A Patchwork Fairy Tale: the one with the king, the garden, and the feather cloak.
A greedy king tries to catch the bird that keeps stealing treasures from his royal garden, and ends up capturing a young shape shifter.
- Follow this podcast on Tumblr or Twitter!
- Check out composer Kai Engel, who wrote the theme song “Holiday Gift”.
- Penny for a tale? You can tip your storyteller on Ko-fi!
- 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. If you want to read as well as listen you can find a transcript and mp3 download on patchworkfairytales.wordpress.com. This is the one with the king, the garden, and the feather cloak.
The Boy of the Birds
Once upon a time there was a king that reigned over a land so prosperous that he was twice as rich as the richest person before him had been. This made the king feel very important and because he was so important he had a new palace built.
The palace shone like a diamond from top to bottom. All the curtains were velvet and all the carpets were silk. And every window overlooked the beautiful palace gardens, which were filled with the most extraordinary plants from all around the world.
There were trees with eternal blossoms that never wilted from the east. Waving reeds from the north that gently moved even when there wasn’t a breath of wind. Silky plants with round leaves that shone like polished silver pieces from the west. And flowers with golden petals from the south that seemed to ring like little bells whenever someone touched them. The wonders of that garden were endless.
Never had there been a more beautiful garden or a finer palace and the king was very pleased. He moved in with his daughter, who was his only heir.
She was still young, but already many princes and other noblemen had started sending presents to her and to the king, just in case.
Most of them sent the king things for his garden, because it was his pride and joy. They sent him fountains adorned with gemstones, rose arches forged from silver and garden swings covered in gold leaf.
The king, however, was not impressed. He had already furnished his garden with the very best and nothing but a very rare plant or a particularly gorgeous flower could persuade him to even write a note of thanks.
Still, all the gifts did flatter the king and his smugness increased every day. Every morning he opened the beautiful doors to his royal balcony and stood there in his silk dressing gown, proudly surveying his garden.
One particularly fine morning the king woke up very early and as he threw open the doors and stepped into the early morning sunshine, he was just in time to see a large bird descend from the heavens into his garden.
It was a magnificent creature. The bird had a long, graceful neck and its wings spread out so wide they cast a shadow over the king. Its feathers, gleaming in the sunlight, were a rich amber colour, speckled with ruby red, emerald green and sapphire blue. The bird circled joyfully above the beautiful flower beds and it seemed to the king that it glittered like a jewel.
The king was so captivated by the sight of the wondrous bird, that he did not speak a word. Which was a very rare occurrence for him.
Spellbound he stood watching, until the bird let out a joyful cry, swooped down and snatched one of the golden flowers with its beak.
“How dare you!” the king roared, snapping out of his trance. “Those are the royal flower beds!”
But the bird paid the angry king no mind at all. It flapped its wings and sailing on the wind its was soon out of sight.
The king was furious. He ordered the gardeners to replace the stolen flower immediately and he had guards posted at every flower bed.
“If that thieving bird ever comes back,” the king told them. “You are to knock it out of the sky and bring it to me alive. I shall stick it in a golden cage and keep it as an ornament for my greenery.”
Every guard and servant kept their eyes on the sky all day and all night, but not one bird appeared. Not even a sparrow or a blackbird showed itself.
However, when the early morning light began to colour the sky, one guard thought he heard the rushing of large wings.
Every neck craned and all eyes peered.
“There he is!” shouted a tall guard and she pointed to the south wall of the garden.
There was the amber bird again. He called out merrily at the sight of the guards and instead of turning back he flew straight at them.
The guards ran left and right, throwing nets at the bird. The bird was too quick for them though. He swooped and sailed and not one of the nets even brushed his feathers. Then, with a frolic in the air, the bird opened its beak and sang.
His song sounded like spring winds and freedom. Like an unexpected sunrise on a never-ending horizon. It was so beautiful that the guards lowered their weapons and simply stood listening. In awe of a song that reminded them of everything they had forgotten since they were children.
Even the king stood silently, staring, and watched helplessly as the bird gracefully swooped down, snatched a glistening silver leaf and soared upwards again with outstretched wings.
As the last note of the song died away, the king cried:
But it was too late. The bird was out of reach and left with its silver bounty.
Never had there been such shouting in the palace gardens. The guards cowered before the king as he frothed at the mouth with anger.
“The next time that bird comes I want him DEAD!” the king roared. “And if you fail me again I shall have you all flogged!”
Guards and servants scattered left and right as the king stormed back inside and all day the whole palace was in distress over the thieving bird and the angry king.
That night not one guard slept even a wink, so afraid were they of the break of dawn when the bird would come again. Surely the bird would sing again and they would not manage to catch it. And then they’d all be punished.
