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Thread: The Little Sparrow

  1. #1
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    The Little Sparrow

    The Little Sparrow




    Once, a long time ago, a little sparrow decided to fly south for the winter. In the summer, the sparrow lived in a great forest in the North of Europe. During the days, he gathered seeds and nuts from the forest floor. In the evenings he flew over the river, darting this way and that to catch insects. He spent his nights sleeping in his nest of soft twigs. He spent his dawns singing to the stars until they disappeared.

    In the autumn the north wind brought the frost. The twigs in the sparrow’s nest froze and cracked. The insects vanished from the surfaced of the water and the falling leaves – red, yellow and brown – floated down the river to the sea.

    Then the sparrow knew it was time to leave. “When the twigs harden and crack, and the leaves fall from the trees,” his mother had told him, “It is time to fly toward the noon-day sun.” So the sparrow said good-bye to his friends the bullfrogs and flew off.



    He flew over forests and rivers and herds of deer. He flew over villages and lakes. For days and days he flew until he got very tired. He looked down for a place to rest. There, below hem, he saw a great crowd of people, gathered around a hill. A man stood on the top of the hill. The man was talking.

    The sparrow had never seen such a man. Most men were clumsy and ugly, the sparrow thought. But this man was graceful, and a light shone about his head. So the sparrow believed everything the man said, because sparrows are easily impressed by grace and beauty.

    “And I tell you,” said the man, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, everyone who seeks finds, and to everyone who knocks, the door is opened.”

    “I never knew that,” thought the sparrow. “How easy life will be now that I do.” And he flew off to the South, because he was a sparrow, and could not sit still and listen for very long.

    Soon the sparrow began to get hungry. He was flying over a city, so he swooped down. He saw a man with a basket of seeds. “If I ask for some of those seeds, they will be given to me,” thought the sparrow. So he landed next to the man with the basket and politely asked, “Please, sir, may I have some of your seeds?” But the man picked up a rock and threw it at the sparrow. “Get away from me, you crazy bird,” he shouted. The sparrow barely dodged the stone and flew away, somewhat shaken.

    A little farther on, the sparrow came to a field of wheat. A flock of crows was in the field, eating the wheat. “May I share some of your wheat with you?” asked the sparrow. But the crows flew at him and pecked him and drove him away.

    The next day, the sparrow saw a man teaching a group of students. He alit at the man’s feet. “A wise man told me ‘ask and you will receive,’” said the sparrow. “Yet every time I ask for something, I do not receive it – I get pecked, and I get stones thrown at me. Why did the wise man tell me this?”

    “It is communalistic thought like this that poisons the mind and the reason,” said the teacher. “Ask and you shall receive? Pshaw! We receive what we earn, on the basis of our labors and our merits. The mere asking will reap no rewards. If it did, who would work? Who would seek answers with diligence and labor? Who would….”

    The man continued to speak, but the sparrow, who was not good at following long or involved arguments, flew away. “Three times I have asked,” thought the sparrow, “and not once have I received. Perhaps I should seek, so that I might find. I will seek wisdom, that I may understand what has been told to me.”

    So the sparrow flew away to the south, to Egypt, for there, he had been told, was a Sphinx who knew the answers to all questions.

    Up the Nile the sparrow flew, darting after insects as he went. To his left were the great Pyramids, tombs of the ancient, mummified kings. The desert sun glistened on the water and on the polished white stones of the tombs. The cattle and camels filed down to the water for their morning drinks. Along the river, the crocodiles lay in the morning sun, while birds picked scraps from their teeth.

    Finally, the sparrow came to the Sphinx, with its great human head and leonine body. He gathered reeds from the river and built a nest in the Sphinx’s mouth. “So I can learn from him,” thought the sparrow.

    That evening, the sparrow sat in his nest and watched the barges float up and down the river. The men poling the barges sang their working songs, and the oxen plodded along the riverbanks, harnessed by long ropes. The sparrow saw it all as the river glided by, its ripples sparkling in the light of the moon.

    Later that night, the sparrow asked the Sphinx for help. “I met a man who said, ‘Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened to you,’” said the sparrow. “But three times I asked, and I never received anything. So I have decided to seek, that I may find. I want to know the meaning of the man’s words. How can I seek this meaning, O mighty master of the eternal river?” The sparrow knew that it is always wise to flatter Sphinxes.

    The Sphinx opened his great, stone eyes. “Little sparrow,” he said, “If you would understand, you must seek three things. Look for a man without a father, seek a King without a country and find a land, far, far away, where there is no night, there is only day.” The Sphinx’s eyes glowed silver. Then the light in them went out, and the gray, stone eyelids hid them once again. The sparrow was alone in the moist, warm night.

    Of course the sparrow knew that Sphinxes always speak in riddles. But, being a sparrow, he was not very good at figuring them out. “How can there be a man without a father?” he wondered. “It’s impossible! And a king without a country? What would he be king of? These are too hard. But maybe I can find the land of eternal day. I know it’s far away – but which way? Maybe if I fly toward the sun, I will find it.” So the sparrow flew away to the east.



