The story of Freedom Bird, a story of hope, can be found in Ready-To-Tell Tales: Sure-Fire Stories from America’s Favorite Storytellers, David Holt & Bill Mooney, editors, August House, Little Rock, Ark., 1994. This book contains the only version I have seen in print. As a copyrighted story, the text cannot be published here. I recommend you check it out from your library, borrow it through inter-library loan or buy it. Amazon.com lists it for $13.96 and it currently ships the next day. (David Holt and Bill Mooney have two similar titles: Ready-To-Tell Tales: Sure-Fire Stories from America’s Favorite Storytellers and More Ready-to-Tell Tales from Around the World so watch to make sure you get the right book.)
A hunter is walking through the forest and hears a loud bird song. It sounds like taunting. (Listeners can be invited to help with the bird call.) He looks up and sees a beautiful golden bird. He shoots at the bird and misses. The bird taunts him. He shoots again and kills the bird. He picks it up and puts it in his sack. Still the bird taunts him. He plucks the bird, chops it into a hundred pieces and puts it in a pot of boiling water. Still he hears the taunting cry of the bird. He buries the bird in the ground and the taunting continues. The hunter digs up the bird, puts it in a box, ties a rock on the lid and throws it in the river. Silence.
Slowly the current loosens the rope. The box floats to the surface and two children pull it to shore. They open the box and a hundred golden birds fly out. Later the hunter is again hunting in the forest and hears the taunting cry. He looks up and sees—A HUNDRED GOLDEN BIRDS! “I know you now,” he says. “I know why you cannot be killed for you are the Freedom Bird.”
As I introduce this story, I begin to fold an origami bird from gold wrapping paper. I tell the story of how David Holt traveled to Thailand and brought home this story. I finish the last fold as I announce the title of the story.
One time after I told this story, I had an 8 year old explain it to me. The golden bird represents freedom. It has an ugly cry because sometimes fighting for and getting freedom is not an easy or beautiful thing. The hunter could not really kill the bird because freedom is something people want very badly and refuse to let it die. When the children pulled the box to shore, it reminds us that sometimes people need help in order to become free. And if they get that help freedom will grow and increase.
Use gold wrapping paper to make 100 golden birds. Hang them on a string or put them on a bulletin board in the shape of a bird.