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The Red Countess

Hermynia Zur Mühlen

4. Feuilletons and Fairy Tales: A Sampling

The Sparrow

Hermynia Zur Mühlen
Traduction de Lionel Gossman

Texte intégral

1Quarrel and disagreement ruled in the Sparrow family. Mother Sparrow squatted in her nest all day and Father Sparrow swore and grumbled and found fault with everything. The family that had once been so happy was completely changed. And for all this misery the youngest Sparrow was to blame. One evening at supper he had declared briefly and boldly, “I am not going to school any more. I am not putting up any more with all the insults I receive. I am tired of our whole life here. I want to go out into the world.” He stuck up his bill cheekily and gave his parents a defiant look.

2Mother Sparrow was so shocked that all her feathers stood up. She stared helplessly at her ill-mannered son, and all she could do was to say weakly, “Peep, peep.” But Father Sparrow opened his beak so wide in horror that the long worm he had been about to eat fell out of it and slithered away as fast as it could. This made Father Sparrow even angrier. Now, on top of everything else, his supper had got away. Father Sparrow was a man of action. This time too, as in the past, he bent down and beat his son in the face with his sharp beak.

3Sparrow screamed more defiantly than ever, “I won’t stay here any longer. I’ve had enough. I’m going out into the world.”

4Then Mother Sparrow found her voice again and said tearfully, “You wicked child! Is that how you thank your parents for the love they have given you! Have we not brought you up well and provided you with everything? You are the first sparrow in our village to attend Professor Swallow’s school and learn how to build artistic nests. You move in the best circles. You mix with the Swallows, the Starlings, and the Yellowbills. And this is how you repay us!”

5“I don’t care a straw about the best circles,” Sparrow replied rudely. And he opened his beak and whistled defiantly, “Tweet, tweet!”

6“No other sparrow is studying for such a respectable profession,” piped Mother Sparrow despairingly.

7Then Young Sparrow began to make such a rumpus that the whole nest shook. “A respectable profession, yes, truly a beautiful profession. Building nests for others to live in. Slaving in the heat of the sun, carrying straws from all over, weaving them together, making sure that everything is just perfect — only to have the fine ladies and gentlemen move in and throw me a little worm for my wages, barely big enough for a decent meal. Fine people, indeed! The Swallows, always dressed up in their frock-coats; the Yellow-bills showing off all their gold. And the arrogance and scorn they treat us with! A common labourer, they call me contemptuously. I have had enough of it. I am as good as they are, and maybe better.”

8Mother Sparrow shrank back in horror, but Father Sparrow puffed himself up until he nearly burst and thundered, “Be silent, you rogue, you little scoundrel. You talk like a Communist. You forget that I am Chairman of the Sparrow Village Council. My son may not rebel against the established order.”

9“Yes,” groaned Mother Sparrow, “and what if the neighbours were to hear you! How dreadful!” Young Sparrow laughed shamelessly, seated himself on the edge of the nest and whistled a revolutionary song.

10Father Sparrow rose hastily and muttered in an undertone to his wife, “See to that young fool and get him to behave. I have to go now. There is a meeting of the Choral Society.” He flew away without one look at his naughty son.

11Mother Sparrow sighed deeply and asked in a plaintive voice, “Now what is it you really want?”

12Young Sparrow came closer, nestled against his mother and said with a sweet smile, “I want to go away, little Mother, far away. To foreign lands where it is always summer.”

13“But Son of my Heart, you know that even the stupid children of humans are taught in their schools that the sparrow is not a migratory bird.”

14“What is that to me? I can’t stand it here any longer. I am tired of always seeing the same things: the old church steeple in the distance, the farm-house and the dung-hill right here in front of our noses. No, I want to go away, far away.”

15At that he spread out his wings and pushed himself head first out of the nest into space. It seemed very dangerous, but his wings carried him safely through the air.

16Still, Young Sparrow was by no means as joyous and light-hearted as he seemed. His parents’ words had raised all sorts of doubts in his mind. “Mother was really right,” he said to himself. “The sparrow is not a migratory bird. No one has ever heard of a sparrow flying across the great ocean and going to distant lands. But why,” he asked himself, with defiant courage, “shouldn’t I be the first one to do this? Some one always has to be the first. If my venture succeeds I will have proved to the entire sparrow people that they don’t have to freeze and starve in the wintertime, but can move to warm countries and live well there. To be sure, the ocean…” Young Sparrow became disheartened. He remembered what his teacher, Swallow the master builder, had once told him about the great, wild stretch of boundless water with its angry, foaming waves that you had to fly over day after day. If the strength of your wings failed, you plunged down and were lost. You were swallowed up by the waves.

