Amos and the Ogre | Ep. 205

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

Think about a time you used your wits, or smarts, to face a challenge.

We’re about to meet a character who uses his wits to face a big, strong bully. Because he knows that when it all comes down to it, brains can be more powerful than brawn!

Our story is called “Amos and the Ogre.” You’ll find versions of this tale from many places, including Latin America, Canada, the American South and Southwest, plus the European countries of Hungary, Italy, Norway, Spain, and Sweden.

Voices in this episode include Amory Sivertson, Chris Stinson, Fortune Feimster, and Tom Papa.

Grown-ups: check out Fortune Feimster’s latest standup special, “Good Fortune,” on Netflix. And watch for her in the upcoming Netflix action-comedy series “FUBAR,” where she stars alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. Tom Papa’s latest standup special, “What a Day,” is also streaming on Netflix. His newest book, “We’re All In This Together… So Make Some Room,” comes out June 6th.

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

Can you remember a time when you felt strong – no matter your size?

Find a piece of paper and something to draw with, then make a picture that captures your experience.

When you’re done, show your picture to a grown-up in your life, and tell them everything that happened — and how it made you feel. After that, ask them to tell you about a time they felt strong!

Musical Spotlight: Orchestral Percussion

The largest family in the orchestra is percussion, which includes instruments that make a sound when hit, shaken, or scraped. The most common orchestral percussion instruments include: timpani, xylophone, cymbals, triangle, snare drum, bass drum, tambourine, maracas, gongs, chimes, celesta, and piano. You can learn more about many orchestral percussion instruments in this short video from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

You can tune some percussion instruments, like the xylophone and timpani, to different notes, Others, including the bass drum, cymbals, and castanets, are untuned with no definite pitch.

Fun fact: unlike most of the other players in an orchestra, a percussionist typically will play many different instruments in one piece of music, to keep rhythm and add excitement and flair!


NARRATOR: Once upon a time, at the bottom of a tree-covered hill, there lay a village. And at the top of the tree-covered hill, deep inside a dark, stony cave, there lived an ogre!

The ogre was big – so big, she towered over all of the villagers’ roofs! The ogre was also strongso strong, she could pluck a boulder off the ground as if it weighed no more than a cotton ball!

And what’s more, the ogre was mean. So mean, that on the first day of each month, she ordered the villagers to come to her cave and bring her gifts… in exchange for their safety.

OGRE: Well, well, well! Look at all these weak little humans lining up outside my cave! You, sir; you’re first. What have you got for me this month?

MAN 1: Well, ogre, I’ve brought you one-hundred fish! I woke up at the crack of dawn so I could catch them fresh from the river!

OGRE: A-hundred fresh fish, huh…? I’ll take ‘em. But bring some lemon next time. And some butter. I don’t like my fish plain. Next?

WOMAN 1: Hi, ogre! I’ve brought you a dozen batches of oatmeal raisin cookies! Piping-hot from the oven!

OGRE: You’ve brought me a dozen batches of cookies? That’ll last me, what, a couple of minutes? Seconds? (beat) Never mind. Double the recipe next time – and make it chocolate chip. Too many raisins don’t agree with my system, ya know what I mean? Next?

MAN 2: Hi, ogre! I’ve brought you this… chicken egg!

OGRE: Okay, hold the phone. You brought me a chicken egg?!? One lousy chicken egg???

MAN 2: Well, it’s been a tough month, ogre! I lost my job and money’s been tight and so I –

OGRE: Cool it! I don’t wanna hear your sob story. Listen, buddy. Where do you live

MAN 2: In the little green cottage…? At the edge of the village…?

OGRE: And how long have you been living in your little green cottage at the edge of the village?

MAN 2: My whole life, ogre! I was born and raised there!

OGRE: Then you should know the deal by now. I am much bigger than you. I am much stronger than you. So if you bring me a decent gift each month – a desirable gift – then I’ll let you live in peace. But if you don’t bring me a decent and desirable gift, then I’ll pick up a great big boulder and smash your little green cottage to smithereens! Would you call this one measly egg a “decent” gift…?

