Once upon a time, there lived a fowler, who earned his livelihood catching and selling birds. One day, the fowler’s wife asked him to bring home whatever bird he caught that day.

The couple went around the woods, but were unable to catch any birds by the sunset. However, on their way back, they happened to catch a parrot. The fowler’s wife weighed the parrot and commented that it looked pretty small. She felt it was pointless to kill the bird for meat. Listening to her, the parrot asked the couple to take it the king and sell it off for a good sum. Surprised to hear the bird talk, they asked what price they should charge the king. At this, the parrot replied that the spouses should tell the king that the parrot will decide its own price before the king.

As agreed, the fowler took the parrot for sale at the palace the following day. When the king inquired about its price, the fowler asked him to check with the parrot instead.

When the king asked the parrot about its price, the bird said it cost ten thousand rupees. It even asked the king to not give the price a second thought, for the parrot would serve the king perfectly. Enamored with the bird, the king completely forgot about his six queens. This irked them, and before long, they wanted to get rid of the parrot.

One day, when the king was out for his hunting trip, the six queens decided to kill the parrot. They asked the bird to tell whom among the queens he found the prettiest and the ugliest. The parrot, however, sensed their plan and asked them to let it out of the cage first.

‘That would help me look at you and judge you accordingly,’ it contended.

After shutting all the doors and windows of the room, the queens set the parrot free.

The parrot flew around the room and came across a water passage through which it could escape. Only after that did it answer the queens’ questions. The parrot sarcastically replied that their beauty was no match to the toenail of the girl who lived beyond thirteen rivers and seven oceans. Infuriated by its answer, the six queens chased the parrot to finish it off. However, the bird flew out the water passage and took refuge at the woodcutter’s hut near the forest.

Two days later, the king returned from his hunting expedition. When he couldn’t find the parrot in the palace, he felt upset and wept all day. The ministers spread the word around the city to locate the missing parrot. When the woodcutter learned that the king was desperately looking for the parrot, he returned the bird to him to get a handsome reward.

The king was incensed when he heard how his six queens had attempted to finish off the parrot. He exiled the queens to a faraway desert, where they had to lead a hand-to-mouth existence for the rest of their lives.

…now that you’re here

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Kalai Selvi, Folk Tale writer at Ameya

Kalai is passionate about reading and reinterpreting folk tales from all over the country. Write to her at kalai.muse@gmail.com to know more about her.

Folk tale adopted and abridged from The Project Gutenberg.