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The eagle that would not fly...

This tale was sent to me recently by the Swiss Association for Counselling (SGfB)*. It is an adaptation of an allegory written by James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey - an African intellectual, missionary and teacher, who was born in modern Ghana in 1875. The importance of environment, opportunity, encouragement, patience, perseverance and finding a different perspective - this story has something profound to say to us all, as we look ahead into the New Year.


A man went into the woods. He wanted to catch a bird which he could take home. He caught a young eagle, and put him in the backyard with the chickens, ducks and turkeys. And he gave him chicken feed to eat, although he was an eagle - the king of birds.


Five years later, he was visited by a man who loved nature. And while they were walking together in the garden, the naturalist observed, “That bird is not a chicken, he's an eagle!”.


“Yes”, said the first man - “that's true. But I have raised him as a chicken. Now he is no longer an eagle, but a chicken - even if he has a three-metre wingspan”.


“No”, said the other man. “He will always be an eagle, because he has the heart of an eagle - and he can fly very high in the sky”.


“No, no, no”, said the first man, “he really is a chicken now and he will never fly”. Then they decided to try an experiment. The naturalist took the eagle, lifted him up and said with great feeling, “Who are you, eagle? You belong to the sky, and not to this earth: use your wings and fly!”. The eagle sat on the man's fist and looked around him. Behind him, he could see the chickens, pecking at their grain, and he jumped down towards them.


The first man said, “I told you that he was a chicken”.


“No”, replied the naturalist, “he is an eagle. Try again tomorrow”.


The following day, the visitor took the eagle up on to the roof of the house, lifted him up and said, “Eagle, you are an eagle - use your wings and fly”. But when the eagle saw the chickens scratching in the yard below, he jumped down towards them again and scratched alongside them.


Then the first man said once again, “I have already told you, he is a weakling”.


“No", replied the other, “he is an eagle, and he still has the heart of an eagle. Let's try again; tomorrow we shall see him fly”.


The following morning, the naturalist got up early, took the eagle and left town, going far away, to the foot of a high mountain. The sun was just rising, gilding the summit of the mountain, each peak resplendent in the joy of a beautiful new day. He lifted the eagle up and said to him, “Eagle, you are an eagle - you belong in the sky and not to this earth. Use your wings and fly”.


The eagle looked around him, trembling as if filled with new life. But he did not fly. Then the man who loved nature let the eagle look directly at the sun. And suddenly, he stretched his powerful wings, took off with an eagle's cry, flew higher and higher - and never came back. He was still an eagle, although he had been kept and tamed as a chicken.


* Translated from French.



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