The Golden Bird
With a story from The Brothers Grimm
Episode 1 - Saturday, 16 November 2019
Hi, and welcome to my first podcast!
My name is CC Hogan, and I am a writer, narrator, sound engineer, and occasional composer. I am oversized, overbearded, and generally overcooked, but I love stories and I love telling them. As this is the first episode, I have nothing much left to add really, except to tell you about the story.
This is one by the wonderful Brothers Grimm called The Golden Bird; the tale of three brothers, of deceit, greed, and love.
Like many of the ancient tales I will tell, this is my adaptation. I have stuck to their words as much as possible, but I have added my own phrases here and there, and even the odd aside. And women and girls get a fairer look-in! Interestingly, the Grimms themselves sanitised the tales from the originals that they first heard, so there is a tradition to doing this!
After the story is just a short chat about why I believe storytelling is so important.
Hope you enjoy it! Please leave a comment wherever you found this or use the hashtag #deepinthedarkforest on Twitter or Instagram. My social media accounts are linked at the bottom of this page.
Don't forget to sign up to my newsletter and subscribe to me at your favourite service.
Welcome to the very first Deep in the Dark Forest podcast. A podcast bringing you new adaptations of wonderful folk tales and fairy tales, both famous and forgotten. And also, I hope, brand new stories. Some by me and others by new authors trying to get heard. I have a couple of young candidates in mind already.
But this won’t just be the stories, though they are by far the most important thing! I will also give you a bit of natter about the authors, about fairy tales in general, and about the worlds they come from.
And it is also about you. Do you like the stories? Want to ask some questions? Chase me up on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And use the hashtag Deep in the Dark Forest – what else! You can find the links to my social media at the bottom of every page of my website – Deep in the dark forest dot come. Simple as anything! And always check the show notes for useful links and bits!
But before I go any farther down this little trail through the woods, let’s have a story. Afterwards, I will tell you a bit more about why I think storytelling is so important, and why everyone, young kids and huge big hairy kids, should gather around a fire and tell each other stories.
Now, everyone loves the brothers Grimm, so what better place to start. This is the tale of the Golden Bird. A tale of love, of forests, of treachery, and a bird!
The Golden Bird
A certain king had a beautiful garden, and in the garden stood a tree which bore golden apples. These apples were counted every day, and as they began to ripen, it was noticed that every morning one had been nicked. The king was angry, and he ordered the gardener to keep watch all night under the tree. The gardener, being an old bloke, set his eldest son to watch, but about twelve o’clock the lad fell asleep, and in the morning another of the apples was missing.
So the second son was ordered to watch, and at midnight he too dozed off, and in the morning yet another apple was gone. Then the gardener’s third son said he would keep watch. But the gardener wasn’t so happy about this, scared something horrible would happen to his youngest. After a bit of an argie-bargie, he relented, and the young man made himself comfortable under the tree to watch.
As the clock struck twelve, he heard a rustling noise in the air, and a bird of pure gold came flying down from the night sky and landed in the tree, snapping at one of the apples with its beak.
The gardener’s son jumped to his feet and shot an arrow at the beautiful creature. But the bird flew away, leaving only a golden tail feather behind.
In the morning, the feather was brought to the king, and the council of wise men was called together, this being the days when wise women were sadly ignored, or this story might have been a lot shorter! This was hardly the richest kingdom, and the council realised the feather was worth more than all the wealth of the kingdom. But the king said, ‘One feather is of no use to me, I must have the whole bird.’
So the gardener’s eldest son set out on a quest, reckoning it was going to be dead easy to find a shiny golden bird. He had not gone far when he came to a wood, and by the side of the wood he saw a fox sitting comfortably. So he took out his bow and made ready to shoot.
“Oi! Don’t shoot me, idiot,” said the fox, “for I will give you wise counsel. I know what business you’re about, and that you want to find the golden bird. This evening, you will reach a village, and when you get there, you will see two inns facing each other across the lane. One is very pleasant and beautiful to look at. But don’t go in that one, rest for the night in the other, though it may appear to you to be very poor and mean.”
But the son thought to himself, “What can a beast such as this know about inns and my quest?” So he shot his arrow at the fox anyway. The fox neatly skipped out of the way of the arrow, and he set its tail above his back and ran into the wood.