17Beset by these thoughts, Young Sparrow almost wanted to give up the idea. He felt completed deflated and began to tremble. Then suddenly he thought how many wretched sparrows had died of hunger and cold in past hard winters.

18“No, no,” he said to himself. I mustn’t be so cowardly. This is not just about me. It’s about all my brother sparrows, about all the future generations of Sparrows who will be around when I am long dead. If I can help them to a happier life, it will be worth every effort and every sacrifice.”

19And brave Young Sparrow resolved to strike out the very next day. He spent that night in his parents’ nest, huddled close to his mother, and wept a little in secret, because it was hard for him to leave her. Father Sparrow got home late and quite drunk from the Choral Society meeting, threw himself with such force on his bed that it creaked noisily, and immediately fell asleep.

20The grey-white sky began to turn rosy. Morning came flying in on the wings of the wind and brought light to the world. Young Sparrow awoke, looked for the last time at his sleeping parents, and flew away. He knew which direction to fly in, for he remembered the stories that the swallows had told. Now he flew exactly that way.

21The sun climbed higher into the heavens, it became hotter and hotter, and poor Sparrow could scarcely breathe. His wings were so sore that he could hardly lift them. Still, he flew on. He had resolved not to rest until the shades of night fell on the earth.

22Never had Young Sparrow lived through such a long day. In vain his bright little eyes explored the heavens; the great golden sphere of the sun shone brightly and would not go down.

23“I was a fool,” thought Sparrow. “At this moment I might be sitting comfortably at home in our nest, or bathing in the big puddle by the cherry-tree. Oh, how pleasant it would be to bathe. Even the ocean would not be too big for me right now.”

24Still, he did not lose heart but flew steadily on. True, he was now flying very slowly. Every beat of his wings caused him terrible pain. He began to hate the sun, the merciless red sphere that would not go down. To give himself courage he made up a little song, sang it very softly, and flapped his weary wings in time to its rhythm.

My cause is the cause of my brothers,
My strength must save them all;
If I fail, I do wrong to the others,
And their chains will never fall.

25At last, at long last, great black shadows fell upon the earth. A refreshing breeze came flying in, coolly fanning Sparrow, who was very weary, and bearing him gently along on its mighty wings.

26As the sun went down behind a blue hill, Sparrow alighted, utterly exhausted, on a large meadow. He lay panting in the tall grass. The soft chirping of the crickets lulled him to sleep; his eyes closed.

27Rough, loud voices, human voices, awakened him. He peeked out through the tall blades of grass and saw two ragged, dust-covered men seated under a knotty old nut-tree. One of them was pulling his torn boots off and, looking woefully at his blistered feet, said: “I can’t go on any more. I have to rest for a day.”

28“Just another half hour,” the other man said comfortingly. “Just to the next railroad station. There we will hide in a freight car and ride until morning. Then it will not be far to the sea.”

29“All right, then,” the first man mumbled grumpily. “But I can’t go a step further than that today.” Slowly he pulled his boots on again.

30Young Sparrow had listened attentively to their words. “So humans get tired too,” he thought, “and then they ride. I don’t know what that means, but I know that you don’t tire yourself out that way. If humans ride, why shouldn’t sparrows ride too?” He decided to follow the two men and not to let them out of his sight. As they left soon after, he flew after them.

31They arrived at a house. On the ground in front of it stretched two gleaming ribbons. Now night had really come. Everything was hidden in darkness. Only the stars shone faintly in the sky. Sparrow stayed near the two men and waited.

32Suddenly something dreadful happened. Through the darkness a gigantic black beast came rattling along, its red eyes shining so brightly that you could see them from a great distance. It puffed and panted, and the earth shook under it. As it came near, it let out a frightful shriek. Then suddenly it stopped. Clouds of smoke poured from its long black nose.

33Sparrow was astonished that neither of the two men, nor the other humans who were there seemed to be afraid of the monster. On the contrary, they ran up to it and disappeared into its maw. Then Sparrow noticed that the monster pulled a large number of little black houses behind it. He saw the two men sneak into one of those houses and flew on to the roof of the same house. Scarcely had he settled down when the monster again began to puff and pant and started to move.

