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Book titles are in blue and underlined. Click on them for more information.
To retell any stories, obtain permission from the copyright holder if the material is not in the public domain.
In performance, always credit your sources.
Alphabetized for your convenience with short descriptions to save you research time.

Bremen Town Musicians (The) by Grimm Brothers, Lizbeth Zwerger. (2007 - Ages 4-8)
This version of the familiar story about the animal runaways that join together to form a band has plenty of energy and humor.

Bremen Town Musicians (The): Green Level (Read-It! Readers) by Eric Blair. (2004 - Ages 4-8)
The Bremen Town Musicians are a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster. They are all mistreated by their masters, who they then leave and the four animals meet up in a desolate place. They decide to go to Bremen, a town known for its freedom, and to live without their owners.

Chicken Little and Half Little Chick (Dover Little Activity Books) by Elmer and Berta Hader. (1994 - Ages 4-8)
Presents two stories which feature silly chickens traveling to see the king.

Cool Ride in the Sky, told by Diane Wolkstein. Art by Paul Galdone. Knopf. (1973)
Adaptation of story "Straighten Up and Fly Right". A dialect version of the tale told by John Blackamore to Richard Dorson appears in "Western Folklore", 1955. A buzzard takes several animals on a ride up in the sky. When he is hungry he dips down quick an causes his passengers to fall. Then he eats the dead passenger. A monkey observes this trick. When he takes his ride he wraps his tail around the buzzard's neck and gives the buzzard a big surprise by nearly choking him to death.

Earth Tales from Around the World by Michael J. Caduto. (1997)
"The Pumpkin Seed Bird" - Creole story from Martinique. The 46 stories in this excellent collection are arranged by theme earth, sky, animals, and wisdom, to name a few. Some stories are variations on familiar tales. "The Coming of Earth," for instance, is an example of a Native American earth-diver story... (read more)

Four Arrows & Magpie: A Kiowa Story by N. Scott Momaday. (2006 - Ages 9-12)
Through the eyes of two Kiowa children, young readers will learn the beauty and danger of a world almost forgotten. The mythic legend of how the Kiowa Indians first arrived in Oklahoma will awaken children to the richness of the stateÕs Indian heritage. Illustrated with sketches almost poetic in their simplicity and paintings that echo the power and precision of his prose, this book reminds us all how deeply the past and the present are intertwined.

How the Loon Lost her Voice by Anne Cameron and Tara Miller. (1985 - Baby -Preschool)
The famous northwest coast Indian myth, sometimes called "Raven Steals the Light" telling how Loon, Raven, and all the animals rallied to retrieve the daylight from behind its wall of ice after it was stolen by evil spirits. Amusingly retold for ages six to adult by the well-known Canadian poet and novelist.

Ka Ha Si & The Loon (Native American Legends) by Cohlene. (1997 - Ages 9-12)
In this beloved Eskimo legend, an idle sleepyhead becomes the champion who saves his people from famine and disaster.

Legend of the Loon (The) (Hardcover) (Legend (Sleeping Bear)) by Kathy Jo Wargin. (2000 - Ages 4-8)
Reader: My mother-in-law loves loons! This book was perfect because it is about grandmas and loons. I would not suggest this book for the baby-preschool level... This is really a book that is written for the 4-12 yr old range. (4-6 if you are reading it to them and 6-12 if they are reading it for themselves.)

The Little Red Hen (Phyllis Fogelman Books) (unauthored), illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. (2006 - Ages 4-8)
The familiar story of the hen unable to get help collecting ingredients for breadmaking.

The Little Red Hen (Folk Tale Classics) by Paul Galdone. (1985 - Ages 4-8)
The Little Red Hen finds some grains of wheat on the ground, and asks for help in planting them. But the dog, the cat, and the mouse, all refuse to help plant the wheat, water it, reap it, grind it, or bake a cake. When the cake is ready to be eaten, they all want to help, but the hen eats the cake by herself.

