There was once a king who greatly desired to obtain an aderna bird,
which is possessed of magical powers, has a wonderful song, and talks
like men. This king had a beautiful daughter, and he promised her to
any one who would bring him an aderna bird. Now the quest for the
aderna bird is very dangerous, because, if the heart is not pure,
the man who touches the bird becomes stone, and the bird escapes.
There were in that country three brothers, Juan, Diego, and Pedro,
and they all agreed to set out together to catch the aderna bird. Afar
in the mountains they saw him, and Diego, being the eldest, had first
chance, and he caught the aderna bird, but being of impure life he
became a stone, and the bird flew away over the mountains.
Juan and Pedro pursued it over the rocky way till at last they saw
it again, and Pedro, being the next eldest, essayed to catch it. He,
too, being a bad man, was turned into stone and the aderna bird flew
over another mountain, and Juan, undaunted, followed alone.
When at last he saw the aderna bird he made a trap with a mirror with
a snare in front and soon caught the bird. He made a cage for it and
started on his homeward journey. When he reached the stone which was
his brother Pedro, he begged the bird to undo its work and make him
a man again, and the bird did so. Then the two went on to where Diego
was, and again Juan entreated the bird to set the other brother free,
and the bird did so.
But Pedro and Diego, far from being grateful for what Juan had done
for them, bound him, choked him, beat him, and left him for dead far
from any road or any habitation, and went on their way to the king
with the aderna bird, expecting for one the hand of the princess and
for the other a rich reward.
But the aderna bird would not sing. Said the king, "O Aderna Bird,
why do you not sing?" The bird replied, "O Mighty King, I sing only
for him who caught me." "Did these men catch you?" "No, O King, Juan
caught me, and these men have beaten him and stolen me from him." So
the king had them punished, and waited for the coming of Juan.
Juan meanwhile had freed himself from his bonds, and wandered sore
and hungry and lame through the forest. At last he met an old man
who said to him, "Juan, why do you not go to the king's house, for
there they want you very much?" "Alas," said Juan, "I am not able
to walk so far from weakness, and I fear I shall die here in the
forest." "Do not fear," said the old man, "I have here a wonderful
hat that, should you but whisper to it where you wish to go, in a
moment you are transported there through the air."
So the old man gave him the hat, and Juan put it on and said, "Hat,
if this be thy nature, carry me across the mountains to the king's
palace." And the hat carried him immediately into the presence of
the king. Then the aderna bird began to sing, and after a time Juan
married the princess, and all went well for the rest of their lives.