Nothing comes from nothing, the jay (015)

A jay has not always been a beautiful, striking and noisy bird. Originally, it was a gentle, shy and unobtrusive bird which longed to be striking, clever and strong. However, through undertaking difficult adventures it earned its bright blue wing feathers, the white tail, black beak and tough character. Read this new story and find out what the jay had to do to get them.

One day in Flanders an unobtrusive light brown bird, perched quietly on a branch, was grumbling away to itself. Suddenly it heard a quiet voice next to it say, “Why are you so miserable, little jay?” I think you are a sweet creature and it’s quite clear to me that all the birds adore you too.” The gloomy jay answered, “I do not really belong to my family, the crows. I am ugly and stupid and I’m not even brave. My life would be a lot better if I were beautiful, striking, clever and strong.” The little fairy drew out her wand and said, “I can make all your wishes come true. Everything is possible, so simply say what you want.” The jay beamed with pleasure, “I want colourful plumage with bright blue feathers on my wings and striking white feathers to show off when I fly. “As well as that,” she continued shyly, “I’d like a large beak and hairs on my head slicked straight back just like some people have.” “Fine,” said the little fairy, “but for every wish you will have to carry out a challenge. Nothing comes from nothing. Can you see that high mountain over there? If you look carefully, you will find there the beautiful blue colour you want. Fly then to the town in the village and pluck some strands of hair off the heads of people with the slicked back hair. But first you must go to the coal mines and delve yourself a way down there.”

With a look of utter disbelief the bird looked at the fairy, “Thank you. I don’t want to appear ungrateful, but I also really want to be as strong and as clever as the other crows, so that I don’t have to go hungry in the winter.” The fairy said with a smile, “Don’t worry, little jay, I’ll take care of that wish too. Now get going.”

In the coal mine the jay hacked away at the black stones with the greatest of difficulty. After several hours’ work it had still only managed to delve down to the depth of its own beak. It cursed the fairy out loud, whereupon the fairy appeared out of thin air in front of the jay laughing. “I did tell you, didn’t I …nothing comes from nothing? Stop now and go and fetch your colours from that mountain over there?” That mountain was far higher than the jay had imagined and the air was thin. Exhausted and gasping for breath it reached the top. Proud that it had survived this terrible trial, it saw that there was now snow on its feathers. Just beneath the peak there was a beautiful lake with water the clear blue colour the jay had so dreamed of. The lake gave it the blue colour it desired for its wings without a moment’s hesitation. Thrilled, the bird went on its journey to the city where it first settled on one of the high towers to recover from its exertions. The town down below looks like an ant’s nest, it thought to itself aloud. When it had got its breath back, it flew on and down towards a sunny little square where people were sitting quite close to one another. It alighted on the head of a man with slicked back hair. It wanted to pluck off some hairs, but the man began to hit out at the bird and it managed to escape in the nick of time. For days it perched in the trees around the square waiting for the right moment to achieve its next goal. Then it saw a man sitting snoozing in the sun and it flew quickly down in a single swoop to steal a lock of hair. When the now happy bird flew back to its tree, the fairy was already waiting for it there. The latter asked, “So…are you happy now?” “Yes, I am very happy,” the jay answered. “I have the white of the snow, the blue of the mountain lake, the black of the coal mines and beautiful hair. But now I want to be clever and strong.” The fairy smiled, “Come with me and take a look at yourself in the water.” The jay was flabberghasted at what it saw: a large strong bird with sparkling eyes and a beautiful plumage of blue, black, white and brown. As a result of all the flying and hard work it had developed a broad breast and a large strong black beak with an even larger looking black stripe on either side of its head. “Into the bargain, you are clever too, oh Jay. Otherwise you would not have got those beautiful black hairs on your head. All your wishes have now been fulfilled and I must be on my way. But I want you to know that I have left that beautiful brown colour you used to have on your breast and belly as a reminder of the bird you once were.” Then off went the fairy and the jay screeched with pride and pleasure.

Like the magpie, the jay belongs to the crow family. All the animals in the wood take advantage of its alarm signal. These clever fierce birds are really shy forest birds, but with the passing of time they have moved closer and closer to the towns and villages, because increasingly more oak trees grow there. They are genuine ‘foresters’ :in the autumn they bury their winter supply of acorns not only in the woods but also in the gardens. Out of these forgotten stashes grow thousands of oak trees.   


© Els Baars,


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Els Baars