The Children’s Record Guild
The Eagle and the Thrush
An Indian tale about how music came to the world
Narrated by: Algernon Black
The Eagle and the Thrush
We all love beautiful music. But, once upon a time, there was no music in the world. Think of it, no music at all; just quiet and noise.
Then, one day, a wise old owl called all the animals and birds to the edge of the forest. And when they were gathered together, the old owl said, “I have heard that up high in the sky there is a sound such as no one has ever heard before. It is a wonderful sound. If one of us could fly up high over the trees, over the mountain tops, over the clouds, up and up and up; if one of us could fly that high, he might hear the sound and remember it and bring it down back to us. Who, who, who, will do it?
The animals came forward: the lumbering elephant, the roaring lion, the fiery tiger, the gentle kangaroo. Then the little animals, too. . . the squirrel and the rabbit; the woodchuck and the fox. “We can walk and run and jump,” they said. “But we can not fly; we can not help you.” Then the birds came forward, flapping their wings . . . hens and roosters, pigeons and pheasants. The color
birds, too. . . gold finch and red robin and
blue jay and the hawk and the eagle.
There were little birds and big birds, light birds and heavy birds. They hopped about and strutted and walked up and down before the owl, each one saying, “I can do it; let me try.”
The owl called, “Who, who, whose wings are strong enough? Whose body is light enough? Who will work so hard and fly so high and not be afraid and not give up and not fall back? Who?” The hen and rooster flapped their wings. Up they rose a few feet off the earth, but their bodies were too heavy and their wings too small. Everyone laughed a little. It wasn’t very nice. The pigeon tried; he flew as high as the treetops and then fell back; and so, too, the gold finch, and the robin, and the blue jay. They were brave and quick and their bright colors looked so pretty against the sky. But they were tired and out of breath, soon saying, “We can not fly that high. It’s too much for us.” Then the hawk stepped forward, dark and quiet and fierce. Everyone watched him with great respect. With a hard push, swift and strong, off he flew, his great wings carrying him higher and higher against the sky until there was wind and cloud all around him. He felt very sure of himself until his wings began to be heavy.
He tried to rest and glide and ride the wind but it wasn’t any use. He couldn’t rise anymore. He was tiring fast and so back to earth he fell, landing near the animals and birds without a word. Then the
proud eagle stepped forward. He fluffed his great feathers and stretched his great wings and flashed his eyes as if to say, “Watch me, I’m king of the air. I can fly higher than
the mountains, higher than the clouds, higher than the sun, if necessary. You just watch me.” Then a curious thing happened.
A very little bird had been waiting and watching. He hadn’t said a word. Quickly and quietly, he jumped up on the eagle’s back and hid himself in the feathers of the eagle’s neck. And, when the feathers closed down over the little bird, they kept him safe and snug. Then the eagle drew back a deep breath and stretched his wings, and off he flew. Everyone gasped. Higher and higher the eagle flew over the treetops, over the mountains, higher than the clouds. Up, up, up, until he was out of sight. And then, this king of the birds began to feel how hard it was to draw his breath. His wings were, oh, so heavy and hard to push. He tried to rest and ride the wind, but it was no use.
And then, just as he began to fall back to earth, a strange thing happened. Out of the feathers of the eagles neck jumped the little bird. His body was small and light; his wings were just right for the thin air. And so he whirred merrily away. Up, up, up, higher and higher until he began to hear a sound high and clear, swelling and growing and it was everywhere all around him like the air itself. The little bird was frightened; he had never been so high. He was so alone. He said to himself, “I mustn’t be afraid, I mustn’t get tired. I must listen and remember and bring this sound back to earth. That is what I came for.” Round and round he flew, whirring his little wings and gliding on the wind in great circles and listening. And, when he was full of the music, he began to glide down to earth, gently down through the clouds, down over the mountaintops, down past the trees until he landed quietly near the edge of the forest.
He was a very shy bird. He went off among the trees and then, without any warning and without anyone expecting it, the air was filled with beautiful music. And when the birds heard the sound filling the air around them, each one began to sing his own song.
And some day, when you are walking through the forest, you’ll hear sweet sounds. And if you listen, you will hear the songs of many birds. But if you look carefully, you will see that the most beautiful of all comes from a very shy little bird hiding behind a tree. It is the wood thrush. And this is the little bird who flew up to the high sky to bring music down to the earth for all of us.