Magpie and Crow

Still on the theme of tales; the topic at my writing group recently was prejudice. I decided to write a sort of updated Aesop fable. Hope you enjoy it.



Magpie and Crow


Magpie and Crow were sitting on the bowling green having a good chin-wag. Magpie shook his head and said,

‘Have you seen Goose lately? It’s no wonder she’s so obese; all she does is loaf about on the lake all day, never lifts a feather to help anyone.’

Crow replied with a supercilious glint in her eye, ‘Goose? don’t talk to me about Goose, I wouldn’t be seen dead with the likes of her.’

Magpie bobbed his long tail and preened his feathers. Crow flapped both wings and hopped onto a nearby park bench and said, ‘What about Woodpecker? Did you know he’s joined the Head-bashing Party?’

Magpie shook his head and said, ‘Well, I’ve always known he was left wing; haven’t you noticed he flies in circles because of his left wing?’

‘Um, now you mention it, I never did like the way he flies; far too left wing!’

Magpie was warming up now. ‘But of course old Owl is the complete opposite – too right wing!’

Crow took the opportunity to chip in; ‘Yes, he’s so far right he doesn’t know his left wing exists!’

Magpie flew down from the bench uttering a raucous cackle which disturbed a pigeon which had been pecking at a piece of mouldy bread someone had dropped on the tarmac path. Pigeon hopped nearer to Magpie itching to join in the conversation. Crow sidled in and gave a disgruntled ‘caw’ flying straight at pigeon’s head. Pigeon got in a flap and escaped over a hedge. Crow and Magpie joined each other again on the park bench.

Crow was the first to speak: ‘Scruffy Pigeon! I don’t know what she was thinking, getting above herself if you ask me. There’d soon be a revolution if we conversed with riff-raff like her!

Magpie nodded vigorously, ‘Hasn’t she heard of the universal pecking order! Common as muck. Did you see what she was eating? Disgusting!’

Crow replied, ‘What do you expect? That sums up her life-style, always fraternising with commoners and grubbing in the gutter!’

Magpie continued, ‘That reminds me, have you seen Peacock since he’s grown his tail feathers?’ Crow cawed and scratched her head, ‘Far too ostentatious, you wouldn’t find me taking to the likes of him!’

Magpie preened his tail and cackled smugly, ‘He’s even on Facebook! Definitely delusions of grandeur. Next thing you know he’ll be signing autographs!’

Crow cawed one more time and said, ‘He’s a total narcissist!’

The two birds of a feather were silent for at least a minute then Magpie turned lovingly to Crow and said,

‘Well, my old chum, I’m glad you agree with me; it shows you’re a bird of exceptionally good taste.’

And with that, Magpie and Crow flew into a pine tree to settle down for the evening. Neither of them noticed that they were the only ones in the tree.



Nasrudin’s Donkey

This is probably the best known Nasrudin story. When I was an ESOL teacher this is one I always told to my students.  It was some measure of their English listening skills if they could get the joke!


Can I Borrow Your Donkey?
“Can I borrow your donkey?” a neighbour asked Nasrudin at his door.
“I’d love to help you,” was the reply, “but I’ve already lent it to someone else.”
Just then, a loud “hee-haw” came from Nasrudin’s yard.
“Hey,” the man said, “I just heard the donkey make a noise from your yard!”
Nasrudin quickly retorted, “Who do you believe; me or my donkey!”


The Value of Truth; a Nasrudin Tale

Nasrudin is a sort of ‘holy fool’ popular in the Middle East. Some of his tales have a sort of joke punchline, some contain spiritual teaching and some are just plain daft! Here’s a very short one to start with.


The Value of Truth
‘If you want Truth,’ Nasrudin told a group of Seekers, ‘you will have to pay for it.’
‘But why should you have to pay for something like Truth?’ asked one of the company.
‘Have you not noticed,’ said Nasrudin, ‘that it is the scarcity of a thing which determines its value?’

Six Straw Hats; a Buddhist Tale

Buddhism is full of tales which have spiritual teaching, often subtle and often straightforward. Here’s one popular with children and adults in Japan. Thanks to Taigu for writing this out. I hope to post more tales from Buddhist sources  in the future.


The Tale of Six Straw Hats

Once upon a time, there was a poor couple, an old man and a woman. The New Year’s Day was just around the corner, but they didn’t have money to buy rice cakes for the New Year. The old man had made five straw hats (if you watched a film “Dogen” on DVD, Master Dogen was wearing one in front of a rice paddy field) during the evening after day’s hard work in the field. “My dear old lady, I’m going to the market to sell these straw hats, and I will buy some rice cakes,” said the old man. But he couldn’t find any buyers. It was snowing hard, and there weren’t many people in the market. He couldn’t sell a single hat. He was sad, thinking how disappointed his beloved wife would be. On his way home to the village, he walked past six statues of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. Snow was piling up on their heads and shoulders. “They must be feeling cold in an evening like this,” thought the old man, and he put the hats on the statues’ heads. He had only five straw hats, and he didn’t have any hat left for the sixth statue. “I’m very sorry but I have only five hats,” said the old man to the last statue. Then, an idea came to his mind, “Well, please wear my old straw hat. I’ve been wearing this for some years, and it is a bit worn out, but it is better than nothing.” It was New Year’s Eve. The old men went home, without wearing his hat, and his wife greeted him at the door. “My dear, I’m glad you managed to sell all of your hats, but did you have to sell your own hat?” “No, no, I couldn’t sell any,” said the old man, and explained to his wife what he did. His wife was very happy to hear what her husband did. “You did a very good thing, my dear,” said the wife. Just after midnight, they heard some singing outside. They opened the front door, and found some rice cakes at the doorstep. “How strange! Where did these rice cakes come from?” In the distance in the snow storm, they could see six statues of Ksitigarbha marching their way back, each wearing a straw hat and singing a song.

In another version of the same story, the old couple was visited by six monks wearing straw hats on New Year’s Eve. The monks brought them some rice cakes for the New Year. The old man recognised that the sixth monk was wearing his old straw hat, and then he knew that the six monks were not of this world but the six statues of Ksitigarbha.