The Parrot and the Adulterous Woman

folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 1422
edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2011-2014


  1. Example of the Man and the Woman and the Parrot and Their Maidservant (The Book of Sindibâd).

  2. The Tale of the Husband and the Parrot (1001 Nights).

  3. Story of the Confectioner, His Wife, and the Parrot (1001 Nights).

  4. The Second Vezir's Story (Turkey, History of the Forty Vezirs).

  5. The Burgess, His Wife, and the Magpie (Seven Wise Masters).

  6. Links to related sites.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Example of the Man and the Woman and the Parrot and Their Maidservant

The Book of Sindibâd

Lord, I have heard that (there was) a man who was jealous of his wife, and he bought a parrot and put it into a cage. And he placed it in his house, and he ordered it to tell him all that his wife should do, and never to conceal anything thereof from him; and afterwards he went away on business of his own.

And a friend of hers entered the house where she was. The parrot saw all that they did; and when the good man came home, he sat down, unseen by his wife, and ordered the parrot to be brought, and asked him all that he had seen, and the parrot told him all that he had seen the woman do with her friend. And the good man was very much incensed against his wife, and went no longer into the place where she was (viz., the harem). And the wife believed truly that the maid had told about her.

And then she called her and said: "Thou didst tell my husband all that I did."

And the girl swore that she had not told it, but knew that the parrot had told it.

And she [the wife] took it down and began to throw water upon it, just as if it were rain. And she took a mirror in her hand and held it over the cage, and in the other hand [she held] a candle, and she held that over [also]. And the parrot thought that it was lightning. And the wife began to move a grindstone, and the parrot thought that it was thunder. And she occupied herself all night doing this until morning.

And after it was morning the husband came and asked the parrot: "Hast thou seen anything this night?"

And the parrot said: "I could see nothing for the great rain and the thunder and lightning that there were this night."

And the man said: "Hath what thou hast told me of my wife as much truth as this? There is nothing more lying than thou, and I will order thee to be killed."

And he sent for his wife and pardoned her, and they made peace.

And I, Lord, have told thee this example only that thou mayst know the deceit of women; that their arts are very strong, and are many, so that they have no end.

The Tale of the Husband and the Parrot).

1001 Nights

A certain man and a merchant to boot had married a fair wife, a woman of perfect beauty and grace, symmetry and loveliness, of whom he was mad-jealous, and who contrived successfully to keep him from travel. At last an occasion compelling him to leave her, he went to the bird market and bought him for one hundred gold pieces a she-parrot which he set in his house to act as duenna, expecting her to acquaint him on his return with what had passed during the whole time of his absence; for the bird was kenning and cunning and never forgot what she had seen and heard.

Now his fair wife had fallen in love with a young Turk, who used to visit her, and she feasted him by day and lay with him by night. When the man had made his journey and won his wish he came home; and, at once causing the parrot to be brought to him, questioned her concerning the conduct of his consort whilst he was in foreign parts.

Quoth she, "Thy wife hath a man friend who passed every night with her during thine absence."

Thereupon the husband went to his wife in a violent rage, and bashed her with a bashing severe enough to satisfy anybody. The woman, suspecting that one of the slave girls had been tattling to the master, called them together and questioned them upon their oaths, when all swore that they had kept the secret, but that the parrot had not, adding, "And we heard her with our own ears."

Upon this the woman bade one of the girls set a hand-mill under the cage and grind therewith, and a second to sprinkle water through the cage roof, and a third to run about, right and left, flashing a mirror of bright steel through the livelong night.

Next morning, when the husband returned home after being entertained by one of his friends, he bade bring the parrot before him, and asked what had taken place whilst he was away.

"Pardon me, O my master," quoth the bird, "I could neither hear nor see aught by reason of the exceeding murk and the thunder and lightning which lasted throughout the night."

As it happened to be the summer-tide the master was astounded and cried, "But we are now in mid-Tammuz, and this is not the time for rains and storms."

" Ay, by Allah," rejoined the bird, "I saw with these eyes what my tongue hath told thee."

Upon this the man, not knowing the case nor smoking the plot, waxed exceeding wroth; and, holding that his wife had been wrongously accused, put forth his hand and pulling the parrot from her cage dashed her upon the ground with such force that he killed her on the spot.

