Encore: The Fantastic Fiddle

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("The Fantastic Fiddle" by Sabina Hahn)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

Think about a time someone promised you something.

Maybe a friend promised she would return a toy you let her borrow. Perhaps a grown-up promised to read an extra bedtime story if you finished your dinner.

When somebody makes a promise, you assume they’ll follow through, right? And do what they said they would do? In this favorite episode from the Circle Round archives, a man makes a big promise. And he’s in for some big trouble when he doesn’t follow through!

Our story is called “The Fantastic Fiddle.” Versions of this tale come from the Hispanic community in the American southwest.

Voices in this episode include Feodor Chin, Carolina Hoyos, Delores King Williams, and Adam Irigoyen. Adam starred in the Disney channel show, Shake It Up, and the new Netflix series, Away.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Amory Sivertson. Our original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

Coloring Page

(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

What kind of music makes you get up and dance?

Find a piece of paper and something to draw with, and create a picture of you dancing to your favorite music.

Share your picture with someone you have fun with — a family member, a friend — and if you’d like, share it with us! Grown-ups, you can post all Circle Round-inspired art on Instagram, and tag @circleroundpodcast.

"Circle Round guest artist Eric Buddington has been playing the fiddle for decades." (Courtesy: Eric Buddington)
"Circle Round guest artist Eric Buddington has been playing the fiddle for decades." (Courtesy: Eric Buddington)

Musical spotlight: Fiddle

In essence, a fiddle is a violin: both stringed instruments have the same body, neck, pegbox and scroll. The differences between the two come down to several things, including string choice: violinists often prefer catgut or nylon strings, while fiddlers prefer steel strings. Another difference is music style: the fiddle is often used for folk music (from bluegrass and country to Celtic and cajun) while the violin is typically used for Western classical music and jazz. A third difference is performance methods: classical violinists tend to follow a written composition note for note, while fiddlers are more likely to take what’s on the page and riff on it — or improvise — as guest fiddler Eric Buddington did for this Circle Round story!


NARRATOR: There once was a wealthy rancher who owned the biggest and busiest sheep farm in the entire country.

The prosperous fellow was famous for his fine, woolly sheep, and he hired a young man named Pablo to tend his flock.

PABLO: (calling out to sheep) Paco! Chico! Don’t wander too far, please! And Lola - you leave Esmerelda alone! Can’t you see she’s trying to eat her grass?

NARRATOR: Pablo tended the sheep day and night. So he often went weeks without seeing another human soul - save for the wealthy rancher, who would occasionally check in on Pablo and the fleecy flock… and complain.

RANCHER: Pablo! Why do my sheep look so thin? Are you sure you’re feeding them enough? (beat) And what are you doing reading a book while you’re tending my flock? One of the wayward creatures could run away and you’d never even notice! Pay attention, man!

NARRATOR: The rancher gave Pablo food to eat — half a loaf of bread and a bit of cheese — and a place to sleep — a lumpy mattress on the floor of the bunkhouse.


But the stingy fellow didn’t pay Pablo any wages. He told Pablo he would only get paid after he tended the sheep for a whole decade: exactly ten years.

In the meantime, Pablo dreamed of the day he could leave the ranch and make his way in the world.

One hot, sunny morning, as Pablo was grazing the sheep in a wide pasture of tall grass and clover, he suddenly heard…

WOMAN: (calling out) Excuse me!

NARRATOR: … a voice!

WOMAN: (calling out) Young man? Hello? May I talk with you for a moment?

NARRATOR: Pablo spun around and saw an old woman shuffling his way. She wore a long, red cloak, and her silver hair hung all the way down to her waist.

PABLO: (surprised) Well, hello there, madam! Pardon my surprise, but I hardly ever see other people while I’m tending the sheep! May I ask what you’re doing way out here in the fields?

NARRATOR: The woman smiled.

WOMAN: Well... would you believe it... I was going for a little stroll and somehow I took a wrong turn! I’ve been rambling around for hours and I’m ever so hungry. Might you have a bite of food you could share?

PABLO: Of course!

NARRATOR: Pablo dipped his hand into his knapsack and gave the woman his bread and cheese.

WOMAN: Why, thank you, young man! (beat) (slyly setting up to give him the magic gift) Tell me. How long have you been tending these sheep?

