A+ A A-

Why the Parrot and the Minor Bird but Echo the Words of Man

Long ago people caught and nourished the sao bird, because it learned the language of man more readily than either the parrot or minor bird. While they had to be taught with much care, the sao bird had but to hear a word and it could readily utter it; moreover, the sao bird could utter its own thoughts.

Upon a time a man of the north country, owning a sao bird, stole a buffalo from his neighbor and killed it. Part of the buffalo the man cooked and ate; the rest he hid either in the rice bin or over the rice house.
Seeking the buffalo, next day, the neighbor asked the man if he had seen it.
The man replied, “No.” The sao bird, however, cried out, “He killed it; part he hid in the rice bin, part over the rice house.”
The neighbor searched in both of these places and found the parts just as the sao bird had said.
“I did not steal the buffalo,” insisted the man.
But the bird ever called, “He killed it and put part into the rice bin, and part over the rice house.”

Unable to decide between the words of the man and the words of the bird, the neighbor appealed to the court. And, it happened, the night before the trial, that the man took the sao bird, placed it in a jar, covered the jar and poured water over the cloth and beat on the outside of the jar. The noise of the beating was low and rumbling. All that night was the bird kept in the jar, and not once did it see the bright moonlight, which was almost as bright as day, for it was in the midst of the dry season and full moon.

When the eye of day opened, the man removed the bird from the jar and placed it in its cage, and then took it to the court as a witness.
When the bird was called, it said, as before, “He killed it; part he put in the rice bin, and part over the rice house.”
All people believed the bird. “Ask it another question. Ask it what manner of night it was last night. Will you condemn me to death on the word of a bird?” cried the man.

The question was put to the bird, but, remembering its fear, during the night, of the rumbling noise and the sound of running water, it answered, “Last night the sky called and the rain fell.”
Then the people cried, “Of a truth, the bird cannot be believed. Because it has imperilled the life of an innocent man, from this time forth, the sao bird must not be cherished by man.”

The thief was set free because there were but the words of the bird to condemn him.
No longer is the sao bird nourished by man, but lives in the forest. Those who are full of fear, when they hear them talking in the forest, say, “it is the spirits.”
When the sao bird saw the bright plumage of the parrot, and the black and gold of the minor bird, it knew they were strangers who had come to dwell in the north, and it asked the crow and the owl what manner of birds they were.
“Beautiful in plumage, as thou canst readily see,” answered they. “Moreover, they speak
the words of man.”
“Speak the words of man,” echoed the sao bird. “I’ll warn them. Come, let us greet them.”
And they went forth to meet the beautiful strangers.

And upon a day, as they all came together in one place, the sao bird cried out, “We, the
chief birds of the north land, come to greet you and to give you of our wisdom, as you are but strangers in our land. It is told me you speak as does man; even so can I. Nourished by the hand of man many years, I did see with my eyes and hear with my ears, and my tongue uttered not only the things I beheld and heard, but things displeasing to my masters. At one time, all men spoke well of me, but afterward was I cruelly punished and driven from the homes of men. Therefore come I this day unto you to warn you that, if man learns of your speaking tongue, he will capture you and nourish you in his home. Yet, should you speak other than he teaches you, you will be punished and driven from the homes of men, for man loves only to hear his thoughts repeated and loves not even a bird that has wisdom or truth greater than his own.”

Fearful of uttering their thoughts, lest man resent it, the parrot and minor bird but echo the words of man.

This content is from the Project Gutenberg EBook of Laos Folk-Lore of Farther India, by Katherine Neville Fleeson, originally published 1899.
This content is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License at www.gutenberg.net


Travel Information
Visas, borders, roads, planes...
Local Information
Phones, climate, health...
Historical Information
Siam, independence...

An Adventure


Ethnic groups in Lao are diverse and interesting. Villages outside of the main centres differ widely from one another, in culture, craft, language and custom. There are many minority culture spread across Laos...

Read more


Cycling is a great, way to get around Laos. The main roads North and South and East and West are paved. The subsidiary and rural roads are more suitable for Mountain Bikes...

Read more


Rivers in Laos offer many exciting opportunities for adventure. Flowing through jungle, gorges and caves, they can be wildly exciting and soothingly quiet in equal measure. There is ample scope for both...

Read more


Trekking is a great way to explore the mountains and forests of Laos. You can journey to waterfalls and caves, visit remote ethnic villages, investigate remnants of ancient cultures and temples and...

