chapter  14
14 Pages

The Psalm-Singing Bird

Long, long ago, seven times seven lands away, there was once a king who had three sons. He was a very wealthy king; he had a lot of money. One day when they were all seated at the table having their midday meal, he said: “Wife, what can I do with all this money? I’d like to do something so I’ll be remem­bered after my death.” All five of them agreed that it might be best for him to have a big church built, one that would remain in the family, and be passed down from kin to kin and from generation to generation. They concurred that this would be the best. Right away they summoned the master builders and craftsmen and measured out the area where the church would stand. They had bricks, boards, lathing, and beams brought in, all that was needed for a church. The construction took ten years; then it was com­pleted. It was so large and so beautiful that there wasn’t another church like it in the

entire world. The king had ordered everything that belonged in it: images, statues, candle-holders, the finest and the best of everything. Even the bell he had sent for was such that when it pealed it could be heard three villages away.Well, when the church was finished, furnished with everything according to his wishes, the bishops, popes, and kings came to inspect it and all of them said that it had no equal in the whole wide world. The queen and her sons were overjoyed, but the king was always sad. Whenever his sons entered his room, they found him with his head bent in sorrow.His oldest son once asked him: “Great King, my father, why are you grieving? Every time we come into your room, we see you lost in your thoughts.”“Oh, my son, I cannot tell you, for even if I did, you wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.”His oldest son left and the middle son entered. He, too, asked him: “Great King, my father, I am very keen to know, why you are so sad?”“Oh, my son, don’t ask me. I won’t tell you for you can do nothing to help.” Then the youngest son went in, the one that was closest to his heart. He loved them all, for they were his sons, but he was especially fond of the youngest.“Father,” he said, “if I don’t offend you, I’d like to ask you what is weighing on you? You have said that you’ll have a church built and once it is completed you’ll have no sorrow, no worry. Now the church is finished, as you wanted it-what is troubling you, then?”“My dear son,” he said, “I won’t tell you for you can’t help anyway, so it is better for me not to tell you.”But the young king insisted: “Father, I won’t leave here until you tell me. Per­haps I can do something.”“Well, in that case call your brothers and I’ll tell you.”The young prince went out and called his brothers. They came and stood in front of their father, side by side, in a row.Said the king: “My sons, you were curious, so I’ll tell you what I am grieving about, although I know that it’s no use-there isn’t anything you can do to help. Look my sons, the church has everything and it is beautiful, everyone likes it. There is but one thing missing from it, and I am racking my brains about how I could acquire it. That, however, is very difficult.”“What is it, father, please tell us!”“Well, my sons, what is missing is a psalm-singing bird and that is very hard to get.” The young prince said: “Father, we three brothers will go and we’ll keep on going until we find it. We won’t return without it so we won’t see you grieving any more.” The oldest son also spoke: “We’ll leave today.”“Wait, first I must go into town.”