Short Stories » The Bird
By Leo Tolstoy
Children have a fascination for small animals and birds, which they would like to keep as pets. This story is about a boy who was fascinated by a bird that he had caught in a bird trap. He kept the bird in a cage, and ultimately causes the bird’s death. The sadness that it caused the boy was a milestone in his growth.
Once, there lived a little boy called Seryozha. He got a lot of presents on his ‘name day’. A ‘name day’ is a tradition in Europe that involves celebrating a day of the year that is associated with one's given name. The celebration is similar to that of a birthday.
Seryosha’s gifts included pictures, tops and hobby horses. His uncle had gifted him a trap for snaring birds, which he prized above all the other gifts. This trap had a frame with a little board attached to it and a net that was held back.
Seryozha's little mind was filled with happiness and he showed the gift to his mother. His mother was not happy to see it. She did not like the idea of keeping birds in a cage and torturing them. But Seryozha was bent on catching a bird and feeding it.
The next day, he scattered some seeds on the board and kept the trap in the garden. On seeing him, the birds were scared and they did not come near the net. After waiting for a long time, he went home to have dinner. When he returned, he found a little bird inside.
Seryosha’s joy knew no bounds. He could feel the little bird's heartbeat. He immediately took the bird to his mother. He thought it was a nightingale.
“No, it is a siskin,” said his mother, “Seryosha, please don’t torture the bird. Let it go.”
“I want to keep it. I promise you I will give food and water to it,” said Seryosha.
He put the siskin in a cage. For two days he was very enthusiastic to feed the bird by giving it seeds and water. He cleaned the cage very well.
However, on the third day, he forgot about his responsibilities towards the little bird. His mother noticed that he had not changed the water or cleaned the cage. She told him to let the bird go, but Seryosha had no plans of letting the bird free. He said he would change the water and clean the cage.
Seryozha thrust his hand into the cage and began to clean it. But the siskin was frightened and thrashed itself against the bars. After he cleaned the cage, he went off to get some water. His mother noticed that he had not closed the cage, so she called out to him. Immediately the siskin found the door and was extremely delighted at its newly found freedom. The bird spread its little wings and flew around the room towards the window. It did not see the glass. Its little body struck hard against the glass and it fell on the window sill.
Seryozha came running, picked it up and put it back into the cage. The siskin was still alive but lay on its breast and was breathing heavily. Seryozha could not hold back his tears. He wept bitterly. He turned to his mother and asked her what could be done.
“There is nothing to do now,” she said.
Seryozha stayed by the cage all day. At night he went off to sleep. His sleep was disturbed. Each time he closed his eyes to sleep, he was awakened by the thought of the little bird fighting for its life.
In the morning, he ran to the cage to find the siskin lying on its back. Its little body was stiff. Seryozha felt very sad and guilty as he felt responsible for the siskin's death.
Seryosha learnt a good lesson from this incident. He never caught birds again. He realized that the freedom to live in the natural habitat should not be denied to any creature.
Image courtesy: gettyimages