The Little Red Hen: An Old Fable by Heather Forest. (2006 - Aes 4-8)
Who will help the hen bake her cake? You may think you know, but Heather Forest and Susan Gaber have a slightly different take on this communal, culinary creation.

Loon Legends: A Collection of Tales Based on Legends by Corinne A. Dwyer. (1998)
A delightful collection of legends, each featuring loons in some capacity, that will provide fascinating reading for all ages. Illustrated.

Loon's Necklace (The) by William Toye and Elizabeth Cleaver. (1990 - Ages4-8)
This is perhaps Elizabeth Cleaver's best-loved picture-storybook, for which she produced a series of inimitable and memorable collages to illustrate a favourite Indian legend from the west coast of Canada. In 1977, the year it was first publsihed, it won the IODE Children's Book Award and the Amedlia Frances Howard-Gibbon Medal for illustration.

Love Flute (Aladdin Picture Books) by Paul Goble. (1997 - Ages 4-8)
In love with a beautiful girl, but too shy to tell her, a young man leaves his camp in frustration. One night he receives mystical visitors who offer him a special gift -- a love flute. A gift from the birds and animals, its tells the girl of his love where words have failed.

Magpies' Nest (The) by Joanna Foster. (1995 - Ages 4-8)
In the springtime of the world, all the birds are wondering where to lay their eggs. Mother and Father Magpie carefully explain every step of nest-building, but one by one their impatient listeners decide they've heard enough and fly away . . . to build the amazing variety of nests we know today. This simple, deftly humorous retelling of a classic English folktale is illustrated with glorious watercolor paintings that accurately depict bird species, nests, and eggs.

Mwakwa Talks to the Loon: A Cree Story for Children by Dale Auger (a Sakaw Cree). (2006 - Ages 9-12)
Kayâs uses his ability to understand the languages of the animals he hunts so that he can provide food, shelter, and clothing for his village. As word of his hunting prowess spreads, he comes to enjoy the attention so much that he stays home to hear the others sing his praises. By the time he is confronted with empty baskets and drying racks, he discovers that his gift has vanished. Ashamed and disheartened, he seeks the advice of the Elders.

Rabbit Ears Treasury of World Tales: Volume Three: Bremen Town Musicians, Koi and the Kola Nuts (Rabbit Ears).(2007 - Ages 4-8)
Collection of two favorite tales: "Bremen Town Musicians" and "Koi and the Kola Nuts".

Ready-To-Tell Tales: Sure-Fire Stories From America's Favorite Storytellers (Multicultural Resource: Stories & Tellers of Many Cultures) by David Holt and Bill Mooney. (1995)
"Little Half-Chick", found in many collections of "Spanish Freedom Bird" by David Holt. It's in a collection of stories from the storytelling festival in Jonesborough.

Talking Eggs (The) by Robert San Souci. (1989 - Ages 4-8)
Has 1 legged chickens, 2 legged chickens, 3 legged chickens and 4-legged chickens of all colors in it.

For a complete, searchable list of all books available on
about common birds, click here:

Books about Birds (Common)
(over 1,000 choices)