Some days afterwards one of his slave girls confessed to him the whole truth, yet would he not believe it till he saw the young Turk, his wife's lover, coming out of bared his blade and slew him by a blow on the back of the neck; and he did the same by the adulteress , and thus the twain, laden with mortal sin, went straightways to Eternal Fire.

Then the merchant knew that the parrot had told him the truth anent all she had seen, and he mourned grievously for her loss when mourning availed him not.

Story of the Confectioner, His Wife, and the Parrot

1001 Nights

Once upon a time there dwelt in Egypt a confectioner who had a wife famed for beauty and loveliness; and a parrot which, as occasion required, did the office of watchman and guard, bell and spy, and flapped her wings did she but hear a fly buzzing about the sugar.

This parrot caused abundant trouble to the wife, always telling her husband what took place in his absence.

Now one evening, before going out to visit certain friends, the confectioner gave the bird strict injunctions to watch all night and bade his wife make all fast, as he should not return until morning. Hardly had he left the door than the woman went for her old lover, who returned with her and they passed the night together in mirth and merriment, while the parrot observed all.

Betimes in the morning the lover fared forth and the husband, returning, was informed by the parrot of what had taken place; whereupon he hastened to his wife's room and beat her with a painful beating.

She thought in herself, "Who could have informed against me?" and she asked a woman that was in her confidence whether it was she.

The woman protested by the worlds visible and invisible that she had not betrayed her mistress; but informed her that on the morning of his return home, the husband had stood some time before the cage listening to the parrot's talk.

When the wife heard this, she resolved to contrive the destruction of the bird. Some days after, the husband was again invited to the house of a friend where he was to pass the night; and, before departing, he enjoined the parrot with the same injunctions as before; wherefore his heart was free from care, for he had his spy at home.

The wife and her confidante then planned how they might destroy the credit of the parrot with the master. For this purpose they resolved to counterfeit a storm; and this they did by placing over the parrot's head a hand-mill (which the lover worked by pouring water upon a piece of hide), by waving a fan and by suddenly uncovering a candle hid under a dish. Thus did they raise such a tempest of rain and lightning, that the parrot was drenched and half-drowned in a deluge. Now rolled the thunder, then flashed the lightning; that from the noise of the hand-mill, this from the reflection of the candle; when thought the parrot to herself, "In very sooth the flood hath come on, such an one as belike Noah himself never witnessed." So saying she buried her head under her wing, a prey to terror.

The husband, on his return, hastened to the parrot to ask what had happened during his absence; and the bird answered that she found it impossible to describe the deluge and tempest of the last night; and that years would be required to explain the uproar of the hurricane and storm.

When the shopkeeper heard the parrot talk of last night's deluge, he said: "Surely O bird, thou art gone clean daft! Where was there, even in a dream, rain or lightning last night? Thou hast utterly ruined my house and ancient family. My wife is the most virtuous woman of the age and all thine accusations of her are lies."

So in his wrath he dashed the cage upon the ground, tore off the parrot's head, and threw it from the window.

Presently his friend, coming to call upon him, saw the parrot in this condition with head torn off, and without wings or plumage. Being informed of the circumstances he suspected some trick on the part of the woman, and said to the husband, "When your wife leaves home to go to the Hammam-bath, compel her confidante to disclose the secret."

So as soon as his wife went out, the husband entered his harem and insisted on the woman telling him the truth. She recounted the whole story and the husband now bitterly repented having killed the parrot, of whose innocence he had proof.

The Second Vezir's Story

Turkey (History of the Forty Vezirs)

There was in Hindustan a khoja who had a beautiful wife. That woman had (God forefend the listeners!) a youthful lover.

One day the khoja bought a parrot which knew well how to speak; and whenever it would speak, the khoja's heart reaped a hundred thousand joys and delights.

One day the khoja went to a certain place and came not that night to his house. Forthwith the woman brought the youth to the house, and that night passed they in fun and frolic, and, joining soul to soul and heart to heart, both reaped their desires.

The parrot watched this their secret from the cage, and when it was morning the youth went away and the khoja returned. As soon as it saw the khoja, the parrot said, "O khoja, this night till morning the lady was with a youth, eating, and drinking, and kissing, and clipping; lo, the youth is gone."

When the khoja heard these words he said to his wife, "Out on thee, wife! Who is that youth?"

The woman replied, "What manner of speech is this? Dost thou believe the word of a bird and act thereon?" And she fell to chattering and babbling, and convinced the khoja, and gave the lie to the parrot.

