Encore: Nilsa and the Troll

Download Audio
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

Think about a time someone did something kind for you.

In this favorite episode from the Circle Round archives, a young woman is all about practicing gestures of kindness. And though they seem small at first, they lead to some very big results!

Our story is called “Nilsa and the Troll.” It’s inspired by tales told in Denmark, in northern Europe.

Voices in this episode include James Konicek, Maizy Scarpa, Chris Tucci, Anne Undeland and Raegan Revord. Raegan stars as Missy Cooper on the hit CBS comedy, Young Sheldon.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. Circle Round’s 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 FacebookTwitterInstagram or Pinterest, 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

Pick a person in your life, and think of something kind you can do for them this week, something small. Maybe you can help a grown-up with a chore, or draw a picture for your best friend. Whatever it is, they’re sure to be very grateful, and you’re sure to feel great!

Musical Spotlight: Double Bass

(Tomoe2004 / flikr)
(Tomoe2004 / flikr)

The double bass may be known by many names — including contrabass, string bass, bass, bass viol, bass fiddle and bull fiddle — but its sound is absolutely distinctive. As the lowest-pitched member of the violin family, the double bass is a whole octave lower than a cello. Bass players often stand while playing, since double basses can be as tall as six feet — almost as tall as the big, hulking, deep-voiced troll in this week’s story!


NARRATOR: Everyone in town knew that the kindest, most generous person around… was a young girl named Nilsa.

Having a rough day? Guess who’d come knocking at your door with a tray of cookies?

NILSA: (presenting to person at the door) Ta-da! Fresh-baked oatmeal-raisin! (beat) They’re your favorite, right?

NARRATOR: Lost your cat or dog? Guess who’d be first in line to help you search?

NILSA: (to person with lost dog/cat) Don’t you worry! We’ll find Fluffy. Even if it takes all night!

NARRATOR: Nilsa would give you the shirt off her back if you asked.

Though the truth is, she didn’t own many shirts.

In fact, she didn’t own very much at all.

You see, Nilsa lived with her parents, her grandparents, and her four younger brothers and sisters… all of them crammed into a snug thatched-roof cottage at the edge of town. The grown-ups in the teeny-tiny house worked hard to support their family... and as the oldest child, Nilsa did what she could to chip in.

Early one morning... Nilsa crept out of the lumpy bed she shared with her four siblings. She grabbed a basket, packed a modest lunch of bread and honey, and tiptoed out the door.

NILSA: Oh, won’t my family be surprised when I come home with wild strawberries from the forest! (beat) Maybe Grandpa will bake one of his famous strawberry pies!

NARRATOR: On her way to the forest where the berries grew, Nilsa strolled past a river. As she listened to the burbling, gurgling sounds of the flowing water, she suddenly heard...

TROUT: (gasping) Help me!

NARRATOR: … a voice!

TROUT: (gasping) Please! Somebody! Put me back!

NARRATOR: Nilsa stopped in her tracks. Flopping around on the riverbank... was a gasping, glistening, silver trout!

NILSA: Oh my goodness! How did you get out of the water?

NARRATOR: Nilsa ran over to the fish and scooped it up.

NILSA: Let’s get you back in that river… where you belong!

NARRATOR: Nilsa placed the trout back in the water. It fluttered its fins and swam in a happy circle.

TROUT: Whew! I feel so much better! Thank you, young lady... I’ll be sure to return the favor!

NILSA: Oh, no favors necessary! Your thanks is enough for me!

NARRATOR: Nilsa beamed at the trout as it swam off.. leaving a trail of bubbles behind it. Then Nilsa continued on her way.

She reached a sun-drenched field, and was admiring the rainbow of wildflowers swaying in the breeze when she suddenly heard…

ANT: Wait! Stop!!!!

NARRATOR: ...another voice!

ANT: Please! Don’t take another step!

NARRATOR: Nilsa came to a halt and looked down. On the ground beneath her was a tiny black ant. It was building an ant hill, grain by grain… and Nilsa was this close to stepping on it and smashing the whole thing!

NILSA: Oh! I’m sorry! I didn’t see you down there!

NARRATOR: Nilsa backed away from the ant hill. Then she reached into her basket and pulled out the honey she’d packed for lunch.

NILSA: After all that work, you must be hungry. Have some of this.

NARRATOR: Nilsa dribbled some honey onto the ground. The ant scuttled over and devoured every last drop.

ANT: Yum, yum, yummy! Thank you, young lady! I’ll be sure to return the favor!

