How the Kingfisher Got Its Name, A Fable

This took place many years ago, when the old gods of the blue sky and the earth and waters still appeared on earth and took an active part in our lives. At this time a fisherman - a human - and his wife lived by the river. They were a wonderful couple. They lived and worked together in a wonderful harmony, with a certain humor and playfulness between them. Often as you passed by on the river you could hear their voices teasing each other about some part of their day’s work. The old man would ask her why she had let the biggest fish go, all the time knowing very well that she had slipped in the mud and dropped a line on the net. The old woman would in turn tease him about how slowly the canoe was moving, accusing him of taking a nap in the back while she paddled in the front.

Although their lives were full of work, they were always able to earn enough for the family to be well fed and have a comfortable home. Their two children were brought up to respect others as well as themselves and to value knowledge and wisdom. For their simple ways they were much loved by the old gods. They lived as men and women should live.

Yet, as all humans must, they slowly grew older. Their children became adults and moved away to start their own families. Their hair became gray. Their muscles lost their power, and they could no longer do all of the hard work the fisherfolk must do. As their eyes grew weaker they needed bifocals, then trifocals and more. And their minds began to dim. At last they lay dying.

The gods saw this and were saddened at the thought of losing these people. Still, men and women must die, for immortality is for the gods alone.

But they did not want to lose the old couple completely. So as they lay dying the gods transformed the old man and old woman. And two kingfishers flew away from where the old people had been. Every time you hear the rattling cry of the kingfisher you should think of the loving banter between the old couple. The birds are a gift from the gods to remind all of us of the halcyon days of our lives.

Even the human scientists honor the old couple, for the scientific name of our kingfisher friend is Megaceryle halcyon.


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