The Golden Advice | Ep. 176

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Sabina Hahn for WBUR
Sabina Hahn for WBUR

Can you remember any advice you’ve received? If so, were you able to follow these words of wisdom?

In this story, we’ll meet a character who receives excellent advice from someone she admires. She just has to figure out how and when to use it!

Our story is called “The Golden Advice.” You’ll find variations of this tale from many places around the world, including India, Italy, Greece, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Jamaica. You’ll also hear versions from the Jewish tradition.

Voices in this episode include Amy Brentano, Nick Sholley, Jeffrey Song, Dawn Ursula, and Kate Siegel. Grown-ups: check out Kate Siegel in Midnight Mass on Netflix, The Time Traveler’s Wife on HBO, and the upcoming Netflix series Fall of the House of Usher.

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

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
What’s one piece of advice you would give yourself… exactly one year from now? Find a piece of paper, and something to write with, and ask a grown-up to help you compose a short letter to your future self!

What would you say if you could contact yourself one year from now?What words of wisdom would you share? Maybe you would tell yourself to enjoy every moment. Perhaps you’d tell yourself to read as many books as you can, to remember to clean your room, or to get along with a sibling.

Write down your one piece of advice – or more, if you’d like – and be sure to write down today’s date. After that, leave your letter with a grown-up, and ask them to set a reminder to give you back the letter exactly one year from now. Your future self may be surprised at what they find!

Musical Spotlight: The Acoustic Guitar

Eric Shimelonis playing the acoustic guitar, a popular musical instrument in the string family. (courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)
Eric Shimelonis playing the acoustic guitar, a popular musical instrument in the string family. (courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)

As with all guitars, you play the acoustic guitar with two hands: one hand plucks the strings, the other “fingers” the frets (i.e. the metal strips on the instrument’s neck). The resulting sound resonates through the guitar’s body, or “sound box,” and is projected acoustically through the air – unlike the electric guitar, which requires electronic amplification.

Experts debate about where and when the first acoustic guitar was made, but we know that the oldest surviving guitar-like instrument — the “tanbur” — dates back to 1500 BCE in Egypt, and consisted of a pear-shaped sound box with a long neck and three strings. Other guitar-like variants developed through the ages. Interestingly, their names eventually converged around the Persian word “tar,” meaning “string”: i.e. “kithara” (Greece), “chartar” (Persia), “sitar” (India), “guitarra” (Spain) “chitarra” (Italy), and, of course, “guitar” (United States, etc.).


NARRATOR: Way out in the countryside… between a winding blue river and a shimmering blue lake… a farmer named Orla lived with her pet parrot, Scout – a talkative, brightly colored bird who, more often than not, could be found comfortably perched on Orla’s shoulder. Orla worked hard growing vegetables and selling them at the market in the nearest town. Yet somehow each year her cottage grew draftier, her clothing grew shabbier, her pantry grew emptier… and Orla grew iller at ease.

ORLA: I can’t take it anymore, Scout. I’ve been working my tail off for years – yet look at this house! Look at my clothing! Look at my pantry! Somehow we barely have enough to keep body and soul together!

SCOUT: (repeating) Body and soul! Body and soul! Barely have enough! (SQUAWK!)

ORLA: I have to do something to improve our situation. Otherwise you and I will never make it through the cold, bleak winter ahead!

SCOUT: Cold, bleak winter! Never make it through! (SQUAWK!)

ORLA: Thanks for the vote of confidence, you kooky bird. (beat) But seriously. What if you and I went out into the countryside and I found more work? We’ll have to go by foot, since we can’t afford a horse, but no matter! Once I get a job and make some money, we won’t have to struggle so much!

SCOUT: Struggle so much! Struggle so much! You kooky bird! You kooky bird! (SQUAWK!)

