The snail

     Very high in the mountains lived a family of bears. There was a papa bear, a mama bear and a little bear, their baby. They lived in a blue rock cave.

Little Bear had a bad habit. At night, he slept with his mouth open. It wasn't his fault. A light breeze went through the cave where he slept. All of a sudden, his nose would start running or get stuffed up from morning to night.

One night, the baby bear was sleeping, with his mouth wide open, as always. A snail, out gliding around under the light of the moon, slid onto his tongue, over his teeth and into his open mouth. She went further and further in, gliding, and finally stopped at the back of his throat. And there, the snail fell asleep.

When the little bear woke up, he could hardly talk. He even had some difficulty breathing. This made him very worried. In a creaky voice, he murmured:

"Papa, Mama, I have something in my throat."

His parents had a look. They took advantage of the sunlight that had just risen. They could see the snail, asleep, right at the back of their child's throat. They tried to take the little creature out with their claws. But the paws of a bear are too big. It was impossible for Papa, just as it was for Mama, to get the snail out of their baby's mouth.

In that case, they thought they could wake the snail up by making a lot of noise. The first thing they tried was to shout, then yell. But this didn't do any good.

Next they stamped their paws on the floor of the cave. That wasn't any better.

Papa and Mama Bear then tried banging on pots and pans with spoons. They made all the noise they could. There was soon such a racket that a squirrel came to look. She peered into the cave and asked,

"What's going on here? What's the deal with all this noise?"

"We're making noise because a snail went into our little one's throat and fell asleep. We can't make it leave."


"That kind of noise isn't going to wake up a snail," said the squirrel flatly. "You have to make it hear something beautiful, an animal's cry, the song of a bird, the chiming of a bell, or the babbling of a little waterfall in a stream or brook, for example."

"Thank you very much, little squirrel," said the parents of the little bear. "We'll go for a walk so he can hear all the beautiful sounds possible."

Papa and Mama took turns carrying their baby in their arms, as they went down the mountain. They reached a point where the river had overflowed its banks and formed a little pond surrounded by tall grasses called reeds. They could hear frogs croaking and ducks quacking.

"The croaking of the frogs is very beautiful," murmured Mama. "That's a good idea! Let's try to get our little one to hear it. It's so sweet, so melodious."

The parents introduced their baby to the frogs in the pond. They sang for him in chorus but the snail didn't wake up.

They went away as they circled the body of water and went up to some ducks who paddled around there. The ducks agreed to quack gently for the baby's snail. Sadly, the little creature did not move a bit.

Papa and Mama bear, carrying their baby, left the pond behind and crossed into a small forest. In the middle of the forest, lived a wolf. She was in a good mood that day. And, anyway, it's well known that wolves are a bit frightened of bears. She was happy to howl a few times if that would help. Unfortunately, this didn't wake the snail sleeping in the back of the baby bear's throat.

Our friends took the path that led to a village. On the way, they came across a dog. He agreed to bark a few times to try to wake up the little creature asleep in its shell. But, alas, this didn't work either.

Leaving the woods, the papa and mama bear spotted a few cows with their calves in a field. The cows came up to the fence and said they were flattered by the idea of helping our friends. They mooed their hearts out. Unfortunately, the snail slept undisturbed in the baby bear's mouth. They really weren't having much luck!


Some bees were pollinating flowers in the ditches at the side of the road. When they came together, the bears could hear their song. But the snail didn't move a muscle. A little bee buzzed into the baby bear's mouth and tried to sting the snail but it was curled up in the end of its shell and couldn't feel a thing.

Coming up to the village, our family of bears came upon a circus that was performing there. A magnificent tiger paced back and forth in its cage. She agreed to offer her great growls to try to wake the little creature. But the snail slumbered on. She did not so much as notice the presence of such a ferocious animal. She didn't move at all.

Crossing the village, the papa and mama bear, still carrying their baby, met a crow. This crow was perched on the wall of a school. He was waiting until ten o'clock.

The crow knew that at ten o'clock the children had a break from their classes and ate a little snack, a small sandwich, a cookie or some fruit in the playground. Often they let some crumbs fall or they forgot little pieces of bread. He took advantage of this and ate these when the children returned to class.

The crow cawed many times, but the snail didn't hear it, she was still so deeply asleep.

Getting a little desperate, Papa and Mama bear wondered what to do. The squirrel had followed the family at some distance since they'd met at the mountain. Now she came closer.

"You didn't understand," said the little animal with its gentle eyes. "It's not a cry that the snail needs to hear. If you want to wake the snail sleeping in your baby's mouth, she must hear the most beautiful sound in the world."


"What is the most beautiful sound in the world?" asked Papa and Mama bear.

You, do you have an idea?

"The most beautiful sound in the world," responded the little squirrel, "is a child singing."

Seeing as though they were right in front of the school, the parents of the little bear entered one of the classes and asked the children to sing a song.

"Who would like to sing?" asked the teacher.

Among the children in the class was Juliette, who we know very well. Our friend raised her hand and started singing a lovely song. An instant later, all the children joined her in the chorus.

The snail woke up. She came out of her shell, stretched a bit, slipped down the tongue of the baby bear and she left quietly.

The little bear was so happy he kissed all the children. Then Juliette walked with them to the school gate. The papa, mama and baby bear returned to the mountain. Juliette waved goodbye for a long time and blew the softest kisses to the little bear.

They've told me that, since this adventure, he's closed his mouth when he sleeps.

But, most importantly, Papa and Mama no longer slept in this breezy cave. They found another in the mountain, one with pink rocks. There, our little bear slept very soundly and had lovely dreams.

Translation : Andrew Gordon Middleton