34Poor Sparrow thought he would die of fright. The monster rattled along at such speed that the little bird could neither hear nor see. At home he had often flown with the wind for the fun of it and had enjoyed the swift motion. But this was altogether different. A fearful wind storm beat on him and tried to blow him off the roof. He made himself as small as he could, clung on tightly, trembling all over, and was convinced that his last hour had come. If humans call this rest, they surely are strange creatures. It is true that, though he could see over all the roofs, he could not see a single human on any of them. Perhaps it is not so terrible where the people are, as it is here. He was a clever Sparrow and when the monster stopped again to catch its breath, he flew down from the roof of the house and had a look at it from the front. The door was not quite closed. Sparrow squeezed through the crack, and entered a dark room piled high with crates. He squatted on one of them and waited to see what would happen.

35The monster began to run again. Sparrow laughed with joy; he had found the right thing to do. He sat there at rest and the monster had to slave to carry him along. So this is what humans call “riding.” Evidently, humans were not as stupid as he thought.

36The countless feet of the monster pounded over the earth singing a rattling, rumbling, monotonous song. To Sparrow the words seemed to be: “Into the distance! Into the distance!” For a while he listened to the song, then he fell asleep.

37He must have slept for a long time. When he awoke, the sun was high in the sky and its rays came through the narrow open crack in the door into the dark room. Sparrow saw his two acquaintances crouching on the floor, hidden between two tall crates. They seemed to be in good humour, chatting with one another and laughing.

38“We have travelled a good part of our way without trouble,” said the older one. “Now we only have to walk one more day and ride another night. Then we will have reached the ocean.”

39“How long will we have to swim?”

40“About five days.”

41Terror seized Sparrow. For five days he would have to swim over the endless waters. For five long days he would not be able to rest if he was not to sink under the waves. How would he be able to hold out? He began to reflect anxiously. Could humans swim for so long in the water? He had seen boys bathing in the village pond, but they would come out of the water in a short time and none of them ever remained in it all day long. Perhaps there were also tamed monsters that carried humans over the water. Again he decided not to leave the two humans’ side and to do everything they did.

42When the two men jumped unnoticed off the freight car at a busy railroad station, Sparrow followed them. He flew very close to them. He felt that they were his friends and that as long as he stayed with them nothing would happen to him.

43All day long the men walked, through fields and meadows, through little villages with funny pointed church steeples. The younger of the two men limped. He could only walk slowly. This pleased Sparrow, for it meant that he did not have to hurry but could fly along at a comfortable speed. When the men stopped, Sparrow followed their example, using the time to look for food, as the long journey had made him unusually hungry. He also chatted with a few foreign birds, all of whom advised him not to continue his dangerous journey. The migratory birds he spoke to looked him over scornfully. “Do you think you can do the same as high class people like us?” they said with a sneer. “Travelling, seeing the world, spending the winter in warm climates — that is not for common people.”

44An old blackbird minister, black-frocked and solemn, delivered a sermon to him from a high branch. “We must obey God’s commandments. God has ordained that sparrows must spend the winter in the north.”

45“If your God has ordained that our entire people is to be destroyed by cold and hunger and that only the upper classes, the Capitalists, like the Swallows and the Starlings, can escape the harsh winter, I don’t want to know anything about him!” cried Sparrow, and his feathers bristled up in anger.

46The old blackbird minister primped his shining feathers with his bill and muttered something unintelligible. But Sparrow was sad. “How cruel we birds are to one another,” he thought to himself. “I am trying to do something that will be helpful to all, and I am just laughed at. Can’t anybody understand me?”

47“Yes, I can, I can!” called a sweet voice from a great height, and a young lark shot down, swift as lightning, and alighted by the side of the despondent Sparrow. “I understand you. Everybody jeers at me too because I don’t fly close to the earth as they do, but always try to soar higher and higher into the blue heavens. Do not be downcast, dear brother, you will reach your goal.”

48The young lark flew close to Sparrow, looked at him and said: “Fly a little for me, brother, so that I can see how strong your wings are.”

49Sparrow flew up, hovering over the lark. As he returned, she gave him a sad look and said earnestly: “Your wings cannot carry you over the great ocean, my poor friend. But you must not give up on that account. You must do as humans do. They cannot fly at all, and yet they travel all over the world. They have invented a kind of house that swims over the water. They call it a ship. You must find a ship…”

50Sparrow did not wait to hear the rest. The two men had left unnoticed while the Lark was speaking and now Sparrow saw them in the distance like two dark spots. Frightened, he cried out: “My two humans have left me,” and he flew after them as fast as he could.