NARRATOR: Pablo did some quick math in his head.

PABLO: Let’s see… it’s been nine years and… (ad-lib doing the math) one-hundred, two-hundred, three-hundred… (finally calculating it)  three-hundred-and-sixty-five days! (beat) (realizing) Why, I’ve been working for the rancher for ten whole years!

WOMAN: (mysterious, knowing) My, my, my! An entire decade, eh? Impressive! (beat) But listen, young man. Since you were kind enough to share your food with me, I’d like to repay your kindness… with this.

NARRATOR: The woman reached into her cloak and pulled out a battered leather case with a long strap. Pablo took the case and opened it.

PABLO: A fiddle...?!?? You’re giving me... a fiddle?!? That’s very generous, madam! Thank you! (beat) But I should tell you… I’ve never played the fiddle before!

NARRATOR: The woman grinned.

WOMAN: (mysterious) Oh, don’t you worry about that! You see, this fiddle isn’t just any old instrument. It’s touched… with magic! You touch the bow to the strings, and the fiddle will do all the work for you! (beat) (shifting gears) Thanks again for the bread and cheese. And congratulations on your ten years of work!

NARRATOR: Then she shuffled away across the pasture. Once she had disappeared over a rolling hill, Pablo took a closer look at his brand new gift.

PABLO: (examining it) My goodness! A magic fiddle! (beat) Well, might as well give it a try!

NARRATOR: He lifted the bow and held it up to the strings. And the moment he did…

[music in]

NARRATOR: … all by itself, the bow began moving back and forth, back and forth… creating marvelous, melodious music!

And as the merry notes sang out across the pasture, something else happened.

Something that would change Pablo’s life… forever.

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: What do you think happened when the fantastic fiddle began to play?

And what will become of Pablo the humble shepherd?

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 “The Fantastic Fiddle.”

[theme music out]

NARRATOR: Before the break, we met a shepherd named Pablo. His boss, a stingy rancher, told Pablo he’d only get his salary after tending the sheep for a decade — ten whole years.

The day Pablo finally completed his ten years of hard work, he met an old woman, who gave Pablo a very special fiddle.

[music in]

NARRATOR: And the moment Pablo lifted the bow to the strings, the instrument began to play! All by itself!

But that’s not all that happened.

The moment the sheep heard the fiddle’s melodious music, every single one of them…

[music continues]

NARRATOR: ...began to dance!

[music continues]

NARRATOR: ...and dance…

[music continues]

NARRATOR: ...and dance!

PABLO: (as music continues and they dance) Wow, Chico! Look at you, cutting a rug! And Consuela! Who knew you had such moves?

NARRATOR: Pablo spent hours playing his fantastic fiddle, and the moment he put down his instrument, and the music came to an end…

[music stops]

NARRATOR: ...the dancing came to an end, too! In the blink of an eye, the sheep plopped down on the grass, and fell asleep.

PABLO: This is amazing! Not only do I have this cool new fiddle, but now that I’ve officially been working for the rancher for ten whole years, I can finally collect my wages and make my way in the world!

NARRATOR: Just then, who should come galloping over on his horse…

RANCHER: Pablo!?!?

NARRATOR: ...but Pablo’s boss! The rancher!

RANCHER: (confused, angry) Pablo, what is going on here? It’s lunch time! My sheep should be gobbling up grass! Not sleeping on it! Why aren’t they awake?

NARRATOR: Pablo was afraid to tell the rancher about his magic fiddle. Given how crabby and ill-natured the man was, Pablo was worried he would take the instrument away!

PABLO: (not wanting to tell about the fiddle, but not wanting to lie) I’m sorry, sir. It’s just that, um, well, it’s pretty hot today, don’t you think? And I thought perhaps your sheep could, you know, use a little rest, since they — (gets interrupted)

RANCHER: “Use a little rest”...!???!? You thought my sheep “could use a little rest”...?!?? Look, Pablo. I’m running a business here, not a health spa! If you were worth your salt as a shepherd, you would know that. (beat) But, clearly, you’re not up to the task. Return to the bunkhouse right now and pack up your things. (beat) You’re fired.

NARRATOR: Pablo felt his heart drop… but then he felt it flutter. After all, hadn’t he been dreaming of the day he could finally leave the ranch and strike out on his own?

