The Sentimental Magpie

A Patchwork Fairy Tale: the one with the necklace, the ring, and the coin.

A young magpie sets off into the world to find a good reason to follow the thieving instincts he was born with, and encounters several situations where a little thievery can spread a lot of happiness.

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  • Read the full transcript below:


[Gentle theme music]

Laura: Hi, you can call me Laura, I’m here to tell you a story if you like. You found one of my Patchwork Fairy Tales. This is the one with the necklace, the ring and the coin.

[Music fades]

The Sentimental Magpie

Once upon a time there was a nest snugly hidden between the branches of a pine tree. In it, four little magpies were being raised by a proud magpie mother. Their mother was a fine bird. Her white feathers were crisp, her black feathers gleamed and her wings and tail had a deep blue sheen.

She taught her children everything a magpie needs to know. How to call out sharply, how to fly and hunt, and how to steal absolutely every single thing that had a shimmer or a shine to it.

All her little magpies were good little chicks. As soon as they had shed their nestling feathers they went out into the world to be everything magpies could be.

They flew as high as they could, and as fast as they could, and they called out so loudly all the magpies in the whole forest could hear them. But thieving was beyond a doubt what they did best.

Three of the little magpies had a taste for thievery right away. Every day they went further away from their nest and every day they grew more ambitious in what they wanted to steal. Eventually the fourth little magpie was the only one that did not go out every day with the intent to bring back as many shiny things as it was possible for a bird to carry.

This last little magpie was as good a thief as any of his siblings, there was no question about that, but he did have some unusual thoughts for a magpie. He did not understand why he should steal everything that sparkled and gleamed. His mother and his siblings seemed to do it just because, and that did not seem like a good enough reason. Still, the young magpie understood very well that it was a magpie’s duty to steal all that shimmered and glinted, so one day, when he thought he was big and strong enough, he set out into the world to find a reason to steal.

His shiny wings carried him high above the earth and he looked down on meadows, and houses, and on the winding river whose bright shimmer every magpie had tried to steal at least once. One house far below him caught his attention, because there came a pitiful wailing from underneath its roof.

The magpie sailed downward and perched on the stovepipe sticking out of the roof of the house and listened closely. He heard the sobbing wails again and understood that it was a young child.

He heard the comforting humming of a parent too, but the child did not stop crying.

The magpie felt sorry for all those tears and he hopped off the stovepipe and fluttered down, to rest on the windowsill and look inside. He saw a little girl sitting on her mother’s lap with her cheeks cried all wet. The mother’s eyes grew more worried with every heartbreaking sob.

“Please don’t cry, my love,” he saw the mother sign with gentle hands. “Tears will not bring it back.”

The little girl let out one more hiccupping sob and the magpie jumped at the sound, his shadow fluttering over the mother and daughter’s faces.

The mother looked up and saw the magpie and her face brightened with an idea.

“Look, darling,” she pointed and when her daughter looked back at her she signed: “That bird sees you are sad. Go tell him all about your sadness. Then he can take it and fly away with it. Maybe that will make you feel better?”

The little girl slid off her mother’s lap and walked to the windowsill.

“Hello, Magpie,” she signed, smiling a greeting through her sniffling.

The young magpie cocked his head curiously and waited.

The mother put an encouraging hand on her shoulder and the girl took a deep, steadying breath.

“I lost my necklace,” she signed, her fingers sadly tracing under her neck. “It was very important. Last summer my best friend had to move to another town.” She looked into the bird’s intelligent eyes, gesturing back and forth. “She gave me her necklace. I gave her my necklace. So we will recognize each other when we are all grown up.”

Another sob escaped from the girl’s throat and the mother sighed.

The magpie looked at the girl soberly and cawed at her twice. Then he spread his wings and flew off. He could not see what the mother and daughter told each other now, but he already knew all he needed to know. Determinedly he began circling the house, spying with his bird eyes for any sort of shimmer of sparkle. From high up in the sky he looked down on the long waving grasses around the house and when they bent back in the wind the magpie saw a silvery twinkle deep below. The magpie called out triumphantly and dove down into the swaying grass. He snatched up the lost necklace and soared right back up into the sky.