The lad continued on his way, and in the evening came to the village with the two inns. In one, people were singing, and dancing, and feasting, but the one opposite looked very grubby, and poor. A place to avoid!
“I should be right stupid,” said he, “if I went to that shabby house, and not this charming place.” So he went into the smart house, and ate and drank at his ease. And as the evening passed, he forgot all about the bird, and soon enough, his country too.
Time passed on, and as the eldest son had not returned, and tidings there were none, the second son set forth. But as with all tales of young men and their ways, the same thing happened to him. He met the fox, who gave him the good advice and dodged his arrow, but when he came to the two inns, his saw his eldest brother standing at the window of the posh inn making merry with many young women and flagons of frothy ale. Well, it was just too tempting, so in he went, and he forgot all about the golden bird and his country, and just everything else as the party got going and the beer flowed quicker.
Time passed on again, and nothing was heard of the two young men. So the youngest son told his father that he too wished to set out on a quest into the wide world to seek the golden bird. But his father said no, and continued to say no for many moons, for he was very fond of his son, and was afraid that some ill luck might befall him also, and he would never see him again. However, his son just wouldn’t let it go. So, desperate for a peaceful life, he gave in.
Off went the youngest on his grand quest, and as he came to the wood, he met the fox, and heard the same good counsel. But unlike his brothers, he was thankful to the fox, and his bow stayed on his back and his arrow in his quiver.
So the fox said, “sit upon my tail, lad, and you will travel faster than you have ever travelled till now.” The boy sat on the furry tail, and the fox began to run, and away they went over stock and stone so quickly that their hair whistled in the wind.
When they came to the village, the son followed the fox’s wise counsel, ignored the pleasant inn, and went straight to the shabby inn where he rested all the night at his ease. In the morning the fox met him as he was beginning his journey, and said, “carry straight on down here, old son, till you come to a castle, before which lies a whole troop of soldiers fast asleep and snoring their bonny heads off. Take no notice of them, but head into the castle and pass though the corridors till you find a room where the golden bird sits in a wooden cage. Close by it stands a beautiful golden cage. But be warned, don’t try to take the bird out of the shabby cage and put it into the handsome one, or you will be in right trouble.” The fox stretched out his tail again, the young man sat himself down, and away they went over stock and stone till their hair whistled in the wind. Again.
When he reached the castle gate all was as the fox had said, and the soldiers slept on happily. So, the young man went in through the gates on his own and along the corridors, and he found the chamber where the golden bird was perched in a wooden cage. Below, stood the golden cage, and lying close by, the three golden apples which the bird had stolen. The lad then thought to himself, “It will look pretty naff to take such a fine bird in this shabby cage”; so he opened the door, grabbed the wondrous creature, and put it into the golden cage. But the bird set up such a loud scream that all the soldiers awoke. They rushed into the chamber, took the lad prisoner, and carried him before their king.
The next morning the king’s court sat in judgment, and when all was heard, he sentenced the young man to die, unless he brought the king the golden horse which could run as swiftly as the wind, and if he did this, he could keep the golden bird for his own, and go on his way.
So, feeling somewhat depressed, he set out once more on his journey, when all of a sudden his friend the fox met him, and he said, “You see now what has happened on account of your not listening to my counsel, idiot. I will still, however, tell you how to find the golden horse, if you will do as I bid you.
“Carry straight on till you come to the castle where the horse stands in his stall. By his side will find the groom fast asleep and snoring. The horse is yours for the taking, if you are quiet, but be sure to put the old leather saddle upon him, and not the golden one that is close by. Got it?” Then the son sat down on the fox’s tail, and away they went over stock and stone till their hair whistled in the wind. Yet again.
All went right as planned, and the groom lay snoring with his hand upon the golden saddle. But when the son looked at the horse, he thought it an absolute disgrace to put the leather saddle on it. “I will give him the good one,” said he; “for I’m sure he deserves it.” As he took up the golden saddle the groom was startled awake, and he cried out so loud, that the guards ran straight in and took the lad prisoner. And in the morning, he was once again brought before the court to be judged, and was sentenced to die. But it was agreed, that if he could find a certain beautiful princess, he should live, and have the bird and the horse for his own.
