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Hovhannes Tumanian: The Sparrow

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Translation of story by Hovhannes Tumanian
1907

ONCE THERE WAS a sparrow that got a thorn in its foot. It flew here and there until it came across an old woman looking for firewood to heat her oven and bake some bread.

“Granny, Granny", said the sparrow, “pull this thorn out of my foot. Then make your fire and I’ll go peckpecking not to starve.”

The old woman pulled the thorn out and built her oven fire.

The sparrow hopped off a little way, then returned and told the old woman to give it back its thorn.

“I have dropped the thorn into the oven fire,” she said. The sparrow insisted,” Give me back my thorn or I’ll fly off with a loaf.” The old woman gave the sparrow a loaf, and it flew away.

A short while later it came across a shepherd drinking his milk without bread.

“Shepherd, Shepherd,” it said. “Why are you having your milk without bread? Here, take this loaf, crumble it in your milk and eat, and I’ll go peck-pecking not to starve.~~

The sparrow hopped off a little way, then returned and told the shepherd to give it back its loaf of bread.

“I have eaten it,” said the shepherd.

“Give me back my loaf of bread,” insisted the sparrow, or I’ll fly off with a Iamb from your flock.”

The shepherd gave the sparrow a lamb and it flew away.

A short while later it came across some people who were celebrating a wedding but had no cattle to slaughter.

“Don’t worry,” it said, “here, take my lamb, kill it and prepare a feast, and I’ll go peck—pecking not to starve.”

The sparrow hopped off a little way, then returned and demanded the lamb back.

‘‘We have killed and eaten it,’’ said the people. ‘‘How can we return it?”

“Give me back my lamb,” insisted the sparrow, or I’ll fly off with the bride.”

And it snatched up the bride and flew away. It flew and flew until it came across a minstrel walking along a road.

“Minstrel, minstrel,” it said. “Take this bride and keep her and I’ll go peck—pecking not to starve.”

The sparrow hopped off a little way, then returned and demanded the bride back. “But the bride has gone home to her love,” said the minstrel.

“Give me back my bride,” insisted the sparrow, or I’ll fly off with your saz.

The minstrel gave the sparrow his saz, and it slung it over its shoulder and flew away.

Then it perched on a branch and began to twang and chirrup thus:

“Twang, twing, twang,
I traded a thorn for a loaf,
I bartered the loaf for a lamb,
I exchanged the lamb for a bride,
I swapped the bride for a saz,
I got the saz and became a minstrel,
Twang, twing, twang.”