The Cenderawasih Bird
The Cenderawasih Bird

CENDRAWASIH

(read : “chendrawassee”)

THE UNHAPPY BIRD OF PARADISE

A Story from Papua by Maria Elvire

Mr. and Mrs. Brown Bird were two plain birds with plain, brown feathers. They lived among the low bushes of a forest in Irian Jaya. It was a safe place for them because their enemies could not find them easily.

One day Mrs. Brown Bird laid some eggs. Mr. Brown Bird was so happy that he brought some special food home for his wife. Mrs. Brown Bird had to stay in the nest for several days waiting until her children came out of the eggs. Mr. Brown Bird was sitting and talking with his wife when suddenly they heard a loud noise. The noise came closer and closer to their nest. After a while they heard a man’s voice.

The Bird Hunters
The Bird Hunters

“Where’s that bird? Didn’t it fly over here?” Then another man’s voice said,

“Let’s stop talking. We shouldn’t make too much noise because birds don’t like noises and they’ll fly away. Let’s just try to find that green bird.”

So, it was the green bird. These men were trying to catch Mr. Green Bird. Mrs. Brown Bird said to her husband, “Well, dear husband aren’t we lucky? We are not like Mr. Green Bird. We look so plain that no one likes our feathers. No one in the world wants to catch us for our plain, brown feathers.” She smiled and peacefully went to sleep. Mr. Brown Bird didn’t feel that way.

“So, I’m plain and brown, and no one likes my feathers. No one likes a plain, brown bird like me. How sad am !” He thought and thought about his plain, brown feathers for days. He felt very unhappy. He became quieter and quieter. One day Mrs. Brown Bird asked him,

“My dear husband, why are you so quiet now? Are you sick?”

“No, I’m not sick,” said Mr. Brown Bird. “I just feel unhappy. Why do I have to have such plain, brown feathers ? Why can’t I be more beautiful, like Mr. Green?”

“Oh, don’t be silly,” said Mrs. Brown Bird. “Your plain, brown feathers are the safest ones in the whole forest. Beautiful feathers like Mr. Green Bird’s are dangerous. Be happy with your own feathers. They are nice and warm, and most of all, they’re safe.”

But Mr. Brown Bird still felt unhappy with his plain, brown feathers. He never stopped thinking about them over and over again.

“Hey, isn’t that Mr. Green Bird ?” he said to himself, yes, it was Mr. Green Bird sitting on a branch of a tall tree. He was cleaning his beautiful green feathers. The sun was shining from above the tree directly onto the green feathers and made them look shiny and beautiful. Mr. Brown Bird came closer to the green bird.

“Good morning, Mr. Green Bird. You look so beautiful with your shiny green feathers,” said Mr. Brown Bird.

“Thank you, Brown Bird,” said the green bird. He went on cleaning his feathers. He brushed them carefully one by one. The green feathers looked so very beautiful.

“Mr. Green Bird, why do you have such beautiful green feathers,” asked Mr. Brown Bird, “and why do I have such a plain color for my feathers?”.

The green bird laughed and said, “Poor you, Brown Bird. You’re just unlucky. The Forest God likes me, and that’s why I have these beatiful green feathers.” The green bird smiled and showed off more of his beautiful feathers.

Mr. Brown thought, “I’ll have to ask the Forest God to change the colour of my feathers.” He quickly flew to the palace of the Forest God where he immediately asked him, “Oh, Forest God, why did you give me such plain, brown feathers? Can’t you give me beautiful feathers like Mr. Green Bird’s?” The Forest God was silent for some time. Then he answered, “Listen, my dear bird. I can give you what you ask for, but it will bring you unhappiness.”

“How is that possible? Beautiful feathers will surely make me happy. They will make me happier. I know it,” said Mr. Brown Bird.

“All right,” said the Forest God, “now tell me, what colour do you want for your new feathers?”

“I….well, I don’t know,” answered Mr. Brown Bird.

“You must make a choice,” said the Forest God. “You have to choose the color of one thing for your new feathers. Only of one thing, remember. You have one day to make your choice. Tomorrow you must come back here and tell me what your choice is.”

Now Mr. Brown Bird had a real problem. He didn’t know what color he wanted for his feathers. Should it be the color of the sky, or of the sea? He went from one place to another. He tried to find something with a truly beautiful colour, but he couldn’t find what he wanted. The next day he got worried. He still did’nt know what colour he wanted for his new feathers. But he had to go back to the palace of the Forest God. When the Forest God saw him, he asked, “Have you found the color you want?”

“Forgive me, Forest God,” answered Mr. Brown Bird, “but I haven’t found it yet.”

“Now,” said the Forest God, “I will count to ten and you must give me your answer before the count of ten. After that it will be too late to get another colour for your feathers.” Then the Forest God began to count,

“…One …, two,….three,…” Mr. Brown Bird looked around. He was hoping to find something beautiful. He had to find a beautiful color for his feathers. Nothing seemed beautiful enough. The Forest God was still counting, “Six, seven,….”

“Stop ! I’ve found it”, cried Mr. Brown Bird. Way up in the blue sky he saw beautiful colours curving down to the earth. Yes, it was a rainbow. He wanted the colours of the rainbow for his feathers !

The Forest Wise Man
The Forest Wise Man

“O, Forest god, please give me the colors of the rainbow for my new feathers,” said Mr. Brown Bird. The Forest God looked at the rainbow for a long time. Then he put his hand on the brown bird’s breast and made it red. The bird’s head he made yellow and green. The feathers of the bird’s tail grew longer and longer, and they curved like the curve of the rainbow. There were many beautiful colors on the bird’s tail. He now had feathers of beautiful colors, the colors of the rainbow.

Mr. Brown Bird moved his wings and tail. He felt so different and so very beautiful. Then asked the Forest God,”My dear Forest God, please give me a new name.”

The Forest god said to him : “Now you are no longer a brown bird. You are now a Cendrawasih, a Bird of Paradise. You are the most beautiful bird on Earth and in Heaven. But remember: your beauty will bring you danger and unhappiness. Be careful!”

Mr. Brown Bird then became Mr. Cendrawasih. He felt very happy. He quickly flew down to his nest, “Look here, wife! Look at my new feathers,” he announced happily. His wife was surprised, “Hey, you! Who are you? Don’t get close to me, Go away!”

The new Mr. Cendrawasih was really surprised. Slowly he said to his wife, “Look at me, I’m your husband. But I am no longer a plain, brown bird. I asked the Forest God for new feathers. Now I have the colors of the rainbow for my feathers. Don’t I look beautiful?”

Mrs. Brown Bird looked sad. Tears came to her eyes and cried, and then said to her husband, “Oh, you’re so silly. Your beautiful new feathers will bring us danger. Enemies can easily find our nest so it’s dangerous for the children. You must go away. Wait until the children are big and can fly by them selves. Then you may come back.”

The beautiful Cendrawasih felt very sad. “I never thought it would be like this,” he said to himself. Then he looked at his beautiful new feathers with the colors of the rainbow. There were tears in his eyes also. He flew away from the nest to a high branch of a tall tree. Then he realized that with the beautiful feathers he had now, he had lost his freedom and his family too. What good was it to be so beautiful, when he was so lonely and sad. High up on a branch of a tall tree, the beautiful Cendrawasih remembered his happy old days as a plain, brown bird, and he felt very unhappy.

Uploaded by M. Sugandi-Ratulangi since December 20th, 1999.