Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How The Hoopoe Got His Crown

It is told of the Wise King Solomon that once he was travelling in the heat of the sun and called upon the vultures to shield him from its fierce rays. When they refused their help, he cursed them and, as a punishment, God removed the feathers from their neck and so all vultures have now a bare neck.
King Solomon went on his way, and the heat grew worse than ever. Presently he saw in the distance, a flight of hoopoes, and called aloud to them.
"O hoopoes, come near, and shiled me from the rays of this burning sun". Then king of the hoopoes answered:
"O King, we are but small and feeble birds; still, we will do our best". The hoopoes then came nearer, and formed themselves into a close flock. They flew over the King and his party and shielded them from the sun until evening. At sunset, they asked the king's permission to depart. The king thanked them and said: "Before you go, tell me what reward I shall give you for your kindness in shielding me from the sun to-day".
The king of the hoopoes said : "We wish for no reward; we have only our duty".
But the king insisted and at last the king of the hoopoes said:
"Let me first go and consult my wife, and then I will return for the reward".
So the king of the hoopoes flew away home and told his wife all that had happened, and asked: "Now, what reward shall I choose?"
His wife replied: "Let us ask for golden crowns, to wear on our heads. They will look very fine, and we shall be the most beautiful of all birds."
The king of the hoopoes then returned to King Solomon and told him what his wish was. King Solomon smiled and said: "Are you sure, that you are asking for the best thing". The hoopoe replied: "My wife wishes it and so I have asked for it."
"Very well", said the king, "your request shall be granted", but if ever you repent of your words, come back to me".
So away the hoopoe king flew. When he reached home, he found his wife with a golden crown on her head, admiring herself in the looking glass. And, when he feld his own head, he found a golden crown there too. All the hoopoes were proud of their golden crowns and went about thinking themselves the most handsome of all birds.
The happiness of the hoopoes did not last long. One day, a birdcatcher found in one of his traps a hoopoe. To his surprise, it had a crown on its head. "This is very curious", he said. "I will take it into the town for I shall perhaps get a good price for a bird with a brass crown on its head". He never dreamt, that the crown was of gold. He took it to a shop and the shopkeeper looked at it. At first he thought, as the bird-catcher had thought, that the crown was of brass.
"How much do you want for this bird?" he asked. "You ought to give me a good price for it, as it is very rare", replied the bird catcher. The shop keeper looked at the crown again and saw that it was of pure gold. Hiding his joy, he said: "Yes, it is rather rare, I will give you a rupee for it". The bird catcher refused to sell the bird for less than two rupees and the shop keeper at last agreed to this. As the bird catcher was going off, well pleased with his two rupees, the shopkeeper said: "If you catch any more birds of this kind, bring them to me, and I will pay you the same price for them."
Other bird catchers caught some hoopoes, too, that day, and of course the secret was soon out. Every one heard that the hoopoes were wearing crowns of real gold on their heads, worth at least fifty rupees. And so everyone was on the look-out to catch a hoopoe and make some money.
The poor hoopoes thus found that the reward they had asked of King Solomon had turned into a bitter punishment. They were hunted from field to tree and from tree to bush until they did not know where to turn for safety. Their king then made up his mind to go to King Solomon and to tell him how badly their reward had turned out for them.
Very weary he looked when, after a hard journey, he reached the royal palace. When the king saw him, he called out in surprise: "What, is that my handsome little friend, the hoopoe? How wretched he looks! What's the matter?" The hoopoe told his story, and begged the king to take away the fatal gift, and let the hoopoes be, as before, without crowns.
King Solomon said: "It is not the crowns that matter, but the gold they are made of. Keep your crowns as a sign of my thanks, but henceforth they shall be of feathers, and not of gold"
So off the hoopoe went, with his crown of gold turned into a crown of feathers. When people found that the crowns of the hoopoes were only of feathers, they ceased to hunt them and the hoopoes had peace and quiet once more.


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