MAN 2: Well, ahhh, I mean…

OGRE: Would you call it a “desirable” gift…?

MAN 2: I… um… uhhhh…

OGRE: Allow me to answer that question for you… WITH THIS GREAT BIG BOULDER! Huhhhh-yahhhhh!

OGRE: Right on target! Next?

NARRATOR: So, like I said, the ogre was big and strong and mean. And all of the villagers felt powerless against her.

Well, maybe not all of them. Because one day somebody new moved to town: a cheesemaker named Amos. Amos had never lived in a village dominated by a big, strong, mean ogre. So when he heard about his neighbors’ monthly arrangement, he was flabbergasted.

AMOS: I can’t believe these poor people have to give the ogre gifts just so they don‘t get their roofs smashed in! That isn’t right! I must find a way to get that bully to leave my neighbors alone!

NARRATOR: The days passed, then the weeks, and before long it was the first of the month again. While the other villagers trudged up the tree-covered hill to give their gifts to the ogre, Amos stayed inside his house and cooked up a plan… by whipping up a batch of cheese.

AMOS: Okay! We’ve got our milk, our buttermilk, our salt… now let’s get to work!

NARRATOR: Usually when Amos made his cheese, he formed it into round wheels and brought them to the market.

But this time he did something he’d never done before: rather than make the cheese into wheels, he formed it into hunks – big lumpy hunks, all irregular and misshapen.

Then Amos did something else he’d never done: he carried the hunks of cheese to his fireplace… and rolled them around in the ashes!

AMOS: Look at that: now the cheese is all ashy and gray on the outside. This will be perfect!

NARRATOR: As the day wore on, Amos’s neighbors all paid a visit to the ogre’s cave. And from what Amos could see and hear through his window…a handful of them didn’t fare so well.

AMOS: Alright. If I’m going to stop this brute of an ogre once and for all, it’s time to put my plan into action!

NARRATOR: It was nearly sunset as Amos threw his ashy lumps of cheese into a sack, then traipsed up the hill to the ogre’s dark, stony cave.

AMOS: Hello? Anybody home?

NARRATOR: Amos felt the ground tremble as the ogre came lumbering outside.

OGRE: So! One last human is here to pay his fine! You’re lucky you got here in time; I was just about to hit the sack and get my beauty rest. What have you got for me

AMOS: Actually, ogre… I haven’t got anything.

OGRE: What?!???

NARRATOR: The ogre crossed her burly arms and flared her giant nostrils.

OGRE: You have to have something! I’m the biggest! I’m the strongest! That’s why you weak little humans bring me your gifts: so that I’ll leave you alone!

AMOS: Well, ogre… I will concede that you are the biggest. But as for being the strongest…? I’m not so sure.

OGRE: Psht! What do you mean?

NARRATOR: Amos grinned. What he meant was: while he knew the ogre was the strongest when it came to brawn, he wasn’t sure she was the strongest when it came to brains!

But he wasn’t about to say that out loud!

AMOS: What I mean is… – actually, how about if I just demonstrate it for you?

NARRATOR: He reached into his sack and pulled out a hunk of ashy cheese.

AMOS: Do you see what I’ve got in my hand here…?

NARRATOR: The ogre squinted her beady eyes.

OGRE: Do I see what you’ve got in your hand?!? Of course I see what you’ve got in your hand! It’s… a rock!

NARRATOR: Amos tingled with excitement. The ogre was falling for his trick! Just as he’d hoped, the ashes had done their job… and made the lumpy hunk of cheese look just like a bumpy piece of stone!

AMOS: Well, ogre… if I truly am just a “weak little human,” as you say... then how come I can do this????

NARRATOR: Amos held the cheese between his hands and rubbed it like a snowball. Then he gave it a firm squeeze. The moment he did, the cheese crumbled… and little fragments sprayed through his fingers and scattered all over the ground!

The ogre’s jaw dropped.

OGRE: Uh, how did you do that?!? How did you crush that rock with your bare hands?!

