Folktales > Something from Nothing

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Narrator: Many years ago, longer than I can remember, in a faraway land that I've never been to, in a colorful little village that I've never even seen, there lived someone's grandfather that I never met. Actually, there were many grandfathers there, and I never met any of them, but I heard a story about one of them. He was a very special grandfather. He'd once been a tailor, making beautiful clothes for the entire vıllage Once when his granddaughter was born, he looked at the baby and said…

Rock a bye baby

Grandfather: Koochee, koochee, koochee, koo.

Narrator: But he also said…

Grandfather: I need to make a special gift for this baby, I need to see what I can find.

Narrator: So he took some cloth. And he got his measuring tape and he got his scissors and he got his needle and thread . And he measured and he cut and he sewed and sewed until he made…

Grandfather: A blanket! Just the right size for my new grandchild.

Narrator: And the girl really loved that blanket (childish sounds of delight). She used it not only for sleeping (Girl cuddles up in it and snores) but she used it for play (Girl makes joyous playful sounds). Sometimes she got it dirty.

Girl: Wheee!!

Narrator: And sometimes she got it wet.

Girl: Oops.

Blanket toss

Narrator: But it was always nearby. But as she grew older, the blanket grew older too. Until one day when her mother said…

Mother: Oh, child, that blanket. It's ragged and frayed, it's looking decayed. It's time to throw it out.

Narrator: And the girl replied… (Girl makes childish wail of protest as she tries to keep the blanket away from her mother.) Which probably meant that she was still attached to it.

Mother: Oh come on dear, don't be silly. It's been a good blanket, but it's so old it's not much of a blanket anymore. So let me just take it and… (Girl puts up a protest again and Mother is exasperated.)

Narrator: Now the Grandfather overheard the commotion…

Grandfather: There, there. What seems to be the problem?

Mother: Oh, that child has worn out the blanket you made for her. But she still wants to hold onto it.

Grandfather: I see. (to Girl) May I see? (She is cautious and protective of the blanket.) Now now, I just want to see it. I'm not going to throw it away, I promise. I just want to look at it. (She reluctantly hands it over to him.) Hmmm… It looks pretty bad. This is not at all the same blanket I made. But I know I can do something with it.

Narrator: So he took the blanket. And he got his measuring tape . And he got his scissors. And his needle and thread. And he measured. And he cut. And he sewed and sewed. Until he made…

Grandfather: An apron! Just the right size to fit around a growing granddaughter's waist.

Narrator: And the girl was very happy with her new apron.

Girl: (in the voice of a small child) Thanks you, Gappa!

Narrator: In fact, she wore it every day. She wore it at home And she wore it at play. She wore it in places that maybe she shouldn't stray.

Girl: Here, froggy froggy. I have a nice little pocket in my apron for you.

Narrator: But as she grew older, the apron grew older too. Until one day, her mother said to her…

Mother: Oh child, that apron. It's ripped and ragged, the edges are jagged. It's time to throw it out.

Girl: No. Mama. Grandpa made it.

Mother: I know, and you have unmade it. It isn't even an apron anymore.

Girl: But we shouldn't get rid of it without asking him.

Mother: Yes yes, I suppose you're right. Very well, go ahead and ask him about it if you think that it will do any good.

Girl: Oh Grandpa! Grandpa! My apron is broken. You can fix it?

Grandfather: Let me see. ..Oh my. It looks like you've been wrestling tigers. Well, we shouldn't throw things out if we don't have to. And I'm pretty sure I can do something with it.

Narrator: So he took the apron. And he got his measuring tape. And he got his scissors. And his needle and thread. And he sewed and sewed until he had turned that apron into…

Grandfather: A scarf. Just the right size to keep my granddaughter's throat warm.

scarf

Girl: Oh thanks, Grandpa. It's the most scrumptious scarf ever.

Narrator: And she loved that scarf as much as she had loved the apron and the blanket. She wore it every day. She wore it at home and she wore it at play. The scarf was never far away.

Mother: Really, dear. Are you wearing that scarf in the bathtub again?

Narrator: But as she got older, the scarf got older too. It began to look less like a scarf, and more like a tangle of spaghetti. And then one day her mother said to her…

Mother: Oh child, that scarf. It's torn and tattered, its edges are scattered. It's time to throw it out.

Girl: No no, Mama, we mustn't do that. I'm sure Grandpa can fix it. He can make something out of anything.

Mother: Well, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to ask him. Somehow, I get the impression this is becoming a pattern.