Read more


Climbing is a fairly new activity in Laos. So far, the only officially opened areas for climbing are in Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. With the spectacular limestone landscape in Vang Vieng, north...

Read more

Lao Clams

Lao Stir Fried clams 1 1/2 lbs clams, with shells2 garlic cloves2 hot chilies1 tablespoon fish sauce1 tablespoon sugar1 tablespoon oyster sauce1 tablespoon oil10 basil leaves1/4 cup water Soak clams for two...

Read more

Lao Cucumber Salad

1 large cucumber5 -8 cherry tomatoes2 lime wedges5 -9 Thai chiles1 garlic clove1/4 teaspoon shrimp paste1/4 teaspoon crab, paste1 -2 tablespoon fish sauce1 teaspoon sugar1/8 teaspoon msg (optional, can use...

Read more

Chili Dips

Chili Dips - Jeow, there is jeow, and there is jeow. Sauces and dips are called jeow as long as these contain chillies. The classic jeow is either fairly dry or...

Read more

Chicken Lahp

Chicken lahp with vegetables and variations - lahp gai pak gap Ingredients for a Lao raw or cooked meat lahp are extremely variable reflecting a cuisine which is prepared with whatever...

Read more

Buffalo Skin Snacks

If, like me, you've wondered what the strips of dried animal hide, being sold at markets and by the side of the road, are for... They are dried Buffalo Hide...

Read more

Muang La Resort

During the search for the perfect location for his project, the founder of the Resort came across this “lost” village in the North of Laos and it seemed somehow predestined...

Read more
  1. Historic
  2. See
  3. Taste

19th Century Photos

Read more

19th Century Photos

Read more

19th Century Photos

Read more
  • 19th Century Photos
  • 19th Century Photos
  • 19th Century Photos


Read more

National Protected Areas

Read more


Read more
  • Attractions
  • National Protected Areas
  • Adventure

Tam Mahk Houng

Read more

Gaeng Bawt

Read more

Chili Dips

Read more
  • Tam Mahk Houng
  • Gaeng Bawt
  • Chili Dips

Popular Attractions

Wat Phou

Vat Phou or Wat Phu (Lao: ວັດພູ [wāt pʰúː] temple-mountain) is a ruined Khmer temple complex in southern Laos. It is located at the base of mount Phu Kao, some...

Read more

Plain of Jars

The Plain of Jars (Lao: ທົ່ງໄຫຫິນ [tʰōŋ hǎj hǐn]) is a megalithic archaeological landscape in Laos. Scattered in the landscape of the Xieng Khouang plateau, Xieng Khouang, Lao PDR, are...

Read more


Patuxai (Lao: ປະຕູໄຊ, literally meaning Victory Gate or Gate of Triumph, formerly the Anousavary or Anosavari Monument, known by the French as Monument Aux Morts) is a war monument in...

Read more

Royal Palace Luang Prabang

The Royal Palace (official name "Haw Kham") in Luang Prabang, Laos, was built in 1904 during the French colonial era for King Sisavang Vong and his family. The site for...

Read more

Si Phan Dong

Si Phan Don (Lao: ສີພັນດອນ; meaning The 4000 islands) is a riverine archipelago located in the Mekong River, Champasak Province in southern Laos. Si Phan Don is characterised by numerous islands...

Read more

 Elephant Conservation Center logo

 Elephant Conservation Center

The Elephant Conservation Center hosts Laos' first hospital dedicated to elephants that are victims of logging accidents or affected by diseases. The center is staffed with an international team of elephant vets and offers free veterinary care services, an emergency unit, a breeding center, a mahout vocational center and the most extensive elephant information center in country. 
Click here to visit the Elephant Conservation Centre


This organisation was set up by a former fire-fighter and nurse who worked for the Red Cross on emergency assistance. He gathered around him a team of 34 dedicated people from Lao and trained them in first aid. It is registered under the Lao Foundation to assist the poor and was established in 2006.

Exo Foundation

No Images

Choice Hotels Laos

Selected Hotels, Resorts, Ecolodges and Cruises, each destination is a tourist attraction in its own right. The Individualist’s Guide to Discover Laos along National Route 13 from China to Cambodia coordinated...

Read more

If you would like to appear
on this website, please send
a message to us on the
Administration contact form,
which can be found in the
Contact/Administration section
of this website.


We liked the Elephant Trekking in Champasak and the shopping in the Pakse markets. J&S Gentner.
F. White.