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Full Online Book HomeShort StoriesWhy The Culing Has A Tonsure
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Why The Culing Has A Tonsure Post by :ultraman Category :Short Stories Author :Dean S. Fansler Date :November 2011 Read :1965

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Why The Culing Has A Tonsure

Version (a) Why the Culing has a Tonsure

Narrated by Francisco M. Africa.

In a certain field there lived two birds,--Pogô ("quail") and Culing (a small black bird that has no feathers on the top of its head). One day Pogô, while scratching the ground for food, met Culing. When Culing saw Pogô, he said in a taunting tone, "Where are you going, lazy one? Be more active. Don't be as lazy as a leech!"

Pogô became very angry. "You call me lazy!" he said. "You are much lazier than I. Let us see which can fly higher into the sky!"

Thereupon Culing agreed, and he began to fly upward until he was lost from sight. He flew so high, that his head touched the surface of the sky. As the sky was hot, all the feathers on the top of his head were burned off; and ever since, the culing has had a tonsure.


Version (b) The Culeto and the Crow.

Narrated by Leopoldo Uichanco, a Tagalog from Calamba, La Laguna. He says, "This tradition is a favorite one among Tagalog children. I have often heard the story told by old men while I was waiting my turn at barber-shops in my province."

The culeto is a fine singer, but it is bald-headed. The natives often capture it and train it to talk. Formerly this little black bird was not so bald as it is to-day: its head, in fact, was covered with a thick growth of feathers. And the crow, too: it was not black once, but its feathers were as white as starch.

Once upon a time, shortly after the Deluge, the crow was merrily crowing on the branch of a tree when the culeto came by. The voice of the crow was so harsh, that the culeto made fun of it. "Good-morning, Mr. Crow!" said the culeto, "I am very glad to hear you sing. Your voice is so fine, that I cannot help closing my ears."

"Pray, think first of yourself!" answered the crow. "What do I care for a good voice, so long as I have a strong body? Why don't you laugh at yourself? See how weak and tiny you are!"

"Weak!" said the culeto. "Do you call me weak? I would fly a race even with an eagle."

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the crow. "The idea of racing the eagle when you do not even dare race me!"

"Race with you! Why, you would only disgrace yourself," retorted the culeto.

"Wait!" answered the crow. "Eat some more rice, drink some more water, fill your body with more air! And wait till you grow bigger before you venture to race with me!"

"The strength of a person," said the culeto, nettled, "is not to be judged by his size. Don't you know that it is the smallest pepper that is the hottest?"

"Well, then," replied the crow, "if you wish to race me now at your own risk, let us begin!"

"One, two, three!" counted the culeto, and up they flew. During their flight the two birds became separated from each other by a dense cloud. The culeto flew at full speed so high upward, that he knocked his head very hard against the door of the sky,--so hard, in fact, that a large piece of skin was scraped from his scalp. The crow, having lost his way, flew so near the sun, that his feathers were burned black.

It is on account of this bet between the culeto and the crow that all the descendants of the former have been bald-headed, while all the descendants of the crow have black feathers to-day.


Version (c) The Hawk and the Coling.

Narrated by Agapito Gaa of Taal, Batangas. He says that this Tagalog story is well known in every town in Batangas province. He heard the story from his grandfather.

Early one morning a hawk sallied forth from his nest to find something to eat. He flew so high that he could hardly be seen from the earth. He looked down; but as he could not see anything, he flew lower and lower, until he came to the top of a tree. On one of the branches he saw sitting quietly a coling. The hawk despised the little bird, and at once made up his mind to challenge him to a flight upward.

So the hawk said to the coling, "Do you wish to fly up into the sky with me to see which of us can fly the faster and the higher?"

The coling did not answer at once, but he thought of the matter for a while. Then he said to the hawk, "When do you want to have the race?"

"That is for you to decide," said the hawk. "If you wish to have it now, well and good."

"Well," said the coling, "let us have it to-morrow morning before sunrise!"

"All right," said the hawk.

"But," said the coling, "each of us is to carry a load with him to make the flight a little more difficult."

"Well, what do you want to take with you?" said the hawk.

"I will take some salt," said the coling.

"Then I will take some cotton," replied the hawk. "Let us meet here in this tree early to-morrow!" This agreed upon, the two birds separated. The hawk went to the cotton-field and got his load of cotton, while the coling went to the sea and got some salt.

The next morning they met in the tree, each having the object he would carry with him in his flight. They asked the crow, who was present, to be the judge of the contest. The crow accepted the commission, and said that he would give a caw as a signal for them to start. He did so, and the two contestants were off. At first the hawk flew faster and higher than the coling; but very soon it began to rain. The cotton on the hawk's back became soaked with water, and soon was very heavy; but the salt on the coling's back was soon dissolved, and then he had no load at all. Under these conditions, the coling soon overtook the bigger bird. For a time they flew side by side; but after a few minutes the coling had the best of the race, and in a little while longer the hawk could no longer see his rival. But the coling flew so high, that at last his head touched the sun, and all the feathers on the top were burned off. The hawk now flew down to the crow, and said that he had won the race, for the coling had fallen to the ground dead. But by and by the coling himself came. He showed them the top of his head as a proof that he had won the race. The crow gave his decision in favor of the coling, and the hawk flew off disgraced.

From that time all colings have had the tops of their heads bald to show that they are the descendants of the victorious bird.



These three forms of the "flight-contest" incident are all from southern Luzon,--the provinces of La Laguna and Batangas. The tale seems to be definitely localized there. I know of its occurrence nowhere else in the Islands. Nor have I found any Malayan variants.

For other pourquoi stories of why certain birds are bald, see Dähnhardt, 3 : 11-14. Dähnhardt (ibid., 142) cites a Ceylon tale of the crow and the drongo, who had a bet as to which could fly the higher carrying a load. Crow selected tree-cotton for his burden; but Drongo, noticing the black rain-clouds overhead, carried salt, and thus won; for his load became constantly lighter, while Crow's became heavier.

With the explanation given in the second tale of this group of why the crow is black, compare a Pawnee story (JAFL 6 : 126), in which a crow, which is sent to the sun to get fire, has all his feathers singed.

(The end)
Dean S. Fansler's short story: Why The Culing Has A Tonsure

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