NARRATOR: So Orla packed her satchel, perched Scout on her shoulder, and set out across the countryside. She spent hours passing through forests, climbing up hills, and crossing over streams. By sunset she had reached a sprawling farm – with a stately gray farmhouse, a bright red barn, and a patchwork of fields extending as far as the eye could see. When Orla knocked at the farmhouse door…

NARRATOR: …it was answered by an old farmer with white hair, a weathered face, and a warm smile.

OLD FARMER: May I help you, Miss?

ORLA: I’m hoping you can, Ma’am! My name is Orla, and this is my parrot, Scout.

SCOUT: You kooky bird! You kooky bird! (SQUAWK!)

ORLA: I’m a fellow farmer, and I’ve come all this way to seek some work. Your farm is so big, I wonder if you could use an extra set of hands?

NARRATOR: The farmer’s eyes lit up.

OLD FARMER: Well, Orla – this must be my lucky day! It just so happens I’ve been looking for someone to help me out! So I tell you what. I’ll hire you for three years, at ten gold pieces a year. If you stick with me the whole time, and your work is satisfactory, you’ll walk away with thirty gold pieces. How does that sound?

ORLA: I say… it sounds great! Thirty gold pieces for three years of work!

SCOUT: Thirty gold pieces! Three years of work! (SQUAWK!)

OLD FARMER: Terrific! You’ll start first thing tomorrow.

NARRATOR: Orla rolled up her sleeves and dug right in, spending her days picking vegetables, milking cows, brushing horses, and collecting eggs. Come evening, she joined the old farmer for dinner inside the stately gray farmhouse. Over plates of crispy roasted chicken and crusty, golden bread, the farmer told Orla the most wonderful stories, full of wit and wisdom, and Orla grew to admire the old woman very much. Time passed quickly, and before Orla and the old farmer knew it, the three years were up.

ORLA: It’s hard to believe, but Scout and I have been here three whole years already! It’s time for us to head back home.

SCOUT: Head back home! Head back home! Three whole years! (SQUAWK!)

OLD FARMER: Goodness! Has it been three years already? How time flies! (beat) But you’ve been a good, honest worker, Orla. And a huge help around the farm. So it’s time for you to claim your payment: thirty gold pieces, ten for each year. (beat) Unless… you’d like to claim a different sort of payment.

ORLA: “A different sort of payment”? What do you mean?

OLD FARMER: Well… rather than giving you three years’ worth of wages, I can give you three pieces… of advice. Three rules to live by that absolutely changed my life – for the better. And they could do the same for you!

NARRATOR: Orla tilted her head and considered this intriguing offer. If she took the thirty gold pieces, she could go home and fix up her cottage, and buy some new clothing and food. But the farmer was so knowledgeable. And her farm was so successful! Surely her three pieces of advice were worth hearing…?

ORLA: Well… alright then! I’ll take the advice!

NARRATOR: The farmer smiled as though Orla had passed some secret test.

OLD FARMER: Wonderful choice, Orla. Now listen carefully, for here’s your first piece of advice. (carefully) Resist the temptation… to take a shortcut.

NARRATOR: Orla took a moment to let the farmer’s words sink in.

ORLA: “Resist the temptation to take a shortcut.” Think you can remember that one, Scout?

SCOUT: Resist temptation! No shortcuts! First piece of advice! (SQUAWK!)

ORLA: Very good, you kooky bird. And what’s the second piece of advice?

OLD FARMER: The second piece of advice is… honesty and wisdom go hand in hand.

SCOUT: Honesty and wisdom! Hand in hand! Second piece of advice! (SQUAWK!)

ORLA: Thank you, Scout. And the third piece of advice, Ma’am…? What might that be?

OLD FARMER: The third piece of advice is… never underestimate the value of kindness.

SCOUT: Value of kindness! Never underestimate! Third piece of advice! (SQUAWK!)

OLD FARMER: That’s right, Scout! Keep those three pieces of advice in mind, Orla, and you’ll never go wrong! (beat) But wait – before you go, I want to give you one more thing.

NARRATOR: The farmer reached into the oven and brought out the biggest loaf of crusty, golden bread that Orla had ever seen!

