Earning Peanuts | Ep. 209

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

If I asked you to finish the sentence, “Kindness is…” what would you say?

You might say “Kindness is caring for others.” Or “Kindness is helping someone who needs help.”

Today’s story is all about kindness, and how good it can feel to give and receive it. In fact, as one of our characters learns, that feeling can be as good as gold!

Our story is called “Earning Peanuts.” Versions of this tale come from the Burmese and Indian people of Southeast Asia.

Voices in this story include: Ryan Dalusung, Pablo Castelblanco, and Meredith Holzman. Meredith Holzman and Pablo Castelblanco co-star opposite Hillary Swank in the ABC drama “Alaska Daily,” streaming on Hulu. Grown-ups, you can also see Meredith Holzman in “Only Murders in the Building” on Hulu and “Inventing Anna” on Netflix. Watch for Pablos Castelblanco in the upcoming feature film, “Ganymede.”

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

You can bring more kindness into the world by making your own Consideration Cards!

  1. Find some paper or card stock and cut it into rectangles; each rectangle should be about the size of a playing card.
  2. Once you have at least a dozen cards, write or draw an act of kindness, or consideration, on each one. You can include things like donating food to a charity, helping a grown-up with chores, giving someone a compliment; you could even include acts like picking up litter or feeding the birds!
  3. Put your Consideration Cards in a bowl or pile, then pick one card and do whatever it says. You can pick a Consideration Card each day, each week, each month: any time you want to spread more kindness!

Musical Spotlight: Marimba

The marimba has become popular in many places around the world, including Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, North America, South America and Central America. (courtesy of pxfuel)
The marimba has become popular in many places around the world, including Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, North America, South America and Central America. (courtesy of pxfuel)

Eric Shimelonis chose this week’s instrument for its quick, bright, playful sound – echoing the quick, bright, playful squirrel who gives the Peddler and the Neighbor their “gifts”!

While the marimba originated in Africa, it has become a standard instrument in the percussion section of many orchestras and jazz ensembles, and can be heard in music from Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, North America, South America and Central America.

The marimba resembles a xylophone, but has a greater range (three to five octaves versus the xylophone’s two-and-a-half to four). It’s typically played with mallets – by one person at a time – but as you’ll see in this video as many as three people can play the marimba simultaneously!


NARRATOR: There once was a peddler. The peddler made a modest living selling odds and ends at the marketplace: cups and candlesticks, spices and scarves, buttons and bottles.

PEDDLER: Here you go, sir: one glass bottle. That’ll be one copper piece, please. Thank you! And madam! Would you like to buy one candlestick or two? I’m offering a special deal today: buy one, get one half-off!

NARRATOR: At closing time, the peddler counted his copper pieces, used a handful to pick up some supper, then returned home for a humble meal and a good night’s sleep, before waking up the next morning and doing it all again.

One hot summer day, business at the marketplace was slow. And when it was time to buy some supper, the peddler realized that all he could afford with the day’s meager earnings was…?

PEDDLER: …One bag of peanuts??? That’s not much of a meal! But what choice do I have? I’ll take these peanuts home, crack them out of their shells, then fill my belly as best I can.

NARRATOR: The peddler lived in a snug little house beside a forest. It was a balmy night, and his snug house felt so stuffy he decided to eat his peanuts outside.

But just as he took a seat on his porch…

…he discovered he wasn’t alone! Standing in front of him was a squeaking gray mouse.

PEDDLER: Well, hello little friend! Is it me, or do you look hungry? Here. have a peanut.

NARRATOR: The mouse took a peanut from the peddler, nodded its head as if to say “thank you,” then scuttled off into the forest.

PEDDLER: You’re welcome, little friend! Enjoy!

NARRATOR: The peddler got to work shelling his peanuts. But then…

…he looked down and saw a chirping little chipmunk!

PEDDLER: Well now! Who do we have here? Another critter? And you look hungry, too! Here. You can have a peanut too.

NARRATOR: The chipmunk took the peanut, flicked its striped tail as if to say “thank you,” then zipped off into the forest.

PEDDLER: You’re welcome too, little critter! Bon appetit!

NARRATOR: The peddler went back to cracking his peanuts from their shells. But before long…

…he found himself in the company of a chittering, bushy-tailed squirrel!

PEDDLER: Boy oh boy! It’s a busy night for you critters, isn’t it! Let me guess: you’re hungry too?

SQUIRREL: Actually… I am hungry!

NARRATOR: The stunned peddler nearly dropped his peanuts.

PEDDLER: Woahh! You talk?!??

SQUIRREL: I do talk! And I thank you for being so kind to my friends just now! Is there any chance I could have a peanut too…?

NARRATOR: The peddler regained his composure, then flashed the squirrel a smile.

