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Blowing Hot and Cold | Ep. 204

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

Have you ever wished you could control the weather?

Like if your soccer game is rained out, you could just snap your fingers, summon the sun, and scare the clouds away?

Or if you want to go sledding and there’s not enough snow, you could say the word and suddenly frosty white flakes come tumbling from the sky?

In today’s story, we’ll meet a character who’s given this very power… and all the responsibilities that come with it!

Our story is called “Blowing Hot and Cold.” Versions of this tale have been told in Estonia, a country in Northern Europe.

Voices in this episode include Evan Casey, Dawn Ursula, and Brittney Johnson.

Broadway star Brittney Johnson was the first Black actress to play ‘Glinda’ the “Good Witch” in the popular Broadway musical, Wicked. She’s also graced the Broadway stage in Les Misérables, Motown The Musical, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Sunset Boulevard, and Kristin Chenoweth: For The Girls. 

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

Do you have a favorite season? If so, what makes it your favorite?

Think about it, then write a poem about why you love your season so much.

You can write the poem down yourself, or have a grown-up help you. Either way, it can be a rhyming poem, or a non-rhyming one, and it can be as long or as short as you’d like.

When you’re done, share your poem with someone you love. Then help them write a poem about the season they like best!

Musical Spotlight: Bowed Psaltery

Eric Shimelonis plays the bowed psaltery: a hand-held triangular-shaped melody instrument played with a bow. (Courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)
Eric Shimelonis plays the bowed psaltery: a hand-held triangular-shaped melody instrument played with a bow. (Courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)

The psaltery is a wooden soundbox with unstopped strings over a soundboard that contains a smallish soundhole. The term “psaltery” dates back to ancient Greece, where the instrument was used for storytelling, religious, or theatrical occasions. Archaic names for the psaltery include “psalterion” and “sawtry.”

In contrast with the centuries-old plucked psaltery, the bowed psaltery dates back to the 1940s in Europe. It is typically triangular in shape, which allows each string to extend a little farther than the one before it; that way, you can bow each string individually. Chromatic bowed psalteries have the sharps and flats on one side – like the black notes on a piano – and the diatonic notes on the other side – like the white notes on a piano.

The bowed psaltery differs from the plucked psaltery only in that its strings are arranged to permit bowing. In the United States, you usually play the bowed psaltery with a small bow, often made in the semicircular style of early bows. In Europe you’d use a reduced-size modern violin bow.


NARRATOR: In a kingdom way up north… where the winters are long and the northern lights dance and twirl in the wide-open skies… there lived a farmer named Lucinda.

Lucinda made her home in a clapboard cottage on a winding country road, where she spent long hours feeding her chickens, milking her cows, and tending to her bountiful garden of vegetables.

It was a quiet, solitary life. But late one night, toward the end of autumn, she was awoken by a knock at her cottage door.

LUCINDA: Hmmm. I wonder who that could be? It’s the middle of the night! And it’s been days – if not weeks – since I’ve seen anyone wandering down the winding country road. I wonder if some unfortunate soul has lost their way…

NARRATOR: When Lucinda crawled out of bed and opened the door...


NARRATOR: …she found herself face to face with a man. An old man dressed entirely in blue: round blue hat, long blue coat, fuzzy blue boots; even his eyes were blue, twinkling like two round sapphires. His walking stick was the same snowy-white shade as his beard. A red sack was slung over his shoulder. Lucinda could have sworn the fellow looked strangely familiar.

FROST: Good evening, madam! I’m sorry if I woke you, but I’m so grateful you answered the door. I’ve come traveling from very far and I am so very tired. I wonder if you could put me up for the night?

NARRATOR: Lucinda’s heart swelled with sympathy. She couldn’t possibly turn this kind-looking fellow away!

LUCINDA: Of course I can put you up for the night, sir! Come in! But tell me – have you and I met? I have this odd feeling I’ve seen you before.

NARRATOR: The man in blue shuffled inside and smiled.

FROST: I don’t believe we have met! But I am delighted to make your acquaintance. After all, not everybody would have the heart to take in a random visitor in the middle of the night.

LUCINDA: Well, it’s the least I can do. And given how chilly it is this time of year, how about you take my bedroom? You’ll be nice and snug in there. I’ll sleep on the floor in the kitchen, beside the wood stove.

