The Bird of Truth

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The Bird of Truth is a Spanish fairy tale collected by Cecilia Böhl de Faber in her Cuentos de encantamiento. Andrew Lang included it in The Orange Fairy Book.

Synopsis[edit]

A fisherman found two beautiful children in a crystal cradle, a girl and a boy, floating in the river and brought them to his wife to raise as their own. As the babies grew up, their older brothers were cruel to them and the boy and the girl often ran away to the riverbank, where they would feed breadcrumbs to the birds. In gratitude, the birds taught them to speak their language.

One day the oldest boy taunted them with having no parents, and so the boy and girl went out into the world to seek their fortunes. When they stopped to rest along their journey, they heard birds gossiping, and one bird said that the king had married the youngest daughter of a tailor, over the opposition of the nobles. He was obliged to go to war, and when he returned, he was told that his wife had given birth to twins who had died. Missing her babies, the queen went mad, and had to be shut up in a tower in the mountains where the fresh air might restore her. In fact, the babies had not really died, but were taken to a gardener's cottage, and that night the chamberlain threw them into the river in a crystal cradle, which the children recognized from the story of how the fisherman had found them.

The bird went on to say that only the Bird of Truth could convince the king that the children were really his children, and the bird was kept by a giant who only slept a quarter hour a day in the castle of Come-and-never-go. Only a witch could tell the way to the castle, and she would not do it unless she was given the water from the fountain of many colours. Furthermore, the Bird of Truth is surrounded by the Birds of ill Faith, and only an owl could tell which one was which.

They went to the city, where they begged hospitality for a night, and were so helpful that the innkeeper asked them to stay. The girl did, but her brother left on his quest. A dove directed him to go with the wind, and by following it, he reached the witch's home and asked the way to the castle of Come-and-never-go. The witch tried to get him to stay the night, but when he refused, demanded a jug of the many-colored waters, or she would turn him into a lizard. She then directed a dog to lead him to the water.

At the castle, he heard the owl's cry and asked its advice. It told him to fill the jug from another fountain and then find the white bird in the corner, not the brightly colored birds. He had a quarter of an hour to do the task, and succeeded. When he brought back the water, the witch threw it over him and told him to become a parrot, but he became more handsome, and all the creatures about the hut threw themselves into the water and became human again. The witch fled on her broomstick.

The courtiers who were responsible for abandoning the children tried to prevent the King from learning about the children, but they talked so much of it that he overheard the commotion and became curious. When the bird flew to him, he listened. The King at once went to embrace his children, and then all three of them freed his wife, their mother, from the tower. The wicked courtiers had their heads cut off, and the couple who had raised them were given riches and honor.

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