Encore: Growing Courage

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("Growing Courage" by Sabina Hahn)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

When you hear the word “courage,” what comes to mind ?

Maybe you think about rushing into a burning building like a firefighter,or swooping in to save the day like a superhero!

But courage can also mean walking into a new classroom for the first time, or trying a bite of an unfamiliar food.

We’re about to meet a character who’s determined to be courageous. But first she must conquer a fear that seems larger than life!

Our story is called “Growing Courage.” Versions of this tale come from Ethiopia, a country in East Africa. You’ll also hear variations from the South Asian country of India.

Voices in this episode include Elle Borders, Amy Brentano, Jason Ennis, Brandon Green, Thais Harris, Edward Hong, Jefferson A. Russell, and Kyla Pratt, whom you grown-ups may know from Call Me Kat on FOX. And you kids may recognize Kyla’s voice from Disney’s animated sitcom The Proud Family; Kyla will be reprising her role as Penny Proud later this year when Disney+ releases The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.

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

Coloring Page

("Growing Courage" by Sabina Hahn)

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

Just like Liyana, you too can ‘grow your courage’!

And you can show how it’s growing… by making your own courage tree!

First, find some paper or poster board and draw a big tree trunk, with lots of branches. Attach your tree to the wall or refrigerator (any vertical surface will do!). Then, find some colored paper and cut out a bunch of leaves.

After that, think about one courageous thing you’ve done recently, something brave that you were proud of.  It could be as simple as “I tried a new food,” or “I stood up for myself.”

Write your act of bravery on one of your leaves — or have a grown-up help you — then use tape or glue to attach the leaf to your tree.

Eric Shimelonis has used the double bass to score several Circle Round stories, including “Stella and the Dragon,” “Nilsa and the Troll,” “Every Other Friday,” and this one! (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)
Eric Shimelonis has used the double bass to score several Circle Round stories, including “Stella and the Dragon,” “Nilsa and the Troll,” “Every Other Friday,” and this one! (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)

Keep repeating this activity every day, or at least a couple of times a week. And it won’t be long before you see your tree — and your courage — grow!

Musical spotlight: The Double Bass

The double bass may have many names — e.g. 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 — and many say it’s one of the hardest instruments in the world to master!


NARRATOR: For as long as Liyana could remember, she had been... afraid.

Afraid of the dark.

Afraid of thunderstorms.

Afraid of meeting new people

Afraid of walking home by herself.

And all the other kids in the village teased her for it.

KID 1: (taunting) Hey! Look who it is!

KID 2: It’s scaredy-cat Liyana!

KID 3: She’s afraid of everything!

KID 4: Even her own shadow!

KID 1: / KID 2: / KID 3: / KID 4: (taunting/chanting) Scaredy-cat Liyana! Scaredy-cat Liyana! Scaredy-cat Liyana!

KID 1: / KID 2: / KID 3: / KID 4: (laughter)

NARRATOR: Liyana lived in a cozy thatched-roof house with her wise old grandfather. One morning at breakfast, Grandfather noticed Liyana was especially quiet. Her usually bright eyes were dull and flat as she slumped in her chair, her elbows propped on the table, her face cupped in her hands.

GRANDFATHER: (gently) Granddaughter... I can’t help but notice that you haven’t eaten one bite of your pancakes, and I know they’re your favorite! (beat) What’s wrong, my dear?

NARRATOR: Liyana frowned.

LIYANA: It’s nothing, Grandfather. I just — (beat) (finding the nerve to ask) Can I ask you a question?

GRANDFATHER: Of course! You can ask me anything!


NARRATOR: Liyana tilted her head.

LIYANA: How did you get so... brave?

NARRATOR: Grandfather arched his eyebrows and laid his hand on his chest.

GRANDFATHER: (playful) Me...? You want to know how I got so brave...?

