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Filipino Folktales For Kids Battle of the Crabs

Updated on April 11, 2020
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Born and raised in Malaysia, Mazlan is proud of his Malaysian and Asian heritage and likes to share its mysteries, culture & current issues.

There are several Filipino folktales and this Battle of the Crabs is one of their popular stories. It is about the land crabs that try to wage war with the mighty sea waves.

But before we go to this story, let me take you through a short intro on the history of Filipino folktales and Filipino fairy tales.

Filipino folk tales 'Battle of the Crabs', the crabs were waging war with the mighty sea waves
Filipino folk tales 'Battle of the Crabs', the crabs were waging war with the mighty sea waves | Source

Introduction to Filipino Folktales

The Philippines with 7,107 islands and numerous ethnic and linguistic groups abound with varied folktales and legends. When the Spanish occupied the country for more than three centuries, the richness of these folktales was never documented, not until late 1889 but it was only for one folktale!

Filipino Folktales Documented By The American

When the Americans occupied the Philippines (1898 to 1946) teachers, linguists, and anthropologists were assigned to the country. They collected and published more Filipino folktales. Working with the locals and tribes throughout the country, the collection of folktales were varied and were usually animal tales and stories of magic, spirits, and religion. There were also humorous and romantic fairytales.

Some of these stories are quite violent in nature as the various tribes will depict their way of life and survival in their folk tales.

Compilation of Filipino Folktales by Mabel (Cook) Cole

I choose to retell the story of the Battle of the Crab that was compiled and annotated by Mabel (Cook) Cole in 1916 as it is interesting and easily adapted to a children's story.

The anthropologists, husband and wife team of Fay-Cooper Cole and Mabel Cook Cole collected more than 58 stories from 11 ethnolinguistic groups. This story on the Battle of the Crab is from the Visayan tribe, the largest Filipino ethnic group.

I changed and adapted the original story slightly to suit young kids, today.

The tiny crabs crawling along the shoreline in the Filipino folk tales on Battle of the Crabs
The tiny crabs crawling along the shoreline in the Filipino folk tales on Battle of the Crabs | Source

Filipino Folktales Battle of the Crabs

Once upon a time, the land crabs lived close by the sea and they lived in peace with all their neighbors including the sea waves.

But the sea waves love to sing and will sing all day long. The elderly crabs had tolerated this for years and had never complained.

Not Happy With The Waves

The younger crabs were not so tolerant and they decided to do something about it.

So, at one of their big parties, one of the younger crabs took the courage to ask, "The waves have been singing non-stop every day. They sing so loud that we cannot sleep at all. Some of us or maybe most of us, cannot stand this anymore. Can we do something about this?"

There was silence in the crowd, nobody dared say anything.

Let's Go To War

'Are we afraid of the waves? Someone please says something" asked back the young crab.

Finally one of the older crabs says " Maybe we should go and talk to them".

"We had done that before, yet they still sing. They just ignored our pleas" said the young crab.

"You are right. Maybe we should do something. Not just talk," answered the oldest of the crabs, "Why don't we declare war on them?"

The others looked at each other and they finally agreed to this suggestion.

They also decided that tomorrow shall be the day and all-male crabs to put on their fighting gear and go to war with the sea waves.

Warning From the Shrimps

The next day as they marched towards the sea, they met up with a group of shrimps.

"I have never seen all of you in these uniforms before. So, where are you heading to my good friends?" asked the shrimps.

"We are going to war. We are tired of listening to the sea waves singing all day long. We want to end all that. We will fight the waves," answered the crabs.

"Are you serious? These sea waves are strong and mighty. I don't t think you can fight them. You better go home to your family now" said the shrimps, "Look at you. You are so small and your legs are weak. It can't even support your own body. You have to walk with your legs bent and your body is almost touching the ground" laughed the shrimps.

The Crabs Are Angry

The crabs didn't like this at all and were angry with the shrimps. They jumped on top of the shrimps and make them promise to help them in their war with the waves otherwise they will be killed.

Filipino folktale about the war between the crabs and sea waves starring the crabs, the sea waves and the shrimp.
Filipino folktale about the war between the crabs and sea waves starring the crabs, the sea waves and the shrimp. | Source

Marching Together

The shrimps had no choice and had to agree, and together they marched to the shore.

As they neared the shore, the crabs noticed the shrimp's eyes were different and the heads were facing the wrong way.

They all laughed at the shrimps and asked "You guys looked kind of funny. Why are your faces and eyes facing the wrong way?"

"You can laugh and say it's funny but that is our weapon. We can see what others may not see" replied the shrimps.

The crabs fell silent and did not give any more nasty comments about the shrimps.


Unknown to the crabs, the waves were listening to all these conversations and took the opportunity to attack. They came crashing down onto the shores.

The shrimps saw the waves coming and quickly ran for cover. The crabs, however, were in the opposite direction and didn't see the waves' attack and got submerged in the huge wave and drowned.

Waiting For Their Husband

The female crabs who were waiting patiently for their husbands and children to come back from the war were getting worried as there were no signs of them.

They all decided to leave their young at home and go to the shore to check on their husband and children, in case they needed help.

But as soon as they reach the shore, the giant waves came crashing down and drowned them as well.

The Young Crabs

The shrimps who managed to run for cover saw all these happenings and felt sorry for their crab friends. They decided to visit their homes and meet up with the young crabs.

The shrimps told the young crabs the fate of their parents and how courageous their fathers, mothers, and brothers were.

So until today if you go to the beach you will see the young crabs running back and forth finding the courage to fight the waves.

When the waves come towards the shore, the young crabs will try but can never find the courage so they will run into their hundred of holes that they have dug along the shore for cover.

More Children's Story and Filipino Folktales

For more Filipino folktales, read the tale of 'The Miraculous Cow', a story of how two boys tricked a simple country folk.

For other folktales and children's stories on the tale of mouse deer, then click on Stories for Kids - Story of Mouse Deer & Crocodile - Children's Bedtime Story, or Bedtime stories - Story of Mouse Deer and a Tiger or Bedtime Story - Story of Mouse Deer and a Farmer - A Children's Story.

For Chinese zodiac story, click on Chinese Zodiac Story : A Bedtime Story that explains how the Chinese lunar year was named after animals.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Mazlan


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    • LauraVerderber profile image

      Power Ball Pythons 

      8 years ago from Mobile, AL

      Great story. I loved hearing a little bit of the cultural background behind it. My mother is Fillipino so I've always been interested in their culture but have never had the chance to go over there yet.

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Malaysia

      @travel_man1971. Filipino folktales, surprisingly are not so well documented despite the richness and variety. Maybe you can compile them all, on HP?

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 

      8 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      Thanks for featuring our folktales. It brings back memories of my childhood where I'm fond of listening to my uncle or aunt's voices as they lulled me to sleep.

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Malaysia

      teaches12345: Good to hear from you again. I love folk tales and it is interesting to know that every country in this world will have a folk tale of animal. Seems like animals make good ancestral stories!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      What a great story! I love the way you adapted it for children and it is one that will be enjoyed by adults too. Every time I see the crabs at the ocean I will think of this story. Voted up and shared.


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