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Online links are in blue and underlined. Click on them to get more information.
Story titles are in quotation marks.
Short descriptions are included for your convenience and to save you research time.
"Salt of a Magpie's Tail".
"How the Red Bird Got His Color".
"Crow Brings Daylight" from "Animals, Myths and Legends".
"The Bat, the Birds, and the Beasts" from The Classic Treasury of Aesop's Fables (Children's Illustrated Classics) - 655+ fables.
"The Birdcatcher, the Partridge, and the Cock" from The Classic Treasury of Aesop's Fables (Children's Illustrated Classics). 655+ fables.
"How the Kiwi Lost His Wings".
"Stonee's Lore, legends and Teachings for December." Native American Lore.
"Little Half Chick."
Loon Nest: A Success Story.
A Loon Story from Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest.
Bungee Boy and the Killer Loons.
Backup Information about Loons.
Here's the quintessential site for loon lore and full-text stories.
Bird Story.
Cherokee Legends.
"How the Red Bird Got His Color"
Native American Lore.
Bird's Three Precepts: Folktales of type 150.
"The Tongue-Cut Sparrow"
"Fenist the Bright Falcon"
"The Falcon and the Duck": Native American Lore - Hawai'i.
Eagle stories: Native American Lore.
"The Battle of the Birds and the Beasts"
The Classic Treasury of Aesop's Fables (Children's Illustrated Classics).
"Magpie in Nature & Myth", edited by Peter Y. Chou.
Wits and Cunning from Sami culture. (Magpies).
"Legend of the Buffalo Dance" by Alan G. Hefner from Encyclopedia Mythica, Folktales. (Magpie).
Albanian Folktales: "The Tale of the Eagle" from Forumi Shqiptar.
From Sacred-Texts Native American Siberian Inuit, "The Eskimo of Siberia", "The Eagle Boy", "Raven Swallows Blubber", "The Contest Between the Giant and the Plover".

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Advice, Discussion and References from Storytellers, Teachers and Librarians
(excerpts from Storytell posts plus original research)


Book titles, movie titles and online links are in blue and underlined. Click on them to get more information.
Story titles are in quotation marks.
To retell any stories, obtain permission from the copyright holder if the material is not in the public domain.
Posts are added chronologically as they are received by Story Lovers World.

1) Magpies are black and white colored relatives of the crow family of birds, the corvids. They are related to jackdaws, jays, rooks and ravens as well. They usually live in flocks and are rather noisy, often gathering in roosts, when not tending their young in monogamous pairs. The name "magpie" is thought to refer to "a chattering female" perhaps related to "Maggie". They are found in both North America and much of Europe and Asia. They build elaborate and conspicuous domed nests comprised of as many as 1,500 sticks cemented together with a layer of mud - with a thorny roof to keep out predators. After all that work, the magpies use the the nest only once. They pair for life, so they are rarely seen alone - hence "One for sorrow" - it's unlucky to see a single magpie. There is a widespread folk belief that you can discern the future by counting the number of magpies flying past.

The rhyme goes like this:

One for sorrow, Two for mirth,
Three for a wedding, Four for a birth.
Five for rich, Six for poor,
Seven for a witch -- I can tell you no more.

Another version is:

One for sorrow, Two for joy
Three for a girl, Four for a boy
Five for silver, Six for gold
Seven for a secret never to be told.

A third found in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, 18th edition is:

One's sorrow, two's mirth,
Three's a wedding, four's a birth,
Five's a christening, six a dearth,
Seven's heaven, eight is hell,
And nine's the devil his old self.

Magpies have long been associated, in Europe, with the uncanny - death, witchcraft etc., and there are various superstitions about them. There is a Finnish folk tale about a too-talkative magpie that informed a man he would die in 24 hours. God was so annoyed with this brazen behavior that He grabbed the bird by its stubby tail and pulled its tail feathers into their present long slender form, as a reminder of the Magpie's effrontery.

eldrbarry (Living west of the Cascades where magpies are not seen) 7/10/08


a) I grew up in England and we always used to say:

One for sorrow, Two for joy
Three for a girl, Four for a boy
Five for silver, Six for gold
Seven for a secret never to be told.

Zarna J. 7/10/08

b) That's the one I use, but it continues:

Eight for a wish
Nine for a kiss
Ten for a bird you must not miss.

Also the alternative:

Three for a wedding
Four for to die

Richard M. Dublin 7/10/08

c) Shakespeare uses an older term for them, maggot-pies. Macbeth refers to the ability of the crow family to be taught to talk:

"Augurs and understood relations have
By maggot-pies and choughs and rooks brought forth
The secret'st man of blood,"

Although magpies are common in most parts of Europe, choughs are rare. But two days ago I was walking in the Maritime Alps on the border between Italy and France and saw many of the beautiful Alpine choughs - as well as a close view of the splendid and very rare Imperial eagle!

