The Eagle and the Rice Birds.
This is a classical Chinese story about many different birds. A mother Eagle seeks out her lost children and, on her journey, she meets other birds who have similar stories to tell. As fables tend to have, there is a moral to the story; that we cannot change what is in our nature.
A long time ago, there was an Eagle. In her home tree she chose to lay her three eggs, she waited for them to hatch. One day, two young boys were walking by and one said to the other, ‘Did you know that the Eagle likes the Rice Birds?’ The other boy disagreed; saying he had seen the Eagle drive the Rice Birds away. The first boy told his friend that he could make the Eagle like the Rice Birds so much that they would live in harmony. His friend didn’t believe him. Nevertheless, the first boy asked his friend to give him a piece of silver if he could successfully make the Eagle and the Rice Birds like each other. The second boy agreed.
The first boy went hunting for Rice Birds. Soon, he came across a nest with five Rice Bird eggs nestled warm inside. He took three of the eggs and swapped them with the eggs in the mother Eagle’s nest.
After 25 days, the Eagle’s nest had three baby birds in it, all chirping merrily together. The mother was unsure why the chicks were so small and why their feathers looked so unlike her own, and why their chirps sounded so different!
The next day, the mother Eagle called her oldest son. He flew to his mother and was surprised that his new brothers had faces so different from that of his own and his mother’s. The Eagle’s son said he would see what the baby chicks would eat. The mother Eagle and her oldest son soon noticed the chicks could not eat the meat they were brought; instead, they wanted rice all the time.
It wasn’t long before it was time for the little birds to fly with their mother Eagle. On their journey, a Rice Bird father called for the little birds. The Eagle told her babies not to follow the call, but it was in their nature to follow the call of the Rice Bird, so they left the Eagle and went with the father Rice Bird. The Eagle mother continued to call, but to no avail. She asked the Rice Bird how it was that he called and the little birds came after just one time. The father Rice Bird explained the birds did not belong to the mother Eagle, but to the Rice Bird family.
Shortly after, sixteen Rice Birds flew nearby and the mother Eagle saw how they looked just like her children. She was so confused. She explained to the father Rice Bird that the birds must be hers because they came from her nest, but they looked, and behaved, nothing like her other children. The mother Eagle’s solution was to bring the baby chicks home and to continue to feed and teach them as she did her older children with the hopes they would become more like her other children.
The father Rice Bird assured her this would not happen because the three baby birds look like the Rice Birds, eat what the Rice Birds eat and sing the Rice Birds’ song. The poor Eagle mother tried again and again to call her baby birds, but still, she had no luck. She accused the Rice Birds of tricking the little birds and threatened to kill and eat the Rice Birds. Sadly, the mother Eagle flew away and sat on a great rock alone to wait for her children to return to her.
By nightfall, the babies still had not flown back to the Eagle mother. The next morning, she hunted far and wide for her three little chicks and became increasingly worried. She remembered a tale from a Quarrel bird in the forest who said a bad boy had changed the Quarrel bird’s eggs and that her yellow birds flew away with a yellow Songbird, never to return to the Quarrel bird. She also remembered the Quarrel bird said she found her own children far away in a camphor tree. The mother Eagle wished to find her own children.
Just then, she met the Quarrel bird mother and asked her how she found her own children long ago. The Quarrel bird mother said she was passing by the camphor tree and saw the little birds alone. She queried what they were doing all on their own. The little birds had cheeped that they were eating delicious nuts! The mother Quarrel bird asked the children where they came from and the baby chicks said they had come from the yellow bird family. Surprised, the mother Quarrel bird replied that the little birds did not look like the yellow birds and the babies replied they didn’t talk or eat like their yellow bird family either. ‘Where is your home now?’ asked the Quarrel bird. The poor baby birds said they had no home as they left the yellow bird family because they were not fond of the family, nor the family of the little birds.
The mother Quarrel bird said her family was in a similar situation to that of the chicks. She looked at the three chicks, and they looked at her and they noticed how their feathers were the same colour. The baby birds asked where the Quarrel bird’s home was and she replied it was under a rock in the mountain. And so, the little birds flew with the Quarrel bird back to her home. The home was pleasing to the baby chicks and they knew they belonged there.
The Eagle mother thought long and hard about the Quarrel mother’s story and the next morning she left her nest early and went into the wilderness to find her lost children. On her way, she met a cousin Eagle who asked why the mother Eagle was crying. The mother Eagle explained her worries and asked the cousin Eagle if she had seen three Eagle children. ‘Yes! I’ve seen three Eagle children! They passed through here and went to a fruit tree and ate all of its fruit’, the cousin Eagle exclaimed. So, the Eagle mother went to the tree and saw three little Eagles on one of its branches. She asked why her children were there and they replied that they were not her children; they did not have a mother. They explained how the Rice Bird left them when they were very small because she did not believe they were her children. The Eagle mother told the chicks that they looked like her older children and that she believed the three little Eagles were hers.
The Eagle mother offered the little Eagles to live with her in her home. After some discussion together, the three young Eagles said they would like that very much. Shortly after, they felt like the Quarrel birds had; knowing they belonged together.
And so, the first, unkind boy from the beginning of the story lost his pieces of silver. He could not change the nature of the birds as they all found their way back to their true families.
The Eagle is always an Eagle and the Rice Bird is always a Rice Bird.