Two Moons | Ep. 213

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

Do you know what it means to “promise the moon”?

It means you’re promising something impossible! In today’s story, a fisherman promises he’ll give back something he’s borrowed. And as it turns out, he’s promising the moon… in more ways than one.

Our story is called “Two Moons.” Versions of this tale come from the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Laos, and Malaysia.

We recorded this episode before a live audience of very enthusiastic kids and grown-ups at KCRW’s Annenberg Performance Studio in Santa Monica, California. On stage were some actors whose voices you’ve heard in many Circle Round stories: Feodor Chin, Joe Hernandez, and Jessica Rau.

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 guess the answer to this riddle?

I can be full even though I haven’t eaten anything.

I can seem to disappear even though I haven’t gone away.

The answer is… the moon!

Use your imagination to brainstorm your own riddle or joke about the moon (like this one: “Who was the first animal in space?” “The cow who jumped over the moon!” ?).

Share your riddle or joke with someone you have fun with, then we invite you to share it with us! Grown-ups, send an email to, and please include your riddle or joke-writer’s first name.

We may include your riddle or joke in a future edition of “The Lion’s Roar”: the monthly newsletter you receive as a member of the Circle Round Club!

Musical Spotlight: Phin

The phin’s body, neck and tuning head are usually carved from a single piece of wood, though some makers use a separate neck.(Courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)
The phin’s body, neck and tuning head are usually carved from a single piece of wood, though some makers use a separate neck.(Courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)

The phin is a Thai instrument in the lute family; lutes are stringed instruments with a flat front and long or short neck. Metal strings (usually three) run up and down the phin’s long neck; you play the strings by strumming or plucking them. While some contemporary musicians play with a guitar pick, traditionally it was played with a thin, sharp piece of bamboo.

The phin comes from the Isan region in northeastern Thailand and is also referred to as the Thai Harp, Thai Guitar, and Isan Harp. It was traditionally used as vocal accompaniment and for courtship. Today’s phin players often plug the instrument into an amplifier and play it like an electric guitar, as Eric Shimelonis does in this story!


NARRATOR: The farmer and the fisherman lived on opposite sides of the river.

And in a way, they were opposite people!

The farmer woke at the break of dawn to tend his fields of corn and soybeans.

ROOSTER: [Crowing]

FARMER: The sun is up and so am I! Time to get planting!

NARRATOR: But as for the fisherman, well…?

ROOSTER: [Crowing]

NARRATOR: …he didn’t roll out of bed 'til well past noon.

FISHER: Ugh! Why doesn’t that wretched bird have a snooze button!??

NARRATOR: The farmer spent all day tilling and planting and harvesting.

FARMER: It’s not even dinnertime, and I’ve harvested so many bushels I’ve lost count!

NARRATOR: But the fisherman spent a few measly minutes casting his line for carp, catfish, and bass.

FISHERMAN: Here, fishy fishy! Nice, fishy fishy! Uch. Nothing’s biting. I’m going home.

NARRATOR: Well… as you can imagine… thanks to the farmer’s hard work, he always had food on his table and money in his pocket.

But thanks to the fisherman’s halfhearted work, he could barely make ends meet! So it wasn’t long before he was scrounging in his kitchen for scraps of food – and scrounging under his couch cushions for loose change.

One night, as the fisherman lay in bed – kept awake by the rumblings of his empty stomach – he decided he had to do something to improve his lot.

FISHERMAN: Let’s see… I could take a cue from my neighbor across the river, and hop out of bed at dawn and spend the entire day with my nose to the grindstone! Working my fingers to the bone as I catch and sell fish! But honestly… just thinking about all that hard work makes me sleepy! If only my empty belly would allow me to sleep!

NARRATOR: It was late, and a full moon was shimmering high and bright in the sky outside the fisherman’s window. He got out of bed and began pacing around his moonlit room.

FISHERMAN: But speaking of my industrious neighbor across the river… perhaps I could get some money from him! I won’t stoop so low as to steal it… and I’m not about to go begging for a hand-out. But what if I asked the farmer… for a loan?

NARRATOR: The fisherman paused mid-stride.

FISHERMAN: Yes! I’ll ask the farmer if I can borrow some cash! The only trouble is when you borrow cash, you have to pay it back! Which, given my desperate situation, is rather inconvenient. If only I could find a way to borrow money without having to pay it back!

NARRATOR: The wheels in the fisherman’s mind were spinning as he walked to the window and gazed outside. And then… as he turned his eyes toward the radiant round moon above… he suddenly got an idea!

FISHERMAN: I think there is a way I could borrow money without having to pay it back! And if my idea works, my neighbor will be none the wiser. But I’ll be all the richer! Ha ha ha ha!

NARRATOR: The following day, well after noon, the fisherman paddled his boat across the river, where the farmer was hard at work digging in his fields.

FISHERMAN: Good day, farmer!

FARMER: Good day to you, fisherman! What brings you to this side of the river?