As he turned he saw the little girl sitting on the doorstep and he quickly flew over her and promptly dropped the necklace right into her lap.

First the child startled, but then she squealed for joy and suddenly she laughed, looking up with a face beaming like the sun and the moon united. There she saw the magpie and at once she leapt to her feet.

“Thank you!” she signed, nearly losing her balance with the flurry of movement. “Thank you!”

Her mother had come rushing outside at the sound of her joyful cries and there she saw her daughter, with her beloved necklace round her neck, now waving at the quickly disappearing form of the magpie.

The mother watched him go in joyful disbelief and as the magpie flew away he felt better than ever before. Now there was a true reason for a noble magpie to snatch a shiny thing: to turn tears into laughter!

Proudly he soared away on the wind, flying without fatigue and blinked at the sunlight, until the sun went down and he settled in a fine oak tree to sleep.

The next day the magpie took off again and looked down serenely on the green landscape below him, until a shimmer caught his eye. Quietly he soared down and there he saw a young man sitting on a gate and holding a ring up to the sunlight. It was a beautiful ring, artfully made and well looked after, and the magpie adored it the moment he set eyes on it.

The young man sighed deeply and smiled at the ring. It was his grandfather’s ring and it meant an awful lot to him.

“If only there was another one like you,” the young man said.

The magpie did not know why anyone would want two of the same shiny thing, but he listened closely, because the young man sounded very wistful for someone who had such a pretty thing in his possession.

“I know you left it to me to give away, Grandfather,” the young man said to the memory in his head. “And I’ve found someone to give it to… but I wish I could give it to him and keep it at the same time.”

The magpie thought about this. To be able to give something to someone else without having to lose it yourself was a very pretty wish. He thought he would like to help the young man, but he could not find the right ring without the first one to compare it to. So when the young man once again turned the ring so it would catch the sunlight, the magpie fluttered down in front of his face and snatched it out of his hand.

The young man screamed and tried to grab the magpie by its tail, but the magpie was quicker. He made off with the ring and was soon out of the young man’s sight.

The magpie perched safely in a tall tree and studied his new treasure. It was a simple, but heavy ring and the magpie decided to set out immediately to find its twin. If this ring had a counterpart anywhere in the wide world, the magpie swore he would find it.

First he sailed away on the south wind and looked at every ring on every hand, but he did not find a single one that looked like the young man’s ring.

So the magpie turned round and went with the north wind to look into every jewelry shop’s window and trinket seller’s market stall, but not one of them looked even remotely like the ring he had stolen.

Then the magpie travelled on the east wind to spy on the rings the artisans were making in their workshops, but although some of them looked quite like the young man’s ring, not one was exactly like it.

Refusing to be discouraged the magpie sought out the west wind and let it carry him until he came upon a man counting a whole pile of shiny objects in a dark alley. The magpie listened to the clink of coins, bracelets, rings and watches and slowly circled closer to investigate what that was all about.

He looked at the sparkling loot and as a heavy necklace slipped out of the man’s hand, an old, heavy ring caught the magpie’s eye. It was simple, but beautiful, and it was exactly like the one he had snatched from the sighing young man.

The magpie fluttered down, just as the man crouched to pick up the fallen necklace and when he lifted his head, he saw the magpie.

The magpie spread its wings and bowed to his fellow thief, because of course it took one to know one. But after that cordial gesture he flew straight at the man, snatched the ring and quickly made his escape, leaving the furious thief far behind.

The magpie frolicked in the air with joy. Surely there had never been a cleverer thief than him! He flew all the way back to the tree where he had hidden the first ring, took them both up in his beak and went to find the young man.

He did find him, soon enough, sitting on the very same gate where he had first seen him. He was not sighing this time, but he did not look very happy either. Well, that would soon change.

The magpie circled once high above the garden gate and then carefully dropped the two rings neatly into the young man’s lap. He gave a cry of surprise and looked up wildly, but he saw nothing more than a flash in the corner of his eye.

The proud bird chuckled contently to itself and went back to his tree for a well-deserved rest.

