Panchtantra Story: Greedy Bird Learned His Lesson

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A group of the most beautiful songbirds lived together in a forest at the edge of a village. These birds lived high up in the trees in cozy nests. They were a happy group, ruled by a wise and kind queen. Each one had its duties. Some would build the nests to sleep in, some of them would lay the eggs, some would collect food, while others would take care of the babies. The queen herself laid many eggs and was a mother to many babies. All the others loved and respected her. Everyone tried their best to do their duties correctly, and each one of them took the queen’s advice and orders seriously. 

She was in charge of making sure each of them took care of his or her duties. She made sure that everyone was working hard to build the nests, collect the food, and take care of the baby birds. Before the sun could set, the birds ate the food that was collected; the queen made sure each one got an equal share. The queen also made sure to store some of the food away for the cold winter months. Everyone was well fed, and everyone had a fair share of food to eat. All the food was shared equally among all of them. 

When the baby birds grew up, and they could fly, they would join the others in doing many tasks. When they joined the others in doing different work, they were not always perfect at first. But the queen would guide them, and help them get any job done right. All the new workers made sure to follow her orders at all times, and so did the older ones. Among the group of new worker birds was one who was not very smart, but greedier than the others. He always wanted more food to eat and often thought that since he was the one looking for food all day, he deserved a little more to eat than the rest. It was such that when any of the worker birds found some food, they would fly back to nests to let the others know. The food would be collected by the rest, taken to nest, to be divided among the group later. 

One day the greedy little bird was flying over the village looking for food. He saw that a farmer was loading sacks of rice onto his bullock cart. Some of these sacks had tiny holes, and there was a lot of rice grains scattered on the ground. Now as soon as he saw this, he was ready to fly back to let the others know, but then he said to himself, “why can’t I find my food, and eat it myself, why do I have to let the others know, look at the rice here, I can have a good feast all alone, but soon all the others will be here looking for their share”. As he was not willing to share the food with the others, he came up with a wicked plan to lie and cheat the rest. 

He went flying back to the queen and said, “oh queen, not too far away, in the village, a farmer has laid out a trap to catch us. He has scattered a lot of rice on the ground. But there’s a net above in the trees, to catch any bird that dares eat the rice”. The queen was worried; she did not want anyone to be trapped, so she called a meeting and advised all the other birds not to go near the farmer’s house. All of them followed her advice, but the greedy bird had plans of his own. 

The next day, and for many days after that, he would go to the farmer’s field and enjoy a grand feast, eating all the rice grains that had fallen on the ground, not sharing anything with anyone. He ate, and he ate, and he was getting fatter and heavier by the day. On the third day, he ate from morning to sunset, and when he was ready to fly off back to the nest, he found that he had become so fat and heavy, that his wings could not carry him. Just then, the farmer’s little boy saw him struggling on the ground and caught him. 

He was caged, and the boy kept him as his pet. As he had grown so fat, even when the cage was open, he could not fly away, and he was trapped in the cage for many days. He began to miss his friends and regret his greediness. He would give anything to be free again and be back with the others, even if it meant looking for food all day. Now the little boy did not take the best care of him; he was often forgotten and got little or no food. He soon started to lose all the weight he had gained from eating those grains alone by himself. 

One day when the boy opened the cage to play with him, he slipped out of the little boy’s hands, and when he spread his wings to fly, he found that he was up in the air. He was so happy at that moment and went flying straight out of the window of farmer’s hut, right into the forest. At last, he was free. Soon he would be with his friends. 

With a happy heart, he went flying straight to the nests; everyone was shocked to see him after so many days. His friends and even the queen had thought that he was lost or injured, or trapped, and they would never see him again. It was then that he had to be honest and tell the rest of his greediness; and how he had lied to them to keep all the grain to himself. He was ashamed of his actions, and he was never a greedy bird again. 

Moral: There is always a price to pay for being greedy.

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