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The Long Spoons

Traditional story found in various cultures.
Version by Laszlo Slomovits © 2010 ASCAP
Music by Laszlo Slomovits © 2010 ASCAP
You can find other versions of this story in “Stories to Solve” by George Shannon, Harper Trophy, 1985 /// retold from Tales of Old China by Isabelle C. Chang, Random House 1969, and Studies in Jewish and World Folklore by Haim Schwazbaum, Berlin: Walter De Gruyter & Co. 1968

Prologue:
Welcome, welcome to all of you,
who’ve come to hear this tale so true.
There’s much it can teach us about how to live —
how to receive and how to give.

So, welcome, welcome, young and old,
to this magical story, more precious than gold.
Open your ears, your mind and your heart,
for now the story is about to start.

Once upon a time there was a little girl—and one night she had a dream. In the dream, an angel came to her and said:

"Would you like to see the most beautiful place on earth?"
"Well, sure! Where is it? And how can I get there?"
"That’s easy. Just close your eyes and I’ll take you there. But first, you must come with me to the ugliest place on earth."
"But why? Why would I want to go to the ugliest place on earth?"
"Well, in order to really understand beauty, sometimes we need to see a little ugliness. Close your eyes, and I’ll take you there."

And so the little girl closed her eyes—and she started to hear music. When the girl opened her eyes she saw they’d arrived at an amazing place. It was a very large room, decorated with beautiful paintings and tapestries on every wall. Sparkling chandeliers hung from the high, vaulted ceiling, and a plush, ornate rug covered the floor. There was a band of musicians playing a sweet melody; jugglers and clowns, acrobats and magicians, all putting on an incredible show. But most amazing of all was the huge table in the center of the room. All around it sat men, women and children, dressed in bright, colorful clothes. But the girl hardly saw them because she was looking at what was piled high on the table—the most delicious, mouth-watering, finger-licking, lip-smacking, melt-in-your-mouth, food. From one end of the table to the other, there was one fantastic dish after another—the sight and smell of it made the girl start drooling.

She turned to the angel and said, "This is the ugliest place on earth?"
The angel replied, "Look closely."
And when the girl did, she saw that although the room was beautiful, and there was plenty of delicious food, still, there was something wrong. Very wrong. The people at the table looked thin, pale, and very miserable.
The girl turned to the angel and asked, "Why do those people look so unhappy?"
"Look again," said the angel.

And this time, when she looked, the girl saw that the only things the people had to eat with were some very, very long spoons. They simply couldn’t get the food into their mouths.
The girl looked at the angel, and her eyes filled with tears. "No wonder they're unhappy. Their spoons are too long for them to put the food in their mouths. No wonder they're miserable. They're starving!"
The angel replied, "Yes. Isn’t it sad? But we’ve seen enough of that. Now! To the most beautiful place on earth! Close your eyes again."

And the girl did—and she started to hear music. When the girl opened her eyes again she saw they’d arrived at an amazing place. In fact, it looked just like the other place—the same beautiful room, the same musicians, jugglers, clowns, acrobats, magicians—the same table with the same delicious food—and the same people, with the same long spoons!
The girl turned to the angel and said, "But it's all exactly the same!"
"Not quite," the angel replied. "Look at the people."

And although the place seemed exactly like the ugliest place on earth, the little girl noticed that something was different. Very different. The people all looked well-fed and very happy. And then she saw why. The people were using their long spoons to reach across the table and feed each other.
The girl turned to the angel, and she could hardly hold in her excitement!
"They're feeding each other! Angel, they're feeding each other!"
"Yes," the angel replied with a smile. "And that, my little friend, is the only difference between the ugliest and the most beautiful place on earth. Any place where people help and take care of each other is the most beautiful place on earth."

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The Two Brothers

Traditional Jewish Story
This Version © 2009 Sandor Slomovits

How good it is and how lovely for brothers to live as one.
How good, how good, for brothers to live as one.

Once there were two brothers who farmed together. They shared equally in all the work of the farm, the plowing, planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting. They also shared equally all the grains, fruits and vegetables that they grew. The brothers each had their own house and barn on opposite ends of the land they shared. One of the brothers was married and had a large family, the other brother lived alone.

One day, the brother who had no wife and children was sitting on his front porch after a long day of working in the fields. As he sat quietly, watching the sun slowly set, the fields getting dark in the twilight, he found himself thinking thoughts he’d never had before.

"It’s not right that my brother and I divide our crops evenly. He has many mouths to feed, while I only have one. I will help him. Tonight, when the moon is new and the night is dark, I will carry a sack of grain to his barn to help feed his family."

Now it so happened that at exactly the same time the one brother was having these thoughts, the other brother was thinking the same way. As he sat on his front porch, watching his children play in the amber glow of the same sunset, he said to himself.

"It’s not right that my brother and I divide our crops evenly. I have many children who will care for me in my old age, but my brother has none. I will help him. Tonight, when the moon is new and the night is dark, I will carry a sack of grain to his barn. He can sell it and put the money aside for his old age." Later that night both brothers carried a sack of grain to the other one’s barn.

