It tells an old story that many years ago, deep in the jungle of Ecuador, lived a different toad to the other toads of the world because it had a peculiarity: if someone bothered or mocked him, he became a tiger and attacked mercilessly.
Only a few elders claimed to have seen it when they were children, so for most of the indigenous people in the villages near the Amazon, the strange animal was like a legend being hidden in the jungle. Of course, they knew that it existed because sometimes, sheltered by the night, it sang to shout peeled from its hiding place:
- Kuartam – so! Kuartam – so! Kuartam – so!
As ‘Kuartam – tan’ was what he repeated endlessly, with the name of toad Kuartam stayed.
As they say, a young man from the Shuar tribe named Nantu wanted to go out hunting one night. Before leaving home, his wife warned him:
- Be very careful out there, and please, if you see Kuartam toad do not even think about making fun of him. You already know the bad reputation he has for these places!
- Bah, nonsense! I’m sure that what becomes a tiger is pure invention, but stay calm! I promise that if I find him I will not tell him anything and I will pass by.
Nantu said this while showing a mischievous smile that his wife did not like too much.
- Nantu, I insist on telling you not to be irresponsible.
The boy winked and gave him a loud kiss on the cheek.
- Trust me! And now I’m leaving that it’s getting late … I’ll be back before midnight!
In the light of the moon, the young man wandered through the rainforest, pushing the leafy vegetation aside with a sharp machete and looking carefully for any possible prey. Unfortunately he saw nothing but a snake and two or three tiny mice scampering from one place to another.
- There is no bug here that can be used as food … What a waste of time!
After a while he came to a clearing and lay down on the ground to rest. His muscles ached, but above all he was bored of going around and around without getting results.
- As I arrive home with empty hands, the morning menu will be fruit for breakfast, fruit to eat and fruit for dinner. I’ll end up hating coconuts and bananas!
Suddenly, he stopped complaining because a most amusing idea passed through his head.
- ‘What if I make fun of the famous toad? … I’ll try to see what happens!’
Without any shame, he started calling Kuartam. He was convinced that although the toad sang weird, he had no powers of any kind and therefore there was nothing to fear.
- Kuartam! … Kuartam!
He only heard the flutter of a family of birds, so he continued to err.
- Kuartam! … Kuartam! …
As there was no toad or similar, Nantu was emboldened and his voice became more guasona:
- Yujuuuuu … Toad Kuartam, are you here? … Is it true that you are a magic frog? … If I do not see it, I do not believe it! … Do not be a coward and show your face!
He did not get an answer, but Kuartam was there, crouched in a treetop. Of course he had heard everything, and there came a time when he felt so upset, so angry, that his patience ran out and what had to happen happened: his body, small as an orange, began to grow hugely and became the one of a tiger.
Nantu, oblivious to everything, continued to call the batrachian without stopping mocking him.
- Kuartam, silly toad … You’re a chicken! Clo, clo, clo! Little hen, come here! Clo, clo, clo!
Kuartam, once a simple frog and now a huge feline, could not stand it anymore and emitted a roar that made the clouds tremble. Then he jumped from the top, opened the jaws as much as he could, and swallowed the foolish hunter in one gulp.
While all this was happening, Nantu’s wife waited at home feeling that the night was very slow. For hours, she waited for the return of her husband at the door, but when she did not come back she became very nervous.
- ‘It is very rare that Nantu has not returned yet … What happened to him? … He knows the jungle like the palm of his hand and is the most agile of the tribe … The only possible explanation is that … that … Found with the Kuartam toad! ‘
Without stopping to think he ran out of the cabin. Luckily it had not rained and he was able to follow the tracks of the footprints that Nantu had left behind.
Everything went well until he came to a clearing in the jungle; in that place, for some reason that he could not understand, the footsteps disappeared completely, as if Nantu had been swallowed up by the earth.
The girl felt very sad and began to say aloud:
- Where are you, my beloved, where are you? … Should I go north? Or better heading south? … I do not know where to look for you!
At that moment, he heard a kind of snort coming from the heights. He looked up and, on a thick branch, saw a gigantic toad, asleep belly up and so swollen that it seemed ready to burst.
- ‘That phenomenon of nature must be Kuartam. I bet you’ve eaten my husband and that’s why he’s so fat! ‘
Indeed it was Kuartam, who after devouring Nantu had once again become a toad but maintaining colossal dimensions.
The girl, in an act of genuine courage, took the ax that was hanging from the waist and began to cut the trunk. The toad, which must have been half deaf, did not hear of his presence and continued to snore as if it were not the thing with him.
- You have no escape! … I’ll finish with you!
After much effort, the tree collapsed and Kuartam fell backwards to the ground. The smack was so impressive that he opened his mouth instinctively and Nantu the hunter shot out like a cannonball.
But that was not all! When empty, the imposing toad began to deflate, and in the blink of an eye, he regained his usual small body. After the conversion he felt very hurt, but fearing that they would retaliate against him, he took out strength of weakness and gave a few jumps disappeared among the green foliage.
Nantu, fortunately, was still alive and kicking. His wife had saved him by the hair and he could not stop hugging her.
- If I’m still here it’s thanks to you, to your courage. I am ashamed of my behavior and for not having fulfilled the promise I made to you when I left home. I beg you to forgive me!
The girl realized that Nantu was being honest and genuinely regretting it, but she still raised her index finger and said very seriously:
- Respect for others, be they people or animals, is above all things. I hope you have learned the lesson and never mock anyone again!
- I promise, my love, I promise.
It is fair to say that Nantu kept his word and was kind to everyone for the rest of his life, but he had to bear the pain of not being able to apologize to the Kuartam toad because his ways never crossed paths again.