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Bulbulis The Bird

2006-07-13 21:33

  In a certain realm there lived a king who had three sons. One day the sons heard that the king of the thrice-three realm had a bird that did whatever it was commanded to do. This bird was kept in a golden cage that hung on a three-crowned lime-tree in the king's garden. It was let out in the morning, but in the evening it would come flying back to its cage and spend the night in it. But, most important of all, the bird had a little ring on the claw of its left leg, and it was said that whoever took it off would have the bird in his power. Many had tried to get the ring but none had succeeded.

  The three princes talked amongst themselves and decided to go and have a try, too.

  The eldest of the three prepared to set out first. He saddled his horse and away he rode, and the two younger brothers rode with him as far as the bridge. There, the eldest brother sprang to the ground, made three notches on the rail with his sword and bade his two younger brothers come every day and look at them. As long as the notches remained white and clean it would mean that all was well with him, but if drops of blood appeared on them then the brothers were to make haste and come to his aid.

  On the ninth day the eldest brother arrived in the thrice-three realm. He came to the king's palace and said that he wanted to get the bird for himself. But the king shook his head, thought for a moment and then said in reply:

  “How ever do you mean to do it, my son! The bird is no ordinary bird but a magic one known as Bulbulis the Bird. Many were the men who tried to capture it but without success, and no matter how many more try to do it they will not succeed, either.”

  But the eldest brother would not be dissuaded.

  “That may well be, but try I will just the same!” said he.

  Well and good. The sun was just beginning to set when he came into the garden and began looking round for the three-crowned lime-tree. He looked to one side, and it wasn't there; he looked to another, and it wasn't there, either. At last, he thrust his head in amid some thick birches, and there it was! Overjoyed, he pushed ahead and found himself in a small glade with the three-crowned lime-tree just before him and the golden cage hanging from its branch. The glade was grown with the thickest of grass, and, Bulbulis the Bird not yet having returned, a deep silence reigned all around.

  The prince hid himself in the grass and waited.

  By and by the whole garden seemed to come alive and swell with sound just as if thousands upon thousands of birds had suddenly burst into song there. Bulbulis the Bird now came flying up. It lighted on the cage, and, looking to all sides of it, said in the most piteous and sorrowful of tones:

  “Everyone is asleep. Is there not a single soul anywhere around who will say: 'Why don't you go to sleep, too, Bulbulis the Bird!'”

  Said the eldest brother to himself“

  “Well, if that is all it wants I can do it. It's little enough.”

  And he said out loud

  “Go to sleep, Bulbulis the Bird!”

  The same moment Bulbulis the Bird struck him with its wing, and-lo and behold! -the eldest brother turned into a birch.

  On the following morning the two younger brothers came out on to the bridge and they saw that there were drops of blood on the notches.

  The middle brother at once prepared to set and seek his elder brother, and away he rode at a gallop for the thrice-three realm. There, he was met by the king who told him that his elder brother had gone to the garden to catch Bulbulis the Bird but had not returned.

  The middle brother came into the garden, he looked here and he looked there, but he saw neither his brother nor the three-crowned lime-tree. At last he thrust his head in amid some thick birches, and, yes, there was the lime-tree but not a sign of his brother.

  The middle brother hid himself in the grass and waited. A deep silence reigned all around, but the sun soon set and then the whole garden came alive and swelled with sound just as if thousands upon thousands of birds had suddenly burst into song there. Bulbulis the Bird came flying up. It lighted on the golden cage, looked to all sides of it and said in the most piteous and sorrowful of tones:

  “Everyone is asleep but me. Is there not a soul anywhere around who will say: 'Why don't you go to sleep, too, Bulbulis the Bird!'”

  The middle brother said nothing, so after a while Bulbulis the Bird brought out again in the most piteous and sorrowful of tones:

  “Everyone sleeps, I alone must stay awake. Is there truly not a single soul anywhere around who will say: 'Go to sleep, Bulbulis the Bird!'”

  The middle brother was touched by these words and felt sorry for the bird.

  “Go to sleep, Bulbulis the Bird!” said he.

  The same moment Bulbulis the Bird struck him with its wing, and-lo and behold! -the middle brother turned into a birch.

  On the following morning the youngest brother came to the bridge and he saw drops of blood on the notches. He prepared to set off at once to seek his brothers and rode off at a gallop for the thrice-three realm.

  There, he was met by the king who told him that his brothers had gone to the garden to catch Bulbulis the Bird but had not returned.

  The youngest brother came into the garden, he looked here and he looked there but he saw neither his brothers nor the three-crowned lime-tree. At last he thrust his head in amid some thick birches, and, yes, there was the lime-tree! The grass around it was somewhat trampled but there was not a sign of his brothers.

