A happy and cheerful man once captured a bird and placed it in a cage. “Give me my freedom sir!” cried the bird as he shut the door. Startled that the bird was talking to him, the man listened as it continued. “I am no use to you sir, for I have no beautiful feathers to look at nor am I able to sing beautiful songs, and I am to small to eat. If however, you promise to grant me my freedom I will tell you three wise teachings.”
The man agreed, whereupon the little bird told him: “First: Do not grieve over things that have already happened. Second: Do not wish for that which is unattainable. Third: Do not believe in that which cannot be possible.”
“Indeed, these are wise things you have taught me” said the man. As agreed, he opened the door of the cage and set the little bird free. The man sat and pondered the bird’s sayings, and the bird flew up to a branch high up in a tree. After a few moments the man heard the bird laughing. “Why do you laugh?” he called.
“Because I so easily won my freedom” replied the bird. “You humans pride yourselves on being the wisest of the creatures, yet I a tiny bird, have outwitted you. Within my belly lies a diamond the size of a hen’s egg. If you had not let me go you would be a wealthy man.”
Upon hearing this news our once happy and cheerful man became angry, sad and depressed. And the more the little bird laughed the angrier, sadder and more depressed the man became.
After some time the man started hurling abuse at the laughing bird as he attempted to recapture it. But to no avail. The little bird was always beyond his reach. Finally the little bird called out. “Listen to me O human. When you granted me freedom I gave you three teachings, yet you almost instantly forgot them. You should not grieve over things that have already happened, but still you are grieving that you gave me my freedom. You should not wish for things that you cannot obtain, and yet you want me, for whom freedom is my whole life, to voluntarily enter a prison. You should not believe that which is impossible, and yet you believe that I am carrying about inside my body a diamond as large as a hen’s egg, although I myself am only half the size of a hen’s egg.”
And with that the little bird flew away.
Source: Adapted from Otto Knoop, “Die drei Sprüche,” Ostmärkische Sagen, Märchen und Erzählungen (Lissa: Oskar Eulitz’ Verlag, 1909), no. 72, pp. 147-149 (translation by DL Ashlimann).