The Little Robber Girl
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
AMERICAN INDIAN STORIES
Animal Sketches And Stories
Blondine Bonne Biche and Beau Minon
BRER RABBIT and HIS NEIGHBORS
CHINESE MOTHER-GOOSE RHYMES
FABLES FOR CHILDREN
FABLES FROM INDIA
FATHER PLAYS AND MOTHER PLAYS
FIRST STORIES FOR VERY LITTLE FOLK
For Classes Ii. And Iii.
For Classes Iv. And V.
For Kindergarten And Class I.
FUN FOR VERY LITTLE FOLK
Good Little Henry
JAPANESE AND OTHER ORIENTAL TALES]
Jean De La Fontaine
King Alexander's Adventures
KINGS AND WARRIORS
LAND AND WATER FAIRIES
Lessons From Nature
LITTLE STORIES that GROW BIG
MODERN FAIRY TALES
MOTHER GOOSE CONTINUED
MOTHER GOOSE JINGLES
MOTHER GOOSE SONGS AND STORIES
Myths And Legends
NEGLECT THE FIRE
ON POPULAR EDUCATION
PLACES AND FAMILIES
Poems Of Nature
RESURRECTION DAY (EASTER)
RHYMES CONCERNING "MOTHER"
RIDING SONGS for FATHER'S KNEE
ROMANCES OF THE MIDDLE AGES
SAINT VALENTINE'S DAY
Selections From The Bible
SLEEPY-TIME SONGS AND STORIES
Some Children's Poets
Songs Of Life
STORIES BY FAVORITE AMERICAN WRITERS
STORIES FOR CHILDREN
STORIES for LITTLE BOYS
STORIES FROM BOTANY
STORIES FROM GREAT BRITAIN
STORIES FROM IRELAND
STORIES FROM PHYSICS
STORIES FROM SCANDINAVIA
STORIES FROM ZOOLOGY
STORIES _for_ LITTLE GIRLS
THE DAYS OF THE WEEK
The King Of The Golden River; Or, The Black Brothers
The Little Grey Mouse
THE OLD FAIRY TALES
The Princess Rosette
THE THREE HERMITS
THE TWO OLD MEN
UNCLES AND AUNTS AND OTHER RELATIVES
VERSES ABOUT FAIRIES
WHAT MEN LIVE BY
WHERE LOVE IS, THERE GOD IS ALSO
The Bird Of Truth
from The Orange Fairy Book
Once upon a time there lived a poor fisher who built a hut on the banks
of a stream which, shunning the glare of the sun and the noise of the
towns, flowed quietly past trees and under bushes, listening to the
songs of the birds overhead.
One day, when the fisherman had gone out as usual to cast his nets, he
saw borne towards him on the current a cradle of crystal. Slipping his
net quickly beneath it he drew it out and lifted the silk coverlet.
Inside, lying on a soft bed of cotton, were two babies, a boy and a
girl, who opened their eyes and smiled at him. The man was filled with
pity at the sight, and throwing down his lines he took the cradle and
the babies home to his wife.
The good woman flung up her hands in despair when she beheld the
contents of the cradle.
'Are not eight children enough,' she cried, 'without bringing us two
more? How do you think we can feed them?'
'You would not have had me leave them to die of hunger,' answered he,
'or be swallowed up by the waves of the sea? What is enough for eight
is also enough for ten.'
The wife said no more; and in truth her heart yearned over the little
creatures. Somehow or other food was never lacking in the hut, and the
children grew up and were so good and gentle that, in time, their
foster-parents loved them as well or better than their own, who were
quarrelsome and envious. It did not take the orphans long to notice
that the boys did not like them, and were always playing tricks on
them, so they used to go away by themselves and spend whole hours by
the banks of the river. Here they would take out the bits of bread
they had saved from their breakfasts and crumble them for the birds.
In return, the birds taught them many things: how to get up early in
the morning, how to sing, and how to talk their language, which very
few people know.
But though the little orphans did their best to avoid quarrelling with
their foster- brothers, it was very difficult always to keep the peace.
Matters got worse and worse till, one morning, the eldest boy said to
'It is all very well for you to pretend that you have such good
manners, and are so much better than we, but we have at least a father
and mother, while you have only got the river, like the toads and the
The poor children did not answer the insult; but it made them very
unhappy. And they told each other in whispers that they could not stay
there any longer, but must go into the world and seek their fortunes.
So next day they arose as early as the birds and stole downstairs
without anybody hearing them. One window was open, and they crept
softly out and ran to the side of the river. Then, feeling as if they
had found a friend, they walked along its banks, hoping that by- and-by
they should meet some one to take care of them.