PABLO: I’m sorry to disappoint you, sir. And I’ll get going as soon as possible. (beat) But first… may I please have my wages? The ones you’ve been saving for me? Today marks exactly ten years since I started working for you. And, like you promised, if I tended your sheep for an entire decade, you’d pay me all the money you — (gets interrupted)

RANCHER: (playing dumb) Your wages...? You want me to give you your wages…?

NARRATOR: The rancher shrugged his shoulders.

RANCHER: (faux-innocent) I’m sorry, Pablo. I have no idea what you’re talking about! I never promised you any wages! (beat) (threatening) But I do promise you this. If you don’t pack up your things and get out of here right now, I will call the sheriff and tell him there’s an intruder on my property!

NARRATOR: Pablo didn’t know what to do… but what choice did he have? He rushed back to the bunkhouse, then hurried away from the ranch with his knapsack... his fiddle… and no clue what he would do next.

PABLO: Oh boy. This is not what I expected. Sure, I don’t have to work for the rancher anymore, but I’m broke! Penniless! Ten years of hard work, and what do I have to show for it? Nothing!

NARRATOR: With a heavy heart, Pablo trudged into town and wandered around until he spotted a sign hanging outside a restaurant:

PABLO: (reading) “Busboy Wanted. Inquire Within.”

NARRATOR: Pablo didn’t waste a minute. He hurried inside… inquired about the job… and got himself hired!

The restaurant was a bustling place, and day after day, Pablo was on his feet for hours, clearing and setting tables and refilling water glasses. After some time, he earned enough money to rent a small apartment in a nearby building, and each night he would stumble home, collapse on his bed, and fall asleep immediately.


His fantastic fiddle, meanwhile, sat in the corner, collecting dust. Pablo was simply too busy, and too exhausted, to play it!

But then… one evening… as Pablo was straightening tablecloths and laying out silverware... he heard a familiar voice coming from the corner of the restaurant.

RANCHER: Ugh! This stew — it’s so bland! Has the chef ever heard of salt? And the rice! Blech! It’s practically raw! I nearly chipped my tooth just now!

NARRATOR: Pablo ducked behind the bar and peered over the top. Sure enough, sitting at the head of a big, long table… was the rancher! The one who always complained… and who had fired Pablo after a decade of hard work! Without paying him a cent!

The wheels in Pablo’s brain turned, and suddenly he got an idea. Creeping out of the restaurant, he went back to his apartment, knelt down in the corner, and dusted off the battered leather case with the long strap.

Then he slung the strap over his shoulder, tiptoed back into the restaurant, and huddled behind the bar. And as he listened to his former boss complain and complain and complain, do you know what he did?

You guessed it!

He opened the battered leather case, took out the fiddle, and brought the bow to the strings.

[music in]

NARRATOR: As the fiddle’s melodious music drifted across the restaurant, one by one the diners put down their forks, pushed back their chairs, and began… to dance!

Among those diners-turned-dancers was, yes, the rancher! The usually cranky and crabby man had a big smile on his face as he dipped and swayed and shimmied.

RANCHER: (as he dances) Isn’t this music marvelous? Just marvelous?

NARRATOR: But then…

[music gets faster]

NARRATOR: ...Pablo began moving the bow faster… and as the music sped up, so did the dancers! Including the rancher!

RANCHER: (as he has no choice but to dance faster) My! This is quite the spritely beat!

NARRATOR: Pablo kept playing faster…

RANCHER: (as he has no choice but to dance faster) Whew!

NARRATOR: ...and faster…

RANCHER: (as he has no choice but to dance faster) I think my toes are going numb!

NARRATOR: ...and faster!

RANCHER: (as he has no choice but to dance faster) Maybe I should sit down and take a rest!

NARRATOR: But to the rancher’s surprise, he couldn’t “sit down and take a rest.” Nobody could! As long as the music kept playing, their bodies kept dancing!

RANCHER: What’s going on here? Has someone cast a wicked spell?

NARRATOR: Just then, Pablo leaped out from behind the bar.

PABLO: (as the fiddle keeps playing) Oh, you want to talk about “wicked”, do you?!? It was “wicked” of you to withhold my wages! After I tended your sheep for an entire decade! (beat) As long as I’m playing this fiddle, everyone in this restaurant will keep dancing. And I won’t stop until you pay me the money I deserve!

