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Fables. 
The Little Sparrow
by Sunitichandra Mishra

A traditional story from Bihar, translated and retold

Even if we are humble and weak, our strong determination and persistent efforts will bring in success one day : This is what a little sparrow teaches us in this simple folklore.

There was a bird, a little sparrow, living in the Champa forest of western Bihar province of Hindustan. Happily she used to frolic around, hopping from branch to branch and filling the tranquil silence of the jungle with her melodies. But very soon her happy days finished. A deadly famine struck the region. Rivers and ponds dried up, plants withered and the earth was full of cracks, like wrinkles on the grandma’s face. All the birds and animals – weak and torn by this calamity – began to flee to a safe place. With heavy heart, the Sparrow also decided to leave the Champa forest. Hungry and thirsty, the little bird set out on her journey towards the kingdom of Nepal. As she was flying, her keen eyes chanced to see a grain of ‘daal’ (lintel) in an abandoned farm. For the poor sparrow this small grain seemed to be costlier than any treasure of the earth. She flew down and pecked at the grain. Very hungry, she wanted to swallow the grain then and there but thought: “I don’t know how long I’ve to fly. May be, I will need this food later when I’m too weak to flutter my wings.” With this providential thought, she held the grain tightly in her beak and flew away further. But the destiny was not so kind. Suddenly the grain fell off her mouth into a narrow hole of a log of wood.

“Ooh!”, the poor Sparrow sighed with grief as she came down and tried to bring the grain out of the hole with her tiny beak. However she tried, she could not succeed. Worried, she sat and thought: “A carpenter must be living around and he can help me”. Soon she found the carpenter’s cottage and asked for his help:

Carpenter! Carpenter! Split the log
My grain has fallen into the hole of log
What to eat? What to drink?
What to take to the foreign land?

The carpenter came out and laughed: “You little poor sparrow! For you should I take the trouble of splitting that log? Go away straight”. The bird was disappointed but she did not give up hope. She thought: “I must meet the king and he will surely help me”. So she flew till she found the palace of the king. The king was walking in the garden. The bird perched on the branch of a tree and appealed:

King! King! Scold the carpenter
The carpenter does not split the log
My grain has fallen into the hole of log
What to eat? What to drink?
What to take to the foreign land?

The king raised his head and looked at the bird scornfully: “You little bird! For you I go and scold the carpenter? Go, go from here”. The sparrow was more disappointed than before but still she did not give up hope. She thought: “The king rules the people but the queen rules over his heart. I must request the queen”. So she went in the ‘harem’ of the queen and chirped:

Queen! Queen! Advise the king
The king is not scolding the carpenter
The carpenter does not split the log
My grain has fallen into the hole of log
What to eat? What to drink?
What to take to the foreign land?

The queen was chattering with her mates. Disturbed by the bird’s interference, she scolded her: “Go away, you little sparrow! Why should I advise the king for the sake of a useless bird”? Tears rolled in the pensive eyes of the poor bird. When even the king and the queen turned her back, she became indignant and infuriated. She thought: “The queen has no sense of justice. I must seek help from a serpent to punish her”. So the bird went to a snake and complained:

Snake! Snake! Bite the queen
The queen is not advising the king
The king is not scolding the carpenter
The carpenter does not split the log
My grain has fallen into the hole of log
What to eat? What to drink?
What to take to the foreign land?

But her complaint had no affect. The snake, too, turned a deaf ear. The bird then went to the stick and said:

Stick! Stick! Beat the snake
The snake is not biting the queen
The queen is not advising the king
The king is not scolding the carpenter
The carpenter does not split the log
My grain has fallen into the hole of log
What to eat? What to drink?
What to take to the foreign land?

When she did not get justice even from the stick, she rushed to appeal to the fire:

Fire! Fire! Burn the stick
The stick is not beating the snake
The snake is not biting the queen
The queen is not advising the king
The king is not scolding the carpenter
The carpenter does not split the log
My grain has fallen into the hole of log
What to eat? What to drink?
What to take to the foreign land?

The fire also laughed away her request, saying: “You little poor bird! For you I have to burn the stick? Go away!” Though tired and broken in heart, the little sparrow still hoped that perhaps water would give her justice. So she went to the water and cried out in a painful voice:

Water! Water! Extinguish the fire
The fire is not burning the stick
The stick is not beating the snake
The snake is not biting the queen
The queen is not advising the king
The king is not scolding the carpenter
The carpenter does not split the log
My grain has fallen into the hole of log
What to eat? What to drink?
What to take to the foreign land?

Oh! even water turned out to be cruel and mocking at the plight of the sparrow, rushed away proudly. Still the sparrow did not give hope. She sat and thought: “The elephant is very mighty and powerful and he is kind, too. He must punish the water for insulting me”. So she went further in quest of the elephant. She found the elephant soon in a lonely place and sang her grievance:

Elephant! Elephant! Absorb the water
The water is not extinguishing the fire
The fire is not burning the stick
The stick is not beating the snake
The snake is not biting the queen
The queen is not advising the king
The king is not scolding the carpenter
The carpenter does not split the log
My grain has fallen into the hole of log
What to eat? What to drink?
What to take to the foreign land?

The elephant was kind. The elephant was considerate. He resolved to help the struggling sparrow and assured her: “Don’t worry, my little sister! I will absorb the water completely. Those who don’t help the needy, need not exist.” And the elephant marched, raising his trunk in the air and trumpeting like a giant. The earth quivered under his heavy feet. When the water saw that the elephant is coming to drink him up, he shivered with fear and prayed to the elephant:

Absorb me not, my dear!
I will extinguish the fire, I swear

And the water proceeded to extinguish the fire. When the fire saw that the water is coming to swallow him up, he trembled with fear and entreated:

Extinguish me not, my dear!
I will burn the stick, I swear

And the fire marched forth to burn the stick. When the stick saw that the fire is coming to burn him, he was afraid and petitioned:

Please burn me not, my dear!
I’ll beat the snake, I swear

And the stick jumped out to punish the snake. When the snake saw that the stick is coming to beat him, he quivered fearfully and urged:

Please beat me not, my dear!
I will bite the queen, I swear

And the snake crawled out of its hole to bite the queen. When the queen saw that the snake is coming to bite her, she shook with fear and said:

Please bite me not, my dear!
I will advise the king, I swear

And the queen came out of her ‘harem’ to talk to the king. When the king saw that his beloved queen is coming on foot to advise him, he himself ran towards her and said:

No need to advise me, my dear!
I will scold the carpenter, I swear

And the king called for his royal chariot and proceeded towards the carpenter’s cottage. When the carpenter knew that the king has come to scold him, he was terrified and prayed to the king:

Scold me not, O king dear!
I will split the log, I swear

And the carpenter took out his saw to split the log of wood. The little sparrow hopped and pecked at the grain of ‘daal’, she became happy, she thanked the elephant and everyone and flew away .... far ….. far away towards the kingdom of Nepal. 

Image : Adapted from a photograph by Rajender Krishan

12-Mar-2006
 
 
Views: 8845
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