All Tied Up | Ep. 217

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

This episode is part of our 2023 series recorded live with musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra plus a star-studded cast at Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts. Photos of the event are courtesy of Hilary Scott.

Think about a time you solved a problem.

What steps did you take to unravel it, untangle it, and figure it out?

We’re about to meet a character who goes about untangling a problem – by tying it up in knots!

Our story is called “All Tied Up.” It’s inspired by tales from Borneo in Southeast Asia, and features a character we’ve met in other Circle Round stories: Mouse Deer!

Some really great people came together to bring you this story — at a really special place!

We recorded this episode live at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with musical accompaniment by a quintet of BSO musicians: Rachel Childers on horn, Clint Foreman on flute, Catherine French on violin, Ben Levy on double bass, and Suzanne Nelsen on bassoon.

Our cast included: Lauren Ambrose, MaConnia Chesser, Scott Cohen, Josh Gondelman, and Peter Riegert.

Lauren Ambrose is an Emmy, Tony, and Grammy nominee from the award-winning Showtime series, “Yellowjackets.” She’s also starred in “Servant” on Apple TV+ and “Six Feet Under” on HBO.

MaConnia Chesser is a company member at the esteemed Shakespeare & Company, where she’s starred in numerous plays. She’s appeared at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and on the HBO series “The Wire."

Scott Cohen has starred in such television hits as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Billions,” “Necessary Roughness,” “Allegiance,” and “The 10th Kingdom,” as well as the romantic comedy, “Kissing Jessica Stein."

Josh Gondelman is a regular panelist on Wait, Wait… Don't Tell Me, the weekly NPR news quiz. He’s also a standup comedian and Emmy-Award-winning television writer.

Peter Riegert is an actor and director with nearly 100 TV and film credits including “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Disjointed”on Netflix, plus “Animal House,” “Crossing Delancey,” and “Local Hero.” He also hosts the podcast, Peter Riegert’s Vocal Heroes.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Sofie Kodner. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

Special thanks to everyone at the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood for their assistance, including Anthony Fogg, Amy Aldrich, David Chandler Winn, Emily W. Siders, Becca Mansfield, Relyn Myrthil, Steven Palacio, James Campbell, Ricardo Mora, Paul Ginocchio, Mark Rulison, and Leah Sagan-Dworsky.

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

GROWN-UPS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We invite you to share your picture on Facebook and Instagram, and tag it with #CircleRoundPodcast. To access all the coloring pages for past Circle Round episodes click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.

Things To Think About After Listening

Mouse Deer may be small, but she has big confidence. You can boost your own confidence by creating a Confidence Catalog!

A catalog is like a list. So on a piece of paper, work with a grownup to brainstorm a list of positive statements about you! Make your statements in the 2nd person, so they all start with “You.” For instance: “You work hard.” “You are loved.” “You make the world a better place.”

Put your Confidence Catalog somewhere you can easily see it, and add to it. Whenever you need a reminder about how amazing you are, check out your Confidence Catalog and give yourself a boost!

Story Transcript

NARRATOR: Mouse Deer was neither a mouse, nor a deer. She looked a lot like a deer — with slender legs, pointy hooves, and a long snout — but she was pint-sized and petite, no bigger than a bunny!

Despite Mouse Deer's small size, one bright, sunny morning she woke up…


NARRATOR: …with a big appetite!

MOUSE DEER: Boy oh boy, am I hungry! I think I’ll go into the forest and find some tasty fruit.

NARRATOR: As Mouse Deer wound her way through the trees, she happened to cross paths…

OX: Good day, Mouse Deer!

NARRATOR: …with Ox!

OX: And what are you up to this fine morning?

MOUSE DEER: I’m going to pick some tasty fruit for breakfast. Care to join me?

OX: Pick some fruit? Mm mm mm! Don’t mind if I do!

NARRATOR: So Mouse Deer and Ox set off through the forest. On their way, they happened to stumble upon…

ELEPHANT: Greetings, Mouse Deer and Ox!

NARRATOR: ...Elephant.

ELEPHANT: And where are you headed this beautiful morning?

MOUSE DEER: We’re going to pick some tasty fruit for breakfast. Care to join us?

ELEPHANT: Pick some fruit? Yummy yummy yum! Count me in!

NARRATOR: So Mouse Deer, Ox, and Elephant trooped through the forest. At last, they came to a tall, leafy tree, positively bursting with…


NARRATOR: If you’ve never seen a mangosteen, it’s a sweet, round fruit with thick, dark-purple skin. Mouse Deer, Ox, and Elephant’s mouths watered as they beheld hundreds of mangosteens hanging from the tree’s branches, all ripe for the picking.

The animals got to work gathering fruit. ​​Elephant used his trunk to reach up to a high branch and pluck off a mangosteen.

