Tell Me a Story

The Cricket's Song (A Folktale From Guatemala)

Once upon a time, a little yellow cricket lived beneath a tree in a tiny village. Every day, just as the sun began to set, the cricket bounded to the wheat fields at the edge of the village, alighted on a stalk and rubbed his forelegs together, producing what sounded like a song.

The cricket sang different songs on different days. When a storm was brewing, the cricket chirped of the coming storm so that the women knew they ought to bring in their laundry and the children knew to hurry home. In the autumn, when the weather was changing, the cricket chirped of the cold on its way so that the farmers knew they must harvest their wheat. And the people always knew that soon the day would end because the cricket's song began at sunset.

The farmers and their wives and children loved the cricket's songs, for he was a trusty messenger, and when the cricket reached the wheat fields and perched atop a golden stalk, all the other crickets joined with him in his songs. They chirped to let the people know when to plant and when to harvest, when the rain would fall and when drought was on its way. The crickets also sang their song to the wheat to tell it of the fine bread that would be made with it. The crickets' songs taught all living things of their importance in the scheme of life.

Every day the other crickets praised the little yellow cricket. "You are the finest singer of all of us," they said. And soon the yellow cricket began to think he was a very important fellow.

One morning as he traveled home, he began to wonder if he ought to perform for a bigger audience. Perhaps this village was too small for him; perhaps the world would love his song. Where could he go? he wondered. And then he thought of the sea. He had heard the sea was enormous, filled with wild currents and wind and waves. Perhaps he ought to sing to the sea.

All that day he thought about this notion. He would need courage to travel so far, but he was courageous. What else would he need for such a journey? Discipline, of course. And by that evening he had decided he must no longer stay out all night and waste his time singing to the little wheat fields and the tiny village. He needed every ounce of his strength, every muscle rested if he planned to make the journey to the sea.

So the little cricket rested. No longer did he join his friends in the wheat fields, and no longer did he warn the people of the coming winds, and no longer did he sing of sunshine and storms. He stayed beneath his tree and waited until he felt as strong as he imagined he would ever feel.

Then one day he was prepared, and set off on his journey to the sea. "Goodbye," he called to all those in the village as he passed.

The women waved their arms. "Goodbye, we'll miss you!" they cried.

"Farewell," the farmers shouted. "And don't forget to tell the sea about our children and our fields, about our hard work and our good times."

The yellow cricket promised, and on he traveled.

Now the cricket was tiny, and the journey took him many days, but at long last he smelled salty air, and he knew he must be coming close to the sea. He hurried on.

And there it was! Spread out before him, it was immense and beautiful. The sea!

The cricket landed on a rock and looked out at the waves that crashed upon the shore. He looked up at the blue sky above and wondered what he should tell the sea, what kind of songs the sea would love.

The began to think again about his village, and soon he was singing. He sang about the women in the village who dreamed of swimming in the sea, and he sang about the men who dreamed of the fish that swam deep in the sea's depths, and he sang about all the creatures in his world, and the song he sang was the most beautiful song he had ever sung.

But the sea was roaring and tumbling, churning and swirling, so it could not hear the little cricket. The sea could not stop its own kind of music, not even for a moment, and it was so loud, it did not even notice that the tiny cricket sat there on a rock singing his song.

The yellow cricket continued to sing. "Perhaps you'll hear me sing one day," he sang. And he hoped that, if only for a moment, those waves would be still, and the sea would hear him as he sang.

But alas, the sea did not grow still, and the cricket sang until he was worn out, and yet the wild sea heard nothing.

When the cricket realized he could no longer sing, he turned and flew back home. "I'll go where they love my song," he said to himself.

But when he returned to his village, he saw that everything had changed.

Without the cricket's song, the women didn't perform their tasks, and the farmers forgot to tend their fields, and the wheat no longer knew of its importance. Everything seemed sadder and slower.

As soon as he had recovered from his journey, the little cricket hurried out to the fields and began to sing. When the villagers heard that joyful sound, their spirits lifted and the old rhythms of life began to return to the village. Then the little cricket realized that his song had always been a thing of beauty and importance, and he wished he had long ago understood.

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