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Donkey Business | Ep. 196

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

When was the last time you helped someone?

Maybe you helped a friend put together a puzzle. You helped a family member do the laundry. Or maybe you helped a stranger, by donating groceries to a food bank.

When we help others, everybody wins. But in today’s story, when one character refuses to lend a hand, he ends up losing – big time!

Our story is called “Donkey Business.” It’s inspired by trickster tales from Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and the European countries of Italy and Spain.

Voices in this episode include Jennifer Hale and Connor Ratliff.

Jennifer Hale has lent her voice to hundreds of animated shows and films, including The Powerpuff Girls, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Ralph Breaks the Internet. She’s also voiced nearly 200 video games, including Overwatch, Mass Effect and Star Wars: The Old Republic. She’s the founder of skillshub: a coaching site for actors.

Actor and comedian Connor Ratliff has appeared on such TV shows as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Search Party. He plays "George Lucas" on The George Lucas Talk Show and is the creator and host of Dead Eyes: the acclaimed podcast about why Tom Hanks fired him from a small role in the 2001 HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. Watch for Connor in the upcoming feature film Pinball: The Man Who Saved The Game.

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

What's one thing you can do this week to be a good neighbor?

Maybe you can bake your neighbor some cookies, offer to fetch their mail, or you can make them a hand-drawn card – to thank them for being a good neighbor!

Musical Spotlight: Fiddle

Someone who plays the fiddle – like musician Christian Hebel (pictured) – is a "fiddler.” The bow is sometimes called a "fiddling stick” – hence the expression, “Fiddlesticks!” (Courtesy of Eric Shimelonis)
Someone who plays the fiddle – like musician Christian Hebel (pictured) – is a "fiddler.” The bow is sometimes called a "fiddling stick” – hence the expression, “Fiddlesticks!” (Courtesy of Eric Shimelonis)

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. One is 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/violinist Christian Hebel did for this Circle Round story!


NARRATOR: There once was a farmer named Carmela. Carmela lived in a little red house, just up the road from a big gray house owned by a fellow farmer named Enzo.

But even though Carmela and Enzo were neighbors, they weren’t exactly what you would call friends.

If Carmela happened to pass by Enzo’s house and offer a friendly greeting…

CARMELA: Good morning, neighbor! How are you?

NARRATOR: …Enzo was anything but friendly.

ENZO: I’m fine. Not that it’s any of your business!

NARRATOR: And if Carmela tried doing something nice like bring over a bouquet of wildflowers from her yard…?

CARMELA: I just picked them today! Aren’t they beautiful?

NARRATOR: …Enzo’s response wasn’t nice at all.

ENZO: Uch! They look like weeds to me! Perfect food for my sheep!

NARRATOR: Well, the years went by… and one summer, Carmela fell on unexpectedly hard times. Bugs gobbled up her crops, foxes made off with her chickens, and by autumn, the poor woman had nothing to her name but her little red house, her old gray donkey Luigi, and one last silver coin.

CARMELA: Well this is terrible! Winter is just around the corner and I’ll never make it through if I don’t turn my fortune around!

NARRATOR: Carmela knew she had to do something. She also knew that while her farm was floundering, just down the road Enzo’s farm was flourishing!

CARMELA: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’ll go down the road and ask Enzo if he can help me out. He’s not the friendliest sort, but surely he’ll take pity on a neighbor in need!

NARRATOR: So Carmela headed over to Enzo’s big gray house and rang the doorbell.

[SOT: fancy doorbell, door opens]

ENZO: Yes?

CARMELA: Greetings, neighbor! Not sure if you remember me, but I’m Carmela? I live in the little red house up the road?

ENZO: You mean the one with all the dead crops in the yard? And the abandoned chicken coop?

CARMELA: That’s the one! I had a pretty tough summer – as you obviously noticed.

ENZO: Oh, I noticed. I pass by your little “farm” every day and it’s downright depressing.

CARMELA: It is, right? So depressing! Unlike your fabulous farm, which clearly is going gangbusters! I have to commend you on doing so well!

NARRATOR: Enzo smiled a smug little smile.

ENZO: I am doing well! I had such a great summer that I’ve got crops and cash coming out of my ears!

CARMELA: Of course you do! Of course! And actually, that’s why I came over here today. I wanted to ask you… a favor.

NARRATOR: Enzo’s smug smile was replaced by a stern stare.

ENZO: A “favor,” huh…? What kind of “favor”?

CARMELA: Well… I was wondering if you could lend me some cash. Times have been so hard, I don’t even have two coins to rub together! I only have one! (beat) So I figured I’d ask you – farmer to farmer, neighbor to neighbor – if you could help me out. I promise I’ll pay you back. I’ll even return the favor! I’ll cook you dinner, I’ll help you on your farm, I’ll –

ENZO: Okay, I’m going to stop you right there. I’m not going to lend you any money.

CARMELA: You’re not…?