AMOS: What can I say? I may not be big like you, ogre – but I am strong. So I’ll tell you what. First thing tomorrow I will come back, and we will hold three contests to see which of us is stronger. If I win all three contests, you will leave me and my neighbors alone. No more gifts on the first day of each month. You will finally let us live in peace!

NARRATOR: The ogre cocked her massive head.

OGRE: But what if I win all three contests?

AMOS: If you win all three, then you may keep collecting your monthly gifts. And you may take a great big boulder and smash my house to smithereens. (beat) So? What do you say, ogre? Do you accept the challenge?

NARRATOR: The ogre thought it over. Sure, this human could apparently crush a rock with his bare hands, but come on! She could crush houses with boulders!

OGRE: Alright, little human. I accept the challenge. What will the three contests be

AMOS: Well, first we will see who can throw a stone the farthest. Second, we will see who can punch a deeper hole in a tree trunk. And third, we will see which one of us can carry more firewood.

OGRE: Throwing stones… punching tree trunks… carrying firewood… these contests are gonna be a piece of cake! … For me, anyway. I’ll see you back here tomorrow, little human. And may the strongest one win!

NARRATOR: What do you think Amos is planning?

Can he really defeat the ogre in three contests of strength?

We’ll find out, after a quick break.


NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to Circle Round. Today our story is called “Amos and the Ogre.”

Before the break, Amos the cheesemaker challenged the ogre to three contests: stone-throwing, tree-punching, and firewood-carrying. If the ogre won, the villagers had to keep giving her monthly gifts – and she would destroy their houses if they didn’t. But if Amos won, the ogre would finally leave the villagers alone.

Amos knew his body wasn’t nearly as big or strong as the ogre’s, but he suspected his mind was stronger. So early the next morning, when the sun wasn’t yet up and the air was still cool and misty, Amos got out of bed and began rummaging around his shed.

AMOS: Let’s see… I need my chisel… my ax… and a nice long length of rope. These should do the trick!

NARRATOR: Amos placed the chisel, ax, and rope into a big bag, then he headed up the tree-covered hill.

Before he reached the ogre’s cave, he found an elm tree with an especially wide trunk. Carefully, he peeled off the bark from one side of the tree, then from the opposite side.

AMOS: Easy does it… almost there…

NARRATOR: After that, he used his chisel to drill a hole all the way through the trunk. Then he placed the bark back over the holes, so it looked like the tree had never been touched.

Once that was done, Amos approached an aspen tree. To his delight, its branches were brimming with little gray songbirds.

AMOS: Good morning, my feathered friends! I wonder if you fly as beautifully as you sing?!

NARRATOR: Amos reached out and took hold of a bird. He tucked the creature into his coat sleeve, then continued up the hill to the cave, where the ogre was waiting with her hands on her hips and a scowl on her face.

OGRE: Welcome back, little human! Ready to have your butt kicked?

AMOS: I’m ready to compete, if that’s what you mean! The first contest is stone throwing. Would you like to go first?

OGRE: Absolutely! Watch this!

NARRATOR: The ogre bent down and lifted up a stone the size of a pumpkin. She clutched it in her hand, cocked back her arm, then hurled the stone into the air.

It whizzed over the trees and past the village, before landing in a distant river. The river was so far off, Amos couldn’t even hear the splash.

OGRE: Ha! That stone must have traveled miles and miles! There’s no way you can throw a stone farther than that, little human!

NARRATOR: Amos didn’t say a word. He just knelt down as if reaching for another stone on the ground. But instead, do you know what he actually did? Secretly, he took the little gray bird out of his coat sleeve.

AMOS: Okay, little friend. Let’s see what you can do!

NARRATOR: Amos wrapped his fingers around the bird. Then he pulled back his arm and flung it forward, as if tossing a stone into the air.

As Amos made his throw, he opened his fingers and released the bird. The surprised creature flapped its wings and took off toward the sky. It flew higher and higher, before vanishing above the clouds.

Amos could tell the ogre was thunderstruck. After all, as far as her beady eyes could see, Amos had just lofted an actual stone all the way to space!

OGRE: Human! You threw that stone so far, it might never come back down again!

