The Cricket's SongThe Cricket's Song
A Folktale from Guatemala

When everyone in her tiny village in Guatemala praises the little yellow cricket's voice, hubris leads her to believe she must find a larger audience. But when she travels to the sea only to discover the ocean has its own music, she returns home, and the rhythms of her world joyfully resume.

Guatemala's folklore is based on Amerindian cultural beliefs and Spanish traditions and often revolve around the rhythms of the world—from spring planting to autumn harvest—as in this tale of the cricket's song providing the people a rhythm for their daily lives. Many Mayan tales also possess anti-technological strains and are designed like this tale to reinforce behavior society considers positive.

The Story

Once upon a time a little yellow cricket lived beneath a tree in a tiny village in Guatemala. Every evening, just as the sun was beginning to set, the cricket bounded to the fields at the edge of the village. There she alighted on a cornstalk and rubbed her forelegs together, producing what sounded like a song.

The cricket sang different songs on different days. When a storm was brewing, she chirped of rains rushing in so that the women knew to bring in their laundry, and children understood that it was time to hurry home. If the earth trembled, she sang of volcanoes, and in late summer the cricket chirped of cold winds on their way so that the farmers knew they must begin to harvest.

The cricket's song began at sunset, so all the people knew when the day was coming to an end.

The families loved the cricket, for she was a trusty messenger, and when she began to sing, all the other crickets joined her in song. They sang to let the people know when to sow and when to reap, when rain was on its way and when there would be drought.

The crickets also sang to the corn and to the coffee beans; they sang of tortillas and tamales the people would make from the corn. The crickets' songs taught all the living things of their importance in life and to each other.

Every day the other crickets praised the little yellow cricket. "You're the finest singer of us all, Your voice is magnificent."

After a while the yellow cricket began to think she was an important creature, perhaps the most important of all. One morning as she was traveling to her home, she began to wonder if she ought to find a larger audience. Perhaps the village was too small for her. After all, the others said her voice was the most beautiful. Perhaps she needed to share that voice with a bigger world. Where should she go? she wondered. She thought of cities, but then those cities might be too small, too.

Then suddenly she thought of the sea. She had heard tales of the ocean, of wild currents swept by winds from afar. She'd heard of vast, rolling waves and endless vistas.

"Yes! I will sing to the sea."

All night long she thought about the sea, and in the morning she was still dreaming. How would she travel so far? She would need courage, but she was courageous. What else would she need for such a journey? She would need discipline, yes. And so by that evening she had decided she must no longer waste her time singing to the small coffee and cornfields in this tiny village. She would need every ounce of her strength, every muscle rested if she were to travel all the way to the sea.

So that afternoon the little cricket stayed home and rested. She did not travel to the fields. That evening she did not sing her song. The next day she stayed home as well, and soon the others realized she would no longer sing to them. She would no longer warn the people of the coming winds. No longer would she sing of sunshine and storms. Instead the yellow cricket stayed beneath her tree and waited until she felt as strong as she imagined she would ever feel.

And then at last she was prepared. "I am ready for my journey."

"Adios!" she called to all those in the village she passed.

The women waved their arms. "We'll miss you!"

"Adios," the farmers shouted, "Don't forget to tell the sea about our children and our fields, our hard work and our good times, too."

"I will not forget. Lo prometo." The yellow cricket promised, and on she traveled.

Now the cricket was tiny, and the journey took her many days, but at long last she smelled salty air, and she knew she must be close to the sea. She hurried on. And there it was! Spread out before her, immense and beautiful. The sea, rolling on forever.

The cricket leaped upon a rock and looked out at the waves crashing onshore. She squinted up at the bright blue sky. "I wonder what song the sea would love? Que Querras?"

"The women of my village dream of swimming in the sea
The children of my village dream of salty air and sand,
The farmers of my village dream of fish swimming so free,
Yes all of us are dreaming from our homes upon the land.

"We dream of water, wind and surf, of currents smooth and wild
We dream of bursting waves that crash upon the smooth white sand
Our farmers dream, our mothers dream, and so does every child            
This song is true, we live in dreams, all those of us on land."

The cricket's song marvelous, and she felt confident about her skills, but the sea was roaring. The sea was tumbling. The sea was churning and swirling, so the sea could not hear the cricket's song. The sea could not stop making its own music, you see, not even for a moment. And that music of the sea was so loud it did not even notice the tiny cricket sitting on a rock, singing her song.

"I will sing louder, maybe. "She hoped the sea would, for one moment, stop its roar. She hoped the waves would be still. She went on singing. But alas, the sea did not stop tumbling and rumbling and rolling. The cricket sang and sang and sang, until she was worn out. Still, the sea heard nothing at all.

When the cricket understood she could no longer sing, she said softly, "I think I shall return to the place where they love my song," and she turned and traveled home. But when she reached her village, she saw everything had changed since she'd been gone. Without the cricket's song the women forgot to do their chores, the farmers forgot to tend their fields. The corn and coffee no longer understood their importance. Everything seemed sadder and slower.

As soon as the cricket had recovered from her long, difficult journey, she hurried out to the fields, and once again she began to sing:

"Our farmers dream, our mothers dream, and so does every child            
This song is true, we work to dream, all those of us on land."

When the villagers heard the sound, their spirits lifted, and soon the old rhythms of life began to return to the village, and then the little cricket understood her song had always been a thing of importance, and she wished she had always known this was true.