A Folktale from Cuba that Promotes Bilinguism
Once upon a time there was a family of mice. There was papa mouse, mama mouse, sister mouse and brother mouse- Hermana and Hermano. One beautiful and sunny day they decided to go on a picnic. Mama mouse packed lots of cheese, their favorite food in a picnic basket. They went to a green meadow and sat down under a shady tree. Once they finished eating Hermana and Hermano decided to play. Mama mouse sent them off with a warning about the cat, “You can play if you want to but don’t go too near the fence because El Gato lives there and you don’t want to get caught by her.” Hermana and hermano agreed. They played on the grass away from the fence for sometime.
But soon curiosity got the better of the two of them. They had never seen a cat in real life. They had seen them on TV and heard their parents talk about them. Unable to contain themselves they went right upto the fence. They peeked through the slats and sure enough there was the cat just like in TV – big whiskers, floppy tail and big green eyes. Hermano greeted the cat with a hello.
The cat didn’t respond. Hermano wanted to tease the cat and see what it would do. So he said, “Hello you fat cat.” The cat just swished its tail and looked away too proud to be provoked. Hermana found this good fun and was emboldened by her brother’s bravado. She too called out to the cat, “Hello silly, billy fat cat!”
They had a great time making fun of the cat. The cat had had enough. His eyes grew small and his tail was swishing furiously. He pounced on the fence and pushed his paws through the slats but neatly missed the mice. The cat tried to jump over the fence but fell flat on its back. This was insult to injury. The cat tried again and smashed right into the fence. The mice were laughing so loud they had tears in their eyes. The cat tried to jump the fence a third time and lo this time it was successful.
The mice were shocked out of their wits. They turned and ran for their lives with the cat behind them. The cat was gaining ground with each stride. The mice jumped into a bush and escaped to the safety of their parents, “Mama, papa let’s run, the cat is coming to get us”, they urged.
Papa mouse said, “I’ll teach him a lesson” and started boxing in the air, clearly showing off in front of his children. Just then the cat came and papa froze. Mam quickly got in front of Papa. Her courage in the face of death was admirable. It was the courage only a mother feels when her family is threatened. She stood up as tall as she could on her back paws and looked straight into the green eyes of the cat, took a deep breath and barked like a dog, “Woof, woof, wrooff, wwrrooff!!”
The cat stopped in its tracks and looked around. Quickly it turned around and slipped away from the fence, Mama couldn’t believe her trick had worked. She turned around to her family and said, “See that, it pays to speak another language!”
Image under license with Gettyimages.com