Bells of Andorra


Senen had lived in the mountains all his life, but he’d never traveled as far up the valley as he’d come that day.

If I can reach the gap between the mountains where the valley begins, he thought, I’ll be so high that maybe I can see all of Andorra.

Senen knew that his country was so small that he might be able to see it all from just one vantage point. Andorra covers only 465 square kilometers and is one of the smallest countries in the world. Some maps and globes don’t even bother to show its location. However, to Senen it was big enough. And surely its pine-clad mountains were among the most beautiful on earth.

Early that morning Senen had noticed that clouds were gathering around the tallest mountain peaks. However, as he’d climbed from the valley floor, he’d become lost in his thoughts and hadn’t noticed that those clouds were coming together and that even the mountaintops were being covered by dark, angry-looking clouds.

When Senen finally neared the big gap between the mountains, what appeared above him was unlike anything he had ever seen. Like a huge white hand reaching from the sky, a cloud billowed through the gap and began descending into the valley toward him. Slowly the cloud dropped lower and lower. The closer it came to Senen, the thinner it became. Finally it broke into separate wisps and vanished.

With a mighty burst of energy another cloud emerged through the gap. Within a few minutes, this one had descended even lower into the valley than the first one. Nevertheless, it, too, simply disappeared into the wind before it reached Senen.

What would it be like inside one of those clouds? Senen wondered.

Then, with even more energy than the last cloud seemed to have, another darker, faster-moving cloud poured through the gap. As it descended into the valley, Senen watched in awe; he could see the cloud’s surface churning and rolling like fresh milk gushing from a pail. But this cloud was not milk white. It was an angry, dark color, and it didn’t show any signs of disappearing!

Soon Senen knew what it was like to be inside a cloud, for the cloud had enveloped him! He could feel its cold, tiny droplets blowing against his face. He discovered beads of water forming, like tiny light bulbs on the hairs of his arms.

The wind inside the cloud was so strong that Senen had to hold on to a boulder to steady himself. He couldn’t see more than a couple of meters around him. As soon as the cloud disappears the way the others have, he decided, I’ll go home.

However, minutes passed and the cloud became darker. Worse still, in the distance thunder began rumbling among the mountain peaks.

“I’d better start back home now,” Senen murmured. Then a new thought sent shivers down his spine: Which way is home?

Senen could see nothing but the dark mists around him. He thought he remembered the right way home, but a few steps in that direction carried him smack into the trunk of a big pine tree.

Senen was lost in a cloud!

It seemed like hours passed as Senen huddled beneath a rocky overhang. The cloud became darker, and the thunder came closer. The pines groaned in the wind like giants bending their backs, trying to hold up the whole sky.

Then Senen heard the sound of bells. He heard small bells that went tink-tink-tink, big bells that went bonk-clunk-clang, and medium bells with all kinds of in-between sounds.

At first the beautiful clangor seemed to come from a distance. Then the bell sounds came closer. They surrounded Senen, then began moving away.

I’m not sure what’s happening, Senen thought, but I’m going to follow those bells!

That night Senen sat beside the glowing fireplace in his home. As the winds whistled through the big pines outside, he told his story. “When I heard those bells, I followed them. Down and down I came until finally the cloud wasn’t so dark and I could see where I was. I found myself in our own pasture, surrounded by our own cows! I’m so glad that the cows passed me today and that they were wearing bells.” Senen stopped and looked thoughtful. He asked, “Father, why do you put bells around the necks of some of our cattle?”

“Calves can get lost very easily,” Father explained. “However, when they hear the bells, they can simply follow the sound to their mamas.”

Senen laughed to think that in just one day he had learned what it feels like both to be inside a cloud and to be a little calf being led home by bells.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Shauna Mooney