Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories | Annotated Tale

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Why is there no king over the birds?

The Story of the Hawk and the Election of the King.

ONCE upon a time the birds came together to decide which was to rule over them all, and in what order authority should be distributed among them, who was to be the superior and who was to be inferior among them. After a long discussion it was agreed that the eagle should be the highest of all. The second in command should be the falcon, the third in command the black vulture, under him the white vulture, under him the vulture with the striped tail, under him the lamb's vulture and under him the kite, under him the hen-harrier, under him the blue heron, and under him the sparrow-hawk. All the birds consented and accepted this arrangement without much demur or contradiction. Only the sparrow-hawk, who though the smallest and the weakest, yet knew himself to be quicker and cleverer than many of them, objected to the arrangement, and said to them:

               "Do you expect that I should submit to you? or be frightened of you, as if you were the strongest and mightiest creatures in the world? You are greatly mistaken. There are other beings stronger and mightier and greater than you. Of these I am frightened, but not of you. I do not care for you."

               "But what creatures are stronger and more powerful than we?" asked the other birds greatly surprised.

               "What!" said he, "you do not know who is greater and stronger than you are? You all think yourselves to be the cleverest of created beings, and you expect me, the smallest of you, to tell you that? Very well, then, since you do not know even as much as this, hear it from me. Stronger than all of you are the archers and the sportsmen."

               "Why," replied the birds, "how can that be?"

               "Well," he said, "if they meet you they can make an end of you, and that, before you know where you are; you, who are so clever, that you wanted to put me at the tip of your tail!"

               "What can we do to save ourselves?"

               The sparrow-hawk replied, "You must never gather together and fly in large numbers, for thus we are sure to fall a prey to them. Our only safety lies in our dispersion."

               As soon as the birds heard that, they dispersed quickly, and since that time hawks are never found together in large numbers, except when they see carrion. In such wise did the little sparrow-hawk free himself from the domination of the other birds of his clan.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Why is there no king over the birds?
Tale Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Book Title: Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories
Book Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1915
Country of Origin: Romania
Classification: unclassified

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