FISHERMAN: Well, I’ve come to ask you something. Neighbor to neighbor. You see, money has been tight for me lately. And your farm is going like gangbusters! So I wonder… may I please borrow some cash…?

NARRATOR: The fisherman held his breath, awaiting the farmer’s reply.

FARMER: “Borrow some cash,” you say…? Alright. Sure. I can lend you some cash.

NARRATOR: The fisherman’s heart leaped in his chest.

FISHERMAN: Thank you, neighbor! I appreciate your generosity!

FARMER: Well, you’re going through a rough patch and neighbors should look out for each other. So how much money do you need?

FISHERMAN: How much money do I need? Oh, I don’t know…. Something in the neighborhood of… three bags of coins?

FARMER: Three bags of coins…? That’s no small sum. But the harvest has been pretty good this year so I think I can swing it. Provided you pay me back, of course!

FISHERMAN: Oh, I’ll pay you back! Of course I’ll pay you back! In fact, you have my word that I will pay you backas soon as two moons have come.

NARRATOR: The farmer cocked his head.

FARMER: Hang on. You’ll pay me back “as soon as two moons have come”...??   Ohhhh! I get what you’re saying! You’ll pay me back in two months! Because each month is the length of one moon cycle – when the moon goes through all of its phases, from new moon to full moon and back to new again! That’s very clever, neighbor! So yes. You can pay me back as soon as two moons have come. I’ll go fetch the coins!

NARRATOR: Well… one month went by… then two… but the fisherman didn’t return the farmer’s coins.

FARMER: This is strange. Two months have passed – which means two moons have come and gone. But I haven’t heard a peep from the fisherman! After work today I’ll pay him a visit and see what’s up.

NARRATOR: So that evening, as another full moon was on the rise, the farmer hopped into his boat and paddled across the river. When he knocked on his neighbor’s door, the fisherman answered with a big smile – and a full mouth.

FISHERMAN:  Oh! Good evening, farmer! I was just enjoying some dinner; it’s so nice to no longer be scrounging for crumbs! What can I do for you

FARMER: Good evening, fisherman! Sorry to interrupt your meal, but do you remember those bags of coins I lent you?

FISHERMAN: Of course!

FARMER: The ones you promised you’d return “as soon as two moons have come”…?

FISHERMAN: That’s right!

FARMER: Well, it’s been two months. So two moons have come.

NARRATOR: The fisherman swallowed his food…

…and frowned.

FISHERMAN: Oh! You must be mistaken, farmer! Two moons have not come!

NARRATOR: Now it was the farmer who frowned.

FARMER: But they have!

FISHERMAN: See, that’s where you’re wrong! Two months have gone by. That much is true. But two moons have not come!

NARRATOR: And with that…

FISHERMAN: Goodnight now!

NARRATOR: …he slammed the door in the farmer’s face.

FARMER: What was that??!??? Perhaps I just caught the fisherman on an off day.  I’ll wait until another two months have gone by, and then I’ll ask for my money again.

NARRATOR: So… he did. After two more months, the farmer came back and knocked on the fisherman’s door. But…?

FISHERMAN: I’m sorry, neighbor. Two moons have not come! 

NARRATOR: So he came back after another two months.

FISHERMAN: Sorry, neighbor!

NARRATOR: …and after another two months…

FISHERMAN: Sorry, neighbor!

NARRATOR: ...and before long, an entire year had gone by. But still…

FISHERMAN: Sorry, neighbor. Two moons have not come!

NARRATOR: By now, the farmer was at the end of his rope – the end of his patience, too!

FARMER: Look, fisherman! This is absurd. It’s been one year. Twelve months. Which means twelve moons. Yet you’re insisting that two moons still have not come?

FISHERMAN: That’s because they haven’t!

NARRATOR: The fisherman jabbed a finger toward the sky.

FISHERMAN: Look up there, neighbor. What do you see?

NARRATOR: The farmer looked up; the silvery full moon was all aglow.

FARMER: Welllllll… I see the moon.

FISHERMAN: Exactly! And how many moons do you see?

FARMER: One, of course!

FISHERMAN: Precisely! Just one moon. I told you I would return your money when two moons have come. So the moment you can see two moons… you let me know.

NARRATOR: And with that…

FISHERMAN: Goodnight now!

NARRATOR: …he slammed the door.

The farmer’s eyes burned with tears. His chest burned with anger. And all at once, he knew what he would do.

FARMER: I will go see the judge in the capital city! She is as wise and fair as they come. She’s bound to take my case, and help me get my money back!

NARRATOR: It took the farmer a few days to reach the capital city. But once he entered the courthouse, he told the judge everything. When he finished his tale, the wise woman was quiet for a moment. Then she looked deep into the farmer’s eyes.

JUDGE: Dear farmer. I’ve heard about the moon having a dark side; it seems your neighbor has a rather dark side himself! But I am going to help you. And if all goes as I hope it will… your rascally neighbor will finally see the light!

NARRATOR: What do you think the judge will do?

What would you do if you were the judge?

