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Amal-bisso -- The Bird Child

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Legends of Ceylon

0nce upon a time a beautiful young woman wandered into a jungle with her little child in search of food.

The child was heavy and she was very tired, so she made a soft bed of the petals of flowers, and laid her child upon it.

Then she plucked the thorny branches of a wild creeper growing near by, and built a wall of thorns round her baby to protect it, and covered its wee body with leaves.

While her baby slept she left it in its soft bed and went in search of fruit, for the poor young woman was starving.

Presently two great birds who had no little birdies of their own, found the little human baby in its nest of flowers, and carried it away on their backs to their own nest.

Their nest was very large, and many strange birds lived with them.

There was a Parrot, a Cockatoo, a Myna, a Stork, a King-fisher and a Tailor-bird, forming a happy family.

They were all very kind to the little human child; but none so kind as the two great big birds who had found her and adopted her.

As the little girl grew bigger, she helped the birds build a great bird-house with doors and windows to it.

And there they all lived very happily. Every-body in Bird Land heard of " The House of Many Birds," and the kind little girl who had helped build it.

The birds called their little adopted daughter "Amal-bisso," and they loved her very much.

One day Amal-bisso's foster-parents lit a fire on the hearth of their new house, and asked her to look after it. She was to be sure not to let it go out before their return; for, they were going on a very long journey and would return cold and tired. They would need a nice warm fire before which to dry themselves.

So Amal-bisso promised she would look after the fire; but when the birds had been away some time she fell fast asleep, and the fire went out.

Bye-and-bye she awoke to find only ashes on the hearth, and was so sorry that she began to cry.

The kind Parrot, when he heard her cry, tried to comfort her. " Little girl," he said, " stop crying and I'll tell you what to do. There's no smoke without a fire, they say, and to-day as I flew over the Dragon's house I noticed some smoke coming out of it. Dry up your tears, little girl, and I'll take you to the Dragon's house, and you can ask the Dragon to give you some fire for the hearth."

" I know," added the Parrot, " where we can get some dry sticks, and we shall have a roaring fire before the birds; return home."

So off they went to the Dragon's house, the Parrot and the little girl, and knocking at the door, they asked for a lit torch to take home with them.

The Dragon's daughter was at home, and she promised to give them a lit torch if they would first help her in cooking some rice for her father the Dragon, who was away on the rocks by the sea.

And she added, "You must take the rice to my father before you take the torch home."

So the Parrot and the little girl cooked the Dragon's rice for his daughter and started off with it to the rocks by the sea.

The old Dragon was pleased to get the rice, and as he could not see, very well he mistook the little girl for his own daughter, or he would surely have eaten her up.

This is what the Dragon's wicked daughter had hoped he would do, but Amal-bisso returned with the Parrot quite safely to the Dragon's home, and once more asked for the lit torch.

" You may have it," said the Dragon's daughter, and here is some rice for you to eat on the way; but for every grain you put into your mouth, I pray you drop one upon the ground, or some great disaster will befall you."

Secretly she hoped to trace Amal-bisso by the grains of rice dropped on the way.

The Dragon's daughter knew that somewhere, not far away, a great many birds lived together, and she had heard that a little human child lived with them.

" If ever I want a meal l shall be able to go to this House of many Birds and catch one of the birds," thought the Dragon's daughter. " And then there is the little girl. What a feast she will make when l catch her! "

Arnal-bisso did as she was bid, and dropped a grain of rice on the way for every one she put into her mouth, but she first gave some of the rice to the Parrot.

When they reached home they piled the dry sticks upon the hearth, and soon had a great fire blazing to welcome the tired birds home.