I put details of the walk with some photos on my website last year:

Richard M. Germany 7/11/08

3) Perhaps "Ananzi and the Guinea Bird" from The Barefoot Book of Tropical Tales (Barefoot Collection) by Raouf Mama.

4) "The Cu Bird (El pajaro Cu)". It's a folk tale about a bird born naked.The printed version can be found in the bilingual series Fabulas Bilingues: Fables in Spanish and English (The Bilingual Series) (The City Mouse and the Country Mouse).

5) "The Singing Geese" appears in A Treasury of American Folklore by B. A. Botkin. It was originally collected by Annie Weston Whitney and Caroline Canfield Bullock in Folk-Lore from Maryland in 1925. There's a relatively new picture book out called The Singing Geese by Jan Wahl, published by Dutton in 1998.

6) "The Rooster Who Would Be King". It can be found in Marsh Cassady's Storytelling Step by Step.

"The Rooster and the Turkish Sultan".

8) There's an 'urban' adaptation of "Chicken Little" by Jay Stailey found in More Ready-To-Tell Tales from Around the World by David Holt and Bill Mooney. It's called "The Sky is Falling". It has a great twist on the ending!

"Jack and the North West Wind" - found in The Jack Tales by Richard Chase has a magic hen that lays golden egss in it.

10) "The Milkmaid" in The Classic Treasury of Aesop's Fables (Children's Illustrated Classics) is the classic story of the girl who counted her chickens before they hatched thereby losing all!

11) "Eagle story:"
There is a story about the Eagle who hatched and was raised among chickens. Being raised among the chickens, it behaved like one, pecking and scratching in the ground. Someone recognized that it was an eagle and tried to convince it to fly- soar like an eagle, but it was content to behave like a chicken. The person persisted in taking the eagle to the top of the mountain day after day and convince it to fly, but the bird kept pecking and scratching on the ground like a chicken. One day when the person took the eagle up o the mountain, the wind began to blow in its face. It felt a strange sensation and decided to try to fly. As the bird started to fly it climbed higher and higher and then began to soar. It had an exhilarating feeling. It was no chicken. It WAS an eagle. There may be other scouts who are still working toward their eagle badge who feel like "chickens." They need to realize that they already are eagles inside. All they need to do is "spread their wings and fly."

12) "Vulture Learns a Lesson."
It is a time of famine. The animals have rules that prevent one from preying on another. Vulture tricks the smaller animals by telling them that he can fly up high and help them be cool. Once they ride on his back, he spins, rolls and dives. The small animals fall off, die and become Vulture food. Rabbit observes this. Rabbit accepts a ride on vulture but insists on a rope to hold on to. When vulture tries to dive, rabbit pulls the rope tight. He tells vulture, "You have to fly straight and you have to fly right." Rabbit allows vulture to land after he promises to do this.


One version is found in Bobby & Sherry Norfolk's book Moral of the Story: Folktales for Character Development (World Storytelling from August House) (August House, 1999). It's called "Vulture learns the laws of nature" in that book. Other sources are Cool Ride in the Sky by Diane Wolkstein (Knopf, 1973) and also found in Moritz Jagendorf's The King of the Mountain (Vanguard, 1960).

13) "Owl" from Dianne Wolkstien's The Magic Orange Tree: and Other Haitian Folktales.

"The Elk and the Wren" in Look Back and See: Twenty Lively Tales for Gentle Tellers by Margaret Read MacDonald.

15) "One is for Sorrow, Two is for Joy: the Magical Lore of Birds" by Terri Windling.

The Pantheon edition of The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales calls #102 "The Willow-Wren and the Bear", but I first knew it as "The Kingbird and the Bear".

"Vulture Learns a Lesson". It's in Bobby and Sherry Norfolk's book, Moral of the Story. I remember hearing them tell it at the NSF once, and the same festival Diane Ferlatte also told it. Interesting to hear the two variations.

