The Eagle’s Feather

Once upon a time, a young boy named Samuel ran away into the forest to seek the magic of a wise woman. People said she could make potions that would cure anyone of anything.

When the woman answered his knock, he said, “Please, I want you to make me a potion.”

The woman invited him inside. They sat by the fire, surrounded by her pots and pans, her bottles and bowls. In every one, Samuel saw swirling colored liquids. He hoped she would offer the right one for his troubles.

“What is your problem, child?” the woman asked. “Everyone believes my potions can cure anything, but that is not always so.”

“Oh, please help me,” Samuel said. “The trouble is my parents. They don’t understand me. They never listen, and when they speak, their voices are angry, and if I ask for anything, they turn away. Sometimes they talk about me behind my back. I’ve heard them complain.”

“And when did this begin?” the woman asked.

“About a year ago, when I turned 12,” Samuel answered. “I want a potion that will turn my parents back into the kind and understanding people they once were.”

The woman closed her eyes. “I must think,” she said, and for a long time, she was quiet.

At last, she spoke. “I can help you, but there is one ingredient I need but do not have. You’ll have to get this for me.”

“Anything,” Samuel answered. “Anything.”

“I need a feather from a living eagle,” the woman said.

“But how can I possibly get that?” Samuel answered.

“If your potion is important to you, you will find a way,” the woman said. “And now, go to your task.” She led the boy to the door and said goodbye.

Samuel walked sadly home. “I’ll never succeed,” he said. But that very night, as he lay awake pondering his problem, he remembered a place called Eagle Mountain where some eagles nested. He would go there the next day and watch the eagles. Perhaps an eagle’s feather would fall to the ground.

At dawn the next day, he set off for Eagle Mountain. When he arrived, he was frightened at the huge, majestic creatures with their yellow eyes and sharp talons. He could not take his eyes off the birds, and so, all day and into the evening, he sat and watched the creatures as they fished in the rushing river at the base of the mountain and perched on the branches of the trees nearby.

However, by the end of the day, he felt his quest was hopeless. Eagles were fierce and strong. He would never succeed in finding an eagle’s feather.

But day after day Samuel returned and sat quietly, watching closely, learning all he could about the great birds, admiring their soaring flight, recognizing their shyness and their strength. One day a young eagle flew near, and Samuel spoke gently to him. The next day he was there again, perched in the tree above which Samuel sat. After many days, they grew to understand each other, to establish mutual trust and feel their shyness slipping away.

After many weeks Samuel felt as if this majestic bird was his friend, and so he spoke. “I wish you would give me a feather,” he said softly. “I would be so grateful, and in return perhaps I could do something for you.” The young eagle stared at him, and Samuel knew he was listening.

More time passed, and now Samuel knew the eagles’ flight patterns and their mating dance. He and his young eagle grew ever closer. Then one day when he reached the tree where his special friend perched, he found an eagle’s feather lying near the tree. He picked it up and smiled at his friend. “I’ll always be grateful,” he said, and he ran to the wise woman’s home.

“Look!” he cried, “I’ve brought an eagle’s feather, and now you can make my potion.”

The woman smiled. “Good work,” she said. “Now tell me how you came to get this feather.”

Beaming, Samuel told the woman how he had watched the eagles, of the respect he had gained for them, and the way he learned to be patient, to learn about their needs. He talked of the way he earned the trust of one, and how he had come to love them all.

The woman smiled. “Well done,” she said. And then, to Samuel’s amazement, she tossed his feather into the fire where, in a moment, it turned to ash.

“What have you done?” he cried. “All my work, and now it is for nothing!”

Again the woman smiled. “You no longer need the feather,” she said. “If you can win the trust and understanding of a wild eagle with your patience and respect, you can do the same with your mother and father.”

And Samuel suddenly understood that the woman was wise indeed, and he knew he needed no magical potion to reach his goal.