LIYANA: Yes! After all, you’re the most courageous person I know! (beat) Think about all those years you worked as a woodcutter. Every morning, you’d wander through the shadowy forest long before the sun came up! Then you would chop wood until late in the evening, long after the sun went down. You were all alone in those deep, dark woods... but you weren’t scared!

GRANDFATHER: That’s true…

LIYANA: And that time you were walking across the plains, and you came face to face with a lion!?! You just slowly backed away while the great beast stared you down with its glittering brown eyes.


LIYANA: And last year, when it rained so hard the village began to flood… you didn’t freak out! You stayed as calm as can be and helped everyone get to higher ground until the water subsided.


LIYANA: Well, you have to be brave to do those things, Grandfather! Frankly, I couldn’t imagine doing any of them. (beat) The other kids are right. I’m such a scaredy-cat I’m afraid of my own shadow!

NARRATOR: As Liyana hung her head, Grandfather slid his chair over and laid his arm around his granddaughter’s shoulder.

GRANDFATHER: Listen, child. Let me tell you a little something I’ve learned through the years. (beat) The only way to become more brave... is to practice at it!

LIYANA: Is that what you did?

GRANDFATHER: It sure is! (beat) Every single day, Liyana, you have to take a deep breath and decide you’re going to face your fear - whatever that fear may be. Then, little by little, your courage will grow bigger… and your fear will become smaller.

LIYANA: (repeating) “Your courage will grow bigger… and your fear will become smaller.”

GRANDFATHER: That’s right! Courage isn’t something you just snap your fingers and get, Liyana. It’s something you grow! (beat) Do you think you can do that?

NARRATOR: For the first time that morning, Liyana smiled.

LIYANA: (cheering up) I think I can try!

GRANDFATHER: Good. (beat) (playfully/joking) Now eat your pancakes, or I “fear” this hungry old fella will eat them for you!

LIYANA: / GRANDFATHER: (loving, good-natured laugh)

NARRATOR: All day long, Liyana thought about what Grandfather said.

And that night, after the old man went to bed, Liyana stood outside his bedroom door… and listened.

The moment she heard Grandfather’s first snores…

GRANDFATHER: (ad-lib snoring)

NARRATOR: ...she tiptoed to the closet and found a big bag. She stuffed the bag with food, clothing, and a cozy blanket, then she snuck through the front door and crept out into the moonlit night.

LIYANA: Grandfather says if I want courage, I have to grow it. (beat) Well, what better time to start… than now?

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: What do you think Liyana will do next?

And if you were Liyana, what would you do?

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 “Growing Courage.”

[theme music out]

NARRATOR: When we left off, “scaredy-cat Liyana” was determined to grow courage. So she packed a bag and snuck out of the house she shared with her grandfather.

Liyana felt beads of cold sweat slip down her back as she crept past the silent, sleeping houses of her neighbors. When she reached the forest that skirted the village, she stopped. The other children often played hide-and-seek in these dense, dark woods. Liyana never had the guts to join them.

But tonight, Grandfather’s words were echoing in her head.

GRANDFATHER:  You have to take a deep breath and decide you’re going to face your fear. Then, little by little, your courage will grow bigger… and your fear will become smaller.

NARRATOR: Liyana threw back her shoulders and stood up tall. Then she took a deep breath.

LIYANA: I am growing courage… I am growing courage...

NARRATOR: Branches creaked and twigs snapped as Liyana ventured into the murky forest.

Wolves howled, owls hooted, the wind whistled... but Liyana kept walking.

LIYANA:  I am growing courage... I am growing courage...

NARRATOR: The trees grew so tall and close together, their branches blocked out every inch of sky; not a single star was visible through the leafy canopy.

Liyana’s heart was beating so hard she could hear it thumping in her ears… but she kept walking.

LIYANA:  I am growing courage... I am growing courage...

NARRATOR: And then...

LIYANA: (a bit more confident) I am growing courage... I am growing courage...

NARRATOR: ...before Liyana knew it…

LIYANA: I am growing courage... I am growing courage...

