The Kaha Bird
A Talzhik Tale
Once upon a time there lived an old fisherman. Early in the morning
he would go down to the river and sit there fishing all day. And
in the evening, when he counted his catch, there never would be
more than a fish or two. He sold the fish in the market and bought
a little food for himself and his wife. And almost every day they
went to bed half hungry.
One morning he went down to the river to fish, when suddenly a
beautiful great bird with shiny silver plumage flew in from somewhere
and sat down on the tree above him. This was not an ordinary bird---it
was the magical Kaha bird herself, who often helped poor people
when they were in trouble.
The Kaha watched the fisherman as he waited and waited until
he caught a tiny little fish. Then she asked him: "What will
you do with this fish, grandpa?"
"I'll take it to market and sell it, so I can buy a piece
of bread for myself and my old wife."
The bird took pity on the old man. "You have worked and
suffered long enough," she said to him. "I shall bring
yon a big fish every night. You will get a lot of money for it,
and you and your wife won't have to live in poverty any more."
At midnight the Kaha bird came flying with a large fish and dropped
it in the old man's yard.
In the morning the old fisherman cut the big fish into pieces,
fried them and took them to the market to sell.
From that day on the Kaha bird came every night and brought the
old man a big fish. Little by little the old man, who had been
so poor, became quite rich, and even bought himself a house with
One day, when he brought his fish to market, he heard the crier
of the shah himself shouting for all to hear: "Our shah has
heard about a marvelous, magical Kaha bird. Whoever tells him
where to find this bird will get half of his kingdom and fifty
bags of gold."
The old man jumped up from his place to tell the crier that he
knew where the bird could be found. But then he thought: "This
bird has saved me from poverty and hunger. How can I betray her?"
And he sat down again.
"Still," he said to himself, "it would be nice
to be the lord of half the kingdom," and he stood up again.
And so he argued with himself, getting up and sitting down, getting
up and sitting down, until the crier saw him and dragged the old
man to the palace, before the shah himself.
"This old man knows where to find the Kaha bird!" he
And the shah said to the fisherman: "If you know about the
Kaha bird, tell me where to find her. I've grown blind, and no
known remedies have helped me. But a wise healer from a distant
land has told me that if I wash my eyes in the blood of the Kaha
bird, I will regain my sight at once. Help me to find the bird,
and I will give you half my kingdom and fifty bags of gold!"
And the old man, overcome with greed, said: "Mighty Shah,
the Kaha bird comes to my yard at midnight every night and brings
me a big fish."
The shah rejoiced and told him: "Well, then, you must catch
her for me!"
But the old man said: "No, the Kaha bird is large and strong.
I'll never be able to catch her myself. To catch and hold her
will take more than a hundred men."
"I'll send four hundred of my servants with you," said
the shah. "Hide them under the tree where the bird sits down.
They will know how to catch and hold her.
"No," said the old man. "You cannot catch her
that way. You can't use force, you must be cunning. When she comes
to me, I shall prepare a feast and then persuade her to come down
on earth. Then we shall catch her."
The shah sent four hundred servants with the fisherman. He hid
them under the branches of the tree where the Kaha bird always
alighted. The servants sat and waited, without moving hand or
And the old man spread a rug near the tree and set out all sorts
of delicacies to tempt the Kaha bird. As soon as the bird came,
he spoke to her: "My dear friend, dear Kaha bird! Thanks
to you I have grown rich and happy, and yet I've never even asked
you to dine with me. Come down and do me the honor of sharing
At first the Kaha bird refused, but he begged her so sweetly
and so cunningly, that she began to waver. For a moment she wondered:
"Why is he begging me so much? What if he has some evil thing
in mind?" But then she answered herself: "What can he
do to me, he is so old and weak! Besides, I have done him so much
good." And so, ashamed of her suspicions, she came down from
the tree and sat down on the rug next to the old man.
He set all the fine dishes before her: "My dearest friend,
beloved Kaha! Eat! Try this, and now try that! I have prepared
it all myself with love and gratitude!"
But as soon as the Kaha bird began to peck at the food in the
dish, he caught her by the feet and cried: "I have her! Come
out, come out, quick!"
The shah's four hundred servants leaped out and rushed toward
the bird. But the huge bird merely spread her wings and rose into
the air, with the old man hanging onto her feet and shouting:
"I have her, I have her!"
Then one of the shah's servants jumped up and caught the old
man's feet to pull them down. But he, too, rose above the ground.
A second servant caught him by the feet. A third caught the second.
A fourth caught the third. A fifth caught the fourth, until the
old man and all the shah's four hundred servants hung by one another's
feet, while the Kaha bird rose higher and higher, right up into
At this moment, the old man looked down, but he could no longer
see the earth. "Oh-h!" he cried and everything turned
dark before his eyes. His fingers loosed their hold on the bird's
feet, and he plunged down and down and down. And with him, all
the shah's four hundred servants. Down they came and smashed themselves
And the magical great Kaha bird returned to her kingdom in the
clouds, and no man ever saw her again.