    The sparrow crossed the great desert, flying steadily toward the rising sun. Beneath him he saw caravans carrying their goods east toward Babylon, south toward Abyssinia, and north toward Byzantium. He heard the neighing of the horses and the snorting of the camels. Each time he saw a caravan he flew down and asked, “Have you seen a man without a father, or a king without a country, or a land where there’s not night, only day?” He talked to merchants from Kurdistan and sailors from Carthage. But no one could help him. “Impossible!” snorted one soldier from Rome. “Ridiculous!” said a priest from Babylon.

    The sparrow would not give up his search. He flew all the way to Cathay, and back again. Each day he asked everyone he met to help him – but no help came.

    After a year and a day the sparrow was getting tired. He had flow so far that he could fly no more. It was very cold. The leaves had fallen from the trees. The sparrow tried to build a nest, but the twigs were frozen, and they cracked when he sat on them. The sparrow had forgotten his mother’s advice!

    “I will freeze if I don’t find a warm place to sleep,” thought the sparrow. Indeed, the north wind was blowing, and snow began to fall. The sparrow tried to ride the wind to warmer climates in the south, but the snow clung to his wings and weighed him down. Soon, he was too exhausted to fly.

    He glided down through the snow and – O luck! – he saw a town. “If I knock on one of those doors, it will be opened to me,” thought the sparrow. So he stiffly walked to a friendly door and knocked on it with his beak as loudly as he could. A man opened the door, looked out, and slammed it shut again, almost crushing the little sparrow whom, in the snow, the man had not even seen.

    The sparrow was very cold and weak and tired. He walked to the next house and pounded on the door. But the storm was rattling the shutters and howling down the chimney. So pound as the sparrow might, nobody heard him.

    The next day a little boy opened the door to fetch the morning milk. Lying on the doorstep in the snow was a sparrow, cold to the touch. “Look what I found,” said the boy.

    “Don’t touch it,” said the boy’s mother. “It might carry some disease.” And she picked up the lifeless bundle of feathers with a stick and threw it out into the gutter.

    **********************



    To the sparrow, though, things seemed quite different. When nobody came to the door, the sparrow felt he could go no further, so he lay down in the snow. He was very sleepy. He shut his eyes. At first, he was too cold to sleep. Then he began to feel deliciously warm. “It must be a change in the weather,” thought the sparrow, so he opened his eyes.

    He was floating upward, without moving his wings. There, ahead of him, was a wooden door. Through the cracks in the door, a bright light shone, although the sparrow was in the dark. The sparrow knocked on the door. “Knock, and it shall be opened to you,” he thought.

    The door swung open, and there on the other side stood the Man whose words the sparrow had tried so hard to understand.

    “I have been searching and searching for the meaning of your words,” said the sparrow, talking very fast, and getting very excited. “But whenever I asked, I did not receive, and when I sought, I did not find.”

    “You have found all that you sought,” said the Man. “Every time you asked, you have received seven fold. And each time you knocked, the door was opened for you. I am the king without a country, and the Man without a father, and you need never fear the dark again.”

    “But wait! You’re wrong!” the sparrow babbled on. “I asked and I searched and I knocked for years…” Suddenly the sparrow felt shy and silly, and stopped talking. He looked up at the Man. “I’m sorry,” said the sparrow. “I didn’t know.”

    “I love you, little sparrow,” said the Man. “Come, and sit on my shoulder.”

    So the sparrow flew up and sat on the Man’s shoulder. That was a long, long time ago, but as far as I know, he is sitting there still.

  2. #2
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    MAGNIFICENT, Ecurb. Worthy of Hans Christian Andersen. By far the best thing I have seen on this site.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  3. #3
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Thanks, Pompey. I was actually channeling Oscar Wilde instead of HCA (if anyone has never read Wilde's Christian children's stories like "The Selfish Giant" and "The Happy Prince", now's a good time). Of course my writing is at its best when I borrow extensively from others, and The Gospel according to St. Matthew is a good place to start.

  4. #4
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Yes, I noticed the closeness with Wilde, too, but I didn't want you to get a big head. :-D Just kidding. I thought of The Selfish Giant, too, of course (and even Tolstoy, in a way). The idea of a steadfast or at least innocent protagonist in a harsh world is what reminded me of Andersen. As far as the Gospel goes, I was going to suggest The Falling of a Sparrow as a title (over the more Andersen-esque The Little Sparrow), but I figured you knew what you wanted to call your story. As for influences, there is nothing wrong with writing in a tradition. I meant it, by the way, when I said it was the best thing I'd seen on LitNet. That wasn't hyperbole.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 07-17-2019 at 04:55 PM.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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    Thank you, Ecurb, for this great story. Please post more.

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