The Eagle's Return | Ep. 197

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

How far would you go to help a friend in need?

In today’s story, we’ll meet a woman who goes to great lengths to help her friend – and great heights, too!

Our story is called “The Eagle’s Return.” Versions of this tale originally come from Venezuela, a country on the northern coast of South America.

Voices in this episode include Helen Barrington, Feodor Chin, Hrishikesh Hirway, Chelly Li, Diana Lee Inosanto, and Myrna Velasco.

Diana Lee Inosanto appears in the Disney+ Star Wars series The Mandalorian and is the author of The Curious Mind Of Sebastian, the true story of a mother curiously trying to understand the mysteries of Autism through her four-year-old son. She’s the writer and director of the feature film, The Sensei, and will appear in the upcoming animated movie, The Tiger’s Apprentice.

Myrna Velasco has voiced characters in many television programs, including Elena of Avalor and Star Wars: Resistance on Disney+, DC Super Hero Girls on Netflix, and Trick-or-Treat Scooby-Doo on HBO Max. You can also hear her in the animated film Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons.

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

Want to help grow your friendships? How about making a Friendship Flower Garden?

  1. Find some paper and draw a picture of a big flower with petals – or cut one out, using brightly-colored construction paper.
  2. On each petal, ask a grown-up to help you write down one word that makes somebody a good friend. Your words might include loyal, generous, honest, fun – whatever traits you think a good friend should have.
  3. Once you’ve written your words, decorate your flower using whatever you’d like (markers, crayons, glitter, etc.).
  4. Hang up your flower, or use a popsicle stick to “plant” it so you can remember all the ways we can help our friendships grow and blossom!

Musical Spotlight: Ocarina

Eric Shinelonis plays the ocarina, a vessel flute that goes back thousands of years in South America. (Courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)
Eric Shinelonis plays the ocarina, a vessel flute that goes back thousands of years in South America. (Courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)

Round-shaped flutes – as opposed to tubular ones – have been made for thousands of years from stone, wood, coconut and clay. These “vessel flutes” often were used in ancient cultures to charm the birds, please the gods, and lift people into a higher state of consciousness. Such flutes are now known as ocarinas.

Experts say people were playing these instruments as many as 12,000 years ago. Among those people were the Mayans and Aztecs in Central America and the Incas in South America; these nations developed clay ocarinas shaped like birds (and other animals). We chose the ocarina to score this week’s story because of those cultural connections - and because of the pivotal role played by a certain bird!


NARRATOR: Once upon a time… in the shadow of a colossal mountain with a peak so high it was always covered with swirling clouds… there lay a village.

The people of the village were farmers who worked hard growing beans, corn, and potatoes. And when it was time to reap what they sowed, they never failed to sing praises to the god of the harvest.

VILLAGER 1: Our beans are so bountiful this year!

VILLAGER 2: Our corn is so crisp!

VILLAGER 3: Our potatoes are so plump!

VILLAGER 1: We owe it all to you, harvest god!

VILLAGER 2: Thank you!

VILLAGER 3: Thank you!

NARRATOR: But a fruitful crop wasn’t the only gift the harvest god bestowed on the villagers. The great deity made his home on top of the colossal mountain, and one day he swooped down to the village and appeared before the chief.

HARVEST GOD: Good chief! It is I, the harvest god. I would like to offer you a gift!

NARRATOR: The chief was delighted… and surprised.

CHIEF: A gift? But harvest god, you’ve already given my people many gifts! Bountiful beans! Crisp corn! Plump potatoes!

HARVEST GOD: That is true. But in return for these abundant harvests, you and your people have never failed to express your appreciation and gratitude. Therefore, I would like to give you… this.

NARRATOR: The harvest god gestured toward the sky. And what should come winging down from the sky, but a golden eagle! The chief watched in wonder as the eagle suddenly froze – and transformed into a glittering golden statue.

CHIEF: (gasp!) This golden eagle! It’s so life-like! So beautiful!

HARVEST GOD: It is beautiful. But it is also magical. As long as you have the golden eagle, peace and good fortune will come to your village. No droughts, no famines, no war.

CHIEF: So my people will live in harmony and prosperity?

HARVEST GOD: Indeed! All I ask is that you guard the eagle well. Protect it. For some day I will ask for it to be returned. But until that day comes, it is your duty as chief to keep it safe. Can you do that?

CHIEF: Of course, harvest god! It would be my honor to protect the eagle! And when you wish for its return, just give a sign and it shall be done.

