Mother’s Day, the Nightingale and her Song Book

How did we grow up to be book lovers? How did we manage to fill our
house with books, almost to a fault? How did our children become so
attached to books? The answer to the last lies somewhere with in the
question, ‘How did the nightingale get her voice?’

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This is what my
daughter, a voracious reader, and a good singer, told me one
Not-Mother’s Day, some years back. “Amma you used to tell this
wonderful tale about the nightingale and how it got its voice. I know
you read it out to me from a magazine, but I think there were so many
additions you made to it everyday, and displayed so many emotions
that I’m sure were not there in the original that I think you
should be writing children’s books or at least be in an associated

And here I am, with Pratham Books! What a wonderful Not-Mother’s Day present! Thanks Bhavana!

The nightingale story appeared in an issue of Reader’s Digest at least 15 years back. Sadly, I don’t have the copy now, nor do I know the source of the story. And just a few minutes back, I found this story on a blog. Still don’t know the author, but know that this is EXACTLY what I read and embroidered over and over when I told it to my kids! The story is pasted below.

Oh, so to answer my own question, we became book lovers, and passed on the love to our children, because we love stories!

Happy Mother’s Day, Happy Every Day!

From Tanya Watanabe’s blogspot: Thanks Tanya!


One morning God sent out word to the birds in His world that He had planned something special for them and that they were all supposed to gather at a certain time and He would give them a present. Birds from all over the earth flew to God’s side and He pulled out a huge box of paints.

“Today I am going to paint each of you and give you whatever colors you want. You are to go out in the world and brighten your place!”

The birds were very excited and started lining up in front of God and talking about what colors and feathers they wanted.

The cardinal declared that he wanted to be RED. As bright as possible! And God painted him in a brilliant vermilion.

The gentle swan gracefully came to God and said she wanted to be pure white so that the sun would reflect on her wings.

The peacock wanted each of his feathers painted in detail and it took God a long time to paint the sparkling designs on each long feather. The peacock strutted off proudly displaying God’s amazing artwork.

The parrot was a bit of a joker anyway and he said he wanted every color that God had to be splashed on him. And then the toucan, not to be outdone, said that he wanted that strange looking beak at the bottom of the box and the brightest yellow available to spice up his shimmering black coat. The other birds giggled and thought the parrot and the toucan had overdone it but God smiled indulgently and the two birds chattered about who would be the brightest in the jungle.

The sweet little robin came up to God shyly and asked only for a soft red on her breast that she could look down at and admire alone.

All the birds got the colors of their choice and God spent a wonderful day painting and choosing the colors that were just right for each bird’s personality. When evening drew near and all the birds were happily on their way home, God started to pack away His paint box. It had been a busy day and all His wonderful paints had been used to their fullest.

But just then a small drab nightingale came fluttering in all in a panic.

“God! God! I just heard that You’d called all the birds together today! I live in the far off mountains and I didn’t get the message! I have just come! God! Please paint me too!”

But God looked into His paint box and then looked sadly at the nightingale.

“I’m so sorry. All the paints are gone… I used them all up and there is no color left for you my little nightingale.”

The poor little nightingale looked so forlorn and so sad that God took another look in the box and at the far corner He noticed one tiny drop of gold.

“Little nightingale, open your beak wide and I think I can give you the best present of all.”

So the nightingale opened her beak wide and God took one of His paintbrushes and placed the drop of gold at the back of the nightingale’s throat.

The nightingale started to thank God and when she opened her mouth the most wonderful melody flowed forth! She could trill and warble and for miles around her golden voice could be heard over the hills and fields! All the other birds in the world were envious of the nightingale’s beautiful song!

Although the nightingale stayed a brown little bird, God had given her the most beautiful voice in all the earth, and she spread her joy whenever she sang her thanks.
If anyone knows the author of this story, I’ll be trilled (pun intended) to hear from you! Enjoy the day!



  1. Tanya May 10, 2009

    Hi Mala, I’m glad you found the story on my blog. As you realize, I did a lot of “embroidering” myself and didn’t go hunting for the Reader’s Digest article when I put it on my blog. That was just from my memories of the story. But I DO have the article though it is torn and yellow. I think I can make a copy of it (PDF file?) and send it on to you if you’d like. Rereading it just now makes me smile. I wasn’t so far off in some places, but in others I’d forgotten a lot. If you can’t get back to me, the title of the article is “How the Nightingale Began to Sing” condenced from “The Iron Wolf and Other Stories” by Richard Adams.

  2. Mala May 10, 2009

    Thanks for the info, Tanya…I’d love to see the pdf of the article! Maybe I could share it with my daughters on “Daughter’s Day”?

  3. Anonymous May 11, 2009

    Hey Mala,

    What a wonderful wonderful story. I enjoyed reading your post as well as the nightingale story. Am sure to make my embroidered version soon:))))


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