When the magpie woke up the next day the sun was shining brilliantly and he felt better than ever. Leisurely he spread his wings and soared through the blue sky. He did not see anyone sitting on any gates this time, but he did see two young men walking in the sunshine in a glow of happiness.

The young magpie called down at them and as they shielded their eyes from the sun to look up he saw the two identical rings shine gloriously on their hands.

“Look there! That must be him!” cried the young man’s lover.

The young man waved at the magpie and on his ring finger glittered a ring that might be his grandfathers and might not be. There was no way to tell anymore, but neither of the young men felt they needed to know. They were in love and they were happy and this being the case it was useless to bother with such trivial things.

The young magpie called down at them once more and then swiftly flew away from them, his dark wings stronger than ever. He truly felt heroic that morning, and quite the romantic too. But even heroic magpies need to eat and passing through a village the magpie stopped near a grocer’s shop to feast on the food that humans always seemed to be throwing away.

He was happily occupied with a piece of bread, when he saw an old woman counting her money before she went into the store. She counted money for bread and milk and eggs and flour, all the things she could not grow in her own garden.

When she was done counting she put all the money back in her purse.

“One more coin would buy me a candle to remember my dear husband by,” the old woman said quietly to herself.

She did not look sad, she looked hopeful. The magpie had learned a lot about people these last few days and even though there was nothing here that could command his attention with sparkling or glinting, he wanted to help.

The magpie knew what a candle was. They were the little lights so shiny that every magpie would like to be able to steal one for himself. He had tried many a time, but he had never succeeded. So to steal the woman one of those little lights was, perhaps, beyond the capabilities of even a masterful thief such as himself. But the woman had said she needed a coin. Only one coin. And that would get her a candle. Well that he could certainly find, because coins were ten a penny and very easy to snatch away.

So the magpie hunted through the sky until he heard the clinking of coins and glasses.

In a beautiful garden a host of young people was playing cards and drinking and laughing. They were loud and happy and in the middle of their table lay a big pile of large, shiny coins.

The magpie sat down in a fir tree and looked down at the table. One coin, the old woman had said, but what coin? What kind of coin could get one of the lovely twinkling lights?

He looked and looked, while the young people roared with laughter and threw more coins onto the pile. Suddenly the magpie saw a big shiny, golden coin roll across the table. It glittered brighter than all the others and he thought that if someone only ever needed one coin, it should be such a coin.

With one magnificent swoop the magpie left his branch, sailed over the table and snatched up the coin.

The young people yelled in surprise, but they did not even notice that he had taken anything. They laughed about it and refilled their glasses and the magpie made his way back to the street where he had seen the old woman. Except she wasn’t there.

Stubbornly the magpie circled all around the village, nearly swooping down on a few people that were the wrong people entirely, but eventually he found her. She was well on her way back to the little cottage with her groceries, in fact she was nearly at her door. The magpie called out gladly because he found her and the gold coin fell tinkling on the cobblestones.

The old woman gasped and looked up with wide eyes, but the magpie was already out of sight. She shook her head and laughed, picked up the coin and turned around resolutely to walk back to the shops to buy her candle.

That night the magpie perched in a tree near the old woman’s cottage and watched her light the candle on her windowsill.

The old woman smiled as the little flame shone comfortingly in the dark and her smile grew wider as she wrapped herself in the warmth of the tiny light.

It was a pretty sight and the magpie did not feel the urge to try and steal the dancing flame, because it was right where it needed to be. The young magpie felt as warm inside as the steady flame and he was very sure now, finally, that this thieving life was truly the life for him.

Therefore, let it never be said that a thieving bird cannot have a warm heart, for never were there happier people than those living near the trees that the sentimental magpie chose to make his nest in.

[Theme music]

Laura: And with that last word stitching up the very last sentence, this story has its proper end.

Thank you so much for listening, lovely of you to stop by. If you want to listen to more of these, or find out about my other projects, check out You can also find me at which is full of folklore and urban fantasy.

There’s another tale to tell some other Wednesday but until then…

Curtsy to the wind, wear silver near wolves, and be safe~

[Music fades]

Image of the Patchwork Fairy Tale dragon from the podcast logo.

Copyright Laura Simons, please do not copy my stories without my permission, lest you insult the fae.

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