“Set me free, and I will teach you three precepts which will be of great use to you.”

A hunter once caught a bird that was very clever and able to speak seventy languages, and it thus addressed is captor, “Set me free, and I will teach you three precepts which will be of great use to you.”

“Tell me these rules, and I will set you free,” said the fowler.

“Swear to me first,” retorted the clever bird, “that you will keep your promise and in truth set me free.”

And when the man swore to keep his promise, the bird said, “My first precept is: Never rue anything that has happened. My second rule of conduct is: Never believe anything you are told that is impossible and beyond belief. My third precept is: Never try to reach something that is unattainable.”

Having spoken thus, the bird reminded the bird-catcher of his promise and asked him to set him free, and the man opened his hand and let the captive bird fly away.

The bird sat down on the top of a tree that was taller than all the other trees, and mockingly called to the man below, “Stupid man, you did allow me to fly away not knowing that a precious pearl was hidden in my body, a pearl that is the cause of my great wisdom.”

When the bird-catcher heard these words he greatly regretted having allowed the bird to fly away, and rushing up to the tree, he tried to climb it, but failing in his efforts he fell down and broke his legs.

The bird only laughed aloud, and said, “Stupid man! Not an hour has passed since I taught you three wise precepts, and you have already forgotten them. I told you never to rue anything that was past, and you did repent having set me free. I told you never to believe anything that was evidently beyond belief, and you were credulous enough to believe that I actually carried a costly pearl in my body. I am only a poor wild bird hourly in search of my nourishment. And finally, I advised you never to strive in vain after the unattainable, while you did try to catch a bird with your hands, and are now lying below with broken legs. It is of men of your kidney that the philosopher has said, ‘A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.’ [Proverbs, ch. 17, v. 10] But alas, you are no exception, for there are many men as unwise as yourself.”

And thus speaking, the wise bird flew away in search of nourishment.



2 thoughts on ““Set me free, and I will teach you three precepts which will be of great use to you.”

    1. Thanks Barbara, I appreciate your comments! That’s a great turn of phrase, isn’t it? Worth further investigation I think!
      At the link I posted at the bottom of the story, there are 2 stories from other cultures tht are virtually identical – fascinating stuff 🙂


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