Isaac Bashevis Singer's story "A Parakeet Named Dreidel" in his book for children called Power of Light: Eight Stories for Hanukkah. I read the story this time of year (Hannukah) with students. A parakeet appears at the window, attracted by the lights of the Menorah. Father carefully opens the window and waves the bird inside, where it feasts on potato pancakes. No one claims the bird, so they buy him a cage, but in the spirit of Hannukah, they never close the door.

I am hoping that one of you will have the answer to this question right at your fingertips: we have a teacher here who is planning a lesson to do with Sadako and the thousand paper cranes. In that book there is reference made to "the old Japanese legend that says that anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes will have a wish granted." She wants to know specifically what that legend is, or if there really is one. We have done a lot of research and have come up with lots of info on cranes, their meanings, origami, etc., but what she is after is the "legend."


From this website

Cranes Customs & Legends:
Cranes or "tsuru" in Japanese, are possibly one of the oldest birds on earth and has a long history in Japanese traditions and legends. The Japanese crane is among the most majestic of all cranes. Pure white with a magnificent red-crest, it stands nearly 5 feet tall with a 5 foot wing span., Legend hold that the crane lives for a thousand years. In Japanese, Chinese and Korean tradition, cranes stand for peace and long life. Folded white paper origami cranes are often placed at memorial parks to symbolize peace. Folded paper cranes are also given to ill people to wish them a quick recovery. It is said that 1000 folded paper origami cranes makes a wish come true.

20) QUERY:

I'm an avid birder, and have been thinking it would be fun to develop some programs based on that interest. I have a whole book of loon stories, the book Between Heaven and Earth: Bird Tales from Around the World and a number of other bird stories in my piles of stuff. I'm curious. What are favorite bird stories of those here? I'd want to keep the birds limited to those that live, or have lived, on the North American continent.

Gwyn C. 10/20/05


a) My favorite bird story is "How Buzzard Got His Feathers", an Iroquoi story retold by Joe Bruchac.

The birds are shy and hide from sight because they're naked. They decide to send a messenger to Creator to ask for clothing. Many birds volunteer, but finally buzzard is chosen because he flies so high. After a very difficult journey, in which he eats dead fish b ecause he's starving, Buzzard finally makes it to the sun place where Creator lives.

Creator has been expecting him and shows him the many suits of feathers he has prepared for the birds. Creator tells Buzzard he can have the first choice of suits of clothing, but he can only try each suit on once. Buzzard wants the finest suit so the birds will always remember his difficult journey.

First he tries a dazzling suit of blue and white feathers with a tall crest. It looks good, but he doesn't want to take the first one so that goes to Blue Jay. Then he tries a handsome dark brown suit with a rust colored vest. Not quite fine enough, so that one goes to Robin. Next he tries a suit of brilliant red, also with a crest. He decides he doesn't look good in red, so that suit goes to Cardinal. He tries again, this time a bright yellow suit with a black cap and black on the wings. "Too much black," he says, and that one goes to goldfinch.

He keeps on trying one suit of feathers after another and rejects each one for some reason. Finally there's one suit left. He tries it on - scruffy dark brownish feathers that are too small, so that his feet and his head, burned red by the sun, stick out. He starts to reject this suit as "Not fine, not fine at all," when Creator tells him it is the last suit and so it must be his.

"And so to this day you can see Buzzard wearing the suit that he earned for himself. He still eats things long dead because of what he ate on his journey to the place of Creator. And though some make fun of the way he looks, Buzzard still remembers that he was the only one who could make that long journey. Even in his suit of dirty feathers that fits him so badly, even with his head burned scarlet from the heat of the sun, he remembers that he was chosen to be the messenger for all the birds. When he circles high in the sky, he is close to Creator. Then, even in his ill-fitting suit of feathers, Buzzard is proud."

Judy S. 10/20/05

Here is the list I put together when I did a Birds program several years ago.

