1. The Golden Bird
Once upon a time, in a Kingdom far away, there lived a King and he had three handsome sons. He was very fond of the three of them, and, as a consequence, had spoiled them quite terribly. So, although their social manners were quite excellent, they had grown to become indolent and frivolous, and it was a rare occasion when a single serious thought ever crossed their minds. In this, the two eldest sons were far worse than the youngest, because by the time the youngest had come along, the King had realized he had been too lenient a parent and had attempted to enforce a stricter discipline. Of course, the change came a little too late, and the Princes paid not the slightest heed to his admonitions.
Years passed, and, one day, the King fell gravely ill. All the healers and soothsayers of the realm were summoned to treat him, but none of the remedies they tried had the desired effect on him. His condition worsened day by day until it began to seem that he would not survive the crisis. As his sons and ministers hovered about the sick room in a state of despair, the King’s old nurse arrived to see him. She placed a soothing hand on his brow and that revived him to consciousness.
“I had a dream,” he told her. “In it, a voice informed me that if I hear the song of the bird Lusak, I shall be well once again.”
Immediately, the nurse called the Princes and told them what the King had said.
“You must go at once and fetch this bird,” she said. “If your father thinks that her song will make him well, we must arrange for her to sing for him.”
“But where will we find this bird?” asked the Princes.
“She belongs to the King who rules the Kingdom that lies across the seven mountains north of here,” said the nurse. “It is not likely that he will give Lusak to you willingly, so I’m afraid you may have to steal her. I know I’ve always told you to refrain from stealing, but, in this instance, when your father’s life is in balance, you will have to do whatever you have to. Are you up to the task?”