The next morning, both brothers were surprised to find that they each had just as many sacks of grain as they had the day before. Without saying a word to one another, they each decided to take yet another sack of grain to the other. Later that night they both did just that. And, of course, in the morning, once again, they each had the same number of sacks of grain they’d had the day before.

This went on, night after night, night after night – until one night, when the moon was full and lit up the fields. It so happened that on this night the brothers set out from their barns at exactly the same time, and they met in the middle of their land. Without a word being said, seeing each other with the sacks of grain, they suddenly understood what had happened. They lowered the sacks of grain to the ground and embraced.

Hine ma tov u’manayim shevet achim gam yachad. (Hebrew)
How good it is and how lovely for brothers to live as one.

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The Two Donkeys

Traditional Folk Tale
This Version © 2007 Sandor and Laszlo Slomovits

Once upon a time there were two donkeys that lived on a farm. Every day the farmer tied them together with a rope and they did the work of the farm. They pulled the plow, they pulled the wagon... After a while, the donkeys even learned to tie themselves together.

And that’s just what they did on this fine day. They tied themselves together and pulled the plow all morning. When it was time for lunch, the farmer turned the team around and the donkeys headed back to the barn to have their lunch. When they got into the barn they noticed that there were two piles of carrots. There was a pile at one end of the barn, and there was another pile at the other end of the barn.

Well, the donkeys were hungry. They’d worked hard all morning and they each headed for their own pile of carrots. Hee Haw.
But the rope was too short. They couldn’t reach. Now everybody knows how not so smart donkeys are, right? It didn’t work the first time, so they tried it again. Exactly the same way. Hee Haw. Still couldn’t reach.
Donkeys are not only famous for being not so smart, they’re also well known for being...that’s right, stubborn. Didn’t work twice in a row? Try it again. Exactly the same way. Hee Haw. Still couldn’t reach.
But now the donkeys did something unusual...for donkeys, that is. They did something smart. They turned to all their friends in the barn and asked them..."How can we get to our piles of carrots?"

The rooster spoke up first.
"Cock-a-doodle-doo! I know what to do.
Untie the rope. Untie the rope."

The donkeys said, "But, we barely know how to tie knots. We don’t know how to untie knots! That won’t work."

Then the duck said,
"Quack Quack. It’s easy Jack.
Cut the rope! Cut the rope!"

The donkeys said, "You know the farmer doesn’t trust us with knives or scissors. That won’t work."

Then the cow, chewing on her cud, said,
"Moo! Moo! I know what to do.
Chew the rope! Chew the rope!"

And the donkeys tried that. Chomp, chomp, chomp. But the rope tasted bad, and their teeth were not sharp enough. "This won’t work either," said the donkeys.

Then the owl, who’d been asleep in the rafters, but was awoken by all the commotion, said,

"Whoo, whoo. I know what to do.
Pull together! Don’t pull apart!
Pulling apart doesn’t get much done.
Pulling together is much more fun.

"In other words, you could both go together to one pile, and when you’re done eating that, go together to the other pile."

All the animals, even the donkeys, could see that this plan would work. So that’s what they did. They walked together to one end of the barn and ate the carrots there, then together they walked to the other side and ate the rest of the carrots.

The moral of our story, the moral of our tale:
If you work together, you will never fail.


The Rooster Story

Hungarian Folk Tale
English version Laszlo Slomovits ©1987 ASCAP

Once upon a time, in a land far away, lived a poor farmer on a tiny farm. He had a few animals like you often find on a farm; cats and dogs, a cow and a horse, sheep, a goat and some chickens -- but he also had one very special rooster.

One day this rooster was scratching and pecking at the dirt in the road that went by the farm, when suddenly his beak hit something hard and shiny. He pecked all around it and saw that it was a beautiful silver dollar. He picked it up in his beak, and as he was holding it, shining and sparkling in the sunlight, a car came down the road, screeched to a halt right next to him, and Mr. Stingyman got out.

Now Mr. Stingyman had lots and lots of money. He had a special vault made of stone and steel 40 feet high and 40 feet wide and a 100 yards long where he kept all his money. But he was so stingy, he never gave anything to anybody. He just kept putting all his money in his money vault and by now it was almost full. But he was never satisfied, he always wanted more. And so when he saw the silver dollar he wanted it. Mr. Stingyman said, "Hey rooster, gimme that dollar." The rooster said, "No, I won't, I'm taking it back to the farmer." "No you won't," said Mr. Stingyman, and he grabbed the rooster by the neck, yanked the silver dollar away from him, jumped in his car and drove off. When he got home he threw the silver dollar in his money vault and locked the door again.

Now the little rooster got really angry. He went to Mr. Stingyman's house, got up on the window sill and started singing at the top of his voice:

"Hey Mr. Stingyman, listen to me holler! Cock a doodle doodle doo, give me back my dollar!"

He kept singing this over and over and over, till Mr. Stingyman got real tired of it and he called his son, whose name was Tightwad, and he said, "Tightwad! Take that rooster and throw him in the well!" So Tightwad grabbed the rooster and threw him in the well.

