In a wild land with strong rivers cutting through it on the way to the sea, there lived a man named Edgar that would walk down to one of these rivers to fish nearly every day. One spring morning he was baiting his hook when the largest bald eagle he had ever seen swooped down into the river and snatched out a salmon and flew away with it.
“Bravo! Bravo!” The man called out to the eagle. The eagle circled over him proudly, gripping the giant salmon in his clawed feet and then flew away to feast in private.
The next day while fishing, Edgar spied the eagle sitting up in a tree, searching the water for fish.
Edgar waved at the eagle and pointed at his pile of freshly caught salmon beside him, offering to share.
“Eagle, eagle!” he called. “Come share some of my fish, I have more than enough.”
The eagle cocked his head, unsure.
“It’s fine, Eagle. I will not hurt you.”
Silently the eagle glided down, grabbed a fish from Edgar’s pile and swooshed away to devour his dinner.
Almost every day after that Edgar would see the eagle at the river and offer him some of his fish. Eventually the eagle stopped fishing all together and just waited each morning for Edgar to show up and catch his day’s meal.
“Why don’t you join me at my home for a feast I have prepared?” Edgar asked the Eagle one day. “I have smoked some fish and have many other delicious things that I think you would enjoy.”
The Eagle looked at the man out of the side of his eye for a moment or two before he nodded his head and flapped his beautiful wings lifting him a few feet above Edgar.
“Oh good!” Edgar clapped his hands together. “Let’s go home.”
The Eagle followed Edgar back to his cabin, flying from tree to tree, never getting too close to the man.
“Here we are Eagle!” The man called to the eagle up in the nearest tree, pointing to a stone walkway leading to a small house further into the woods. The hungry eagle could smell the smoked fish and other delicacies. His stomach growled and he swooped down from the tree and landed at the cottage’s entrance. Immediately dozens of sparrows appeared from the surrounding brush and began chirping and swirling around the eagle.
Edgar ran to the eagle and shooed away the small birds. “Stop it, stop you little birds. Leave Eagle alone.” He turned to the eagle. “They are just jealous that they are not such a big and powerful bird.” He said apologetically.
Edgar and the Eagle shared a wonderful meal that lasted late into the night. The eagle was full and sleepy and the cottage was warm and cozy. The eagle’s eyes became heavy and he soon fell into a deep sleep and dreamed of soaring high above the tangled rivers and pine trees that he loved.
He awoke in the morning to the sparrows lining the window’s ledge chirping up quite a racket, tapping on the glass with their beaks. Edgar ran in from the other room once again shooing off the sparrows. The eagle, not one to wear out his welcome, felt it was time for him to leave. He leapt onto the table, tore off some scraps from the night’s meal and hopped to the door, waiting for the man to open it for him.
Edgar obliged and opened the door wide to allow the large bird to take flight out of the cottage, the sparrows chirping wildly down below him.
“I’ll see you at the river, Eagle!” called Edgar. The eagle looked back at him and then soared off through his valley, happy to be flying free again.
A few hours later Edgar was almost done fishing for the day when the eagle swooped down and helped himself to a fish. Edgar laughed and invited him to dinner once again. The eagle had enjoyed his delicious meal and warm bed from the night before so he followed Edgar home that night and for many more nights after that.
“Good Morning Eagle,” said Edgar one morning when the large bird awoke in the cottage. “Should we go to the river for some fishing?” He asked and opened the door wide for the eagle to hop through.
As they always did, the sparrows began chirping and diving at the eagle wildly when he appeared. The eagle eyed them, bored by their noise and flapped his wings to take off away from them into the high trees where he would be free. The man was nice for sharing his meals but the wild was calling to him, the eagle decided.
He flapped his wings once, twice, three times but instead of lifting easily off the ground he only hopped a few feet, unable to lift off into the air. He looked up at Edgar and saw a smile cross his face.
“Oh Eagle,” the man said, “you will not be flying anymore, I like your company and appreciate your beauty too much and would miss you if you left me. I have trimmed your wings so that they are still beautiful but you will not be able to fly away from me.”
The eagle began panicking, flapping his wings and leaping frantically. The sparrows chimed in, dive bombing him and screaming.
“Don’t be upset” said Edgar. “You will never need to hunt for food again. You will never be lonely or hungry again. You will have me.”
The eagle narrowed his eyes and let out a screech that echoed through the forest. He leapt on the man, preparing to tear the flesh from his body with his sharp talons but the man did not jump back or run from him in fear. The eagle landed on the man but his powerful talons did not even scratch him.
“I trimmed back your claws so they would not damage anything in the house.” said the man, “Since you are staying here, I thought you would appreciate that courtesy.”
With new fury the Eagle screeched again and leapt with all his might to the man’s face preparing to tear his eyes out in his rage.
But the man just laughed.
“I shaved your beak down.” He told the eagle. “You will no longer need it now that I will be doing all the hunting and fishing for us. Now let’s walk down to the river for a fish. I don’t want us to go hungry.”
Shocked and deflated, the eagle walked behind the man to the river to await his breakfast.
The eagle lived with the man for many days. He did not go hungry and the man was kind to him. Every day when they returned from fishing the sparrows would appear chirping madly and swooping down on him. He had no will to fight them now and just shuffled into the cottage to await his meal.
Each night, when the eagle slept next to the fire, he dreamed of his old life of soaring high above the trees and his valley. He swooped into the river plucking out large salmon that he did not have to share with the man. In his dreams, he was wild and free again but in the morning he awoke next to the ashes of the fire, unable to fly or hunt. And every morning those sparrows started up again, endlessly taunting him.
One night, exhausted by his depression and boredom, but belly full of salmon, the eagle fell into a deep black sleep. For the first time he did not dream of flying high above his valley. He did not scoop fish from the river and devour it in the treetops. He dreamt of nothing.
When Eagle awoke he felt different. The room felt bigger, the ceiling felt further from him. Out of old habit he flapped his wings and he lifted up into the air! He could fly! He could fly! He landed on the back of a chair. But he felt strange and different. He stuck out one of his feet. These were not his feet. They were tiny and fragile and lite pink. He straightened out one of his wings. The glossy brown feathers were gone and replaced with tiny yellow, white and tan ones. These were not his wings. He looked down at his chest full of bright yellow feathers. This was not his chest. This was a sparrow’s chest!
For the first time he did not hear the sparrows squawking at him. He looked over to the window and all the sparrows were there, staring back at him silently. The Eagle had not understood their warning.