Birds Of A Feather

By and for Bird-People

The Roc

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This is one tale from Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (which has become a public-domain text). The tales were put to paper by Pu Songling during the Qing Dynasty, and this is a translation by Herbert A. Giles. The roc (or rukh) is a legendary giant bird often related to the phoenix and simurgh; you can read more on the subject in this Wikipedia article.

Two herons built their nests under one of the ornaments on the roof of a temple at Tientsin. The accumulated dust of years in the shrine below concealed a huge serpent, having the diameter of a washing-basin; and whenever the heron’s young were ready to fly, the reptile proceeded to the nest and swallowed every one of them, to the great distress of the bereaved parents. This too place three years consecutively, and people thought the birds would build there no more.

However, the following year they came again; and when the time was drawing nigh for their young ones to take wing, away they flew, and remained absent for nearly three days. On their return, they went straight to the nest, and began amidst much noisy chattering to feed their young ones as usual.

Just then the serpent crawled up to reach his prey; and as he was nearing the nest the parent-birds flew out and screamed loudly in mid-air. Immediately, there was heard a mighty flapping of wings, and darkness came over the face of the earth, which the astonished spectators now perceived to be caused by a huge bird obscuring the light of the sun.

Down it swooped with the speed of wind or falling rain, and, striking the serpent with its talons, tore its head off at a blow, bringing down at the same time several feet of the masonry of the temple. Then it flew away, the herons accompanying it as though escorting a guest.

The nest too had come down, and of the two young birds one was killed by the fall; the other was taken by the priests and put in a bell tower, whither the old birds returned to feed it until thoroughly fledged, when it spread its wings and was gone.

The Roc“, Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, Vol. II, 1880.

 

Eric Pape, Rukh carries off its prey (1923)

The Book of Knowledge, The Grolier Society (1911)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Footnote:

This story is inserted chiefly in illustration of the fact that all countries have a record of some enormous bird such as the roc of the “Arabian Nights”.

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