Why the Hoopoe has a Crest
Once each month Solomon rode upon his White Eagle to the secret pleasure palace
he had built for himself in the wilderness of Palmyra. One day as he rode upon
the wings of the giant bird, the sun beat down upon him so intensely that he
thought he would die. Suddenly a flock of Hoopoes flew by, and seeing the kings
distress, gathered themselves together, wingtip to wingtip, so that they formed
a sheltering canopy over the king.
In gratitude for their
kindness, Solomon summoned the King of the Hoopoes and said to him, "Ask
me whatever you wish and I shall grant it to you."
a day and a night the Hoopoes considered Solomon's offer. The next day,
their king appeared before Solomon and said, "Here is our wish, my
lord: May we be given golden crowns to wear upon our heads?"
Solomon laughed, "Your
wish is granted! But know, my friend, that it is a foolish thing that
you have asked for. It will lead you straight into the hunter's snare.
But when such evil overtakes you, return to me and I will remember your
kindness and help you again."
The King of the Hoopoes
left Solomon's palace with a golden crown upon his head. Soon all of the
Hoopoes sported golden crowns, as Solomon had promised. And their pride
swelled and so did their vanity, so that they hardly deigned to speak
any more to the other birds. At every stream and river and the shore of
the sea, the Hoopoes gazed for hours into the water to admire their beautiful
Then one day a hunter
saw a Hoopoe with its golden crown and wished to catch it. So he set a
trap and placed a mirror inside it. And the Hoopoe flew into the trap
to admire itself in the mirror and was caught. Then the hunter wrung the
bird's neck and brought the crown to a brass smelter.
The cunning smelter
saw that the crown was made not of brass but of gold, but he lied to the
hunter and said it was only made of brass. He gave the hunter a few small
coins and told him that he would buy any more crowns the hunter brought
But the next time
the hunter trapped a Hoopoe, he met a goldsmith on his way to town. When
the goldsmith saw the crown in the hunter's hand, he told him that it
was made of gold. He paid the hunter handsomely for the crown and asked
When word of this began to spread, people abandoned their shops and fields
and began hunting Hoopoes for the golden crowns. Soon the sounds of whizzing
arrows and clanging traps rang through the forests and hills. The Hoopoes
became fewer and fewer in number until only a handful remained.
the King of the Hoopoes came to King Solomon with a heavy heart and said,
"How right you were, my lord king, to call our wish for golden crowns
foolish! Now our own vanity has brought evil down upon our heads. Please
help us before we are all dead!"
Solomon replied, "Indeed
you have brought this trouble upon yourselves but because you were once
so kind to me, I will help you again. No longer shall gold crowns adorn
your heads, but instead you shall wear a simple crest of feathers. Thus
your beauty will no longer entrap you."
From then on all the
Hoopoes wore crests of feathers upon their head. Without their gold crowns,
hunters no longer pursued them, and they increased in number. Throughout
the land they lived in peace and no one made them afraid.
Frankel, Ellen, The Classic Tales: 4,000 Years of Jewish Lore.
Copyright © 1989, 1993 by the author. (Northvale, New Jersey: Jason
Aronson) pages 239-24.
By permission of the author.