NARRATOR: The old man shook his head.

FROST: Oh, no! I wouldn’t dream of it! You sleep in your own bed. I’ll sleep on the floor in the kitchen.

NARRATOR: Lucinda was surprised. Was this man really insisting on spending the night on a cold and creaky wood floor? But she didn’t argue. Instead, she fetched more logs from her woodpile, stoked the stove, then bid the old man goodnight.

The next morning, she awoke with a start.

LUCINDA: Oh! How did it get so frigid in here?

NARRATOR: Lucinda looked down. She had all her covers on, yet her body was shivering. Her fingers were numb.

LUCINDA: Goodness! If it’s this nippy in the bedroom, imagine how freezing the kitchen must be! Oh, that poor old man!

NARRATOR: Lucinda pulled on a sweater and opened the door to the kitchen. She was met with a blast of icy air – and a most astonishing sight! Not only was the wood stove no longer burning… it was covered with a thick layer of white frost! And beside the stove, curled up on the floor, was the man in blue, his eyes closed, his body surrounded by what looked like snow!

LUCINDA: Oh dear oh dear oh dear! Has my guest frozen to death? Sir! Please! Tell me you’re alive!

NARRATOR: To Lucinda’s relief, the man blinked open his twinkling blue eyes.

FROST: Oh! Good morning! Is everything alright?

LUCINDA: Is everything alright??? No! Everything is not alright! The wood stove stopped burning while you and I were asleep! And now it feels like the middle of winter in here! Haven’t you noticed?

NARRATOR: The man stretched and pulled himself up to a sitting position.

FROST: Actually, I have noticed that it feels like the middle of winter! And I’m so very thankful! This kitchen was so warm last night I thought I’d never fall asleep! Luckily, I was able to nod off some time around dawn. But now, this room is as comfy as can be!

LUCINDA: Comfy”?!? What do you mean “comfy”?!?  There’s frost on the stove! There’s snow on the floor! I’d offer to make you breakfast but my fingers are so frozen I can barely feel them!

NARRATOR: Lucinda let out a shiver. The man, she noticed, wasn’t shivering at all.

FROST: That’s awfully kind of you, but you needn’t give me breakfast. You’ve shown such hospitality already! And so, I’d like to give you something.

NARRATOR: The man rose to his feet and rummaged through his red sack. He pulled out two wooden boxes, each one big enough to hold a pair of shoes. One box was red, the other was blue.

FROST: These boxes are your reward for treating me so kindly. Here! Have a look.

NARRATOR: The red box, Lucinda noticed, was carved with what looked like little suns. The blue one was carved with snowflakes. She was about to open the red one when the man in blue suddenly cried out.

FROST: Wait! You mustn’t open the boxes yet! You see, these boxes are magic!

LUCINDA: Magic?!?

NARRATOR: Lucinda blinked her eyes in wonder.

LUCINDA: What do you mean, “magic”?

FROST: Well… the red box contains heat – all the heat you could ever want! And the blue box contains my favorite thing in the world: cold!

NARRATOR: Lucinda’s gaze traveled from the old man, to the boxes, then back to the old man. And all at once she knew why the fellow looked so familiar. The blue outfit, the white stick and beard, the red sack… she had seen pictures of all those things in storybooks when she was a little girl!

LUCINDA: You are Father Frost! The conjurer of cold! The spirit of snow! The wizard of winter!

FROST: That’s me! And I do apologize for freezing up your cottage. Once I go, you can use the red box to warm things up again. But be careful – only open the lid a little bit, lest you be burnt to a crisp! … As for the blue box, you can save that gift for another time. Unless you wish to summon a great big storm of snow and ice – which sounds heavenly to me, but less appealing to you, I suspect!

NARRATOR: Lucinda laughed and rubbed her numb hands.

LUCINDA: You’re right about that! I appreciate your advice, Father Frost. And your gifts.

FROST: Well I appreciate your generosity! But I’d best be on my way. Winter’s around the corner, and it’s a rather busy time for me! So much to do, so much to do!

NARRATOR: And with that, Father Frost hoisted his red sack over his shoulder, breezed out the door, and disappeared down the winding country road.

Lucinda stared at the red and blue boxes. She could hardly believe the new powers she possessed. Little did she know, those powers would soon catch the attention of some very important powers-that-be!

