Note: This story is inspired by an old tale about a flying fox and a fire spirit which I first heard from my mentor Sam Crosby at Centennial Parklands.
Long ago there lived a bird with a sharp beak called Magpie.
Magpie was a white bird and very curious. He used to fly around looking for interesting things. When he found something interesting he would take a closer look.
One day Magpie was flying around when he saw something very curious. It was a small group of humans, a family. He was interested in the humans so he flew down for a closer look. He noticed the way they spoke to each other and played games. He noticed the way they cared for each other. Magpie found the humans very interesting and he watched them for many days. After a while he grew to love the humans very much.
After many days watching the humans the weather grew cold and winter drew near. The humans grew cold too and their food began to run out. Magpie noticed they were shivering and some of the children became sick from the cold. Watching this made Magpie feel very sad. He decided to try and help.
Magpie began flying around in search of a something that might help the humans stay warm. In the distance he noticed a bright light coming from a hillside. Magpie flew towards the light and noticed that it was coming from inside a cave. When he went into the cave he noticed it became very warm and bright. Magpie went all the way to the deepest part of the cave and found the source of the heat and light. It was the fire spirit. The fire spirit was dancing.
Magpie knew that the fire spirit could help the humans stay warm. So he swooped down and broke off one the fire spirit’s fingers. He held it in his beak and began to fly away. But the fire spirit became angry with Magpie for having taken one of its fingers and so it reach out and caught hold of Magpie, burning great black patches into Magpie’s feathers. But Magpie was brave and so did not drop the piece of flame from his beak. He managed to fly out of the cave and return to the humans.
When Magpie arrived he was so excited to share the fire with the humans. He flew towards them carrying the flame in his beak. But the humans saw only a great bird coming towards them with fire in its sharp beak and were frightened by Magpie and ran away. So Magpie tried again. He flew eagerly towards the humans. But again the humans were frightened and they ran away. Magpie followed the humans round and round. Everywhere he went the flame in his beak started a small fire. Eventually these small fires turned into a huge bush fire. The fire was so fierce that it consumed the humans and Magpie had to fly away to safety.
Sat in a tree on a nearby hillside Magpie watched as the bush fire consumed the humans and their homes. It was a tragedy and Magpie watched with great sadness.
To this day Magpie watches us with curiosity. To this day he tries to share his gifts with us. But he has not learned how. From Magpie we learn that when we are excited to share things with others, we must approach slowly and gently.
Not with the flame, but with the feather.