There came a time upon Olympus when Zeus grew tired. For several days now, he had been listening to the complaints of the flying birds. Their complaints for the weather, for the quantity of seed, for the juiciness of worms and for the hunting of man. They came from all around to complain to Zeus, and Zeus was mightily sore from it all.
So he stood with the sound of thunder, the cackling flocks pulsing back and away from him before settling back into their circular, stormshaped flight about him.Thunder cracked and he shout lightning high into the sky. “ENOUGH!” Bellowed the father of storms, lord of Olympus.
“Feathered Flyers, be AWAY from Olympus! Take your cackling, craven masses away from here and set about a parliament! Select the most beautiful among you, and return here in one turn of Luna’s light! I shall at that point select king for your kind, and you can cease your bothering of me!” trumpeted the king of the Gods.
The flocks all bowed to the King of the Gods and they withdrew from Great Olympus with the haste of wings, and the thickness of locusts.
The great flocks settled into the hills above Athens, looking down on the city and covering the land like a great dark tide. The people of that fair city looked up and saw this tide and knew the Gods work was afoot. The birds organized themselves, then set about washing and preening, so that they might be the most beautiful come the turn of Luna’s face, as Zeus had decreed.
They got in such fights, such arguments, each declaring themselves the most beautiful, the most worthy, and placing bets and lots as to whom Zeus would pick.
The Crow, though. The Crow held back. He was not a flocking bird, and he had no illusions of his beauty or his voice. But he watched the others, and he despaired that one of them might be King of all the avians, so vain and petty were they.
Feathers flew from the fights, and many a beautiful bird died to the claws and beaks of his kind. But the crow hung back.
Contests of every sort were held by the birds, and the featherkind tried to curry favor with the potential kings, but the crow did not play these games.
The Crow watched with growing sadness, as Luna’s face came full once more, and then watched the great carpet of birds, the Parliament, make its way back to Olympus for the choosing.
Creeping now among the ruins of the great host of birds, the Crow found many beautiful feathers, from the ruins and castoffs of the other birds. Tucking many into his own feathers, he too turned for Olympus.
The Gods turned out for this curious ceremony, with Zeus sitting resplendent on his ivory throne. Hera, always gracious and beautiful stood next to him, while Athena lounged at her fathers feet. Ares watched the birds, as if deciding which he was to hunt next, but Artemis ribbed him with her elbow.
Finally the most beautiful birds stepped forward to present themselves to Zeus. There was the Sparrow, the Hawk, the Eagle, the Falcon, the Bluejay and the Cardinal. Birds of every hue and color, every tone and call. And they all tried their best to impress the king of the gods.
Finally, Crow stepped forward, and it was true that Aphrodite smiled at the costume Crow wore… but he did not sing. He simply bowed to Zeus, and slowly removed the feathers from his own.
“What is the meaning of this??” Cried the birds.
“Indeed, Crow. Why have you, an ugly bird, come before me, Zeus, to declare yourself beautiful?”
The Crow summoned up his courage and explained… “Great Zeus, lord of the skies and winds… No disrespect is meant nor offered. But I have spent Luna’s light watching my brethren fight over who was most beautiful, who was most vain. And all they have proven is who is the most shallow. Beauty is not a measure of our feathers, but our hearts, as Aphrodite has said so often, but been listened too so little.”
Zeus considered this for a long moment, then nodded once.
And that is how Crow became king of the birds, for fine feathers do not make for fine men.