NILSA: Oh, no favors necessary! Your thanks is enough for me!

NARRATOR: Nilsa grinned at the ant as it went back to its building. Then she continued on her way.

Finally, Nilsa reached the edge of the forest where the wild strawberries grew. Bordering the forest was a row of pine trees. Just before Nilsa entered the cool shade of the woods, she suddenly heard...

CROW: Spare a morsel of food…?

NARRATOR: ...another voice!

CROW: ...Just one little morsel of food...?

NARRATOR: Nilsa cast her eyes upward. Perched on a pine branch was a scraggly black crow. Its feathers were dull and matted, and its body was thin as a rail.

NILSA: Oh, you poor thing!

NARRATOR: Nilsa reached into her lunch basket and pulled out a hunk of bread.

NILSA: Take this. You look like you haven’t eaten in weeks!

NARRATOR: The crow fluttered down and perched on Nilsa’s arm. Then it used its sharp black beak to gobble down every last breadcrumb.

CROW: Mmm! Thank you, young lady! I’ll be sure to return the favor!

NILSA: Oh, no favors necessary! Your thanks is enough for me!

NARRATOR: Nilsa smiled at the crow as it spread its wings and flew off.

At last, Nilsa stepped into the shadowy forest. She was walking along, scanning the ground for wild strawberries, when she suddenly heard...

TROLL: (slow, deliberate, menacing but not too scary for our youngest listeners!) You there! 

NARRATOR: ...yet another voice!

Only this voice made her blood run cold.

TROLL: (slow, deliberate, menacing but not too scary for our youngest listeners!) Who... are... you?!??? And what are you doing in my forest?

NARRATOR: Nilsa whirled around. Stomping toward her on big, hairy legs… was a troll! A giant troll, with bright, beady eyes and a bulging nose shaped like a pickle.

Nilsa began to tremble. Everyone knew that trolls would eat anything… or anyone… who crossed their path. And Nilsa hadn’t just crossed the Troll’s path… Apparently, she’d crossed his forest!

What do you think Nilsa will do next?

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 “Nilsa and the Troll.”

When we left off, kind, generous Nilsa had set off to pick wild strawberries for her family. On the way, she returned a beached trout to the river… fed honey to a hard-working ant… and gave bread to a hungry crow.

Just as Nilsa entered the woods, who should come clomping her way but a massive troll! The giant creature demanded to know what Nilsa was doing in “his” forest!

Nilsa felt the color drain from her face as she tried to explain.

NILSA: (very nervous) Um, hello there, sir! My name is Nilsa, and if you please, I was just about to pick strawberries for my family. This forest has the most beautiful wild strawberries, and I --

TROLL: This forest”?!!???

NARRATOR: The troll clenched his big, hairy fists.

TROLL:This forest”?!?? You mean “my forest”!!! I own this place, and as far as I’m concerned, you are an intruder! (beat) An intruder who’d make an awfully tasty breakfast! My family and I just rolled out of bed, and we are famished!

NILSA: (nervous but sincere) I’m sorry — I meant no harm! I didn’t know this forest belonged to you!

NARRATOR: Nilsa clasped her hands together.

NILSA: Please. I have a wonderful family back home… my parents, my grandparents, my four little brothers and sisters… and if you eat me, they’ll be devastated! (beat) But if you’re generous enough to let me go... they’ll be grateful! So grateful! As will I!

NARRATOR: The brash, brutish troll didn’t know much about being “generous” or “grateful.” After all, he spent his days fiercely and selfishly guarding the forest, refusing to let anyone else enjoy it!

But as he stroked his bristly chin and peered down at Nilsa, he decided he’d offer her... a deal.

TROLL: Listen… I tell you what. I will give you three tasks. If you succeed in carrying out all three, you can go home to your (sarcastic) ‘wonderful family’. But if you don’t succeed… you’ll go home to my family! For breakfast! (beat) Whuddya say?

NARRATOR: Well, what else could Nilsa say, except...

NILSA: (nervous but relieved) Thank you! (beat) What’s the first task?

NARRATOR: The troll laughed, revealing a set of crooked yellow teeth. He extended his arm and pointed his hairy finger toward a tall, tall tree.

TROLL: See that oak tree there? At the very top... is a golden acorn. Your first task is to get me that golden acorn… without climbing the tree.

NARRATOR: Nilsa felt her pulse quicken as she eyed the oak tree. It stretched so high she couldn’t even see the top. And she had to bring down the golden acorn… without climbing the trunk…?