ENZO: No! I work hard for what I have! Very hard! So hard that I have neither the desire nor the time to “do favors” for beggars like you. Now good day! …Neighbor!

NARRATOR: And with that…

[SOT: door slam]

NARRATOR: …Enzo slammed the door.

CARMELA: Wow! That did not go well! But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Enzo’s always been so sulky and surly… now I know he’s selfish, too! There must be some way to teach that grumpy, greedy guy a lesson.

NARRATOR: Now, Carmela may have lost practically everything she had. But one thing she hadn’t lost?

Her wits!

Carmela had always been a clever woman. So she set to work devising a plan to get even with Enzo.

First, she went to her kitchen and found a spoon and a half-eaten jar of honey. Then she rooted around her purse and fished out her last silver coin. She brought the honey, spoon, and coin out to the yard, where her old gray donkey was grazing on a tiny patch of grass.

CARMELA: Good afternoon, Luigi! Would you like to take a walk, fella? Yeah? Great! I just have to do a little something first. Don’t move, okay?

NARRATOR: Carmela bent down, lifted Luigi’s tail, then dabbed a spoonful of honey right where his tail met his bottom.

[SOT: donkey]

CARMELA: Sorry, fella. This is just as awkward for me as it is for you. … No buts about it! Get it? ‘Cuz it’s your butt? Your bottom? Ha!

NARRATOR: Once Luigi’s bottom was smeared with honey, Carmela took her silver coin and stuck it to the gooey glob.

CARMELA: Okay, fella. I know it isn’t every day that you have a coin clinging to your keister… or silver sticking to your seat… or cash cohering to your caboose – boy, I could go on all day! But trust me: it will be worth it. Because if my plan works… then Enzo is about to the butt of the Best. Joke. Ever!!!!

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: A silver coin stuck to a dab of honey on a donkey’s, uh, derriere…?

What do you think Carmela the farmer is cooking up?

We’ll find out, after a quick break.

[theme music out]


[theme music in]

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

[theme music out]

NARRATOR: Before the break, Carmela the farmer had fallen on hard times… but her gruff, greedy neighbor, Enzo, refused to help her out.

So clever Carmela decided to play a trick on Enzo. Using a dab of honey as glue, she stuck a silver coin beneath the tail of her old donkey, Luigi. Then she attached a rope to Luigi’s halter, and led him down the road. When they reached Enzo’s big gray house, Carmela brought Luigi to a stop.

CARMELA: See this big beautiful lawn, fella? Go ahead! Have a taste!

NARRATOR: The donkey was never one to turn down a meal, so he put his head down and began to graze.

CARMELA: That’s a good boy! Yummy, isn’t it? So soft and sweet and –

ENZO: What in the world are you doing?!??

NARRATOR: Carmela looked up. Just as she’d hoped, Enzo was marching out of his house. And just as she’d expected, he did not look happy.

ENZO: Carmela! Are you actually letting that miserable creature of yours gobble up all my beautiful grass?

NARRATOR: Carmela smiled.

CARMELA: I’m just letting him have a taste, Enzo! After all, your grass is so healthy and green!

ENZO: Yes, it is healthy and green! But all the more reason for me not to share it! Now take that pathetic beast of yours and go graze on your own scrubby lawn!

CARMELA: Fine! Okay. We’ll get going. But if you don’t mind… could Luigi do his business first?

ENZO: “Do his business”?

CARMELA: You know what I mean! He’s really old, and it’s getting harder and harder for him to, ya know, hold it in.

NARRATOR: Enzo scrunched up his nose.

ENZO: If you’re asking me if I’ll let your donkey leave his droppings all over my yard, the answer is most definitely, unquestionably, unmistakably, undeniably NO!

NARRATOR: But alas…

[SOT: donkey sound]

NARRATOR: …it was too late.

CARMELA: So sorry, Enzo! I told you: when Luigi’s gotta go, he’s gotta go. And he just… went.

ENZO: I can see that! Now clean up this revolting mess before I – What’s this????

NARRATOR: Enzo knelt down on one knee.

ENZO: Do my eyes deceive me? Or is there an honest-to-goodness silver coin on top of your donkey’s… deposit?!?

NARRATOR: Carmela’s heart skipped a beat. Her plan was working! The coin had fallen off of Luigi’s backside and landed just where she’d hoped it would!

CARMELA: Well… you know, I have always said that Luigi is quite the treasure! I don’t know what I would do without him!

NARRATOR: Enzo’s eyes glittered with greed.

ENZO: Carmela! Now that I know what a treasure your donkey is, I must have him! How much will you sell him for?

CARMELA: Sell him? Luigi isn’t for sale!

ENZO: But if he were, how much would you want? Fifty silver coins?

CARMELA: No way!

ENZO: One-hundred silver coins?


ENZO: Two-hundred, then? No – three-hundred! Three-hundred silver coins plus one-half of my latest harvest!

CARMELA: You’ll give me three-hundred silver coins plus one-half of your harvest?

ENZO: Yes! You’ll be feasting on corn, wheat, and potatoes all winter long!