For one of the guards the sleepless night was fruitful however. She decided that nobody would stand a chance against the bird’s song, but if she could aim in silence she might be able to hit it.
So when morning came that guard stuffed her ears with cotton so that she could not hear a thing. Silently she waited with the others for the bird to appear and when it did, she drew her bow and took aim.
The bird circled high above the gardens, looking down on the crowd of guards in amusement. As it glided down, it started to sing and arrows dropped silently to the ground wherever his song was heard.
But the guard that had stuffed her ears did not drop her arrow, she heard nothing but the rushing inside her own head. With the utmost concentration she aimed and released her arrow, aiming for the bird’s left wing.
The bird turned towards the rushing arrow and tried to dodge it. He almost managed, but the arrow just grazed him.
There was a great cry from the king and the guards as the song abruptly died and there the amber bird came tumbling from the sky in a flurry of wings and feathers.
There was a painful thud and everyone craned to see, but between the flower beds where a bird had landed, now lay a boy in a torn cloak lined with feathers.
A stunned silence came over the crowd as the boy scrambled to get to his feet.
“Seize him!” the king cried, impulsively.
As he watched the boy, the king understood that the bird had been one of the ancient folk that could take on animal form and perform powerful spells. He looked at the young man as the guards lifted him to his feet. His human form was just as beautiful as the bird had been.
“Now that would be a good match for my daughter,” the king thought. “No mortal man I ever saw is good enough for her and by marrying her to this boy I’d start an alliance with the ancient folk.”
The king was very pleased with this idea and he told the boy:
“Welcome, Sir Bird, I’m glad my garden pleases you.”
“To a bird a garden is no one’s possession,” the boy answered.
“Well,” the king grinned. “With your stealing you have gathered quite the dowry by now, so it seems only fair to me that you should marry my daughter.”
The boy of the birds looked at the king with grave eyes and shook his head. “I shall do no such thing.”
The king laughed.
“You will speak differently when you see her!” he said. “Come men, escort our noble guest to the throne room.”
So the boy was brought to the throne room, which was all glittering gold and gleaming marble. He was given a seat and he sat down gravely. The king did not see, but the servants all noted that the boy sat very still and he looked very like a bird perching on a branch.
“Now fetch me my daughter!” the king ordered his servants. “So she can see her future husband!”
There was a great scurrying of ladies and while he waited the king thought that surely the boy of the birds would fall in love with his daughter the moment he saw her. After all she was a princess and certainly the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.
Finally two footmen slowly opened the doors to the throne room and the princess entered, gliding in on the softest silk slippers that ever were made. She was a short pixie of a girl, dressed from head to toe in satin. Her hair was done up very fine and she walked very elegantly, but her eyes were clearly those of a young girl still.
“My daughter!” the king proclaimed, brimming with pride.
The princess made a darling curtsy and eyed the stranger perching on his seat curiously.
“This, my dear,” the king said. “Is the brazen bird that came to steal from my garden! He is one of the ancient folk and I think he will make you a very good husband.”
“Truly father?” the princess answered placidly.
“A very advantageous match!” the king gloated.
The princess said nothing and neither did the boy of the birds.
The king soon tired of doing his gloating in silence and he asked the boy of the birds:
“Well, what do you think now of your future bride?”
“She is very beautiful,” the boy answered. “And very polite, but I will not marry her.”
The princess neither smiled nor frowned, she was looking at the ceiling thoughtfully, but the king flew into an awful rage. Never had he believed someone could insult him so. He ordered that the boy of the birds was to be locked in a room in the palace and that he should not be let out until he consented to marry the princess.
“And tell the scoundrel that if he turns back into a bird I shall keep him in a cage instead!” the king yelled after the guards dragging the boy away.
So the boy was locked into one of the guest rooms of the beautiful palace and was not allowed to set one foot outside or even open a window. He was brought food and drink every day and every evening one of the servants asked him:
“The king wishes to know if you will wed his daughter.”
And the boy of the birds always answered with a sigh:
“And yet the king already knows my answer.”
With every day that passed the king grew more displeased and every day he asked his servants angrily what the boy of the birds was doing.
“Nothing, Your Highness,” every servant would answer. “He simply sits on the floor and strokes his old cloak.”
This went on for a very long time. The king grew red with anger, but the boy of the birds grew pale with sadness. It was miserable to him to be shut up inside, away from the blue sky and the joyful wind.
Finally, the boy asked the servants to call for the king.
The king came, puffed up twice as big as he usually was and feeling very important and very terrible. He looked down on the sad-looking boy with a lofty stare.
“Did you wish to say something to me?” the king demanded.
The boy of the birds sighed a long sigh and said:
“A bird cannot be always between four walls. If it secures me my freedom, I will agree to marry your daughter.”