PEDDLER: Of course you can have a peanut, little friend! Here!

NARRATOR: The squirrel took the peanut and gobbled it down.

SQUIRREL: Mmmm! That hit the spot! Thank you!

PEDDLER: You’re welcome! Would you like another? I still have plenty of peanuts left. I’m happy to share!

SQUIRREL: That’s mighty kind of you, sir. But now that you’ve shared with me, I’d like to share with you! Follow me!

NARRATOR: The peddler ran after the squirrel as she took off into the forest. When they reached a towering tree, the peddler watched the nimble creature clamber to the top, where a charming treehouse lay nestled among the branches.

PEDDLER: My, my! What a lovely house! But how am I supposed to follow you up there? This tree is far too tall for me to climb!

SQUIRREL: No problem! I’ll send you down a ladder! Tell me: what sort of ladder would you prefer?

NARRATOR: The peddler shrugged.

PEDDLER: Any kind of ladder will do really! Just something simple and sturdy!

NARRATOR: Well, no sooner had the peddler said those words than a thick rope ladder came tumbling down.

PEDDLER: Thank you, squirrel! I’m coming right up!

NARRATOR: The peddler climbed up to the house. When he stepped through the door, he saw that everything inside….was made of gold! Golden floors, golden walls… there was even a golden table set with two golden chairs.

SQUIRREL: Welcome to my home! And please: sit down! You must be hungry, so I’ll give you something to eat. But first, tell me: what sort of plate would you prefer?

NARRATOR: The peddler smiled.

PEDDLER: Any plate will do really! I’m just grateful to have a bite of food after a long, hot day!

NARRATOR: No sooner had the peddler said those words than a plain metal plate appeared on the table… and it was piled with rice, fish, chicken, and vegetables!

PEDDLER: Thank you, squirrel! This food looks delicious!

NARRATOR: Once the peddler had eaten his fill, the squirrel showed him three wooden boxes. One was the size of a lunchbox. Another was the size of a picnic basket. And the third was the size of a kitchen cupboard.

SQUIRREL: These boxes, sir, all contain gifts. I’d like to send you home with one of them. So tell me: which box would you prefer?

NARRATOR: The peddler grinned.

PEDDLER: Well, while all three boxes are lovely, my cramped house doesn’t have much room. And I have a long walk back home through the forest. So I prefer the smallest box.

SQUIRREL: Very well! Take the box home, and thanks again for sharing with me.

PEDDLER: No, squirrel – thank you!

NARRATOR: With the wooden box tucked under his arm, the peddler made his way back through the forest. Once he returned to his snug little house, he gazed at the box with curiosity.

PEDDLER: Gee, I wonder what’s in here! Only one way to find out…

NARRATOR: The peddler took hold of the box’s lid and pulled it open. When he looked inside, his jaw dropped so low it nearly hit the floor!

PEDDLER: (GASP!) I can’t believe it! This is going to change everything! Everything!

NARRATOR: What do you think the peddler saw inside the box?

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


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

Before the break, a humble peddler shared his peanuts with a mouse, a chipmunk, and a talking squirrel. The squirrel brought the peddler to her golden house in the forest, where she fed him a hearty meal, then sent him home with a small wooden box.

When the peddler opened the box, he could hardly believe what was inside.

PEDDLER: The box is bursting with nuggets of gold! Thousands upon thousands of them! The squirrel did say she wanted to “share” something with me… Who knew the generous creature would share so much???

NARRATOR: With his newfound riches, the peddler no longer needed to sell odds and ends at the marketplace. Instead, he opened his own shop, and did quite well for himself.

As you can imagine, the peddler’s sudden success became the talk of the town. And because the peddler was such a humble, generous person, everyone was happy for him.

Well, everyone except for his next-door neighbor: a jealous, nosy fellow who envied the peddler’s fortune… and was eager to learn his secret. So one day, he swung by the peddler’s new shop.

NEIGHBOR: Good neighbor! I must say, I’m very impressed at how well you’re doing! Tell me: how did you come to have all this wealth?

NARRATOR: The peddler hadn’t planned on telling anyone about the talking squirrel with the golden house. Who would believe such a tale? But, despite his reservations, the kind fellow launched into his story.

PEDDLER: Well, it all began one night when the only thing I could afford for dinner was a bag of peanuts. I shared a peanut with this squirrel. And it turns out it was a talking squirrel! Not only that, but it brought me to its house and gave me a rope ladder to climb, and a metal plate to eat from, and then this little wooden box filled with nuggets of gold! 

NARRATOR: As the neighbor listened to the peddler’s tale, he felt himself ache with envy. He must meet this talking squirrel – and take home her gold!

NEIGHBOR: That is quite a story, peddler! So you’re saying you came upon all this good fortune just by giving a peanut…? To a squirrel?