NARRATOR: After that, from generation to generation, the villagers lived in peace and prosperity as the golden eagle was passed down from one noble chief to the next.

The day eventually came when the eagle wound up in the safekeeping not of a chief – but a chieftess. A wise woman who, on her very first day in charge, made the villagers a promise.

CHIEFTESS: My good people! As your new chieftess, it is my duty to protect  the golden eagle and keep it safe. And while I’m doing so, I promise I will lead this village with a fair hand and a kind heart. You can always count on me.

NARRATOR: The villagers came to adore the chieftess and her virtuous ways. So you can imagine how devastated they were when she became ill – so ill that even the most experienced doctors were helpless to heal her.

The chieftess took to her bed, and grew weaker by the day. Then one morning, long before sunrise, she awoke from a restless sleep and called out.

CHIEFTESS: Luisa! Luisa!

NARRATOR: Luisa was the chieftess’s oldest and closest friend. From the moment the chieftess fell ill, not once had Luisa left her side.

LUISA: I’m here, Chieftess! What is it?

NARRATOR: The chieftess clutched Luisa’s fingers.

CHIEFTESS: Luisa! I have received a message. In my sleep!

LUISA: A message? What kind of message?

CHIEFTESS: A message from… the harvest god!

LUISA: The harvest god?!?

CHIEFTESS: Yes! He told me that… it’s time!

LUISA: It’s time for what, Chieftess?

CHIEFTESS: Time for us to return the golden eagle! He says that since I am the eagle’s guardian, I must make the dangerous journey to his home on top of the mountain and leave the eagle there!

NARRATOR: Luisa dabbed the chieftess’s brow with a handkerchief.

LUISA: Chieftess, you’re burning up! Surely this message from the harvest god was just a fever dream!

CHIEFTESS: This was no dream, Luisa! This was real! The harvest god told me he wants his eagle back! And what’s more, he also told me that…

NARRATOR: Her voice trailed off.

LUISA: He told you what, Chieftess? The harvest god also told you what?

CHIEFTESS: He also told me that if he doesn’t get the eagle back… I will never get well again. The eagle must be returned if I am to survive.

LUISA: But Chieftess! You’re in no condition to climb up to the peak of the mountain! It’s way up in the clouds – and you can hardly lift your head off the pillow! There’s no way you can make such a dangerous journey!

CHIEFTESS: I know that, my friend. And that is why…

NARRATOR: The Chieftess took a breath. She looked deep into Luisa’s eyes.

CHIEFTESS:  …that is why YOU must make the dangerous journey for me. 

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: What do you think: will Luisa return the eagle to the harvest god?

What would you do if you were Luisa?

We’ll find out what happens, 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 Eagle’s Return.”

[theme music out]

NARRATOR: Before the break, the chieftess of the village fell gravely ill. She told her best friend, Luisa, that she would only recover if the harvest god got his golden eagle back. So the chieftess asked Luisa to bring the statue up to the harvest god’s home on the mountaintop.

CHIEFTESS: And when you reach the mountaintop, you will find a small plot of soil.

LUISA: A plot of soil? On a mountaintop?

CHIEFTESS: That’s what the harvest god said! He said you must bury the eagle in the soil. Then call his name three times, and he will answer.

NARRATOR: Luisa pictured the colossal mountain. Then she tried picturing herself reaching the top. But she couldn’t do it.

LUISA: Chieftess! Do you really think I’m up for this? The mountain is steep! Its peak is in the clouds! Maybe we should find someone stronger to make the trip for you! Someone who –

CHIEFTESS: My friend! You are plenty strong – stronger than you realize! I’ve known you for a long time, Luisa… and not once have I ever doubted you. So please – do not doubt yourself.

NARRATOR: The Chieftess smiled a weak smile.

CHIEFTESS: Please, my friend. Take the golden eagle to the mountaintop. For me.

NARRATOR: Luisa was quiet for a moment. Then she leaned down and planted a kiss on her beloved friend’s cheek.

LUISA: Of course, Chieftess. I will return the golden eagle for you. I know it won’t be easy, but this village needs you. I need you.

CHIEFTESS: And I need you! Now go!

NARRATOR: The sun was just beginning to rise as Luisa wrapped the golden eagle in a fuzzy blanket, slung it over her shoulder, and set off toward the mountain.

The climb up was slow-going at first. But as Luisa scrambled from jagged rock to jagged rock, she found courage and strength in her best friend’s words.

CHIEFTESS: You are stronger than you realize! Do not doubt yourself!