One day the khoja again went to a certain place, and the woman, according to her wont, got the youth whom she told what the parrot had said to the khoja.

The youth said, "Henceforward there can be no more frolic with thee. This parrot is a hindrance to us, and will make us disgraced before the world."

Quoth the woman, "My lord, be not dismayed. See what a trick I will play the parrot."

And she ordered the slave-girls and they brought a sieve, an earthenware jar, some water, and a piece of bullock hide. They put the hide over the parrot's cage, and one of the girls struck on it with a stick every now and again, while another sprinkled water through the sieve upon the parrot, and a third put a looking-glass into the jar which ever and anon she opened and closed before the cage. So again the woman and the youth made merry till the morning.

When it was morning the youth went away and the khoja came; and as soon as the parrot saw him, it said, "Khoja, this night the lady and the youth ate and drank and made merry till the morning; but much did the rain rain and the thunder roar and the lightning flash."

Then quoth the lady, "Dost thou see the parrot's lies? Did the rain rain, or the thunder roar, or the lightning flash this night?"

"Nay," said the khoja.

"And thou believedst the lie spoken by the bird," quoth the woman.

And the poor khoja's trust was destroyed by this trick; and as often as he went away the woman invited that youth and made merry with him. And the parrot ever said so, but the khoja would not believe, and the woman would make mock of the parrot's words, and split the khoja's head by saying, "And thou didst libel me on this thing's word!''

The Burgess, His Wife, and the Magpie

Seven Wise Masters

There lived in a certain city of Rome a rich burgess, who had a magpye, which he loved so well, that he taught her to speak, so she might tell him all that she saw and heard.

The burgess was married to a young wife, much more beautiful than honest; he loved her very well; but she requitted it with slight and disrespect, and made choice of a gallant in her husband's absence, to gratify her lustful appetite; which the magpye observing, told her master at his coming home; so that the report thereof spread itself through the whole city.

Her husband thereupon upbraided her with disloyalty and adultery; to which she said, she was innocent, and that he was to blame to believe his magpye, and that as long as he continued so do there would be nothing but variance and discord betwixt them.

But he replied, the pye could not lie, for that she saw and heard what she told him; and therefore he would believe her rather than his wife.

It happened not long after, that this burgess travelled abroad, and was no sooner gone, but she sent to advise her friend he should come secretly to her that night, to enjoy her as he was accustomed.

Being come, as he entered into the house, he said, "Dearest, I am afraid the magpye will discover us!"

But she bid him not fear, for it was dark, and therefore the pye could not see them.

The pye hearing this, said, "It is true, I see you not, but I can hear you, and know that you are naughty together, which I shall tell my master when he comes home."

At which the lusty young man was startled; but she bid him be of good courage, and she would be revenged on the pye. So they went and lay together till about midnight, at which time the adultress arose, and calling her maid-servant, commanded her to fetch a ladder, which they set up to the roof of the house, and then they made a hole therein, just over the pye, through which they cast down water, gravel, and small stones, and the like; insomuch that the poor pye was almost killed.

Upon the burgess's return, he went to visit his pye, asking how she fared in his absence; the pye replied, "Master I shall satisfy you in both. First I have the old news to tell you, that is, that you are a cuckold; of the very night after your departure, your wife entertained a young man all night in bed with her; notwithstanding, I told them I would inform you thereof. As to my welfare, that very night I had like to have died, it was so tempestuous, either raining, hailing, or snowing all the night."

The wife hearing this, said to her husband, "You have hitherto believed in the pye; now, she saith, she had like to have died with rain, hail, and snow, that she accused me of adultery whereas, there was never any thing clearer, but my innocency."

The good man, to be satisfied of the truth, enquired of the neighbours, whether that night was fair or foul. Who all affirmed, no night could be fairer.

Then going to his wife, he acknowledged the fault of his cruelty, and after that went to the pye, and having railed at her, for sowing discord between man and wife, he wrung her neck off; the wife at the sight thereof was overjoyed; and when he had killed the pye, he looked up and saw a ladder, and a vessel of water, sand, and stones, which made him soon perceive the treachery of his wife; at which he grew so troubled, that for the words of his wife, he had killed the pye, that he sold off all he had, and went on pilgrimage.

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Revised January 28, 2014.