|Japanese fairy tales Oni Tengu Kitsune Tanuki Kami
The Sparrow and the Kingfisher
In ancient times the sparrow and the kingfisher were siblings. Their
mother died and so they began to live with their father. Sparrow the
elder brother was an obedient son who honored their father by working
all day in the field. The kingfisher didn’t follow the example of
his brother and he played around all day.
One day the kingfisher went to his brother to ask him to go with him into the city.
“How can we leave our father alone?” the sparrow asked.
“Don’t worry, even though our father is old he is vigorous
and healthy, so nothing will happen to him,” the kingfisher
assured his brother.
So they left home and went into the city, and were received into the service of the lord daimyo.
The sparrow as always worked hard but the kingfisher looked around and
saw the many entertainments of the city. So as time went all the
kingfisher became lazy, and would rest for days doing nothing but
The sparrow wrote letters to his father sending much of the money
he’d earned to help him. Then one day the father sent a letter
saying, “ I’m glad that you’ve both become so
hardworking. The only ache in my heart is that Kingfisher does not
write me letters any longer. I have become old and would like to see
you before I die.”
“Listen kingfisher, we have to hurry back to the village,”
Sparrow told his brother. “It is our duty to visit with our
“Go on ahead, and I’ll come along in a bit,” kingfisher told sparrow.
So sparrow went on ahead to the village. The kingfisher meanwhile
wanted to go to the village in rich dress so that everyone would think
he was successful and see him as handsome. But by the time kingfisher
got to the village, dressed as fancy as can be, his father was dead.
People from many surrounding villages joined sparrow in his grief. When
kingfisher came they knew he’d not cared for his duty so they
turned away from him.
“Father was very worried about you before his death,” sparrow wept bitterly when he saw the kingfisher.
“What have you come dressed so pompously to you fathers funeral
for?” the people gathered around kingfisher asked. “You
believed that his life didn’t count and exchanged cordial
kindness for rich clothing.”
So the kingfisher went away, and since then kingfishers are beautifully
dressed but very few people see them because they live alone deep in