That story was amazing, Tree Kangaroo!

EMU: Yes! I didn't know there was water underground!

ECHIDNA: Me neither!

WOMBAT: So in order to find water for us to drink…

EMU: …we just have to go digging!

ECHIDNA: In the dried-up riverbed!

KOALA: Yeah! You guys totally do!

WOMBAT:  Wait wait wait wait wait! You do realize you’re going to be digging with us too. Don’t you, Koala?

KOALA: Um, what?

NARRATOR: So here’s where we should mention something else about Koala. As much as she loved her tail… she did not love hard work. So she wasn’t exactly jazzed at the thought of digging in a dry riverbed beneath the blazing sun.

WOMBAT: You have to dig with us, Koala! It’s been so dry for so long that the water’s probably trapped wayyyy beneath the ground! So all the animals need to dig together, so our hole will be deep enough!

NARRATOR: Koala rolled her eyes.

KOALA: Fine. I’ll dig with you. But I say once we get to the riverbed, we take turns! One animal digs while the others rest. We don't want to work our tails off, after all!

WOMBAT: (warning) Koala…

KOALA: What? It’s a figure of speech!

TREE KANGAROO: Well, I say Koala proposes a fine idea!

KOALA: Thank you, Tree Kangaroo!

TREE KANGAROO: We mustn’t tire ourselves out, so we’ll work in shifts. (beat) Now listen – the nearest riverbed is quite a journey from here. There are plenty of dried-up waterholes and streams along the way, but it’s the river that will guarantee us the most water. But it’s getting hotter by the second, friends, and we don’t have a minute to lose. So let’s go!

NARRATOR: What do you think: will the animals find the water they need to survive?
We’ll hear what happens next, after a quick break.

NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to Circle Round. Today our story is called “The Tale of Koala’s Tail.”

NARRATOR: Before the break, the animals were in dire need of water. Wise Tree Kangaroo suggested they go and find a dry riverbed, then dig a hole together to release any water trapped deep beneath the ground.
So with Tree Kangaroo leading the way, Wombat, Emu, Echidna, and Koala set out on their journey. They traveled all day, kicking up great clouds of dust as they walked. They climbed up steep hills…

KOALA: Are we there yet, Tree Kangaroo?

TREE KANGAROO: No, Koala. We’re not there yet!

NARRATOR: They scrambled across jagged rocks.

KOALA: Are we there yet, Tree Kangaroo?

TREE KANGAROO: No, Koala! We’re not there yet!

NARRATOR: They trudged through tangled bushes.

KOALA: Are we there yet, Tree Kangaroo?

WOMBAT: (cutting in) Oh for crying out loud, Koala! You heard what Tree Kangaroo said! We’re not there (yet) – (gets interrupted, but actor should say entire line)

TREE KANGAROO: (interrupting) Actually… we are!

NARRATOR: As the animals emerged from the bushes, Tree Kangaroo gestured toward the ground. There, at their dust-covered feet, was a long, wide, winding ribbon of brown dirt, where the river once flowed.

TREE KANGAROO: This, my friends, is the dried-up riverbed! (beat) I’ll gladly start digging first, unless someone else wants to get things going?

WOMBAT: Oh! I’ll get things going, Tree Kangaroo! My front paws are super strong!

EMU: No, let me do it! These long, sturdy legs of mine can dig like nobody’s business!

ECHIDNA: And my legs may be short, but they’re stout! They do a great job scratching and digging in the dirt!

WOMBAT: / EMU: / ECHIDNA: (extended ad-lib about why each one of them should go first)

NARRATOR: As Wombat, Emu, and Echidna clamored to be the first digger, Tree Kangaroo rested her eyes on Koala.

TREE KANGAROO: Hang on, everybody. [SOT: voices stop] Koala! You’re awfully quiet! No interest in being our first digger of the day…?

NARRATOR: Koala gave her furry shoulders a shrug.

KOALA: Who, me? Nawww. That long journey wore me out! I need to rest for a while. Save my strength so I can give it all I’ve got when it’s my turn!

TREE KANGAROO: Alright, then.

NARRATOR: Tree Kangaroo turned to Wombat.

TREE KANGAROO: Wombat. I heard you volunteer first, so you will dig first.

WOMBAT: Gladly, Tree Kangaroo!

TREE KANGAROO: Emu, you’ll go next.

EMU: Thanks, Tree Kangaroo!

TREE KANGAROO: Echidna, you’ll go after Emu.

ECHIDNA: You’ve got it, Tree Kangaroo!

TREE KANGAROO: I’ll go after Echidna, and Koala, you’ll go after me! (beat) I said, Koala, you’ll go after me!

