Sparrow and Crow

Informant: RS

Ethnicity: Indian

Primary Language: Konkani

Age: 53

Text: [RS] One rainy day, a sparrow heard a knock at her door. She opened it to find a crow asking for shelter from the storm. The kind sparrow agreed to let the crow stay for the night, but told the crow that she has no food to spare as the sparrow must feed her babies. The ungrateful crow agreed, but in the darkness of night, he got hungry and began swallowing the sparrow babies one by one. When the sparrow heard the swallowing sound, she asked the crow what he was eating; the crow responded that he was eating garbanzo beans that he was carrying with himself for emergencies. When the sun came up in the morning, the sparrow realized the crow’s misdeeds, and whacked him until he spit the babies out. The crow was then kicked out of the house and never allowed back.

Context: [RS] This is another common story told to Konkani children. Our parents used to warn us to watch out for “crows” and be careful who we let into our home.

Analysis: Sparrow and Crow reflects the importance of hospitality in Indian culture. Treating visitors as sacred guests and providing them with food, shelter, and accommodations is extremely common. These values can be seen in Sparrow and Crow through the sparrow’s willingness to host the crow. However, at the same time, the story also teaches children not to take someone’s kindness for granted, or they will risk social consequences from their community: it is important to be both a good host, and a good guest. Sparrow and Crow can also be interpreted as a cautionary tale, allowing children to understand that there are possible risks associated with interacting with strangers. In particular, given that both the sparrow and crow are gendered in the tale, there may also be an underlying message warning children to be wary of men that they do not know well.