Filipino Tales: Why Snails Climb Up Grass

This story is part of the Filipino Tales unit. Story source: Filipino Popular Tales by Dean S. Fansler (1921).

Why Snails Climb Up Grass

Narrated by José E. Tomeldan of Binalonan, Pangasinan.

Long ago, when the various kinds of animals dwelt together in a kind of community, a dalag (a kind of mud-fish), a dragonfly, a wasp, and a snail agreed to live together in a common house. They furthermore agreed to divide up the different household duties according to their power and skill.

Accordingly, Dalag, since he was the biggest and strongest of all, was made the head of the house. He was also to provide food for his little companions.

Dragon-Fly was made the messenger because he was the swiftest of them all, but was too weak for any other kind of work.

Wasp was made the house-guard because of his poisonous sting. Besides being guard, he was also to keep the house in repair because he could carry bits of earth and other building-materials.

Snail was made the cook because he was too slow for any other duty except tending the house.

Early one day Dalag went out to look for food. He swam slowly here and there among the water-plants when suddenly he saw something moving on the surface of the water.

When he approached nearer, he saw that it was a big frog swimming helplessly among the duck-weeds. “This is a big piece of sweet food for us,” thought Dalag, and without hesitation he seized the frog. When he had assured himself that it could not get away from him, he started to swim home. But, alas! he never reached his companions, for a sharp hook was inside the frog, and poor Dalag was caught fast. He tried hard to free himself, but in vain. Soon a fisherman came and, putting Dalag in his basket, took him home and ate him.

In the meantime, Dalag’s three companions were anxiously waiting for him. When they realized that he was lost, Dragon-Fly was sent out to look for him. Before he went, Dragon-Fly spent a long time arranging his neck-tie. Then he flew away, turning his head in all directions to look for Dalag.

At last he met Bolasi (a kind of fish whose lips always move in and out on the surface of the water), and he became very angry because he thought that Bolasi was laughing at his neck-tie. Dragon-Fly thought that his tie must be too loose, so he tightened it. Still Bolasi laughed every time he saw Dragon-Fly. Dragon-Fly kept drawing his tie tighter and tighter until at last he cut his own head off, and that was the end of him.

Two days had now passed; still Dalag and Dragon-Fly were missing from home. By this time Wasp and Snail were very hungry. But Snail had the advantage over Wasp, for Snail could eat mud to pass away the time, while Wasp could not eat mud but could only draw in his belt a little tighter. At last Wasp could no longer endure his hunger. His abdomen by this time had become very slender, so he flew forth in search of either Dalag or Dragon-Fly. While he was flying about, his hunger oppressed him so much that he tightened his belt again and again until he finally broke in two, and that was the end of Wasp.

Now only Snail was left. He set out from his home and wandered everywhere in search of his three companions, weeping as he went. His food consisted mostly of mud. Whenever he could find a stalk of grass or the stem of a water-plant, Snail would climb up to look around and to see if any of his old friends were in sight.

Even today the snails still weep, and whenever they see a stalk of grass projecting above the surface of the water, they climb up and look around, trying to discover their old friends.

(600 words)

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