ELEPHANT: (as he reaches, plucks, and pulls) Aaaaand there!

NARRATOR: Then he placed the fruit on Ox’s broad back, where it rolled all the way down to his tail.

OX: (as the fruit rolls down his back) Weeeee!

NARRATOR: Mouse Deer then caught the mangosteen…

MOUSE DEER: (as she catches fruit) Got it!

NARRATOR: …and used her hooves to add the fruit to a growing pile.

Once the animals had collected a decent number of mangosteens, they happily dug in.

ELEPHANT: (while eating) Mm mm! These mangosteens are sooo tasty!

OX: (while eating) Scrumptious!

MOUSE DEER: Are they ever! But hungry as we three are, there’s no way we can finish all of this fruit right now. So how about we eat what we can, we leave the extra fruit here, and I’ll keep an eye on it until lunch? That way, it’ll be safe if anyone tries to take it.

NARRATOR: Ox and Elephant exchanged a look.

OX: Um… no offense, Mouse Deer… but you’re so tiny!

ELEPHANT: There’s no way you could scare off a fruit burglar!

OX: I say one of us bigger animals does the job.

ELEPHANT: And since the biggest of us three is me, I will volunteer.

NARRATOR: Mouse Deer gazed up at Ox and Elephant, and shrugged.

MOUSE DEER: Alright. Fine. Elephant, you keep watch. Ox and I will see you at lunchtime!

NARRATOR: So Mouse Deer and Ox went on with their day, and Elephant stood guard over the mangosteens.

But then… all of a sudden… Elephant felt the ground around him begin to shake.

GIANT 1: Who goes there???!!!??

GIANT 2: And how dare you come near our mangosteen tree?

NARRATOR: Elephant glanced around the forest, and what should he spy thundering toward him… with their heads towering high above the treetops… but two giants!

GIANT 1: Is it just me, snuggly-bunch… or is this pipsqueak eating our mangosteens?

GIANT 2: I believe he is, shmoopsy-poops*! [*“oo” as in “room” or “zoom”]

GIANT 1: Well, you’d better get out of here, pipsqueak

GIANT 2: …unless you want us to eat YOU!

NARRATOR: Elephant felt his blood run cold. Sure, he had promised Ox and Mouse Deer he would watch the mangosteens… but the giants were right: compared with these titans, he was a pipsqueak! And he wasn’t about to become their breakfast!

ELEPHANT: Uhhhhh, there’s no need to eat me, giants! I had no idea these mangosteens belonged to you. You can have them! All of them! I will happily step aside.

NARRATOR: And… he did! Beside the mangosteen tree was a thick stand of bushes. So Elephant jumped behind it, cowering on the other side as the Giants guzzled every mangosteen in the pile.

GIANT 1: / GIANT 2: (ad-lib guzzling down mangosteens)

NARRATOR: Once the last piece of fruit had disappeared down their gargantuan gullets…

GIANT 1: / GIANT 2: (ad-lib big swallow)

NARRATOR: …the giants turned on their humongous heels and went tromping away.

Elephant stood frozen to the spot, too frightened to move. When lunchtime rolled around, and Mouse Deer and Ox returned for more mangosteens, their eyes grew wide.

MOUSE DEER: Elephant! Where did our mangosteens go?

OX: And why are you trembling? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!

ELEPHANT: Oh, it was worse than a ghost, friends. (beat) It was… GIANTS!


ELEPHANT: Yes! Two tall hairy giants who came lumbering over and ate up all of our mangosteens! They said the fruit belonged to them, and I was too terrified to argue! (beat) I’m so sorry!

NARRATOR: Mouse Deer patted Elephant’s foot.

MOUSE DEER: It sounds like you received quite the fright, Elephant. (beat) But not to worry! There are still plenty more mangosteens on the tree. Whaddya say we pick some more for lunch?

NARRATOR: So they did. Mouse Deer, Ox, and Elephant worked together to gather a nice pile of fruit. And once they ate their fill, Mouse Deer suggested they meet again for dinner.

MOUSE DEER: As for the extra fruit in this pile, I’ll keep an eye on it. Make sure it stays safe.

NARRATOR: Ox and Elephant exchanged a glance.

ELEPHANT: Um, I think your head is in the clouds, Mouse Deer.

OX: If a big creature like Elephant couldn’t keep the fruit safe, there’s no way you can!

ELEPHANT: Exactly!

OX: So since I am the next biggest of our trio here, I will guard the mangosteens! If those giants come back, I’ll show them who’s boss.

NARRATOR: But… no sooner had Mouse Deer and Elephant gone on their way, than….

GIANT 1: Who goes there???!!!??

GIANT 2: And how dare you come near our mangosteen tree?

NARRATOR: Ox froze. He felt his teeth chattering as the two giants came striding his way.

GIANT 1: Do my eyes deceive me, shoogie-woogie… or is this small fry eating our mangosteens?