PEDDLER: Well, yes! But not just the squirrel! First I shared a peanut with this tiny gray –

NARRATOR: But that’s all the neighbor heard. Because he had already bolted out the door and straight to the market, to buy a bag of peanuts.

NEIGHBOR: To be perfectly honest, I don’t even like peanuts! And shelling them is such a pain! But it’ll all be worth it, when that silly little squirrel makes me rich!

NARRATOR: That night, the neighbor sat on his porch, shelling peanuts. He had just gotten cracking when he heard a squeak.

And there was the gray mouse!

But… instead of following the peddler’s example, and feeding the mouse a peanut, do you know what the neighbor did??

NEIGHBOR: Get out of here!

NARRATOR: He shooed it away!

NEIGHBOR: You’re of no use to me! I’m waiting for a squirrel! So scram! 

NARRATOR: Once the mouse was gone, the neighbor went back to shelling his peanuts. Then, he heard a chirp.

And there was the striped chipmunk!

I’ll bet you can guess what happened next.

NEIGHBOR: Beat it, chipmunk! I’m waiting for a squirrel! So shoo!

NARRATOR: Once the chipmunk had run away, the neighbor went back to his peanuts. Then he heard a chitter.

And at last! There was the bushy-tailed squirrel.

NEIGHBOR: Jeez! It’s about time you got here, squirrel! I thought I’d have to sit out here cracking peanuts all night! So here.

NARRATOR: The neighbor flung a peanut toward the ground. It nearly hit the squirrel in the head!

NEIGHBOR: I’m sharing with you, so now you have to share with me!

NEIGHBOR: The squirrel stared at the peanut. Then she stared at the neighbor.

SQUIRREL: “Share,” you say…? By all means! Follow me!

NARRATOR: The neighbor grabbed a big sack, then raced after the squirrel as she took off through the forest. When they reached the towering tree, the squirrel clambered up to her house and called down.

SQUIRREL: Tell me: what sort of ladder would you prefer?

NARRATOR: The neighbor rubbed his hands together.

NEIGHBOR: Well… I’ve heard about all that gold you have inside your house, so I’d prefer a golden ladder, of course!

NARRATOR: No sooner had he said those words than a ladder made of glittering, gleaming gold appeared. Without so much as a “thank you,” the neighbor gripped the ladder and heaved himself up.

When he reached the squirrel’s house, he plopped himself down in a golden chair at the golden table.

SQUIRREL: You must be hungry, so I’ll give you something to eat. But first, tell me: what sort of plate would you prefer?

NARRATOR: The neighbor rolled his eyes.

NEIGHBOR: Do you even have to ask? A golden plate, of course!

NARRATOR: No sooner had he said those words than a sparkling golden plate appeared, piled high with delicious food… which the neighbor immediately snarfed down.

Once he’d licked his plate clean, the squirrel showed him the three wooden boxes.

SQUIRREL: These boxes, sir, all contain gifts. I’d like to send you home with one of them. So tell me: which box would you –

NEIGHBOR: The largest box! I prefer the largest box! Of course!

SQUIRREL: Very well! Take the box home, and thanks again for sharing with me!!!!

NARRATOR: The neighbor didn’t even respond. Instead, he stuffed the box – and the golden plate – into his big sack, then he shimmied down the golden ladder. When he reached the ground, he wrenched the ladder from the tree, and somehow lugged everything – ladder included – back to his house.

NEIGHBOR: I’m gonna be rich! Filthy, stinking rich!

NARRATOR: The neighbor huffed and puffed his way through the door, then he reached into his sack for the golden plate. But when he pulled it out…?


NARRATOR: …he made a most disappointing discovery. Because the plate was no longer made of gold. It was made of plain metal!


NARRATOR: Dumbfounded and dismayed, the neighbor swiveled his eyes toward the golden ladder. But to his surprise…


NARRATOR: …the ladder was no longer made of gold either! It was made of rope!

NEIGHBOR: Oh dear!

NARRATOR: Desperate and distressed, the neighbor went back to his big sack and took out the large box.

NEIGHBOR: Okay. Even if the plate and ladder have lost their golden luster, surely the box won’t let me down! Surely it has thousands upon thousands of gold nuggets inside! Right?!???

NARRATOR: But when he opened the box’s lid, he realized he was wrong. 

Very wrong.

Because the box did not have thousands upon thousands of gold nuggets inside.

Instead, it had thousands upon thousands of…?


NARRATOR: That’s right! The box was filled to the brim… with peanuts.

NEIGHBOR: I don’t even like peanuts!

NARRATOR: And so, in the end, I guess you could say that everyone in our tale got what they earned. The generous peddler earned a new shop. The talking squirrel earned a new friend. And as for the jealous, nosy neighbor, well…?

He earned PEANUTS!

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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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