But the little rooster wasn't frightened; he just started singing to his belly:

"Belly, belly, belly, take in all the water."

Glugglugglugglugglugglugglug... and he took in all the water! Then he climbed out of the well, jumped up on the window sill and started singing as loud as he could.

"Hey Mr. Stingyman..."

Mr. Stingyman got even madder than before. He said to his son, "Tightwad! Take that rooster and throw him in the flaming furnace!" So Tightwad grabbed the rooster and threw him in the flaming furnace.

But the little rooster still wasn't frightened; he just started singing to his belly again:

"Belly, belly, belly, let out all the water."

Whoooosh... and the water put out the fire. Then the little rooster got out of the furnace, jumped up on the window sill and started singing again:

"Hey Mr. Stingyman..."

Now Mr. Stingyman was furious. He yelled, "Tightwad! Take that rooster and throw him in the beehive!" And Tightwad grabbed the rooster and threw him in the beehive.

But the little rooster still wasn't frightened; he just started singing again:

"Belly, belly, belly , take in all the bees."

Bzzzzzzzzz... and he took in all the bees. Then he got out of the beehive, jumped up on the windowsill and started singing at the top of his lungs:

"Hey, Mr. Stingyman..."

Now Mr. Stingyman was as mad as he could be! He roared, "Tightwad! Bring that rooster over here. I'm going to stuff him in my baggy pants and sit on him!" So Tightwad grabbed the rooster and brought him to Mr. Stingyman and Mr. Stingyman stuffed him in his baggy pants and sat right down on him.

But the little rooster still wasn't frightened. He just started singing:

"Belly, belly, belly, let out all the bees."

Buzz, Buzz, Buzz! And the bees all came buzzing out and started biting Mr. Stingyman. "Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!" He yelled and hollered and jumped up and down. "Take this rooster to the money vault and let him take his lousy silver dollar!"

So Tightwad grabbed the little rooster and ran all the way to the money vault, opened the door and let him in. The little rooster took a good, long look all around, then started singing very, very softly:

"Belly, belly, belly, take in all the money."

Clinkclinkclink... and he took in all the money. Then he ran home as fast as he could and gave it all to the poor farmer. And as far as we know, they lived happily ever after!


The Bremen Town Musicians

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
This version © 2009 Sandor Slomovits

Once upon a time, there was a donkey, who lived on a farm. For many, many years he faithfully did whatever work was asked of him, and in return his master, the farmer, fed him and cared for him. But when the donkey got old and was unable to work hard, the farmer stopped putting food in his trough.

Now people think that donkeys are not very smart. That may or may not be true of donkeys in general, but it sure wasn’t true of this donkey. He could see which way the wind was blowing. "Now what do I do?" he asked himself.

So, he left. He hit the road and headed for the town of Bremen. He remembered that when he used to pull his farmer’s wagon to the market there, he always saw musicians playing in the streets. They put their cases out and people stopped, listened, and threw money.

It had always looked like fun—and a way to make a living—and so now he decided that’s what he would do. He started practicing right away. (Hee-haw)

When he’d gone a ways, he came upon a hunting dog lying listlessly by the side of the road.

"What’s wrong, Dog?" asked Donkey.

"Oh," said Dog, "I am old and getting weaker, and can no longer hunt. My master stopped feeding me, so I left. But now what do I do?"

"I got the same raw deal," said Donkey. "So, I am going to Bremen to become a street musician there. Why don’t you join me? You can bow wow. First you’ll wow ‘em, then you can bow to ‘em!

Dog chewed on that for a bit, decided it sounded like a much better deal than the one he had, so they set off together, practicing as they went. (Bow-wow, Hee-haw )

Before long they came upon a cat sitting by the side of the road, his whiskers drooping to the ground. "What’s wrong, Cat?" asked Donkey.

"Oh," said Cat, "I can’t put on a smiley face when my belly is empty. I am getting on in years, and can’t catch mice any more. My master stopped feeding me, so I left. But now what do I do?"

"Come with us to Bremen," said Donkey. "You must still have some of your nine lives left. And I’m sure you can still meow pretty well. Forget the ow. Remember the me. Join us!"

Cat licked her whiskers thoughtfully, decided it sounded like a much better deal than the one she had, so they set off together, practicing as they went. (Meeeow, Bow-wow, Hee-haw)

They were walking by a farm when they heard a rooster crowing loudly – in the middle of the day. "It’s noon, Rooster," said Donkey. "Who you’re trying to wake up now?"

"I just overheard the cook say she needs some meat for tonight’s soup and that she’s sick and tired of my crowing early every morning. She plans to put me in the pot. Until then I figure I’ll just keep pestering her, if it’s the last thing I do."

"You can do better than that, Rooster," said Donkey. We’re on our way to Bremen to sing for our supper, rather than be supper. You’re good at waking people up, and musicians always need audiences to stay awake. Come, cock-a-doodle-do with us — it’ll better than cock-a-doodle-don’t!"

