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A Mythical Story from the Philippines: The Beginning of Snails

Updated on November 8, 2016
Illustration, page 9, from Dionisio Salazar's 'Mga Alamat at Kuwentong Bayan', Philippine National Bookstore, 2002
Illustration, page 9, from Dionisio Salazar's 'Mga Alamat at Kuwentong Bayan', Philippine National Bookstore, 2002

Folktales, myths and legends from the Philippines. Originally written in Filipino by Dionisio Salazar. Translated into English by Erwin Cabucos.

People say that when the Earth was young, animals lived together in the same town. Murrell, Dragonfly, Wasp and Snail were friends and they lived in one small house.

The animals decided to take turns in doing household chores according to their strengths and abilities.

Murrell was the biggest and strongest so he was chosen to be the leader.It was his duty to look for food for everyone.

Meanwhile, Dragonfly was chosen to be their messenger because he was the fastest.

Because of his venomous bites, the wasp was chosen to be the guard. It was also his duty to fix broken lands and other household items.

Snail was assigned to be the cook because of his slow nature.

One day, Murrell woke up in order to search for a dish they could eat. Whilst he was swimming in among the lilies and other water plants, he noticed something moved on the water. He came toward it and saw a big frog, kicking its legs.

"Wow, I'm so lucky," he whispered. "I have found yummy dinner for tonight." He quickly snapped the toad. He bit the frog so tightly that his catch could not have the chance to escape.

However, it was a disaster; the frog was used as a bait with a hook. Murrell wriggled and no matter how strongly he twisted he could not get away from the hook that clipped his jaw. Before he knew it, a fisherman unclipped him and placed him in a basket. At the fisherman's home poor Murrell ended up in a dinner bowl.

Meanwhile at the animal's cottage, Wasp, Dragonfly and Snail were worried and upset at the time that took for Murrell to come home. Thinking that perhaps Murrell got lost on his way home, the animals sent dragonfly to fetch the fish.

Before launching, Dragonfly fixed his tie. He flew everywhere to look for Murrell. In doing so, he met Carp, a fish that never stops moving its lips. Dragonfly was cross as he thought that Carp laughed at him. Dragonfly thought that Carp was laughing at his loose tie, so he made sure that his tie was tight all the time. He never stopped tightening his tie until he chipped his neck, and he died.

Two days passed; Murrell and Dragonfly were nowhere to be seen. Wasp and snail were so hungry and they could hear their stomachs grumbling. Wasp was more miserable because he could not eat any food just to get by, unlike Snail who never had a problem of eating dirt in order to fill his stomach to survive for a short time.

When the two could no longer bear the pain of hunger, Wasp decided to go on his own to look for Murrell and Dragonfly. He became skinny. His waist went too small and he constantly tightened his belt. He never stopped tightening his belt until he could no longer breath and he eventually died.

Snail got so lonely that he could not stop crying. He looked everywhere to find his friends. Tears ran past his cheeks as he searched for them. He ate dirt along the way. Each time he went past a blade of grass, a stem of a plant in a pond or in a brook, or a trunk of a tree in a field, he would slowly climb it. And he would look to the left, and to the right. and to other directions to check his friends' whereabouts. He did not lose hope that one day he would find them.

To this day, snails are still in tears, looking for their friends. Their sticky and slimy tears etch their desperate paths. Each time they come past a grass, a plant or a tree, in a pond or in a field, they do not hesitate to climb it. On them, snails could see all directions and the horizon, forever hopeful that one day they would see their long lost friends again.



Salazar, D. (2002). 'Mga Alamat at kuwentong bayan', Philippine National Bookstore, Manila.

Cover of the book from which this narrative was translated.
Cover of the book from which this narrative was translated.


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