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A MAGICIAN once passed through a grove in the forest where a great many brown birds fluttered from tree to tree and filled the air with songs. For a long time he sat and listened, enraptured by their beautiful melodies, but in the end he became very jealous, for he himself could not sing.
At last he felt that he must by some means or other possess the voices of these singing birds, so he called them all together and said:
“It grieves me that the gods have given you all such poor, ugly brown feathers. p. 27 How happy you would be if you were brilliantly coloured with red, blue, orange, and green!”
And the birds agreed that it was a great pity to be so ugly.
The magician then suggested that by means of his charms he could give them all beautiful feathers in exchange for their voices—which were, after all, of very little use to them, since nobody came into the grove to hear them.
The birds thought over his words, and desired very much the beauty he promised them. So they foolishly agreed to give him their voices, which the magician placed all together in a large calabash. He then used his charms to turn the dull brown feathers of the birds into orange and green and red, and they were very pleased.
The magician hurried away, and as soon as he came to a deserted place he opened the calabash and swallowed its contents. From that day he had an exceedingly sweet voice, and people came from far and near to listen to his songs.
But the birds were satisfied with their bright feathers. And this is why the most beautiful birds are quite unable to sing.