Rooster strutted about for a minute, decided it sounded like a much better deal than the one he had, and they all set off together, practicing as they went. (Cock-a-doodle-do, Meeeow, Bow-wow, Hee-haw)

They were only halfway to Bremen when it started to get dark and they found themselves near a forest. They decided to rest for the night and walked into the woods. Donkey and Dog lay down under a big tree, Cat climbed to a low branch, and Rooster flew up to the top of the tree.

When he did, he saw a light in the distance. He called down to his newfound friends that there must be a house nearby.

Donkey said, "Why don’t we go there. Maybe we’ll find some food." So they set off toward the light. As they walked it got brighter and brighter and soon they came to a house. Donkey, being the tallest, went up to the window to look in. The others clustered around his legs and asked eagerly, "What do you see, Donkey? What do you see?" Donkey said, "I see a big table covered with good food and drink. I also see a band of rough men I recognize. They’re thieves. Everybody knows them. They rob people who travel the road to Bremen."

"Seems to me they shouldn’t get to enjoy their loot," said Rooster. "And we’re also hungry, remember?" chorused the others. "Let’s roust them out of here."

So, they came up with a plan. Dog clambered onto Donkey’s back, Cat crouched on Dog’s back and Rooster climbed onto Cat’s head. Then Donkey reared back on his hind legs and smashed through the window with his front hooves. And, the whole time, they made their music—loudly. (Cock-a-doodle-do, Meeeow, Bow-wow, Hee-haw)

The robbers, scared out of their wits, jumped up, ran out of the house and into the woods. Donkey, Dog, Cat and Rooster happily sat down at the table and ate and ate and ate and ate. And in their joy they sang and sang and sang and sang. When they were done, they let the fire die down and went to sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep.

Donkey, who was used to sleeping outdoors, lay down in the yard. Dog settled just inside the door. Cat curled up on the hearth, next to the warm ashes, while Rooster climbed to the peak of the roof, to be ready to catch the first glint of sunrise.

The robbers meanwhile, after running deep into the woods, stopped and looked back. When they saw the lights dim in the house, their bravery returned. "We shouldn't have let ourselves be chased off that easily," growled their leader. They all agreed, but none of them was eager to go back.

Finally, though, one volunteered and walked back to the house and crept inside. The musicians had had a long day, and a big meal. They all slept soundly. Except for Cat, who had her eyes wide open, but was perfectly still. The robber decided to light a lamp and, thinking the cat’s eyes were live coals in the fireplace, leaned down and put a match to them.

Cat immediately jumped into his face, spitting, and scratching. (Meow!)

Ow! screamed the robber and ran to the door. Dog woke up (Bow-wow, bow-wow) and bit him hard on the leg. Ow! screamed the robber again and ran outside. Donkey gave him a good swift kick, you know where. (Hee-hee-hee-hee, Haw-haw-haw-haw.)

Ow! screamed the robber, and ran even faster.) Rooster cackled at him from the roof, (Cock-a-doodle-don’t you dare!)

The robber ran as fast as he could back to his band and breathlessly told them what happened. "There is a horrible witch in the house. She hissed at me and clawed my face with her long fingers. And, there is a man with a knife standing by the door. He stabbed me in the leg. And, there is a four-legged monster in the yard. He whacked me hard with a wooden club. And there is a policeman with a siren on the roof screeching, "Catch that evil doer, catch that evil doer!"

Hearing this, the robbers decided they would never again go back to that house. But, our musicians liked it so much that there they stayed. And they made music every day… (Cock-a-doodle-do, Meeeow, Bow-wow, Hee-haw)

And, they all lived happily ever after.


Perfect Pitch

Story © 2008 Sandor Slomovits ASCAP
Music © 2008 Sandor Slomovits ASCAP and Brian Brill BMI

Here’s a story about a little girl...
Though it could be about a little boy...
This story could even be about...you.

Once upon a time there was a girl named Rosalie.

Rosalie was a wonderful girl. She was always quiet, always sweet, always polite. Was she quiet? Yes. Was she sweet? Yes. Was she polite? Yes.

Always? No.

Sometimes, she was not completely quiet. Sometimes, she was not simply sweet. Sometimes, she was not perfectly polite.

But, most of the time she was quiet, sweet and polite.

Rosalie began learning to play the violin when she was seven years old.

Do you think the very first time Rosalie played her violin she sounded like that? No. Actually, she sounded more like this.

But you know, that very first time Rosalie played her violin, she heard something else besides those scratchy, out of tune notes. She heard something deep inside her. It wasn’t a voice really, more like a feeling, but a feeling so strong and clear it seemed as if it was speaking to her. It said, "You can do this, Rosalie. You can do it, yes."

And from then on, Rosalie knew she could play the violin. Did that mean she never made mistakes? No. Did that mean she never got frustrated when she practiced? No. Do you think she ever got discouraged? Yes. But, she practiced every day, had wonderful teachers, her mom and dad always told her how much they enjoyed her playing, and so she learned quickly and very well.

Now, besides playing the violin, Rosalie also loved baseball. She began playing ball with her mom and dad when she was just a little girl.

Learning to play baseball was just like learning to play the violin. Do you think the first time Rosalie threw a ball it went exactly where she aimed it? No. Do you think she always caught the ball when her mom or dad tossed it to her? No. When they pitched to her, did she hit a home run every time? No.

