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Birds in Legend, Fable and Folklore

by (Library Of Alexandria)

(6 reviews)


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Angus Mac-ind-oc was the Cupid of the Gaels. He was a harper of the sweetest music, and was attended by birds, his own transformed kisses, which hovered, invisible, over young men and maidens of Erin, whispering love into their ears. When we say, "A little bird told me," we are talking legend and folklore and superstition all at once. There is an old Basque story of a bird -- always a small one in these tales -- that tells the truth; and our Biloxi Indians used to say the same of the hummingbird. Breton peasants still credit all birds with the power of using human language on proper occasions, and traditions in all parts of the world agree that every bird had this power once on a time if not now. The fireside-tales of the nomads of Oriental deserts or of North American plains and forest alike attest faith in this power; and conversation by and with birds is almost the main stock of the stories heard on our Southern cotton-plantations. You will perhaps recall the bulbul bazar of the Arabian Nights, and, if you please, you may read in another chapter of the conversational pewit and hoopoe of Solomonic fame. Biblical authority exists in the confidence of the Prophet Elijah that a "bird of the air... shall tell the matter"; and monkish traditions abound in revelations whispered in the ear of the faithful by winged messengers from divine sources, as you may read further along if you have patience to turn the leaves. The poets keep alive the pretty fiction; and the rest of us resort to the phrase with an arch smile whenever we do not care to quote our authority for repeating some half-secret bit of gossip. "This magical power of understanding birdtalk," says Halliday, "is regularly the way in which the seers of myths obtain their information."

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