Grandpa sewing Girl: Thank you, Mother. Oh Grandpa! Grandpa! My scrumptious scarf has become a very sad scarf. Can you make it happy again?

Grandfather: Let me see… Oh my, this is going to be difficult. But not hopeless. I think maybe I can do something with this. Let me try.

Narrator: So he took the scarf. Or what used to be a scarf. And he got his measuring tape. And he got his scissors. And his needle and thread. And he sewed and sewed until he had turned that clump of spaghetti – that is, that scarf – into…

Grandfather: Socks! Just the right size for the feet of my growing granddaughter.

Girl: Oh thank you, Grandpa! They're the most sensational socks ever.

Narrator: And she really really loved those socks. As much as she'd loved the scarf and the apron and the blanket. And she wore them every day. She wore them at home…

Mother: Um… dear, I know you really love those socks and you want to show them off, but I really think you're supposed to wear them INISIDE your shoes rather than outside.

Narrator: And she wore them at play… When the village had a flood, she even wore them in the mud. (Girl gleefully splashes in the mud.)

Narrator: But as she grew older, the socks grew older too. In a couple of places, her toes were poking through. Finally her mother frowned and said…

Mother: Pee….yew!!! (holding her nose) Oh dear, those socks. They're no longer pleasant, not even close. In fact, they're really rather gross. It's time to throw them out.

Girl: No, Mama, please. Let's ask Grandpa first.

Mother: I know, I know. He can make something out of anything.

Girl: Yes, he can. And we really shouldn't throw anything away if we don't have to. It's wasteful.

sock puppets

Mother: Such times these are, when a girl lectures her mother about waste. Very well, very well. Go ask him. But I doubt if even he can help you this time.

Girl: Thank you, Mama. Grandpa! Grandpa! Grandpa, my socks are in shambles, my toes poke through. Is there anything you can do?

Grandpa: Let me see. Oh my, I don't know. Maybe. I'll try. Yes, I'll do my best.

Narrator: So he took the socks. And he got his measuring tape. And he got his scissors. And he got his needle and thread. And he measured. And he cut. And he sewed and sewed until he had turned the socks into…

Grandpa: A bow.

Girl: A bow?

Grandpa: It's better than nothing.

Girl: It certainly is. It's really a beautiful bow. Thank you, Grandpa.

Narrator: And she wore that bow everywhere. It was a bow for her hair. She wore it for a long long time. She grew older, and bigger. But still, the bow didn't wear out, as the blanket and the apron and the scarf and the socks had done. She kept on wearing it until one day…

Girl: My bow! Where did it go? It must have fallen off somewhere.

Narrator: She looked under the bed. She looked under the kitchen sink. She looked in the trash. She looked in the yard. She looked in the mirror. She looked all around. But the bow was nowhere to be found.

(Girl wails.)

Grandpa: There, there, dear. What's the matter?

Girl: Oh Grandpa, I have lost the bow you made for me. Which means I've also lost the socks and the scarf and the apron and the blanket. Can you do something about it?

Grandpa: I'm very sorry my dear. But I'm afraid not even I can make something from nothing. And I have no more of the cloth that my grandmother made for me.

Narrator: And she was very sad. She didn't eat much. She didn't talk much. She hardly did anything but look sad about her lost bow. Then finally her mother sad to her.

Mother: You know, maybe your Grandpa was wrong.

Girl: What do you mean?

Mother: Maybe you can make something from nothing. You don't have the bow, or the socks or the scarf or the apron or the blanket or the fabric you great-great-grandma wove. But you have the memory of all of them. If you pass that on to your own children, it will be like making them all over again. It will be like making something from nothing.

Narrator: So she got her pen. And she got her ink. And she got her paper. And she opened up her imagination. And she wrote and she wrote and she wrote. Until one day, she had made…

Girl: This story.

~ The End

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About this Story

From somewhere in Eastern Europe comes this charming and inspiring Jewish tale about... well, charming and inspiring tradition. As popularized by the picture book of the same name by Phoebe Gilman, this story tells of a gift made by a grandfather for a grandchild (in Gilman's version, the child is a boy; in our version, she isn't) -- and subsequently remade several times. It begins as a blanket, then as it is worn out, it is transformed into smaller and smaller items. In the process, it delivers a yarn (pun intended) about preserving one's heritage and being resourceful with available resources.

@ Your Library

For more great American Folk Tales and legendary heroes go to your local library. You will find Folk Tales in the 398 section (Dewey Decimal System)

Look for more stories about:

  • Grandparents
  • Tailors