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Seventy-one Parrots

SeventyOneParrotsLong ages ago the wife of a High King was taken ill, and her doctor said that only one thing could save her life: she much eat a parrot every day for seventy-one days. The King offered a great reward to anyone who would bring him seventy-one parrots. None of the bird-catchers thought he could catch so many except one, who said to himself, "There are many parrots roosting every night in the big tree at the food of the mountain. Tonight I will go and count them."

This he did and he found to his astonishment that there were just seventy-one of them. "This looks like magic," he said to himself. "But they are ordinary parrots. If I can catch them all, the King will reward me." He bought a net large enough to cover the tree, and he found out a way of throwing it over the tree.

But one of the parrots was a wise old bird, the leader of the flock. He saw the bird-catcher trying out the net, and he said to the others, "If we roost in that tree again we shall all be caught. Let us go to the big rock on the mountain side."

They all agreed, and roosted that night on the rock. The bird-catcher was very angry. "But I'll get them yet," he said, and he carried his net up the mountain.

"We must move again," said the wise parrot. "That man has found out where we are." "Oh, not again," said all the parrots. "We can't keep on moving." "If you won't be warned I'll stay with you," said the wise parrot.

That afternoon the bird-catcher set his trap, and in the middle of the night the net came down and caught them all. .

What a fluttering and squawking there was! "This is a strong net," said the wise one. "We can't get out of it, except by a trick. We must all pretend to be dead. We must lie on our backs with our feet curled up and our heads hanging down limply. It will be hard for the man to climb this steep rock. He will want both hands for it. He won't load himself up with dead birds. He'll throw us down to the foot of the rock, counting us to make sure he's got the right number. We must lie on the ground, still pretending to be dead, until he has counted "seventy-one". Then we can fly off.

As soon as they heard the bird-catcher coming they all lay on their backs as the wise parrot had said. The man was very surprised; when he had climbed the steep rock. "What can have killed them all?" he said. "Never mind ... it's very convenient."

He pulled them out of the net one by one and threw them down to the foot of the rock, counting as he did so, "One, two, three, four, five, six ..."

He was furious. "I'll never catch that lot now," he growled to the wise parrot. "But I'll have my revenge on you. I'll take you home and cook you for breakfast." He tied the parrot's legs together, took a firm hold of the string and set out for home.

The parrot waited for the man's anger to simmer down. Then he said, "Good sir, I am old and tough. I shouldn't make good eating, and it would be such a waste. I'm a wise bird. I speak your language well, as you hear. A rich merchant would find me very useful to watch over his possessions and give warning if any robbers came. You might get a hundred pieces of silver for me"

"Well," grumbled the man grudgingly. "It might be a good idea."

The very first merchant he asked gave a hundred silver pieces for the bird, and he was so useful that all the merchant's family made a great pet of him.

The bird-catcher was really very pleased to have so much money.

The Queen got well without eating a single parrot.



From the book Seventy-one Parrots: Folk-tales of Ancient Egypt and Mongolia by John Hampton.

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The English Folktale

There was once a grocer who had a beautiful parrot with green feathers, and it hung in a cage at his shop door.
It was a very shrewd, sensible bird, and very observing. But it was a female, and as such could not hold its tongue, but proclaimed aloud all that it knew, announcing to everyone who entered the shop the little circumstances which had fallen under its observation.

One day the parrot observed its master sanding the sugar. Presently in came a woman and asked for some brown sugar.

"Sand in the sugar! Sand in the sugar!" vociferated the bird, and the customer pocketed her money and rushed out of the shop.

The indignant grocer rushed to the cage and shook it well.

"You abominable bird, if you tell tales again, I will wring your neck!"
And again he shook the cage till the poor creature was all ruffled, and a cloud of its feathers was flying about the shop.

Next day it saw its master mixing cocoa powder with brick dust. Presently in came a customer for cocoa powder.

"Brick dust in the cocoa!" cried the parrot, eagerly and repeatedly, till the astonished customer believed it, and went away without his cocoa.

A repetition of the shaking of the cage ensued, with a warning that such another instance of tale-telling should certainly be punished with death. The parrot made internal resolutions never to speak again.

Presently, however, it observed its master making shop butter of lard colored with a little turmeric. In came a lady and asked for butter.

"Nice fresh butter, ma'am, fresh from the dairy," said the shopman

"Lard in the butter! Lard in the butter!" said the parrot.

"You scoundrel, you!" exclaimed the shopman, rushing at the cage.

Opening it, drawing forth the luckless bird, and wringing its neck, he cast it into the ash pit. But Polly was not quite dead, and after lying quiet for a few minutes, she lifted up her head and saw a dead cat in the pit.

"Halloo!" called the parrot. "What is the matter with you, Tom?"

No answer, for the vital spark of heavenly flame had quitted the mortal frame of the poor cat.

"Dead!" sighed the parrot. "Poor Tom! He too must have been afflicted with the love of truth. Ah me!"

She sat up and tried her wings. "They are sound. Great is truth in my own country, but in this dingy England it is at a discount, and lies are at a premium."

Then spreading her wings, Polly flew away. But whether she ever reached her own land, where truth was regarded with veneration, I have not heard.
No, she flew twice round the world in search of it, and could not find it.

I wonder whether she has found it now!

from Sabine Baring-Gould's "Household Tales" published in 1866

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African Grey Legend

african gray parrot art by Roy Astley Fryer(A traditional Yoruba Tribe legend of the African Grey)

"In many west and west central African cultures, the African grey parrot is considered sacred. . ."

According to a legend from the ancestral culture of the Yoruba people of South Western Nigeria, the Republic of Benin, the Republic of Togo and Ghana, the African grey parrot which is known as Odide was not always grey, nor did it always have red tail feathers.

God decided to have a contest to see which bird had the most beautiful feathers so all the birds in the world began preparing themselves. They sought to improve their beauty by adding things to themselves or trying to enhance their colors.

At that time the Odide, which was white in color, made no preparations at all. This caused the other birds to wonder, why were they working so hard and why Odide was doing nothing at all. All of the other birds began to worry. They were afraid that if Odide entered the contest they would all lose.

So, all the other birds got together and decided to spoil Odide's natural beauty. They first tried to spoil Odide's beauty by dumping ashes on it as it flew through the trees.

This did not seem to have any effect.....

Next the other birds went to the Sorcerer to get an evil charm which would turn the Odide's tail feathers red. The other birds were quite sure that the Odide would not enter the contest now, since they had spoiled its natural beauty.

On the day of the beauty contest the Odide entered anyway in spite of all that had been done to it. Much to the surprise of the other birds, God awarded the prize to the Odide because it came to the contest even though so much harm had been done to it. God said that the Odide was indeed the most beautiful bird, because true beauty is on the inside.

In many west and west central African cultures the African grey parrot is considered sacred and its tail feathers are a symbol of or an emblem of royalty.

When Kings and Queens are crowned and members of the priesthood ordained at least one tail feather from the African grey must either be in the crown or some where on the person being crowned or ordained.

This is done to remind them that true beauty comes from within.

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