Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for beginners. The name of the story is The North Wind and the Sun. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesinEnglish.com/Wind. That’s EasyStoriesinEnglish.com/Wind. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
Today’s story is adapted from Aesop’s Fables. Aesop’s Fables are famous stories. They were written in Ancient Greece. They mostly have animals as the characters, and they are all about morals, so about how people can be good or bad. They use animals to show the moral problems that people have to deal with.
For the next three weeks we are going to have stories from Aesop’s Fables, and there will also be some future stories adapted from the fables.
Today’s story is a very well-known one. You’ve probably heard it yourself, even if you don’t remember it. I’m choosing well-known stories like fables and myths so that new people can easily listen to the podcast. They will see, ‘Oh, I know that story already,’ and hopefully that will make them more likely to listen.
However, I haven’t just left the stories as they were. I’ve put my own details in. Basically, I’ve put my own “touch” on them and hopefully I have made them interesting for adults, as well.
Aesop’s Fables have been translated into pretty much every language, but I’m not really sure if they’re popular outside of Europe. Within England, they’re very well-known. Parents often read them to their children.
There are also famous phrases that come from Aesop’s Fables. For example, “Slow and steady wins the race.” Actually, the story this is from is going to be in a future episode.
For this fable, The North Wind and the Sun, there are lots of different versions, and it’s quite interesting to compare between the different versions. For example, in the version I know, the North Wind and the Sun are trying to get a man to take off his coat. But in some versions of the story, they’re getting him to take off a hat. Actually, when I told my friend about the story, that was the version they remembered.
It’s funny rereading the fables now, because they’re actually much more violent than I remembered. There are lots of them about the lion eating other animals. I mean, it makes sense, because lions do eat other animals, but it’s kind of funny that they’re associated with children when they’re actually quite adult stories.
But don’t worry, The North Wind and the Sun doesn’t contain any violence!
I actually know the story quite well because I studied linguistics. So linguistics is the scientific study of language. And this story, The North Wind and the Sun, is used a lot within the field of linguistics. It’s a nice, easy, short text to get people to read out loud.
So, for example, when they want to study how different dialects pronounce different words, they will get speakers of these different dialects to read out the story and then compare between them.
I have a very strong memory about my professor of linguistics. So he was teaching us about something called “breathy voice”, and the way he decided to demonstrate it was by saying, ‘the North Wind and the Sun,’ and it sounded very dramatic and magical, so… Also, he was quite a serious person, so it was just very funny to hear him talk like this.
So, listen and enjoy!
The North Wind and the Sun
Nature has many parts. There is water. Water gives us life, and helps us clean ourselves. There is fire. Fire helps us cook food, and stay warm. There are trees, which give us fruit and wood. All the parts of nature work together, and help us live on Earth.
There are two parts of nature that are very important. They are the North Wind and the Sun. The North Wind tells us when the weather is going to change. The Sun keeps us warm, and gives us light.
But the North Wind and the Sun are different to the other parts of nature. They do not like to work together. They want to be better than each other. They often think about how they can be better than each other.
The North Wind thinks that being strong is the most important thing. She thinks that if you are strong, you can do anything. If you can do anything, people will think that you are the best.
The North Wind watches humans. She sees that humans fight, and kill, and go to war.
‘The humans understand,’ says the North Wind. ‘The humans understand that being strong is the best thing to be in the world. Because if you are strong, you will win against all others, and everyone thinks you are the best.’
The Sun thinks differently. The Sun does not think that being strong is important. The Sun thinks that the most important thing to be is kind. If you are kind, everyone will like you. If everyone likes you, then you will always have help when you need it. But if you are strong, and not kind, then people will not help you. When you most need help, you will be alone.
The Sun also watches humans. She sees that humans love each other, and make friends and families.
‘The humans understand,’ says the Sun. ‘The humans understand that being kind is the best thing to be in the world. If you are kind, then everyone will love you, and your friends will make you strong.’
One day, the North Wind and the Sun were talking.
‘You are weak,’ said the North Wind. ‘You only talk about being kind. What if someone wants to hurt you? If someone wants to steal from you, and you are kind to them, they will simply hurt you and steal from you.’
‘Oh, North Wind!’ said the Sun. ‘It is not so simple. If I am kind, and I give the person what they want, they will not hurt me.’
‘But they will still steal from you!’ said the North Wind. ‘You will still lose your thing.’
‘Things are not everything,’ said the Sun. ‘People are more important than things.’
‘What if the thing is a knife?’ said the North Wind. ‘A knife is very important. If you have a knife, people will not hurt you.’
‘Anyway,’ said the Sun, ‘if I have lots of friends, and someone steals something from me, it is not important. My friends will help me, and give me the things that I need.’
The North Wind laughed. ‘And what will you do when your friends don’t give you the things that you need?’
The Sun smiled. ‘I must hope that they will help me.’
This made the North Wind angry. ‘Sun! I will make you understand. Look down there, at the Earth.’
The Sun looked down, and saw a man walking along a road. It was winter, and very cold. The man was wearing a big coat.
‘This is how we will decide who is better,’ said the North Wind. ‘We will both try to take off that man’s coat. If you can take off the man’s coat first, you will win. I will agree that being kind is more important than being strong. But if I take off the man’s coat first, I will win. You will have to agree that being strong is more important than being kind.’
The Sun said, ‘OK, I will play your game.’
‘I will go first,’ said the North Wind. ‘It will be very simple for me to take off that man’s coat.’
The North Wind moved down to the man. She blew very, very hard. The blowing of the wind made a loud sound, whoosh whoosh. The trees began to move. They moved very, very quickly. The birds that were on the trees began to fall off.
The North Wind blew on the man, because he wanted to push the man’s coat off. But the man got colder and colder, so he held his coat closer and closer. The more the North Wind blew, the closer the man held his coat. The man was holding his coat very closely, and the North Wind could not push it off.
Finally, the North Wind stopped. He could not take off the man’s coat.
‘Hmmh!’ the North Wind said. ‘I blew as strong as I could. If I could not take off the man’s coat, then nobody can. You can try, Sun, but you will not push his coat off.’
The Sun smiled. She was standing behind a cloud, and moved from behind the cloud. Quickly the world was full of light. The trees stopped moving. The birds sat on the trees and sang. The cold earth warmed up.
The man saw that it was warm. He stopped holding his coat so closely. The Sun kept shining, and the world got warmer and warmer. So finally, the man took off his coat. He was very happy that it was warm now, and he walked quickly along the road. It got so hot that he stopped, and sat under a tree to rest.
The North Wind said, ‘How did you do that?’ She was very angry. She could not understand. The Sun had done nothing special. She had not been strong at all. She had just stood there!
The Sun laughed. ‘I won by being kind. Being kind is the most important thing in the world. I told you already.’
The North Wind could not believe it. ‘I still don’t believe that being kind is more important than being strong. You were lucky.’
The Sun smiled. ‘You do not have to agree with me. I still love you.’
The North Wind felt very warm, and could say nothing more.
I hope you enjoyed the story. You can support the podcast by leaving a review on iTunes. Search for Easy Stories in English, give us a star rating, and say what you like about the show. It would really help us grow. Thank you for listening, and until next week.