February 17, 2023

#08-286: The Adarna Bird

The Adarna Bird (Wikipedia)

Note: This is one of the few works of Filipino literature that virtually every schoolchild knows. Sadly, it's not widely available online in English.

Get Ready: Can you think of any stories where the third son (or pig, or...) emerges victorious where the first two have failed?

Ibong Adarna ("The Adarna Bird") is a Filipino epic poem from the 16th-century. The unknown author may simply have connected a series of well-known folk stories; some think this was a poet named Jose Dela Cruz (1746-1829), also known as Huseng Sisiw.

The story is long and complicated, but the first episode can give us a feel for the whole thing.

King Fernando and Queen Valeriana of Berbania have three sons: Don Pedro, Don Diego, and Don Juan. When the King falls ill (after dreaming that his youngest and most favorite, Juan, has been killed by two traitors), a wise man announces that the only cure for the King is the song of the mythical Adarna Bird. So Don Pedro, the eldest son, sets out to fetch the bird, but after months but does not return. The same happens with the second son, Don Diego.

At last the King allows Don Juan to go, though he fears losing this son as well. But Juan meets an old hermit on the way, who--impressed by the youth's manners and character--tells him that the bird roosts in the same tree every night, after singing seven songs. Juan must be careful not to be lulled to sleep by the music, nor to allow the bird to excrete on him, or he will be petrified. This is in fact what had happened to Pedro and Diego.

The hermit gives Don Juan a knife and some lemon-like fruits. When he reaches the tree, he is to make seven cuts on his hands, and with each song put the stinging juice of the fruit into a cut to keep him awake. The old man also gives the prince a golden rope with which to tie the bird's legs, and a bucket with which to scoop water from a well and throw it on his brothers to revive them.

It works! But on his way home Juan's jealous brothers beat him and leave him for dead. They convince the King that they never saw Juan, but caught the bird themselves. The Adarna, however, will not sing. Fortunately, the same hermit finds Juan, heals him through magic, and sends him to the palace, where the bird begins to sing, healing the King.

The King realizes that Juan must be the bird's true captor, and that Pedro and Diego have engaged in treachery. Here we must end our story, but the brothers have many more adventures before the end--in which Don Juan, of course, is victorious.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. captor
  2. character
  3. excrete
  4. fetch
  5. hermit
  6. lulled
  7. petrified
  8. roosts
  9. traitors
  10. treachery

  1. a holy man
  2. people who betray someone
  3. bring back
  4. a person who catches something
  5. personal qualities
  6. made someone relaxed; put them to sleep
  7. breaking of trust; betrayal
  8. turned to stone
  9. sleeps (like a bird)
  10. expel waste from the body

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 17, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. d; 2. e; 3. j; 4. c; 5. a; 6. f; 7. h; 8. i; 9. b; 10. g