Chicken at the Library — American
The Cat & the Parrot — England
Gift of the Crow — Native American
Bird That Was Ashamed of Her Feet — Cherokee
The Woodpecker — American
Salt on a Magpie’s Tail — Sweden
How Buzzard Got His Feathers — Iroquois
Owl & Creator — source unknown
Arap Sang — Africa
Coyote & the Ducks — Native American
Tortoise & Crane — China
Crane & Crow — Australia
Truth & the Parrot — England (Yorkshire)
The Kakapo & The Albatross — New Zealand
How the Kiwi Lost his Wings — New Zealand
Hungbu & The Swallow — Korea
The Parrot Shah — Persia
Owl’s Wedding — Haiti
Mother Eagle’s Dilemma — American
Boy of the Red Sky — Canada
The Wild Geese — Ireland
Holding up the Sky — China
The Hen & The Apple Tree
The Pelican & The Crane
The Ant & The Dove


"Web footed Friends"

Be kind to your web-footed friends
For a duck may be somebody’s mother
Be kind to your friends in the swamp
Where the weather is always damp
You may think that this is the end
Well, it is.


Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry merry king of the bush is he
Laugh, kookaburra
Laugh, kookaburra

"Gay your life must be."

"Swallow Song"

Come wander quietly and listen to the wind
Come here and listen to the sky
Come walking high above the rolling of the sea
And watch the swallows as they fly.

There is no sorrow like the murmur of their wings
There is no choir like their song
There is no power like the freedom of their flight
While the swallows roam alone.

Do you hear the calling of a hundred thousand voice
Hear the echo in a stone
Do you hear the angry bells ringing in the night
Do you hear the swallows when they’ve flown?

And will the breezes blow the petals from your hand
And will some loving ease your pain
And will the silence strike confusion from your soul
And will the swallows come again?
By Richard Farina, 1964

Leanne J. 10/20/05

The Indians of the Northwest have many stories about Raven. Here are two different ones in which Raven brings the sun to the People.

One is story number 185 in Joanna Cole's Best-Loved Folktales of the World (The Anchor folktale library) (Random House '82), called "Raven Brings Light." Cole's story comes from Alaska. In the story a boy has a magic coat that can turn him into a raven and back again, and with his magic, the raven-boy steals the sun from an old man and throws pieces of it into the sky to give light to his people.

The other is a picture book by Gerald McDermott, Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest (Scholastic '93), in which Raven turns himself into a pine needle that is swallowed by the daughter of the family that owns the sun. When she gives birth to an unruly raven-boy, he steals their ball of light, changes back into his raven form, and gives the light to the People.

Joan K. 10/20/05

d) I'd like to add these two - one of my own favorites and one Grimm's tales:

"The Battle of the Animals" from the tape based on the book by Edna Mason Kaula, African village folktales . (In the audio collection - read by Brock Peters and Diana Sands put out by Harper Collins, SBN 137.)

Eagle is the head of the winged creatures. He chooses Ostrich as the signal animal -because Ostrich does not fly -when all is going not well (head in ground,) or well (head held high.)

Lion chose Hyena as the signal animal -because Hyena is such a coward - when all is not well (tail down,) or when well (tall held high.)

The land animals are overwhelmed when the insects join with the birds, and they start to retreat. But they see Hyena with his tail held high and join the battle again.

Honeybird comes to Eagle and says that she know why the land animals did not retreat. It was because Hyena laughed and lied -keeping his tail held high as a joke.Eagle sends Bee on a secret mission -he stings Hyena on the . . . tail !

And the tail goes down. The battle is over.

The second one: "CanTeach: Africa - King of the Birds" - (A Traditional Zulu Story).

Karen C. 10/24/05

e) I didn't respond immediately re bird stories--then realized that we do have a couple.

Richard Kennedy's Come again in the spring is about a flock of birds that help Old Hark keep death at bay until spring. Sweet story with a good ending.

Fiona French's The Blue Bird is a great piece with an enchantress who has built a palace of birds and the magic is when the rain dragon rains on them and the birds come to life, fly away and the palace is no more.