51When it grew dark the men once again sneaked into a freight train. Sparrow followed them and slept all night while the black monster again carried him over hills and mountains, past lakes and streams.

52When dawn broke, the two men crept out of the train and Sparrow flew after them. They walked for a little while and then Sparrow saw an immense body of water that stretched before him. This blue-grey expanse of water extended infinitely outwards, far beyond the range of his vision, while terrifying high, wild, white-capped waves beat the shore.

53So this was the ocean! Never had Sparrow felt so small and helpless as at the sight of this dreadful water. What was he in comparison? A poor helpless little bird, a tiny, anonymous something. From his little breast he heaved deep sighs, and tears rolled down from his bright little eyes. “If I were only safe at home, in our snug little nest,” he moaned. “If only I could creep under Mother’s wings as I used to do when I was small.”

54The waves roared eerily, threateningly; the white foam flew upwards. But the two men walked unconcerned along the damp, sandy beach. They seemed to have no fear at all of the raging sea as it lashed the shore. With beating heart, Sparrow followed them. And then he saw an astonishing sight. In a great bay strange things were tossing about. They looked partly like houses, with tiny windows and tall chimneys, from which came a stream of heavy grey smoke, and partly like a forest in which bare trees without branches seemed to grow. Although these trees bore neither fruit nor leaves, Sparrow was delighted to see them. They seemed familiar. He began to feel at home. But how strange it was that these houses with the tall trees on them were on water and were being tossed up and down by the waves. Suddenly Sparrow remembered the words of the lark. “Humans call these houses that swim on the water ‘ships.’” So these were ships! On one of these tossing, swimming houses he would travel to warm lands.

55But which should he choose?

56It occurred to him that at home it was the largest trees that were best able to withstand the wind. Probably the same was true of ships, and so he must choose the largest.

57His two friends walked towards a small ship. Sparrow piped “Farewell! Farewell!” several times, but they did not hear him.

58Sparrow flew on to an immense ship from whose chimneys great clouds of grey smoke were streaming, and hid himself high up at the top of one of the leafless trees.

59What noise and activity there was below. Countless humans ran hither and thither, calling and shouting to one another; something rattled, something clattered, the great chimneys let out a loud shriek. A bridge that connected the ship with the land flew up into the air, then fell down with a bang into the ship. The ship started on its journey. Slowly, gravely, it cut through the water bubbling up on either side. The large house with the leafless trees, the little bird’s new home, swam away from the land.

60All the noise and the hurrying and scurrying had left Sparrow in a state of great confusion. But another terrible fright was in store for him. Suddenly a young fellow climbed up his tree. Sparrow was convinced that he had come to capture him. But the fellow did not seem to notice him and after a while climbed back down. As it grew dark, the ship became quiet and only the sound of the waves could be heard. Sparrow flew down from his tree and sat down on the ground, where he soon fell asleep.

61When he awoke in the morning, he thought he would die of fright. The land had disappeared. Wherever he looked, he saw only water. Great grey waves rolled sluggishly against the ship, causing it to sway slightly, as a gentle wind shakes the nests in the trees. Not a tree, not a shrub, not a flower was to be seen anywhere. The ship swam all alone on the boundless ocean.

62Poor Sparrow felt quite lonely and abandoned. “If I could just find another bird, any bird,” he sighed. “Even if it were a haughty swallow or a strict blackbird. I could at least speak with someone who knows my world and speaks my language.” Once again, all his courage deserted him and he began to weep bitterly.

63“Who are you?” suddenly asked a thin, piping voice, and when Sparrow looked up he beheld a little mouse standing before him and staring at him with large round eyes.

64Sparrow was happy, for he was acquainted with mice at home. He bent down and politely answered the mouse’s questions.

65“You are a brave sparrow,” she said, after she had heard his story. “I bid you welcome to my ship.”

66“To your ship?” exclaimed Sparrow. “I thought the ship belonged to the humans.”

67“That is what the humans think too,” the mouse replied sharply. “But don’t you know that humans always think everything belongs to them?”

68“That is true. The farmer at home also thought that the cherry-tree was his, and yet it is quite obvious that the cherry-tree was made for us sparrows.”

69While they were conversing, a very old mouse came over and began to speak.” Not all humans believe that everything belongs to them,” she said in a schoolmistressly tone. “There are also humans who do not possess anything. You can see that on this ship. On the upper decks people live in large, beautifully appointed, airy rooms, and eat all day long. My mouth waters when I smell the rich dishes that are set before them.”

