The eagle and the raven

A Native American folktale

Long ago, on the fringes of the cold Tundra region, there lived a raven that was never happy about anything in his life. He didn’t like his black feathers and he hated his gravelly voice. He often wished for beautiful colors of a robin and a sweet melodious voice of a lark. Sadly, he spent his days watching other birds with envy.

On a warm summer morning, the black bird perched himself on a tree top and watched the flight of a mighty eagle.

“How wonderful he looks! His coat is tawny gold and his beak and eyes big and impressive. How I wish I could fly like him and hunt like him!” muttered the envious crow to himself.

A little swallow overheard him. She shook her head in pity. “Dear friend, be content with what you have! You can never be like someone else nor can anybody else be like you. You have your own strengths, beauty and talent. Do not try to be what you are not!” she said to the raven. But the raven was not paying heed to her words of wisdom. He watched the eagle scoop down into the fields and carry off a rodent in his hooked beak. “Wow, that’s the way to hunt! I am going to do the same!” he exclaimed enthusiastically.

The next day, the foolish raven went about practicing to scoop down like an eagle. When he felt he was good at it, he looked around for a prey from above from the sky. The raven did not have the keen eyesight of an eagle. Hence, he could not see small animals that he could carry off. However, he saw a flock of sheep on the hillside. From a great height, they all looked as small as furry rabbits. He took a deep breath and dived straight toward a large-horned ram.

Oh dear, how stupid was that! Did he really believe that he could carry off that huge animal? Like a bumbling clown, he crashed his beak into the ram’s horns and his clawed feet got entangled in the animal’s fleece. Unable to fly away, the raven was caught by the shepherd. As a punishment, he clipped the raven’s wings, put him in a cage and hung it up outside his house.

The friendly swallow flew past the cage. “If you had only listened to me, you would not be here. Unfortunately, you cannot even be your old self now!”

It is a wise man who does not compare himself with others.

Published as part of a series titled ‘Folktales of the World (Retold) ’ in Deccan Herald, Student Edition, dt. January 25, 2013

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