But, as with the violin, she learned fast. She played catch with her mom and dad, they pitched to her, and she threw pop-ups to herself for hours in her back yard. Do you think she got better? Yes.

When Rosalie was seven years old, the same year she started to play the violin, she began playing softball on a team. The first few summers she played, her team’s coach pitched to the girls. But the year Rosalie turned twelve, at the first spring practice, the coach announced, "This year, you girls will pitch to each other."

So, they began learning to pitch. Do you think Rosalie was a good pitcher right away? No. Her first pitches were...well, they were like her first "Twinkle Twinkle."

She threw high, she threw low, she threw wide, she threw close.

But, just like the first time she played her violin, she again had that feeling, again heard that voice. "You can do this, Rosalie. You can do it, yes."

So, after practice that day, Rosalie came home very excited and said to her mom and dad, "I’m going to be a pitcher." Her mom and dad immediately said, "No. No, you’re not."

"Why not?" asked Rosalie.

Her mom and dad looked at each other. Her dad cleared his throat. Finally he said, "Girls who play violin don’t pitch. Because when you pitch, you’re the player closest to the batter and... your fingers could get hurt." Rosalie immediately and correctly pointed out that the player closest to the batter was the catcher. Her mom said, "Yes, but catchers wear masks and padding. Besides, we don’t want you to be a catcher either."

The truth was, Rosalie’s mom and dad weren’t really worried about her fingers. They worried that a batted ball could hurt her. They said, "You can’t do this, Rosalie. You can’t do this, no. No!"

"Please," she said, very quietly, sweetly, politely.

"No" said her mom and dad.

"It’s not fair!" she said, a little less quietly, a little less sweetly, a little less politely.

"No," they said.

"Emily plays the violin," Rosalie shouted, "and her parents said they’d let her pitch!"

"No" they said.

Finally Rosalie said a few more things – not at all quietly, not at all sweetly, not at all politely.

She stamped her foot. She stamped her other foot. She marched out of the room. She stomped up the stairs. She slammed her door. Twice. (Soloist marches off stage.)

Rosalie’s dad said, "It’s OK. She’ll forget about it by tomorrow." Rosalie’s mom agreed, "Yeah, You’re probably right. She’ll forget about it by tomorrow."

You think Rosalie forgot? (Soloist returns to the stage.) For three days Rosalie cajoled, pleaded, begged constantly and her mom and dad continued to say no. "I can do this — No you can’t! No you can’t! I can do this – NO! NO!" "I can do this — No you can’t! No you can’t! I can do this – NO! NO!"

But, finally, Rosalie’s mom remembered that when she was a little girl she too played ball – with boys no less. "Yeah, I got some bumps and bruises," she said. "I guess I survived."

Then Rosalie’s dad remembered how once, when he was a boy playing in the outfield, he lost a fly ball in the sun, and the ball landed right on top of his head. "You can get hurt in the outfield, too," he said.

"Truth is, you can get hurt in life, but you can’t let that stop you from doing the things you love." So, they told Rosalie, "You can try it Rosalie. You can try it, Yes, Yes!"

Rosalie was ecstatic. She hugged her mom and dad, told them they were the best parents ever, and ran right outside to practice. She pitched a softball against the side of their garage over and over and over.

Well, the first game rolled around. Rosalie was pretty nervous. But she wasn’t nearly as nervous as her mom and dad. Her dad kept saying, "You’ll be fine, you’ll be fine, you’ll be fine," the whole time she was warming up. Her mom kept saying, "Just keep breathing, just keep breathing."

Finally, it was game time. The ump brushed off home plate and shouted, "Play ball!"

Rosalie stood in the pitcher’s circle as a girl from the other team stepped into the batter’s box and swung her bat a few times. Rosalie went into her windup and threw her first pitch. It was a yard behind the batter and rolled all the way to the backstop. Rosalie’s mom drew in a sharp breath and held it.

Rosalie’s second pitch sailed way over the batter’s head and again rolled all the way to the backstop. Her dad groaned softly. The girls on the other team laughed and Rosalie’s teammates shouted, "Settle down, Rosie! Settle down." Rosalie’s third pitch flew right at the batter and the girl barely jumped out of the way. There was a lot of laughing from the other team’s bench and Rosalie’s teammates were very quiet.

Rosalie took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and as she did, she heard the voice.

"You can do this, Rosalie. You can do it. Yes."

Her next pitch was right over the heart of the plate. The ump’s right hand went up and he growled, "Strike!"

The girls on the other team yelled to the batter, "She just got lucky. Don’t swing. She’ll walk you."

Rosalie’s next pitch was another beauty. The ump said, "Strike two!"

"Yaay, Rosie," cheered Rosalie’s teammates.

Rosalie’s next pitch was a little outside, but the batter swung and missed. "Strike three. You’re out."

Rosalie’s mom let out the breath she’d been holding....phew... and started jumping up and down. Her dad pounded his fist into his glove and said, "I knew she could do it. I knew she could do it." Rosalie’s teammates yelled, "Way to go, Rosie! Way to go."

