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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.

 

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

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