Odious and Peculiar

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Forging the Sampo

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007
In Chitral there is another legendary creature, the "glacier frog." It is about the size of a calf, has the shape of a frog, and lives in glacier crevasses. What it lives on, nobody seems to know. Many people who claim to have seen one, usually indistinctly silhouetted against the background of a crevasse, maintain that its head and back were encrusted with gold and diamonds...

[There follows an account of how to obtain treasure from a diamond-hoarding cobra.]

The Islamic Chitralis were more down to earth. They had little use for rites and incantations; to capture a glacier frog, more drastic measures were necessary. A smith, who was a shrewd enough businessman to have earned enough money to buy himself a truck, suggested we should go into partnership: He would make the right kind of fishhook, and if I managed to catch a glacier frog with it, we should go fifty-fifty on the proceeds. To avoid losing face and appearing a complete sucker, I stuck out for a bigger share for myself; after all, it was I who was exposing myself to the perils of frog fishing. But for some reason or other our scheme never came off. Nevertheless, I was very grateful to the glacier frog. In those days the Chitralis were still backwoodsmen, so to speak, and had nothing of the Sherpas' experience of anything so crazy as mountaineering. To the Chitralis I was an inexplicable phenomenon and was consequently viewed with mistrust. But once the news got around that I was aftera glacier frog, they gave me enthusiastic support.

From Himalaya by Herbert Tichy, 1968

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