N former days, every sound had its meaning, the birds
also had their own language which every one understood.
Now it only sounds like chirping, screeching, and
whistling, and to some like music without words.
It came into the birds' mind, however, that they would
no longer be without a ruler, and would choose one of
themselves to be King.
One alone amongst them, the green plover, was opposed
to this. He had lived free and would die free, and
anxiously flying hither and thither, he cried, "Where shall I go?
where shall I go?" He retired into a lonely and unfrequented
marsh, and showed himself no more among his fellows.
The birds now wished to discuss the matter, and on a fine
May morning they al gather together from the woods and
fields: eagles and chaffinches, owls and crows, larks and
sparrows, how can I name them all? Even the cuckoo came,
the hoopoe, his clerk, who is so called because he is always
heard a few days before him, and a very small bird which
as yet had no name, mingled with the band.
 The hen, which by some accident had heard nothing of
the whole matter, was astonished at the great assemblage.
"What, what what is going to be done?" she cackle. But the
cock calmed his beloved hen, and said, "Only rich people,"
and told her what they had on hand.
It was decided, however, that the one who could fly the
highest should be King. A tree-frog which was sitting among
the bushes, when he heard that, cried a warning,
"No, no, no! no!" because he thought that many tears
would be shed because of this. But the crow said, "Caw, caw"
and that all would pass off peaceably.
It was now determined that, on this fine morning, they
should at once begin to ascend, so that hereafter no one
should be able to say, "I could easily have flown much higher,
but the evening came on, and I could do no more."
On a given signal, therefore, the whole troop rose up in the air.
The dust ascended from the land, and there was tremendous
fluttering and whirring and beating of wings. It looked as if a
black cloud was rising up. The little birds were, however, soon
left behind. They could go no farther, and fell back to the ground.
The larger birds held out longer, but none could equal the eagle,
who mounted so high that he could have picked the eyes out of
the sun. And when he saw that the others could not get up to
him, he thought, "Why should I fly any higher, I am the King?"
and began to let himself down again.
The birds beneath him at once cried to him, "You must be our
King, no one has flown so high as you."
"Except me," screamed the little fellow with a name,
 who had crept into the breast-feathers of the eagle.
And as he was not at all tired he rose up and mounted so high
that he reached heaven itself. When, however, he had
gone as far as this he folded his wings together, and called
down with clear and penetrating voice:
"You, our King?" cried the birds angrily. "You have done
this by trick and cunning!"
So they made another condition. He should be King who could
go down lowest in the ground. How the goose did flap about with its
broad breast when it was once more on the land!
How quickly the cock scratched a hole! The duck came off the
worst of all, for she leapt into a ditch, but sprained her legs,
and waddled away to a neighboring pond, crying, "Cheating,
The little bird without a name, however, sought out a mouse-holr,
slipped down into it, and cried out of it, with his small voice:
"You our king!" cried the birds still more angrily.
"Do you think your cunning shall prevail?"
They determined to keep him a prisoner in the hole and starve
him out. The owl was placed as a sentinel in front of it, and
was not to let the rascal out if she had any value for her life.
When evening was come all the birds were feeling very tired
after exerting their wings so much that they went to bed with
their wives and children.
The owl alone remained standing by the mouse-hole,
 gazing steadfastly into it with her great eyes. In the meantime
she, too, had grown tired and thought to herself, "You might
certainly shut one eye, you will still watch with the other, and
the little miscreant shall not come out of his hole." So she
shut one eye, and with the other looked straight at the mouse-hole.
The little fellow put his head out and peeped, and wanted to
slip away, but the owl came forward, and he drew his head back.
Then the owl opened the one eye again, and shut the other,
intending to shut them in turn all through the night.
But when she next shut the one eye, she forgot to open the other.
And as soon as both her eyes were shut, she fell asleep [should be .]
The little fellow soon saw that, and slipped away.
From that day forth, the owl has never dared to show herself by
daylight, for if she does the other birds chase her and pluck her
feathers out. She only flies out by night, but hates and pursues
mice because they make such ugly holes.
The little bird, too, is very unwilling to let himself be seen,
because he is afraid it will cost him his life if he is caught.
He steals about in the hedges, and when he is quite safe,
he sometimes cries, "I am King," and for this reason, the
other birds call him in mockery, "Hedge-King."
No one, however, was so happy as the lark at not having
to obey the little King. As soon as the sun appears, she
ascends high in the air and cries, "Ah, how beautiful that is!
beautiful that is! beautiful, beautiful! ah, how beautiful that is!"
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