Bird stories, the Tawny Owl

The owls, who can’t see during the day, and the crows, who can’t see during the night, were foes. So the owls said to the crows, We don’t want the sun as you do ; we can do without him ; we can see in the dark. The crows said, We don’t believe you can see in the dark, those who can’t see in the day can much less see in the night. They became friends. Then the owls said to the crows, You don’t see in the night because you are a part of it ; else how could you be so black ? The crows returned the compliment, saying, You don’t see during the day because your eyes are a part of the sun ; else how could they be so brilliant and round ? Then they said together. As we love or hate, we think of each-others blessing.

Frenchmen call the common brown owl of Europe chouette; and when in 1793 disgruntled smugglers and Royalist soldiers were carrying on guerrilla warfare in Brittany and Poitu against the new order of things, they came to be called Chouans, “owls,” from the signal-cries they made to one another in their nocturnal battles.

In central India the owl is now generally regarded as a bird of ill omen. If one happens to perch on the house of a native, it is a sign that one of his household will die, or some other misfortune befall him within a year. This can only be averted by giving the house or its value in money to the Brahmins, or making extraordinary peace-offering to the gods.

In the neighbourhood of Chatillon-sur-Seine, it is called Ohoue d’Auvergne, from the following reason: Once upon a time, an Auvergnat, who had lost his way in a dense wood, heard the cry of the Hulotte (the usual name for this bird in France), and thought, it was the voice of God (Dieu). So he shouted: Mon Dieu ! Mon Dieu ! I am lost in the forest; help me to get out! He endeavoured to turn his steps in the direction whence the voice seemed to sound. The bird flew from tree to tree, and drew on the luckless traveller farther and farther, till day dawned, and it ceased its cry.


More than fifty years ago, a local character named Robert Hall, was returning home through the woods late one night, and lost his way. Man lost! shouted the frightened traveller. Whoo I whoo! cried the owl. Bobby Hall; lost in the Three Mile Bottom! replied the man. This went on for hours. The story reached the ears of the townspeople, and Bobby Hall was famous ever after.

Ramaswami Raju P.V. Indian Fables. London 1887.

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