The Brothers Grimm – The Sparrow and His Four Children

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A sparrow had four young ones in a swallow's nest. When they
were fledged, some naughty boys pulled out the nest, but
fortunately all the birds got safely away in the high wind. Then
the old bird was grieved that as his sons had all gone out into
the world, he had not first warned them of every kind of danger,
and given them good instruction how to deal with each.
In the autumn a great many sparrows assembled together in a
wheatfield, and there the old bird met his four children again,
and full of joy took them home with him. Ah, my dear sons, how
I have been worrying about you all through the summer, because you
got away in the wind without my teaching. Listen to my words,
obey your father, and be well on your guard. Little birds have
to encounter great dangers. And then he asked the eldest where
he had spent the summer, and how he had supported himself. I
stayed in the gardens, and looked for caterpillars and small worms,
until the cherries were ripe. Ah, my son, said the father,
tit-bits
are not bad, but there is great risk about them. On that account
take great care of yourself henceforth, and particularly when
people are going about the gardens who carry long green poles
which are hollow inside and have a little hole at the top. Yes,
father, but what if a little green leaf is stuck over the hole
with wax, said the son. Where have you seen that. In a
merchant's garden, said the youngster. Oh, my son, merchant folks
are smart folks, said the father. If you have been among the
children of the world, you have learned worldly craftiness enough,
only see that you use it well, and do not be too confident.
Then he asked the next, where have you passed your time. At
court, said the son. Sparrows and silly little birds are of
no use in that place. There one finds much gold, velvet, silk,
armor, harnesses, sparrow-hawks, screech-owls and lanners. Keep
to the horses, stable where they winnow oats, or thresh, and
then fortune may give you your daily grain of corn in peace. Yes,
father, said the son, but when the stable-boys make traps and fix
their gins and snares in the straw, many a one is caught.
Where have you seen that, said the old bird. At court, among the
stable-boys. Oh, my son, court boys are bad boys. If you
have been to court and among the lords, and have left no feathers
there, you have learnt a fair amount, and will know very well
how to go about the world, but look around you and above you,
for the wolves often devour the wisest dogs.
The father examined the third also, where did you seek your
fortune. I have cast my tub and rope on the cart-roads and
highways, and sometimes met with a grain of corn or barley. That
is indeed dainty fare, said the father, but take care what you
are about and look carefully around, especially when you see
anyone stooping and about to pick up a stone, for then
you have not much time to waste. That is true, said the son,
but what if anyone should carry a bit of rock, or ore, ready
beforehand in his breast or pocket. Where have you seen that.
Among the miners, dear father. When they get out of the pit,
they generally take little bits of ore with them. Mining folks
are working folks, and clever folks.
If you have been among mining lads, you have seen and learnt
something, but when you go thither beware, for many a sparrow
has been brought to a bad end by a mining boy throwing a piece
of cobalt.
At length the father came to the youngest son, you, my dear
chirping nestling, were always the silliest and weakest. Stay
with me, the world has many rough, wicked birds which have
crooked beaks and long claws, and lie in wait for poor little
birds and swallow them. Keep with those of your own kind, and
pick up little spiders and caterpillars from the trees, or the
houses, and then you will live long in peace. My dear father,
he who feeds himself without injury to other people fares well,
and no sparrow-hawk, eagle, or kite will hurt him if he commits
himself and his lawful food, evening and morning, faithfully to
God, who is the creator and preserver of all forest and village
birds, who likewise heareth the cry and prayer of the young
ravens, for no sparrow or wren ever falls to the ground except
by his will. Where have you learnt this. The son answered,
when the great blast of wind tore me away from you I came to a
church, and there during the summer I have picked up the flies
and spiders from the windows, and heard this discourse preached.
The father of all sparrows fed me all the
summer through, and kept me from all misfortune and from
ferocious birds. Indeed, my dear son, if you take refuge in
the churches and help to clear away spiders and buzzing flies,
and chirp unto God like the young ravens, and commend
yourself to the eternal creator, all will be well with you,
and that even if the whole world were full of wild malicious birds.
He who to God commits his ways,
in silence suffers, waits, and prays,
preserves his faith and conscience pure,
he is of God's protection sure.

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