OLD FARMER: Take this bread with you on your journey, Orla. And when you get back home, break it open, and remember me.

NARRATOR: As Orla took hold of the bread, she felt how dense and heavy it was.

ORLA: Why thank you, Ma’am! When I get home, I promise I’ll break the bread open and remember you.

SCOUT: Break the bread open! Break the bread open! Remember you! (SQUAWK!)

OLD FARMER: Wonderful. Goodbye, Orla – you too, Scout! And good luck!

NARRATOR: What do you think will happen now that Orla’s on her way home? And how might the old farmer’s advice come in handy? We’ll find out, after a quick break.


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

NARRATOR: Before the break, Orla spent three years working on a big, successful farm. She was supposed to receive thirty gold pieces for her work. But instead, she chose to receive three pieces of advice from the old farmer who ran the place.

FARMER: Resist the temptation… to take a shortcut… Honesty and wisdom go hand in hand…. Never underestimate the value of kindness.

NARRATOR: The farmer also gave Orla a heavy loaf of crusty, golden bread. She told Orla to break the bread open when she returned home, and remember her. So… with a big loaf of bread in her satchel, her noisy parrot Scout on her shoulder, and three pieces of advice swirling in her head… Orla set off toward her cottage between the winding blue river and the shimmering blue lake.

ORLA: Well, Scout, off we go! Back to home, sweet home! We’ll start by crossing this meadow and –

NARRATOR: The rest of Orla’s sentence was drowned out by a huge clap of thunder. In an instant, dark clouds rolled in and sheets of rain poured from the sky.

ORLA: Yikes, Scout! Would you look at this storm? Let’s take cover beneath these bushes!

SCOUT: Beneath these bushes! Beneath these bushes! Look at this storm! Look at this storm! (SQUAWK!)

NARRATOR: Orla crouched down and peered up at the heavy black clouds.

ORLA: Ugh! There’s no way we can walk home in this weather, Scout. So let’s just sit tight until the storm has passed.

NARRATOR: They waited… and waited… and finally, after what felt like all day, the rain stopped and the storm clouds disappeared.

ORLA: At last! The sun is out again! But boy oh boy. We’ve lost so much time and we still have miles to go! We’d better hurry!

SCOUT: Better hurry! Better hurry! (SQUAWK!)

NARRATOR: Orla and Scout soon found themselves on a narrow country lane, where they encountered a merchant leading a magnificent black stallion. Hanging from the horse’s saddle were bags loaded with furs, spices, and other fancy goods.

MERCHANT: Good day, miss! And nice parrot!

ORLA: Thank you!

SCOUT: You kooky bird! You kooky bird! (SQUAWK!)

MERCHANT: My stallion and I have been traveling down this road all day, and you’re the first souls we’ve seen in hours! Where might you be off to?

ORLA: We’re heading back home! To our cottage between the winding blue river and the shimmering blue lake?

MERCHANT: I know the place! It just so happens I’m headed in that direction, too! And I know the perfect shortcut to get there. It’ll shave miles off your trip!

NARRATOR: Orla felt a rush of relief. A shortcut would help her regain the time she lost during the storm! But as she followed the merchant away from the lane and onto a rutted cart-track leading to a deep, dark wood, Scout began bobbing his head up and down.

SCOUT: Resist temptation! No shortcut! First piece of advice! (SQUAWK!)

NARRATOR: Orla froze in her tracks. That’s right! The farmer’s first piece of advice! Resist the temptation to take a shortcut! How could she have forgotten it already?

ORLA: Wait! Hang on!

NARRATOR: The merchant stopped and turned around. Orla flashed the woman a sheepish grin.

ORLA: Listen, friend. I appreciate you wanting to show me your shortcut, but I think I'll just take the long way.

NARRATOR: The merchant gave Orla a shrug.

MERCHANT: Suit yourself! And good luck to you, miss!

NARRATOR: Then the merchant continued into the deep, dark wood, and Orla and Scout continued down the narrow country lane.
Come sunset, Orla stopped at an inn, where the innkeeper greeted her with a broad smile.

