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The Most Fabulous Fur of All | Ep. 186

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

Have you ever felt jealous?

Maybe you looked around and thought, “Oh! If only I could have that kid’s cool shoes!” Or “I wish I could do math problems as fast as my friend does!”

It’s natural to feel jealous sometimes. But we’re about to meet a character who feels so jealous, she cooks up a hare-brained scheme to get what she wants!

Our story is called “The Most Fabulous Fur of All.” It was inspired by tales told among the Cherokee: indigenous peoples from the southeastern United States.

Voices in this episode include Ryan Dalusung, Jefferson A. Russell, Alexia Trainor, Astrid WS, and Q'orianka Kilcher, an indigenous actress of Quechua-Huachipaeri descent whom you grown-ups might know from Yellowstone, and you kids might recognize from Dora and the Lost City of Gold. Q’orianka co-wrote, produced, and stars in the feature film Yesteryear, coming out in 2023.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Nora Saks. 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

As Rabbit learned (the hard way!), it can be tough to tell the truth. Can you think of a time when you told the truth, even if it was hard to do?

Find someone you have fun with – a friend or family member – and tell them your story. Then ask them to tell you about a time they told the truth, even when it was difficult, or scary.

Honesty isn’t always easy, but it can make you a braver person… and make the world a better place!


Musical Spotlight: the Tenor Banjo

Eric Shimelonis plays the tenor banjo: a four-stringed instrument with a thin membrane stretched over a frame. The circular membrane is typically made of plastic or animal skin. (Courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)
Eric Shimelonis plays the tenor banjo: a four-stringed instrument with a thin membrane stretched over a frame. The circular membrane is typically made of plastic or animal skin. (Courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)

Many people believe the banjo originated in the United States, but enslaved West Africans brought the ancestors of the banjo to America in the 1600s: spike-lute instruments such as the ngoni and the akonting.

By the mid-1800s, Black people in the South were playing a more modern banjo in the first modern string bands and bluegrass bands. Today, the banjo is so popular you can find the National Four-String Banjo Hall of Fame at the American Banjo Museum in Oklahoma.

Eric Shimelonis chose the banjo to score this episode because – just like our wily protagonist, Rabbit – the instrument has a whimsical, playful character. You can hear the banjo in two other Circle Round stories featuring tricky rabbits: “Share and Share Alike” and “Sweet Corn and Clever Rabbit.


Script:

NARRATOR: In times long past, when the world was new, the Great Spirit created the birds and the animals.

The Great Spirit gave all the birds different feathers, and all the animals different fur.

But it wasn’t long before the animals began to bicker about which one of them had the best fur of all! Among those quarreling critters was Bear…

BEAR: My fur is so glossy, so shiny, you can practically see your reflection in it!

NARRATOR: …and Mink...

MINK: Well, my fur is softer than snow! Or a cloud! Or a snow cloud!

NARRATOR: …and Skunk...

SKUNK: What’s black and white and gorgeous all over? Me, that’s what!

NARRATOR: …and Rabbit.

RABBIT: My body is velvety! My ears are satiny! And look at my tail! It’s as fluffy as a cloud! Long as a summer’s day, too!

NARRATOR: Indeed. Unlike the rabbits you see nowadays – with those little puffballs on their backside – back when the world was new, Rabbit’s tail was long and fleecy.

RABBIT: It’s obvious, folks! The one with the most fabulous fur, the most pleasing pelt, the most comely coat, is undoubtedly, indubitably, unmistakably… me!

NARRATOR: The animals kept quibbling and squabbling… until one day, Bear made an announcement.

BEAR: Listen up, folks! I’ve just heard that the Great Spirit has created a whole new animal! And word has it that his coat is more majestic than anything we’ve ever seen!

MINK: What’s this new animal's name, Bear?

BEAR: His name… is Otter!

SKUNK: And where does he live?

BEAR: He lives way on top of the tallest mountain!

NARRATOR: Okay, I know what you may be thinking. Otters don’t live way up on mountaintops! They live in streams and rivers, lakes and ponds, seas and oceans!
And it’s true: these days, otters dwell in the water. But back when our story takes place, Otter made his home on land, high atop a mountain. And rumor had it that his coat was fabulous.