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


NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir and welcome back to Circle Round, live at KCRW’s Annenberg Performance Studio in Santa Monica, California! Today our story is called “Two Moons.”

Before the break, a hardworking farmer was determined to get back the money he lent to his scheming neighbor, a lazy fisherman.

So the farmer went to the judge, who told him she would help.

FARMER: I appreciate you taking my case, Your Honor! When will the trial be?

JUDGE: The trial???

NARRATOR: The judge shook her head.

JUDGE: There’s no need to take this case to court!

NARRATOR: The farmer was confused.

FARMER: But how else can I get my money back?

JUDGE: Oh, there are other ways. In your story, you mentioned a river. Do you and your neighbor live near this river?

FARMER: We do! Our houses are on opposite sides!

JUDGE: Alright. And the last time you saw the fisherman, there was a full moon out – yes?

FARMER: Yes! There’s always been a big round full moon when I’ve asked for my money back. But he insists he won’t repay me until two moons have come!

JUDGE: Right… So here is what I want you to do. Next time you see a full moon, I want you to meet me outside your neighbor’s house. We’ll knock on his door, and I’ll take it from there.

NARRATOR: So, the next time the farmer saw a full moon riding high and bright in the sky, he and the judge knocked on the fisherman’s door.

FISHERMAN: Oh hello, Farmer! And look who’s come with you! Our esteemed judge. Good evening, Your Honor!

JUDGE: Good evening, fisherman. May we have a word with you? By the river?

NARRATOR: The fisherman drew in a breath. Was the judge here to question him about his unpaid debt? If so, surely she’d see that his case was as tight as a drum. Perhaps she would even commend him on how clever he was!

FISHERMAN: Of course you can have a word with me by the river! It would be my honor… Your Honor. Please. Lead the way!

NARRATOR: The judge led the two neighbors to the river. As they stood on the bank, she fixed her eyes on the fisherman.

JUDGE: Tell me, fisherman. Is it true that the farmer lent you three bags of coins?

FISHERMAN: It’s true! My good neighbor was kind and generous enough to lend me three bags of money in my time of need.

JUDGE: I see…

NARRATOR: The judge fixed her eyes on the farmer.

JUDGE: And farmer: is it true that the fisherman has refused to pay back your three bags of money?

FARMER: It’s true! A whole year has gone by and he has yet to pay back anything.

NARRATOR: The farmer shot the fisherman a withering glance. The fisherman shrugged.

FISHERMAN: Look! What can I say, farmer? I promised I would pay you back “as soon as two moons have come.” You have yet to show me two moons! So technically, I’m in the clear! Wouldn’t you agree, Your Honor?

NARRATOR: The fisherman flashed the judge a smug smile. She did not smile back.

JUDGE: Before I answer your question, fisherman… I’d like to ask one of my own.

NARRATOR: She waved a hand toward the sky.

JUDGE: When you look up, fisherman… what do you see?

NARRATOR: The fisherman cast his eyes upward.

FISHERMAN: I see the sky… and the stars… and the moon, of course! Big and full and round!

JUDGE: You see the moon. Alright… And tell me: how many moons do you see?

FISHERMAN: One! I see just one moon!

JUDGE: You see just one moon…

NARRATOR: The judge held up her finger. Then she pointed it toward the river.

JUDGE: Now I want you to look at the river, fisherman. Tell me what you see.

NARRATOR: The fisherman turned his head toward the water. He saw the rushing current, dark and swift. He saw the reflection of the stars, like thousands of tiny fireflies. But then, he gasped.


NARRATOR: Because he also saw the reflection of something else. Something that had taken his tight-as-a-drum case and torn it right open.

And do you know what that “something” was?


NARRATOR: You guessed it!


NARRATOR: Indeed! Rippling and shimmering and sparkling and glimmering on the water’s surface was the face… of the moon.

JUDGE: So, fisherman. If you really see one moon in the sky… and one moon in the river… then help me do the math. How many moons do you see

FISHERMAN: Two moons.

JUDGE: Two moons. Exactly. And to quote – well… you – you will repay your debt as soon as “two moons have come.” And it looks like they have!!!!

NARRATOR: The fisherman knew better than to give the judge any guff. Instead, he gave the farmer an apology. And what’s more, he promised to work extra hard to pay back his loan.

So, the next time the farmer woke at the break of dawn to tend his fields of corn and soybeans…?

ROOSTER: [Crowing]

FARMER: Time to get planting!

NARRATOR: … he wasn’t the only one rising with the sun.

ROOSTER: [Crowing]

FISHERMAN: Here, fishy fishy! Nice, fishy fishy!

NARRATOR: And after many months – and many moons – the fisherman was finally able to pay his debt.

But he didn’t stop working. To his surprise, he actually liked waking up early and drifting on the river, reeling in carp, catfish, and bass… and then selling them to happy customers at the market.

So now, instead of scrounging for crumbs or loose change, the fisherman had food on his table. He had money in his pocket. And what’s more, he had a new friend on the opposite side of the river. And in the end, the two neighbors weren’t really so opposite… at all.

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



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