by Tiziana Perini
translated from the Italian by Martin Guy, April 1995.
The grasshopper was despondent and numb from the cold, and after having knocked for ages at the door of the ant-hill, crept under a dry leaf and wept.
"After the sun comes the rain", blurted the doorkeeper ant sarcastically and withdrew into the warm palace. The wind blew, the snow fell, and the frost even made the sleeping chestnut tree shiver, but finally winter passed and the sun became warmer with every day that passed.
The poor grasshopper, weak and sad, didn't even have the strength to peek out of his tumbledown shelter. The ants instead, rested and well-fed, came out of their huge palace little by little and carefully inspected every last inch of the surrounding territory. The sun was ever warmer but the grasshopper barely noticed its heat. His desire to sing, along with his life, was draining away. Outside, the ants were always very busy, but couldn't manage to conclude anything. None of the seeds they found were ever really ripe, the drops of water were either too heavy or too far away, and they were all pretty grumpy and got angry with each other for the slightest thing.
How weary the working days had become, and how sad it was to return to the palace in the evening and eat in the solemn and lonely silence!
It was as if they lacked the enthusiasm they used to have. Outside, Spring was vibrant and becoming ever warmer, but the little ants weren't heartened by it.
Something had happened, but they couldn't understand what it was that had changed.
One evening, while one of the guardian ants was wandering about near the great chestnut tree, he heard a feeble and melancholy voice singing softly. His heart leapt into his throat and his legs came to a standstill. That voice transported him as if in a dream to the perfumed flowers of the blackthorn, to the hot wind of golden summers and to the cool tranquillity of the evening's rest. He pushed aside the old leaves and the new grass, and saw the grasshopper, stretched out and almost dead. Even though it was against the law, he shifted the grasshopper and dragged him back to the palace.
Moved by an obscure impulse, the other ants helped him too and strove to save the little musician. Some covered him with perfumed rose petals, some brought him the most delicate food and some watched over him continuously, day and night. It seemed as if they had rediscovered a lost impulse. On the eighth day the grasshopper, in a small voice, asked "Where am I?". The ant who was watching over him replied "Here, in the ants' palace, but don't tire yourself out, just rest". The grasshopper thought he was dreaming and went back to sleep. In the morning, having got his strength back, he sang a short song. The echo resounded in all the halls of the palace and all the ants stopped in their tracks. The other ants out in the field heard it too and their hearts became lighter, and even the enormous grain that they were carrying seemed to become lighter.