4/14/2012

The hawk and the King

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There was once a king, a great and mighty warrior named Genghis Khan. When he led his armies out to war, he conquered many lands, so many that his empire sprawled from eastern Europe to the Sea of Japan.


One day, the king rode out into the woods to hunt. With him went his favorite hawk. The hawk would fly about in the air, circling. When the hawk’s sharp eyes spotted some prey from the air, the bird would immediately scoop down for the attack.


It was a warm day, and by afternoon the king was hot and thirst. He started searching for a spring of water he had once seen in the woods. Finally he spotted a trickle of water dripping down the side of a rock, and he knew the spring must be above.


The water fell from the rock slowly, drop by drop. It was not much, but it was water, and the king was very thirsty. So the mighty Khan took out a small silver cup and held it under the dripping water. Ever so slowly, the cup began to fill.


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The king could hardly wait to feel the cool liquid wet his dry lips and tongue and throat. So, even before the little cup was quite full, Khan pulled it out from under the trickle of water and lifted it toward his lips. Suddenly, something swooped through the air and knocked the cup from the king’s hand, spilling the precious water on the ground.


Startled, Genghis Khan looked up to see his pet hawk, flying from tree to tree and looking rather proud of himself. The king glared at the hawk, picked up the cup and began again to slowly fill the cup. This time, he let the cup fill only halfway before he lifted it to his mouth. The cup was just about to touch his lips � he could almost taste the water � when again the hawk swooped down from the air and knocked it from the king’s hand.


By now, Khan was quite angry with his hawk. A third time he collected water in his cup � and a third time the hawk kept him from drinking it.


The king turned red in the face from anger. He paced back and forth, glaring at his hawk which was perched on a nearby branch. In his fiercest voice, the mighty Genghis Khan bellowed, “How dare you spill my water!” He bent down to retrieve his cup and then said in a quite, but still furious voice, “If I could catch you, I would break your neck.”


The mighty Genghis Khan bent to fill his cup again. But this time, the king drew his sword from the sheath at his side. “If you knock this cup from my hand again, hawk,” the king said to his pet, “it will be the last thing you ever do!”


Sure enough, as the king brought the cup to his mouth, the hawk swooped down and knocked it out of his hand. But this time as the hawk passed, the king raised his sword, and with a well-timed flick of his blade, struck the bird in mid-flight. The hawk fell at the king’s feet. With imploring eyes fixed on the king’s face, it bled to death.


“It’s what you deserve,” said the king and stepped over the bird to find his silver cup. But the cup had fallen between two rocks and, try as he might, the king could not reach it.


“Well, then,” thought the king, “I will follow this trickle of water up to the spring from which it comes. I still need something to drink.”


So Genghis Khan began to climb and as he climbed, he became thirstier and thirstier. Finally, he found the pool of water. The king strode eagerly toward the pool, but at the water’s edge he gasped and took a quick step back. Lying in the pool was a huge, dead, snake � a snake whose venom would kill a man with the slightest taste.


The king stood very still. He was no longer thirsty. All he could think about was the dead hawk lying on the ground below.


“That bird saved my life,” he said. “That bird was a true friend, and I have killed him.”


The king went back down the hill, half running, half sliding. When he reached the bottom, he carefully picked up the dead hawk and gently placed it in his hunting bag. Then he rode slowly home.





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