  The youngest brother hid himself in the grass within easy reach of the golden cage and waited. A deep silence reigned, but the sun soon set and the whole garden came alive and swelled with sound just as if thousands upon thousands of birds had suddenly burst into song there. Bulbulis the Bird came flying up. It lighted on the golden cage, looked to all sides and brought out in the most piteous and sorrowful of tones:

  “Everyone is asleep. Is there not a soul anywhere around who will say: 'Go to sleep, Bulbulis the Bird!'”

  The youngest brother made no reply.

  By and by Bulbulis the Bird brought out again in the most piteous and sorrowful of tones:

  “Everyone sleeps, I alone must stay awake. Is there truly not a single soul anywhere around who will say: 'Go to sleep, Bulbulis the Bird!'”

  The youngest brother said nothing again.

  In a little while Bulbulis the Bird began wailing and weeping and it muttered between sobs:

  “Everyone is asleep, I alone dare not close my eyes. Is there truly not a soul anywhere near who will say just these few words: 'Go to sleep, Bulbulis the Bird!'”

  At this the youngest brother felt that he could not contain himself any longer and was about to speak when Bulbulis the Bird, tiring of repeating itself, hopped into its golden cage. Once there, it looked to all sides, and, not hearing or seeing anyone, buried its beak in its feathers and went to sleep. The youngest brother now knew that he had done well by keeping mum. He crept out of the grass very quietly and reached through the cage door for the ring on the bird's claw. He drew it off with his right hand and-bang! -shut the door of the cage with his left one.

  Bulbulis the Bird started awake, it flung and tore about in the cage, beat its wings and wept and sobbed. Only toward dawn did it quieten down, and, hanging its head, said:

  “You have my ring, so now I am in your power.”

  “Tell me, Bulbulis the Bird, where are my brothers?” asked the youngest brother.

  “The two birches beside you are your brothers.”

  “Tell me, Bulbulis the Bird, and what sort of creatures are the other birches growing here?”

  “The other birches are men, too.”

  “Tell me, Bulbulis the Bird, how am I to bring them back to life?”

  “Go deeper into the birch grove and if you look round you carefully you will see a heap of sand. Throw three handfuls of the sand at each of the birches and they will regain their proper shape.”

  Well and good. The youngest brother did as he was told. He revived his two brothers first and then the three of them began reviving the others together. But even so they could not do it fast enough. It was only when those they had brought back to life joined in their efforts that the birches began to vanish one by one, and the whole grove, indeed, the whole garden came astir and filled with men. They all surrounded the youngest brother and could hardly speak for joy.

  The youngest brother then thought of a way of pleasing them even more and he asked Bulbulis the Bird to sing for them the way it had the night before.

  Bulbulis the Bird did as he asked, and its voice enchanted them all.

  Three days passed, and it was decided to part company, the three brothers going off in one direction, and the rest, in another.

  It was noon when the three brothers reached the side of the sea. The two elder brothers wanted to walk on but the youngest was so tired that he lay down on the shore and dropped off to sleep.

  Seeing him lying there, the two elder brothers, ungrateful wretches that they were, decided to steal Bulbulis the Bird from him and cast him in the sea.

  No sooner said than done. They took away Bulbulis the Bird and threw their brother in the sea, but they left the ring on his finger.

  They came home and boasted to their father that they had caught Bulbulis the Bird and that it had cost them much trouble and effort, and they said that they did not know where their younger brother was.

  They had thought that Bulbulis the Bird would obey their commands and shower them with riches, but, with the ring gone, it did nothing of the sort and only sat there with hanging head.

  Much time passed, the two elder brothers lived in the palace and no twinge of conscience came to bother them. Not so the king their father who, though there was nothing he could do to bring his youngest son back, thought of him often and wept and sorrowed.

  He would have been spared much grief had he known that his beloved son was alive and well. Though cast in the sea, he had not been drowned at all but carried to the sea queen's amber castle. Liking the tall and handsome prince, the queen had married him and they had been living happily together ever since.

  One day the water nymphs came to them and told them that they had heard the old king lamenting the loss of his son. At this the prince took pity on his father and decided to pay him a visit. He rubbed the ring he had got from Bulbulis the Bird, and at once it turned into a golden bridge that stretched from his wife's amber castle to his father's palace.

  Seeing his son safe and well, the king could hardly speak for joy. Then Bulbulis the Bird began to sing and it told the king how the prince had fared at his elder brothers' hands. The two brothers fell on their knees before their father and younger brother and begged their forgiveness, and so kindhearted was the youngest brother that not only did he forgive them but persuaded his father to do the same.

  The youngest son spent three days with his father and for all of the three days he never stopped telling him how happy he and the sea queen were together. And at dawn of the fourth day he took Bulbulis the Bird and wended his way homewards. And no sooner had the gate of the amber castle opened to admit him than the bridge vanished and turned back into a ring again.

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