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17 - Tale

A brother and a sister will be charmed to follow a magic ball that will lead them to a trap. With the advice and help of an owl, a condor and an old man, the brother will find a way to help his sister. In the afterword we talk more about the Andean Mountains. We finish the program with a riddle.


3. Latin American Tales, From the Pampas to the pyramids of Mexico, stories collected by Genevieve Barlow. Rand Mc Nally & Company. 1966

The Magic Ball

Retold by Elaine L. Lindy

Adapted by Carolina Quiroga-Stultz

A long time ago in the Andean Mountains lived a mean old witch. That would sleep throughout the summer, but at the first snowfall her cold, vicious eyes would open up full of evil delight. Oh! winter was her hunting time. By some evil magic, she drew children to her one by one. The trick was her magic ball, a colorful, bright and shining ball, that she left in places where children would play.

It happens that one day, Luis and Natalia, brother and sister were playing near a lake. They saw the magic ball at the foot of a little hill. Delighted with the shiny bright ball, the girl ran to it. But to her surprise, as she drew near to it, the magic ball rolled away. Then a little way off, it came to rest again. Again, she ran to it to pick it up, and when she almost had it, the sneaky ball escaped.

So, Natalia followed the ball, always about to catch it but never able to. As she ran, her older brother Luis followed her. The strange part was that every time the cunning magic ball stopped, it rested close to some berry bush or by the edge of a crystal-clear spring. In that way, the children who had been led away by the shiny deceiving ball would always find at the moment of resting something to eat or drink to refresh themselves.

At last, Natalia and Luis came to a place in the valley where a wide river ran between two great hills. The land was strewn with mighty broken rocks, and here and there were patches of snow. Soon great snowflakes appeared in a dark and gloomy air. Only at this point, the children realized they had been wandering off too far, and they had lost their way. Indifferent of their fears the magic ball rolled on, and the children follow it. At every step, the air grew colder, and the sun weaker. Natalia and Luis had not come prepared for the harshness of this cold climate, but they were glad when the ball stopped at black rock.

Natalia picked it up. For a moment she gazed at its beauty, but only for a moment. For no sooner had, she gazed at it than it vanished as a soap bubble does. Natalia was so disappointed that she began to cry, and her brother tried to cheer her up by holding her hands. That is when Luis realized that his sister's hands were awfully cold, so he led her to the north side of the rock that was protected from the wind.

There Natalia coiled herself up and was asleep in a minute. Luis sat down near the rock, thinking that as soon as his sister had rested, they needed to find their way back home. He tried hard to stay awake holding his eyelids open with his fingers, but it didn’t work. Plus the pine trees were swaying about him, and the leaves were softly whispering a charm, soon Luis had fallen asleep too.

While Natalia was comfortable in the niche carved within the great stones away from the blustering wind the girl had a dream, a dream of home. Her mother, she thought, was combing her hair, and singing as she did so. But as the mother in Natalia’s dream kept stroking the girl’s hair the seemingly harmless action began to turn rough and careless. Soon that woman was pulling Natalia’s hair so hard that the girl cried in pain and woke up. Feeling scared by such a dreadful dream the girl tried to stand up but she couldn’t.

What really happened while Natalia was dreaming was that the mean-old witch had bewitched her, making the girl's hair grow into the rock so very closely that she could not even turn her head. All that she could do was to stretch forth her arms, and when she saw Luis a little way off, she called to him.

But he was not able to reach her, because the old witch had lifted an invisible wall around the rock through which her brother could not pass.

Natalia cried: Hermano, come to me!

Luis: Hermanita, I’m trying but I cannot. I can see you; there is something through which I cannot pass.

Natalia: Can you climb over?

Luis: No, Natalia. I have reached as high as I can, but the wall that I cannot see goes up and up. But I will stay here with you, so don't be afraid.

The children were terrified this seemed like the worst nightmare, but just when they thought that it was all lost, they heard the voice of a great white owl:Things of the dark and things without a name, steer clear of the blaze from a torch's red flame.

Natalia: Luis, did you hear what the owl said?

Luis: Yes, hermanita.

Natalia: Does it mean anything to you?

Luis: Not really

Natalia: It must mean that the things in this horrible valley fear fire. So that's what you must bring back here. Leave me and go find some fire, and please hurry up!

Luis was in no mood to leave his sister alone, but he agreed it was better to do something than nothing at all.

As the boy stood up, they both heard the Andean condor swooping over the rock and saying:

Fire will conquer frosted death.

Natalia: Did you hear that hermano? The condor says the same thing. It must be true. You must go quickly so you can return before it gets too dark.

Now Luis was convinced about his mission, so he waved his sister a farewell, and set off down the valley, following the condor that hovered in the air. At times darting away, and then returning. Luis knew that the great bird was leading him somewhere, and he followed. Soon the condor led him the Rio Chico river until they reached the great place where two rivers met by a marshy, swampy lake.

There Luis saw a house, a poor structure made of earth, and stones snuggled in a warm fold of the hills. The condor flew high, and then circled in the air. So, Luis knew that he should stay for a while. The boy pushed the door open, and saw by the ashes in the fireplace that someone lived there, for there were red embers neatly covered to keep the fire alive.

But since no one seemed to be home, Luis made himself useful, which was the way of that country, and brought fresh water from the spring. He gathered wood and piled it neatly by the fireside. Next, he blew upon the embers, and added twigs, and sticks until he had a bright fire.

