The Tortoise and the Geese and Other Fables of Bidpai  by Maude Barrows Dutton

The Sparrows and the Snake

Two Sparrows once built a nest in the eaves of a house and hatched their first young there. The happy Father immediately flew away to find some food for his little ones. On his return, he met the Mother Sparrow flying wildly about.

"My dear, what has happened, and why have you left our little ones unprotected?" he asked anxiously.


"Alas," replied the Mother Bird, "while you were gone a big Snake glided along the eaves and ate up all of our fledgelings. And now he lies sleeping in our nest. I have told him that you will pluck out both his eyes when you return, but he only replies, 'Bah, what has a big Snake to fear from a little brown Sparrow? Fly away and let me sleep in peace!' "

The little Sparrow comforted his mate as best he could, and then flew to a branch of a tree to think how he could punish the cruel and boasting Snake. As he was sitting there, he noticed that the good man of the house was about to light the evening lamp. Quickly the Sparrow dropped to the sill, and, flying in the window, seized the lighted taper from the man's hand. Then, carrying it carefully, lest the wind should blow out the flame, he bore it to his nest.

The Snake was suddenly awakened by the crackling of twigs in the nest as they rapidly caught fire. Terrified, he raised his head and was about to glide from the nest, when he was pierced by the pick of the good man, who, to save his house from catching fire, had climbed to the roof to tear down the burning nest.