The Steadfast Parrot

Grade Level: 
9, 10, 11, 12
Generosity of Spirit
Steadfast Parrot (The)
Indian Tale: A parrot remains loyal to the fig tree where he makes his home, although he is being tested. The god Shaka has withered the tree to test the parrot's fidelity. How does friendship endure the tests of time?

Tell me a story...

Once there was a parrot. His feathers were beautiful with rich colors of green, red, and yellow. His eyes were shiny and black, his beak a pale yellow. Altogether, he was a most handsome bird.

This parrot lived in a fig tree. And oh, how he loved that tree! He loved the way its leaves shaded him from the harsh, glaring light of the midday sun. He loved the cool shade it cast over him. He loved its endless whisperings, its creakings and rustlings. He loved the way its branches rose and fell, swaying with every breeze. He loved the feel of the cool, smooth bark beneath his toes. He loved the sweet fruit it so freely gave him.

Every evening as he settled on the branches of his tree-home, he would say. “How happy I am. How content, peaceful, and free. I owe my tree so very much. I’ll never abandon it for another refuge.” And closing his eyes he would listen with delight to the soft music of the tree’s fluttering leaves.

Shakra, King of the Gods, heard the parrot’s words and decided to test him. He withered the tree and dried it until the leaves blackened and died. Dust now lay on the branches where sweet dews once gathered.

But the parrot would not leave. He sat on the dead branches. Slowly lifting his claws, he climbed from branch to branch, circling the tree to keep from the glaring sunlight, which beat upon him. In his mind’s eye he could see it, covered not with dust, but with green leaves, all swaying and rustling in the breeze. “Should friends part just because bitter fortune has struck?” said the parrot to himself. “Days pass and fortunes change.”

“My words were sincere and true, And my tree I’ll not leave you.”

And he would not leave. Though days passed the parrot remained steadfast and content. Perched on the dead branches among the dry, rattling leaves, he watched the sun rise and he watched it set. But he did not abandon his tree-home.

Shakra, watching, smiled—and a golden breeze blew. New buds formed green leaves unfolded, fruits swelled, and the dust, whirling, blew away. Amazed, the parrot sat sheltered once again among the green, leafy branches of his beloved tree.

“Little bird,” said the King of the Gods, “the whole universe is brought to life by a steadfast and faithful heart. Even the lofty gods smile when meeting one who has attained such unwavering contentment. While outwardly you may only be a little bird, inwardly you bear the gift of life.”

“Live contented with your tree, And may all beings so contented be.”

And, laughing, the great god Shakra rose up into the bluest of blue skies. The steadfast little parrot, once again sipping the sweet dews, rubbed his beak against the cool, smooth bark. Oh how contented he was! 


“The Steadfast Parrot.” Martin, Rafe. The Hungry Tigress: Buddhist Legends and Jataka Tales. Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, ©1990 .

Used with the permission of Parallax Press.