(Author's Note: I know the moral here is very heavy-handed and the style and presentation rather sledgehammer-ish, but considering the state of the Middle East today and all its factions vs. factions, I just had to write this.)
Old Mrs. Fox was a widow. She had lived for many years, more than most all foxes do, and her fur was a glistening shade of silver-platinum. Despite her obvious beauty, her bones were weak and brittle, and she had lost most of her teeth. She spent most of her time resting, and when she hunted, she caught few game. Her only consolation was the thought of her three pups, now full-grown male foxes, who had large dens and families of their own.
One day in the early fall, old Mrs. Fox could barely stand to frisk about. She knew there would be no hunting that night, and her time had nearly come. Sighing wearily, she began to think of the good life she'd led, and she drifted off into an uneasy sleep. She would die, but she would not die happy.
Or so she thought. It turned out that Solovey, a sprightly young nightingale, heard Mrs. Fox's throaty rasps and growls in the hollow of the tree below. Even though Solovey was a nightingale and Mrs. Fox a fox, the little bird knew suffering when she heard it. Solovey quickly flapped to the ground.
"Hello!", the nightingale chirped. "My name is Solovey. What's the matter?"
"Hungry," moaned old Mrs. Fox, who lifted her silver head. "I'll die soon. Can't you see who I am? I'm a fox, and if you come any closer, I might eat you."
"I know," said the little bird, "but if you're so hungry, that is all right."
"What?" Mrs. Fox couldn't believe her perked-up ears. "A bird giving her life for a fox? That's unheard of! You are young, with all of life ahead of you!"
"What is life if I flit around ignoring the cries of the hurting? You may be a fox, but you are an animal, too. We're both animals. As one to another, I say that you may eat me, although please allow me one more song before I go."
"Very well." Mrs. Fox shook her head, and a tear came to her one good eye.
Solovey sang a beautiful melody, one of reverence, passion and joy, and the promise of a better life beyond the forest. Once she had finished, Mrs. Fox's furry face was wet, and she bowed to the little nightingale, head to ground.
"Now you may eat me," said Solovey, "and that song was for both of us."
Nodding sadly, Mrs. Fox nodded and counted to three before lunging forward. She soon felt warm and full, satisfied at last, and before she lay her head down on her paws and passed away, she cradled one of Solovey's long tail feathers between them. Her last thoughts were of two souls rising upward.
Not long after old Mrs. Fox died, her sons returned for their mother's burial. The nightingales could not bury Solovey, of course, but they had all heard of her compassionate sacrifice and sang of it whenever they could in homage.
"Our mother is dead," said the first son. "Let us go see her."
The three foxes gazed at Mrs. Fox's body in her den, and they were puzzled. What was their mother doing holding a nightingale's tail feather in her paws?
"Maybe if we listen long enough, we will hear the tale," said the second son. So they did, and at night they heard the story of Solovey and their mother. Instead of learning a great lesson from it, however, they saw a way to get fresh and effortless food for the rest of their lives. The third son said:
"Let us take this tailfeather of the nightingale and show it to any bird we want to eat. Surely the robins and the bluejays and all of the other birds have heard this magnificent tale by now. So have all the rabbits and the squirrels and the mice and voles. We will never have to work or hunt again!"
The other two sons thought this was a marvelous idea, and they set to displaying the Tailfeather of Solovey wherever they happened to roam. They carried it in their mouths, and whenever they saw a bird they wanted to eat, they thrust their heads forward with the tailfeather, dropped it, and said,
"I am but a hungry fox. I entreat you,
In the name of Solovey, I must eat you!"
The little bird, wanting to be like the heroic Solovey but still sad about being eaten, let the three hungry foxes devour it until there was not a feather left.
When they saw a rabbit and their sharp hunger pangs returned, they said:
"Solovey was a nightingale, you a hare,
But don't let us starve and our stomachs grow bare!"
The rabbit, sensing something amiss but not knowing what it was, did not try to hop away when the three greedy foxes charged forward to devour it.
A certain squirrel, after about a week of this, heard this poem from the foxes:
"Little squirrel, come down, and don't make a fuss.
Like Solovey, it's noble to be food for us!"
What became of the squirrel? I'll give you one guess, or even half of one.
Very soon the forest was beginning to become more and more empty of small game. The three foxes had eaten more than their share, hunting when they weren't even that hungry, utterly gorging themselves and burying the meat so no other animal could scrounge and find it. What was to be done?
The nightingales, in the light of their dusky heyday, finally saw the truth.
A brave one flew down to where the three fox-sons were lazing and looked around. One of them was cradling Solovey's tailfeather in his paws, just as his mother had done before she died. Quick as a wink, the nightingale plucked the feather away and flew as fast as he could back to his nest. He then summoned all his courage and placed it among the bones of Mrs. Fox in her empty den. He then summoned a great bear to roll a stone in front of her woodland tomb. He waited until night...and gathered all his friends...
"Where has our feather gone?" barked the first son of old Mrs. Fox when he finally decided to wake up. "The nightingales must have stolen it. Let us go!"
He and his brothers raced as fast as they could toward their mother's den. They would have that feather and proclaim the sacred name of Solovey as long as they lived, carrying out their natural role as her priests and prophets.
Unfortunately, every single angry nightingale who had ever heard the tale of Solovey in the forest rushed at the foxes' faces at that very moment. In a shower of beaks attacking with almost suicidal fury, the nightingales pecked and pecked at the foxes' eyes until all three of them were blind as bats.
The three foxes hung their heads and returned to their families in shame. Never did they deign to tell their young pups of their grandmother, or of the odd way in which her life was brightened in its final hours. Instead, they encouraged their little ones to remember Solovey, and who should sacrifice...