NARRATOR: But Koala didn’t answer. She was already curled up beneath a bush… sleeping with her long, glossy, bushy tail wrapped around her.

KOALA: (ad-lib exaggerated sleeping sounds)

NARRATOR: As Koala napped, the other animals got to work. Wombat dug until his paws were sore.

WOMBAT: (ad-lib hard digging sounds, then dramatic stop)

NARRATOR: Then Emu took over… until her legs gave out.

EMU: (ad-lib hard digging sounds, then dramatic stop)

NARRATOR: Echidna went next… until he couldn’t even feel his legs!

ECHIDNA: (ad-lib hard digging sounds, then dramatic stop)

NARRATOR: After that, Tree Kangaroo took her turn, balancing with her big, bushy tail until she nearly toppled over from exhaustion.

TREE KANGAROO: (ad-lib hard digging sounds, then dramatic stop)

NARRATOR: At last, it was Koala’s turn. But wouldn’t you know it, the fuzzy marsupial was still curled up on the ground, snoozing away!

KOALA: (ad-lib exaggerated sleeping sounds to cover the following)

TREE KANGAROO: (tired) (calling to her) Koala… (louder) Koala… (loudest) KOALA!!!

KOALA: (waking up suddenly) What? Huh? Did someone call my name?

TREE KANGAROO: I did, Koala! It’s your turn to dig in the riverbed so we can find some water!

KOALA: Ohhh! Riiiight! (beat) Ummm… about that…

NARRATOR: Koala searched her mind for an excuse to get out of work.

KOALA: Ya know… I was thinking I’d go look… for some food! Yeah! Food! Everyone’s working so hard and surely you’re all famished, right? So I’ll just, uh, scamper off and collect some leaves or something!

NARRATOR: Before the other animals could respond, Koala scampered off, her long, glossy, bushy tail swishing behind her.

TREE KANGAROO: Well, friends. I have to admit: a snack does sound pretty good right now. What do you say we resume our shifts, and Koala will hop in when she gets back? (beat) Wombat? You’re up!

NARRATOR: So, again, the animals took turns digging in the dried-up riverbed. First Wombat…

WOMBAT: (ad-lib hard digging sounds, then dramatic stop)

NARRATOR: Then Emu…

EMU: (ad-lib hard digging sounds, then dramatic stop)
NARRATOR: Then Echidna…

ECHIDNA: (ad-lib hard digging sounds, then dramatic stop)

NARRATOR: Then Tree Kangaroo.

TREE KANGAROO: (ad-lib hard digging sounds, then dramatic stop)

NARRATOR: But when it was Koala’s turn to take over… she was nowhere to be seen!

TREE KANGAROO: (tired) (calling out for her) Koala… (louder) Koala… (loudest) KOALA!!!

NARRATOR: There was a rustling in the bushes, then Koala sprang forward.

KOALA: Oh, hi Tree Kangaroo! You called?

TREE KANGAROO: Yes! I did! It’s your turn to dig again, Koala! (beat) And didn’t you say you were going off to fetch us some food?!?

KOALA: Ohhh! Riiiight! (beat) Ummm… about that…

NARRATOR: The truth is, Koala had not gone off to fetch them some food. Instead, she’d found a nice stand of eucalyptus trees and conked out in their
shade. But she wasn’t about to tell Tree Kangaroo that!

KOALA: Ya know… somehow, I just couldn’t find any food! The plants and trees are so withered and wilted! But, um, I’m happy to give it another go!

NARRATOR: Then, quick as a wink, Koala scampered off again, her long, glossy, bushy tail swooshing behind her.
As the sun rose higher, and beat down hotter, the other four animals resumed their shifts. First Wombat…

WOMBAT: (ad-lib hard digging sounds, then dramatic stop)

NARRATOR: Then Emu…

EMU: (ad-lib hard digging sounds, then dramatic stop)

NARRATOR: Then Echidna…

ECHIDNA: (ad-lib hard digging sounds, then dramatic stop)

NARRATOR: Then Tree Kangaroo.

TREE KANGAROO: (ad-lib hard digging sounds, then dramatic stop)

NARRATOR: But when it was Koala’s turn to take over… guess what?
That’s right! She was nowhere to be seen!

TREE KANGAROO: (tired) (calling out for her) Koala… (louder) Koala… (loudest) KOALA!!!

NARRATOR: This time, there was another rustling in the bushes, and Koala limped forward.

KOALA: (sounding miserable) Hi, Tree Kangaroo. You called?

TREE KANGAROO: Yes! I did! It’s your turn to dig again, Koala! (beat) And let me guess: you didn’t find any food…? Again…?

