Tale from the Andes
Long ago, high on the lofty mountains of the Andes there lived a frog in a cool and clear lake. She was happy until she realized that she was different from other frogs in the lake. Her right forelimb was more than twice as big as her left one; and that of course, made her sad. She spent her days hiding behind rocks and watching her friends play at the water’s edge.
High on a cliff near the lake was a condor’s nest. The huge black grey-feathered vulture loved to be taken care of. Hence, one sunny afternoon, he scooped down and lifted a young shepherdess from a meadow. He carried her off to his nest. He made the poor girl work all day long. She had to cut up vicuna meat for the bird’s meal and beat the animal’s skin into soft blankets for him. The shepherdess was unhappy and she wept all day long. But the condor would not let her go. Months passed before the girl thought of a plan to escape.
One evening after the condor had eaten his dinner, the girl spoke to him. “I need your permission to go down to the lake to wash my clothes. I haven’t worn clean clothes in months! Please do let me go down to the lake!”
“Ha, you think I am a fool? You will never return if I let you go now!” replied the condor.
“I will not go far from the lake. You can hear me beating my clothes on the rocks as I wash them clean. As long as you hear that, you know I am still there.” The big bird agreed and off went the girl in a hurry to the lake. She sat by the large rocks and wept bitterly. How was she really going to be free of that wicked bird?
“What’s the matter, young girl? Why do you weep so hard?” asked someone in a soft voice from behind the rocks. The shepherdess wiped her eyes and looked up. She saw a kind-eyed frog with an oversized right limb. She poured out her miserable tale to the little frog and began to cry again.
The frog thought for a long time and then she said, “Don’t worry, my dear! You go home after the sun sets and I will keep the condor at bay!”
The overjoyed girl kissed the top of the frog’s head and ran home. The frog set to work. She found an old rag and beat it against the rocks with her big and strong right arm. All night and all of the next day, he made the sound of washing clothes. When she finally stopped, the girl had reached home safely.
The condor came looking for her but never did find her. As for the little frog, she had never been so happy before. She gazed into the clear waters of the lake and saw to her amazement, a bright star on her forehead where the girl had kissed her!
Being different has its merits!
Published as part of a series titled ‘Folktales of the World (Retold) ’ in Deccan Herald, Student Edition, dt. December 21, 2012