The Golden Bird
Translated by: Yousef Salah Al-Hajjar
Once upon a time, there was a man with seven daughters who wished that his wife could give birth to a baby boy. The wife conceived. He said to her, “I swear by God that if you give birth to a baby boy, I will give the child a pound of gold as a birth present.”
The man worked as a woodcutter. One day, while he was working in the forest, one of his daughters rushed up to him, bringing the good news that her mother had delivered a baby boy. He felt over the moon. He picked up his daughter and kissed her. But he had a sudden, dreadful thought. He did not have the birth present. He said to his daughter, “God bless you, my dear. Now you can go home”. After that he walked in the wilderness and started praying “O God, you know my situation very well because you are the All-knowing.” He felt at a loss about what to do. Out of the blue, he glimpsed a beautiful bird nearby. He tried to catch it, but the bird hopped away. He tried again, but in vain. Then the bird said to him, “God sent me to help you keep your vow. So, listen! Hold me and take me to the market to the head merchant, for I am the Golden Bird. Tell him that you will barter me for a pound of gold, and he will agree. Then ask for two more liras so that you can buy food and sweets for your family.”
He did what the bird asked him to do, bought lots of things for his wife and went home. Upon seeing him, his wife said, “Oh, do not enter! Don’t enter otherwise you will break your vow.” He replied, “I’ve got the pound of gold with me!” So, she was overjoyed, gave his boy the birth present and kissed him repeatedly.
As for the merchant, he put the bird in a beautifully decorated wide cage, which he bought. The merchant did not have any children, so he thought that his wife would be very happy about it and entertained by it. When he arrived at home, the bird started telling them very interesting stories and both of them were very amused.
One day, the merchant decided to travel to Mecca on a pilgrimage. He said to his wife, “I’ve become an old man and I want to perform the duty of pilgrimage.” The bird said to him, “I will take care of the house and your wife as well, but I want to ask you a favour. The merchant said, “And what is it?” The bird said, “When you arrive in Mecca, you will come across a bird that is similar to me. I want you to tell him that his fellow bird in Baghdad asks, “How can I escape the confining cage?” The merchant promised the bird that he would do that. Then he set out on his journey after ordering his wife not to leave the house at all.
One day, the merchant’s wife went up to the veranda to relax and, by chance, her neighbour was on his balcony as well. When he saw her, he was stunned by her beauty. He said, “O my God, how beautiful is my neighbour.” He did not know what to do to reach her and all his tricks failed him.
Soon after that the neighbour saw a hag with a nose like a hose. He said to her, “I’ll pay you a hundred Ottoman liras if you help me reach the merchant’s wife whose husband has gone to Mecca. She replied, “Don’t worry. That’s my speciality.” Then she went to the merchant’s home and knocked at the door. The merchant’s wife asked, “Who’s there?” She replied, “Open the door. I’m your aunt.” The wife said, “I have no aunts!” So the woman said, “It’s the time for praying and I want to pray in your house. Out of mercy, the wife let her in. Later, she said to the merchant’s wife, “Today is my daughter’s wedding and I wish you could attend it”. The wife replied, “I can’t.” Then the hag implored her and the wife was about to agree, but the bird warned her saying, “If you go with her, you’ll regret it and by that time regrets will be useless. You’ll be like the hunter who had regrets about his hawk.”
While the hag was still trying to convince the wife, the bird continued, “Let me tell you this story. Long, long ago there was a skilful hunter who had a hawk, which he reared very well. One day, he was on a hunting trip and went far into a desert until he got lost and felt thirsty. He reached a big rock and sat beside it to recover. Suddenly, he noticed water dripping from the top of the rock and he kept watching it. He had a cup, which he placed in a spot where he could collect the falling water drops. He waited till the cup was almost half-filled. Then, the hawk hit the cup with its wings and overturned it, spilling the water. That angered the hunter, who replaced the cup, but the hawk overturned it again and again. The hunter was terribly thirsty, so he took hold of the hawk and slammed it against the ground, killing it on the spot.
After a while he said to himself, ‘Let me see where these drops are coming from.’ So, he climbed to the top of the rock and was thunderstruck as he saw a serpent stretching and squirting out its venom that dripped from the rock like water drops. So, he slew it and descended furiously because he had killed his loyal hawk. And the same thing will befall you.” Now the merchant’s wife firmly refused the hag’s invitation.
The hag went away. Three days later, the merchant returned from Mecca and joy filled the house as many well-wishers visited him. Afterwards the merchant turned towards the bird and started having fun with it. Then the bird said to him, “I looked after your house and wife. So, did you fulfill my request?” The merchant replied, “Yes.” The bird asked, “And, what did my brother say?” The merchant said, “O bird, what a strange incident I witnessed. As soon as I asked your question, it flapped its wings and dropped dead. Then the same thing happened with the Golden Bird. It fluttered its wings and fell dead inside the cage. The merchant said, “How weird!” He and his wife wept for the bird until the following day. The wife suggested that they bury the bird and he agreed. He took the bird and dug a hole for it in his garden. However, once the bird was outside the cage, it shook itself and flew to a tree, and said to the merchant and his wife, “Farewell, God sent me to a woodcutter to help him keep his vow and to you to perform your pilgrimage.” The merchant implored, “Please, stay with us!” but the bird said, “Never!” and flew high into the sky. And that is the end of my story