The Yellow Bird

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


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