INNKEEPER: Good evening, miss! Are you here to rent a room?

ORLA: Yes! I am! I have miles to go before I reach my destination and I’m oh so tired!

INNKEEPER: Well it just so happens we have one room left. It’ll only cost you one gold piece.

NARRATOR: Orla felt her heart leap with joy. But then… she felt it fall.

ORLA: Oh no! I just remembered. I don’t have any money!

NARRATOR: The innkeeper narrowed his eyes.

INNKEEPER: No money, you say? Then how do you expect to pay for a room?

ORLA: Well…

NARRATOR: Orla’s mind began to race.

ORLA: What if… we trade?


ORLA: Yes! If you give me a room, then I’ll give you…

NARRATOR: Orla’s mind kept racing. And then, at last…

ORLA: …Bread! I’ll give you bread! I’ve got this crusty, golden loaf I’ve been carrying around all day, and surely it’s worth one gold piece! If not more!

NARRATOR: But just as Orla began rummaging around her satchel for the bread, Scout began bobbing his head up and down.

SCOUT: Honesty and wisdom! Hand in hand! Second piece of advice! (SQUAWK!)

NARRATOR: Orla smacked a palm to her forehead. Of course! The farmer’s second piece of advice! Honesty and wisdom go hand in hand! Orla had promised the farmer she would break the bread when she got home. Going against that promise would be anything but honest.

ORLA: Actually, sir… forget about the bread. I can’t trade it away. But your inn has a restaurant, right? What if, tomorrow morning, I spend a few hours helping you out in the kitchen? Cooking, cleaning, whatever you need?

NARRATOR: The innkeeper thought for a moment. Then he reached into his drawer and pulled out a key.

INNKEEPER: You’ve got yourself a deal, miss! You’re in room twenty-f(our) – (gets interrupted)

NARRATOR: Before the innkeeper could finish his sentence, the door to the inn burst open …and who should come staggering inside but the merchant! The one who had taken the shortcut into the deep, dark wood! Only now, her clothing was tattered, her hair was a mess, and her face was smeared with mud!

NARRATOR: Orla hurried over and helped the merchant settle into a chair.

ORLA: My friend! What’s going on! What happened to you?

MERCHANT: Oh, Miss! It was terrible! After I left you on the road and entered the deep, dark wood, I suddenly heard a deep growl!

ORLA: A growl?

MERCHANT: Yes! I spun around to see what it was, and what should I spy standing there, but a pack of wolves!

ORLA: Wolves?!

MERCHANT: Fierce and ferocious wolves! A dozen, at least! I jumped on my stallion to gallop away, but then I came to this massive fallen log. I tried jumping over it, but my horse stumbled! My spices and furs went flying all over the place, and I was thrown to the ground!

ORLA: Oh no!

MERCHANT: Oh yes! Luckily I landed on the other side of the log. It was too high for the wolves to jump over. So I got back on my stallion and raced away. I had to leave all my goods behind, but I didn’t stop racing until I came to this place! (beat) You were so wise not to take that shortcut!

NARRATOR: Thinking about the farmer’s first piece of advice, Orla felt a wave of relief. But looking at the poor bedraggled merchant, she also felt a wave of pity. If only there was some way she could help the woman! And then… guess who started bobbing his head up and down…?

SCOUT: Value of kindness! Never underestimate! Third piece of advice! (SQUAWK)

NARRATOR: Orla glanced at Scout. That was it! The farmer’s third piece of advice! Never underestimate the value of kindness!
Orla turned to the merchant.

ORLA: I’ll tell you what. I was about to rent a room for me and Scout here, but why don’t you take it? You’ve been through quite the ordeal. And you need to rest! He and I will just sleep in the barn.

NARRATOR: The merchant gave Orla a tired nod.

MERCHANT: Alright, miss. I’ll take you up on your offer – on one condition. That you and Scout share the room with me. It’s only fair.