70“But down below people are so crowded together that they can hardly find a space to lie down in at night, and many have nothing to eat on the whole journey but the dry bread that they brought along with them. That idiotic expression, ‘my ship,’ that too you learned from humans,” she said, scolding the little mouse.” You know that among us everything is shared in common. Don’t let me hear such words from you again.”

71“Forgive me, grandmother,” the young mouse begged.

72“You are a stranger here,” said the grandmother mouse to Sparrow. “We will try to help you to survive the long journey. I advise you not to fly to the rich people. They will play with you for a day or two, and then forget you. The rich believe that everything in the world is there to serve and please them. To be sure, you will only find a few breadcrumbs among the poor on the lower decks, but these humans will be kind to you, because they know what it is like to be a poor creature who has nothing.”

73Sparrow followed the advice of the wise grandmother mouse and soon realized that she had spoken truthfully. The small children were delighted with him and they saved breadcrumbs for him from the few that were provided for their own little mouths. And as they were children, they understood Sparrow’s language and chatted with him. In this way, Sparrow heard many very sad stories. The children told of need and misery, they told how hard their parents had to work and how, even so, there was often nothing to eat in the house. Our goodhearted Sparrow felt very sad when he heard about this. “There must also be a beautiful land for humans, where conditions are good and they do not have to be cold and go hungry,” he said to his little friends.

74“Perhaps,” said a pale little girl. “But we have not yet found the way to it.”

75“When I am big,” declared a dark-haired little boy, “I will go away in search of that land. And when I find it, I will lead all poor, deprived humans to it.”

76The two mice also visited Sparrow often. They always came towards evening, when everything was quiet.

77And so quite a long time passed, until one day Sparrow saw land in the distance, with houses and trees, and knew that he had now reached his goal.

78The grey ocean had become quite blue and gleamed in the sunshine. It was very hot, and grandmother mouse said that this was the land where there is no winter.

79When the ship docked, Sparrow tenderly took leave of his friends and flew ashore to inspect his new home.

80All the humans had brown faces and wore strange clothes. The faces of the women were covered, so that only their large black eyes could be seen. He also saw funny animals that walked on four long legs and had a great hump on their backs. Even the trees were different from those at home. Some had long pointed leaves and sweet, brown fruit that tasted delicious to Sparrow. There was plenty to eat. Here no sparrow would have to suffer hunger, and snow and cold were unknown.

81“Is this not also the right country for poor humans?” Sparrow wondered. But then he saw that in this sunny land too there were rich and poor, that a few went richly clothed, while others wore rags, that a few lazy folk rode in handsome carriages, while others groaned under heavy burdens. And he thought, “It is much easier to find a sparrow paradise than a land where all humans live well.” This pained him, because on his journey he had come to like humans. “But how strange this is,” he thought in amazement. “Humans can tame wild monsters so that they will carry them all over, they know how to build houses that swim on the water, and yet they are poor and destitute and let a few greedy scoundrels take everything away from them.”

82Now that he had reached the warm country, Sparrow rested from his dangerous and wearisome journey, flew about lazily, and spent each night in a different tree.

83One day he came to a beautiful stream and flew along its course. He came to a very great plain. At first he thought he had reached the ocean again, but then he saw that it was covered with fine yellow sand. In the distance he saw something rising out of the sand that looked like a monstrous animal. Out of curiosity he flew closer to it and realized that it was a gigantic creature with the head of a human and two huge paws. It was made of grey-brown stone and was partly covered with sand.

84The ugly animal lay quite still and grinned evilly. Sparrow bowed anxiously: would the beast try to eat him in the end? But no, it graciously acknowledged his greeting and said: “I have been lying here for thousands of years, yet I have never seen a bird like you. Who are you? What are you doing here?”

85Sparrow told his story and the great beast listened patiently. Then the little bird asked humbly: “Will you now tell me who you are? We have no animals like you at home.”

86The great beast laughed and replied: “Humans call me the Sphinx. I am so old that I have lost count of my age. I have seen everything, know everything.”

87“In my country the owls also say that,” was Sparrow’s pert response.

88The Sphinx looked at him angrily. “The owl is a conceited braggart!” it exclaimed testily.

89Sparrow was alarmed. “Forgive me!” he stammered. “I did not wish to offend you. “You also look much older than the owl.”

90“Indeed I am. I count my years only by the thousands.”

91“How much you must have seen!” cried Sparrow.