NARRATOR: The rancher’s feet kept boogieing as he looked helplessly at his former employee.

RANCHER: (still dancing) Fine! I’ll pay you your wages, Pablo! Just stop playing that fiddle! Please!

NARRATOR: Satisfied with the rancher’s answer, Pablo pulled the bow away from the fiddle’s strings. And all at once…

[music stops]

NARRATOR: ...the music stopped.

Immediately, everyone in the restaurant collapsed on the floor, their pulses racing and their skin bathed in sweat. The owner of the restaurant came rushing out the kitchen to see if everyone was okay. The rancher pointed a trembling finger at Pablo.

RANCHER: Well, I, for one, am not okay! (beat) Did you see what this young man did just now? He bewitched us all! (beat) That fiddle of his is dangerous! I say we call the sheriff and have him arrested. He’s a musical menace to society!

NARRATOR: Well, the rancher was a powerful man, so the restaurant owner did as he was told. Before Pablo could say a word, the sheriff was leading him to the jailhouse, and Pablo’s trial was set for the following day.

The next morning, the courtroom was packed with spectators, all of them eager to see the young man and his bewitching fiddle.

After the judge heard testimony from both sides, she folded her hands on the bench and locked eyes with Pablo.

JUDGE: Alright. So let me get this straight, Pablo. You say the rancher owes you wages for ten years’ worth of work tending his sheep?

NARRATOR: Pablo nodded his head.

PABLO: I do, Your Honor!

JUDGE: Well, can you prove it? Do you have a contract...? Something that shows this agreement written out on paper...?

NARRATOR: Now Pablo hung his head.

PABLO: (hanging his head) I don’t, Your Honor.

JUDGE: I see...

NARRATOR: The judge turned to the rancher.

JUDGE: And you… You say Pablo tried “bewitching” you at the restaurant last night...?

NARRATOR: The rancher threw back his shoulders.

RANCHER: (indignant) I do, Your Honor!

JUDGE: Well, can you prove it? Can you prove that Pablo’s fiddle has magical powers that make everyone get up and dance the moment they hear it play?

NARRATOR: Now the rancher hunched his shoulders.

RANCHER: (aw shucks) I can’t, Your Honor. (beat) (trying to save face) But I tell you! It’s true! That fiddle! It’s mesmerizing…! It’s spellbinding…! It’s — (gets interrupted)

[SOT: fiddle music] 

NARRATOR: Suddenly, the rancher fell silent. But even though his mouth stopped moving, every other part of his body…

RANCHER: (as his body starts involuntarily dancing) Oh no….!

NARRATOR: ...started moving!

Because while the rancher was talking to the judge, Pablo had snuck out the battered leather case with the long strap and started playing his fantastic fiddle.

And now the rancher was dancing harder and faster than ever… as was everybody else in the courtroom!

They jumped, they hopped, they swiveled, they swung. Faster and faster and faster.

Before long, everyone was begging Pablo to stop playing. But he didn’t stop. Instead, he called out to the judge — whose long black robe was swishing all around as she spun over and over on one foot.

PABLO: (calling out as music plays) Your Honor! I will do as everyone asks and stop my playing… as soon as the rancher tells everyone the truth! That he owes me ten years’ worth of wages for tending his sheep!

NARRATOR: The rancher was growing dizzy from all the twirling and whirling. He was certain his racing heart was about to leap out of his chest.

So, what else could he do…

RANCHER: (still dancing) (giving in) Fine!!!

NARRATOR: ...but tell everyone the truth?

RANCHER: (still dancing) This young man is correct! I promised him I’d pay his wages, and then I didn’t follow through. (beat) But I swear, I’ll pay him double — No! Triple! — if he’ll just put down that fiddle!

NARRATOR: And just like that…

[music stops]

NARRATOR: … Pablo put down his fiddle.

Everyone stumbled to the ground, their chests heaving up and down as they tried to catch their breath.

Once the judge got her wind back, she pulled herself up to the bench and ordered the rancher to pay Pablo his wages… in triple.

Now that Pablo had his hard-earned money — and then some — he packed up his fiddle and, at last, went out to make his way in the world… so happy and content he was practically dancing on air.

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



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