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OK, let’s start the episode.
Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for pre-intermediate learners. The name of the story is The Singing Widow. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Widow. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Widow. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
Today’s story was sent in by a listener, Daniel, who is from the north of Argentina, and that’s where today’s story comes from as well. It is a folk tale from Argentina.
Part of this story mentions coplas. Coplas is a style of music that originated in the south of Spain.
I would really love to visit Argentina. It’s on the list of countries that I really want to travel to. There are several reasons.
One, my favourite Spanish teacher, Pablo, is from Argentina, and he’s a fantastic teacher.
Two, I love the Argentinian accent. I think it’s probably the nicest accent of Spanish. It’s probably the strangest Spanish accent. It sounds more like Italian than Spanish, in some ways.
And finally, I watched a really, really bad Netflix show Go! Vive a tu manera, which means Go! Live your way, which is like High School Musical but set in Argentina, and it has lots of really cheesy songs, lots of songs that are like, so bad they’re good.
And now I just really want to visit Argentina. Also I hear the food is very good.
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
A widow is a woman who was married, but her husband died. Widows usually live very sad lives, but if they have children, then their children can look after them. It is not so common to be a widow these days, but it can happen.
A grave is the place you put a body when someone dies. Graves are usually a hole in the ground, and you put a gravestone on top to show that the dead person is buried there.
When you place something, you carefully put something. For example, when you visit a grave, you often place flowers on the grave. If you have an expensive watch, you will place it on the table, and not just throw it down.
Misery means great sadness, when you are very sad. Widows often live in misery, for example. If you do not have much money or you are alone, you will live in misery.
A land is a country, but it is an old-fashioned way of talking about it. England is literally the ‘the land of the Angles’. The Angles were one of the groups that came to England from Europe thousands of years ago. We can also talk about ‘the land of the dead’, the place that people go when they die.
Pale means having a light colour. If you have pale skin, it can mean that you are unhealthy, or that you never see the sun. Many flowers are a pale colour, almost white.
Petals are the small, thin parts on the top of a flower. Flowers usually have about five to ten petals, and they are in a circle. Petals can have lots of colours, and they are usually the most beautiful part of the flower. Petals can be used to make jam, to make perfume, to use as decorations and so on.
When you press your hand on something and move it along, you are stroking it. For example, if you have a dog who you love, you will stroke him. You will move your hand up and down his back to show that you like him. You might also stroke your partner’s face. If you have a really comfortable sofa, you might even stroke the material. When you’re thinking hard, you might stroke your chin.
A lonely soul is a person who feels very lonely and moves through the world alone. Lonely souls often feel like nobody else can really understand them. But maybe one day, they’ll find another lonely soul who does understand them, and they won’t be so lonely anymore.
‘Equally’ means ‘in addition’ or ‘also’. ‘Equally’ can also mean ‘at the same time’. For example, ‘It might rain today, but equally, it might be absolutely gorgeous.’
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OK, so listen and enjoy!
The Singing Widow
Once upon a time, there was a woman who lived in Salta, in the north of Argentina. She loved her husband very much, but one day the man died, leaving her alone. She cried and cried, filling rivers with her tears, until she was dry and empty.
Every Sunday, she went and visited her husband’s grave. She placed flowers on the grave, said her prayers, sang coplas, and drank wine until she was full. Then she cried again, cried until she was dry, and went home.
Life cannot continue in such a way, floating on a sea of misery. So one day, the widow cried her final tear, closed her eyes, and never woke up again.
That is, she never woke up in the human world. Of course, she went to the land of the dead, and she was filled with happiness. Now she could meet her husband again! She ran through the streets of the land of the dead, climbed hills and mountains, asked everywhere. But she could not find the man she loved.
Her happiness turned to misery, and she had no more tears to cry.
So finally, with nowhere else to go, she decided to return to the land of the living. Most people who die have no reason to go back. They have lived a full life, and feel peaceful in death. But this woman would not feel peace until she found her husband again, so she walked the road from death to life.
And of course, the dead cannot come back to life, so she returned as a ghost. Her skin turned pale like the flowers she put on her husband’s grave, and she floated like petals thrown into the wind.
When she reached the grave, she went back to her usual routine. She tried to place flowers on it, although she could hardly pick them up. She said her prayers, although nobody heard them. She sang coplas, although her voice was more frightening than beautiful. She tried to drink wine, but the liquid just went through her and landed on the ground.
Most ghosts float from one place to another, carrying misery and old memories with them. But the widow was different. She acted like her husband was still there, listening to her, and she believed he was real very much.
Finally, other people began to see her. Her flowers stayed on the grave, and the wine stayed in her stomach. The only sign that she had once been dead was her hair, which was silver like the moon.
One day, a man came up to her, as she sat by the grave. He had been watching her for a long time, and he had fallen in love with her.
This was no ordinary man. His hair was pale just like hers, and he had a look of mystery in his eyes.
‘What do you search for, my beauty?’ he asked the widow.
‘I search for my husband,’ she said, ‘but I do not think I will ever find him. I have searched in the land of the dead and the living, and now I live between the two.’
The man smiled, and picked up a flower from the man’s grave.
‘Such beautiful petals, but if you remove them, the flower will be different.’
‘Ugly,’ said the woman, taking the flower and putting it back.
‘Perhaps. So if you find your husband, and he has lost his petals, will you still want him?’
‘I have walked through both lands and I have not lost my petals.’
‘And that makes you special. Consider this: if you search and search but you cannot find someone, perhaps that person does not want to be found.’
The widow laughed coldly and took a drink of wine.
‘That is no good to me. He was my whole world. If I cannot find him, then what should I search for? Should I try to return to the land of the dead? It is an empty place, if he is not there.’
The man offered his hand to her. ‘There are those in the land of the living who do wish to be found. Will you go for a ride with me?’
The man showed her his horse. The animal, too, was pale, had long, silver hair and a shine in his eyes. The man stroked the horse and said, ‘She is a lonely soul, just like us.’
‘And who said I was lonely?’ said the woman. But she smiled. ‘Fine then, take me for a ride.’
So they got on his horse and rode away from the grave. The woman soon found that there were other things to live for, and now she had a man and a lovely horse to sing coplas and drink wine with.
She never did find her husband, but this lonely soul reminded her of him. And wasn’t that enough?
So be careful, if you ever ride through the town of Salta. You might pass by a loving couple riding a horse, all with silver hair and pale skin. Don’t look them in the eye, or you might feel the cold touch of death on you!
But equally, you might also feel the heat of love.
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