That hot-headed bird!

MacawA Brazilian Indian folktale retold

From a long, long time ago, the hyacinth macaw had always soared over the tropical rainforests that spread far and thick along the banks of the mighty Amazon River. It was, they say, the most beautiful bird in the world then – bright blue as the hyacinth flowers, with a thin pointed bill it looked stunning as it flew over the lush green forests. One would almost believe that a piece of the sky was gliding freely over the tree tops.

This is of course, not to say that this bird isn’t pretty anymore. He is just as blue as ever, big and majestic as before. What has changed though is his face; it now has big, ugly blotches of yellow around his eyes and bill. His bill is now bent and curved. How did that happen?

The hyacinth macaw had always been a bit of a hot-headed and pig-headed bird of the Amazon. He was quirky and quite impulsive in his behaviour and what was worse, he never respected those wiser than him in the forest.

While he flew about feeding on the nectar of flowers using his long pointed bill, he watched with admiration the flight of the condors.

“What an incredible bird that is! How I would love to go up that high. Yes, perhaps even higher – up to the sun!” thought the foolish bird to himself.

If ever a thought popped into his head, especially a silly one, he was wilful enough to act upon it, whatever it took.

When the macaw talked about his great idea of flying up to the sun, the animals and birds of the forest warned him about going to the sun.

“You will be scorched by the sun’s heat. We doubt if you will ever come back alive!” they said.

“Just look at my bald head. Doesn’t tell a story? I soar high above the clouds, quite close to the sun – its blazing heat has burned away the feathers on the top of my head. I would advice you, beautiful bird to stay away from going up so high!” said the condor. But the stubborn bird was not going to heed to the words of wisdom of his friends.

On a warm summer morning, the blue bird with a thin, pointed bill flew up and up and up on his foolhardy mission to the sun. It seemed like a fun thing to do until he was way, way above the fluffy clouds. The earth seemed like a little dark seed; and that was when the macaw felt a wee bit scared. However, being a silly daredevil, he continued on. As expected, it grew hotter and hotter; the bird though continued on. Then, the scorching heat and light forced him to flap his wings faster to get away from it all. But unfortunately, instead of moving away from the sun, he flew straight into it, which of course, left him with some permanent effects.

The impact also catapulted him straight back to earth and back to his own jungle home. His friends gathered around to inquire about his adventure, or rather his misadventure.

“Look at you – just look at what you have done to your lovely face!” they all cried in horror.

The macaw looked at himself in a pool of clear water. Oh dear, how it had changed! His thin pointy bill was now bent out of shape and big yellow patches of colour appeared around his eyes and bill. The miserable bird shed tears of sorrow as he gazed at his own reflection.

“I look so ugly now; and besides, how am I going to drink nectar from flowers?”

“I do not think that will be possible. You will have to start eating nuts, fruits and insects. I hope that will teach you a valuable lesson in life. Do listen to the advice of those who know more than you do!” said the big vulture.

Though the macaw still has yellow patches on his face and a curved hooked bill, he is no longer a stubborn and reckless guy that he once was.


Published as part of a series titled ‘Folktales of the World (Retold) ’ in Deccan Herald, Student Edition, dt. June 22, 2013


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