The wise old bird is a tale from the famous Panchatantra stories. The Panchatantra stories are believed to have been authored almost eighteen centuries ago by Vishnu Sharma. The Panchatantra stories (such as the story of the wise old bird) are widely read and have been retold and translated over the years into more than two hundred different versions in more than fifty languages.
These short and simple stories carry valuable lessons and morals and can be not merely entertaining but also quite educative.
The story of the wise old bird exemplifies the lesson that if we ignore the advice of those who are wise, we do so at our own peril.
The wise old bird
A flock of wild geese dwelt in a forest. They made their home atop a tall, leafy tree deep in the forest. The geese flew off very morning in all directions, but wherever they went they came back each night to their home atop the tree. The oldest among them was Uncle Goose who was quite a wise old goose. He had seen many summers and knew much. Uncle goose was well respected by most geese but the new generation of youngster geese did not think too much of him. For Uncle Goose was now too old to fly long distances or do any hard work. He only flew a little distance and back each day. They did not quite realize his great experience and wisdom.
Uncle Goose sees a creeper
One day Uncle Goose happened to see a small creeper growing at the base of the tree where the goose dwelt. It was just beginning to encircle the bottom of the tree. Uncle Goose called on a few younger geese and told them, "Listen, you youngsters, look at that creeper growing at the foot of our tree. Do go and cut it off, else one day it may become a danger for us. Alas I am too old and weak to uproot the creeper myself, but you are young and strong. You can easily do it now, when the creeper is small."
The youngsters just said, "O.K, O.K" and went their ways. "How on earth can that tiny creeper be a danger to us! Uncle is getting quite crazy these days," they chattered to each other. "Well, there is no harm in cutting it off, but what's the hurry?"
Seeing the creeper left alone, Uncle Goose tried telling the youngsters several times, but they just ignored him and went off their merry ways. They thought they could always do it some other time.
Soon the creeper had grown quite a bit and had encircled the tree and almost reached the top.
Other Panchatantra stories
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The Panchatantra stories, like the story of the monkey and the crocodile, are a set of animal fables written almost 18 centuries ago in India and very widely retold and translated.
The hunter comes
One day a hunter came by. He had seen the wild geese flying about in the forest. "Oh! This is where those geese dwell," he thought to himself looking at some of the geese just flying away from the tree. He waited until all the geese had flown away. He then climbed up the creeper and reached the top of the tree. He spread out a huge net to catch the geese.
In the evening all the geese flew back together and landed on the top of the tree right into the net. They were all caught and entangled in the net. However much they struggled they could not get free. As they looked around it also became clear to them that a hunter had reached the tree top climbing up the creeper.
Uncle Goose told them "You see, I had already warned you of this. This is what happens when we ignore the words of wisdom. And this is what happens when we ignore small problems. They become big problems more difficult to deal with. It would have been quite easy for any of you to have cut off that small creeper. But you just ignored it. Now see what it has got us into!"
The geese express regret
"We are sorry, Uncle Goose. We have been quite foolish. We will always listen to your advice in the future if indeed there is any future for us! For whatever can we do now? The hunter will be back in the morning and we will land up as someone's dinner tomorrow!"
Uncle Goose said, "Now listen to me carefully. I will tell you our plan of action - or rather inaction.This is what I want all of us to do. In the morning when the hunter comes, just pretend to be dead, everyone of you. The hunter will climb up the tree, he will take up each of you, think that you are dead and throw you down. Now when you are thrown down don't just fly away. If you do that the hunter will be alerted and all the others will not be freed. Rather just lie down unmoving until the last bird is thrown. Then all of us will quickly fly away before the hunter realizes what is happening."
All the birds agreed to this.
The birds are freed
The next morning when the hunter came the birds acted just as instructed. Thinking the birds to be dead the hunter threw them down one by one, and when the last one was thrown, the birds suddenly flapped their wings and flew away.
The startled hunter thought that dead birds were flying and ran away in fright never to come that way again.
Seeing the hunter run away, the wild geese returned to their home. The first thing the young geese did on returning was to cut off the creeper so nobody could climb up the tree so easily. From then on they always listened to the advice of the wise old bird.
The wise old bird - moral of the story
This little Panchatantra story has an important moral - don't ignore the advice of wise people. There is another lesson also to be learnt. Don't ignore a problem when it is small, because when it becomes big it may be much more difficult or even impossible to solve.