KOALA: No. I didn’t find any food. But I did find an awfully big log blocking my path. And when I tried climbing over it, I slipped! I tried to catch myself, but I landed so hard on my paws that they’re positively throbbing! There’s no way I can take my turn digging!

NARRATOR: Tree Kangaroo let out a sigh.

TREE KANGAROO: (sigh) Alright, fine. You can skip your turn. Again. But when it comes time for your next shift, we need you to do your part!

KOALA: Of course, Tree Kangaroo! For now, I think I’ll just lie down.

NARRATOR: And once more, Koala curled up beneath a bush…wrapped her long, glossy, bushy tail around her body… then fell asleep.

KOALA: (ad-lib exaggerated sleeping sounds)

NARRATOR: So the other animals resumed their turn-taking. But every time Koala’s shift rolled around…

TREE KANGAROO: (tired) (calling out for her) Koala… (louder) Koala… (loudest) KOALA!!!

NARRATOR: …she always found an excuse for why she couldn’t help dig!

TREE KANGAROO: Koala!

KOALA: Ummm… there’s a thorn in my foot!

TREE KANGAROO: Koala!

KOALA: A mosquito bit my nose!

TREE KANGAROO: Koala!

KOALA: I’m having a dizzy spell!

NARRATOR: As a result, the other animals wound up doing all the work.

WOMBAT: (ad-lib hard digging sounds – less lengthy than before – then really dramatic stop)

EMU: (ad-lib hard digging sounds – less lengthy than before – then really dramatic stop)

ECHIDNA: (ad-lib hard digging sounds – less lengthy than before – then really dramatic stop)

TREE KANGAROO: (ad-lib hard digging sounds – less lengthy than before – then really dramatic stop)

NARRATOR: Hours passed in the sweltering heat. Then finally… as Wombat was finishing his sixth – or was it seventh??? – shift…

WOMBAT: (ad-lib hard digging sounds)

NARRATOR: …he let out a whoop of joy!

WOMBAT: (ad-lib whoop ofith joy, such as: ) Woohooo! Water! I’ve struck water!

NARRATOR: Indeed, the dirt Wombat was digging had grown very, very moist. And just like that, a tiny trickle of water had spurted out! Wombat, Emu, Echidna, and Tree Kangaroo were overjoyed.

WOMBAT: / EMU: / ECHIDNA: / TREE KANGAROO: (ad-lib cheering)

NARRATOR: All the cheering suddenly roused Koala from her nap.

KOALA: Water?!? Did someone say water?!? I must have some!

NARRATOR: Without missing a beat, Koala leapt into the riverbed. She scurried down to the bottom of the hole the other animals had dug. Then she began…

KOALA: (ad-lib slurping)

NARRATOR: …to drink!

KOALA: (ad-lib drinking)

NARRATOR: …and slurp…

KOALA: (ad-lib slurping)

NARRATOR: …and gulp…

KOALA: (ad-lib gulping)

NARRATOR: …until the other animals began to cry out.

WOMBAT: Stop, Koala! Stop!

EMU: You’re drinking all the water!

ECHIDNA: Save some for us!

TREE KANGAROO: We’re all so thirsty, it’s only right to share!

NARRATOR: But Koala paid them no heed. She kept drinking, slurping, and gulping the water the others had worked so hard to find.
It was then that Wombat got an idea. He raced down to Koala, took hold of her long, glossy, bushy tail, and began to pull.
Then Emu grabbed onto Wombat with her wings and began to pull him!
Echidna seized one of Emu’s legs and began to pull her!
Then Tree Kangaroo grasped hold of Echidna and began to pull him!
The animals pulled and pulled and pulled… until they heard a loud POPPING sound…

NARRATOR: …and they all went flying backwards! First Tree Kangaroo…

TREE KANGAROO: (ad-lib flying backwards)

NARRATOR: Then Echidna…

ECHIDNA: (ad-lib flying backwards)

NARRATOR: Then Emu…

EMU: (ad-lib flying backwards)

NARRATOR: Then Wombat!

WOMBAT: (ad-lib flying backwards)

NARRATOR: And clutched tight in Wombat’s furry little paws was none other than…

KOALA: My tail!!!!!!!!

NARRATOR: Indeed! After being pulled and tugged so hard, Koala’s long, glossy, bushy tail had popped right off!

KOALA: (ad-lib disappointed “Ohhhhhhh!”-type reaction)

NARRATOR: And to this day, koalas don’t have any tail at all.
They also rarely drink any water. They’ll munch on eucalyptus leaves, they’ll lick raindrops dribbling down a tree trunk during a storm… but you won’t see them slurping and gulping at a river, stream, or waterhole.
Perhaps it’s because they somehow remember that fateful day in another time long, long ago… when their ancestor’s laziness and tall tales… caused her to lose her tail.

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

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