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Róheim, G. (1953). The Language of Birds. Am. Imago, 10(1):3-14.

(1953). American Imago, 10(1):3-14

The Language of Birds

Géza Róheim

A poor shepherd's lad spent the night under a tree and made a fire to keep warm. A little snake fell into the fire and he rescued it. The snake took him home to his father, the king of Snakes. Through his breath the serpent king gives him the power to understand the language the animals speak. He will die if he does not keep this secret. He marries his masters daughter. First he finds out about a treasure and then about the mares pregnancy. Each time he hears something that other people don't hear, he laughs and this gives away the fact that he knows something that others don't know. His wife keeps asking him to reveal the secret. He tells her that if he does this he must die. But she insisted and he had his coffin made and was lying in it on the ground. A cock passed and started crowing. The cock said: “What a fool this man is! Look how many wives I have, and they all obey me! He has only one and he can't manage that one wife!”

He got up and started to whip his wife. Do you still want me to die? He asked her.

After that she never bothered him with her questions.()

At Lesbos the hero is a young man who is not all there. “Go and give alms to the sea,” people tell him.

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