05 Aug The years went by and the eagle got used to living like a hen.
There was a shepherd who lived in a shack near a wood and a short distance from a mountain where there was a farmyard full of hens and a herd of goats.
That year there was a terrible drought which meant that most of the grass had dried up. So the shepherd decided to take his goats on to the mountain top, where there would probably be more humidity and therefore he could find some tender grass for his animals.
So he did this, and after a long walk, he got close to the mountain peak. There the animals grazed for several hours until dusk and before the shepherd decided to return to the shack he lived in. As he was coming down the mountain, among the rocks with his herd, he saw something large which he immediately recognized as an eagle’s nest. Getting close he noticed inside were two chicks, one of which was dead from the nest having fallen off the rock on which it was perched. The other chick, despite making some small movements, seemed seriously injured.
The shepherd had no love of eagles because he saw them as his enemies. On some occasions they had attacked his goats and even taken some of his hens. Nevertheless, feeling pity, he bent down, took hold of the injured chick as carefully as he could and took it back to his shack. There he cured it as best he could and began to feed it with small pieces of meat, allowing Mother Nature to do the rest. The bird completely recovered and began to grow and grow until it became a magnificent example of an adult eagle.
From the moment the eagle became a full adult, things began to change. The shepherd, who initially had felt so proud of what he had done, started to feel increasingly disturbed by the presence of the bird. In some way, he couldn’t stop emotive images entering his head and he remembered what birds like this one had done to his goats and hens.
One day, the shepherd came to a decision. He decided to abandon it in the woods, thinking that nature would help it to survive and take care of itself.
The shepherd took it to the woods three times and each time the eagle kept hopping about on the ground.
Not knowing what to do to get rid of the bird, the shepherd thought hard and the most absurd idea came to his head: he would leave the eagle in the farmyard with his hens.
When the hens saw this bird that they feared so much enter the farmyard, they rushed into the hen coop as fast as they could to take refuge. They soon realized the strange behaviour of this creature which quietly kept to itself, and little by little they started to get used to it being there. The years went by and the eagle got used to living like a hen. It ate the same food, it moved about like a hen and it even learned to emit the same sounds that the hens made.
Things stayed like this until one day a naturalist was passing through the area doing research on the eagles in that region and, on passing close to the shepherd’s shack, contemplated the spectacle before his eyes, in disbelief: it was no more and no less than an eagle living in harmony with hens.
He ran up to the door and loudly knocked on it. The shepherd, hearing the noise, leaped up and opened it.
“Who are you? What do you want?”
“I beg you to forgive me but I’m a naturalist and I am dedicated to the study of eagles and I’ve just seen something incredible, an eagle living among hens. ”
The shepherd understood perfectly the cause of the naturalist’s shock and, after inviting him into his home, he told him the story of how he had found the bird, cured it and looked after it with his hens.
The naturalist listened attentively to the story until something shook him abruptly, something apparently trivial, as it was just a simple comment made by the shepherd.
“The animal has lived so long among the hens that I have no doubt at all that although it has the outward appearance of an eagle, inside itself it is nothing more than a hen.”
“I am really sorry but I couldn’t disagree more with you on this point,” answered the naturalist. The shepherd felt a bit taken aback possibly because he felt nobody could know his animal as well as he did.
“If you are so convinced, why don’t you go and show me by making it fly.”
The naturalist went out into the farmyard, took hold of the eagle and did the first thing that he could think about which was to throw it up into the air and shout, “Fly!”
The animal fell like lead and hid itself inside the hen coop.
The shepherd smiled in an ironic manner, although the naturalist had no desire to give in. So, he started to look around as if looking for a lost object until he saw a ladder a few metres away. He went up to it and he put it up against one of the walls of the shepherd’s shack. He went into the barnyard again, got hold of the eagle and climbed the ladder with the bird until he reached the ceiling. From there, he threw the eagle into the air shouting, “Fly!” The poor bird fell like a ball of feathers against the ground and remained there a few seconds, bewildered. On recovering it pulled itself together and rapidly went in to the hen coop to hide.
The shepherd then said to him, “If you carry on like that you’re going to kill my hen. ”
Despite all the evidence against it, and all the shepherd’s criticisms, the naturalist was absolutely certain that the eagle’s spirit would never die, and for this reason, he refused to accept defeat.
Suddenly, something on the horizon caught his attention.
“What’s that we can see in the distance?”
“That’s the mountain peak where I found the eagle when it fell out of the nest. Why?”
“Because I’m going to take it there, where it was born and maybe in that way it’ll remember where its roots are and will realize it can fly. ”
“You’re mad. You’re a foolish man, unable to accept defeat. Don’t you think you’ve had enough proof of how absurd your theory is, of that stupid idea that the spirit of an eagle never dies?”
The naturalist didn’t even try to defend himself but simply set to work. He returned to the hen coop, grabbed the eagle and began to walk with his eyes set on that mountain peak.
The shepherd, without really understanding why and seeing that it was getting dark, took a lantern and followed them. They climbed the mountain all night long without the naturalist having a clue as to how to wake the eagle’s sleeping spirit.
When they got to the top of the mountain, to where the eagle had been born, it was daybreak. The naturalist then noticed something curious: the eagle had stopped looking at the sun. Without knowing quite why, the naturalist grabbed the bird by the scruff of its neck and forced it to look at the sun.
When he did this, the eagle made some strange movements, opened his splendid wings and began to fly.
That day the eagle remembered what it really was and recovered its true identity. It realized it wasn’t a hen but an eagle.
[An eagle isn’t better than a hen but it can see 82 times better than a hen and so it can see its prey at a distance of more than two kilometres. Besides this, an eagle is capable of seeing landscapes that a hen couldn’t even imagine in its wildest dreams. It is true that the life of hens is easier because they get fed, whilst the eagle has to hunt; nevertheless, the price the hen pays is perhaps too high because it is nothing less than the impossibility of exercising its freedom.]
Mario Alonso Puig