AMOS: Perhaps! Perhaps. I dare say I’ve won the first contest, ogre. Are you ready for the second? Tree-punching?

NARRATOR: The ogre glared at Amos, then balled her enormous hands into enormous fists.

OGRE: Oh I’m ready, little human. With magnificent mitts like these, I am a champion puncher, so you’d better watch out!

AMOS: Oh I will! I’ll also allow you to choose your tree. Then I’ll choose mine.

NARRATOR: The ogre looked around, then marched over to a tall pine tree. She took a breath, then shot out her fist and gave the tree a wallop.

As the ogre’s hand broke through the pine’s trunk, her face broke into a wide grin.

OGRE: Ha! I rammed my arm nearly all the way through! There’s no way you can punch a hole deeper than that, little human!

NARRATOR: Amos didn’t say a word. He just glanced around the forest, as if seeking out the perfect tree. And when he made his choice, do you know which one he picked?

You guessed it!

He picked the elm tree he had prepared earlier, by hollowing it out with his chisel!

Amos balled up his fingers, careful to aim at the spot where the hole was covered with bark. Then he gave the tree a big whack!

And wouldn't you know it, Amos’s fist crashed right through the tree and popped out the other side!

One look at the ogre’s face and Amos knew she was gobsmacked.

OGRE: Human! How can someone so puny be so powerful?!? You punched through that tree like it was made of paper!

AMOS: So it seems! It looks like I’ve won the second contest, ogre. But I must win all three if I want to save my fellow villagers – and my house! So whaddya say we move on to the third contest? Firewood-carrying?

NARRATOR: The ogre shot Amos a glance – a withering glance, but a worried one too. Amos could tell she was getting nervous.

OGRE: Uh, yeah! Let’s move on to the third contest! With my stupendous strength, I can carry more firewood than you ever dreamed of, little human. So let’s go!

NARRATOR: The ogre bustled back to her cave and returned with an ax and some rope. Grasping the ax in her hefty hands, she took a swing at an oak tree. And with just one hack…she knocked the entire thing down!

Once the tree hit the ground, she chopped it into logs of firewood…then tied up the logs with her rope. She heaved the bundle of wood onto her broad shoulders, then hauled it to the entrance of her cave.

OGRE: Ha! This is an entire tree’s worth of wood, carried all at once! There’s no way you can carry that much firewood, little human! … Right?

NARRATOR: Amos didn’t say a word. He just reached into his bag, pulled out his long length of rope, then tied it around the trunk of a maple tree. After that he began weaving his way through the forest, knotting the rope around each and every tree he passed.

OGRE: Uh, little human…? What are you doing?

AMOS: What does it look like I’m doing? I’m tying a rope around every tree on the hill! I’ll yank them out of the ground all at once, then I’ll carry them on my back and sell them in the village as firewood! I’ll become a millionaire!

NARRATOR: The ogre stared at Amos. She thought about his bare hands crushing a piece of rock… his powerful arm hurtling a stone into the clouds… his mighty fist bursting through the trunk of a tree. The thought of this spectacularly strong human uprooting the entire forest with one yank was just too much!

OGRE: But wait! If you uproot all the trees, and take all the firewood, there won’t be any left for me! I’ll be shivering in my cave once winter comes!

NARRATOR: Amos smiled to himself. He knew he had his opponent right where he wanted her!

AMOS: I’m sorry, ogre, but I’m just trying to win our third contest! You do understand, right…?

NARRATOR: The ogre slumped her great shoulders. She hung her great head. Then she heaved a great sigh and sank down to her great knees.

OGRE: Human! I beg you. Leave me the trees, and I’ll leave you alone. I’ll leave all of you alone – everyone in the village! You’ve bested me, little human. So the best I can do is make good on my promise.

NARRATOR: And lo and behold… she did! Never again did the ogre force the villagers to give her gifts each month. And never again did they fear a great big boulder smashing their houses to smithereens.

Thanks to clever Amos, the ogre now knew that if she wanted to pick a fight, she’d better pick on somebody her own size – or, better yet…? Nobody at all!

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



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