My mother told me and my sister that the river brought us to them when we were babies. We were lying in cradle made of crystal. Father took us home and brought us up with eight other children. Our foster parents love us well but our brothers and sisters don’t. The boys are always playing tricks on me, so my sister and I spend most of our time on the banks of the river. We take the bits of bread we have saved from our breakfast and crumble them for the birds. In return, the birds have taught us many things. We know the beauty of the first light of the morning. We know how to sing bird songs, and we know how to speak their language.
Lately my brothers have become intolerable bullies. This morning my eldest brother said, “It is all very well for you to pretend that you have good manners, and are so much better than us, but we at least have a father and mother. All you’ve got is the river, like toads and frogs.”
My sister and I did not answer the insult but we felt very unhappy and we told one another in whispers that we would not stay there any longer. We would go into the world and seek our fortunes.
Orphaned Brother in The Bird of Truth, Orange Fairy Book. Picture by Margaret Tarrant.