Noor Inayat: The Young Parrot

This tale is taken from the Twenty Jataka Tales by Noor Inayat Khan.  For more about jataka tales and Noor’s writing, see the note in this earlier post.

At the top of a hill there was a wood of silk-cotton trees, and in that wood lived a flock of parrots with their king and queen.

And the king and queen had a beautiful child-parrot, more beautiful than any parrot in the world!

Time passed, and King and Queen Parrot grew old, and little child-parrot grew up to be all glorious and larger than any parrot in the world.

And he said one day to his parents: “Dear ones, now that I am grown and strong I will go to bring food from the fields for you.”

And each day he flew with the flock to the rice-fields. And after eating with the rest he took away in his beak a large share to give to his mother and father.

But one day the parrots found a beautiful field, more fertile than any other. And after that they went there to eat.

“I must tell my master that parrots are eating his rice,” thought the farmer’s man.

And he went to the farmer and said: “Master, our field is fertile and truly the rice is more beautiful than in any other field. But a flock of parrots come each day to feed of the grains, and one among them, more beautiful than the others, after eating a large share, leaves with a beak full of rice to store away.”

The owner of the field thereupon was seized with longing to see this bird that took the rice away.

“Make a trap of horse-hair and catch that parrot,” he said to his man, “but bring him to me alive.”

The next day, the labourer set a trap, and, while landing, the young parrot felt his tiny foot caught. He did not cry or call for help, for he thought: “If my comrades know I am caught, they will be frightened and will not eat. I must wait till they have eaten, and then I will call.”

And when they had eaten he called, but none came to help him; all, in fear, flew away.

He was left alone, and he cried bitterly.

“What have I done?” he thought.  “Why do they leave me?”

Before long the labourer came to the trap, and joyfully seizing the bird, he exclaimed: “Why, you are the very one i wished to catch.” And he brought him to his master. The field-owner took the parrot gently between his hands.

“My bird,” he said, “have you a little farm somewhere? Is it there you hide away the rice? When you have eaten from my field, away you fly, your beak filled with grain, you naughty little bird!”

The parrot replied in a sweet human voice:

“A duty I fulfil each day,
A treasure do I store away.”

“Tell me,” said the field-owner, “what is the duty you fulfil, and the treasure which you store away?”

“My duty,” said the parrot, “is to bring food to my parents who are old and cannot fly; and my treasure is a forest of love.  In that forest, those who are weak are helped by stronger ones, and those who hunger are given food.”

On hearing this the old man smiled. “The field belongs to you all,” he said. “Fly back to your parents who are awaiting you. But return to my field each day.”

The beautiful bird quickly flew back to the woods where his parents were calling for him. And all the other parrots gathered round and listened to the young parrot’s story. All the parrots of the woods were united, and they lived happy ever after.

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