BEAR: From what I’ve heard, folks – Otter’s coat is the thickest… and the softest!

MINK: The thickest?!?

SKUNK: And the softest?!?

NARRATOR: Mink and Skunk were instantly impressed. Rabbit was instantly envious – though she tried not to show it.

RABBIT: Okay, so yeah – Otter’s coat sounds unbelievable! So ‘unbelievable’ that I won’t believe it until I see it for myself! I say we bring Otter down from the top of the mountain… and we hold a contest! Yeah! A contest! A grand competition to see who has the most fabulous fur, so we can settle this matter once and for all!

NARRATOR: The other animals pondered Rabbit’s proposal. And then…

BEAR: A contest is a fine idea, Rabbit!

MINK: Yes! The birds can be judges!

SKUNK: After all, they have feathers not fur!

RABBIT: Terrific! That settles it then. We’ll hold a contest! In the clearing in the middle of the forest! I will personally go to the top of the mountain to fetch Otter. With these swift, nimble legs of mine, I can make it up there in a matter of days. I’ll be back by the end of the week!

NARRATOR: Before we go on, something you should know about Rabbit. It wasn’t just her legs that were swift and nimble. Her mind was, too! And she loved using that swift and nimble mind to play tricks… and get exactly what she wanted.

So, as the cunning creature set off to find Otter, she had already cooked up a plan for how she would win the contest.

RABBIT: It’s simple! All I have to do… is steal Otter’s coat!

NARRATOR: Yup. You heard that right. “Steal Otter’s coat.” Because back when our story takes place, the animals could remove their fur! Just like you and I would take off a jacket, or a sweater, or – yes – a coat.

RABBIT: All I have to do is find Otter, trick him into taking off his coat, then I’ll run away with it and wear it to the contest! If Otter’s coat is anything like they say it is, I’m destined to win! (Laughs.)

NARRATOR: So Rabbit bounded off to Otter’s mountain. Once she got there, she scuttled up treacherous trails…

RABBIT: (Ad-lib)

NARRATOR: She crept along craggy cliffs…

RABBIT: (Ad-lib)

NARRATOR: She bounded across broad bluffs…

RABBIT: (Ad-lib)

NARRATOR: And when she finally reached the top…

OTTER: Welcome!!!!

NARRATOR: …she heard a friendly voice.

OTTER: I never get visitors at the top of this mountain! I’m so happy to see you!

NARRATOR: Rabbit’s eyes fell upon a stocky creature with short legs and long whiskers. His dark-brown fur dazzled in the sun.

RABBIT: Otter…? Is that you?

NARRATOR: The stocky critter smiled.

OTTER: That’s right! I am Otter, at your service! And who might you be?

RABBIT: Me?

NARRATOR: Rabbit felt a stab of envy as she eyed Otter’s spectacular coat.

RABBIT: Don’t you know? I’m Rabbit! I’m like a total legend around these parts on account of my long, fluffy tail. No big deal.

OTTER: Well it’s nice to meet you, Rabbit! And look!

NARRATOR: Otter stuck out his backside.

OTTER: I have a tail, too! Of course, it’s much longer than yours… and much furrier… but honestly, it isn’t like we’re in a contest or anything!

RABBIT: Actually, Otter…

NARRATOR: Rabbit smiled her sweetest smile.

RABBIT: …we are in a contest! Or at least we will be! The other animals and I are trying to decide who has the most fabulous fur of all. And that's why I’m here! We’d be honored for you to participate!

NARRATOR: Otter’s face lit up.

OTTER: Wow! I appreciate the invitation, Rabbit! Truth be told, I don’t really see the need for a contest, but I’d sure love to make some new friends! It gets awfully lonely on top of this mountain. Count me in!

NARRATOR: So Otter began following Rabbit down the mountainside.

Little did he know, but he was also following her directly into a trap!

[Theme music in]

NARRATOR: What do you think: will Rabbit’s scheme work out? We’ll find out, after a quick break.