CARMELA: Alright then!

NARRATOR: Carmela handed Enzo the donkey’s lead rope.

CARMELA: You have yourself a deal!

NARRATOR: Then she collected her coins and her crops and headed back up the road, laughing to herself all the way.

Enzo, meanwhile, led Luigi into his big, wooden stable.

ENZO: Here you go, my little silver-mine! The sun’s going down, so you will spend the night in this cozy, comfy stall! Now drink some fresh water, eat some yummy hay, then lie down and go to sleep. We have a lot of “business” to do in the morning! CHA-CHING!!

NARRATOR: But when the morning came…

ENZO: Good morning, my little cash cow! Or should I say, cash donkey! Ha!

NARRATOR: … Enzo was gravely disappointed.

ENZO: What’s going on??? From the look and smell of this place, I can tell all that hay went right through you! Yet I don’t see any coins! Not a single one! Wait a minute…

NARRATOR: Enzo paused. All of a sudden everything became clear.

ENZO: I’ve been tricked! Ohhhhh, that knavish neighbor of mine will pay for this! I’ll pay Carmela a visit right now and give her a piece of my mind!

NARRATOR: Well… as you might guess… Carmela had a hunch that Enzo would be furious when he discovered the trick she played. So she was ready. When Enzo came stomping over to her little red house, with Luigi in tow, Carmela was out in the yard, watering a little tree in a pot.

ENZO: Carmela! You rascal! I have some words for you!

CARMELA: Oh! Hello, Enzo! And hello, Luigi! Are you two out for a walk? It’s such a beautiful morning!

ENZO: Well my morning hasn’t been “beautiful” at all! The minute I woke up, I went racing to Luigi’s stable! I searched through all of his… business… and not a coin was to be found!

CARMELA: Oh, really?

NARRATOR: Carmela furrowed her brow.

CARMELA: How strange! I wonder if Luigi isn’t feeling well. Tell you what – leave him here and I’ll take a look at him. Just as soon as I’m done watering my money tree.

NARRATOR: To Carmela’s delight, Enzo immediately took the bait.

ENZO: “Money tree,” you say?!? And what, pray tell, is a “money tree”?

CARMELA: Oh! Can’t you see? It’s a tree that grows money!

NARRATOR: Carmela gestured toward the little tree. And indeed: each and every branch seemed to be sprouting a silver coin!

CARMELA: This tree is rather young, of course – just a sapling. But once it’s all grown up it will be bursting with money! Dripping with money! Sagging like a big, sparkly weeping willow… of coin!

NARRATOR: Now, as you can probably guess, the truth is that Carmela had taken some of the coins she’d gotten from Enzo yesterday and glued them onto the tree. But as far as Enzo could tell, the coins were growing from the branches like leaves.

ENZO: A money tree! How marvelous!

NARRATOR: From the gleam in Enzo’s eye, Carmela knew she had her greedy neighbor right where she wanted him.

ENZO: Carmela. This money tree is magnificent! No! It’s more than that! It’s miraculous! How much will you sell it for?

CARMELA: Sell it? But it’s not for sale!

ENZO: Not for sale…!? Listen, Carmela. After this morning’s disappointment with your donkey, I should take back all the money I gave you yesterday, and the crops. But instead, I will make you a deal. I will let you keep everything – if you give me this miraculous money tree. It’s exactly what a man like me deserves!

NARRATOR: Carmela smiled to herself, and pretended to think things over.

CARMELA: Well… if you really want to get what you deserve… then alright. Fine. I will give you the money tree. But promise me you’ll be patient! The tree takes time to grow. At first it will seem like nothing is happening, but don’t be discouraged. Keep watering the tree, and giving it plenty of sun, and I promise: you will get what you deserve.

NARRATOR: So Enzo snatched up the tree and ran down the road back to his house.

He placed the tree in a sunny spot.

He gave it plenty of water.

Then… he waited...

ENZO: I must be patient to get what I deserve!

NARRATOR: …and waited…

ENZO: I must be patient to get what I deserve!

NARRATOR: …and waited.

ENZO: I must be patient to get what I deserve!

NARRATOR: The tree did grow… but it didn’t sprout any silver coins.

ENZO: I must be patient to get what I deserve!

NARRATOR: Soon the tree grew so big that Enzo had to transfer it from its pot into the earth.

But still… it didn't sprout any coins.

ENZO: I must be patient to get what I deserve!

NARRATOR: And then… at long last… the day finally came when Enzo realized Carmela had tricked him.


He was never going to get any money from the tree. After being so selfish, and stingy, and anything but neighborly… he was going to get exactly what he deserved:


Though the good news is, he did learn something: the importance of being kinder and more generous to others.

To that end, he allowed Carmela to keep the coins she had tricked him out of. And she used the money to get back on her feet. She purchased new seeds, she bought new chickens, and she planted a whole new yard of healthy, green grass – which her donkey, Luigi, immediately began to devour… top to bottom.

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



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