Once more, the young lad went on his way feeling right sorrowful, but the old fox came and said, “Why didn’t you listen to me, you plonker? For if you had, you would have carried away both the bird and the horse! So, I once more give you counsel. Go straight on, and in the evening, you will arrive at a castle. At twelve o’clock at night the princess goes to the bathing-house. Introduce yourself to her and give her an innocent kiss, and if you are nice enough and she thinks you are an honest idiot, she will come away with you. Cos she is not right happy where she is at the moment and she’s been promised to a smelly old git. But be warned you take care you do not let her say goodbye to her father and mother.” Then the fox stretched out his tail, and away they went over stock and stone till their hair whistled, wind or no wind.
When they arrive at the next castle, all was as the fox had said, and at twelve o’clock the young man met the princess going to her bath and gave her a little kiss. She thought he was a bit of alright, and agreed to run away with him, but begged, with tears streaming down her face, that he would let her take leave of her father. At first, he refused, but she wept all the more, and then turned kind of grumpy, folding her arms and tapping her foot meaningfully. At which point he relented. But the moment she came to her father’s house the guards awoke and he was taken prisoner again.
The king looked at the idiot and glowered. “You shall never have my daughter unless in eight days you dig away the hill that blocks the view of my lands from my window.”
Now, this hill was so big that the whole world couldn’t dig it away. But when he had worked for seven days, and had shifted so little, the fox came and said, “lie down and go to sleep and I will do the work for you.” And in the morning, when the lad awoke, the hill was gone. Happy as anything he was! He could have kissed that fox. Off he went merrily to the king, and told him that now the hill was flattened, he should let his daughter go.
Mean he might be, but the king was obliged to keep his word, and away went the young man and the princess, giggling as young people often do when they think they have got away with something. And the fox was no better. “We will have all three, my young fool; the princess, the horse, and the bird.”
“That would be bleeding amazing!” declared the young man. “But how’s that going to work?”
“If you will listen, and listen well,” said the fox, “it can be done. When you come to the king, and he asks for the beautiful princess, you must say, ‘Here she is!’ He will be ecstatic, and you will mount the golden horse. Put out your hand to take leave of them, but shake hands with the princess last. Then, as quick as anything, lift her on to the horse behind you, clap your spurs to his side, and gallop away as fast as you can.” And that is what happened.
Then the fox said, “when you come to the castle where the bird is, I will stay with the princess at the gate, and you ride in and speak to the king. And when he sees you have the golden horse of his dreams, he will bring out the bird. When he does, stay on the horse, got it? Tell the king that you want to examine the bird, just to make sure it is the true golden bird. As soon as you have it in your hand, ride away as fast as you can.”
This, too, happened as the fox said it would. The young man galloped out of the castle, the princess jumped up behind him, and they rode off till they reached a great wood. The fox turned to the son and said, “now, kill me, and cut off my head and my feet.” The young man’s mouth dropped open in shock, and he absolutely refused to do it. So the fox said, “fair enough, son, but let me give you my good counsel. Beware of two things; ransom no one from the gallows and sit down by the side of no river.” Then away he went into the forest, his beautiful tail behind him. “Well,” thought the young man, “I won’t have problems keeping to that advice.”
He and the princess trotted down the lanes and ways, till at last they came to the village where he had left his two brothers. The lane was packed with villagers shouting and swearing. When he asked what the hell was going on, one of the innkeepers told him, “two men are going to be hanged, son. Thieves they are.” As he and the princess came nearer, he saw that the two men were his brothers, who had indeed become robbers.
“They are my brothers!” said the young man. “How can I save them? Is there anything I can do?” But the innkeeper said, “not a chance mate, unless you give us all your coin to buy their freedom.” He didn’t hesitate an instant, but paid what was asked, and his brothers were given up, and went on with him towards their home.
As they came to the wood where they had first me the fox, it was so cool and pleasant that the two brothers said, “come on, let’s sit down by the side of the river to eat drink and take our rest.”