[Theme music out]

[SPONSOR BREAK]

[Theme music in]

NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to Circle Round. Today our story is called “The Most Fabulous Fur Of All.”

[Theme music out]

NARRATOR: Before the break, the animals were planning a contest to decide who had the most fabulous fur of all. Rabbit went up the mountain to fetch Otter, so that he could participate, too.

Little did Otter know, but clever, crafty Rabbit was cooking up a scheme to steal his thick, soft coat! And wear it to the contest!

As Otter followed Rabbit down the mountain, he noticed that she began loading pieces of wood and bark onto her back.

OTTER: Um, Rabbit? May I ask why you’re collecting all that wood and bark?

RABBIT: For kindling, Otter! To build a campfire! The sun’s going down, so we’ll have to spend the night on the mountainside. Wherever we set up camp we’ll want a fire to keep us warm and cozy, right?

OTTER: Well, actually, Rabbit – my fur is so thick that I never get cold! But a fire would be nice for providing some light, and I’ve always been a bit scared of the dark. I’ll help you gather kindling.

NARRATOR: Rabbit’s heart burned with jealousy. Of course Otter never got cold in his magnificent coat! But no matter. If everything went according to plan, that magnificent coat would soon be hers!

Rabbit and Otter kept walking until they reached a river. Tiny silver fish swam about in the swift current.

OTTER: Wow, Rabbit! Living way on top of the mountain, I’ve never seen anything like this! What do you call this long, winding body of water?

RABBIT: It’s a river, Otter! And I’m glad we found it, because all this water sure could come in handy tonight!

OTTER: You mean, for drinking?

RABBIT: Well, yes! But also… for keeping us safe!

OTTER: “Keeping us safe”? What do you mean?

RABBIT: Well…

NARRATOR: Rabbit smiled to herself. If Otter fell for the story she was about to tell, she would be home free!

RABBIT: You see, this part of the mountain is a magical place! If you spend the night here, legend has it that good luck will come your way. But danger may come your way, too!

OTTER: Danger?!?

RABBIT: Yes! Danger! Legend has it that in this very spot, fire sometimes falls from the sky! Just like rain!

NARRATOR: Otter began to tremble.

OTTER: F-f-f-fire?!!? F-f-falls like rain?!?? How do we protect ourselves from this fiery rain?

RABBIT: Well for starters, you should take off that magnificent fur coat of yours. Hide it somewhere safe. You wouldn’t want the falling fire to burn a hole through it!

OTTER: Oh! Of course! Will you take your coat off, too?

RABBIT: Nah. With these swift, nimble legs of mine, I can hop right to safety. But Rabbits are faster than Otters. So how about tucking your coat beneath that big rock over there?

OTTER: Okay!

NARRATOR: Otter wiggled out of his coat and tucked it beneath the rock.

OTTER: There! All safe!

RABBIT: Great! Now we’ll build a campfire, then we’ll get some rest. We have a lot of traveling to do before the big contest!

NARRATOR: So Rabbit and Otter made a fire, then huddled up together on the riverbank. Otter immediately drifted off.

OTTER: (Snores.)

NARRATOR: Rabbit, on the other hand, stayed wide awake. She gazed at the campfire as the flames leaped and danced. Eventually, they died down, leaving behind a glowing, burning pile of red-hot embers.

As Otter continued to snooze away, Rabbit tiptoed to a nearby tree. She broke off a branch, then carried it over to the fire.

RABBIT: Okay. Here goes nothing!

NARRATOR: Rabbit stuck one end of the branch into the embers, until it began to burn like a torch. Then she hoisted the torch up toward the sky, and started waving it around – and flinging red-hot sparks every which way!

RABBIT: Otter! Otter! Wake up, Otter! It’s happening! Fire is falling from the sky! Fire is falling from the sky!

NARRATOR: Otter snapped open his eyes and leapt to his feet.

OTTER: Oh no, Rabbit! You were right! It’s raining fire! Everywhere! I’m so scared! What do we do?

RABBIT: There’s no time to waste! Run to the river and dive in! The water will keep us safe!

OTTER: I’ve never swum before, but… here goes nothing!

