A Story From: Peru
Read Time: 15 mins.
For Ages: 8 to 10yrs.
HIGH in the Andes Mountains there once lived a frog in a cool stream. This poor frog was born not like the others – her front right leg was nearly twice as long as her left one. “If only I had two perfect legs like my brothers and sisters,” the frog bemoaned whenever she caught her limping reflection in the rushing waters.
Near the stream, and feeling just as sad as the frog, lived a girl in the cave of a condor, a huge black vulture. She was forced to remain at his nest in a faraway cave on a rocky mountain outcrop. The giant black bird had plucked her from her happy livelihood as a shepherdess and carried her back to its nest, where she had to work hard every day, beating his vicuna skins into blankets for his bed and into rugs for his nest, and preparing huge meals to satisfy his voracious appetite.
The little frog would sometimes watch the condor sail high in the air, then swoop for his prey. And the frog sometimes followed the condor home, to the girl and her wailings, a sound that reminded her of her own sad heart. One day, she overheard this conversation-
“So – did you beat the new vicuna skins to add to my bed?”
“And where is my dinner?”
“It’s ready for you, sir. Now please, may I go to the stream to wash my clothes?”
“Absolutely not! Do you take me for a fool? You would try to escape!”
“No I wouldn’t – please – I simply must wash my clothes. And besides, as long as you hear me beating my clothes on the rocks, you’ll know I’m still there.”
“Hmm, very well then, but be sure I hear you beating your clothes or I’ll fly there in a second and beat you myself!”
So the girl, whose parents had named her Collyur, which means Morning Star, wrapped herself in one of the vicuna skins and tied her clothes into a bundle that she carried to the stream.
As Collyur beat her clothes against the rocks, she cried bitterly for her lost freedom. She was nothing but a slave, tending to the condor’s every demand, while fearing every moment for her very life. With each beat of her clothes she burst out with another wail.
“Please don’t cry,” said a small voice. Collyur looked down to see a little frog on a rock, looking at her with sympathy. “What is the matter?” And the girl poured out her troubles to the frog while the creature listened and sighed.
“I can help you,” said the frog finally.
“I’m afraid there is nothing on earth that can help me.” Collyur turned away, still careful to hit her clothes against the rocks with a regular beat.
“But I can,” said the frog. “I have a bit of magic. For a few minutes, I can change myself into any creature. If I change myself into you and keep beating your clothes, the condor will think you’re still here and you can escape.”
“Do you think it would work?” Collyur brightened and looked with wonder at this little frog, who seemed at that moment to be the most beautiful creature on earth. She leaned over and kissed the frog on the forehead.
“We cannot wait a second more,” said the frog, and in an instant changed into the image of Collyur. The new Collyur picked up the girl’s clothes and resumed beating them against the rocks.
At once, Collyur ran as fast as she could down the mountain to the valley and the shepherd’s home. The little frog, as the image of Collyur, kept beating the clothes with the same motion.
“What’s keeping that foolish girl?” the condor hissed after many minutes had passed. “She’ll make me wait here all day!” The condor flew to the stream where he saw the image of Collyur kneeling over the rocks, beating her clothes. Landing on a high rock, he shook his beak, a hook powerful enough to pierce the hide of a llama, and shrieked, “Stop it at once, you silly girl! Come back with me now!”
The girl stood up, jumped into the stream, and completely disappeared. The condor flew directly over the very spot but saw no shadow of a girl swimming underneath the water, only a frog hopping about. While the condor flew up and down the stream, she was running away, closer and closer to freedom. After several hours had passed and he could find no sign of the girl, he flew back to his cave in a rage.
When the frog rejoined her brothers and sisters in the stream, they all gathered around her in a crowd. “What is it?” said the little frog nervously, and she tucked her too-large right leg underneath so it wouldn’t show as much.
“Why – you’re beautiful!” said one sister. Fearing a joke, the little frog glanced in the water and noticed a shiny jewel glimmering on her forehead, where Collyur had planted the kiss.
“It’s like the morning star!” said another. From then on, the frog lifted her head with pride, no longer afraid to catch a glimpse of her own reflection in the rushing waters.
Retold by Elaine L. Lindy. ©2006. All rights reserved.
The Andean condor is the largest flying land bird in the Western hemisphere. Its wingspan reaches over 10 feet. The range of the Andean condor is along the Andes mountain chain from Venezuela to the Strait of Magellan.
The vicuna, prey of the condor, is a relative of the llama that produces small amounts (about a pound per year) of very fine wool. The species is considered endangered.