The man who lived there must have come into the house somehow, because when Luis turned around there, he was, sitting on a stool, and nodding his head. He offered his guest bread and yerba tea. As they ate, and quenched their thirst, Luis told the old man what had happened to his sister.

The old man said: Wicked is the mean-old witch of the Andean Mountains. There is only one way to defeat her. Tell me, boy, do you know how?

Luis: Could it be: Fire will conquer frosted death.

Old Man: Yes, that's it exactly, and trust me, there is no time to lose. Look, here comes your friend the condor.

As the condor swooped low by the door, it shouted: Now with the cold, grows faint her breath,the fire will conquer frosted death.

The old man reached down, and took the dry end of a branch lit by the fire and gave it to Luis.

Off the brother sped with the blazing stick, running right through the marshy, swampy lake.

Straight through the water, he splashed, and the spray dashed up on either side. He held the stick high to avoid the waters, but it wasn’t high enough, for the splashing water quenched the fire. Frustrated, Luis had to return to the old man’s house.

Luis: Please give me a second stick; my sister must be freezing cold by now. And who knows if the witch has already come! Please, I'll be more careful this time. I'll run around the lake, even if it takes a little longer.

The old man gave Luis a second blazing stick. Then the condor flew up toward the witch mountain. At once, the brave boy set off. Around the lake, along the river's edge, over snow clad hills, pausing only to catch his breath. But when he tried to get a better hold of the lighted branch, he dropped it in the snow. When he picked it up again, it was but a charred, black thing. Luis was sad, mad and in despair, and could do nothing but return to the house, bearing the blackened stick, and begging for a third chance.

At that moment they both heard the condor saying: Fainter now grows the maiden's breath; the night will bring her frosted death.

Having said it, like an arrow the condor shot up again into the sky.

A third time, Luis took a burning stick by the end. Running around the lake, he made straight for the mountain. He gripped the stick so tightly that his fingers hurt, yet he would not let up, even for a second, and continued racing, racing, like a deer. A flamingo, seeing him, spread her wings, and ran by his side, and offered him a ride. On her back, Luis placed his free hand, and with that help, he sped as fast as the flamingo while her wings protected the flame. Luis held the flamingo tight, and the flamingo shot up into the air like an arrow. The blazing fire grazed her neck and breast until it became pink and red. The flamingo did not complain she flew on.

The flamingo went straight up the valley, and over to the rock where Natalia was being held captive. At once Luis tipped the blazing stick into a heap of dried moss near his sister. Up leaped the dancing flames, and with an explosive noise, the rock that had entrapped his sister broke into a thousand pieces, and the enchantment that had surrounded her was broken.

The power of the mean-old witch of the Andean Mountains was gone forever. Natalia was free! With her gentle, cool hand, Natalia caressed the flamingo’s chest healing the burns. And that is why the Flamingo has a pinkish color.

As for Natalia and Luis, they lived for many, many years in the green valley, happily ever after. As for the mean old witch and her infamous magic ball, well! no one has heard of them again; some say that Luis’s bravery put the wicked witches plans to a halt.

Y colorin colorado este cuento se ha acabado. The end.


The Andes is the longest mountain range in the world and boasts some of the highest peaks. The range is also known for its volcanoes, ruins of long-ago civilizations, and the source of malaria treatment.

The origin of the name Andes has not been determined; most agree that it comes from the Quechua word anti, which translates to "high crest." A minority argue that it comes from Anti Suyu, which is one of the four regions of the Incas who once inhabited the range.

Located along the entire western coast of South America, the Andes mountain stretches about 4,500 miles (7,242 kilometers) long. The mountain range spans seven countries — Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.

The only mountains that are taller than the Andes are the Himalaya Mountains and their adjacent ranges, including the Hindu Kush. The average elevation in the Andes is about 13,000 feet (3,962 meters). The highest elevation in the Andes is Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, which is 22,841 feet (6,962 m) above sea level.

Because of the Andes act as a large wall between the Pacific Ocean, and the continent, they have a significant impact on the climate of the region. The northern part of the Andes is typically rainy and warm, and the weather is also wet in the eastern part of central Andes. To the west, the dry climate is dominated by the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. The mountains form a rain cover over the eastern plains of Argentina, which have extremely dry weather.

The Andes Mountains of South America are home to 99 percent of tropical glaciers ­ permanent rivers of ice at high enough elevations not to be affected by the types of balmy temperatures usually associated with the tropics.

The Andes are also home to the world’s highest volcano when measured above sea level, Ojos del Salado found on the Chile-Argentina border, and reaches 22,615 feet (6,893 m), and more than 50 volcanoes that reach 19,685 feet (6,000 m).

Very well, dear listeners, it is about time for a riddle that comes from the Andean region, specifically from Chile.

What climbs up to the mouth carrying a load, and climbs down poor, with nothing to show. (spoon)

And this is all for now. Tres Cuentos tells you that there is nothing better than having a sibling or a good friend that you can trust when you most need.

In our last episode of Children Heroes, many people will go out in search of the magic lake, whose waters can save a prince, but only one will be kind, and lucky enough to bring those waters back.

Until the next Cuento. Adiós, adiós.


Tip Toes - Myuu

Anxious – Sextile

Lighting Bug – Geographer

A fever – Devon Church

Weak Knight – Devon Church

On transience – Coyote Hearing

Thinking About – Jeremy Korpas

Saving the world - Aaron Kenny

Constancy – The Descent by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (


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