GRIMM'S FAIRY TALES - online book

130 Fairy Stories Adapted & Arranged for young people

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346              THE KING OF THE BIRDS.
Jenny Wren, flew to the bear's hole, and cried, " Old growler, why have you insulted my children ? You shall suffer for it. War to the knife shall be declared between us." And saying this they flew away
Upon hearing this declaration of war the bear started off to summon to his aid all the four-footed animals—the ox, the cow, the ass, the stag, the roe, and all that he could find on the earth. The wren hastened also to assemble creatures that fly in the air— not only the birds, great and small, but also flies, gnats, bees, and hornets.
When the time arrived for this great battle, the wren was deter­mined to send out spies to discover who was the general chosen to command the enemy's army. The gnat being the most crafty of the insects, was chosen. So he cautiously wandered into the wood, and on reaching the place where the enemy was assembled, he hid himself under a leaf on a tree near which they were holding council together, and heard all they said. The bear first stood up, and calling the fox, said to him, " Fox, you are the most cunning of all the animals; so you shall be our general, and lead us to battle."
"Good," said the fox, "but what signal shall we agree upon?"
No one seemed to know. So he said, " I have a beautiful, long, bushy tail, that looks at a distance almost like a red plume of feathers, and you must remember that as long as I hold it up everything is going on right, and you will advance to victory. But if I lower it then run away as fast as you can."
The gnat listened attentively without being seen; then flew back and told the wren everything that had passed, word for word. At daybreak, when the battle was to begin, the four-footed animals rushed to the field with such fury that the earth trembled. The wren also appeared in the air with his army, some buzzing and croaking, and others hovering about wildly enough to make anyone giddy and scared who saw them, till the two armies met for conflict.
The first act of the wren was to send for a hornet, and tell him to go at once and settle on the fox's tail, and the moment he raised it in the air to sting it with all his might. Away went the hornet, and presently in the midst of the battle when the fox felt the first sting, he could not help leaping up, yet he still kept his tail erect. At the second stab he was forced to lower it for a moment. But when a third time the hornet stung him he could bear it no longer. He dropped his tail between his legs with a great scream, and rushed away.