The king of birds

So the birds decide to choose a king, which you might think looks a good bit like democracy. They gather together to talk about the qualities a king should possess. This seems like a good idea, because those who will be led should have a say in who leads, and choosing the qualities of leadership is very important. Wisdom, perhaps. Knowledge, compassion, generosity, problem solving skills…

Rather than thinking about the qualities they want in a leader, each bird thinks about what he or she does best, and tries to make a case for why that should be the defining factor of a king. None of them are thinking about the implications of being ruled by someone else – only their own scope for getting the title. The biggest birds who are able to shout the loudest soon dominate the debate, drowning out the smaller, quieter and softer voices. Between them, they agree that being the biggest and strongest bird is the quality for kingship. This is in no way unusual. Being biggest and strongest was often what kingship was all about for people, too.

Having decided that power and strength make a king, the biggest and most powerful birds decide that seeing who can fly the highest will be an acceptable way of deciding which if them is most powerful. Thus it has always been, where the richest decide the means by which the richest will be chosen king. Those who rule by force arrange the trials that establish their rulership by force. It is the job of those who are to be led, to watch and cheer for their tyrant of preference and generally go along with the process and never, ever to question the basis on which kingship is decided. The birds know the routine, they all enthusiastically get involved with the flying contest. Especially those who know they can’t win. Joining in makes them feel part of something, and they like that.

All except for the wren, who hides on the back of an eagle, judges the timing perfectly and when the eagle thinks it’s won, the wren takes off, flying up a few feet to win the crown. Subverting the whole kingmaking program so that wit, tenacity and imagination win the day for a change, instead of brute force.

I don’t know about you, but if I must be led by others, (and sometimes it is a useful way of getting things done) I prefer to be ruled by one who has wit, vision and ingenuity. I prefer to be led by one who cannot rely on force to back up their points, but must instead reason and co-operate. I prefer to be led by one who knows what it is to be small and vulnerable, and who does not assume that the loudest voice is the most important. I also prefer to be led by someone with a sense of humour, and the wren also wins by being funnier than anyone else, turning its tiny form into a tactical advantage to beat the eagle from within its very feathers.

Here’s a song for the Occupy movement, featuring wrens… http://youtu.be/21IbgTewrMs do saunter over.

 

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

5 responses to “The king of birds

  • Usacotts

    Not sure if you’re familiar with the mythology of the Chinese zodiac, but one common story to explain the ordering is a race between the animals — much like this story, the rat rode on the ox’s back and jumped off just before the finish line, earning its spot as the first in the cycle and relegating the ox to the second. However, rather than praising its ingenuity, we’re supposed to read this as the rat being manipulative and cheating the hardworking ox; I feel like there’s some merit to both interpretations, but I generally lean towards the guile hero archetype you’re describing here.

    • Nimue Brown

      It’s interesting how we relate animals to humans – the eagle being so suggestive of emperors in the first place, the wren so inherently humble, the ox easily symbolic of the workers, and the rat unkindly depicted as a conniving politician or lazy bourgeois… I have no doubt that with a bit of thought, totally different stories could be told out of the same creatures doing the same things.

  • Terry

    Love the birds….I have feeders and water bowls on my back deck. It’s so nice to watch them get into the water bowls for a quick bath. Makes me smile!

  • Terry

    p.s. I completely agree about the type of leader you would prefer to be led by.

  • curlydogs11

    And I too agree with your thoughts…thank you for this post.

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