owls and the swan
One night not so long ago, among the trees of a Northern forest, three little owls, Pip, Wink and Streaky, met a large and beautiful swan. Now they had never seen a swan before, nor had they seen any animal as snow-white as this. With a great flapping of wings, they hollered out, "Whooo are you? Whooo are you?"
The swan glided gently onto the hill where the owls were hopping about and said with a smile, "I'm a swan, s-w-a-n, and I live in a lake just the other side of the forest."
"Oooh," said Pip, Wink and Streaky all at the same time. "What's it like?"
"Cold," replied the swan. "But every now and then when the sun breaks through the leaves, the water gets warm. Then all the animals come out to play games and lie about in the warm sunlight."
"What's a sun?" Pip asked. "Can you eat it?"
The pretty swan started laughing and laughing and the little owls, who were by this time feeling very ignorant and foolish,
couldn't stop their feathers from fluffing up. a bit. "Oh, I'm very sorry if I've upset you," said the swan, "but the sun is not something to eat. It's a bright light that shines in the sky. It's like those stars, only much, much brighter. The sun is wonderful. It makes the woods pretty and warm."
Brother Streaky made a big frown. He just couldn't imagine something so bright hanging in the sky. "Look here, swan, I don't understand. The sky is black. There's nothing up there that is big, bright and warm. How can you be telling the truth?"
"But, Streaky, I am telling the truth. The sun is hundreds of times brighter than the moon. The whole sky lights up when it's there. In fact, your eyes will hurt if you look straight at it. Oh, and it's so warm! When the sun comes out, flowers unfold and the water sparkles. All the animals stop looking for food and play games with each other."
By this time Pip, Wink, and even Streaky were jumping up and down so hard the leaves were flying everywhere as a nearby tree shook itself in protest. Wink was so excited that she knocked Pip over with her wing and, being a chubby fellow, he rolled halfway down the hill. If it weren't for the fact that the swan was telling
more sun stories when he flew back up, there would have been a fight right then and there.
Wink was shouting, "I want to see the sun. I want to see the shiny sun." "Me, toooo. Me, toooo," joined in Pip and Streaky.
So the swan told them, "I'll take you to my home and show you the sun. This tree will be our meeting place and I'll come back tomorrow night. Go home and ask your father for permission."
The little owls were very excited and flew home as fast as they could. Father was waiting up for them with a scowl on his face. "You've been gone a long time," he chided. But Pip, Wink and Streaky were talking so fast that they didn't even hear him. "Daddy, daddy, the swan invited us to come with him and see the sun. Can we go? Please, can we go?"
"What swan? And what sun?" the father asked in his most ominous tone.
It took the father owl a long time to calm the kids down, but he finally knew what they were talking about. That is, he could understand their words. "Wait just a minute. What in heaven's name is a 'sun?' "
"Well," piped up Pip, "it's bright and big and it shines."
"And it's warm," added Wink.
"And it's ever such fun to play with," added' Streaky, who was still a little confused.
"Go to bed and forget about it," the father owl ordered. "I've been alive a long time and I've never heard of such a thing, let alone seen it. It's all nonsense."
The children crept off to bed very close to tears. Maybe their father was right, but it would have been fun to go with the swan anyway.
The next night the children woke up and went to tell their new friend the sad news. "We can't go with you," said Wink. "Our daddy won't let us. He said there is no such thing as the sun and that we shouldn't believe you."
The swan was very patient. "I've seen it myself. I promise you it's there and if you just come with me, I'll show you." And then the swan told the little owls even more beautiful stories of what it's like to live in sunlight, of all the colors that you see, and all the different kinds of animals that are ihere to play with. Back the children went to beg their father, "Please, please let us go see the sun!"
Now the father owl was not a cruel father, but he was stern; he said, "No!" In order to make the children feel better, though, he called a huge council of all the owls and all the bats in the forest. When everyone was comfortable, the father owl explained the reason for the meeting.
"My three children have met a large white animal called a swan. Now this creature has been telling them stories about a bright shining ball in the sky called the sun, and he said that he will take them to his home and show it to them. I want to ask all the animals here if they have heard of anything like this sun?"
For a few minutes all that could be heard was rustling feathers and beating wings. Then all of a sudden, "No, no, no!" hooted the owls. And, "No, no, not on your life!" shrieked the bats. The oldest of all the owls spoke. "From time to time some wandering creature has brought to the forest a rumor that a land exists where the sky is blue, not black, and the stars cannot be seen because of a light that is even brighter. We have sent many owls and bats with keener eyes than your children's to look for this land. It has never been found." With that, the old owl closed his eyes and promptly went to sleep.
Later that night, with the children safe in bed, the father owl flew to their meeting place with the swan. He waited, hidden within the dark leaves. Sooner than he had imagined, he saw a flash of white in the sky. The swan swooped down and landed softly a little ways away. Father owl hesitated only a minute and then came out into the moonlight.
"I am the father of Pip, Wink, and Streaky," he began. "I want to know if what you have told them is true."
"You have only to follow me to know," answered the swan. And off he flew to the east. Father owl followed.
It was early morning and all the night creatures were asleep. Pip, Wink and Streaky were tossing fitfully in their beds, dreaming of a light a million times brighter than the moon, when all of a sudden they realized that someone was gently shaking them: "Wake up, wake up," said father owl. "I want to show you something."