The Plover Who Fought the Ocean

A plover and his wife once lived by the shore of the sea, the mighty sea that swarms with fish, crocodiles, turtles, sharks, porpoises, pearl oysters, shellfish, and other teeming life. The plover was called Sprawl, and his wife’s name was Constance.

In due time she became pregnant and was ready to lay her eggs. So she said to her husband: “Please find a spot where I may lay my eggs.”

“Why,” said he, “this home of ours, inherited from our ancestors, promises progress. Lay your eggs here.”

“Oh,” said  she, “don’t mention this dreadful place. Here is the ocean near at hand. His tide might someday make a long reach and lick away my babies.”

But the plover answered: “Sweetheart, he knows me, he knows Sprawl. Surely the great ocean cannot show such enmity to me. Did you never hear this?”

But even as he spoke, his wife laughed outright, since she knew the full measure of his capacity, and she said: “Very fine, indeed. There is plenty more where that came from. O king of birds.How can you fail to appreciate your own strength and weakness? ”

“My dear,” said the plover, why do you think me like Fatalist?”

“Feel no anxiety. Who can bring humiliation upon you while my arms protect you?”

So Constance laid her eggs, but the ocean, who had listened to the previous conversation, thought to their power to the test.”

So the next day, when the two plovers had gone foraging, he made a long reach with his wave-hands and eagerly seized the eggs. Then when the hen-plover returned and found the nursery empty, she said to her husband: “See what has happened to poor  me. The ocean seized my eggs today. I told you more than once that we should move, but you were stupid as Fatalist and would not go. Now I am so sad at the loss of my children that I have decided to burn myself.”

“My dear,” said the plover, “wait until you witness my power until I dry up that rascally ocean with my bill.” But she replied: “My dear husband, how can you fight the ocean? “

Plover said, “With my bill shall dry up the water to the last drop, and turn the sea into dry land.”

“Darling,” said his wife, “with a bill that holds one drop how will you dry up the ocean, into which pour without ceasing the Ganges and the Indus, bearing the water of nine times nine hundred tributary streams? Why talk nonsense?”

“Well,” said his wife, “if you feel that you must make war on the ocean, at least call other birds to your aid before you begin. ”

“Very well,” said the plover. “I will assemble my friends and dry up the ocean.”

With this in mind, he summoned all the birds and related his grief at the rape of his chicks. And they started to beat the ocean with their wings, as a means of bringing relief to his sorrow.

But one bird said: “Our desires will not be accomplished in this manner. Let us rather fill up the ocean with clods and dust.” So they all brought what clods and dust they could carry in the hollow of their bills and started to fill up the ocean.

Then another bird said: “It is plain that we are not equal to a contest with the mighty ocean. So I will tell you what is now timely. There is an old gander who lives beside a banyan tree, who will give us sound and practical advice. Let us go and ask him.”

all the birds visited the old gander and related their grief at the rape of the chicks. Then the old gander said: “The king of us all is Garuda. Therefore, the time course of action is this. You must all stir the feelings of Garuda by a chorus of wailing lamentation. In consequence, he will remove our sorrow.” With this purpose, they sought Garuda.

Now Garuda had just been summoned by bless&d Vishnu to take part in an impending battle between gods and demons. At just this moment the birds reported to their master, the king of the birds, what sorrow in the separation of loved ones had been wrought by the ocean when he seized the chicks. “O bird divine,” they said, “while you gleam in royal radiance, we must live on what little is won by the labor of our bills. Because of our weak necessity of eating, the ocean has, in an overbearing manner, carried away our young.”

While they were thus conferring, Vishnu’s messenger returned and said: “Garuda, Lord Vishnu sends orders that you repair at once to the celestial city.” On hearing this, Garuda proudly said to him: “Messenger, what will the master do with so poor a servant as I am?”

“Garuda,” said the messenger, “it may be that the blessèd one has spoken to you harshly. But why should you display pride toward the blessèd one?” And Garuda replied: “The ocean, the resting-place of the blessèd one, has stolen the eggs of the plover, who is my servant. If I do not chastise him, then I am not the servant of the blessèd one. Make this report to the master.”

Now when Vishnu learned from the messenger’s lips that Garuda was feigning anger, he thought: “Ah, he is dreadfully angry. I will, therefore, go in person, will address him, and bring him back with all honour. For the proverb says:

Having reached this conclusion, he hastened to Garuda, who, beholding his master a visitor in his own house, modestly gazed on the ground, bowed low, and said: “O blessèd one, the ocean, made insolent by his service as your resting-place, has stolen – behold! has stolen the eggs of my servant, and thus brought shame upon me. From reverence for the blessèd one, I have delayed. But if nothing is done, I myself will this day reduce him to dry land. For the proverb says:

“Come, then, so that we may recover the eggs from the ocean, may satisfy the plover, and then proceed to the celestial city on the gods’ business.”

To this Garuda agreed, and the blessèd one reproached the ocean, then fitted the fire-arrow to his bow and said: “Villain, give the plover his eggs. Else, I will reduce you to dry land.”

On hearing this, the ocean, while all his train shook with fright, tremblingly took the eggs and restored them to the plover, as the blessèd one directed.


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