92The Sphinx opened her gigantic mouth in such a huge yawn that the sand flew about her as though a whirlwind had hit it.

93“For millennia,” she said, “I have always observed the same thing. I see humans who live amid riches and pleasures and who force their starving slaves to drudge. At first the slaves were driven with great whips which the overseer used to beat them with when they became tired from the heat of the sun. Often these slaves were kept at work with chains on their feet, so that they could not run away. Later the whips disappeared, and the masters boasted of their kindness, saying, “In these enlightened times, no man is a slave.’ But secretly they concealed an invisible whip, hunger, and this drove the people to slavery as surely as the terrible whip the overseers had used previously. I see humans pass here, rich strangers who visit this country out of curiosity, and I see poor Arabs, who work as muleteers, running alongside the mules of the rich, or dragging heavy stones, and barely keeping alive with a few dates and a little corn, just like their ancestors of thousands of years ago.”

94The Sphinx fell silent and gazed gloomily out into the desert. Finally, she spoke again: “Thousands of years ago, there were gorgeously dressed, bejewelled priests here, who strutted around under the same canopy, next to the rich. They tricked and deceived the people, threatening them with the anger of the gods if they did not suffer their lot patiently. Today, these priests are dressed in black, but they still lie and still stand by the rich, although they worship a god who was a poor carpenter. It has always been the same, for thousands of years.” And the Sphinx yawned once more.

95“Can you also see into the future, wise Beast?” Sparrow asked shyly.

96The Sphinx nodded her enormous head.

97“Yes, I can do that too. Listen to my words, little bird. A day will come when all the slaves will rise up in a dreadful struggle against their oppressors. After a long and bloody struggle, they will be victorious, and then a new world will come into being, a world in which everything belongs in common to all, and all humans are free. Even today the earth is trembling in joyful expectation. In the quiet of the night I can feel it quivering. But now you must leave me. For thousands of years I have not spoken to any being. I will speak again only when the day of freedom dawns. Then my voice will join in the jubilation of the liberated peoples.”

98Sparrow flew out of the desert where he could find nothing to eat, returned to the green stream, and spent many glorious days there.

99One day, as he was sitting on a stone by the banks of the stream, he heard familiar voices above him. “Tweet! Tweet!” he heard.

100He looked up and saw three swallows who flew slowly down towards him and landed by his side.

101“Are you here already?” Sparrow asked in surprise.

102“We are, we are indeed,” twittered the swallows. “At home rough winds are already blowing and there is frost in the meadows at night. Winter is coming.”

103How frightened Sparrow was when he heard that. Here in this beautiful land, where he had plenty of fat worms and warm sunshine, he had forgotten about his sparrow brothers. And in the meantime, death-bringing winter had come. He must hurry home to teach them how to get to the sunny land. Would he reach them in time? How selfish he had been; if many poor sparrows were freezing and starving at home, it was his fault.

104Even as he was thinking these thoughts, he spread his little wings and flew towards the ocean.

105In the harbour many silvery-white seagulls were flying about, crying with shrill voices, “A storm is coming! A storm is coming!”

106“Which ship is heading north?” Sparrow asked hurriedly.

107“None,” one seagull answered. But this was not true. She was a mean bird and wanted to frighten Sparrow.

108But he believed her. “Then I must fly over the ocean,” he thought. “I must do it, for whether my brother sparrows live or die depends on me. I cannot leave them in the lurch.”

109Sadly, he looked back on the wonderland once more. Then he flew out over the great ocean.

110Wild waves dashed up, the storm howled, and a fine rain fell. Within a few hours, Sparrow was so tired that he could no longer fly high. The huge waves wet his feathers, they became heavy with water and dragged him down, deeper and deeper. A monstrous wave reached out for him with its white arms and Sparrow fell into the ocean and was swallowed by the waves.

111Because of that, sparrows must still freeze and starve every winter, for there has not been another courageous sparrow to show them the way to the land of the sun.

112But did Sparrow endure so much suffering in vain, and die in vain?

113No, for the little dark-haired boy on the ship had paid special attention to the story Sparrow had told him and had listened carefully to what Sparrow wanted to do for his sparrow brothers. And this the little boy wanted to do for his fellow-humans. He grew up, and wherever oppressed workers struggled against their oppressors, he was their leader. But the tale of the dark-haired boy, of his life and his death, is another story and does not belong here.


Der Spatz. Ein Märchen (Berlin: Verein Internationaler Verlags-Anstalten, 1922). Illustrations by Karl Holtz.


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