The Story Finder

Voices in Fairy Tales

by Michelle Tocher

Story finder - Curly

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Youngest Son With a Feather

I am the youngest of seven sons of the sultan. My father was proud of my older brothers because they were manly and strong, but he didn’t like me because I preferred the company of women. He called me “Sit-in-the-Kitchen” and told me to toughen up. He beat me. He tied me up and made me suffer, but I have never been able to change my nature.

Then my father had a problem. He was not able to harvest the fruit of his date tree. As soon as the dates were ripe, just before they could be harvested, they were stolen. Over the years he sent each of my older brothers out to keep watch but they fell asleep and the dates disappeared. My father was so disappointed with them that he sent them all away.

One day, the sultan received news that the dates were ripe, and he ordered one of his men to go and watch the tree.

I was standing right there. “How is it that you have bidden a man to watch the tree, when I, your son, am left?” I asked.

“Ah, the other six were of no use, why would you succeed?”

“Let me go today, and tomorrow you shall see whether or not I bring you dates,” I insisted.

“Let the child go,” my mother said.

He agreed but his heart did not trust me, and he said so.

I brought some corn and some grit with me when I went into the garden. I kept myself awake by chewing the corn, and if I grew sleepy I would put some grit into my mouth. Near dawn, a bird came. It looked around and whispered to itself. “There is no one here.”  It fluttered lightly onto the tree and stretched out his beak for the dates. I stole up softly, and caught it by a wing.

The bird flew quickly, but I would not let go, not even when we soared high into the air. When the tops of the mountains looked small below us, the bird said, “Son of Adam, if you fall, you will be dead long before you reach the ground, so go your way, and let me go mine.”

“Wherever you go, I will go with you. You cannot get rid of me,” I said.

“If you will not leave me, I will throw you off.” The bird flew so high that the earth shone like one of the other stars. “How much of you will be left if you fall from here?” it asked.

“If I die, I die, but I will not leave you,” I said.

Now the bird saw it was no use talking, and we circled down to the earth again.

“Here you are at home, so let me go my way,” said the bird. “Or at least make a covenant with me. Save me from the sun, and I will save you from rain.”


“Pull a feather from my tail, and put it in the fire, and if you want me I will come to you, wherever I am.”

We said farewell, and after I lost sight of the bird, I went to the date tree. It was full of fruit. My body felt stronger and my eyes brighter than ever before. I laughed out loud with pure joy and said to myself, “This is MY luck, the luck of “Sit-in-the-Kitchen”!

What ate the tree would eat it no more.

Youngest Son with a Feather, The Nunda, Eater of People, Violet Fairy Book. Illustration by H.J. Ford.