NARRATOR: How do you think Lucinda will use Father Frost’s gifts?

How would you use the red and blue boxes if you were Lucinda?

We’ll find out what happens, after a quick break.


NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to Circle Round. Today our story is called “Blowing Hot and Cold.”

NARRATOR: Before the break, Father Frost gave Lucinda the farmer two gifts: a red box that produced heat, and a blue box that produced cold. He cautioned her to only open each box just a little bit, unless she wanted burning heat or biting cold to come rushing out.

As autumn turned to winter, Lucinda had no interest in using the blue box. Winters were long and cold in her part of the world, so she shoved the blue box in a closet and forgot all about it.

The red box, on the other hand, was a life changer! Lucinda’s days of trudging outside to chop and carry firewood were over. All she had to do now was crack open the red box just a little bit…

LUCINDA: Here we go!

NARRATOR: …and her humble clapboard cottage heated right up.

LUCINDA: Ahh! It’s warm as toast in here!

NARRATOR: Likewise, if her chickens got too cold in their coop…

LUCINDA: You’re shivering down to your feathers, ladies!

NARRATOR: …or her cows got too chilly in the barn…

LUCINDA: It’s so brisk you girls might give milk shakes instead of milk!

NARRATOR: ……Lucinda would use the red box to heat things up.

LUCINDA: There! That’s better!

NARRATOR: As winter dragged on… and on… Lucinda got an idea.

LUCINDA: Spring is still a ways away… so what if I use the red box to get an early start on my planting? It’ll be like I’m creating my own spring! Imagine how many more vegetables I could grow if I started now!

NARRATOR: So Lucinda took the red box out to her fields… cracked open the lid… And all of a sudden…

LUCINDA: Look at that! The snow is melting! And the ground is thawing! This is amazing!

NARRATOR: Lucinda got to work making tiny holes in the soil and filling them with seeds. And before she knew it, her fields were turning a lush, brilliant green as her crops began sprouting from the newly-warmed earth!

It was still technically winter, mind you, so the rest of the countryside was blanketed with snow. And early one morning, some of the Queen’s guards happened to come riding down the winding country road. When they spotted Lucinda’s field, they galloped straight back to the palace and reported to the Queen what they saw.

QUEEN: Is it true?? You really found an entire field of vegetables growing in the dead of winter?!? I must meet the owner of this field! Return to the countryside and bring them to me. Tell them I must know their secret!

NARRATOR: So the guards galloped back to Lucinda’s cottage and brought her to the palace. Her stomach filled with butterflies as she entered the queen’s grand throne room.

QUEEN: So you are the owner of that mystical field in the countryside! The one that’s sprouting and growing amidst all of this snow…?

LUCINDA: I am, Your Majesty. I am Lucinda the farmer, at your service.

QUEEN: I must say, Lucinda the farmer… I am both astonished – and envious. You see, you and I have something in common. Because despite all my decree-making and proclamation-delivering and other royal obligations, my true passion… is growing things.

LUCINDA: I’ve heard about your royal garden, Your Majesty! Everyone who’s laid eyes on it says it's magnificent!

QUEEN: And they’re right! The royal garden is full of fragrant flowers and leafy green trees bursting with fruit! … Though not during the current season, of course. Every year, when winter comes around again, my heart fills with grief as I watch my beloved garden freeze over and go dormant. Yet you don’t seem to have that problem! Tell me your secret!

NARRATOR: Lucinda flashed the Queen a little smile.

LUCINDA: Well… with all due respect, Your Highness… I can do much better than tell you my secret. I can show you! …Provided I have permission to join you in the royal garden…?

NARRATOR: So the Queen led Lucinda to the royal garden. The snow-covered space was surrounded by a tall wall of stone, and seemed to stretch on forever. Lucinda could easily have fit hundreds of her own fields inside.

She pulled Father Frost’s red box from her rucksack and showed it to the Queen.

LUCINDA: Your Majesty. This box was a gift from a friend – a very special friend. And I believe it’s just the thing you need. Watch this!

NARRATOR: Lucinda cracked open the lid. In an instant, waves of heat rushed out of the box and spread across the garden. And before the Queen’s very eyes, the snow melted away and the garden sprang to life, as if spring were instantly here.