Rosalie’s face wore an expression just like the first time she drew a pretty sound from her violin.

Did Rosalie strike out every batter she faced that day? No. Did she only throw perfect pitches? No. Did her team win the game? YES, YES, YES, YES.

For the rest of that summer, Rosalie had some good innings and some bad. Her team won some games and lost some. But Rosalie continued to learn and to improve—in baseball, the violin, and in so many other things—and she never stopped listening to that voice inside her. "You can do this, Rosalie. You can do it. Yes. Yes. You can do this, Rosalie. You can do it. YES, YES, YES."


Crowded House

Traditional Yiddish Story
This Version © 2009 Sandor Slomovits
Music © Laszlo Slomovits

Once upon a time there were two brothers who played music together. Both of the brothers loved to play music, but one of the brothers REALLY loved to play. He never stopped. All day long, and long into the night, with barely a break, he kept playing.

He was a wonderful musician, but even a good thing can get to be too much. After awhile, it did get to be too much for his brother. They lived together in a small house and there was nowhere he could go to escape the music. He finally couldn’t stand it anymore. He went to the wisest man in the village for advice.

“Rabbi, help me out, please. My brother he keeps playing music all day long, and long into the night. I can’t get any other work done, I can’t sleep. Even eating is hard. What can I do?”

The Rabbi said, “Doesn’t your daughter play music too?”
“Well yes, Rabbi. My daughter is a wonderful violinist.”
“You should have her join you and your brother.”
“But Rabbi, she’s still in school. And besides, how will that help?”
“School, schmool. Trust me boychick. Do what I say.”

Well, what could he do? The Rabbi was a very wise man. Surely, he knew what to do. So, the man pulled his daughter from school and asked her to play too.

Ein Zvei, Drey Fir! (One, two, three, four!)

And, of course it was wonderful. The music sounded even better. It was great. And it was terrible. Because now there was practically never a break from the music. When his brother would stop for a minute, his daughter would keep going—and vica versa.

The man went running back to the Rabbi.
“Rabbi, Rabbi. It’s even worse now. There is not a moment of silence, not a moment of peace. What am I going to do?”
The Rabbi said, “Don’t you know someone who plays the piano?”
“Well yes, Rabbi. I have a friend is a wonderful pianist.”
“You should have him join in. A pianist is just what your music needs.”
“But, Rabbi, how will that help?”
“Trust me boychick. Do what I say.”

Well, what could he do? The Rabbi was a very, very wise man. Surely, he knew what to do. So, the man asked his friend to play too.

Ein Zvei, Drey Fir!

And, of course it was wonderful. The music sounded even better. It was great. And it was terrible. Because now there was practically never, NEVER a break from the music. When his brother or daughter would stop for a minute, his friend would keep going!

The man went running back to the Rabbi.
“Rabbi, Rabbi, Rabbi. I didn’t think it could get any worse, but it has gotten worse. There is never, never a moment of silence, never, never a moment of peace. What am I going to do?”
The Rabbi said, “Don’t you have some friends who enjoy music?”
“Well yes, Rabbi. Everyone in the village enjoys our music.”
“You should invite them over to your house, you know, to sing, clap, dance along.”
“But Rabbi, Rabbi, Rabbi, how will that help?”
“Trust me boychick. Do what I say.”

Well, what could he do? The Rabbi was a very, very, very wise man. Surely, he knew what to do. So, the man invited all the villagers to come and join in the music. And they did.

Ein Zvei, Drey Fir!

And, of course it was wonderful. The music was fabulous, and people had a great time dancing, clapping, singing along. But, nobody was taking care of the village. People weren’t working, people weren’t cooking, cleaning, doing the dishes. Nothing was getting done in the village.

The man went running back to the Rabbi.
“Rabbi, Rabbi, Rabbi. I didn’t think it could get any worse, but it has really, really gotten worse. It has gotten totally out of hand. What am I going to do?”
The Rabbi said, “Tell all your friends to go home, take care of their families and go about their lives again. Tell your piano playing friend to go back to his house and play his piano there, and tell your daughter she needs to go back to school.”

So, the man did that. And everyone went back to living the way they had. And it was so quiet, so peaceful, so silent. Well... almost silent.

His brother still kept playing. But now the man didn’t mind it anymore. After all that had happened, having just his brother play music seemed so sweet, so peaceful, so wonderful.

Ein Zvei, Drey Fir!


The Cleverest Son

Traditional Ethiopian Tale.
Version by Laszlo Slomovits © 2010 ASCAP
Music by Laszlo Slomovits © 2010 ASCAP
(You can find other versions of this story in “Stories to Solve” by George Shannon,Harper Trophy, 1985 /// based on The Cleverest Son, an Ethiopian tale / Unicef Book of Children’s Legends, compiled by William I. Kaufman, Stackpole Books, 1970

Once upon a time there was a King who had three sons. They all lived together in a great palace. When the King became old he decided to make one of his sons the new King, but he didn't know which one would make the best ruler of the land. So he decided to test them. He called for all three of them and said, "My dear sons, I have a task for you."