GIANT 2: I’m certain he is, pookie-bear!

GIANT 1: Well, you’d better get out of here, small fry

GIANT 2: …unless you want us to eat YOU!

NARRATOR: Ox knew he had promised to protect the mangosteens. But not if it meant becoming this towering twosome’s lunch!

OX: You know, I must have made an error! I meant to stand by a completely different tree! You two go right ahead and have your mangosteens. I’ll get out of your way.

NARRATOR: And… he did! He huddled behind the bushes as the Giants wolfed down every mangosteen in the pile…

GIANT 1: / GIANT 2: (ad-lib wolfing down mangosteens)

NARRATOR: …swallowed the very last ones…

GIANT 1: / GIANT 2: (ad-lib swallowing mangosteens)

NARRATOR: …then went stomping away.

When dinnertime rolled around, and Mouse Deer and Elephant came back for more mangosteens, their jaws dropped.

MOUSE DEER: Ox! What happened to our mangosteens?

ELEPHANT: Did the giants walk away with our fruit?

OX: No! They did not “walk away with” our fruit! … They devoured it on the spot! And I was powerless to stop them!

NARRATOR: Mouse Deer flashed Ox a sympathetic smile.

MOUSE DEER: It’s okay, Ox. This tree is still exploding with mangosteens! We can pick some more for dinner!

NARRATOR: And they did. They collected a hefty heap of fruit and gobbled down as much as they could. Once their bellies were full, Mouse Deer suggested they meet for breakfast first thing the next morning.

MOUSE DEER: …And I will keep an eye on our extra fruit overnight!

NARRATOR: Ox and Elephant were quiet for a moment. And then…

OX: / ELEPHANT: (ad-lib raucous laughter)

NARRATOR: …they doubled over with laughter.

ELEPHANT: (laughing) My goodness, Mouse Deer!

OX: (laughing) You are hilarious!!!

ELEPHANT: (laughing) If a powerful pachyderm like me couldn’t keep the mangosteens safe… [PACK-uh-derm]

OX: (laughing) …and a brawny bovine like ME couldn’t keep the mangosteens safe… [BEAU-vine]

ELEPHANT: (laughing) …then how in the world will an eensy-weensy ungulate like YOU??? [

OX: (impressed, getting carried away / chatty) Way to go continuing the alliteration, Elephant! Since an ungulate is an animal with hooves?

ELEPHANT: (quickly, continuing the chattiness) Aw, thanks! But “brawny bovine” was pretty good, too!

OX: (quickly, continuing the chattiness) You think? Because – (gets interrupted before he can go on)

MOUSE DEER: (interrupting) Okay, look you two. I hate to break up your mutual admiration society, but I get it. I’m little – so you have little faith in me. But I’ve been thinking. And I have a plan for how to keep the mangosteens safe! (beat) So meet me back here in the morning, and you’ll see: a big strong body may be a mighty thing to have. But a big strong mind can be even mightier!

[live score music out]

[live theme music in]

NARRATOR: What is Mouse Deer cooking up? What would your plan be if you were Mouse Deer?

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

[live theme music out]


[live theme music in]

NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to Circle Round, live at Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts! Today our story is called “All Tied Up.”

[theme music out]

[live score music in]

NARRATOR: Before the break, Mouse Deer, Elephant, and Ox picked a whole bunch of mangosteens in the forest. Elephant volunteered to guard the extra fruit, but two giants scared him away. The same thing happened with Ox.

So Mouse Deer declared that she would keep the mangosteens safe. The bigger animals were skeptical, but the clever, pint-sized critter had a plan. And once Elephant and Ox went home to bed, she began putting her plan into action!

MOUSE DEER: The first thing I need… are vines!

NARRATOR: Mouse Deer scurried around the moonlit forest, yanking vines off bushes and trees.

MOUSE DEER: (ad-lib sounds as she uses all her might to yank vines, such as:) Yah! …Yah! …Yah!

NARRATOR: She picked out the longest vine, and then… just as she began wrapping it around her midsection like a belt

GIANT 1: Who goes there???!!!??

GIANT 2: And how dare you come near our mangosteen tree?!?

NARRATOR: A shiver coursed through Mouse Deer’s tiny frame. But she took a deep breath, and kept wrapping the vine as the giants trundled her way.

GIANT 1: Is it just me, smushy-pants, or is this little squirt eating our mangosteens?

GIANT 2: I believe she is, thunder-chunk!

GIANT 1: Well, you’d better get out of here, squirt

GIANT 2: …unless you want us to eat YOU!

NARRATOR: The giants glared at Mouse Deer, expecting her to scamper away. But… she didn’t.

MOUSE DEER: For your information, I am not eating your mangosteens. I am protecting myself! (beat, dramatic) From the flood!

GIANT 1: The flood?!?