QUEEN: Lucinda! This is astonishing! Miraculous! You must come live at the palace and use your red box – and green thumb – as my new royal gardener! Do you accept the offer?

LUCINDA: It would be my honor, Your Majesty! Thank you!

NARRATOR: Lucinda took a trip to her humble clapboard cottage, threw all of her belongings into a trunk, and moved in to the royal palace. With help from Father Frost’s red box, she kept the royal garden at just the right temperature, so that it bloomed, blossomed, and bore fruit all year long.

The Queen spent much of her time in the garden, strolling amongst the fragrant flowers and trees as she planned a proclamation, brainstormed a law, or wrestled with a royal dilemma. The garden became a refuge, a haven that calmed her mind and soothed her soul. And Lucinda became more than her royal gardener; she became her confidante and friend.

But one summer day – and I’m talking real summer, not just in the royal garden – Lucinda found the queen sitting under an apple tree…

QUEEN: (Crying.)

NARRATOR: …and crying.

QUEEN: (Crying.)

LUCINDA: Your Majesty! Are you alright? Whatever is the matter?

QUEEN: Everything, Lucinda! Everything is the matter! Our kingdom is being invaded!

LUCINDA: Invaded!???

QUEEN: Yes! I’ve just received word that another kingdom – a much larger kingdom – is planning to invade us! To take us over! Enemy forces are on their way to our borders right now, and their army is far bigger and greater than our own. Our soldiers don’t stand a chance against them!

NARRATOR: The queen buried her face in her hands. Lucinda tried to stay calm.

LUCINDA: Okay… So what if we don’t just send soldiers? What if we send every single able-bodied citizen who’s willing to fight?

QUEEN: Even then, we could never overcome the enemy; they’re simply too great! What we need is a miracle, Lucinda. And the closest thing I’ve seen to a miracle lately is that magical red box of yours. And what good would that do us?

NARRATOR: Lucinda thought back to the day she received the red box from Father Frost. Then she remembered his warning.

FROST: Be careful – only open the lid a little bit, lest you be burnt to a crisp!

NARRATOR: Even if an invading army was closing in, Lucinda wasn’t about to use the red box to spark a raging fire. Sure, a massive inferno might keep the enemy at bay, but it also might roast her kingdom like a marshmallow!

LUCINDA: You’re right, Your Majesty. We do need a miracle. But other than the magical red box, I don’t know what miracle I could possibly –

NARRATOR: Lucinda stopped short. Because in that moment, she recalled something else Father Frost had told her.

FROST: As for the blue box, you can save that gift for another time. Unless you wish to summon a great big storm of snow and ice!

NARRATOR: The blue box! Of course! She’d barely thought about that gift since Father Frost gave it to her!

LUCINDA: Your Majesty! I know a way we can defeat the enemy! No need to send soldiers, no need to send citizens. Just let your subjects know they must spend the next few days indoors. And trust me. I’ve got this.

NARRATOR: The queen wasn’t sure what Lucinda was planning, but she flashed her friend a grateful grin.

QUEEN: I trust you, Lucinda! I will issue a proclamation right away!

NARRATOR: Once the citizens received word that they must remain inside, the kingdom was like a ghost town, quiet and seemingly empty.

But when the enemy soldiers appeared at the border, Lucinda was ready and waiting. She held up Father Frost’s blue box, she threw the lid open all the way… and just like that…a whoosh of cold came barreling out from inside! A bitter, bone-chilling wind began to howl, and snow exploded from the sky as if shot from a cannon!

The clusters of snowflakes grew so thick, Lucinda could barely see in front of her. But she smiled as she caught sight of the enemy soldiers literally shaking in their boots as they wheeled around and scrambled away to escape this incredible summer snow storm.

LUCINDA: Leaving so soon? What, did my kingdom give you the cold shoulder?!? Ha ha ha!

NARRATOR: Well… that was the last time an invading army dared to cross the border of Lucinda’s kingdom. But it was also the last time anyone used the gifts of Father Frost. Because after Lucinda unleashed the power of the blue box, both boxes – the blue and the red – disappeared.


Without a trace.

At first, Lucinda was disappointed. And as you can imagine, the Queen was too. But eventually they decided they were better off letting all four seasons run their course – just as they always had – and allowing Father Frost, and Mother Nature, to work their own special magic, the whole year round.

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



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