This episode was originally released on November 07, 2017.
It isn’t always easy getting along with others, right? Sometimes you just don’t want to share, or wait your turn.
In this favorite episode from the Circle Round archives, we meet a brother and sister who know exactly how you feel. And they think they can find the answer… through magic!
Our story is called “The Lion’s Whisker.” For many years, versions of this folktale have been shared in Ethiopia: a country in East Africa.
This episode includes the voices of Miles Brown and Marsai Martin, whom you might know from the ABC show, “Black-ish.” And if you’re a public radio fan, you may recognize NPR’s own Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.
This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. Original music and sound design are by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn. You can find our picture book version of this episode here!
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
Is there someone you have trouble getting along with: a sibling, classmate, or friend? How do you think you could get along better? What could you do to help?
Sometimes grown-ups experience these things, too. Pick an adult in your life and ask them: have they ever had trouble getting along with someone? How did they sort things out?
Musical Spotlight: Mbira
The mbira is an African instrument consisting of a small wooden board with thin metal pieces attached to the top. The pieces are all different sizes, so they play different notes.
As with the kalimba (which you’ll hear in our episode, “Sweet and Sour”), you hold the mbira’s board in your hands, then pluck the metal pieces with your thumbs. Experts say the mbira dates back 3,000 years, but back then the keys were made of wood or bamboo instead of metal.
To learn more about the mbira, you can hear composer Eric Shimelonis talk about it in “What Am I Hearing?”: our special music episode!
NARRATOR: One summer morning, a brother and sister were waking up from a good night’s sleep when their mother called them into the kitchen for breakfast.
They jumped out of bed and rushed to the table. But when they got there, they saw there was only one piece of injera left; “injera” is a type of Ethiopian bread.
Brother and Sister both grabbed for it.
BROTHER: I sat down first! That injera is mine!
SISTER: No, I sat down first! I’m always faster than you!
BROTHER: No, you’re not!
SISTER: Yes, I am!
BROTHER: No, you’re not!
SISTER: Yes, I am!
BROTHER: Why do you always do this?
SISTER: Why do you always do this?
BROTHER: Stop mimicking me!
SISTER: I’m not mimicking you! It’s my injera!
BROTHER: No, it isn’t!
NARRATOR: This kind of arguing was common in the house. Brother and Sister fought over everything: turns… toys… and, yes, food.
Just then, Grandmother entered the room.
GRANDMOTHER: Children, children. I have been listening to you fighting since you were wee small things. You’re growing older now. Isn’t it time the two of you just got along?
SISTER: But Grandmother, he drives me crazy.
BROTHER: And she drives me crazy.
GRANDMOTHER: Well, children, it isn’t always easy having a brother or a sister. But I may have a special potion that could make things better.
BROTHER: A special potion?!?
SISTER: Give it to us, grandmother! Please!
GRANDMOTHER: Well, I would… but to make this potion, I need a very special ingredient. And I am too old to go out and get it myself. It’s a lion’s whisker.
NARRATOR: The mention of a big, mighty, majestic lion made Sister’s eyes light up.
SISTER: A lion! We can get it for you, grandmother! We can get a lion’s whisker!
NARRATOR: Brother stared at his sister in disbelief.
BROTHER: Sister! You aren’t thinking straight! A lion’s whisker? We can’t possibly do that!
NARRATOR: Brother might have been scared… but he also… was curious. He watched as Sister grabbed a piece of meat from the kitchen and ran out the door. He stayed a few steps behind as Sister raced through the forest and up to the river.
Sister set the meat near the water and jumped behind a bush to hide. Brother jumped behind another bush close by.
A few hours later… a big, mighty, majestic lion emerged from the forest and walked up to the river. He sniffed the meat, looked around, and gulped it down before slipping back into the forest.
Sister was proud of herself for being so brave. Brother was proud of her, too — though he was still too angry from their fight over breakfast to tell her so. As Sister headed back to the village, Brother followed silently behind.
The next morning, Sister told Brother she was returning to the river.
BROTHER: I’ll keep you company.
NARRATOR: Sister and Brother walked to the same spot along the river, this time going side-by-side. They quietly set out two pieces of meat this time, and both hid behind the same bush.
Hours later, they spotted the lion slink out of the forest toward the water.
BROTHER: (whispering) There he is!
SISTER: (whispering) I see him! I see him!
NARRATOR: Brother and Sister grabbed each other’s hand as the lion sniffed the meat. Quickly he gobbled it up, before padding back into the forest.
As Sister and Brother headed back to the village, they knew what they had to do. The next day, they would ask the lion for a whisker. After all, it was the only way to help grandmother make her special potion! And that potion was the only way to get them to stop fighting… right?
When Brother and Sister came back to the river, this time they didn’t hide behind a bush. Instead, they stood, hand in hand, right along the water.
Soon, the lion approached, looking for meat. Still holding hands, Sister and Brother crept toward him. When they were just a few feet from the big, mighty, majestic creature, they took a deep breath.
SISTER: King Lion. We are the children who left you meat over the past two days. Now, we have a question we’d like to ask.
BROTHER: You see, we are brother and sister...and we cannot seem to get along.
SISTER: We fight over everything!
SISTER: And we wonder if you could please give us one of your whiskers...
BROTHER: ...so that our grandmother can make a special potion to make us stop fighting.
NARRATOR: The lion lifted his head, blinked his eyes, and took a few slow steps toward Brother and Sister. He sat down on the ground and brought his face in close. Still clutching her brother’s hand, Sister used her free hand to gently pull out one of the lion’s long whiskers. She stared at it for a moment before she spoke.
SISTER: King Lion. Thank you! Thank you so much!
BROTHER: We are truly grateful, and will leave you in peace.
NARRATOR: The lion nodded, then disappeared into the forest. Brother and sister ran straight home to Grandmother.
BROTHER: Grandmother! Grandmother! We did it!
SISTER: We got the lion’s whisker!
GRANDMOTHER: That is wonderful, my children! Just wonderful! You did it… and you did it together!
BROTHER: So, can we have our potion now?
SISTER: Yes, please!
NARRATOR: Grandmother smiled.
GRANDMOTHER: My sweet darlings... there is no potion.
NARRATOR: Brother and Sister didn’t understand. No potion?!? How could there be no potion?!?
GRANDMOTHER: Children: It wasn’t easy to wait for that lion, or to ask him for his whisker, or to work together day after day. Those hard things, those are the same things you need in order to get along.
You have shown courage and patience and understanding. A potion cannot soothe fighting hearts. It is you yourselves that can make things better.
NARRATOR: Brother and Sister looked at each other.
BROTHER and SISTER: Understanding?
GRANDMOTHER: Yes! You will be brother and sister forever, and forever you will need to listen to each other and sort things out. It is clear now that you can work together and be kind to one another. Try to use those voices more often and you will fight less.
NARRATOR: Brother and Sister thought about what Grandmother said. Listening to each other was not always easy; in fact, it could be downright hard. But getting along… was nice. Maybe they could make more of an effort to be kind.
The next morning… after a good night’s sleep… Brother and Sister rushed to the kitchen for breakfast. When they reached the table, they found just one piece of injera left. Brother almost grabbed it for himself... but then he thought twice.
BROTHER: Why don’t we split it?
SISTER: Good idea, brother. A very good idea!
NARRATOR: Brother and Sister didn’t stop fighting forever, but to this day, they do quarrel less. They try to listen more, and be kinder with their words. It can be hard sometimes... but hey, it’s definitely easier than getting a whisker from a lion!