NARRATOR: The giants arched their enormous eyebrows.

GIANT 2: What flood?!??

MOUSE DEER: (dramatic) You mean you haven’t heard? A tremendous flood is coming! Its powerful waters will sweep everyone in the forest all the way to the sea!

NARRATOR: The giants cocked their hulking heads.

GIANT 1: So no one is safe???

GIANT 2: Not even goliaths like us???

MOUSE DEER: That’s right! This flood is going to be a real doozy! (beat) That’s why I’ve collected these vines. You see, I know a special way of tying knots. And if I tie the vines around myself, and then I tie myself to this big, strong mangosteen tree, then the flood won’t drag me away! The waters will wash right past me, and I’ll be safe!

NARRATOR: Mouse Deer pranced over to the mangosteen tree and began winding the vine around its trunk. Sneaking a glance at the giants, she could see their big, bulging eyes grow even bigger and bulgier.

GIANT 1: So uh, squirt… about those knots you mentioned…?

GIANT 2: Can you show us how to tie them, too?

NARRATOR: Mouse Deer grinned.

MOUSE DEER: Actually… it might be easier – and quicker – if I tied the knots FOR you. So, why don’t you go collect more vines? The stronger, the better.

NARRATOR: The giants went to work collecting vines. Before long, their immense arms were bursting with them.

MOUSE DEER: Nice job, you two! These vines will be perfect for tying you to the tree! (beat) But now that I think about it, it might be better if I tie you to each other first!

GIANT 1: / GIANT 2: To each other???!?

MOUSE DEER: Yes! That way you’ll be especially safe! (beat) After all, you’re such goliaths, it'll be harder to wash away the two of you together! Don't you think?

NARRATOR: To Mouse Deer’s delight, the giants took the bait.

GIANT 1: Of course! So please – tie me to my snicker-doodle here!

GIANT 2: And tie me to my love spud!

MOUSE DEER: Will do! I just need you to get up close to the tree, clasp your arms and legs together, and I will tie you up!

NARRATOR: The giants did as Mouse Deer said.

GIANT 1: (romantic) Well hello there, honey biscuit.

GIANT 2: (romantic) Hello yourself, sir smooch-a-lot!

NARRATOR: Mouse Deer got to work, using her hooves and teeth to twist and tie the vines every which way, until the giants were all tangled up.

MOUSE DEER: Terrific! Now can you try wiggling a little bit? I want to make sure my knots are tight enough!

NARRATOR: The giants wiggled…

GIANT 1: / GIANT 2: (ad-lib uncomfortable constrained wrigging/wiggling)

NARRATOR: …and wriggled…

GIANT 1: / GIANT 2: (ad-lib uncomfortable constrained wrigging/wiggling)

NARRATOR: …but thanks to the strong vines they could barely move!

GIANT 1: (uncomfortable) Uh, squirt?

GIANT 2: (uncomfortable) Are you sure these vines aren’t TOO tight?

MOUSE DEER: The tighter the better! You don’t want to be swept away by the flood, do you?

GIANT 1: Well, no –

GIANT 2: But –

MOUSE DEER: Great! Now I just have to tie you to the tree. Hang on.

NARRATOR: Mouse Deer set to work wrapping a long vine around the giant’s bulky bodies and the tree’s trunk, then cinching it tight. She wrapped it around once…

GIANT 1: (uncomfortable) Uh, are you done yet, squirt?

MOUSE DEER: Not yet!

NARRATOR: …then twice…

GIANT 2: (uncomfortable) You done now, squirt?

MOUSE DEER: Not quite!

NARRATOR: …then three times…

GIANT 1: / GIANT 2: (uncomfortable) You done now, squirt?

MOUSE DEER: Allllmost!

NARRATOR: Mouse Deer kept wrapping and cinching, wrapping and cinching. By the time she was done, the morning sun had begun to rise, and the giants had drifted off to sleep.

GIANT 1: / GIANT 2: (ad-lib snoring)

NARRATOR: As Mouse Deer tied the very last knot, Ox and Elephant came sauntering over. When they caught sight of the mangosteens stacked next to the mangosteen tree… and the sleeping giants tied to the mangosteen tree, they were gobsmacked.

ELEPHANT: (shocked) Mouse Deer!!!

OX: (shocked) Did you do this?????

NARRATOR: Mouse Deer gave Elephant and Ox a proud nod.

MOUSE DEER: I did do this, friends!


OX: …HOW?????

MOUSE DEER: It’s like I told you! You don’t need a big body to have big power – just a big mind. (beat) Now how about you big old lugs join me for breakfast?

NARRATOR: Well… Mouse Deer, Ox, and Elephant enjoyed quite the feast that morning. And every morning from then on. Because after that fateful night, when miniature Mouse Deer showed her magnificent might, you can bet the giants never tangled with her, or her friends, ever again.

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



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