King of the Condors
Justin T. O’Conor Sloane
From Ecuador, high in the Andes Mountains of South America, comes the legend of the King of the Condors.
Long ago a boy wandered out of his family’s home shortly after a terrible blizzard had blanketed the highlands in snow.
Soon afterwards the boy’s family and the people of the pueblo began searching for him. Yet all that they could find were his footprints deep in the fresh snow, leading toward the edge of a great cliff but mysteriously disappearing just before it. The people of the pueblo puzzled greatly over what could have happened to the boy and continued in their search. But after many long days the people finally gave up and his family grieved.
Many years past and the pueblo fell upon very hard times. A long famine was starving the people. The hunters of the pueblo could find very little food and their few crops were not enough to feed all of the hungry mouths. Even water was running scarce. The people of the pueblo prayed for a miracle. They danced and played music in the plaza, sang songs of hope and rang church bells that echoed high about the Andean peaks.
Then early one morning the people of the pueblo were awoken by shouts of joy and surprise from the plaza. Everyone made their way there just as quickly as they could, their jaws dropping and their sleepy eyes flying wide open in amazement at what they saw before them.
Piled in the plaza was a dazzling array of food from every corner of Ecuador. To their delight they found fish, crab and shrimp from the coast of her blue-green Pacific Ocean in the West. Fruit of every description from her misty jungles in the East: naranjias, chirimoyas, guavas, papayas, mangos, oranges, bananas, avocados and tomate fruit. Rice, quinoa and grains from her bountiful lowland fields in the South. Wild potatoes, yams and yucca from her steep mountain slopes in the North. There were even stacks of giant icicles from her highest, coldest Andean peaks for fresh water; and upon one of these there had been placed a purple thistle flower.
The people of the pueblo rejoiced and feasted all day long. They knew that a miracle had happened. Their prayers had been answered and they gave many thanks.
Upon waking the next morning they found that again the plaza was filled with a bounty of food and icicles. And upon the next morning they found the same to be true and upon the next and the next until finally all of the people of the pueblo were healthy and strong and the children laughed and played once more. But still there was very little food to be found outside of the pueblo and so the people depended upon finding the plaza filled with food each morning.
As time past, many in the pueblo became very curious. They wondered how the food came to be in the plaza each morning. They wondered who or what might be bringing it. Some of the people could hardly sleep at night for their curiosity kept them awake tossing and turning with questions. Soon, a group of them decided to brave the freezing cold Andean night and hide in waiting to see if they could find an answer to the mystery.
They hid themselves among the buildings and capuli trees surrounding the pueblo plaza. They huddled in their thick ponchos, their warm woolen hats pulled down tight around their heads. They grumbled about the cold of the night and the boredom but still their curiosity was greater than their discomfort and so they waited. And waited. As hour upon hour passed, some of the people began to fall asleep.
But then all at once there was a great commotion in the night sky! It sounded to the people like a hurricane was heading their way. Then, from out of the bright, moonlit night came an amazing sight! One gargantuan condor after another, their wings almost as wide as those of small airplanes, came flying swiftly towards the pueblo plaza, their mighty talons gripping large bundles. The people hiding in the shadows gasped, their eyes wide with surprise. They could not believe what they were seeing. One by one the condors swooped down, emptying their bundles onto the surface of the plaza. Then, arcing upwards, they flew high into the night sky and circled the pueblo, forming a dark necklace of wings around the silver moon.
Soon, the plaza was filled again with food and giant icicles and the people were about to come out from their hiding places when suddenly there came the most amazing sight of all! Riding upon the back of a gigantic condor was…a young man! His kind face glowed in the moonlight. His long, black hair, interlaced with the feathers of condors, shimmered like dark waters. Warm woolen clothing and boots made from the whitest fur of Alpacas protected him from the cold of the Andean night. He sat high atop the condor like a proud young king, holding firmly to the sides of the condor’s great, feathered neck. They swooped down towards the plaza, whereupon he dropped a purple thistle flower from his mitten onto a stack of the giant icicles; then they too flew high up into the sky.
As the people of the pueblo watched from far below, the necklace of wings slipped from around the moon and followed the young man upon his great condor as they flew away towards the mountaintops.
It has been many, many years since that time long ago and the children of the pueblo now believe it to be only a legend, a story told to them at bedtime, that upon some high, craggy peak, the King of the Condors watches over them.
© 2004 Justin T. O’Conor Sloane
Justin Sloane lives in Seattle, Washington. He holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Washington. He has deep-fried seafood in the Boston area, bussed tables in Sacramento, thrown live grenades in Ft. Benning, Georgia, taught English at the Center for Interamerican Studies in Cuenca, Ecuador and painted houses in Seattle. Justin's writing has appeared in "The Internet TESL Journal", Macmillan Publishers' "OneStopEnglish.com" and the Institute for Social Inventions' "GlobalIdeasBank.org".