Now for a true bird story. Today I was telling at a neighborhood association picnic -- We were under a huge sycamore tree. I elaborated on the true story of the non-death of our black cat. In mid-story I noticed something wet on my hand. One look was enough, bird poop! I wiped my hand on my skirt and kept telling. I don't think anyone noticed!

After that, Joy Swift told a series of three short Brer Rabbit stories. The Tar baby reminded me of Anansi getting the stories from Nyame the sky God, so I told that for my second piece. I have to admit that it's different telling solo--my tandem partner is in Seattle/Tacoma this weekend. This was the first time we'd told for this group and we may come again.

Next time, now that we know what the set up is, we'll ask for a 30-minute set on the mikes--for general audience--rather than "off somewhere with the kids." They had nice music and I know they weren't paying--it was just "exposure." Well, we need exposure, too, and we need to remind people that stories are for people of all ages.

Sandy F. 10/24/05

f) "Birds fly South"
Some days are like other days and other days are like some days.

It was back in the old days when birds still flew south. A bird was late about deciding to fly south so it was cold when it decided to fly south. It was so cold that politicians could be seen walking around with their hands in their own pockets. When the bird flew into a storm its wings started to ice up and it started to freeze. It fell to earth dying. It landed in a barnyard and lay dying on the frozen ground.

When a cow came up and defecated on it. The defection was smelly, but the defecation was warm and the bird started to revive. As it revived it stuck its head up and it smiled. It noticed the sun started to shine and there was food all around so it started to sing merrily.

A barnyard cat heard it singing merrily and came over and cleaned it off, then the cat ate the bird.

Which proves that everyone who defecates on you is not your enemy. Everyone who cleans defecation off of you is not your friend. And if you are happy, even if you are sitting in a warm pile of defecation, keep your mouth shut.

Some days are days of learning.

Wayfarer Tomm 10/24/05


I wanted to share a small list of stories I've gathered. Since my request for bird tales, my situation has become more specific. I don't know if anyone's noticed, but my sig line now contains "Official Ivory Billed Woodpecker Searcher, Cornell." Yes, this next spring break I'll spend two weeks in Arkansas as a volunteer field researcher! Out there, with the cottonmouths, in my chest waders and camo, trying to gather further evidence about this elusive bird. I can't believe my application was accepted!

So, this has set me on a search for more specific bird tales to build a program upon my return. I'm even making a fancy wearable art jacket with the Lord God Bird worked into the design for any gigs I might get!

Here are some stories I was able to gather. There are other ones from other parts of the world that I chose not to list, because I wanted them specific to North America or at least mostly animals found in North America. I liked the lion one, though.

"Manabozho and the Woodpecker" adapted from Henry Schoolcraft--Manabozho has lost his magic and goes out to seek his fortune, meeting Red Headed Woodpecker. Woodpecker shares his hospitality with him, and Manabozho later returns the favor, attempting to offer a tamarack meal by banging his head against it as Woodpecker had done.

"Why the Woodpecker has Red Head Feathers" - another from Henry Schoolcraft. Woodpecker helps Manabozho find the weak spot in his fight against serpents.

"The Woodpecker and the Lion" - a Jataka tale. Woodpecker helps Lion, and Lion tells woodpecker he helped him by not eating him when he was in his mouth.

"The Woodpecker, Turtle and Deer" - Woodpecker and Turtle help Deer evade a hunter.

"The Sacred Nature of Cedar" - Muskogee legend. Woodpecker is granted the stain of blood as a badge of honor in his efforts to warn of danger.

I'm not sure about the ethics of telling this one, as it really reads like true sacred Native American oral tradition, but it's a lovely story.

Of course, there is also the Lakota story of the making of the Indian flute. I believe this has been retold by Paul Goble in one of his children's picture books, and a Google search will turn up several text versions online.

Some of you know I'm a birder as well as a storyteller. The birding world has a blog carnival of its own, where different bloggers take turns weaving the many submissions into some sort of presentation. I took my turn with the current issue, and I share it here, because I did an "apologies to" style post in the manner of the weekly news from Lake Wobegon. It was an interesting experience to find a way to keep a cohesive--sort of--storyline based on disparate submissions. I even managed to make the commercial I was asked to include become the climax of the narrative.

