The King of the Birds

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The King of the Birds

The King of the Birds.

Read by Jana
Adapted by Bertie

image Adobe Stock / Maria Skrigan
Music from Premium Beat: Han River and Cherry Blossom Road

Dedicated to Grayson, Piper and Hadley whose family supports us on Patreon.

Hello, this is Jana and I’m here with a delightful fairy story that features two brothers -one good and one bad - and some magical birds.

A long time ago, in Korea, there lived two brothers. After their father passed away, the elder brother tricked the younger and took all their father’s property. (pause) As a result, he lived in luxury, while his younger brother was very poor.

The elder brother, whose name was Nahl Bo, lived on a ranch with several comfortable houses. Meanwhile, the younger brother, Hyung Bo, lived in a thatched hut, and when it rained, the water dripped onto the earthen floor. The room was so small, that when he lay down on the floor, his feet were up against the wall. In summer, the bugs bit so hard that it was more comfortable to sleep outside. But Hyung had one wife, whom he loved very much, and several children whom he adored.

Hyung and his wife made sandals and sold them in the market. When times were good they earned enough to buy food, but when times were bad, they went hungry. Then their children cried for food. Even the rat who lived in their house squealed in despair.

Hyung left the house to look for work in the district. While he was away, the family grew even more hungry. Eventually, his wife asked the oldest son to go to his rich uncle Nahl and borrow some rice. The boy found cows grazing outside the house. He saw fat, happy pigs rolling in the mud, and hens clucking and pecking at corn scattered on the ground. The dogs, who were tied up by a rope, snarled at him viciously.

His Uncle Nahl was sitting on the veranda. The man demanded, “who are you?”

“I am your nephew. Our family has had no food for three days. We are very hungry, and ask you please to loan us a little rice.”

The uncle’s eyes blazed with anger. “If you come here begging, my cows will bellow, my pigs will squeal, my hens will peck you, and my dogs will bite you. ” So saying, he caught the poor boy by the collar and threw him out, hurting him, and making him cry bitterly.

When the red-eyed boy returned home, his mother knew that the uncle had been hardhearted.

What shall I do”? asked the poor woman, as her children cried. At last, she thought of a plan. She sold her own sandals at the market for a few coins to buy rice and beans.

The next day, her husband Hyung returned with his back-pack full of firewood. He sold the twigs and bought a new pair of sandals for his wife, as well as enough food to last some days. Then his wife found work winnowing rice through a large sieve.

Hyung said: “If we do right we will surely succeed.” He was right. Spring came, and he was hired to plough and sow seed. The family gave their little house a spring clean, decorated the door with festive signs, and called upon the fates to bless them with prosperity.

With the spring came birds migrating from the southern climes. The little visitors made nests under the roof of the family’s home.

By and by the little nests were full of twittering; the eggs had opened, and circles of wide opened mouths could be seen in every nest. Hyung and his children fed the fledgelings grains of rice so that the birds became quite tame and hopped in and out of the hut at will.

One day, when the little birds were taking their first flying lesson, Hyung was lying on his back looking up at them. He spotted a silver snake sliding along the roof. He sprang up to raise the alarm by clapping his hands and crying out.

One particular bird fluttered away from the danger, but he caught his leg in the fine meshes of a reed-blind, where he hung helplessly within the snake’s reach. Hyung hastily snatched it down, and with the help of his wife he bound up the broken leg using dried fish-skin for a splint. He laid the little patient in a warm place, and the leg speedily healed, so that the bird soon began to hop around the room, and pick up bits of food laid out for him. Soon the splint was removed. The broken leg was not quite straight, but it was much better, and he flew away, happy to join his fellows.

Autumn came and one evening—it was the ninth day of the ninth moon— the family noticed the bird with the crooked leg sitting on the clothes-line and singing to them.

“I believe he is thanking us and saying good-bye,” said Hyung, “for the birds are all going south now.”

It was true, the swallows soon flew off to the birdy-lands beyond the frosts. When they arrived, they lined up to be inspected by the King of the Birds. The king saw the swallow who was hopping with one crooked leg, and he asked him what had happened.

“Your Majesty,” said the bird, “I was almost caught by a roof-snake. In my fright, I fell and trapped my leg. A poor but kind man rescued me and his family nursed me until my leg was better.’

His bird majesty was very much pleased by the story. He gave the little fellow a seed engraved with magical letters in gold and instructed him to carry it to the kind man who had helped him.

One day in spring, the family heard a familiar bird song, and, running out, they saw their little crooked-legged friend with something in his mouth, that looked like a seed. He dropped this to the ground and sang to them of the king’s gratitude, and of the present, he had sent and then flew away.