Pointing into the distance, beyond the forest surrounding the palace, the King continued: "At the edge of the Kingdom, there are three empty castles. I am going to give each of you a hundred dollars. With this money I want each of you to fill one of the castles."

The three sons were puzzled. "Fill them? With what?"

The King replied, "That's up to you. But spend your money wisely. I'll come by in a week to see how you've done."

And so the three sons left and tried to figure out how to fill an entire castle with just a hundred dollars. The first son thought about it, for a little bit...and then he got discouraged. He said to himself, "Can't be done. You can't get anything for a hundred dollars that would fill up a whole castle." But then he thought about it some more… and he got an idea!

"Straw! That’s it! There are lots of farmers around here, and they have lots of straw. And it’s cheap. That’s what I’ll buy to fill up the castle." So he went to the local farmers and bought a hundred dollars worth of straw. But when he spread it out in the castle, he found he only had enough to cover the floors of about half of the many, many rooms.

Now, the second son also thought about it. And at first he also got discouraged... "Can't be done. You can't get anything for a hundred dollars that would fill up a whole castle." But then he thought about it some more… and he got an idea! "Straw! That’s it! There are lots of farmers around here, and they have lots of straw. And it’s cheap. That’s what I’ll buy to fill up the castle."

But then he thought about it some more and began to wonder — would a hundred dollars worth of straw really fill up a whole castle? What if it didn’t cover the floors of all the rooms? And besides, didn’t his father say, "Fill the castle?" Even if it covered the floors, what about all the rest of the castle? So he kept thinking, and thinking some more… and he got an idea!

"Feathers! That’s it! There are lots of farmers nearby who have chickens and geese and ducks. I bet I can get tons of feathers! And that will surely fill up the castle!" So he went to the local farmers and bought a hundred dollars worth of feathers. And sure enough, when he shook all the feathers out of the bags, they filled up every room in the whole castle. In fact, feathers were sticking out of every window, and every door! Now, the third son also thought about it... and at first he also got discouraged... "Can't be done. You can't get anything for a hundred dollars that would fill up a whole castle." But he didn't give up either. He thought about it some more… and he got an idea! "Straw! That’s it! There are lots of farmers around here, and they have lots of straw. And it’s cheap. That’s what I’ll buy to fill up the castle."

But then he thought about it some more and began to wonder — would a hundred dollars worth of straw really fill up a whole castle? What if it didn’t cover the floors of all the rooms? And besides, didn’t his father say, "Fill the castle?" Even if it covered the floors, what about all the rest of the castle? So he kept thinking, and thinking some more… and he got an idea!

"Feathers! That’s it There are lots of farmers nearby who have chickens and geese and ducks. I bet I can get tons of feathers! And that will surely fill up the castle!" But then he stopped, and thought about it ... "What’s a castle for? Sure, I could fill it with feathers, but, then nobody could live there. Nobody could even get in the door! And what good is a castle if you can’t live in it?"

So he thought about it some more, and some more, and some more. And then, he decided to ask his heart for wisdom and guidance. He asked his heart to show him the way. And finally, an answer came up from deep inside, and he knew what he could do.

When the week was up, the King set out to visit the three castles. The first son stood outside the first castle, looking embarrased, knowing he had not filled it. The King rode by silently and headed for the second castle. The second son stood by it proudly and excitedly. "Look, Father, look! I filled it! I filled it!" "So you have, my son, so you have..." sighed the King, and hurried past, sneezing and coughing from all the feathers flying around the castle.

Finally, he arrived at the third castle. Even from a distance, he could see a bright, lit candle in every window. And when he entered the castle, he saw beautiful flowers on a table, and their fragrance filled the room. As the King walked around he saw that every room had candles and flowers. And in the very center of the castle, musicians were playing a lovely melody, filling every room with their music. There was light, beauty, fragrance and music, filling up the whole castle.

The King lifted the crown off his head, placed it on the head of the third son, and said: "You shall rule the land my son, for you have made the best choice. May you inspire everyone to fill their minds with the best thoughts, their hearts with the sweetest feelings, and their words and actions with the highest purpose. May everyone live in light and beauty, always."

Epilogue:
Our story has ended, but its message is clear.
Let us all treasure this life so dear,
and fill it with beauty, with love and light
and share with each other this gift so bright!


The Treasure

Traditional Story
This Version © 2009 Sandor Slomovits

Once upon a time, in a village far away, lived a poor woodcutter named Shaya. Shaya lived in a small house with his wife, Rozsa and their eleven children. Even though both Shaya and Rozsa worked hard, they often barely had enough food to feed their large family.

One night, Shaya had a dream. In the dream he saw a faint image of a bridge over a great river. And under one of the supports of the bridge he saw a box. In his dream, Shaya opened the box, and found that it was full of treasure.

Now Shaya was not a man who paid much attention to his dreams. His mind was always filled with his day-to-day work, but this was such an unusual dream that over breakfast that morning he told about it to Rozsa and the children. Rozsa also was often overwhelmed by her daily work, and she just smiled at his story. But the children, who still believed in dreams, got excited. They said, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, go and bring the treasure back.”

