Oral Literature: The Swallow brings the summer

The black and white swallow flew high up in the clear, blue sky, wheeling and diving, his fast, pointed wings carrying him at a great speed. Swallow loved flying and never returned to his nest on the cliff-side until the warm sun was low in the West and the long, evening shadows were merging together. The other birds were envious of his splendid skill but the animals loved to watch him as he wrote his poetry in the air.

One morning, when the summer was almost at an end and the late evenings and nights had become chilly, the animals missed seeing the swallow and they were very worried, wondering where he could be. The lizard said he would climb the cliff and see if Swallow was still in his nest. Up and up he went, his claw-like feet clinging to the rock. Reaching the nest he poked his head inside — and there was Swallow. He did not look very well at all. The lizard called the news down to the animals, waiting below.

“Well, ask him what is wrong, Lizard,” they shouted back to him. “Ask him why he is not in the sky, thrilling us with his flying.” “Swallow,” said the lizard, gently, “the animals have sent me to find out what has happened. Why are you not flying as you usually are at this time of day?”

“Oh Lizard,” said the swallow, “I am so miserable. It was so cold during the night that I am not thawed out yet and I don’t think I could even walk, far less fly. Please leave me now. Perhaps I will warm up later and feel like flying.”

Lizard left the nest and returned to the animals, telling them what Swallow had said. They were most upset, it was so unlike the bird to feel this way. “I wish there was something we could do to help,” said the lizard. “He really does look terribly miserable.”

At that moment the wind came along and, seeing the animals gathered at the foot of the cliff, he swirled up to them and asked them what the matter was.”It is the swallow,” they replied. “He is so cold that he is unable to fly. “Well,” said the wind, “I can do something about that.”

So saying, he shot up into the air and headed straight for the sun. Up and up and up he went, passing so close that the sun’s fiery breath heated the wind. Then the wind turned around and returned to the land, blowing into the nest of the poor, cold, little bird. In no time at all the swallow felt much better, and fluttering from his nest he stretched his wings and flew around for a couple of minutes before returning to settle on a tree above the animals.

“Thank you very much, animals,” he said, “I feel lots better now, but I do not know what I will do tomorrow if the cold returns tonight.”

“There is only one thing you can do,” said the wind. “It will remain cold here for many months. Tomorrow I journey far to the North, to a land where summer is just starting. Come with me and remain there until it is warm enough here for you to return.” “That is a wonderful idea,” said the swallow but seeing the sad faces of the animals he hastened to add, “Don’t worry, I will return to you again as soon as I can and I promise never to forget you.”

That night the wind blew warm around the nest of the swallow because it was a long, long way to the distant summer and he wanted the bird to have a good night’s rest. The following morning, all the animals turned out to see the swallow depart with the wind, and they waved until he was nothing more than a tiny speck in the distance.

On his return, a few weeks later, the wind told the animals that Swallow had arrived in the far land safely, but very soon they had other things to think about because that Winter proved to be the coldest that anyone could remember and to the shivering creatures it seemed as though it would never come to an end.

Then, one morning, they awoke to the sound of a remembered twittering, high in the sky, and there was Swallow, swooping and diving over their heads. “Hello, hello,” he cried. “It is good to be back with you once more. “The animals were delighted to see him, but they were anxious too. “Swallow,” they said, “why have you returned? It is so cold here, you will freeze.”

“No,” laughed the bird, “I came with the summer. There will be no more cold nights for a long time.” And he was right, even as he spoke the animals could feel a new warmth in the air.

The swallow had much to tell them of the lands he had passed over, and especially of the country that had been his home for the last months. He told them of the green, green countryside and the animals so different from themselves, where nobody had ever seen elephants, or lions, or giraffes. The animals never tired of listening to him and it was a delight to watch him as he darted about the sky above them. But one day he had gone again and the animals knew that they had better prepare for the winter that was coming. They thought the swallow was very lucky to live where it was summer the whole year round.

He still lives in the same way and the animals are always happy to see him because they know he brings the summer with him, both here and in that other land, many, many flying weeks away. (Folktale from Central America)

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