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The Battle of the Birds
by [?]

There was to be a great battle between all the creatures of the earth and the birds of the air. News of it went abroad, and the son of the king of Tethertown said that when the battle was fought he would be there to see it, and would bring back word who was to be king. But in spite of that, he was almost too late, and every fight had been fought save the last, which was between a snake and a great black raven. Both struck hard, but in the end the snake proved the stronger, and would have twisted himself round the neck of the raven till he died had not the king’s son drawn his sword, and cut off the head of the snake at a single blow. And when the raven beheld that his enemy was dead, he was grateful, and said:

‘For thy kindness to me this day, I will show thee a sight. So come up now on the root of my two wings.’ The king’s son did as he was bid, and before the raven stopped flying, they had passed over seven bens and seven glens and seven mountain moors.

‘Do you see that house yonder?’ said the raven at last. ‘Go straight for it, for a sister of mine dwells there, and she will make you right welcome. And if she asks, “Wert thou at the battle of the birds?” answer that thou wert, and if she asks, “Didst thou see my likeness?” answer that thou sawest it, but be sure thou meetest me in the morning at this place.’

The king’s son followed what the raven told him and that night he had meat of each meat, and drink of each drink, warm water for his feet, and a soft bed to lie in.

Thus it happened the next day, and the next, but on the fourth meeting, instead of meeting the raven, in his place the king’s son found waiting for him the handsomest youth that ever was seen, with a bundle in his hand.

‘Is there a raven hereabouts?’ asked the king’s son, and the youth answered:

‘I am that raven, and I was delivered by thee from the spells that bound me, and in reward thou wilt get this bundle. Go back by the road thou camest, and lie as before, a night in each house, but be careful not to unloose the bundle till thou art in the place wherein thou wouldst most wish to dwell.’

Then the king’s son set out, and thus it happened as it had happened before, till he entered a thick wood near his father’s house. He had walked a long way and suddenly the bundle seemed to grow heavier; first he put it down under a tree, and next he thought he would look at it.

The string was easy to untie, and the king’s son soon unfastened the bundle. What was it he saw there? Why, a great castle with an orchard all about it, and in the orchard fruit and flowers and birds of very kind. It was all ready for him to dwell in, but instead of being in the midst of the forest, he did wish he had left the bundle unloosed till he had reached the green valley close to his father’s palace. Well, it was no use wishing, and with a sigh he glanced up, and beheld a huge giant coming towards him.

‘Bad is the place where thou hast built thy house, king’s son,’ said the giant.

‘True; it is not here that I wish to be,’ answered the king’s son.

‘What reward wilt thou give me if I put it back in the bundle?’ asked the giant.

‘What reward dost thou ask?’ answered the king’s son.

‘The first boy thou hast when he is seven years old,’ said the giant.

‘If I have a boy thou shalt get him,’ answered the king’s son, and as he spoke the castle and the orchard were tied up in the bundle again.