The whole of that day they went steadily on without seeing a living
creature, till, in the evening, weary and footsore, they saw before
them a small hut. This raised their spirits for a moment; but the door
was shut, and the hut seemed empty, and so great was their
disappointment that they almost cried. However, the boy fought down
his tears, and said cheerfully:
'Well, at any rate here is a bench where we can sit down, and when we
are rested we will think what is best to do next.'
Then they sat down, and for some time they were too tired even to
notice anything; but by-and-by they saw that under the tiles of the
roof a number of swallows were sitting, chattering merrily to each
other. Of course the swallows had no idea that the children understood
their language, or they would not have talked so freely; but, as it
was, they said whatever came into their heads.
'Good evening, my fine city madam,' remarked a swallow, whose manners
were rather rough and countryfied to another who looked particularly
distinguished. 'Happy, indeed, are the eyes that behold you! Only
think of your having returned to your long-forgotten country friends,
after you have lived for years in a palace!'
'I have inherited this nest from my parents,' replied the other, 'and
as they left it to me I certainly shall make it my home. But,' she
added politely, 'I hope that you and all your family are well?'
'Very well indeed, I am glad to say. But my poor daughter had, a short
time ago, such bad inflammation in her eyes that she would have gone
blind had I not been able to find the magic herb, which cured her at
'And how is the nightingale singing? Does the lark soar as high as
ever? And does the linnet dress herself as smartly?' But here the
country swallow drew herself up.
'I never talk gossip,' she said severely. 'Our people, who were once
so innocent and well-behaved, have been corrupted by the bad examples
of men. It is a thousand pities.'
'What! innocence and good behaviour are not to be met with among birds,
nor in the country! My dear friend, what are you saying?'
'The truth and nothing more. Imagine, when we returned here, we met
some linnets who, just as the spring and the flowers and the long days
had come, were setting out for the north and the cold? Out of pure
compassion we tried to persuade them to give up this folly; but they
only replied with the utmost insolence.'
'How shocking!' exclaimed the city swallow.
'Yes, it was. And worse than that, the crested lark, that was formerly
so timid and shy, is now no better than a thief, and steals maize and
corn whenever she can find them.'
'I am astonished at what you say.'
'You will be more astonished when I tell you that on my arrival here
for the summer I found my nest occupied by a shameless sparrow! "This
is my nest," I said. "Yours?" he answered, with a rude laugh. "Yes,
mine; my ancestors were born here, and my sons will be born here also."
And at that my husband set upon him and threw him out of the nest. I
am sure nothing of this sort ever happens in a town.'
'Not exactly, perhaps. But I have seen a great deal--if you only knew!'
'Oh! do tell us! do tell us!' cried they all. And when they had
settled themselves comfortably, the city swallow began:
'You must know, then that our king fell in love with the youngest
daughter of a tailor, who was as good and gentle as she was beautiful.
His nobles hoped that he would have chosen a queen from one of their
daughters, and tried to prevent the marriage; but the king would not
listen to them, and it took place. Not many months later a war broke
out, and the king rode away at the head of his army, while the queen
remained behind, very unhappy at the separation. When peace was made,
and the king returned, he was told that his wife had had two babies in
his absence, but that both were dead; that she herself had gone out of
her mind and was obliged to be shut up in a tower in the mountains,
where, in time, the fresh air might cure her.'
'And was this not true?' asked the swallows eagerly.
'Of course not,' answered the city lady, with some contempt for their
stupidity. 'The children were alive at that very moment in the
gardener's cottage; but at night the chamberlain came down and put them
in a cradle of crystal, which he carried to the river.
'For a whole day they floated safely, for though the stream was deep it
was very still, and the children took no harm. In the morning--so I am
told by my friend the kingfisher--they were rescued by a fisherman who
lived near the river bank.'
The children had been lying on the bench, listening lazily to the
chatter up to this point; but when they heard the story of the crystal
cradle which their foster-mother had always been fond of telling them,
they sat upright and looked at each other.
'Oh, how glad I am I learnt the birds' language!' said the eyes of one
to the eyes of the other.
Meanwhile the swallows had spoken again.
'That was indeed good fortune!' cried they.
'And when the children are grown up they can return to their father and
set their mother free.'
'It will not be so easy as you think,' answered the city swallow,
shaking her head; 'for they will have to prove that they are the king's
children, and also that their mother never went mad at all. In fact,
it is so difficult that there is only one way of proving it to the
'And what is that?' cried all the swallows at once. 'And how do you
'I know it,' answered the city swallow, 'because, one day, when I was
passing through the palace garden, I met a cuckoo, who, as I need not
tell you, always pretends to be able to see into the future. We began
to talk about certain things which were happening in the palace, and of
the events of past years. "Ah," said he, "the only person who can
expose the wickedness of the ministers and show the king how wrong he
has been, is the Bird of Truth, who can speak the language of men."