NARRATOR: ... she emerged from the forest and found herself in a wide-open field, where thousands of golden stars sparkled and glittered in the boundless sky above.

LIYANA: Woowww! (beat) I did it!

NARRATOR: By this time, Liyana’s heart rate was beginning to slow… and her eyelids were beginning to close.

Liyana had never spent the night away from home — let alone in the middle of the dark wilderness — but her adventures had worn her out. She lay down on a soft patch of moss and pulled her blanket to her chin. Then she took a deep breath….

LIYANA: (drifting off to sleep) I am growing courage… I am growing courage… I am… (falls asleep)

NARRATOR: … and drifted off to sleep.

When Liyana blinked her eyes open, it was a fresh new day. The sun shone down from a cloudless sky as Liyana yawned and stretched. She nibbled on some of the food she’d packed, then continued on her journey.

Eventually she came to a town. It was built in the shadow of a towering, craggy mountain.

The town was quaint, and ever so charming, but Liyana felt her palms grow clammy. What if the people here didn’t take well to strangers? What if they told her to buzz off?

But instead of turning back and running right home again, I’ll bet you can guess what Liyana did... right?

She took a deep breath…

LIYANA: I am growing courage… I am growing courage…

NARRATOR: ...and marched her way right into the middle of the town square!

As she did, however, she noticed something... odd.

LIYANA: Hmmm... I can see houses and shops — a market, a school — yet everything seems closed! Nobody’s around! It’s so quiet!

NARRATOR: It was true. Liyana couldn’t spot a living soul anywhere. Until…

PERSON 1: Hey!

PERSON 2: You there!

NARRATOR: Liyana looked around. One by one, in the windows of the houses, faces appeared.

And they did not look happy.

PERSON 3: Don’t you know it isn’t safe here, young lady???

PERSON 4: Didn’t anyone tell you about... the monster?

NARRATOR: Liyana’s stomach did a flip-flop.

LIYANA: The monster…?!?

PERSON 1: Yes!

PERSON 2: The monster!

PERSON 3: The ferocious beast who threatens our town!

PERSON 4: Our children can’t go to school!

PERSON 1: Our farmers can’t plant crops!

PERSON 2: We all stay huddled inside our houses…

PERSON 3: ...for fear the monster will swoop through the streets…

PERSON 4: ...and gobble us up!

NARRATOR: Liyana felt her mouth go dry.

LIYANA: And where, exactly, does this “monster” live...?

NARRATOR: The people jabbed their fingers toward the jagged peak overlooking the town.

PERSON 1: Up there!

PERSON 2: At the top of the mountain!

PERSON 3: It stares down at us with its big yellow eyes!

PERSON 4: It breathes fire from its gaping red mouth!

PERSON 1: Its scaly body is bigger than all of our houses combined!

PERSON 2: And its wings spread so wide, they can block out the sun!

NARRATOR: Liyana’s gaze traveled up to the summit of the mountain. Now that she had heard the townspeople describe the monster in such vivid detail, she was certain she could see the sinister brute! Its great scaly body, its wide, menacing wings, its yellow eyes, its breath of fire... But then, once more, she heard Grandfather’s voice.

GRANDFATHER: You have to take a deep breath and decide you’re going to face your fear. Then, little by little, your courage will grow bigger… and your fear will become smaller.

NARRATOR: Liyana thought for a moment, then she called out to the townspeople.

LIYANA: Um, tell me, friends. Has anyone in town ever... faced the monster?

NARRATOR: The townspeople looked at Liyana as if she were speaking a language they’d never heard.

PERSON 3:Faced the monster”...!????

PERSON 4: How could any of us possibly face the monster?! 

PERSON 1: It’s too fierce!

PERSON 2: Too savage!

PERSON 3: Too enormous!

PERSON 4: So get out of here while you can, young lady, before you — (gets interrupted)

[SOT: scary monster sound]

NARRATOR: The townspeople’s eyes went wide.