Presently they heard a pecking at the door, and the parent birds sang:

Amal-bisso, Amal-bisso,
Amath ahwa, Apath ahwa
Mahala te muttuth gen-awa.
Dora ara-pang! Dora ara-pang!

which means:

Amal-bisso, Amal-bisso,
Your father and your mother
For your throatlet have brought gems.
Open the door! Open the door! "

And Amal-bisso opened the door and let them in; they were wet and tired and cold, but not a bit hungry; for, as they told their little daughter, as they neared home they had found a great many grains of rice strewn on the way, and these they had eaten up.

The next morning off went the birds again, and when they had been gone some little time, Amal-bisso heard a knocking at the door, and some one singing outside :

Amal-bisso, Amal-bisso,
Amath ahwa, Apath ahwa
Mahala te muttuth gen-awa.
Dora ara-pang! Dora ara-pang!

The little girl would have opened the door, had not all the birds with one voice sung:

Amal-bisso, Amal-bisso,
Dora arind eppa,
Amath na-vay, Apath na-vay.
Dora arind eppa."

which means:

Amal-bisso, Amal-bisso,
Open not the door.
'Tis not your mother,
'Tis not your father.
Open not the door."

So Amal-bisso left the door shut and went on with her work-there was quite a lot to do in keeping the house clean and tidy, and in cooking the food for the day.

Now the Dragon's daughter, who had found the House of Many Birds, and had knocked at the door, singing as she had heard the parent birds sing when they wanted to be let in, was very angry indeed that Amal-bisso did not open the door.

She flew to an old witch who lived in a cave near by, and begged of the old witch to help her do away with Amal-bisso.

The old witch gave the Dragon's daughter a charmed nail, which she told her to place upon the door of the House of Many Birds, in such a way that the nail would be sure to fall on Amal-bisso whenever she opened the door.

Back flew the Dragon's daughter to the House, of Many Birds, and cleverly placed the nail upon the outer edge of the ledge above the door. Late in the evening the birds returned home, and sang to their little human daughter to open the door to them. Amal-bisso ran to the door and opened it to let her dear bird parents in. But in opening the door she shook the nail off the ledge; it struck her on the head and lay hidden in her hair, and Amal-bisso fell down dead.

The birds gathered round her and wept. They had all loved their little girl friend so.

Poor Polly died of a broken heart.

Then the parent birds put Amal-bisso into a golden box-like boat, with her dear friend the Parrot at her feet, and sent the boat afloat along the river.

Down it went, and for a very long way the birds went with it.

As morning dawned the birds had to fly away back to the House of Many Birds, and on went the boat. Away it floated, the golden boat with the little girl and Parrot inside it.

When the sun rose, it glittered and shone till it looked like a boat on fire.

Down to the river that morning a sad lady came to bathe, and with her, her bright-faced maids.

She was always sad, this beautiful lady, though her lord and master was very kind to her.

Folks said that years ago she had lost her little baby in a jungle. A dear little baby girl with a red star upon her left hand.

This morning as she came down to the river with her maids she noticed the golden boat.

It was coming towards them, and the lady swam out to meet it and with her maids brought it ashore. How surprised she was to find a dear little girl inside the box. Such a pretty little girl, with soft long black hair, and long black curling lashes.

She took Amal-bisso out of the golden boat and hugged and kissed her. She dressed her in soft white silk and combed her long black hair. Hidden in Amal-bisso's hair she found the witch's nail, and directly she removed it the little girl came to life.

Amal-bisso loved the lady with the sad face, who was really Amal-bisso's own dear mother, though Amal-bisso did not know this till her mother discovered a tiny red star on the palm of her left hand.

Amal-bisso lived happily with her mother, but never forgot her kind bird-parents.

They soon discovered she was alive and well, and often visited her, bringing her news of the rest of her friends in the House of Many Birds.

In Amal-bisso's own garden her dear Polly was buried, and she kept its grave fresh with flowers which she grew in her garden for her dear Parrot.



Owner/Source  Aline van Dort 
Date  Ca. 1914 
Place  Colombo 

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octobre 1996 - march 2007, created by Mascha van Dort, Delft, The Netherlands.