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The Yellow Bird

from The Green Fairy Book





Once upon a time a Fairy, who had somehow or other got into
mischief, was condemned by the High Court of Fairyland to live for
several years under the form of some creature, and at the moment
of resuming her natural appearance once again to make the fortune
of two men. It was left to her to choose what form she would take,
and because she loved yellow she transformed herself into a lovely
bird with shining golden feathers such as no one had ever seen
before. When the time of her punishment was at an end the
beautiful yellow bird flew to Bagdad, and let herself be caught by
a Fowler at the precise moment when Badi-al-Zaman was walking up
and down outside his magnificent summer palace. This Badi-al-
Zaman--whose name means 'Wonder-of-the-World'--was looked upon in
Bagdad as the most fortunate creature under the sun, because of
his vast wealth. But really, what with anxiety about his riches
and being weary of everything, and always desiring something he
had not, he never knew a moment's real happiness. Even now he had
come out of his palace, which was large and splendid enough for
fifty kings, weary and cross because he could find nothing new to
amuse him. The Fowler thought that this would be a favourable
opportunity for offering him the marvellous bird, which he felt
certain he would buy the instant he saw it. And he was not
mistaken, for when Badi-al-Zaman took the lovely prisoner into his
own hands, he saw written under its right wing the words, 'He who
eats my head will become a king,' and under its left wing, 'He who
eats my heart will find a hundred gold pieces under his pillow
every morning.' In spite of all his wealth he at once began to
desire the promised gold, and the bargain was soon completed. Then
the difficulty arose as to how the bird was to be cooked; for
among all his army of servants not one could Badi-al-Zaman trust.
At last he asked the Fowler if he were married, and on hearing
that he was he bade him take the bird home with him and tell his
wife to cook it.

'Perhaps,' said he, 'this will give me an appetite, which I have
not had for many a long day, and if so your wife shall have a
hundred pieces of silver.'

The Fowler with great joy ran home to his wife, who speedily made
a savoury stew of the Yellow Bird. But when Badi-al-Zaman reached
the cottage and began eagerly to search in the dish for its head
and its heart he could not find either of them, and turned to the
Fowler's wife in a furious rage. She was so terrified that she
fell upon her knees before him and confessed that her two children
had come in just before he arrived, and had so teased her for some
of the dish she was preparing that she had presently given the
head to one and the heart to the other, since these morsels are
not generally much esteemed; and Badi-al-Zaman rushed from the
cottage vowing vengeance against the whole family. The wrath of a
rich man is generally to be feared, so the Fowler and his wife
resolved to send their children out of harm's way; but the wife,
to console her husband, confided to him that she had purposely
given them the head and heart of the bird because she had been
able to read what was written under its wings. So, believing that
their children's fortunes were made, they embraced them and sent
them forth, bidding them get as far away as possible, to take
different roads, and to send news of their welfare. For
themselves, they remained hidden and disguised in the town, which
was really rather clever of them; but very soon afterwards Badi-
al-Zaman died of vexation and annoyance at the loss of the
promised treasure, and then they went back to their cottage to
wait for news of their children. The younger, who had eaten the
heart of the Yellow Bird, very soon found out what it had done for
him, for each morning when he awoke he found a purse containing a
hundred gold pieces under his pillow. But, as all poor people may
remember for their consolation, nothing in the world causes so
much trouble or requires so much care as a great treasure.
Consequently, the Fowler's son, who spent with reckless profusion
and was supposed to be possessed of a great hoard of gold, was
before very long attacked by robbers, and in trying to defend
himself was so badly wounded that he died.

The elder brother, who had eaten the Yellow Bird's head, travelled
a long way without meeting with any particular adventure, until at
last he reached a large city in Asia, which was all in an uproar
over the choosing of a new Emir. All the principal citizens had
formed themselves into two parties, and it was not until after a
prolonged squabble that they agreed that the person to whom the
most singular thing happened should be Emir. Our young traveller
entered the town at this juncture, with his agreeable face and
jaunty air, and all at once felt something alight upon his head,
which proved to be a snow-white pigeon. Thereupon all the people
began to stare, and to run after him, so that he presently reached
the palace with the pigeon upon his head and all the inhabitants
of the city at his heels, and before he knew where he was they
made him Emir, to his great astonishment.

As there is nothing more agreeable than to command, and nothing to
which people get accustomed more quickly, the young Emir soon felt
quite at his ease in his new position; but this did not prevent
him from making every kind of mistake, and so misgoverning the
kingdom that at last the whole city rose in revolt and deprived
him at once of his authority and his life--a punishment which he
richly deserved, for in the days of his prosperity he disowned the
Fowler and his wife, and allowed them to die in poverty.

'I have told you this story, my dear Sylvain and Jocosa,' added
the Fairy, 'to prove to you that this little cottage and all that
belongs to it is a gift more likely to bring you happiness and
contentment than many things that would at first seem grander and
more desirable. If you will faithfully promise me to till your
fields and feed your flocks, and will keep your word better than
you did before, I will see that you never lack anything that is
really for your good.'

Sylvain and Jocosa gave their faithful promise, and as they kept
it they always enjoyed peace and prosperity. The Fairy had asked
all their friends and neighbours to their wedding, which took
place at once with great festivities and rejoicings, and they
lived to a good old age, always loving one another with all their
hearts.





Next: Fairy Gifts

Previous: Sylvain And Jocosa



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