upon a time there was a little sparrow. He was lively and graceful, and very impatient
to fly off into the blue sky.
"Be careful. Wait a little longer. You're too small to be able to fly," Papa and Mama sparrow said to him a bit anxiously. But the little sparrow was rather bold. After several attempts, supported by his parents' helpful wings, he thought he was able to go off on long trips. One fine day, when his parents had gone off to look for the family, he spread his wings...goodby!
"Come back!" his brothers shouted to him. " If Papa finds out that you have flown away, it will go badly for you! "
" Oh, no, " the little sparrow answered. " I'm just going to make one small flight and I'll come back quickly!"
And he flew off quite happily, admiring the beauty of the world which was unfolding before his eyes. He flew for quite a while and then alighted on a branch, thinking, "I'll rest awhile, then I'll return. I think I have already flown a little too far...so, let's go back. " But his wings had become heavy as lead and he could not move them.
"Patience! Let's rest a little more." However, he was so exhausted that he could barely stay on his perch on the branch. His head began to sway, this way, that way...and boom! The foolish sparrow fell on the ground, and broke one of his wings.
Fortunately, a man was passing by right then. Seeing the poor sparrow in such trouble, he said, "Poor little one! Don't cry, I will take you home with me. I'll take care of you and soon you will be able to go home."
He reached his house and showed the wounded bird to his wife. She did not like what her husband had done and became very angry. "You must be mad ! With all we have to do, to burden ourselves with this care! And besides, it is impossible to feed another mouth in this house."
" Wife do not be angry, I just couldn't leave him to die...I'll take care of him myself, and I'll share my food with him. He won't give you any extra work. "
" You are the master here, " his wife said. " Do as you please. But do not let this sparrow cause me any trouble!"
Shaking his head, the man attached a splint of of wood to the broken wing and made a comfortable nest in a box.
Then he shared a glass of milk with the sparrow and afterwards went to the garden to seek worms for the sparrow's food.
The days passed and the wing was finally healed. But now the sparrow did not want to leave the man and return home.
"If you like, I will spend the rest of my life with you."
"Very well, stay with me little sparrow! Without you, I would be lonely and sad. But you must avoid any trouble with my wife!"
The days and months went on and their friendship grew even stronger.
One day, the man had to go to the city to sell some baskets, and he told the sparrow to remain quiet until he returned. The sparrow gave his word and did remain quiet...until the moment when a glass of starch, placed near the bucket in which the women did her washing, caught his eye. How could he resist temptation ? The sparrow began to circle the glass, trying to see this strange white liquid better.
" Go away sparrow! " said the woman. " I have no other starch. If you overturn this glass..."
She hadn't finished her sentence when the glass was overturned! Furiously, she seized a pair of scissors and cut out the poor sparrows tongue, screaming, "Go away, ungrateful sparrow. Go home, and may I never see you anymore! " The unfortunate sparrow, bathed in tears and suffering terribly, flew swiftly away toward his nest. When the man returned home and heard the news, he was miserable. Without losing a minute, he went off to seek his little friend.
" Friend Hare, " he asked, " please tell me where the sparrow's nest is. "
" That way, good man, on the other side of the river. "
" Please, Friend Squirrel, where is the home of my friend the sparrow? "
" On the other side of the mountain, my good sir. "
The man walked days and nights without stopping, passed rivers and valleys, climbed mountains and crossed forests until he arrived at the sparrow's nest. He met Papa and Mama sparrow and their many children, and seeing his friend among them he cried for joy. The sparrows made a party for him and prepared a real banquet. When the hour came for him to return home, they gave him a small box, saying, " You were very good to our son, take this box, but do not open it until you arrive home! "
The man thanked them, kissed his friend and, as they had ordered him, waited until he was back home to open the box. To his great astonishment, he found many, many diamonds, golden objects and precious cloths. His wife shouted with jealousy, " All that for you and nothing for me ! After all the trouble I took over that sparrow ! " And she started out toward the sparrows' home.
" Hey there! Hare! " she asked, " Do you know where the sparrow's house is? "
" On the other side of the river, my good woman. "
" Squirrel, do you know where the sparrows' house is? "
" On the other side of the mountain, my good woman. "
The sparrows received the wife as they had received the husband. When they heard her say that she made many sacrifices to feed an ungrateful bird, they apologized many times and thanked her. The celebration ended and they placed two boxes in front of the woman. One was small and ugly, the other larger and gaily colored.
" You were so good and patient toward our son that we would like to offer you one of the boxes, " they said. " But do not open the one you will choose until you are back home. "
Naturally the woman choose the larger box which was also the heavier. And she started on the road toward home without even thanking the sparrows.
" Who knows what pretty things it must contain! " she thought. " I am going to be rich and respected by all. I will go to the city and I will have the most beautiful of palaces! "
And she continued to make a thousand-and-one-plans. Half-way home, her curiousity over came her. Without waiting any longer, she opened the box. She had hardly lifted the cover when ugly little imps jumped up before her eyes and began dancing around and making thousands of terrible faces. Disappointed and frightened, she fled as fast as her legs could carry her, like a madwoman.
She is still running. If you happen to see a woman running as if she had the devil at her heels, do not stop her. It is she, the wicked wife who cut out the tongue of the poor sparrow.
Her husband, on the contrary, gave all his fortune to the poor people of the village and built himself a little house beside the sparrow's. He possessed a wonderful treasure, a treasure which all the gold in the world could not buy: a sincere and devoted friend.