So did Liyana’s.

LIYANA: Wait - was that… the monster?!??

NARRATOR: The townspeople didn’t answer. Instead, one by one, they popped their heads back into their windows and slammed them shut, leaving Liyana all alone in the town square.

With the monster’s roar still echoing in her ears, Liyana felt a chill run up and down her spine.

Her hands grew shaky, her head grew dizzy.

But she refused to give in to her fear.

Instead, she took a deep breath…

LIYANA: I am growing courage… I am growing courage…

NARRATOR: ...and marched right over to the base of the mountain.

She found a narrow dirt trail and began following the path as it twisted and turned. Higher and higher she hiked, inching and snaking her way closer and closer to the distant peak.

LIYANA: I am growing courage… I am growing — (gets interrupted)

[SOT: scary monster sound]

NARRATOR: Liyana froze in her tracks. With chattering teeth, she snuck a glance toward the summit.

LIYANA: Oh boy! There’s the monster! Look at it peering down at me with its sinister, yellow eyes! And huffing breaths of fire from its enormous red mouth!

NARRATOR: Liyana’s heart gave a lurch, but she knew what she had to do. She took a deep breath... and kept going.

LIYANA: I am growing courage… I am growing — (gets interrupted)

[SOT: less scary monster sound]

NARRATOR: Liyana shuddered. She swallowed hard before casting her eyes upwards again.

LIYANA: Ohhh! The monster’s still there! (beat) But wait — does it look… different? Smaller, maybe? Less savage and fierce? And is it just me or does it sound less savage and fierce, too??!??

NARRATOR: Liyana was confused, but she kept on going, pumping her arms to pick up speed.

LIYANA: I am growing courage… I am growing — (gets interrupted)

[SOT: even less scary monster sound]

NARRATOR: Liyana stopped again. But when she fixed her eyes on the summit, she immediately did a double-take.

LIYANA: Okay, that monster definitely looks different. Somehow, the higher up I climb, the smaller it seems to be! (beat) And its roar… even though I’m getting closer, its roar seems smaller, too! It doesn’t sound nearly as mighty and ferocious!

NARRATOR: Liyana was more perplexed than ever, but there was no time to puzzle over it. All she had to do was scramble up a steep wall of rock, and she would be at the top of the mountain!

She extended an arm and a leg and began climbing the rock face. She climbed… and climbed… but when she finally hoisted herself on to the plateau above...

LIYANA: (climbing) I am growing courage… I am growing — (falls silent)

NARRATOR: … she fell silent.

Because even though Liyana was standing on the lofty, wind-swept summit of the mountain, she couldn’t see the monster anywhere.

LIYANA: What’s going on? Didn’t I see the monster with my own two eyes??? And hear it with my own two ears??? Now that I’m finally here, I don’t understand how it could possibly — (gets interrupted)

[SOT: little squeaking sound]

NARRATOR: Liyana stopped short. Where was that sound coming from?

She turned her head to the right. She turned her head to the left.

She saw nothing.

Then, she tilted her head down.

And when she did, what should she spy skittering and scuttling on the ground… but a tiny little creature, no bigger than her thumb!

The eensy-weensy critter had a scaly body and miniature wings… and when Liyana crouched down to get a closer view, she noticed the poor thing was trembling, its red mouth quivering, its bright yellow eyes wide and round.

[SOT: little squeaking sound]

NARRATOR: Liyana stared at the creature.

The creature stared back.

And then… all at once… Liyana understood.

This pint-sized little thing with scales and wings and yellow eyes and red mouth was none other than…?

LIYANA: (a-ha moment) ...The monster! (beat) (slowly) Grandfather was right!

NARRATOR: And indeed... he was!

You see, now that Liyana had faced her fear, her courage had grown bigger… and her fear had become smaller. 

Much smaller.

So small, in fact, that Liyana could scoop it up and drop it in her pocket, before whistling down the mountain with a spring in her step, and courage in her heart.

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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