Hyung picked up the seed and saw that it bore some mysterious gold letters. He planted the seed in the soft earth in front of the house and made sure that it had plenty of water. In four days, a green shoot appeared. It shot up with remarkable speed, and within one moon the plant was climbing up the wall of the house. Within another moon, it covered the roof. Within a third moon, it blossomed, and then four gourds started to appear. These kept on growing to an enormous size until they resembled giant pumpkins. After nine moons had passed, Hyung feared the weight of the pumpkins might collapse the house. He climbed up and cut them down. Then he fetched his saw and cut open the first. It was hard work sawing away, but when the sides of the giant pumpkin fell apart, out stepped two boys carrying bottles of fine wine. Hyung staggered back and called his wife, who was as amazed as he was. One of the boys announced,

“Good People, the King of the Birds has ordered us to bring you these gifts as a reward for the kindness you showed to one of his subjects, the bird with the broken leg.”

Having spoken, the two boys bowed deeply and marched out of the house.

Now Hyung was extremely curious. He cut open the second pumpkin and found fine clothes and linen. When he sawed open third, workmen jumped out and started to build a new house. Finally, in a fourth pumpkin, he discovered gold and silver coins - enough to make them the richest people in the district.

It was not long before Hyung’s brother, the rich and stingy Nahl heard of the wonderful change taking place at his brother’s home. He paid him a visit and asked how he had stolen such a house, such rich garments, and such fine furniture. Hyung honestly told him the whole story of the bird with the broken leg and the miraculous pumpkins. Nahl left in a temper, only half believing his brother’s story.

He could not stop thinking about his brother’s good fortune, and he decided to try an experiment to test the truth of his story. He ordered his gardener to catch a swallow and break its leg. Then he ordered his maid to bind the broken limb. Sure enough, the leg healed, and when the autumn came the swallow prepared to leave for warmer climes. The servants noticed him standing on a washing line with his crooked leg, and tweeting loudly. “That little bird seems terribly angry,” said the gardener, and the old washerwoman agreed.

The swallows flew off to Birdy-Num-Num-Land where the little fellow with a broken leg told his story of woe to the king of the birds. The bird king gave him a magical seed and instructed him to present it to Nahl in the spring. He did as he was told, and Nahl planted the seed in front of his house.

The plant grew vigorously, and before long it reached the roof. The large pumpkins grew under the tiles and dislodged them so that when it rained, water poured into Nahl’s front room. His wife was unhappy, but he promised that the fruit of the magical tree would bring enough money to tile the roof with gold.

When it was time to take the pumpkins down, Nahl called a carpenter, who looked at the large fruit and demanded 1000 won in money to open each one. Nahl, thinking of the gold he was hoping to find, readily agreed. The carpenter sawed long and hard until at long last the huge pumpkin fell apart, and out jumped a group of circus dancers. They set a rope across the front yard, and a pair danced along it, while the others banged drums and clashed cymbals. They were very noisy and Nahl and his wife shouted “Stop! Stop! Won’t you?”

But the leader of the dancers replied, “You sent for us and we came. Now pay us, or we will live with you till you do.”

Nahl had to hand them 5000 won just to leave.

However, he was certain that the next pumpkin would bring him something better, so he paid the carpenter to cut it open. This time a group of priests emerged begging for their temple. Nahl had to give them 5000 won to go away.

Still, he kept faith in the gold he was sure to find. He ordered the carpenter to cut open the third pumpkin. This time there was a troop of women. Each danced, waved a fan, and sang a song - the cuckoo song, the wind song, the christening song, the New Year song, and so many songs that Nahl and his wife nearly went crazy until at last, he paid them to leave.

The fourth pumpkin produced an acrobat with a boy on his shoulders. Nahl gave them 5000 won to leave right away.

Still, he was greedy to find a pumpkin containing gold, and so he ordered a fifth to be opened. A jester stepped out and recounted rude and unfunny jokes. He was swiftly paid to go too.

The sixth pumpkin produced the worst result yet. A magistrate and a policeman came forth and ordered Nahl to pay a huge fine or else go to jail. This cost Nahl a lot of money.

In desperation, he paid the carpenter to open yet another pumpkin, from which some women emerged to drive demons out of the house. The ceremony involved loud drums, wailing, and cymbals. And as you may guess, Nahl had to pay them to go.

From the pumpkins that followed, he contended with a juggler, a doctor and his exorbitant bill, a group of blind beggars tinkling bells, and a wrestler who threw him across the floor.

Finally, just one pumpkin remained. Nahl rubbed his hands together. This surely must be the one with the gold. He kept a close eye on the carpenter as he worked. But when the pumpkin fell apart, a terrible stench filled the room, and then a vast wind rushed out and whirled around his ranch, pulling down the buildings and blowing his servants and animals all over the place.

And so Nahl’s wealth was ruined by his greed and he had no choice but to go to his good-hearted younger brother, Hyung, and ask for charity, which of course he received. For the rest of his life, he lived in a cottage on Hyung’s estate, and never again had an opportunity to be arrogant or mean.

And that was the story of the King of the birds from Korea, which I’m delighted to dedicate to Grayson (aged 9), Piper (aged 7), and Hadley (aged 5)
Their father, Christopher, writes:

My children particularly enjoy Prince Bertie the Frog and Katie the Witch, though we listen to all the Storynory originals. They are all so wonderful.

Well thank you so much for supporting us, and we do hope you enjoyed this feathery story from Korea.