Fairy tales for the Yuletide season!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Reading Newt and Cuckoo

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this article on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

The Cuckoo
No other bird in European mythology is more generally associated with the gift of prophecy than the cuckoo. Its loud cry is often awaited in spring in the freshly sprouting leaves of the forest canopy. An old song describes a dispute between spring and winter, both claiming the cuckoo as its own. But the cuckoo’s call heralds the dearest time of year, namely spring, and according to folk belief, whoever hears the cuckoo’s cry first can inquire of the bird how long he will live. Children in Switzerland call out “Cuckoo (Gugger), how long shall I live?” The caller must then listen and count the number of times the cuckoo calls in response and that will be the number of years left to live. It was said the bird was an enchanted baker or miller and that is why its feathers were dusted with flour. But it is bad luck to hear the cuckoo call after St. John’s Day (summer solstice) for then it foretells hard times. It was believed that the bird was never heard to call before April 3rd and never after St. John’s Day. But it was impossible for the cuckoo to call until he had eaten another bird’s egg. The direction from which the bird called was also significant. To hear its call from the north forebode sadness, but from the east or west meant the greatest fortune. When his call was first heard in spring it was important to have money in your purse for then a year of plenty lay ahead. But if you had no money you would suffer want and hunger the entire year. Because the cuckoo was rarely heard calling after the summer solstice, it was a common belief that it turned into a hawk or bird of prey for the remainder of the year.
The cuckoo is commonly associated with marriage and allegedly could foretell the number of children a person would have. According to Serbian folk tradition, after her brother’s death a young maiden was transformed into a cuckoo; her mournful call gave voice to the sadness and despair of her loss. In the Latvian folk tale below it is the wife, who mourning the loss of her husband, transforms herself into a cuckoo. The cuckoo’s call reputedly alerted a husband to an unfaithful wife. The word cuckold is based on the bird’s behavior of placing its eggs in another bird’s nest for care. Thus the cuckoo’s call was not a welcome sound to a married man.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very nicely narrated.
Coincidently here in India too we have similar kind of folktale associated with the cukoo.
Its like this:


Once there was a mother cuckoo who lived with her daughter and son cuckoo.She had brought some delicious nuts and told her children not to eat them until their father comes.But the daughter cuckoo was very naughty, she hid the nuts and told her mother that the son (her brother) has eaten all the nuts. This made mother cuckoo very angry so she poked her beak on the son;s head thereby killing him. Later on the daughter told that she had lied, the mother cuckoo was very upset. From that day onwards mother cuckoo started scolding her daughter loudly and cried for her son.


Vandana