'"And where can this bird be found?" I asked.
'"It is shut up in a castle guarded by a fierce giant, who only sleeps
one quarter of an hour out of the whole twenty-four," replied the
'And where is this castle?' inquired the country swallow, who, like all
the rest, and the children most of all, had been listening with deep
'That is just what I don't know,' answered her friend. 'All I can tell
you is that not far from here is a tower, where dwells an old witch,
and it is she who knows the way, and she will only teach it to the
person who promises to bring her the water from the fountain of many
colours, which she uses for her enchantments. But never will she
betray the place where the Bird of Truth is hidden, for she hates him,
and would kill him if she could; knowing well, however, that this bird
cannot die, as he is immortal, she keeps him closely shut up, and
guarded night and day by the Birds of Bad Faith, who seek to gag him so
that his voice should not be heard.'
'And is there no one else who can tell the poor boy where to find the
bird, if he should ever manage to reach the tower?' asked the country
'No one,' replied the city swallow, 'except an owl, who lives a
hermit's life in that desert, and he knows only one word of man's
speech, and that is "cross." So that even if the prince did succeed in
getting there, he could never understand what the owl said. But, look,
the sun is sinking to his nest in the depths of the sea, and I must go
to mine. Good-night, friends, good-night!'
Then the swallow flew away, and the children, who had forgotten both
hunger and weariness in the joy of this strange news, rose up and
followed in the direction of her flight. After two hours' walking,
they arrived at a large city, which they felt sure must be the capital
of their father's kingdom. Seeing a good-natured looking woman
standing at the door of a house, they asked her if she would give them
a night's lodging, and she was so pleased with their pretty faces and
nice manners that she welcomed them warmly.
It was scarcely light the next morning before the girl was sweeping out
the rooms, and the boy watering the garden, so that by the time the
good woman came downstairs there was nothing left for her to do. This
so delighted her that she begged the children to stay with her
altogether, and the boy answered that he would leave his sisters with
her gladly, but that he himself had serious business on hand and must
not linger in pursuit of it. So he bade them farewell and set out.
For three days he wandered by the most out- of-the-way paths, but no
signs of a tower were to be seen anywhere. On the fourth morning it
was just the same, and, filled with despair, he flung himself on the
ground under a tree and hid his face in his hands. In a little while
he heard a rustling over his head, and looking up, he saw a turtle dove
watching him with her bright eyes.
'Oh dove!' cried the boy, addressing the bird in her own language, 'Oh
dove! tell me, I pray you, where is the castle of Come-and- never-go?'
'Poor child,' answered the dove, 'who has sent you on such a useless
'My good or evil fortune,' replied the boy, 'I know not which.'
'To get there,' said the dove, 'you must follow the wind, which to-day
is blowing towards the castle.'
The boy thanked her, and followed the wind, fearing all the time that
it might change its direction and lead him astray. But the wind seemed
to feel pity for him and blew steadily on.
With each step the country became more and more dreary, but at
nightfall the child could see behind the dark and bare rocks something
darker still. This was the tower in which dwelt the witch; and seizing
the knocker he gave three loud knocks, which were echoed in the hollows
of the rocks around.
The door opened slowly, and there appeared on the threshold an old
woman holding up a candle to her face, which was so hideous that the
boy involuntarily stepped backwards, almost as frightened by the troop
of lizards, beetles and such creatures that surrounded her, as by the
'Who are you who dare to knock at my door and wake me?' cried she. 'Be
quick and tell me what you want, or it will be the worse for you.'
'Madam,' answered the child, 'I believe that you alone know the way to
the castle of Come- and-never-go, and I pray you to show it to me.'
'Very good,' replied the witch, with something that she meant for a
smile, 'but to-day it is late. To-morrow you shall go. Now enter, and
you shall sleep with my lizards.'
'I cannot stay,' said he. 'I must go back at once, so as to reach the
road from which I started before day dawns.'
'If I tell you, will you promise me that you will bring me this jar
full of the many- coloured water from the spring in the court- yard of
the castle?' asked she. 'If you fail to keep your word I will change
you into a lizard for ever.'
'I promise,' answered the boy.
Then the old woman called to a very thin dog, and said to him:
'Conduct this pig of a child to the castle of Come-and-never-go, and
take care that you warn my friend of his arrival.' And the dog arose
and shook itself, and set out.
At the end of two hours they stopped in front of a large castle, big
and black and gloomy, whose doors stood wide open, although neither
sound nor light gave sign of any presence within. The dog, however,
seemed to know what to expect, and, after a wild howl, went on; but the
boy, who was uncertain whether this was the quarter of an hour when the
giant was asleep, hesitated to follow him, and paused for a moment
under a wild olive that grew near by, the only tree which he had beheld
since he had parted from the dove. 'Oh, heaven, help me!' cried he.