NARRATOR: Without missing a beat, Otter dashed to the river and plunged into the water!

As he quickly swam away, Rabbit scampered over to the big rock where Otter had hidden his fur coat! She snatched up the thick, soft pelt, then took off down the mountainside.

RABBIT: (Laughs.)

NARRATOR: When Rabbit reached the bottom, she pulled down her long, silky ears and tied them in a knot under her chin. Then she slipped on Otter’s coat. Once it was wrapped around her body, she hurried to the clearing in the middle of the forest, where the animals and birds were waiting for the contest to begin.

RABBIT: Hello, everybody! I’m Otter! I heard you were holding a contest to decide who has the most fabulous fur of all…?

NARRATOR: Much to Rabbit’s delight…

BEAR: Otter!

NARRATOR: …the others totally fell for her disguise.

BEAR: So pleased to meet you, my friend! I am Bear.

MINK: And I’m Mink!

SKUNK: And I’m Skunk!

BEAR: And we are honored to have you join us today!

MINK: I gotta say, your fur is amazing!

SKUNK: It sure is!

BEAR: But – where’s Rabbit?

RABBIT: Rabbit…?!? Uh, she made a pit-stop at her burrow to brush her fur. She should be here any minute. We might as well get started!

NARRATOR: So, they did. With the birds judging from the treetops, the animals took turns parading around the clearing, showing off their fur.

When it was Otter’s turn, Rabbit – who, remember, was disguised as Otter – didn’t just ‘parade’ around the clearing. She was so excited to show off her glorious coat that she began leaping…

RABBIT: Woohoo!!!

NARRATOR: …and hopping…

RABBIT: Check me out!

NARRATOR: …and bouncing from tree to tree.

RABBIT: Have you ever seen a coat so glorious?

NARRATOR: Rabbit began to move faster…

RABBIT: (Runs.)

NARRATOR: …and faster…

RABBIT: (Runs.)

NARRATOR: …and faster!

RABBIT: (Runs.)

NARRATOR: Soon, she was moving so fast that the knot holding her ears beneath her chin began to loosen! It got looser and looser until it came completely undone. And Rabbit’s long, silky ears sprang up above her head!

RABBIT: Uh-oh!

NARRATOR: The animals and birds gasped.

BIRDS: / BEAR: / MINK: / SKUNK: (Gasp.)

BEAR: Rabbit?!?

MINK: Is that you??

SKUNK: What happened to Otter?

NARRATOR: Rabbit knew the jig was up.

RABBIT: Well…? He, uh… I, uh… Gotta go!

NARRATOR: And with that, she pulled off Otter’s coat, flung it to the ground, then took off like a shot. The other animals followed in hot pursuit. Bear managed to get close enough to thrust out a burly paw…

BEAR: (Runs.)

NARRATOR: …and yank Rabbit’s long, curly tail clear off her body!

RABBIT: Oh no! My tail!

NARRATOR: With nothing but a fluffy little puffball left on her backside, Rabbit dashed away and disappeared into her burrow.

Once Rabbit was gone, the other animals decided to abandon the chase. Instead, they picked up Otter’s stolen coat and carried it up the mountainside… where they found Otter swimming in the river.

BEAR: You must be Otter!

MINK: We brought you your fur coat!

SKUNK: …Since that rascally Rabbit stole it!

NARRATOR: When Otter caught sight of his thick, soft coat, he hurried back to shore and slipped it on with a smile.

OTTER: I thought I’d never see my coat again! Thank you, friends!

BEAR: No, Otter! Thank you!

MINK: Because with your help, now we finally know…

SKUNK: …which one of us truly has the most fabulous fur of all!

NARRATOR: And wouldn't you know it, Otter has had that fabulous fur ever since.
He’s also lived in the water ever since. Because even though Rabbit tricked Otter into taking his very first swim, he discovered he loved paddling and playing in the water. So to this day, all otters make their homes in streams and rivers, lakes and ponds, seas and oceans.

And all rabbits have nothing more than a puffball of a tail. It’s a constant reminder of their wily ancestor who tried to pull the wool – or fur – over everyone’s eyes.

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

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