Forgetting the fox’s wise counsel, the young lad sat down by the side of the river. Now, the youngest son was an innocent soul at heart, and he didn’t really think his brothers were wronguns! So he didn’t see them when they crept up behind him and threw him down the steep river bank. They grabbed the princess, the horse, and the bird, and galloped home to the king their master.
“Your majesty,” they said. “Look at all these wonderous gifts we have won through our bravery and hard work.” The king and the people rejoiced and celebrated, but the horse would not eat, the bird would not sing, and the princess wept all day and all night.
The youngest son fell to the bottom of the riverbed. As luck would have it, it was nearly dry and he didn’t drown, but his bones were almost broken, and the bank was so steep that he couldn’t climb back up. Then the old fox came once more and scolded him for not following his advice. If he had, he said, no evil would have befallen him: “Yet,” said he, “I can’t leave you here like this, so grab hold of my tail and hold on tight.” Then the fox pulled the lad out of the river and onto the grass. “Now, son, your woes ain’t over yet,” warned the fox. “Your brothers have set watch to kill you if they find you in the kingdom.”
But the young lad was a clever sort, and he disguised himself as a poor man, and came secretly to the king’s court. And he was scarcely within the doors when the horse began to eat, and the bird to sing, and the princess dried her eyes. He went to the king, and told him the truth about his brothers’ roguery. The king ordered them to be seized and punished, and he looked with fondness on the youngest son of his old gardener. And a year later after the king had died the young man and the princess inherited the kingdom.
A long while after that, the young man returned to the wood on his own. And there he met the old fox. After they had sat and remembered their adventure together, the fox once more pleaded with the young king, tears falling from his eyes, to kill him, and cut off his head and feet. And after a lot more pleading, the young man did as the fox asked. And as he did, in flash, the fox was changed into a man, who, it turned out, was the brother of the princess, who had been lost business many years before, and had more than anything wanted to see his sister happy, which she now was, and married to a nice young king, which she was also.
A Bit About Storytelling
You know, the Brothers Grimm, or just the name Grimm, has really buried itself into our world in so many ways, but I sometimes think the original stories that the brothers collected and then re-wrote to make them a bit more acceptable, can get forgotten. My adaptations, while still set in a folk-story past and using as many of their original words as possible, are written for people now. So, in the Golden Bird, the princess was originally just kissed and taken without her even agreeing. That is not good, so I changed it. And it is a bit more fun as a result.
Storytelling is so important. Us humans evolved over a couple of million years, and we have this part of the brain all to do with language. Most higher mammals do in one way or another, but humans most of all.
It allows us to speak, understand emotions and all kinds of complicated messages sent from one human to another. One thing it doesn’t do it tell us anything about the written word. Writing, unlike making mad noises, is NOT a natural thing. We have to be taught how to turn these noises into shapes on a piece of paper – words.
Books are wonderful. I write books and I love doing it. But when I read my books or other people’s books out loud, they are lifted to another level. It is just natural to listen to another person speak, and if they story too, well, that is just a big extra prize, isn’t it?
And it does something else. It joins us together. Telling a story is about sharing. When I tell you a story either on this podcast or sitting around a fire, I am sharing it with you. I’m not just throwing a book at you and telling you to go away and read it. And because we are sharing, we can learn about each other – learn to like each other.
I remember a teacher who used to sit on a chair surrounded by her small pupils who were sitting on the floor listening to her stories. We all know the scene – it happens in every junior school across the world.
One day, she took the chair away and sat on the floor with them. Suddenly, they weren’t looking up at her like she was on a stage, but were much nearer the same level. They interrupted more, ask questions, giggled more. They were sharing.
And a couple of times she got one of the kids to tell a story to her. Those kids learned more about sharing, and about telling stories, and about friendship through that than through anything else, she reckoned. They loved it, and so did she.
So, storytelling is important. We should do more of it. Not just me here on this podcast, but why don’t you tell stories with your with friends and family. Tell them one of the old stories I have adapted here, if you like. Bards often shared stories – so we should to. Come on, it’s fun!
Don’t forget to tell everyone about Deep in the Dark Forest podcast and subscribe on your favourite Podcast Service. You can sign up for my newsletter too. Details in the show notes or on the website.
I am CC Hogan, and I wish you good fortune as you travel on your way!