SCOUT: Share the room! Share the room! Only fair! Only fair! (SQUAWK!)

ORLA: Alright, then. We’ll share the room. But don’t expect to get too much sleep tonight. This one never stops talking!

SCOUT: Never stops talking! Never stops talking! You kooky bird! You kooky bird! (SQUAWK!)

NARRATOR: It was a bit noisy that night, but come morning, Orla bid the merchant farewell, then went to the kitchen to earn her room and board. She cooked up breakfast, she scrubbed and dried the dishes, then she and Scout continued on their way.They crossed over streams, they climbed up hills, they passed through forests, until… at last… they stepped inside their cottage between the winding blue river and the shimmering blue lake.

ORLA: Well, Scout, we’re back! Home, sweet home!

SCOUT: Home sweet home! Home sweet home! (SQUAWK!)

ORLA: Of course, I’m not sure how “sweet” it really is. I mean, the cottage is still drafty and my clothing is still shabby and the pantry is still empty, and I have zero money to do anything about it.

SCOUT: Zero money! Zero money! (SQUAWK)

ORLA: Thanks for rubbing it in. (beat) I just can’t believe I spent three long years away and all I have is the old farmer’s three pieces of advice. Good pieces of advice, mind you, but they haven’t made me any money! Any dough! Any bread! What was I thinking?!?

SCOUT: Break the bread open! Break the bread open! Remember you! Remember you! (SQUAWK!) “Bread”! She had forgotten all about the farmer’s bread!

ORLA: You kooky bird! Thanks for the reminder! I did promise the farmer I’d break her bread open once I got home, and remember her. (beat) I'm so hungry after that long journey! Might as well make good on my promise.

NARRATOR: Orla lifted the crusty, golden loaf from her satchel and broke off a hunk. And the moment she did…?

ORLA: My goodness! A whole bunch of gold pieces just spilled right out of the loaf! I wonder how many there are?

NARRATOR: Orla began counting the gold pieces.

ORLA: Okay. 1… 2… 3.. 4… 5… 6… 25… 26… 27… 28… 29…

NARRATOR: By the time she was done, she realized there was a grand total of…

ORLA: Thirty gold pieces! There were thirty gold pieces baked into this loaf of bread!

NARRATOR: Scout bobbed his feathered head up and down.

SCOUT: Thirty gold pieces! Thirty gold pieces! Three years of work! Three years of work! (SQUAWK!)

NARRATOR: Suddenly, Orla understood everything.

ORLA: The farmer! She paid me my wages, after all! She – (gets interrupted)

NARRATOR: Orla was interrupted by a knock at the door. She jumped up to answer it.

ORLA: Hello? (beat) (gasp) It’s you!

MERCHANT: Indeed, it is!

NARRATOR: Standing before Orla… was the merchant. The same merchant she’d encountered on the lane, and at the inn!

MERCHANT: I was thinking, I’d like to repay you for the kindness you showed me last night, when you let me share your room at the inn. So I’d like to give you… a gift.

NARRATOR: The merchant gestured toward Orla’s fence. Tied around a post was none other than the magnificent black stallion!

ORLA: You’re giving me your horse?

MERCHANT: Well, I couldn’t help but notice that you and Scout have been traveling everywhere by foot! My black stallion will help you get around, help you work your land… and business is so good for me lately, I can easily buy another horse. (beat) So will you please accept my gift? It's the least I can do.

NARRATOR: Orla’s face broke into a grin.

ORLA: Of course I’ll accept your gift! (beat) Thank you!

SCOUT: Accept your gift! Accept your gift! Thank you! (squawk!)

MERCHANT: You’re very welcome, Scout – you too, Orla. I wish you both well.

NARRATOR: From that day forward, Orla’s life began to change – for the better. Her cottage grew cozier, her clothing grew comfier, her pantry grew fuller. But it wasn’t just because she had new wealth, or a new horse.
It was because she had something even more valuable: new wisdom.
The kind that’s worth its weight in gold.

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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