Gwyn C. 1/6/06

21) Here is a story from the Cherokee.

Native American Legends - "The Ball Game Between The Birds And The Animals" - Cherokee:

A fabulous version with background Cherokee music:

Still another:

And another from Sacred Texts:

Another source:

Karen C. 3/6/06

22) Hummingbirds

Researching for a program tonight and found this story; interesting pourquoi variation of "The Tortoise and the Hare". Just an FYI in case you can use it sometime.

"Heron and the Hummingbird": A Native American Myth from Georgia

Karen C. 11/5/06

23) Because I'm a birdwatcher, I guess my favorite nature story is "How Buzzard Got His Feathers", an Iroquois story retold by Joe Bruchac in the 1994 issue of "Parabola". The birds mentioned in it are all familiar wodland birds of the eastern United States.
Buzzard carries the message from all the birds asking Creator for clothing. It's a long and difficult journey, but he is selected to go because he flies so high and soars on the wind. When he arrives at the sun place, where Creator lives, Creator shows him the pile of feathered suits he has made for the birds. Creator tells Buzzard he can have the first choice, but he can only try on each suit once.

Buzzard starts out with a beautiful blue and white suit with a tall crest. It's very fine, but he doesn't want to take the first one, so that goes to Blue Jay.

Next he tries on a brilliant red one, also with a crest - decides he doesn't look good in red. So that one goes to Cardinal.

Then he tries on a handsome gray-brown suit with an orange vest. That one isn't fine enough either, so he takes it off and that one goes to Robin.

Next, a bright yellow suit with black on the wings. "Too much black," he thinks and that suit goes to Goldfinch.

One after another he rejects each suit in the pile for some reason. (Ladies, does that remind you of trying on bathing suits in a department store dressing room?) Finally, he tries on one suit of scruffy brown feathers that doesn't quite fit. His head, burned bright red from flying so close to the sun, sticks out and so do his feet. He's about to take the ill-fitting suit off, when Creator says, "Buzzard, this is the last suit. It will have to be yours!"

So, to this day, Buzzard still wears his ill-fitting suit of scruffy brown feathers. And even though it does not fit him, when he soars high in the sky, he remembers that he was the one chosen to be the messenger of the birds and he is proud.

Judy S. 6/22/07

24) Folktales About Birds

Birds as Symbols: A Flight Through Folktale, Ballad, and Poetry. Outstanding site. Includes excellent synopses of:

"The Sparrow with the Slit Tongue" (Japan) by Joanna Cole. (1982) (Doubleday)
"The Seven Ravens" (1972) The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library)
"The Golden Bird" (1972). The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library)
"Jorinda and Joringel" (1972). The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library)
"The Three Little Birds" (1972). The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales (Pantheon)
"The Waiting Maid's Parrot" (China), Jane Yolen, ed. (1986) From Favorite Folktales from Around the World (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library)
"The Princess and the Dove" by Mary Hamilton (1991). From Best Loved Stories: Told at the National Storytelling Festival
"The Snowy Breasted Pearl" (ballad), Padraic Colum, ed. (1989) From A Treasury of Irish Folklore: The Stories, Traditions, Legends, Humor, Wisdom, Ballads and Songs of the Irish People. (Kilkenny Press)
"She Moved Through the Fair" (ballad) Padraic Colum, ed. (1989) From A Treasury of Irish Folklore: The Stories, Traditions, Legends, Humor, Wisdom, Ballads and Songs of the Irish People. (Kilkenny Press)
"Easter Wings" by George Herbert, William Harmon, ed. (1992) From The Top 500 Poems (Columbia University Press)

25) You have prompted me to add The Miraculous Crane to my website:

Richard M. Germany 4/3/11

26) There's a list of terrific bird stories (with links) on Karen Chace's wonderful website as well.

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Created 2003; last update 4/3/11

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