“The Song of the Armadillo” is a tale from Bolivia. I don’t think I’ve featured many South America tales here, but it’s one of those bittersweet stories that I tend to like.
Once there was an armadillo who loved music more than anything else in the world. He listened to the frogs and crickets and canaries and wished he could sing like them. Meanwhile, the other animals made fun of him, knowing full well that there was no way an armadillo could learn to sing.
The armadillo finally decided to ask the local wizard to help him. “Great wizard,” he said. “It is my deepest desire to learn to sing like the frogs and the crickets and the canaries.” At first the wizard was amused, because everyone knows armadillos can’t sing, but then he realized how serious the little creature was.
The wizard told the armadillo that he could make him sing, but the price would be too high. It would mean the armadillo’s death. The armadillo exclaimed that he would die right then; he would do anything to be able to sing. After a lot of discussion, the wizard finally gave him his wish. The wizard killed the armadillo, made a wonderful musical instrument from his shell, and gave it to the finest musician in the town to play. As the musician played the frogs, crickets and canaries would all say, “Ai! Ai! The armadillo has learned to sing.”
And so it was. The armadillo had learned to sing at last, and his voice was the finest in the land.
I wish there could have been another way for the armadillo to sing, maybe learn to play an instrument himself, but then the story would have had the same meaning. The armadillo sacrificed everything for his dream, and his dream did come true in a way.
In another version, the wizard was himself the musician and convinced the armadillo to live out his life happily. When he died naturally, the musician would make a stringed instrument from his shell and travel across the land playing music in memory of the armadillo. I like that version a bit better.
The charango is the instrument the wizard made. It is a small instrument of the lute family that is popular in the Andean regions of Bolivia, Peru and parts of Chile and Argentina. The charango was traditionally made with the shell of the back of an armadillo, but now the most common material used today is wood.
Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.