'Cross! cross!' answered a voice.
The boy leapt for joy as he recognised the note of the owl of which the
swallow had spoken, and he said softly in the bird's language:
'Oh, wise owl, I pray you to protect and guide me, for I have come in
search of the Bird of Truth. And first I must fill this far with the
many-coloured water in the courtyard of the castle.'
'Do not do that,' answered the owl, 'but fill the jar from the spring
which bubbles close by the fountain with the many-coloured water.
Afterwards, go into the aviary opposite the great door, but be careful
not to touch any of the bright-plumaged birds contained in it, which
will cry to you, each one, that he is the Bird of Truth. Choose only a
small white bird that is hidden in a corner, which the others try
incessantly to kill, not knowing that it cannot die. And, be
quick!--for at this very moment the giant has fallen asleep, and you
have only a quarter of an hour to do everything.'
The boy ran as fast as he could and entered the courtyard, where he saw
the two spring close together. He passed by the many- coloured water
without casting a glance at it, and filled the jar from the fountain
whose water was clear and pure. He next hastened to the aviary, and
was almost deafened by the clamour that rose as he shut the door behind
him. Voices of peacocks, voices of ravens, voices of magpies, each
claiming to be the Bird of Truth. With steadfast face the boy walked
by them all, to the corner, where, hemmed in by a hand of fierce crows,
was the small white bird he sought. Putting her safely in his breast,
he passed out, followed by the screams of the birds of Bad Faith which
he left behind him.
Once outside, he ran without stopping to the witch's tower, and handed
to the old woman the jar she had given him.
'Become a parrot!' cried she, flinging the water over him. But instead
of losing his shape, as so many had done before, he only grew ten times
handsomer; for the water was enchanted for good and not ill. Then the
creeping multitude around the witch hastened to roll themselves in the
water, and stood up, human beings again.
When the witch saw what was happening, she took a broomstick and flew
Who can guess the delight of the sister at the sight of her brother,
bearing the Bird of Truth? But although the boy had accomplished much,
something very difficult yet remained, and that was how to carry the
Bird of Truth to the king without her being seized by the wicked
courtiers, who would be ruined by the discovery of their plot.
Soon--no one knew how--the news spread abroad that the Bird of Truth
was hovering round the palace, and the courtiers made all sorts of
preparations to hinder her reaching the king.
They got ready weapons that were sharpened, and weapons that were
poisoned; they sent for eagles and falcons to hunt her down, and
constructed cages and boxes in which to shut her up if they were not
able to kill her. They declared that her white plumage was really put
on to hide her black feathers--in fact there was nothing they did not
do in order to prevent the king from seeing the bird or from paying
attention to her words if he did.
As often happens in these cases, the courtiers brought about that which
they feared. They talked so much about the Bird of Truth that at last
the king heard of it, and expressed a wish to see her. The more
difficulties that were put in his way the stronger grew his desire, and
in the end the king published a proclamation that whoever found the
Bird of Truth should bring her to him without delay.
As soon as he saw this proclamation the boy called his sister, and they
hastened to the palace. The bird was buttoned inside his tunic, but,
as might have been expected, the courtiers barred the way, and told the
child that he could not enter. It was in vain that the boy declared
that he was only obeying the king's commands; the courtiers only
replied that his majesty was not yet out of bed, and it was forbidden
to wake him.
They were still talking, when, suddenly, the bird settled the question
by flying upwards through an open window into the king's own room.
Alighting on the pillow, close to the king's head, she bowed
respectfully, and said:
'My lord, I am the Bird of Truth whom you wished to see, and I have
been obliged to approach you in the manner because the boy who brought
me is kept out of the palace by your courtiers.'
'They shall pay for their insolence,' said the king. And he instantly
ordered one of his attendants to conduct the boy at once to his
apartments; and in a moment more the prince entered, holding his sister
by the hand.
'Who are you?' asked the king; 'and what has the Bird of Truth to do
'If it please your majesty, the Bird of Truth will explain that
herself,' answered the boy.
And the bird did explain; and the king heard for the first time of the
wicked plot that had been successful for so many years. He took his
children in his arms, with tears in his eyes, and hurried off with them
to the tower in the mountains where the queen was shut up. The poor
woman was as white as marble, for she had been living almost in
darkness; but when she saw her husband and children, the colour came
back to her face, and she was as beautiful as ever.
They all returned in state to the city, where great rejoicings were
held. The wicked courtiers had their heads cut off, and all their
property was taken away. As for the good old couple, they were given
riches and honour, and were loved and cherished to the end of their
[From Cuentos, Oraciones y Adivinas, por Fernan Caballero.]
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