The Husband and the Parrot – An Arabic Folktale
Posted on: July 6, 2021.

The following story features in the famous collection of stories—most of us would have read in our childhood and narrated to our children—titled “One Thousand and One Arabian Nights”.

There was once a good, hardworking man who loved with a great passion his wife of much beauty, and almost never left her side. He had never once scolded her, or even as much as felt anger towards her.

Good times never last, it is said, and one day, however, the misfortune of having to leave her and go away for a business trip, befell the good man. Before departing, he decided to buy his wife a gift to keep her company.

The good man visited a place that sold all kinds of birds. He loitered about and eventually bought a parrot that not only spoke well, but also had the gift of telling all that it had witnessed happening before it.

He brought the special parrot home in a cage, and asking his wife to take great care of it, he left the caged parrot in her room. The good man and his lovely wife lived in a big house with slaves.

He prepared for the long journey, and when the day came, he dejectedly left. After travelling for long, the good man arrived at the faraway city, and stayed for long days, going about his business.

Finally, his business complete, the good man embarked on his return home, elated. Eager to test the parrot’s special ability of relating what had happened in his absence, he went to listen to it.

Unfortunately, however, the parrot did not have nice things to say. It spoke of the wife’s misdoings and wrongdoings. And, for the first time in his married life, the good man ended up scolding his wife.

The good man’s wife was in much grief, yet she knew nothing about the parrot’s role in it. Her suspicion was that one of her slaves had eavesdropped on her and put it through to her husband.

However, she soon discovered that her slaves had been obedient and dutiful to her as always and that it was the parrot in the cage sitting in her room. The wife planned her revenge on the parrot herself.

Subsequently, the next time her husband was away from the home—this time for only a day and a night—she summoned three of her most trusted and talented slaves and instructed them thus—

The first would turn a hand-mill under the parrot’s cage…

The second would throw water down from above the cage…

The third would take a mirror and turn it in front of the parrot’s eyes…

…from left to right

…by the light of a candle

For part of the night, the slaves kept doing this, and did it very well too. The good man returned the next day and asked the parrot what it had witnessed.

The bird replied, “My good master, the lightning, thunder and rain disturbed me so much all night long, that I cannot tell you what I have suffered”. But it had neither rained nor thundered that night, the man knew.

The good man was convinced that the parrot was not speaking the truth. He took the parrot out of the cage and hurled him on the ground, so roughly, that the innocent parrot died as it hit the ground.

Nevertheless, but only much later, the good man come to know that the bird had been tricked, and had spoken only the truth. The good man had acted in haste and was grief-stricken, but too late to make amends.

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