Shaya laughed, “Go? Go where? I don’t know where this bridge is. It’s only a crazy dream.”

He put the dream out of his mind and went to work. But that night Shaya had the exact same dream, and this time the image of the bridge was clearer. And the treasure box was still there. When he woke, he had the nagging feeling that he knew where that bridge was, that he almost recognized it. Again he told Rozsa and the children about the dream, again Rozsa smiled, and again the children said, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, go and bring the treasure back.”

Shaya scratched his head and said, “Well if I knew where it was, I might go.”

That night he again had the same dream, and it was even more vivid this time. Now he could see the bridge very clearly, and also the towns on either side of the river. When he woke up, he realized he knew exactly where that bridge was. It was over the river that ran by his childhood home, the river he used to play in as a child.

That morning he told his family again and this time they all agreed he had to go. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, go and bring the treasure back.”

So Shaya set out. He traveled many days, walking, hitching rides in passing ox carts, and walking some more, until he finally arrived at the bridge. But when he got there he found that some soldiers were guarding the bridge. He didn’t dare go looking for the treasure box he’d seen in his dreams. For three days he sat on the bank and waited to see if the soldiers would leave. Finally, on the fourth day, one of the soldiers approached him and said, “I’ve been watching you for three days. You’ve been sitting here looking at this bridge. What are you doing here? What are you looking for?”

Shaya said, “Kind soldier, I’m a poor man who lives far away. Maybe I’m a fool, but I had a dream three nights in a row, about treasure buried under this bridge. I came to see if I could find it.”

“You are a fool,” snorted the soldier. “Only fools believe in dreams. I don’t pay any attention to mine. Why just last week I dreamt that in a village far away from here, in the house of a woodcutter named Shaya, there was treasure buried under the stove. Do you think I’m going to go all the way there just because of that crazy dream?”

Shaya thanked the soldier and hurried home as fast as he could. Rozsa, the children and he dug under their stove and, lo and behold, they found a great treasure.

And you know what? They all lived happily ever after.


The Pearl

Traditional Tale from the Far East.
Version by Laszlo Slomovits © 2010 ASCAP
Music by Laszlo Slomovits © 2010 ASCAP

Once upon a time a young man set out in search of adventure. As he roamed he began to hear stories about an incredible pearl of great beauty. The young man became fascinated by the stories of the pearl, and kept asking people, "Have you seen it? Do you know where I can find it?" But nobody had actually seen it, nobody could guide him to it.

He walked through deep forests, climbed high mountains, crossed hot deserts, and sailed across a great ocean ... in all kinds of weather, in all kinds of places, he kept searching.

Finally, he met a wise old woman who told him about a cave hidden deep in a mountain far away. The young man thanked the wise woman, and began travelling to the mountain. It took a long time to find, and there were many difficulties along the way, but he finally found the cave. As he entered it, he saw a glow, a shimmering at the back of the cave. As he stepped closer, he saw the great pearl! It was so beautiful, brilliant, and sparkling with an unearthly light!

He was about to pick up the pearl, when something moved in the shadows. There, hovering over the pearl, was an enormous dragon. The dragon hissed fiercely and flames shot out of its mouth.

The young man looked at the dragon and knew he could never defeat it. Sadly, he looked once more at the pearl, and with a heavy heart, he slowly backed out of the cave.

He went back home, found a job, got married and started a family, and began to live an ordinary life. But he could not forget the pearl. Whatever he did, whoever he was with, no matter what was happening in his life, he kept remembering the pearl... how magnificent it was, how lustrous, how it scintillated with a magical light. Just knowing there was something that beautiful in the world inspired him to live his life beautifully.

So, whenever he found himself feeling jealous, (like when he saw another man with a faster horse, or a bigger farm) or whenever he felt unkind, (like when someone said something nasty to him and he felt like getting back at them) or whenever he got angry, (like when his children would not listen to him, and rolled in the mud in their new clothes!) he would remember the pearl — and his jealousy, his unkindness, his anger would all turn to love. Everything he did, everyone he met, was touched by his love, his kindness, and without even knowing why, people felt happy when they were around him.

Many years passed. He grew to be an old man. One night he said to himself:

"I want to see that beautiful pearl one more time. I know I won't be able to have it, but I just want to see it one more time."

So he made the long journey back to the mountain, found the cave and entered it. The pearl was even more beautiful than he’d remembered it.

He stepped closer, looking for the dragon, but he could not see it. He stepped closer still, almost next to the pearl, and suddenly he saw the dragon.

But it had become so small! It lay all shriveled on the ground! And he realized he could take the pearl and the dragon couldn't stop him. And then, to his amazement, the dragon began to speak:

"I was your unkindness, your jealousy, your anger.
When you kept thinking of the pearl you turned them all into love!
And I shrank, I got smaller and smaller.
Take the pearl, it belongs to you. You've earned it. You deserve it."

The man picked up the pearl. In his heart he remembered the wise old woman who had told him where to find it. He thought of all the people and all the events that had helped him learn how to be more loving. And then he raised the pearl in a gesture of gratitude, and brought it close to his heart. He knew he was home — and he was free.