“Excellent!” the king roared. His moustache curled with triumph and he immediately imagined his daughter the subject of praise and promises of alliances from all the ancient folk.
“We shall arrange the wedding to be as soon as possible!”
“Very well, but I cannot marry until I have mended my cloak,” the boy of the birds said seriously.
“Do not bother about that!” the king cried. “I shall give you a cloak spun out of nothing but gold thread to wear at the wedding!”
But the boy of the birds shook his head. “I only wear one cloak,” he said. “And it must be this one.”
“As you wish,” the king said with a wave of his hand. “I will send for a seamstress to mend it for you.”
“No seamstress can mend this cloak,” the boy said.
“I will fetch a tailor then,” the king frowned.
“Why would a tailor succeed if a seamstress will not?” the boy said. “No, I must mend my own cloak.”
“How long is this going to take?” the king snorted.
“As long as is needed,” the boy answered calmly.
“Well, let it be so if it must be,” the king said. “But you had better hurry.”
And he ordered his servants to bring the boy of the birds everything he needed to mend his cloak and to see to it that he did not waste any time. Then he retreated to his private quarters to start planning a lavish wedding for his daughter and the noble boy of the birds. He planned to invite everyone of note from at least three kingdoms over.
The servants meanwhile ran to and fro with needles and scissors, silk threads and silver thimbles and every single thing one could possibly need to mend a cloak.
Only the best materials were considered fitting by the boy of the birds and when he had them he set to work.
The boy stitched the tears in the fine fabric and then he patched the holes, even the littlest one. This took a long time and when he was finished the king asked impatiently:
“Are you done now?”
But the boy of the bird shook his head and sent the servants out into the palace gardens to gather feathers. They must only pick up feathers left on the ground, he told them. And he promised them that if they laid a finger on as much as a single bird, he’d know about it.
So the servants searched for feathers day after day and they brought the feathers to the boy.
In his room the boy selected the finest feathers and used them to replace every missing feather in the lining of his cloak.
This took so much time that by the time he was done not only the princess’s wedding gown was finished, but her entire new wardrobe had been arranged.
Now the boy smoothed every crease out of the cloak’s fabric and straightened and stroked every feather.
“Now are you finished?” the king demanded to know, but the boy of the birds did not answer.
He held the cloak up to the light and examined it carefully. There wasn’t a flaw to be detected. The feathery cloak was just as it had once been.
“Yes,” the boy of the birds said. “I am ready.”
He took the cloak and draped it across his shoulders with a sigh of relief.
“I will meet your daughter in the garden, where you say I received her dowry.”
The king thought this was an excellent idea. He ordered his servants to bring his daughter to the gardens, dressed in her very best. To set the mood all her ladies in waiting were given fans to keep the air moving and make sure every golden petal and silver leaf would tinkle softly in the background.
Finally the boy of the birds was escorted to the palace gardens to meet his bride.
The princess was standing between the silver plants and the golden flowers, looking very lovely in the sunshine, when the boy of the birds came out of the palace. He sighed as the fresh air reached him and walked towards the princess, his hands reaching for the edges of his cloak.
The king nodded in satisfaction at his daughter and she turned towards the boy of the birds with a bow.
The boy of the birds smiled at her and for a moment it seemed like he would return her bow, but then threw back his head and spread his cloak in a whirl of feathers. A melodious cry echoed across the garden and where the boy had been the amber bird took off into the glorious blue sky.
The boy of the birds had mended his wings and was free once more.
“Stop that bird!” the king cried out, but it was too late.
The bird did not linger or circle the garden, he took off into the air and flew straight out of sight. Back from where he came from.
Just one thing he left behind, a single amber feather, that fluttered softly down and landed at the princess’s feet. Payment for what had been taken perhaps, or an apology for offence unintentionally given.
The king fumed and raged and stamped his feet so that all the plants in the garden shook. The princess, however, calmly lifted her hand and waved the bird goodbye, the gifted feather in her other hand.
From far away the beautiful bird’s call sounded loud and free.
The king was so mad he turned such a deep purple that he never truly returned to his original colour. But nobody knew what the princess thought of all this, because nobody ever asked her and she decided not to tell.
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. You can follow this podcast on podcatchers like Spotify, iTunes, or Stitcher, where new episodes will be available for 90 days. But you can always find all my fairy tales on the website patchworkfairytales.wordpress.com, where you can also contact me, and find out about my other projects like my book and webcomic. You can also find me at laurasimonsdaughter.tumblr.com which is full of folklore and urban fantasy, or you can follow @patchworktale on twitter.
There’s another tale to tell some other Wednesday but until then…
Never ignore a crying baby, trust that the ring will find its way back, and be safe~
Copyright Laura Simons, please do not copy my stories without my permission, lest you insult the fae.