NARRATOR: Higher and higher Luisa climbed. She scaled craggy cliffs, she tiptoed along steep ledges. And then, as she twisted and turned up a narrow trail, what should she spy looming through the swirling clouds above but the peak of the mountain! When she reached the top she raised her arms in triumph.

LUISA: I did it! Just like the Chieftess said I could! And look! There’s a little plot of dark, rich soil – just like the Chieftess said there’d be!

NARRATOR: Without wasting a minute, Luisa fell to her knees, grabbed a rock, and began digging in the soil. Then she unwrapped the golden eagle from the blanket and buried the precious statue in the dirt.

LUISA: And now… like the Chieftess said… I must call the harvest god’s name three times. So, here goes. Harvest god! … Harvest god! … Harvest god!

NARRATOR: Luisa waited, but nothing happened. She clasped her hands together and bowed her head.

LUISA: Oh great and mighty harvest god! If you can hear me, I thank you for the harmony and prosperity you have brought to my village! Please receive this eagle which the chieftess asked me to return to you, and please… please… spare the chieftess’s life! She is much beloved by all her people – especially me!

NARRATOR: Luisa wiped away a tear. Then, all of a sudden, she felt a great heaviness settle over her: an exhaustion like she’d never known.

LUISA: Goodness! Am I sleepy! I guess it is late; the sun will soon set behind the mountain. I’d better not venture down the slope until it’s light again; I don’t want to lose my way or get hurt. And besides, I must be here when the harvest god gives his answer! So perhaps I’ll just lie down and close my eyes for a while…

NARRATOR: Luisa gathered the fuzzy blanket around her shoulders, curled up on the ground, then drifted into a deep sleep and began… to dream.

In her dream, she was plucking flowers off a bush. The flowers were bright scarlet: the color of flames. And as she picked the blossoms she dropped them into a pot of boiling water. She let them simmer, then she ladled the water into a cup and handed it to the chieftess, who began to drink and drink and…

LUISA: (gasp!)

NARRATOR: Luisa jolted awake. The blanket fell to the ground.

LUISA: What a strange dream! It’s like I was making some sort of flower tea…? For the chieftess…? But no matter. I’m glad I woke up. I need to wait for an answer from the harvest god.

NARRATOR: It was a little after daybreak, and the air was cold. As Luisa reached for the blanket, she spotted something out of the corner of her eye.

LUISA: (gasp!) What is that?!?? Is that… a bush!? Growing from the ground…!? In the exact spot where I buried the eagle last night…!? And what’s this? It’s got clusters of bright scarlet flowers, the color of flames! Just like the ones in my dream! The ones that I was simmering, and giving to the chieftess, and – (gasp!)

NARRATOR: Luisa’s hand flew to her mouth.

LUISA: Could it be? Could I really use these flowers to make medicine for the chieftess? Well – there’s only one way to find out!

NARRATOR: Luisa hurried to the bush and began plucking off its blossoms.

LUISA: I’ve been waiting for an answer from the harvest god. Something tells me this could be it!

NARRATOR: Luisa dropped the flowers in her pocket, then started back down the mountain. It was a difficult descent, but this time she had zero doubts about making it all the way down.

When she reached the village, she made a beeline for the chieftess’s house and bolted to the kitchen. She boiled some water, then dropped in the bright red flowers. She waited for them to simmer, then she poured the tea into a cup and raced to the bedroom.

LUISA: Chieftess! I’m back!

NARRATOR: The chieftess was still in bed. Her face was paler than ever, and her eyes were cloudy and dim.

CHIEFTESS: Luisa! Did you bring an answer from the harvest god?

LUISA: I believe I did! Here!

NARRATOR: Luisa held the cup to the chieftess’s lips.

LUISA: Drink this!

NARRATOR: The chieftess took a sip. Then another. And then, slowly, the color returned to her cheeks and the brightness returned to her eyes as she gazed up at her oldest and dearest friend.

CHIEFTESS: Luisa! You’ve made me well again! But how did you do it?

LUISA: Well… let’s just say I didn’t do it alone. I may have had help from a certain god… and a certain friend. I could never have done this without your faith and support.

CHIEFTESS: And I could never do anything without your faith and support. Having my health back is a gift – but having your friendship is the greatest gift of all!

NARRATOR: And so it was that the chieftess went back to work. The villagers were overjoyed to have her back… and they soon discovered that even without the golden eagle, peace and prosperity continued to come their way.

Maybe it was the harvest god. Or maybe it was the chieftess, who led her people with her fair hand, her kind heart, and her true and trusted friend by her side.

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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