Just as Nilsa was certain her heart would burst out of her ribcage... she heard the flapping of wings! She glanced up, and who should be whizzing her way but the hungry crow! The one who’d gratefully shared Nilsa’s bread!

CROW: Hey, Nilsa! Looks like it’s time I returned that favor! (beat) Watch this.

NARRATOR: The crow skimmed through the air, and soared all the way to the top of the oak tree. When the bird swooped back down, it dropped a glittering golden acorn onto Nilsa’s outstretched palm.

NILSA: Wow! (beat) Thank you so much!

CROW: Any time!

NARRATOR: As the crow flew away, the troll swiped the acorn from Nilsa’s hand.

TROLL: Alright. So you’ve succeeded in carrying out my first task. But this second one is a doozy!

NARRATOR: The troll reached behind a bush and pulled out a lumpy burlap sack. He turned the sack upside-down, and dumped its contents all over the ground.

TROLL: This here is grain… all kinds of grain! Your task is to separate the wheat from the barley from the oats from the rye… without touching a single kernel.

NARRATOR: Nilsa felt her mouth go dry. There must have been a million pieces of grain scattered on the forest floor! And she had to sort every single kernel… without laying a finger on any of them?

Just then, Nilsa thought she saw a skinny, black snake slithering toward her. But as she looked more carefully, she realized it was actually a string of ants! Marching in a long line!

And guess who was leading them…?

That’s right! The black ant who had gratefully shared Nilsa’s honey!

ANT: Hey, Nilsa! I’m pretty sure it’s time I returned that favor! (beat) Let’s go, folks!

NARRATOR: The ants swarmed all over the pile of grains and hoisted the kernels onto their backs. Then the tiny creatures shuttled the grains this way and that, until they had built four neat hills of wheat, barley, oats and rye.

NILSA: My goodness! (beat) Thank you so much!

ANT: No problem!

NARRATOR: As the ants crawled away, the troll gnashed his crooked yellow teeth.

TROLL: (flustered) Fine! You’ve managed to succeed with my second task. (beat) But wait til you see the third!

NARRATOR: The troll motioned for Nilsa to follow him. She tried to keep up as the troll bounded out of the forest and over to the river.

TROLL: Years ago, I lost one of my most prized possessions in this river… a diamond ring. Your third task is to retrieve that ring from the river… without getting wet.

NARRATOR: Nilsa felt her palms grow clammy. The river was wide and deep. And she had to retrieve the troll’s diamond ring from the water… while staying perfectly dry?

All at once, Nilsa heard a splashing sound. Casting her eyes upstream, she saw a trail of bubbles rippling toward her. Then... whose scaly, silver head should come popping to the surface... but the trout’s! The same one who’d been gasping on the bank until Nilsa came along and put him back in the river!

TROUT: Hey, Nilsa! Whuddya say I return that favor?!! (beat) Check this out!

NARRATOR: The trout plunged deep into the water. Moments later, it wiggled to the surface, swam toward the bank, and spit out a ring the size of a tambourine.

NILSA: (total wonder, relief) Would you look at that!?! (beat) Thank you so much!

TROUT: Any time!

NARRATOR: As the trout glided away, Nilsa picked up the ring and handed it to the troll. The colossal creature gazed at the sparkling diamond, then slipped the glittering band on to his gargantuan finger.

TROLL: (gazing at the ring… softening, despite himself) You know, I never thought I’d lay eyes on this ring again! It was so dear to me... and it’s been lost for so very long… (beat, making a decision) Nilsa. Come with me.

NARRATOR: Nilsa held her breath as the troll led her deep into the forest. Where was he taking her now?

At last, they reached a bright, sunny clearing, and Nilsa’s eyes grew wide. Stretching out as far as she could see was a bright red blanket of plump, ripe, wild strawberries!

TROLL: (genuine, sincere) Go ahead, Nilsa. Pick all the strawberries you’d like... then take them home to your family.

NARRATOR: Nilsa was amazed. After spending so long fiercely and selfishly guarding the forest, the troll was finally showing some kindness!

NILSA: (relieved, touched) Thank you, sir! (beat, sincere) Thank you!

NARRATOR: For the first time ever, the troll’s big, bristly face... broke into a big, bright smile.

TROLL: You’re very welcome, Nilsa. (slow, sincere) ...And thank you.

Headshot of Rebecca Sheir

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



More from Circle Round

Listen Live