The Country of the Blind

By H G Wells, retold by A L Stringer
Level: intermediate
Wordcount: 4249

In South America there is a legend about a valley in the mountains where all the people are blind. It is said that long ago a disease came to the valley and the people lost their sight. The next generation of children were born blind too and their children after them.

Shortly afterwards there was a terrible earthquake and the roads leading to the valley were blocked by rocks. No one could come in or go out and the valley was cut off from the rest of the world. People soon forgot all about the valley and its blind inhabitants and no one now knows where it was or even whether it really existed at all.

Many centuries later, just a few years ago in fact, a mountaineer called Nunez was leading a climbing expedition to Mount Parascotopetl, one of the highest peaks in the Andes. One night while they were camping high up, Nunez went out of his tent to tie a loose rope. When, after a while, he didn’t return, his friends became worried and called his name; but although they called many times, there was no reply. It was too dangerous to look for him in the dark so they had to wait to morning to search for him.

When the sun rose, they saw tracks in the snow leading from their tent directly to a steep cliff . They looked cautiously over the edge; far below they could see tiny trees rising on the floor of a narrow valley. To their horror they realized he must have fallen. It was almost certain that he had been killed and it would have been quite impossible to get into the valley to look for him. They had no choice but to abandon the expedition and go home.

Unknown to anyone, Nunez had had an amazingly lucky escape. He’d dropped hundreds of metres but his fall had been broken by soft snow and trees, and although he was cut and bruised, he was not seriously injured.